By: Alex Kromkowski
There I stood, at night, staring into pathway. Nowhere was a door to be seen, nor even a window; but as I stood, I thought myself through it, and I was through it.
I roamed throughout the darkened passageways of this ominous tunnel. Everywhere I looked, passages were sealed off, but every time I thought myself through them, I was through them.
As I crossed through these sealed pathways, I noticed dark things, too many dark things, all kept at bay—for good reason. The horror of what I saw would be enough to send me into shock in any other state of mind, but in my prolonged dreamlike delirium, I passed by, noticing, but strangely calm.
I continued roaming though these passageways, quietly praying for something better to appear, but everywhere I looked was another dark horror.
I can only imagine what kind of being has the power to keep these horrors at bay…
Alas, I continued my journey, my bizarre but dedicated journey, wondering what sorts of horrors would be next, what would be at the end, or if there even was an end.
But as I roamed, the passageways started to fade away, not being passageways at all, but replaced by a looming forest, darkened by the night.
In the distance, I could see a small fire, and perhaps I could hear some voices coming from the area.
Intrigued, but still strangely calm, I began my walk towards the fire. The trails through the forest were winding, and a small ravine cut through the middle of the forest, but as I thought myself through it, I was through it.
As I come closer, I can make out the voices, and they surprise me. Even in my dreamlike delirium, I can make out the voices well enough to know that they belong to my parents.
They sit there, by the fire, increasingly irritated by another man—my brother, I discover, as I look closer.
My brother stands by the side of the fire, staring at my parents, not saying a word.
My parents continue talking to him, frustration rising in their voices, as they try to get him to speak.
Eventually, my brother simply turns around and walks off.
I turn back around, and walk down the largest of the trails. I could feel the chunks of gravel moving around under my feet, and lanterns dotted the trail as I walked. It was very uneven to walk across, with small holes and ever-changing elevation. It would normally be very easy to trip while walking down this trail in a delirium, but as I thought myself through, I was through.
And I see it—farther down the trail, the widest of the trails, a tree had fallen, blocking my path back to the top of the gradual hill, wherever the trail led. It was a large tree, and would require considerable effort to move out of the way.
Suddenly, I see myself taking care of the tree; a truck is parked nearby, headlights providing the lighting for me to cut apart the tree and clear the trail.
And as I watch myself work, something crosses in front of the truck.
I can’t tell what it is, but as I watch myself cut apart the tree, I also watch myself turn around, noticing that something—or perhaps, someone—had crossed in front of the truck.
I watch myself call out to the something, trying to figure out who it is. I suppose I was thinking it was one of my brothers who came through, but there’s no more indication of anyone being there.
I watch myself know that someone is there; after all, this someone only passed in front of one of the headlights. Whoever it was stood still, between the headlights, invisible before my eyes.
Alas, I watch myself get back to work, shaken, but continuing to cut apart the tree. But before long, another flicker crosses a headlight—the headlight that didn’t flicker before.
Now I watch myself become certain that someone crossed the truck, and I watch myself call out to them, but there remains no answer. This creature had enough intelligence to know that it could stand between the headlights without being seen, and cross by the other to leave. But whatever it was, it disappeared into the night, wandering through the winding trails, going wherever a mysterious being goes in the night.
I continue down the trail, passing myself who continues to cut apart the fallen tree, and I see a house at the top of the hill.
It’s somewhat of a peculiar house; it appears to have had several parts added on to it. I see a small porch, a plywood handicap ramp, a few plywood stairs, an old light, some potted plants, and several cats, mostly black, play fighting across the wooden ramp, seeming to not notice that anything peculiar is happening at all.
I continue my journey into the house. The door opens into a small hallway, where a petrified butler stares at whoever enters, eyes never closing as it stares into the soul of the guests who may come. I turn and walk through the house, observing the rooms; very messy, with objects of all kinds sprawled across the many desks and tables that fill the various rooms. I don’t take notice of anything in particular, although I wondered if I should, and eventually found my way into the basement.
As I descend the old, creaking stairs, I hear another voice. As I come closer, I know it to be another one of my brothers, and again, I see myself.
I watch myself and my brother conversing, deep in discussion about an object in the closet. As they discuss it further, I learn that the object in question is a mannequin, stolen from a quiet old man who has since been sent to prison. I watch myself, as I seem to be a little worried about what the mannequin may do, clearly a little concerned by the creepy human figure that we keep trapped in the basement.
I watch my brother joke about it a little, saying there’s nothing to worry about.
Then we all hear a crash.
I watch my brother and I look at each other, clearly both concerned. My brother steps towards the closet, opens the door—and a glass has been knocked down from a shelf. The mannequin stands, its blank stare piercing us through, as if initiating a challenge. We all suddenly realize, as much as we don’t want to, that the mannequin was the only other object in the closet.
As my brother and I stare into the closet, realizing that the mannequin’s hand has also changed position, quiet horror spreads across our faces. I turn and walk up the stairs, shaken by everything I’ve witnessed, navigating through this strange house.
I walk through the messy rooms, past the television that is now playing some sort of slapstick cartoon, and I find my way into a kitchen. I briefly notice the various food items scattered across the countertops, and hear punches, explosions, and cartoon laughter from the TV a room away, but I turn to my left, and find an entrance to a hallway covered by an old black sheet, fabric of some sort, nailed into the doorframe.
I don’t know how I knew it was a hallway, but as I thought myself through it, I was through it.
I walk through, observing the odd chain of rooms I somehow entered, not quite a hallway like I thought I knew it was, and I can’t make sense of the construction of this passageway. Sheets of wood are nailed in a few points, and there seems to be a few oddly shaped holes in the walls. Wallpaper dots a few spots without any pattern, but as I inspect a piece of wallpaper that is gradually falling off, I see that it was designed to keep people from seeing the large claw marks it hides.
I walk through these rooms, still a little shaken, but overall, still strangely calm. Objects of all kinds litter the floor, and I have to watch my step to make sure I don’t walk over anything dangerous. I swear I hear one of the cats from outside try to follow me, but it knows it isn’t allowed in these rooms.
I navigate through this strange chain of rooms, being careful not to step on anything that may break, or on a spot on the floor that seemed to be a badly-covered hole. I enter the last room, after passing through another black cloth, more worn out than the first, with a few long claw marks towards the bottom. Inside the room I see a large bed, sitting in the middle, and surrounding it is weapons of all kinds. I see swords, knives, maces, generally Medieval, a bit of Crusader influence on a switchblade, and dragons carved as intricate designs on many of the handles and sheaths of these weapons.
I also see books, and what I think to be a chessboard, with fantasy characters as the chess pieces; a flag I don’t recognize is hung on the wall, at the end of the bed. A flag with black stripes on the top and bottom, and some sort of black bird of prey stands victoriously in the middle. It seems to be something European, but as I ponder it, I feel myself drawn back through the odd chain of rooms; so as I think myself through it, I cross through it.
I wonder why I had to watch my step when entering the bedroom, when I can pass by without worry as I leave…
Regardless of the ponderings that sometimes fill my delirium, I find myself being led back into the basement. I walk down, suddenly aware of the weapons that lay across the tables on the cement floor, and I notice that this is a different arrangement than the last time I was here, with more tables, a few books on the floor, and papers with lists of people’s names nailed to the wall, and a few names crossed off.
Again, I see a person. But instead of being my brother, or myself, I see my father standing in the middle of the basement, lost in thought about nothing in particular.
But as he stands there, and as I watch, a sudden flash of light blinds us both from the middle of the room. He is suddenly scared at this point, as he remains dazzled for a few moments, grappling with the helplessness of his sudden blindness, then he regains his vision as he runs up the stairs to tell the others about what just happened.
I stay in the basement for a minute longer, trying to make sense of what happened. But as I stand there, I feel myself being drawn up the stairs. I turn to go up the stairs; and as I think myself ascending the stairs, I ascend the stairs.
I come to the kitchen, past the television that is still on, but now it’s playing an old murder mystery, actors about to be led to certain death, all being played out in black and white. In the kitchen, I see my mother, preparing a meal of some sorts, moving a knife across her cutting board, listening to the dialogue coming from the TV screen, as the characters speak worriedly about the unknown killer that’s already removed a few people from the house.
But as she cuts through the ingredients, listening with interest to what may happen to the characters next, she too is suddenly blinded by a flash of light, a flash that seemingly came from nowhere, just a spot in the middle of the room.
I don’t know what happened next; I found myself somewhere else entirely. I look around, no idea where I ended up or how I got here, but I still remain strangely calm.
I notice now that I’m in a girl’s nightmares; I am not part of the nightmares, only an observer.
I watch, as she walks down the same forest trails that I just came from. She seems very uncertain, very concerned about something. And as she walks through, she sees a small fire, and some people around it.
Neither of us can make out what the people says, but she suddenly sees a man I don’t recognize, but a man that she does. The man is just standing there, leaning against a tree. He has a faint mustache, long hair, and a stone-cold face. He stares, not saying a word.
She screams, wanting to get away, recognizing this situation from her past nightmares. The man continues to stand and stare, never saying a word.
As I make my way through the forest, I realize I’ve exited the girl’s nightmare, and entered a nightmare of someone else, a man. I somehow recognize this man to be the same man who frightened the girl in the last nightmare I was in. But this man wasn’t anyone frightening, or at least, not to nightmarish proportions; whatever it was the happened to him in the girl’s nightmares, whatever it was that made him frightening, was not him at all, but a replacement, something else entirely that lived off of impersonating others in silent, intimidating ways.
The real version of this man seemed to have no idea that his body was used in another girl’s nightmares as a means of spreading fear into anyone who came by...
I watch as the real version of this man repeats a scene I saw earlier; he leans over a fallen tree in the widest of the trails, cutting it apart, using the light from the truck to be able to see through the dead of night.
Again, a flicker crosses one of the headlights, a creature of some kind walking in front of the truck.
The man looks up, clearly noticing what had just happened, and somehow I know he recognizes it from the first time it happened.
After an uncertain pause, where the man cutting the tree looks up into the sky and says something quiet, another flicker crosses the other headlight, and the scene disappears, as I know that this man had the power to end his own nightmares.
I stand now, uncertain, in seemingly blank environment. I can think myself anywhere I want, but there is absolutely nothing, just a dark grey canvas that spreads out endlessly.
But gradually, a figure emerges. I see him, a man, typing something on a computer. A writer, I suppose, letting his next creation flow from his fingers onto the screen, preparing a creation for all to see. Something about him seems very familiar, but I can’t place why.
As he fades out, another man fades in; another man at another computer, and I suppose another writer, but he’s reading stories, very short stories, and trying to figure out how to make his stories work in the same way.
I look over his shoulder, and I read the stories he reads. All very short, none more than a few sentences, but very deep horror stories, and I know that none of these stories are just for entertainment purposes.
One story describes a man who’s grown accustomed to his cats scratching at the door; but now that he lives alone, the scratching is much more concerning.
Another seems to be benign by the way it starts; it describes a man who took a walk, a very nice walk, with his dog. But as he thinks about it, he realizes that he doesn’t have a dog—or legs.
I begin to read the third story, saying something about looking out the window, and being terrified by what he sees, but before I can finish, everything fades away, and I find myself in the forest again, right next to the mysterious house. I look into one of the barrels I hadn’t noticed before, and see it filled to the top with nothing but human bones. But the forest fades away, the house and the bones with it, and I’m back where I started, surrounded by sealed passageways, by dark things kept at bay, by frightening mysteries that I can somehow cross through.
But at last, my deep, mysterious calmness disappears, and terror grips my soul as I run through the passageways, still able to run through the sealed passageways, but the horror of what I see enwraps my entire being.
I run through the passageways, but I’m no longer an observer, someone who just passes through without being noticed. Everything around me, all the horrors that were formerly kept at bay, have been released, and they chase after me with murderous energy.
I scream, sprinting through the corridors, hoping for something, somewhere to take me anywhere else, but the more I run, the more horrors I find.
I finally come to a door that I can slam behind me, and I do, closing off all my pursuers, and leaving me to wonder what kind of room I call safety.
I hear all the terrors, pounding on the door, letting out their bloodcurdling cries, but muffled now, and somehow I know that this is one door that they will never be able to cross.
I slowly turn around, looking over my shoulder, wanting to feel relieved, but far too frightened to let myself let my guard down.
I don’t see anything, just more passageways, I don’t hear anything, just the echoing of my footsteps through the tunnels, and the muffled cries of the horrors I somehow left behind.
I walk, slowly, deliberately, suddenly aware that I will never again just be an observer, never again be separate from the horrors I see. I walk through the passageways, the sealed passageways that I can somehow think myself through, and I roam for nearly an hour, wondering about the purpose of miles of empty, sealed-off tunnels.
But as I walk, I finally realize that I am not alone. I finally realize that I never have been alone throughout this entire surreal adventure.
Because I’m suddenly aware of eyes watching me, eyes from all over, belonging to creatures that I do not want to meet, creatures that I wish had never existed.
I turn around, as slowly as I can, not wanting to make any sudden movements, and I can see out of the corner of my eye a hideously disfigured type of a bat. It hangs from the ceiling from a foothold I never knew was there, carefully watching my every move.
And as I turn back around, as slowly and deliberately as I can muster, I don’t think myself through the next door, but I see through it, and I see another hideously disfigured animal, some sort of rabid tiger, with burn marks across its fur.
Extremely cautiously, taking careful steps that may be my last, I walk farther down another tunnel, very aware that more of these disfigured animals are everywhere I look, and hope to come across some other unbreakable door. I hear them, their very low growls, their very low moans and cries of every kind, watching me, analyzing me, plotting their next move against me. The hairs on the back of my neck rise higher than ever before, and I fear that no matter how quiet I keep my breathing, they will be able to hear the pounding of my heartbeat.
But as I try to walk away, try to leave this nightmare behind, I hear a horrendous crash from a long distance behind me, the sound of a sealed passageway being sealed no more.
As fear grips my soul again, I sprint away, faster than I ever have in my life. I see these disfigured animals chasing after me from all sides; a freakishly large bear, wolverines that have several more legs than they should, feral dogs with blood dripping from their teeth.
And as I charge away, hearing more and more footsteps from more and more creatures all coming behind me, I throw myself around a corner, trying to escape these animals, and run headlong into the black fur coat of an oversized, frighteningly fanged gorilla.
I feel myself being picked up, stared into, as all the other creatures stand back. Whatever power this deformed gorilla possesses must be more intense than anything I’ve ever seen before, for thousands of feral mutated animals to back down when this one mutated gorilla displays his authority.
He picks me up, stares straight into my soul with his dark red eyes, fangs so close I can almost touch them, and I freeze in terror for what felt like hours, until I finally feel the power of this gorilla’s grip, his oversized hands crushing my ribcage inside of me. I scream out in excruciating pain, as I feel my shattering ribs stab into my lungs, when this gorilla, the leader of the pack of terrors, already having nearly crushed me to death, then throws me into the middle of the feral deformed animals, as they all charge on my helpless body…