Surely you cannot say that I’m the one to blame. I know what it looks like. I know what it SEEMS like. Yes, perhaps it was my hand that acted, my body that moved. But as always, there is so much more beyond what we see, a horde of things unknowable and insensible that work together to control the world we pretend to know. Inside shadow is a mind, and behind everything see there are a thousand unseen shadows. So, the actions seem to be my own, but the guilt is not.
The first time it happened was on a Saturday night. I had been out late, and returned to my home and the ones who lived here. At the time, I had no idea what would happen just moments after I walked through the door.
If you asked me now I couldn’t tell you why I did it. I had no reason too- none! Nothing they ever did would have harmed me. I had nothing to gain from it. But I did it.
When I got there I walked into the kitchen for water. There, the woman met me. She turned on the lights, and the brightness along with the white walls and cabinets burned my eyes.
She started talking to me. Well, not talking. Yelling, nagging, screaming, but not talking. She was accusing me and angry at me for coming in too late.
“How dare you come home this late!” she said. “And you’re drunk! How much money did you spend?”
“What do you care? It’s my money!” I replied. I could feel my blood beginning to boil. The grating, grinding sound of her voice burned into my ears. It BOTHERED me. I don’t like to be bothered.
“No! You have a family to take care of! You goddamn bastard, do you even care….” I stopped listening to her rant. She droned on and on, and the sound clouded my mind.
It was then that I noticed it. There was something else in the room. Or really, it was just outside of it. I had seen it before, always out of the corner of my eye, or as I turned my head… Never had I seen it this clearly.
A dark shadow had emerged. At first I just saw it in the window, staring in at me. It had the shape of a man, but with long, cloth like limbs. The darkness around it flowed from is limbs, filling the air around it and stopping just at the window.
I blinked my eyes, and it disappeared. Shaken for a moment, I looked around the kitchen. Same white walls, same wooden table, same sink. There was no sign of the creature. But somehow, everything felt different, like it had been tainted, or that it wasn’t real anymore.
I blinked again. The creature re-appeared, this time at another window. It had its hand outstretched, as if demanding entrance. The thing terrified me. I had never seen or heard of anything like it before. I wanted more than anything to look away from it and never see it again. I hoped it would never come near me.
However, something about its commanding presence, it’s almost hypnotic gaze… It demanded my attention. It compelled me, and I felt my body act on its own. I began to nod, telling it to enter.
‘NO!’ I thought. ‘NO, I CAN’T LET IT IN!” I squeezed my eyes shut.
When I opened them again, it was gone. The woman was still shouting at me. I didn’t even know the words she spoke, but her voiced pierced my ears. My blood grew hotter and hotter. She was always nagging me, screaming at me, insulting me. Accusing me of crimes I didn’t commit and never listening to me or giving me the chance to defend myself. Yes, it was true I was making noise. Yes, it was true I had come home late. But I work hard every day, I deserve to drink when I want. No one can say otherwise. How DARE she say otherwise? But she would have none of it. She hated me, I knew, and wanted me to hate myself. The goddamn bitch.
The smallest was there too. He was screaming as well, crying. He was complaining about the noise, and blaming ME for it. As if it was my fault that the woman was angry again. As if it was MY fault she always chose to take her anger out on my by screaming. But of course he would blame me, they always did in the end. That woman was always after me, talking behind my back, telling stories about me. All of them were vicious lies. I never saw her do it, but I knew. I heard the whispers, saw the glares and hate in their faces. They all hated me, and all because of her. They always blamed me without ever listening, without even caring.
I blinked again. I saw the creature in a mirror, standing right behind me. I turned quickly, but it wasn’t there. I blinked again, and it was hovering over the three of us, staring down at me.
None of the others acknowledged it. How could they? None of them would stop their torment of me to look at it. Even if they could see it, they would just ignore it and leave me alone in my fear…
The woman grabbed my by the chin. She pulled my face towards herself and stared right at me.
“AREN’T YOU LISTENING?” she shrieked. “WHAT DID I JUST SAY!? You God damn, worthless, drunken bastard…”
A lot can change when you blink. You close your eyes, and for a split second the world disappears. When you re-open them, the world you knew is dead and replaced with something different. Cars crash. Fires burn. Lives end. Then the life you had before is gone, never to return. Who’s to say it was even there in the first place?
I had to stop the nagging. I had to stop the screaming. I had to stop the hate, the accusations, the insults… I can only take so much of it before I have to do something about it. I had no choice, really.
So I blinked. The world disappeared, and would be replaced with a new one.
I began by quieting the small one. He was still screaming, and I just couldn’t stand the noise. All I really wanted to do was put my hand over his mouth, stop him for a second. But you know how things are… a little loss of muscle control, just a bit too much force…. And things happen. Now there was blood on my hands. It was pouring from his mouth, and he was lying on the floor. The woman screamed, and tried to hit me. Of course, I couldn’t have that.
I slammed my fist into her mouth, that lying, conniving, slandering mouth… and silenced it.
The black creature watched from above. It saw me do it, and makes no move to stop me. Though I couldn’t make out its face, I was sure it was smiling. It disappeared.
I looked around. I could hear voices from outside. The neighbours had noticed the screams…. No doubt they would blame me. Nothing I could say would change that. The woman had already turned them all against me, all they needed excuse.
I began to run. I ran out the front door, past a pair of gawking neighbours. I got in the car, an old, battered red thing I bought with the woman long ago. The neighbours shouted something at me, but I was too much in a rush to listen.
With the alcohol in me, I knew it was dangerous to drive, but I had had no choice. They would be coming for me otherwise.
The car swerved and moaned as I drove. I tried to control it, I really did, and I did the best I could. I drove through the neighbourhood, and into the woods. The night was dark, with only a thin, pale moon to help me see, so I struggled to follow the roads.
The horror of what just happened came back to me. The terror, the cruelty… It took a moment to realize that I had actually happened.
I had hit them… I had hit them both! He ones I love the most… I could see the moment over and over again in mind. The pain they must have felt was nothing compared to the guilt I had. All the thoughts that were in my mind at the time… of her nagging, that she was talking behind my back, that the little ones were against me…. The sheer insanity of it became apparent in my mind. How could this have happened?
I knew the answer. It was that thing… that creature. It had controlled me somehow, it had made me do it.
Something caught my eye. I could see the creature in the rear view mirror, following me.
I speed up the car, and looked in the mirror again. It was still following. I speed up again, and checked. The thing was gaining on me. I pushed pedal as hard as I could, but no matter how fast I went it still followed me.
I drove and drove. I turned down random streets, sped through lights and across fields, and that thing still followed me. I couldn’t lose it. I speed faster and faster and faster… and I blinked.
The creature appeared directly in front of me. I slammed on the breaks and swerved, and the car ran off the road.
It flew through the air, rolling as it hit the ground. I felt it crash, and heard a scream. Smoke began to fill up the vehicle, and I crawled out.
I stared at it. Of all the places to swerve, of all the things to hit…. I had passed miles of empty forest only to crash into the one house on the road.
Screams were coming from inside. A woman’s screams, then a child’s. Even an infant's. An entire family, terrified by what happened. By what I had done.
Fire leapt up from the vehicle. I backed away slowly, gazing in horror. The house was not large, only a single story of wood with a door and a single window. Perhaps it was a cottage for the family inside, to use in vacation… At almost any other time, it would have been empty. But now it was not.
The fires consumed the house like rabid wolves on their prey. I saw a figure in the doorway. It was long and slender, with a feminine build. It was holding onto something, a smaller figure wrapped in cloth.
The figure tried to run through the door, but it was blocked by the car. The flames leapt around it, burning everything it touched to ash. The figure made it through onto the lawn, and came running toward me, a mass of screaming, burning flame. I backed away and stumbled, trying to get away from it before it burned me. It neared me, but collapsed onto the ground in front of me.
The smoke was beginning to choke me. I knew people would be coming to see, and if they found me here, they would blame me.
I began to run. I turned into the forest and ran as quickly as I could. I didn’t know the woods to well, but I knew some of the towns nearby… I could follow the side of the roads while remaining hidden, and make it into one.
It took hours for me to make it through the forest. It was after dawn when I finally made it into a town. I had heard the sirens of firetrucks pass on the road- luckily, they hadn't noticed me.
I was a horrible sight. I was exhausted and covered with dirt and sweat and all sorts of things from the forest. However, I couldn’t let that stop me.
I ran into a train station. I first went into the bathroom and used the sink to wash myself as best as I could, rinsing myself with soap and water and using paper towel to try off.
I took store of everything I had. I still had my wallet in my pocket. I had cash on me, along with my credit cards. I decided it was better not to show my ID off, police may be looking for me, but I kept them in case.
I went out and bought a ticket, and rode away. I tried to sleep, but it was hard to come by. Every time I opened my eyes, I saw that thing outside the window, following me.
There was a television on the train, and it was showing a news cast. It had images of the fire, and of my vehicle in front. I watched as they reported it as my car, blaming me for what happened. They said I abused my family that I had caused the fire through drunk driving. They were slandering me on television, and there was nothing I could do… Then they said something else. The fire, they said, had consumed everything. Including myself. According to the report, I had died in the fire.
Shaken, I watched until the end of the report. It changed to a different story, and I stopped paying attention. I kept thinking about what it had said… Did they really think I was dead?
We arrived at the destination, and I got out. I used a different name, and tried to organize my life again. I got a job and an apartment, both places that didn’t mind that if I never said anything about who I was. I did everything I could to avoid what had happened.
But that thing kept coming back. I saw it again and again, every day. It was always looming behind a dark corner, or in a crowd, or just a reflection in a mirror. I’d blink my eyes, and it would be there, blink again, and it would disappear.
It began to control me. I would blink, and find everything around me would change.
I would open my eyes to find hours had passed. I would be in a different place, inside buildings I had never seen, wearing clothes I had never worn before. Sometimes entire days would disappear without me noticing, simply slipping by in the blink of an eye.
I would notice other things too. I noticed things changing on my body. The first time it was just a scar, running across my chest. There would be bruises and cuts, as if I had been in a fight. I began to find weapons in my apparent. A hammer, a knife, a gun... Things I never would have bought before.
The worse by far, however, was a simple pile of paper. I hadn’t seen it before, but it was on my bed, and I bent down to read it. It was a train ticket, heading back to my old town, and a schedule saying when they would all be in my old house at once. Written in my hand writing.
I tried to turn myself in. I ran out of the apartment and down the street. I got on a bus, heading toward the police station. I wanted to stop it, I wanted it all to end… but then I blinked. When my eyes were open, the bus had flipped and crashed into the side of the building. I was standing outside of it, staring at the smoke and flames. No one else survived, no one could say what had happened.
I began to have dreams too. Nightmares, always about the blinking.
In one, I blinked, and woke up in my apartment to with blood on my hands. It soaked my shirt and dripped down onto the floor of my apartment, collecting in a pool at my feet. A bloody knife was in my hand, and an axe was leaning in the corner….
In another one I woke up in an old house. The walls were rotting, the floors beneath me were cracked… and in front of me was an old woman, strangled to death with a rope that dug into her flesh. The rope trailed from her, and into my grasping hands.
The worse one I remember was towards the end. It was so terrible I felt sick the entire day after. I dreamed I woke up surrounded by a horrifying display of disembodied limbs and organs, with the moaning, desecrated bodies of a few barely living victims writing in agony around me. The scene made me sick, and I almost passed out from shock. I ended them quickly, cutting off their heads to ensure no one would have to suffer through the pain I had put them in.
At one point I tried to kill myself, hoping to stop myself from hurting anyone. I grabbed the knife… and I blinked. When I awoke I was in the woods, in front of a bonfire. I was holding onto a burning ember in my left hand. I screamed in pain, as the heat seeped through my skin and into my bones. I struggled to let it go, but the hand was locked shut. I ran through the woods, looking for water or something too cool it down. Eventually It cooled on its own, my hand opened up, and I let it drop. The creature was hovering over me as I did. I realized it was punishing me for trying to interfere with its plan.
The creature had control of me. I struggled as best I could against it, trying to run, trying to hide, burning the train tickets, calling the police… None of it worked. Every time, that thing made me blank out, and punished me with the horrifying dreams of crimes I knew it could make me commit. At least, I think they were dreams. I have to think that, really.
That is how I found myself on a train again with no idea how I got on. I was heading back towards my old town. I had a bag with me. I looked inside, fearing that I knew what would be inside. There was a knife and a hammer, and a time written when everyone would be in my house at once.
I tried to get off the train, and started walking toward the door. I strained to keep my eyes open, knowing that things only changed when they were closed. But the pain built, and my resolve can only last so long. I blinked.
I was in the old house. They were all there, staring at me in horror.
There was another man there. That god damn bitch. Barely even waited until she knew if I was dead. The cheating, lying whore… She just found another man to abuse and fill with her condemnations. I bet she was with him even before I left.
They were all screaming at me. Their voices grating in my ears, burning through my mind…. Oh, how I hated it all. They knew I hated it. They just didn’t care. Worthless ingrates, all of them.
And now that man, that criminal, who stole my house and all I knew… he was coming toward me angrily, as if I was the one who shouldn’t be there, as if I was the one in the wrong. The despicable, arrogant, thieving bastard silently condemning me.
How dare he? How dare they all!?
The creature was in the room of course. He watched it all happen. He watched as the rage built in my, as my anger grew and grew, as they all screamed and condemned me, as that man reached to grab me, the hateful, lying, creeps all working against me…. I couldn’t let it continue.
And I blinked.
So you see, you really can’t say I’m the one to blame. It was all a misunderstanding, all beyond my control.