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This week’s document is a nearly empty black and white composition notebook – only the first twenty or so pages have any writing in them at all. There’s nothing inside to indicate its purpose or who it belongs to and when I first read it I assumed it was just a creative writing exercise from a college student…or maybe I had just hoped that. If it had been just that, someone’s homework, it wouldn’t have been in that storage unit at all. While much about Ron remains a mystery, through examining these documents I’d like to think I’ve come to learn quite a bit about his mindset and methodology, and this wouldn’t fit unless he thought there was something to it. Still, I’d find it much more comforting to think of it that way – just the workings of an active imagination. It wasn’t until I reviewed a copy of a police report that was tucked into the back page that I realized what it actually was, but more on that later.
I’m running. Every night, it’s the first thing I know. My legs are a blur and my chest burns as I try to inhale more oxygen than my lungs can hold. I’m only vaguely aware of the burn though – just like I realize my legs are beginning to feel rubbery and I’m on the cusp of misplacing my foot into a twisted ankle. But that’s not what’s on my mind.
What keeps me placing each foot further into the unknown is what’s behind me. At least, I hope they’re behind me. I don’t dare look back, though. I can’t. Taking any ounce of attention away from the task at hand for even a split second could spell the end for me. I know this to be more true than any religion or creed. So I keep running.
I see a white light in the distance. Just like I did last night. And the night before. And every night as far back as I can remember since I was a child in a life that seems like a faraway dream. But I keep running. Maybe this time it will be different.
Although it seems impossible to hear anything over my gasping breath or pounding heart, I hear something that’s not quite footsteps. It more closely resembles a waterfall. Or a crashing wave, as that’s more similar to what is actually there. It’s like a tidal wave of darkness ready to overtake me and suck me out into a sea of…I don’t know. I don’t want to know. And if I can make it to the light, maybe I won’t have to know.
I can see that there are actually multiple lights. I risk a glance at my surroundings as I press on. There’s a thick scape of trees to either side and overhead gnarled branches block out the moonless sky, all working together to create a fog of varying shades of gray and black around me. They could be running beside me or even ahead of me, waiting for me to emerge from the woods to reveal that there was never any escape to begin with. But I know for certain they’re behind me so I keep running.
I break past the woods and see that I’m in a small town now. I know this place. I don’t know why, but it’s instantly familiar. I don’t have time to think about it, though. I can’t keep running. Not now, anyways. I have to stop. I need time for the burn to go away so I can make another break for it. Without pausing as the ground changes from whitened dead grass flat against the dirt to the hard black pavement of a small street, I turn left at the first intersection and glance back at the woods. They haven’t emerged from the tree line yet. Thank God for small miracles.
Every house has an open door. Every house except one. I haven’t seen it yet, but I know it’s there. I continue down the street as it bends right and without hesitation run into the eighth house on the left. I haven’t been in this one before. The black door, like almost all the others, is open, but that’s the only way I can get in.
Knowing the outcome before I try, I yank at the door handle in vain. It won’t budge. It never will. After pulling with all the strength left in me and making no progress, I pause. I can hear a sound in the distance. An almost bass-y squeaking, like when wet glass is rubbed. The sound cuts through the night air. I have to hide, closed door or not.
I walk past the entryway and further into the house, stepping as quickly and quietly as I can, but I feel like each step on the white tile floor creates a thunderous echo. Entering the kitchen, I see another open door. An unfinished wooden staircase leads down into darkness. I hesitate, looking around for better options. I see a large chef knife lying on the grey marble counter and try to pick it up. It is like trying to lift a two ton brick. I know it is futile.
I turn back to the basement door and reluctantly enter. Every step creaks and groans under my weight, as if protesting an intruder. There is no light down here and I can just make out two more doors at the far end of the barren room by the faint light of the kitchen. I just took a step towards those rooms when the kitchen light flickers and I freeze. My time is up. I spin and in two swift steps place myself underneath the staircase where I crouch.
The light continues to flicker and I hold my breath. My breathing is the least of my concerns, though. My heart may as well be broadcasting in Morse code, “Hey, I’m over here. Under the stairs. Come get me!”
I place a hand to my chest, willing in vain my heart to slow to a quieter pace. It enters. There is no squeaking of steps. I’m not even sure that it touches them. All I hear is a sopping wet sound, like someone is squeezing slime against something as it descends into the basement. I see its vague, dark form between strobes of the light. I can feel its presence suck the air from my lungs and turn my fingertips to ice. This is the closest they had ever been. I know it is not a matter of if, but when, it will find me.
It pauses at the foot of the stairs and I silently pray it won’t turn to see my eyes peeking between steps. Instead, moving at a maddeningly slow pace with head cocked to the side, it begins exploring the basement along the wall, its tongue extended against the cold stone as it does so. A trail of thick saliva drips behind it.
I know what I have to do. I have to wait for it to get to the other side. It will go into the rooms. It has to. That’s where I was going to hide. That’s where, logically, I should have. Not out in the open. When it goes in, I will make a break for it. It is my only shot. But I have to wait. I have to wait for it to go into the room, and I have to pray it is the only one of them in this house.
I stare at it more intently than I’d ever looked at anything before as I slowly begin to stand up, ready to move as soon as it is out of my eye line. My peripheral vision is gone. All I can see is this shadow and the long tongue that hangs to the side.
My head contacts the stair above me as I rise and it spins around. I see its eyes.
After that there’s a blank page, then another page that just has three words etched deeply into the paper in a harsh scrawl: “Almost has me.” The writing resumes again on the following page.
I’m running. The town is behind me now, but it won’t be for long. It’s lights already offer no illumination to the brush that flies past me. I’m in the woods again. I don’t know how I made it last night. It must have turned into morning when our eyes met. It’s the only thing that makes sense. But here I am.
I’m not sure how I’ve been able to keep this up. Every day I’m exhausted and for what? To do it all over again the next night? I can’t do this anymore. But my feet keep moving.
I see the white light. I know if I can keep up this pace the light will splinter off into more lights and then a town will form. If I don’t, the darkness will overtake me. I keep running. I once again emerge from the black mouth of the woods and feel the texture beneath my feet change from earth to hard pavement that sends shockwaves up my bones with each pounding step.
I turn left at the first intersection and look back to the treeline where what appears to be a black mist is emerging. They’re moving faster tonight. I continue running down the street, knowing instantly exactly where I am. But why? Why is this place so familiar?
I can’t go back into the same house as last night. They’ll know. I have to find somewhere else to hide as I recover. Somewhere to last the night. But I’ve been in almost every house by now. They know all of my hiding places.
Then I see it. The white, closed door in a sea of open, black doors. I won’t be able to open it. It won’t move. But it beckons me. I move towards it and the houses on either side of me begin to rumble, then, one by one, they collapse as the ground shifts. The world rotates and I find myself walking upwards at an almost impossible angle, struggling with every step. I see every structure around me fall and emit a cloud of black dust in their wake. I drop to my hands and knees, beginning to crawl. I look at the white door before me, seeming to grow ever further away.
It suddenly occurs to me. I realize what it is now, why I know this place. This is where I grew up. Nobody had believed the stories I told of monsters licking their way through town. My dad told me it was just a bad dream. Maybe it was. Or maybe this is just where the monsters lived. Maybe when you fall asleep, you fall into their world. And when they find you…I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do to me. But I don’t want them to find me. I don’t want to be trapped here with them.
The earth on either side of the road begins to fall away silently. This won’t slow them down, though. I don’t have to look to know that for every inch I crawl, they’ve easily glided a foot. All it’s done is limited my escape routes and made me that much easier to see.
In my peripheral vision I see movement. It’s black, but it’s not them. I can barely differentiate anything from the black, starless sky, but I recognize the rectangles as doors. All the doors I had run past and been unable to budge. All the doors that had not offered shelter but an invitation to all that is evil to come in and find me. To take me away. They surround me, creating a tunnel of black, useless doors that floated with no passion, just indifference as to the fate of the creature that was now crawling for its life to the white door to my childhood home that would refuse to offer salvation.
But I have to try. What choice is there? This is my fate. I can hear them now. The familiar rushing noise. My hand touches the door that is now almost directly above me and I begin to cry as I reach for the handle. There is no give. I try to yank on it, but I have no strength and even if I did I know it wouldn’t make a difference. Beyond the door I can hear strains of muffled yelling followed by a crash, then more screaming. I slowly, with great effort, turn and rest my back against the closed, white door. Of course it was never going to open.
They’re not far away now. I can see the rough pavement slice their tongues as they move towards me, a trail of blood and saliva in their wake. There is no longer any urgency in their motions. And why should there be? They know I’m not going anywhere. It was always going to come to this. The white door – the only place in this world that offers protection – it would never allow me in. It’s just the illusion of shelter. A false hope. The trauma that occurred there as the town stood idly by would always keep me out. Everyone had heard my pleas for rescue. But here we are. Finally resting for a moment against the closed door.
Maybe if I’m still here tomorrow I can find a way to bring some matches or something into this world. I don’t know how that would work, but this door and everything behind it offers nothing to me. I don’t need to remind myself of it anymore. It won’t save me, it never made me stronger despite what I wanted to believe, and thanks to these creatures growing ever closer, it certainly won’t have the chance to kill me. It doesn’t belong here. It has to go. I may be running out of time and I may never escape this place, but for these last few moments that I have I can take back everything that was stolen as a child. I can finally move forward, even if it is into the darkness of this world. At least I will be moving away from this door.
The air around me is now being warmed by their hot breath as the last few feet are removed from between us. Even if by some miracle it turns to morning before I feel their tongues on my skin, they’re mere inches away and there’s no chance at all of making it through another night. They have me. They finally have me.
The next page just has two words on it, but they fill the entire page: “Tomorrow night.” The rest of the pages are blank. I double checked to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. That’s when I found the copy of the police report tucked in between the last page and the back cover that unfortunately shed some light on what I had just read.
Officers Daniels and Hiers entered the apartment at approximately 10:30am, responding to a request for a wellness check from the resident’s employer due to multiple absences from work and seeming to display paranoid behavior that had been growing worse recently. The resident was found in bed, unresponsive to stimuli. There did not appear to be any drug use involved aside from a prescription sleep aid on the nightstand next to a notebook.
The notebook appeared nonsensical, however when contacting the doctor who had written the prescription, he stated that the resident had been experiencing regular nightmares and, aside from the sleep aid, had recently begun a dream journal to help analyze what happened in their mind every night. The doctor confirmed that the amount of pills remaining indicated the resident had been taking them as prescribed. The tox screen confirmed this, ruling out an overdose as the cause for the comatose state. The door was locked and foul play is not suspected. This is a medical matter clearly requiring no intervention from law enforcement. Due to this, the case is being closed.
The resident, whoever that was, had been experiencing bad dreams. From the sound of things, this had been going on for a long time. After reading about their last two dreams in their journal entries, I can’t imagine living through that every night from childhood, only to wake up and find whatever traumatic reality they lived in offering no reprieve. I also can’t help but wonder where this town is that they grew up and if it really exists.
Worst of all is the fact that these creatures in the dreams bring back memories of a single entity I read about in a previous episode, The Window Licker. I have to wonder now if this may be some sort of species that exists in the world we enter in our dreams, and perhaps the poor girl in the previous episode had encountered one that had managed to escape into that place between sleep and consciousness. If they do reside in that world, how long will it be before you or I encounter them?
There’s still much science hasn’t told us about those who fall into a comatose state. After reading this, I can’t help but think it never will explain those things fully for the simple reason that it can’t explain the supernatural.
Either way, before I fall asleep tonight, I’m going to try to make peace with…I’m not sure. Myself? Someone? The universe? I’d encourage all of you to do the same. You just can’t ever be sure you won’t encounter something uninvited in your dreams or some place in between.