I stepped off the train with a weight in my stomach. With each step, I was dragging a ball and chain behind me. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling, but it sure was familiar. The weight got heavier until I reached the old house where my past self was buried.
The tomb was coated in once-blue siding; it was falling off as I looked on. The roof was patchy at best, mostly replaced with tin that made a sound like thunder when it rained. A tree I recognized stood as tall as the ramshackle house, gnarled and white with age. It felt like a terrible premonition of what laid inside.
The wallpaper peeled like the skin around your nails, dry, cracked, and grey. Where it met the ceiling it was frayed and dirty, collecting dust from nowhere. A fan whizzed above our heads, the same one that drowned out my screams when I was little. I would be upstairs, and no one would hear me…
I didn’t want to stay here, but I knew I had to come back and face the memories- every last one of them- until I realized I was safe from the attacks. He couldn’t hurt me anymore, he couldn’t scare me. I had to find myself in this pile of junk and dig until I came out stronger on the other side. This was my home now.
I found it difficult to relax. For about a week, I stayed away from the upper floor, preferring to sleep on the beaten up couch in the living room; the one across from the chair where he would sit. It was an uneasy way to live, always watching your back for someone that wasn’t there. But I was managing for a while.
I became suddenly aware of a different energy quite suddenly one saturday afternoon; I was preparing dinner for myself and a supportive friend who had come with me just in case I needed someone. I was making spaghetti, and cringed as a bug ran across the stove. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone standing there, at least seven feet tall, and strong as an ox. Their muscles bulged out like a bull, and they were looking straight at me in a very terrifying way, almost as if they wanted to.. Kill me.
Just as I turned my head to get a better look, they disappeared. Every shadowy ounce of their being vanished into thin air. The worst feeling was that of recognition. I could feel its putrid breath on my skin, and see the glowing, red eyes searching me for weakness. It was still lurking in this place, this godawful place that was only standing because that monster needed to survive somehow.
I was not afraid of my abuser any longer, but the fear of what he’d done to me remained. And so did the demon that haunted this residence, built by a remarkably evil hand. I immediately called my friend, Jesse, who showed up as quick as he could. I was waiting outside, having been scared out of my wits.
I started crying and glancing through all the windows in the top floor to see if I could spot it and show him. But the only thing I would see were broken blinds or half-torn curtains.
We eventually went back inside to find the spaghetti burnt to the bottom of the pot, and the sauce spilled on the floor. It was strange, seeing it splattered all over the ground like that. I hadn’t knocked it over on my way out, at least I thought I hadn’t, and it looked like blood. I stared at it until Jesse came over and snapped me out of my trance, asking me if I wanted to order take out.
The rest of the evening was uneventful, and it passed in quick succession. We watched movies on the couch, light-hearted ones to distract us from the fear we both had beating around in our chests. Jesse hadn’t even seen it, and I could still feel the tension in the air.
We were about to go to bed when he suggested we bunk upstairs for once.
“I don’t want us to be down here if that thing you saw is still walking around. Maybe it’s safer upstairs.”
“I don’t know… I have some bad memories of the rooms upstairs.”
“I think it’s safer. I’ll be with you, okay?”
I couldn’t tell if he wanted to stay with me to protect me, or because he was scared too. Either way, I assented, and up the steep, dingy stairs we went.
At every stop up the steps I felt a memory bubble up. I was hiding here one time, or hanging on to the rails with terror in my eyes, trying my best to stay on the ground floor even if it meant being with that man who made my life Hell. Just nostalgic things. How charming.
We finally made it to the top, and I walked to my old bedroom without hesitation. Something about it drew me in, called to me in a weird way. It just so happened to be the same room where the closet was.
I glanced around and led the way to the door at the end of the hall. Each move I made was fluid, like I was watching myself in a dream. I was concise, almost too good at walking this path. Jesse stopped me before I could turn the knob.
“Let me make sure it’s safe. This room hasn’t been touched in years. Who knows what could be in there?”
He slowly turned the rusted handle, peeping inside before opening the door fully. Nothing stood in our way but a pair of shoes, hastily tossed to the side. They were mine; an old pair of sneakers with holes in the toe. I kicked them to the side, and looked further into the cell I was once captive in. It was still as dark, as meager, and as pathetic as it ever was. It looked like it had only been changed by the amount of dust that lie inside it.
We made up our sleeping bags near the window at the back, and opened the blinds that barely moved. It let in some moonlight, but there wasn’t much to see by. I quickly turned to my side and fell asleep, only to be awoken by a noise; a noise coming from the closet.
I opened my eyes suddenly, trying to stir Jesse to wakefulness, and failing. I yelled, “There’s something in there!” But still, he snored on.
I knew I had to do something, even if it was just an animal or a homeless person seeking shelter. Suddenly I succumbed to the second option, and wholeheartedly believed it. I walked to the door with pity in my heart, and opened it gently.
I was wrenched inside, and thrown to the floor. I tried to scream, but I was so afraid that all that came out was a squeal. Soon I found my voice, and yelled for Jesse several times, and he heard me after a full minute of ceaseless cries.
I began to panic. Was I dreaming? Could this just be a nightmare of what I once felt?
The demon I had seen before licked and growled near my ear, just as Jesse flung the door wide open.
“Hey! Hey, I’m here, it’s okay. You were just dreaming.”
“It pulled me down! It locked me in there, Jesse, we gotta leave,” I cried.
Several days go by, and I don’t see a single sign of the demon; however, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel its presence, or jump at every sound. Jesse decided to pack up and leave ahead of schedule, abandoning me with the terrible creature. Great friend, right?
I stay away from the house as much as possible, hanging out on the land surrounding it, or at the local stores. I hadn’t faced my fear of my abuse history, and that itched like a raw mosquito bite. I wanted to get this over with and head back to my home; I knew this place was not home.
Two weeks after arriving, the flashbacks began. The only weird part was that they were from his perspective. I could feel what he felt, see what he saw. All the anger and malevolence: it was there and it was fresh. I watched myself be pushed down into the closet and locked in. I heard my scrawny voice scream through the panelling, gasping between each breath. I could feel the woosh of cold air as the demon entered the room and went into the closet to destroy my sanIty, day by day, weakening my perception skills.
Some people say that’s what drove me to do what I did next, those flashbacks.
All I recall doing was watching the house go up in flames as the demon revelled in my head. I knew I’d never be safe from all the horrors of my past, but I knew that the house was gone, once and for all.