It was happening again.
That familiar, faint feeling gripped me in the knees and shoved me to the floor. I didn’t try to get up. Instead, I pulled my legs up to my chest and hugged them tightly.
Outside, the summer sun blazed relentlessly. Yet the lighting in the room dipped and brightened like a lonely flame, struggling by an open window. I shuddered. A chill had come in and crept up my spine with icy fingers.
A room away, my mother prepared a delicious meal I would have no appetite for tonight. It smelled like steamed fish and vegetables, with rice and beans cooked in coconut milk – my favourite.
The clinks and clangs of the knife on the cutting board, and the spoon in the pot, cut loudly into the stunning silence. My mother noticed it, too. It was far too quiet for a six year old tom boy to be at home.
She appeared in the archway and looked suspiciously in my direction.
I was glad to see her but knew better than to move. I clutched my knees closer to my chest and rocked and breathed and sweated. There was no point in telling her again what I saw or felt or heard. She never believed me.
Still I said, “Mommy – The Man.”
She tensed. Her knuckles turned almost white as she tightened her grip on her flour-stained apron. She knew what ‘man’ I was referring to, but she refused to acknowledge it. “What man?”
“The Man,” I repeated. “He’s coming.”
She rushed towards me then, and the walls and floors and ceilings disappeared into blackness.
I came to, still lying on the floor with my mother hovering over me. I could sense her, but I couldn’t see her. Instead, I saw static – much like the black and white grains on our old television sets when we lost a connection.
It always happened like this – my small respite before chaos hit. I studied the static apprehensively, waiting for the face to appear and that deep, dark laughter that chilled me to the bone and cut fear into my heart every time I heard it.
Nothing but silence, and that constant frying of static in the background.
Somewhere in the house, a clock ticked and tocked the time away. In the distance, I heard the playful laughter of happier children, chasing each other in the neighbour’s yard. I didn’t allow them to distract me. I watched and waited.
Soon enough, I saw it. One by one, the tiny grains of static worked together to form a three-dimensional face that seemed to strike out at me through the darkness. And then came that laughter; the epitome of evil, emanating from his bodiless throat.
In an instant, the static dispersed, and all the colors and textures of the room returned. There he was, standing by the door, with thinning silver strings for hair, and a bushy white beard.
He might have been friendly if he didn’t smile, or laugh, or look at me with such piercing eyes of blinding white. They were like lightning emanating from orbs in a face so twisted with hatred and malice that it had no form, no shape.
He glided rather than walked towards me, a chilling shuffle of black rags sweeping our tiled floors. I shoved my mother away and bolted up the stairs screaming, and crying, and begging for help.
I bolted into the bathroom, then out again and down the stairs – running from everything and nothing in particular. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him clearly. I heard the heavy thud of his footsteps, and the thump, thump, thump of his scythe on the wooden floors.
It seemed to echo throughout the house like a roll of thunder in a terrible storm; rocking its foundation and shaking me to the core.
Suddenly, darkness descended upon me like a cloak. I was blacking out again. Still I fought, and bit by bit, I dragged myself back to consciousness – like a dog dragging the corpse of its drowned master back to shore. I tried to remember where I was, and what had happened.
The guttural laugh made my heart skip a beat and then sped it up double time. I was alone in my room. He would take me now for sure. I looked around, but couldn’t see him anywhere, and my door was closed.
Still, I could hear him by the door, trying to make his way in. I looked under the bed – too easy. The closet would have to do. A dark box carved out of the concrete walls, it wasn’t the most comfortable place I could think of hiding, but it was the best.
I climbed in and pulled the sliding door shut behind me as quietly as I could. Maybe if he came in and didn’t see me, he would go away. I crouched back behind hanging dresses, jeans, and T-shirts, fumbled a bit over old shoes, and sat.
I breathed deeply.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed a shadowy shape before me, just a few inches from my bare feet. A bit of ragged cloth hung loosely on the floor, swaying ever so gently though no breeze could make it into the windowless closet. My eyes followed the dark cloth up and up to the two white orbs of glowing light looking down at me.
Trembling, I realised he had won. He had me. But this time he didn’t laugh. He only raised his scythe. The blade shone even in the darkness, and then came down with blinding speed.
I screamed – and then it was over.
I remember nothing else of being human.
Originally written for and rejected by The Canary Press. Edited for publishing here.