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#musings Round Robin Writing Session - Are You Scared?Published: By ClAdmin Category: #musings Tags: writing stories #musings creative writing
July 31 @ 2200GMT/1700 Eastern/1600 Central/1400 Pacific – Round Robin Writing. Tonight’s Prompt: “Are you scared?”
 (anon – we’ll update with nick once we reach them for clearance.)
“Are you scared?” came the voice behind me. Cold fingers pressed against the small of my back, urging me forward. My feet followed, taking small steps towards the door, my hand rising before me, reaching out and clasping around the brass doorknob.
They tighten; it was frozen to the touch, but I push forward, tightening that little bit more, holding that breath in my lungs before attempting to twist it. I didn’t know where I was, and my eyelashes felt like cobwebs. I vaguely recognised the voice coming from behind me, somehow familiar yet not, like a voice from a dream I’d had once.
The brass was frostbite on my palm, numbing my fingers and making me wish for the gloves I’d left in the pockets of my other jacket. I cleared my throat, a defiant, “no,” croaking from my lips, “at least not yet..” in my mind. It was a slow creaking sound as I adjusted my weight, floorboards shifting under my booted foot before I knew it some force has surrounded my whole body, my sense grew dim and I was frozen in place. I felt my mouth parted, unable to close.
Visions I could not control in front of my eyes, sounds soon accompanied them. I was unable to move, an overpowering sensation took control of my body, sending pain pleasure and all mixes in between. I gave up on trying to understand them, and gave in to the feelings. It took a second, overwhelming force running through me and giving the threat that I may lose consciousness.
But that would be bad. Worse than whatever was already to happen to me, of that much at least, I was certain. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I knew it was the doings of the thing behind me. Thing, yes. For it was no man. No one person could instill this level of fear, rising inside of me like bile.
Fear has a way of assuming control in the ways that no other thing can, and soon enough time, fickle thing that it is.
The din quietens. The light of the ephemeral sight before me fades, replaced by a permeable mist of midnight – surrounding, suffocating, almost choking. Only the presence behind urging me on forwards – towards nothingness, an inky unknown that made my hairs rise on my arms and the back of my neck. A consistent, insistent prodding. Forwards, forwards. Cold and deadpan as the haze sweeps behind me as I’m forced to make slow progress.
My jaw clenches before that final inhale, holding it there as I pluck up the courage to open the door. A wave of shock sent through my body, like every nerve was set ablaze, but as soon as I opened my eyes I saw nothing. A complete lack of anything, other than my own reflection staring back at me. My feet remained frozen in place, but that hand – that wretched hand moves higher, crawling up my spine until those fingers slip up into my hair, tangling it about them.
They’re ice and bone against my nape. Papery fingertips rasping up along my neck until they reach the base of my skull. I froze harder, spine stiff and trembly, twisting into those short hairs to hold their grip, hold me in perfect stillness. Lungs burning, a fire beneath my ribs, the air is trapped there in this perfect, terrible emptiness. The space before me plummets in sheer inky darkness, and the voice curls in at the shell of my ear, insisting, coaxing, taunting. It is warm, in spite of the chill of papyrus fingertips that have slid over shoulder and neck.
“Are you scared?” That cold, rasp of a voice asks me again, “To see how alone you really are.” I blink, once, twice. The darkness that’s more than darkness curls in closer to me, and it feels heavy. A weight there, more than anything else. Dry lips part to offer some feeble reply, but I can think of nothing. That urging press against me and this time, I push back. There’s something insidious to this dark, this oppressive void of anything.
Something that makes it more than what it seems. It’s more than nothing, there’s life crouched in that endless black. Something waiting, curled claw, to beckon me with the wonder screaming out in some small part in the recesses of my mind, contemplating whether I actually want to remain where I am, or to stumble with that final fall. Curiosity washes over me, and I reach to grasp at that claw, interlacing my fingers between those bony digits, my hand numbing further with my tightened grip. The wonder pushes forward into consciousness, taking over. The fear still constricting around me, my movements slow with it, but I can’t wait any longer.
I put one foot in front of the other, tugging at the bony hand now entwined with mine in a …would we call it a death grip? This fall isn’t leading to death after all. It is much more than that, and somehow promises much much more. Turning my body mid fall, embracing and embraced, the air is warming with each foot of empty space, as the bottom rises up to meet me. My lips part, seeking over and against skeletal frame, taking my turn to whisper, “are you scared?”
Stiffness overcomes me as I wait for the drop, the fall, that final impact to come. Fluttered nerves alight my stomach like fireflies wandering in the dark, a foot suspended in nothingness waiting for a step that never comes. But there’s nothing. Like the sight, like the vision. My arms encircle nothing. I’m no longer in the air, but standing where I was. Before me, a mirror, only myself looking back. My eyes are sunken, the hollows of my cheeks pronounced. I am deathly calm. There’s something in the shimmer of my eyes looking back at me, and I realize it’s not a reflection at all.
This thing, this outsider, stares back and cocks its head in a facsimile of life – as if the emptiness I’ve experienced has coalesced into a hollow puppet. The words ring out as their mouth opens – growing closer, pressing against the silvered glass. “Are you scared”? The echo rings, bouncing around the shapeless surroundings until it reaches me again, or again. The sound of glass straining, cracking reaches my ears.
The reflection smiles at me, eyes boring right into my soul, holding my gaze with that sinister grin. I can feel the words coming out of my throat, scraping the sides like I was pulling out glass, but is it me? Is it my voice, or the thing, the parasite inside of me urging those words out, pulling on some kind of string like a contorted bow. I realise, suddenly, I’m not my own anymore. I let something in, this entity riding me, swallowing me from within. My appearance is not what it was… hours ago? Days? How long have I been here, in front of this mirror? I struggle to try to remember my name, but nothing comes to me but the echo of its words in my head, “Are you scared?”
My palm lifts, it’s aged, liver spotted and wrinkled, the skin stretched thin and tight. I reach to touch the mirror, the leaded surface of it stained with time, and wait for the contact to come, the lips in my reflection curl up in a sneer. “You must be scared. For I am fear itself, and we are one, are we not?”
The words chill me to the core, because I watched the lips move, saw the subtle curve of them as they formed the words in my own voice. But much like the vision, much like this ghastly reflection, the words are a monster version of my own, my voice. My rasp in a hiss unknown to me yet who else could it be? Fear sends my skin alight with electricity and I recoil, though I have nowhere to go. Slamming my hands to my ears, I withdraw, soft whines slipping from my lips as I try to make any degree of sense of anything that’s going on.
“I am terrified,” I say, as the goading continues. A jagged line forms across the mirror, a dark ooze sliding out from the seam as I confess – as if the welled up emotion and secret gives it power, form, or perhaps this purulent mass was within me all along. Laughter fills the air – a shrill sound ringing in my ears, banging against the drums like it’s calling for war. My own hands reach up to my throat, clutching at that pale pillar – fingernails digging into the flesh there, breaking the surface.. and then nothing. The laughter comes to an abrupt stop, and all I can hear is the blood pumping through my veins, that thumping, raging sound, a river coursing through me.
This thing using my voice, using my hands against me. Terrified? Abjectly so. I wanted to run, but I was afixed to the the floor, as if weighted down by cemented shoes. My nails continued to tear at my neck, raking long terrible trails into blood slick flesh, while that rasping became bubbly and the reflection began to laugh at me, head tossed back and eyes wild. Fear raged in my veins, my flight response frozen as if by some unseen force, and fight never even tried to raise it’s head.
What could I do, how could I escape? Is that not the question that haunts us all in the end, how do you escape yourself? If it even was me. I realized more that it didn’t matter, for it may as well have been. It was me in all the ways that mattered; creeping inside my head, clouding my vision. Forcing my hand and leaving me helpless at it’s mercy.
Blackness crept in at the corners of my vision, and I knew that whatever was to come, would be the beginning of the end. My end, or this demon, mocking, mirthfully savouring my abject horror. My feet, refusing to move, feel the rising tide against my feet, towards my ankles – thick like a forbidden, ominous toxic treacle. I can smell it now, and the scent rises, causing me to gag.
Tears fill my eyes, that stinging followed by that ache growing in my throat, forcing out a cry, almost akin to that of a wounded animal, but there’s a flash. Something snaps inside of me. The whimpers turn into a snarl, with a small amount of hope flickers inside my chest, and that fear holding me in place turns into a driving force – or at least the startings of. I take another step forward, my fingers curling into a fist, pulling back with that inhale of breath, filling my lungs to full capacity. It feels like hours pass by on that pull-back, but I force myself – drawing my elbow back, fist poised to flash forward. And it does, striking the mirror in front of me, the motion quick, but the result as though time has stopped entirely.
Cracks radiate outward from my fist, slowly travelling along the reflective surface. I see my eyes waver in the breaking surface as shards fly outward beyond my arm and head. Simultaneously, I can feel the flesh of my own arm shattering, dark lines appearing from wrist to elbow, then higher, and all sensation in my hand is lost. The reflection of my face in the mirror is splintered into shards, and my own parted lips,  cut and scraped against the erupting glass form the words again.
But I pause; “I am no longer afraid.” and as the darkness starts to boil away like an acrid smoke I continue “Are you scared”? . My feet plant down as I push, driving my arm deeper towards that shattered portal.
Each blow I land against my twisted reflection breaks another part of me, but I don’t stop – I can’t stop. Not even if I wanted to. Both hands landing against the shattered surface, thrashing my body as that pain dances along my skin, searing my body with each fissure, each bone feeling as though it’s being broken apart, but I continue. I can taste that metallic liquid coating my tongue, but it doesn’t seem like it’s mine, it’s sweeter – sickly, the kind that rots inside of you, and it drives me still.
“No, but you should be.” Those words come out. They are me, I can feel it in each broken part of me, the flesh it, I, rent at my throat beginning to knit, the mending scratchy and tight. The sensation gliding over me, even while the coppery flavour on my tongue seems to get stronger. I’m biting it, hard enough to draw blood, my concentration entirely on the shattering mirror in front of me.
“You should be” a mantra that I repeat, over and again. It rolls from my bloodied lips, drizzling down my chin with the tears that I cannot reason out. The last of the shattered mirror crumbles from its frame and I’m left looking at the blackened wall behind it, panting my breath from spent lungs which are hardly more than a lattice of tissue as my hand erupts in pain from hitting some deeper, harder, unknown thing. I grasp at it, rippling with an indignant fury as everything around me seems to suck into the jagged maw of shards in retreat. But I pull, pull that revolting rotten thing until it tears free like a bundle of woven shadow coming loose and falling free at my feet as the grasp of my fingers slips and lets go.
Nothing but my own breathing fills the air, but it’s thick with the silence that surrounds. That is when I fall to my knees, that momentary song of that glass crunching beneath the weight of me until I settle. Everything is still as I kneel there in the darkness. I can feel it all slipping away as my chest rises and falls, holding myself in that stillness before the onslaught of laughter. My own this time, not quite maniacal as its harsh sound penetrates through that mantra in my mind. I wonder, was it afraid at the end? Was that the end?
The laughter keeps peeling from my throat, still not quite healed, still sore and throbbing. Each wave of sound ringing out around me, lost in the space and darkness of the room, joining the creature I’d pulled through the mirror. I sighed, a heavy, long sound, bringing my hands up to smear weariness over my cheeks, to push tears and blood from my face, before looking around me, into the ethereal light which had caught my attention.
The warmth soothes my face and feels familiar. That stranger, outsider, nowhere to be seen – both as reassuring as it is unnerving. A light, overhead; A hanging bulb swings carefree from its tether. In front, a window painted with that ominous blackness. My breath catches as I continue to pant, rubbing my face in case this glimpse of sanctuary escapes me once more.
The blood staining my fingers starts to fade, the yellow of age turning back to the complexion of youth as I reach out towards the dim glow. Each step I take heals me; cuts, scrapes filling out and smoothing over. A glance back to that opaque darkness over my shoulder, and that familiar feeling of my life being drained from me seeps back in, but I stop myself. I squeeze my eyes tight shut and everything has changed. Or gone back to normal.
There I am, stood there, awakened from the nightmare, still steeped in it. My mind awash with trepidation and that still echoing question, “Are you scared?” just at the edges. I hadn’t been a moment before, triumphant and bone-weary at having broken free, but now that fear begins to creep into me once again. I lifted my hands, stretched my arms out before me, took in my wholeness, my youth, my lack of ragged wretched brokenness. I’m in the circle of light, inhaling fresh clean air, and I know I’ve beaten it.