It was a night where I stayed with my boyfriend in my house. My mother was a hoarder, I mean severe. There were only paths to each necessary area, to our beds, to our bathroom, to the fridge, stove and sink. The walls were nothing but junk, stuff my mom had accumulated over the years after my dad left.
We laid down that night, cuddled up on a twin sized bed. He is a muscular guy, so the space on my bed was nonexistent. As we dozed off in our ball of cuddles, I felt goosebumps along my legs, then my torso, my spine and my arms.
My mind delved into a world I cannot imagine myself, there had to have been help from other…factors.
I woke up in an old burned down building, a house presumably. In the wreckage were boxes that were only slightly singed. As I gently made my way forward, I watched the floorboards and my feet to make sure I didn’t eat dust or have the floor collapse under me. They creaked and moaned under my weight, crying threats with every step I took.
Once I crossed the hazardous threshold, I found myself in front of a small fold out table with old newspapers scattered about. Most were town news, but one in particular caught my attention. As I picked it up, the paper was ready to crumble into dust, but it was soft, as old paper gets at some point. I scanned the headline.
FIRE IN THE WOODS; HOUSE BURNT TO ASHES.
As I scanned the image, it looked like a beautiful old Victorian house. I set down the old newspaper and right next to it sat another similar paper, but this time it read;
MOTHER AND CHILD FOUND DECEASED IN BEDS; FATHER STILL MISSING.
I immediately felt a sense of dread, goosebumps lining my spine. I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t be reading these, but I just couldn’t stop. Something in me felt like I was also meant to find these papers, find out the truth.
But what truth?
I still had no idea, but I knew for some reason, something was watching me. I found a tiny doll with the name “Christina” sewn into the hem of the skirt. That’s when I heard heavy footsteps, turning around to see a very tall man in a suit, pinstripes lining the semblance of curvature in his body. He was not as skinny as what I had thought, his insane height just made him seem skinnier than he should be. He was actually quite muscular, the suit straining but never quite straining enough to rip. He looked dapper, a silk bow tie instead of a long tie. His hat was hung on a rusty old coat hanger where the front door used to be. It was an old fedora, also pinstriped but much more faded than his suit.
His shoes were made of a material like leather, but it was, for some reason, more ethereal. The galaxies could be seen when the light struck the shoes just right.
“What do you think you are doing, Stausia?” The man growled, his mouth tearing open to bear sharp, jagged teeth. Black goo traveled down his chin, but disappearing before it made contact with the fabric.
How did he know my name?
“I…I don’t really know. I’m just here, not even by my own will,” I answered sheepishly, refusing to look him in the face.
Was there a face? I’m not sure, don’t really want to know either.
“Mhmm…” he studied me for a moment, I couldn’t see his eyes, but I could feel his gaze. It was different, as if he wasn’t looking at me, but he wasn’t looking through me either, more like into me.
“I am sorry if I have impeded on your personal space, I’ll just be going now.” I set the doll down gingerly, making my way to the portal when it abruptly shut.
“Where do you think you are going? I am not done with you.” He didn’t yell, but his voice was firm, almost forceful. I froze, realizing who I was messing with.
I was turned around, against my will, coming face to…face? With this man. I was forced to look in his eyes. There were eyes. Now they were empty sockets, leaking the same goo as his mouth, but this was different, I could also see the galaxy, the fabric of the universe in his eyes. He didn’t really seem angry, however. In fact he looked in great pain, great sadness.
Something that, I too, felt constantly. I have always suffered from severe depression, the most cliche’ part was that I was a loner, a weirdo, someone nobody truly wanted around. I felt, at this moment, like I had found an equal. A hand came to my cheek, and without a word, he brought his forehead to mine.
That’s when the darkness came.
Pain was all I felt afterwards, emotional anguish so strong I felt it physically, much like I often did. But this? This was different. So much more than just hormonal imbalances, much more than just basic depression. When I finally saw light, all I saw were flames, I heard screams, and I smelled nothing but burning flesh. I immediately knew that I had stepped into his shoes, at least in a metaphorical sense.
My chest burned, my face was wet with tears, the pain too much to bear.
Then just as fast as it came, it was gone. Like nothing had happened, but now I was in the body of a young girl, holding the same doll that I had looked at only moments before. This time, however, the doll was in pristine condition. I was wearing cute little black mary-jane type shoes and a beautiful blue dress adorned with bows and ribbons.
I ran down the stairs, into the kitchen where a pretty plate with pink roses painted on it sat. It was made out of some sort of fine china, the edges painted with gold. Small enough for a little princess. A delicious breakfast sat on top of the gorgeous plate, a stack of pancakes, with strawberries scattered all over the top of the syrup.
I really loved strawberries.
“Good morning, Christina. How was your rest?” What I believed to be my mother sat to the left of me, a gorgeous woman in her mid-twenties. Her long black hair was free, shining in the sunlight pooling in from the large kitchen windows.
“Where’s papa?” I asked, having sat down, feet swaying front, back, front, to back. I was much too small to touch the floor yet. A fine linoleum, a luxurious pattern crossing the kitchen, as I heard dress shoes crossing beside me.
“I am here my darling, fear not.” There he was. The man. But he no longer looked like the creature that stood before me minutes before, now he looked normal. He was still rather tall, but nowhere near how tall he was when I had last seen him. But I was not allowed to see his face, every time I focused to see passed the distortion, my vision faded. I decided not to test my luck.
“Papa, papa! You’ll never guess what I am going to do at school today!” I exclaimed this in my little sing-song voice. I knew I was not TRULY Christina, but why fight this if I wanted to see the truth?
The man chuckled, his voice deep and soothing.
“What are you going to do today, little princess?” he looked amused, content.
“I am going to be learning how to paint! It’s gonna be so much fun!” I started to dig into the fluffy, delicious pancakes. They were full of flavor, strawberries and syrup in perfect harmony.
“Make sure to bring home your art and we will frame it, love. You know how we enjoy everything you bring home from school,” chimed in mama, who was fixing my papa a cup of coffee.
As the conversation continued, my vision faded back into darkness. It didn’t take long for me to wake back up in the bedroom I had a few minutes ago. I was in a nightgown, and just thought it was an ordinary part of the vision, until I took in a deep breath.
I grabbed the little doll and ran down the hall, banging on the door to my parent’s room. Mama was still in bed, and papa wasn’t going to be home until late. The fear overtook me as I cried, screaming for mama to wake up, it was only when I noticed that smoke was billowing from under the door that I found out what had happened to mama.
I ran back into my room, crying loudly, hiding under my blankets, screaming at the top of my lungs.
PAPA!!! PAAAPAAA!!!! PLEASE PAPA COME HOME!!!!
But the screams fell in the darkness as slowly, the flames engulfed my room, and soon enough I felt a physical, searing pain like no other. As soon as it began, it was over, and I awoke back in the burnt down old house.
There sat the man, weeping. And as he looked up, he only uttered one last thing.
“Carry this truth with you, and remember why I am this way.”