Fear From Within; Or Is It?

[This is the first short in a three parter. It is followed by Bobby You’re Projecting Again!, and You Lose, You Get Nothing, Good Day, Sir! It is a mild story and has elements of being home alone and the fear of what may happen in such cases.]

She could remember almost every detail from that day. Interesting how trauma can cement the most mundane and irrelevant occurrences into the eternal record of the mind, yet take away the moments that dealt the most damage. This leaves you knowing that something terrible has befallen you, but not necessarily what it was. It will cause you to question yourself over and over again, until you can’t take it anymore.

What happened to me? Holly thought as she lay there, replaying that day. She kept hitting a mental wall. There was fear, then nothing, and then … this. Day after day, these words will replay in her mind. Sometimes she can be heard softly whispering them to herself.

“What happened to me?”

Always replaying the day. Running in to that wall of protection. Trying to tear it down, somehow knowing that it would not be wise. Somewhere, deep inside her, perhaps from beyond that wall, she is being warned. Leave it alone for now.

Holly will replay that day, and hit that wall one last time. She’s had enough. Today is the day she will find out exactly what she is made of or at least die trying. She begins to go over the details once more.

The memory starts with the opening of one eye and seeing red light: Knowing what it was she blinked once to clear her vision. 5:43. Dammit, not again! she thought. Her internal time keeper had gone out of sync with the device on her night stand. She closed her eye and tried to go back to sleep. Maybe she had time for one more dream. God, why are birds so loud? And why is it I didn’t hear them a second ago?

Alas, the damage had been done and peaceful sleep would not return. She let out a huff and, with eyes still shut, pushed herself up into a sitting position. She raised her palms to her eyes and began rubbing them. Then she reached back with both hands and found the elastic band that kept her long blonde hair back and away from her face during her slumber and slowly worked it down with one hand while scratching the back of her head with the other. This was her daily morning ritual. The one thing that never changed. Wake up, mentally complain about waking up, sit up, rub eyes, and finally let hair down and scratch scalp.

Not really being a creature of too many habits, this ritual had remained the same since she was a small girl. Whatever came next was interchangeable. She remained sitting in this position for a moment readying herself for the inevitable when she heard something shuffle and bang lightly from outside her room. Terror gripped her instantly. The immediate quickening of her heart almost ached due to the sudden change in tempo. She was now fully awake and aware. She tried to calm herself but fear was doing its job.

She climbed out of her still warm bed, no longer aware of its comfort. Unlike every other day, she didn’t notice how cold the floor was beneath her feet. She would wonder about this later. The shock of fear stole away those last warm moments in her big, wonderful bed, yet also the irritations that come along with finally getting out of it.

She mindlessly hitched her pajama bottoms back up from where they had slid halfway down her backside. They were pink satin and had violet butterflies all over, not her favorite colors, but by far the most comfortable pajama pants she owned.She had been given them as a gift from her mother a few years ago. It came as a set with a top, but she had lost that at some point between then and now. Probably at Jeremy’s place. He can keep it, Jerk!, she thought. Now, she wore a simple black T-shirt in its place.

As Holly was replaying the day it occurred to her that unimportant details would interrupt her process. Why would memories of her pajamas be undermining the important task of finding out what happened to her? It was as if her subconscious understood that she was getting closer to revealing the truth and was trying to throw in a few stumbling blocks to impede her. She continued her examination of the past, with a new determination to omit unnecessary items.

She remembered slowly walking to the doorway of her bedroom and mentally debated with herself about whether to call out or remain quiet. Her housemate and best friend, Charlene, had gone on a mid-Autumn camping trip for the weekend and wasn’t due back until the next day. She was supposed to be alone in the big house and that only served to exacerbate the fear that was now beginning to well up from inside her. It started in her belly and began sending out pulses that seemed to reach the very ends of every hair on her body. She could feel the flesh of her arms and legs tingle as goose pimples rippled across her skin.

There was an eerie quality in the air, that Holly was unaccustomed to: She was aware of the minimal light coming through her bedroom window. The way her see through, white linen drapes gently swayed with the draft coming through the seams of her bedroom window. Then there was the sound of her bare feet gently slapping the floorboards as each one creaked with the stress of her weight. She was small yet still the floor would protest with every step. She worried the sound would reach who or whatever was on the first floor and they would come rushing up the stairs, into her bedroom, and fly at her with a giant machete. Probably wearing a dirty hockey mask, like in those movies. At the same time she thought, I really need to call someone and get that fixed. How annoying!

In her playbacks this memory would almost make her smile. Almost. There were too many other details weighing in and playing on her fear. Like the smell of the dry autumn leaves seeping through the badly sealed windows of the entire house. The memory that she had planned to buy Halloween decorations that day had to be pushed back. Again, it did no good to think about that now and was probably another device of her subconscious. Yet she did remember thinking that Halloween meant scary things and it did nothing to help her abate the fear. What if devil worshipers are out there hunting innocent victims to sacrifice to Satan on an altar surrounded by black candles, pentagrams, and black hooded figures chanting and casting evil spells? She remembered thinking.

“Holly, get a hold of yourself!” she whispered to herself. Hearing the sound of her own voice caused a little bit of courage to seep into her. This allowed her to creep closer to the open doorway and peer into the darkness. Only a moment had passed since climbing out of her bed but she felt like she had been awake for hours now. The aroma of Halloween was accompanied by a chilling windy whistle that lent the soundtrack to this terrifying ordeal.

She began to silently argue with herself, Turn on the light!

No! Are you crazy?

If someone IS down there, they will see and come for me!

Maybe they will run away. Maybe there isn’t even anyone there. You’re being silly!

Better safe than dead!

This last line of thought won the moment. Hearing the word dead in her mind was enough to kick the terror up a notch or five and the light would remain off. She looked to her nightstand and saw that only two minutes had passed. Seriously?

Holly also noticed that her phone was not on her nightstand next to her clock. This was because it was plugged into her laptop, downstairs. The way she saw it, she had three options: Should she bolt for it, and call emergency; shut the door, and hide in her closet; or run back to the window, throw it open, and scream for help? All three options would make her look like a crazy lady if there was no one in the house, but at least hiding in the closet would only look crazy to herself. However, if someone were here, option one and three were the only two that were viable, as hiding in the closet would probably only buy her a few seconds.

No. She needed a decent plan and she needed it now. The fear was mounting and the tell tale signs that she may faint began to emerge. Pin pricks of light began to appear in her vision, and she became light headed. NO! NO! NO! YOU CANNOT PASS OUT! She blinked a few times, shook her head, and tried to steady her breathing. It worked. Thank God for small favors.

She made up her mind and stepped through the doorway, finding the rail that would guide her down the stairs. The plan was to reach the bottom of the stairs which was only a short distance from the front door. She would quietly unlock the door and open it slightly, then throw on the light and scream, “Who’s there?” If anyone decided to jump out at her, she would run out the door and go to the neighbor’s house for help.

In hindsight, she’d realize there were problems with this plan, but in the end nothing she could’ve done would have spared her from this fate. She set the plan in motion. Step by step, Holly descended the stairs. One at a time. She noticed that the steps were solid and made no noise as she tested the weight of her legs followed by the rest of her body. She’d convinced herself that the intruder was searching the house for stuff or people to take with him when he leaves. This caused her rising fear to accelerate. She did not feel like fainting anymore, but as she made her way to the bottom of the stairs she began to feel her stomach lurching as a wave of nausea nearly overcame her.

Oh God, please don’t let me puke right here! she prayed. She choked it back, as they say, and closed her eyes. She waited a few seconds for the feeling to pass. What is wrong with me? Just get to the damn door, Holly! She told herself. She continued on her slow and silent journey towards the bottom of the stairs. Finally she made it to the ground floor, relief washed over her. It was premature, but was better than how she had spent these last three minutes of her life.

It was at this point that she noticed that her shoulders were locked in position about an inch below her ears. She allowed them to drop, tilting her head from side to side. This caused an audible cracking sound to be released into the silent dark morning. Almost instantly, her shoulders went back up and re-locked. She waited a few more seconds and began to move again.

There was a doorway to her right that led into the dining room and kitchen. She turned to look, but it was too dark to tell if anyone was there. Another plan began to formulate in her mind, but she shut it down. No way in hell am I doing that! She thought before she could even try to convince herself that perhaps she should go to the kitchen and grab a butcher knife from the knife block on the counter next to the sink. Not only do I not know how to wield such a weapon but I would probably slip and impale myself with the damn thing. No. Just stick to the original plan. Fine.

She looked to her left where the lounge was. The large picture window allowed the light from the streetlamps into the living area and she could see better in that direction. There was nobody in there and that made her feel better. It occurred to her now, as she was replaying the events of that morning in her mind, that the journey from her bed to the bottom of the stairs had been a disturbing roller-coaster of emotions.

She remembered hearing the songs of the birds. Birds woke much earlier than people and were always busy doing what birds do when she usually left the house and headed for work. It was still dark, but somewhere on the horizon the sun was hinting at the idea that at any moment it was going to peek over the edge and break the spell of night. The air in the foyer, where she now stood, was crisp and cool,but her fear would not allow any outside intrusions of environmental factors to derail her from trying to reestablish her sense of safety.

She crept toward the door quickening her pace as she got closer and closer. Finally with a mixed sense of panic and triumph she lunged for the door and tried to turn the dead bolt. Her fingers fumbled at the thick footballish shaped knob. She was trembling from fright and, once again in hindsight, realized that while adrenaline may heighten awareness and quicken your legs, it does nothing for dexterity.

She pumped them opened and closed a few times to get the magic of accuracy back into them and held her breath. She returned to the knob and unlocked the deadbolt as a rush of exhilaration caught hold of her and she almost blurted out a loud “YES!” stopping herself in the nick of time. She pulled the door open hard, forgetting that she had meant only to open it a crack. The door immediately slammed to a stop after opening only two inches. The blasted chain. She shut the door and frantically went to work undoing the security chain, but the concentration she had used on the deadbolt was long gone and she had forgotten how to operate her fingers once again.

This is it! She thought, I’m done for sure!

She was right. Someone grabbed her from behind and jerked her close to his body. Holly began to scream but the man was quick and clapped a large, roughly calloused hand over her mouth. This is where everything stopped. This is the moment her mind had chosen to shutoff for the sake of her sanity. Now was the time to release those memories. It was in this moment that the vision of bricks in her mind began to wobble, dust falling from the cracks.

What happened to me?

Do you really want to know? Came from behind the wall.

I need to know. This is my life.

His hand covered her mouth and gripped her jaw. She remembered the feel of his hot breath in her ear.

“Shhhh. Settle down. Settle down.” He whispered.

He began dragging her backwards…

The door to her dank humid cell slammed open and he entered as he had everyday since he had brought her here and locked her in this room. The bricks that were disassembling and falling away from her psyche, quickly re-stacked themselves and sighed. Deep down she knew she wasn’t ready to deal with what happened, yet she wanted–needed–to know in case she never got out of here alive. The things she could remember experiencing since had been terrible but were nothing compared to the terror she felt as she made her way from her bedroom to her front door.

“Good morning, Holly!” the mad man said. “Today is going to be special. He stepped inside and knelt beside her. “It’s going to be your last.”

Upon hearing these words from her tormentor’s deep, somewhat soothing, yet terrible voice, Holly decided she no longer wanted to know what was beyond that wall. She no longer needed to know. Instead, she went inside herself and found the place that she had reserved in case this moment ever came. She stepped inside and turned to shut off her mind and allow her self to slip into oblivion. But wait…

As the man hoisted her over his shoulder as he had done many times before, something was different and…

GO FOR IT! THIS IS IT!

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