Evil

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.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

Burden

drasa/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on February 27, 2019.

I see them flitting through the shadows and I try not to be afraid. They don’t know that I can see them, that I track their every move, and they mustn’t catch on. So I avert my eyes, and from the corner of my eye, I watch, taking mental notes as they stalk the Earth, unseen to all except myself.

They’re phantoms, abstract projections of the dark. They move through our homes, through our places of business, watching us as I watch them. For years, I pondered their intentions, and I noticed that whenever I was sad, depressed, angry, or afraid, they would hover closer, and in their presence, my negative emotions would deepen.

My conclusion is that they’re hungry, that they dine on our hardship and our pain. I’ve observed people at their worst, and in those terrible, rock-bottom moments, that’s when they come out of hiding and open their mouths to feed. To them we are livestock. They’re the reason humans are so violent, the reason humans are so angry and afraid, the reason humans are always on the brink of war. It’s because of them, I am certain, that we’ve never moved beyond the tribalistic ethos that binds us. They sow discord and darkness, then rejoice in the blooms of evil that sprout from our corrupted hearts.

They believe humanity is defenseless. But all the while I’ve observed their behavior, and I’ve learned how they can be destroyed.

In the act of feeding, they become like us. The greater the evil, the greater the despair, and the greater the despair, the more physical they become until they’re almost humanlike, with contorted, unnaturally proportioned bodies and long, razor-sharp claws. The more physical they become, the more susceptible they are to attack. So I venture into the world, allowing my darker emotions to surface, and when I’ve reached the apex of my suffering, when I’ve engorged myself with the emotional poison that sustains them, they come, attracted to my pain like fish to a baited hook. Then, when they assume solid form, I attack.

My theory is that they were once like us, and I sometimes consider the possibility that what they’ve become isn’t entirely their fault, that someone or something might have transformed them into what they are today against their will. But in the end, I always reach the same conclusion, that eliminating them is an act of self-defense, and that, when all is said and done, it’s us versus them.

So far, I’ve killed nine. I cannot hunt them in groups, lest some escape to warn the others. Instead, I prey on them as individuals, a task that is agonizingly, painstakingly slow. Nine is but a drop in the bucket—the world is full of such creatures—but as the only human who can see them, the burden is mine to do what I can, even if it means sacrificing my own emotional well-being. My life is one of unending despair, but I cannot allow these creatures to destroy my human family, and if my own suffering means the world as a whole suffers a little less, I’ll continue the hunt until my dying breath.

I believe in justice. I have faith that there’s an unseen judge watching over us, and that, with an appraising eye, he examines my work. It is for this mysterious cosmic entity I labor, always with the hope that if I must suffer in this life, then perhaps I’ll be allowed happiness in the next.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

The Watchers

Phovoir/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on January 29, 2019.

Remy found the journal right where he’d left it: on the bedroom shelf beside his favorite book, The Shining. It stood at an angle, and where it touched the slanted afternoon light from the open window above, a shadow had formed, an intense and palpable black that might, for all Remy knew, be some kind of black hole, ready to suck him in should he venture too close.

He leaned in, his nose just inches from the leather binding, and after a deep, steadying breath, he snatched the journal up and carted it off into the basement, where the shadow’s entire family seemed to have congregated in his absence.

Remy sat before a wooden desk, set the book down, and after turning on a nearby light, he watched the shadow’s kin scatter to the far corners of the room. He opened the journal to the very first page, and there he ruminated over the text scrawled across the interior cover.

Property of Archibald Miller.
Do not read unless I’ve passed.

Archibald was Remy’s uncle, and since the man had, in fact, passed, he had no qualms about prying. The two of them hadn’t been close, but a chance encounter with his estranged sister had resulted in his acquisition of the journal.

The meeting had been an awkward one. Remy had stopped by home to check on Mom, and when he arrived, sitting beside her on the sofa was his sister, Jan.

“Oh,” she said, and she offered Remy a strained smile that he refused to return. “Hello.”

Remy didn’t meet her eyes, nor did he reply. Too many hurtful words had passed between himself and his siblings for him to ever make eye contact again. To think that the fighting preceding their falling out had revolved around a stupid inheritance—a different family member at the time, not his uncle—that he’d wanted no part of in the first place. In the years that followed, she’d extended multiple olive branches, but he’d resisted every one.

“Isn’t this nice,” his mother said, ignoring the extended silence following Jan’s unrequited greeting. “Remy, come sit with us.”

And he did, not for his sister but for Mom, who he didn’t wish to upset.

Just as the visit was winding to an end, Remy’s sister cornered him in the foyer and said, “We found something in Uncle’s house yesterday.” By we, she meant herself and Remy’s younger brother, John. She reached into her purse and produced the book that now lay open on Remy’s desk. “It’s a journal. I offered it to Mom, but she wasn’t interested. Said Uncle had secrets she wants no part of now. I just thought maybe you’d like to read it.” She looked up at him, and again, he refused to meet her eyes. “You know, since you’re the reader in the family.”

That was true. He’d always loved books. Back when they were kids (long before their falling out), he’d sneak off to his room while his brothers and sisters watched TV and lose himself in the darkly hypnotic worlds crafted by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, and Stephen King.

“Thanks.”

No doubt she’d hoped the gift would spark a renewed interest in their ruined relationship. He took the book from her and closed the door on his sister once more.

The journal, it turned out, was indeed full of secrets, and he couldn’t blame Mom for wanting no part of them. His uncle’s words were unnerving, and at first, Remy thought the man must have been delusional. But somehow, the journal’s contents stuck with him until it seemed his uncle’s mad ramblings followed him wherever he went.

Whether he was sleeping or awake, working or at rest, his uncle’s words took root, lodged in his heart like a tumor. A dark fascination took hold, and soon Remy was spending all his time in the basement, reading and re-reading the thoughts of a mad man and somehow making sense of them.

Now, again, Remy consulted the journal.

I have come to understand that, just as our eyes are windows into the universe, so too is the universe a window into us. Who, I have often wondered, might be using that window to watch over us? Today, the answer came to me and I am afraid.

From there, the man had gone on to detail a class of beings he dubbed the Watchers.

I see them in the shadows everywhere I go: the Watchers. I cannot look directly at them. Ironically, they don’t seem to like being watched themselves and they’ll vanish the moment you turn your head. But if you’re clever, if you train your eyes to make sense of what you see at the periphery of vision, there you’ll find them, always watching. And for what purpose? Are they beneficient? Malevolent? Perhaps neither. Perhaps we’re some kind of exhibit in a cosmic zoo, and those terrifying phantoms are much like ourselves, staring at creatures lower than themselves, perhaps musing, perhaps mocking, and always watching. Always, always watching…

Delusional, every word. At least, that’s what Remy wanted to believe. But hadn’t he tried his uncle’s experiment? Hadn’t he focused on what he could see out of the corner of his eye, and hadn’t he spied something strange, something off, an ever-present shadow that followed him around wherever he went?

He wanted to believe his uncle was crazy, that the man had been a closet schizophrenic, and that his journal was proof that he should have been committed long ago. But hadn’t he found his uncle’s phantoms even outside in direct sunlight?

Like his uncle, Remy had glimpsed whatever was watching him from the other side of that cosmic window, and now he was afraid.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.