I was never a particularly bad person. My criminal record wasn’t extensive, I never took a life, nor put my hands on someone I shouldn’t have. Maybe I didn’t give enough to the needy, didn’t volunteer enough, or didn’t subscribe to a particular religious ideology I ought to have. Just couldn’t put my finger on why I was stripped of what I had and placed in the situation I’m in now.
I’ve never been much of a religious woman, but for convenience reasons, I’m going to describe what I now experience as “hell”. I obviously didn’t go to a heaven, or some sort of purgatory…hell simply best describes it. But it isn’t what you’ve been told it is during your Sunday morning church sermon. Nor is it a prison in which to rot, or a fiery pit of pain. It’s a psychological test which I can only assume leads to ultimate freedom. A redemption to appease whoever or whatever made us. But that last part is just an assumption…maybe this test goes on forever, varying in difficulty and in punishment. However my firm grasp to hope remains, that someday this will all end.
To avoid further confusion, I’ll lay out a bit of atmosphere. Whatever happened in the brief moments before I became conscious of my surroundings is a mystery, but it felt like awaking from a nightmare with a quick shiver. Suddenly I could see, feel, hear…all of my senses heightened as compared to what I could remember before my death. I was situated in a seemingly abandoned house, the floor below my feet littered with debris and household items. I stood on the second level of the house; in front of me a hall which lead to a balcony overlooking the first floor living room. The furniture was badly tattered and incredibly dirty & the photos and paintings that once decorated the room now lied face-down on the floor surrounded by shattered glass. On the far end of the living room was an open door frame that led directly into the kitchen, who’s counters were matted in brown stains and rat shit was rampant. To the left of me, the stairs that led to these two ground level rooms, an elegant wooden staircase with a slight bend. Down the hall in front of me and before the balcony were two doors on the wall to the right, both doors were heavy oak & were shut at the time of my awakening. To my right side was a smaller hallway with one door to the left, a bathroom, and at the end of that hall, a slightly ajar door leading to a room I never had the privilege to enter. And right behind me, a large window that overlooked the backyard and open country that seemed to endlessly spread on past the fence bordering the property. No other house is visible from this view, nothing but prairie and thicket blanketed by the light of a full moon.
When I awoke, there wasn’t much time to look around my immediate surroundings before I noticed it. The feeling of shock felt from suddenly being in an unfamiliar place soon faded to fear and dread when I noticed I wasn’t alone. In the backyard entering the wide-open gate was what looked like a person. It hobbled about slowly, a sort of deformed limp as it went, black and deep eye sockets fixated on the house. Very tall and bony in stature, but not unrealistically so. It carried nothing and wore nothing except for a messy and ripped white dress. I stared it down for five or so seconds before realizing that it was female. Hair shoulder length and incredibly thin, an elongated face with a very narrow jaw. Mouth slightly open, head tilted a little to the right. I wanted nothing but for it to be as far away from me as possible. When it reached a mere 15 foot-ish distance from the house, I stepped back in fear it may see me through the gaping window, my foot atop the littered glass shards that the window once held. At once my weight shifted, and a crunching sound was made that alerted the thing. It stopped dead in it’s tracks and snapped it’s head upward as if it knew exactly where to look.
Panic set in that made the brief moment feel like an eternity. The thing in the backyard let out a gurgled shriek and then – it dashed. Faster than I’d ever seen any human move before. The freakiest swaying run, swiftly and with it’s arms dangling near the sides, moving sporadically. Acting fast, I bolted to the nearest room, the bathroom, an utter mistake…there was no door to shut. I stood in the corner of the room with eyes agape as I listened to the thing stumbling quickly up the stairs. And straight into the bathroom it came, arms stretched toward me, in full sprint. No hesitation. It didn’t even need to search for me. How did it know exactly where I was? And as it was within arms reach, I shook. Right back to the beginning.
The cycle repeated itself. In a flash it seemed I had gone back in time. I was standing at the intersection once more. The hallway was just as it had been, the stairs to my left, the rooms to my right, and the window behind me. Trembling, I turn to see that the thing was in the position I found it, hobbling across the backyard and toward the house. Knowing I had a few moments to act, I remained conscious of what I was stepping over and took a chance – the staircase. I quietly crept down, shifting my weight ever so carefully and testing each stair with a trial step in case it was broken or creaky. A few were, I stepped over those, and made my way into the living room. Slight success. My fear faded a little. The living room doorway which it came in the first time had no door to shut. But that’s the last thing I would have done. I slinked my way behind a large sofa near the centre of the room and waited. A lanky shadow cast as it approached and thumped with each step before it ducked slightly to fit though and peered around the room, as if already searching. Fuck. I watched in a heedful manner as the thing slowly staggers and totters toward the staircase. Yes, go for it, I thought. But instead of a continuation of it’s search on the upper floor, it halted as it reached the first step, turned with cracking bones, and looked straight at me. I was paralyzed. One giant stride and a leap, it reached me.
Just like that I was back at my scene. Stairs, hall, bathroom, door, window. Thing. By now I had figured out that the thing can’t touch me, that this test wasn’t about pain or suffering. My mind was fixated briefly on attempting to muster up a possible solution, but this was futile.
Remembering I only had a short time until her & her awfully postured walk made their way to the front doorway, I silently ushered myself downstairs, ducked and crawled past the couch that was recently the location of my demise, and tip-toed to the kitchen. This was my introduction to doing things in a timely manner, learning from my mistakes, trial & error. After a quick scan of the room I was in, I leaned over and peered toward the doorway where it usually arrives. No lanky shadows. No thumping footsteps. Is it really taking this long? Damn, how fast did I get downstairs? Questions clouded my mind as I continued to watch and wait. A good 30 seconds passed. There’s no way it wouldn’t have been here by now. What the fuck? Where did it go? Any confidence I had of escape was now drowned out by a flood of fear. I wanted to – I needed to know where it was. My eyes shifted toward the floor as I sought out something with a bit of weight. Reaching down carefully, I clasped a shard of glass loosely in my hand and prepared to chuck it into the living room. One more glance to make sure I was alone & I threw the shard. It made a loud thud and slid on the hardwood floor until it came to a halt against the wall near the stairs. A moment passed and still nothing. I checked my surroundings one more time. It wasn’t at the usual doorway. I wasn’t being ambushed. It was time to move.
Carefully I moved across the kitchen, between the wall and the island in the center of the room, past the kitchen table & chairs, and I neared the back doorway. This one actually had a door, half-hinged and mangled though it was. Slowly I clicked the handle, ease thus far. And creeeaaaak went the door. Called it. So loud. I paused. No sign of the thing. A little more creaking. Safety still upon me. Just my luck however, the door got stuck just as the exit was almost wide enough for me to slip my slender frame through. Frustrated, I gave it a good yank, and…the whole thing came tumbling down. I slammed against the floor, the door following in quick succession. Even after that sort of ruckus, no sign of the beast. Insane. I was no longer being quiet as I picked myself up off the floor and exited the building. Into the yard outside the kitchen. I traversed the broken fence and exited the property, not taking a single look back as I dashed into the open field. Freedom at last. I chuckled to myself as confidence returned to my mind and I continued my steady pace. In the distance, a roof above the thicket. Civilization, possibly. My hope would be rewarded. I just wanted so badly to see another human face, for this fear to end.
Shifting gear back to caution, I fumbled through the thicket clumsily. It’s thorns ripped at my clothing, it’s branches bashed my legs. But I made it through. Had I beaten the first test? I haven’t re-awoken. This is good. Stumbling slowly toward the yard I went, past the opened welcoming gate, and approaching the familiar building. My head shifted in confusion as I swept my sore legs across the ground. A sound caught my attention. The crunching of broken glass. I snapped my head toward the source of the sound, and through the second floor window saw the only innocent face I’ve seen since my death; my own.
Credit: D. L. Miller