Gina’s Tormentor

Paradise studio/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 30, 2019

The creature spoke and Gina listened.

She could ignore many things, but not this. Her tormentor was unique, both a part of her and not, and it always knew what to say.

Your life means nothing, her tormentor whispered. Your existence is an accident, your purpose non-existent. Let go, and follow me into the dark.

Every day, her tormentor extended its invitation, and every day, Gina grew one step closer to accepting it.

Gina tossed in her bed, the mattress groaning under her weight, and set the covers aside. She blinked as if lost, then peered up at the clock above her shuttered window.

12:56 p.m.

Is this all your life has become, sleeping through the afternoon and waiting for the sun to set before deciding it’s not worth getting out of bed? Let go, Gina. Let go and be one with me in the dark.

Tears sprang to her eyes, a common occurrence now, and as she lay alone in her dim one-bedroom apartment, her sadness spread, creeping first through her chest, then into her throat, choking her, pulling out of her quaking, trembling body one racking sob after the next.

Life hadn’t always been so dark. Once, she’d been a child. Once, she’d enjoyed the many colors of the world, ignorant of the darkness that dwelled just beyond its borders. Then the storm clouds of adolescence had come rolling in, blotting out the sun, and in the gloom, her tormentor had stirred for the first time: a child of the darkness that would haunt her forever after, cheering for the day that Gina would give up on the light for good.

Gina tried to resist, tried to find a place for herself beyond her tormentor’s corrupting influence. But the creature followed her everywhere she went, sowing seeds of despair and self-loathing until its control over Gina’s mind was absolute.

Now, Gina was on the verge of answering its call, of admitting defeat and allowing it to carry her into the dark. But there was a part of herself that refused to budge, a remnant of the little girl she’d been so long ago.

“No,” Gina heard herself whisper, the first word she remembered uttering in years.

All at once, a change came over her, a crack in those pregnant storm clouds that, for the first time since adolescence, let through a tiny spear of light.

“No,” she said again, and this time her voice was louder, no longer just a whisper but something fiercer. “No, I won’t go with you.”

For a moment the creature said nothing. Gina could feel its shock, its incredulity, and she knew it wouldn’t let her go without a fight.

Come, it said, no longer a question but a command.

It reached into Gina’s heart and plucked the sadness like the strings of an off-tune guitar. Tears poured from Gina’s eyes like rain. But the little girl inside was with her now, and its own influence over her mind was growing, beating back the emotional weeds her tormentor had spent a lifetime nurturing.

“No,” Gina said yet again. “I won’t go with you. Not now, not ever.”

She turned onto her side, forcing muscles atrophied by chronic disuse to move once again, then, at last, pulled herself out of bed.

Her tormentor reeled in protest, but Gina wasn’t going to let it win, not now.

The clouds above her head broke again, letting more light through. Gina continued to cry, but the sound had changed, no longer a reflection of melancholy and despair but of overpowering joy and newfound hope.

You can’t deny me forever, the creature spat.

Gina knew it spoke the truth. She would fight this battle again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. Such was her tormentor’s nature. Like cancer, the darkness inside of her would go into remission, then return the moment she believed herself healed.

But the little girl inside would remain with her, ready to remind Gina of who she’d once been and of who she could be once again. Together, they would fight, and one day, if Gina remained strong, she would beat her tormentor for the last time, and in so doing secure for herself eternal freedom.

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White Noise

Joe Techapanupreeda/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on March 6, 2019.

Daniel sat at an outdoor table, sipped a Starbucks cappuccino, and watched the world unfold like a silent film. Deep, resonant sound waves plowed through his ears like an ocean, and while the world was usually a loud and discordant place, as long as he had his white noise—as long as he could stick a pair of buds in his ears and drive the outside sounds away—everything would be all right, everything would be fine. The terrible memories that haunted his every waking hour would slumber for a little longer, and everything would be fine.

Only now and again, there was a hollow space in his mind that the static couldn’t fill, and when it finally bubbled to the surface, when his conscious mind reengaged with those dark horrors he always tried so hard to forget, he’d realize there was no running from the nightmare, that the nightmare would never end.

They killed her, he would think, and though his eyes would remain fixed on a neutral subject like a parked bicycle or a truck stopped at a red light, the eyes inside his head would stumble over unseen obstacles as he rushed headlong, back into the endless dark.

Like humans, they’d been…at least approximately, if one didn’t look too closely. And that had been Daniel’s mistake, hadn’t it? He’d looked too closely, and after returning home one night to find them standing in a circle outside his house—after following the contours of their too-long faces, angled down, to find his wife, Jennifer, splayed across the floor, her soft, unblemished body alabaster white, eyes wide, glazed, and unseeing—something inside him had broken.

In his mind’s eye, Daniel would, until the end of time, behold those grotesque and sharply-proportioned bodies. The white noise would never stop him from hearing his breath catch in his throat; would never stop him from staring again into those dull, onyx-black eyes; would never stop him from reliving the mad, soundless cry that had taken shape deep within his constricted chest, only to get stuck midway and never come out.

He would, as always, remember how one of those almost-human creatures had met his eyes, how it had opened its mouth, and how it had strained to speak. Only the profane secrets it uttered in the stillness of the night would remain a mystery, and that was not because of the white noise but because of Daniel’s steadfast unwillingness to remember. Some things were too dark, too unholy, to ever be allowed into the light of conscious thought.

But beneath the ocean of static, beneath even the subterranean layer of his subconscious, Daniel sensed its malevolent echo, a fetid residue that, like a grease stain, he would never be able to wash away. This abstract terror he knew intimately well, and white noise or no white noise, Daniel knew that sooner or later, it would catch up to him, that sooner or later, he would have no choice but to respond to its dark summons.

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