The residents of Park Avenue had long since gone to sleep, whisked away to the lands of their imagination. Little Elsa dreamt of fairies and elves, Robert thoughts of his departed wife, and even Old Man Bueller fantasized about his long-gone army days. Yes, the night stood still as if the Sandman had cast a powerful spell on this quaint, little street. After all, dreams are a panacea, offering us the chance to experience what we might otherwise never have. And so, the people dreamt, lost in their own worlds; none content to leave the land of slumber. Well, all but one.
Liam was panting as he woke up with a start, his shrill scream piercing the nighttime. Beads of cold perspiration ran down his aching body as he watched moonlight stream through the window on his right. It was the third instance of him waking up during the night and time failed to provide the relief he so desired.
The nightmare was the same as always. Liam would be walking through an ominous hallway with a small kerosene lamp in his hand but wherever he would go, he would only return to his original position. Mourns would fill the air: a woman’s lamentations slowly rising from low sobbing to loud shrieks of despair. Liam would desperately seek the source, retracing his steps from last time; his efforts were met with sheer nothingness – an impenetrable gloom reeking of malice. The cycle would continue on and on as his mind slowly succumbed to the darkness around him. Even when awake, Liam’s thoughts lingered on this fleeting memory, slowly driving him insane.
Surveying his surroundings, Liam regretted the destitute state his very home had fallen into; a musty smell exuded from the tearing wallpaper. The room was empty save for his bed, a cupboard, and a lone chair – remnants of a once-happy life. Gathering his nerves, he stood up and felt the cold touch of the floor pierce him, stimulating him to wake up.
Running hands through his dusty hair, Liam walked over to the cupboard and took a good, look long at himself. His clothes were ragged and his trousers torn. His azure eyes were bloodshot with pain and his face was still scarred from the memories of that day – the day everything had gone wrong. He had still not forgotten and the guilt followed him every step of the way. Supporting himself against the rigid chair, Liam contemplated over the events of last year.
It had been like any other night when his pitiful excuse for a father had come home, his breath reeking of liquor. This all would have been routine had it not been for the small, but impactful, change. This time, he had had a gun. Whatever happened next was an unforgettable horror. Liam had helplessly watched as his father grabbed his mother and proceeded to abuse her. He had stood in silence as his younger sister was pulled by the waist. Whatever happened next still stayed with him. The sound of two gunshots resonated throughout the house as screams filled the night. Liam had lost half his family.
The funeral had been a small affair; only a few relatives came. Liam still remembered the cold look in their eyes as they gave him hollow words of support. Those closest to him had left him and even now, the world seemed to have abandoned him. Even though his father had been sentenced to life imprisonment, he knew that any form of punishment was too small. Perhaps the worst part of all this was the cloud of remorse that followed Liam everywhere. I should have done something – anything, Liam would always say to himself. But, he knew that such words were now futile.
Clearing his thoughts with a sharp slap to the face, Liam felt abhorrence and self-condemnation take hold of his heart. Tears flowed out as the moments played like a sadistic movie in his mind. It was then that the tapping started.
Fearful, Liam turned towards the window only to find the hollow night staring back at him. The sounds repeated, again coming from his back; he looked into the mirror. What he saw removed him of all hope. At first, he was but a young man, but he watched with terror as his face warped into that of someone many years older – his eyes gaunt and skin pallid. Gasping, Liam realized who it was – his father.
With a yelp, Liam looked left and right for respite, only to be stopped by a ghostly hand placed on him. It belonged to none other than his mother. No, this cannot be happening, Liam thought. Ghosts? Guilt surrounded him as he panicked but there was nothing that he could do.
“No! Please! It was all a mistake…” Liam begged for mercy.
With an ear-splitting moan, the apparition split into two. Now, there was a girl as well, with a ragged mess of hair. His entire family had come back from the grave. Distraught with grief, he stretched his hand out, longing to be with his lost kin; it simply passed through the silvery cloaks before him. In a burst of dementia, Liam ran without care – a helpless animal scampering for its life. Finding himself in the bathroom, Liam was a lone prey with nowhere to hide.
It is said that in times of need, even the most sinful seek God. Grabbing a tarnished crucifix from the cabinet, Liam held it out, cowering from sheer terror. He desperately watched as the phantoms materialized around him. They had no reflections. Even this did not bode well as Liam joined in the psychotic wailing of the wraiths. There was a crash and then silence.