The other day I went up to Toronto to visit a friend. He mentioned that he was going to a horror writer’s group, where they shared short stories they had written. He invited me to attend, and so it was with some trepidation that I tagged along. You see, I’ve never written a horror story in my life. It really just isn’t my genre at all. Though I’ve read a fair bit of Lovecraft and some other creepy tales, I generally avoid reading any kind of horror, and definitely don’t ever watch horror movies.
That being said, I always think it’s a good thing when I’m forced to leave my comfort zone — after all, you don’t know if you can write in a certain genre if you never try. So I sat down and made a list of all the things I’m frightened of (which is a very large number of things), and wrote a story about one of them.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with the result, and would definitely be willing to try something like this again. Here’s the story — a short vignette about the terrors of fear itself.
It’s there. It’s still there, I can feel it. I want to turn around, to look — just for a second. But what if it’s behind me, what if it’s right there? Better to ignore it. Better to pretend that nothing’s there.
I grab the diary at my feet — anything to distract me. Flip open to a random page: an entry where I swear I’m going to floss my teeth regularly. I suppress a slight chuckle. Like that happened. The chuckle turns into a nervous laugh, short, sharp and unquestionably loud. I feel my whole body tense up and I swear my heart slams on the brakes for a second.
What if I disturbed it? Surely that one noise wasn’t enough to get its attention. But what if it did? I should check. No! No no no NO! I can’t. If I look, I have to see it, that horrible thing. If I ignore it, it’ll go away. Back to the diary now. Let’s read about my unsuccessful date of January 14th, with a engineer I met at a garage sale. Damn my life is boring. Why do I write this stuff down? It doesn’t even interest me, and I’m the one who lived it.
I toss the diary away in disgust, and immediately regret it. In my current position, sitting on the floor with my knees tucked into my chest, there’s not much I can use to distract me. There’s The Fourth Bear sitting on my bedside table, but that’s almost six feet away from me, an insurmountable distance in my current state.
The temptation to look almost overwhelms me. No, temptation is not the right word. It’s an uncontrollable plague in my mind that infects my body, one nerve at a time, compelling me to turn around. I will not.
I dig my hands into my palms, bury my head in my knees, bite the inside of my cheek. Anything to keep my head away from what’s behind me. Pain is an excellent distractor.
Eventually the pain isn’t enough — my hands are clenched so tightly they go numb and the blood in my mouth makes me feel sick. If only I could look… but what would I see? An image comes to my head: legs, too many of them; fangs, large enough to haunt my nightmares; and eyes — eyes that chill my very soul.
That image stays with me, crawling on every little itch, every discomfort of my body. I try and shake it off, but I can feel it, burrowing into my skin, infecting me with its vileness. It’s not real, I know that.
‘It’s not real,’ I say out loud, trying to convince myself. My voice echoes in the quiet of the room, making me more uncomfortable than before. Despite my reassurance, the crawling doesn’t go away. They are still there, chewing away at my bones. I can feel the legs of one dancing on my ulna. I claw at it in horror, and claw again, and again and again. No more pain now, just desperation.
Finally, it’s gone. There’s more, I know, but at least I’ve driven them away from my body. A few moments respite, that’s all I’ve earned. I know I have to do it now. I have to look. It’s the only way. The only way to stop this endless torment, to free myself from the creature’s thrall.
I don’t know how long I sit there, preparing myself for my ordeal. But there’s no choice, so I turn my head. It feels like an eternity before I can see the wall, the wall that holds the demon. It’s such a nice colour — Robin’s Egg Blue, I think they called it.
My heart stops, and breathing suddenly becomes nearly impossible. The tears I’ve been holding back start to spill, mixing with the blood pooled on the laminate floor. It’s gone. Not dead, but gone. It could be anywhere. It could be behind me. Do I dare look?