So this is a story I wrote around 2012/13 for a writing competition; never heard back from them.
The italicised part was the prompt for the story, the rest is my own words.
I’ve edited it a bit, but when I re-read it I realised I could have easily written it while I was in hospital!
[Currently doing my own proof-reading so please feel free to call me out on any mistakes or provide some constructive feedback :)]
The room is dark. I enter slowly, my eyes unaccustomed to the lack of light. I pull back the curtain, memories flood the room. It seems such a short time since I last stood here. I made a promise to myself that day. I would never stand here again – a promise I have kept until now.
I was seventeen the day I left Sphinx House for good. My parents protested, they argued with me for weeks about my decision to leave but their words could not sway me. For years I had counted down the days until I could escape the clutches of the evil residing in my childhood home. Thirty years have passed since then and obligation has brought me back to the very place I have been running from all these years. I spent my twenties and thirties clouding the memories of my childhood with a zealous pursuit of life’s pleasures. When I reached my forties, so hazy were these memories, I began to question the existence of the phenomena I’d spent so long trying to forget.
The room had once been my childhood bedroom, my one private refuge in the vast Sphinx House. Though its function has changed in the years since my departure the same tapestries hang on the walls and the old fashioned Fleur-de-lis carpet still shimmers beneath my feet. It was not until I reached the age of ten did I realise how this carpet’s abnormality. My Mother once told me that as a toddler I would spin in circles around the room “dancing with the lilies.” When I asked her why the lilies appeared to dance and shift she merely shook her head and told me to run along and mind myself while she busied herself with the work of running such a vast household.
I often found myself sat underneath the window in my room, legs stretched out in front of me, captivated with the floor. Time would disappear and I would lose myself in the twisting and twirling shapes that seemed to move with a new found intensity. My Mother would wake me from this trance when it was time to eat, or sleep, or bathe. It was that same day, at ten years old, when I experienced the machinations of an arcane presence for the first time, or at least for the first time I can remember.
That initial encounter, though terrifying at the time, was mild in comparison to things I would experience over the next seven years. As I lay in bed, on the cusp of sleep I saw momentary flashes of spectacularly coloured orbs hanging below the ceiling, and the sound of disembodied fingers tapping a steady four by four rhythm on the floor. These occurrences were no more than small ripples in reality heralding the approaching waves.
On the morning of my eleventh birthday I was woken by the soothing sound of Mother’s voice singing a sweet melody while she set my breakfast tray down on my bedside table. Shaking off the hold of my unfinished dreams I forced my eyes open. My vision was not impaired that morning, I remember seeing the sharp outline of the oak dresser opposite my bed, and the detailed pictures on the tapestry above it as clearly as any day, yet my Mother’s face was no longer my Mother’s face. Her once warm eyes had been replaced with cavernous black holes and her facial features were barbed and menacing. I curled up my fists, rubbed my eyes and looked at her again. “What is it?” she asked, responding to my obvious alarm. I sat there, stunned in silence as I watched her approach, her mouth twisting into a pointed smile meant to calm my nerves but only showing off her sharp crimson teeth.
I do not believe that what I was seeing was my Mother’s true face, as soon as we left the confines of my bedroom her features returned to normal and over the years I saw the demonic visage in the face of every man or woman who entered my room. It became necessity to learn to hide my discomfort when I was forced to interact with my family in that space and I isolated myself, locking away a secret that I was unable to explain let alone share.
The most severe games were played at night, when I was all alone, kept awake by the rhythmic tapping. On one occasion I was suspended upside down, the ceiling beneath me, I gripped the bed sheets tightly as I felt myself slowly succumbing to gravity’s pull. The distance between me and the ceiling expanded the closer I came to falling and the ghostly tapping grew faster and more desperate. I tensed my muscles and squeezed my eyes closed, bracing for the fall, but nothing happened. When I finally dared to open my eyes again I was sat the right way up in a pool of sweat and the tapping resumed its usual pace. For a brief moment I was plunged back into reality but as soon as I began to grow accustomed to it the space around me warped once more and the room lost all sense of form and dimension. When this happened the hands on the clock would not move forward until the room returned to normal and I would be trapped in a state of absolute sensory confusion.
I shudder myself free from my recollections when I spot the solicitor’s motor vehicle pull into the driveway. A stout little man carrying a black leather briefcase exits the vehicle and starts to make his way across the drive. He looks up to see me watching from the window and waves in acknowledgement. He raises his palm flat, telling me to stay where I am. I move away from the window and take in the rest of the room. Aside from the light shimmer of the carpet nothing else seems to be amiss. Over the years the power this being has over me seems to have weakened to the level it was before my tenth birthday and I make a conscious decision not to look too long at the carpet. While I wait for the solicitor my eyes land on a wooden chest pushed into the far left corner of the room. I make my way to the chest and catch my reflection as I pass the mirror to my right. For the duration of my adult life I haven’t had the will to look directly into a mirror, there are some behaviors left over from my adolescence that I can’t seem to shake no matter how hard I try.
As I suspect the wooden chest is my old toy box and its contents bring back both fond and frightening memories. Mr. Wuffalo, my stuffed dog, had been my stalwart companion since birth and for years I valued him above all my other toys. The day came, however, when Mr. Wuffalo turned on me. On a rare night of peaceful sleep I was disturbed by raised voices that I did not recognise. “All you got do is roll on over there climb up the bed and smother that little bugger.” A voice growled in the darkness. “You do it Wuff. I can’t bloody climb!” The second voice replied. I sat up as the pair continued their argument but was unable to discern where the voices were coming from. I scrambled under the covers and crawled to the bottom of the bed. “I’m too battered and old, I don’t have the strength to do it…” lamented the first voice. I poked my head out over the edge of the bed and looked down on my wooden toy chest. “…I have a lifetime in the paws of that brute to thank for that…” it continued as I reached my hand out to lift the handle. “…oh the things I’d do to that boy if I had the chance, I’d cu-.” the voice stopped abruptly as soon as I pulled open the lid and the only sound that remained was the familiar four by four rhythm echoing in the darkness.
A knock at the door. “Excuse me, it’s Mr. Harding. We spoke on the phone.” I leave the chest open as I stand to greet the solicitor. “Hello.” I reply, still turned away from him. I can feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck with the anticipation of gazing upon his face. “I’m so sorry for your loss.” He says. “Are we the first here?” I turn around and nod. “Sarah will be here after six, but Jimmy won’t get here till tomorrow.” I inform him. Mr. Harding smiles warmly at me, his face wearing the distinctly human expression of sympathy. “Well then… how about a drink?” he offers. I agree and find my eyes wandering to his feet; he stands just beyond the threshold.