At thirteen years of age, I lay in the darkness of a hospital room. The only light came from the corridor outside the room and the glow of the buttons on each machine that monitored my life. I could hear its beeping and whirring, the breath that struggled through my lungs, the very beat of my own heart that was echoed through the room. I was tired. The day had been filled with tests, worry, and pain. I wished so desperately to escape to sleep but a noise that seemed even worse than my own struggling life kept my ears alert and my weakened body tense.
It was a loud wheezing breath shaking through the body of my sickened room mate. The elder’s machines seemed to whir much louder than mine. As though the machine had to work harder to keep the frailer body alive. Though I was but a child I was surrounded by those much older than myself, kept with adults simply because my own affliction was so rare among children. There was no comfort afforded to a child in the vastness of the adult ward. Then the darkness seemed to envelope every corner of the room. And I too was enveloped, the sounds that had kept me awake blanketed by the onslaught of sleep.
Vibrations wracked my body, my hands and feet spread wide, my mouth was open in a silent scream. My fingers trembled violently with the pain that kept my body suspended and trembling. I saw myself outside my body, upright, spread eagle, face stretched in agony. I snapped back inside my body, fear and pain quickly became replaced with a fit of rage. I put all my might and will into moving my fingers, to bring my quaking hands together. I thought if I could just clasp them together it might end my torment. Slowly my arms forced their way to the center of my chest. As they became level with my shoulders my form was abruptly dropped from the air, and I crumpled on the ground. I was now trembling with exhaustion rather than a bone rattling force.
I caught my breath on the cold dark floor and raised my head to see where I was. My childhood home, distorted and covered in grime. As though it were showing its true nature instead of the charade of normalcy that it once stood for. There were doors where doors never were. Furnishings that had never existed. I was in a cellar that had never been dug. Yet I was sure of where I was, I just knew. Into the still night there was a cruel laugh that floated through the cold dampness of the cellar walls.
I saw a glimpse of black gauzy fabric flit across the frame of a dilapidated open door. In my mind I thought that I should be afraid, that I should cower from this figure. Instead, my blood turned to fire and the rage that allowed me to break my body free from suspension, urged me to my feet. I pursued the darkness and in turn it taunted me with cruel laughter. Each time I came close to the creature it slipped right though my fingers. I ran all through the house for this thing as it played with me. The darkness seemed to be enjoying my rage with great pleasure.
It began leading me through every room, every hallway, every wayward memory, until it brought me back to where we had begun. The cellar, the cold stone floor and damp darkness. This was it; I had the shadow trapped. I smiled with glee at the notion of winning against the cruel taunts. The glee dropped into my stomach like cold lead when I saw… there was no figure. There was no one waiting for me, but there was some thing.
A doll, a little porcelain baby doll lay in the broken-up stone floor. Pieces of stone littered the ground and damp earth, coating the doll and scattered about the area. It was as though this doll had forced its way through the stonework just to meet me. She looked normal, glass eyes, white clothed soft body with porcelain limbs and head. Yet my heart nearly stopped in my chest; my breath became gasps of fear. There was something deeply wrong with this doll! It felt dark, tainted, ruined. It felt like every bad thing I had ever imagined in my thirteen years, magnified by the things I had not yet known; but felt instinctively. This doll should not have made it past the surface of stone. She needed to be buried.
With panic raging in my blood and bones, I crossed the room to the broken-up earth. I began digging at the cold hard ground. My nails tore, my fingers screamed in protest, and my palms bled into the earth. I grabbed the doll and put her in her grave. Her glassy black eyes and ivory face starred up at me as I covered her with the lose earth from whence she had come. I packed the ground solidly, placed the stones back on top like some mad jigsaw puzzle. My heart slowed, my panic abated, she was back where she belonged. I let out a long slow breath and closed my eyes so that I could block out the purgatory I’d been placed in. Calmed, I opened my eyes.
Screaming once more, vibrations yet again took hold of me. Burning my flesh, boiling my blood, shaking my bones. I could see everything this time. I was where I had begun, my body mid air, this time my screams rang through every crevice of the distorted childhood home. A home that appeared a few shades lighter than before. As though time had passed, and dawn was breaking through the forest that lay beyond the borders of the property. Knowing from last time I immediately forced my arms forward. I could feel that the time it took was shorter, that the curse seemed weaker. For what could this nightmare be but a curse? I dropped to the ground, my eyes darting in every direction, searching the shadows.
There was silence!
Then the darting shadowy figure gave chase up the rickety stairs. I ran like a man possessed, willing myself to catch the creature. Needing to see its face, more importantly, wanting to feel its blood. To taunt it the way it had done so to me. No matter how close I came, the figure remained out of reach. I screamed abuse at it, urging it to face me, calling it out on its cowardice. Only to close my eyes for a moment and then be standing in the cellar. Just as it started, just as it ended, and just as it had begun again.
The doll, the doll that I buried. That I packed the earth around and laid heavy stone upon. She was there, unassuming. The floor all dirt no longer stone. Taunting me with her painted innocence that hid an ugly darkness. My lips pulled back in a scowl of teeth and a guttural growl raged past my gleaming whites. She needed to burn! I boldly approached the malevolent effigy. With my rage and will alone I set her ablaze. Fire flared from her clothed body. It darked the porcelain until it audibly cracked. Utterly ruined from the heat of the fire. From my own fire that burned deep within my ragged chest.
The distorted house was then blanketed in darkness. I thought it was over. Suspended again; I knew I was wrong. Oh, but I was done with this! This curse! This purgatory! With little thought of my pain and agony I forced my hands together with spiteful strength. Instead of following the shadowy taunts I went to the broken ground. The cruel laugh was now rising in a full-bodied scream that shook the foundations of the nightmare house. I paid it no heed and forced the earth to do my bidding.
I made the earth part to bring forth the object of this cruel dream. For it was not the shadow nor the house, it was this accursed doll. It wished the evilest of things upon my heart and I would not allow it to be my downfall. Not after all that I had suffered in my short but hard thirteen years. I pulled her mended body from the ground. Not a trace of the abuse I had rained down on her fragile body was to be found. I smashed the effigy into the ground, shattering her into pieces. The screaming lifted to a pitch that made my ears ring and dull my senses. Through it I grinned madly, knowing that I was hurting the darkness the way it tried to hurt me.
I set her ablaze once more. I felt the fire burn my hands. Though it mattered not as I watched her rescind into dusty ash. I took her ashes and put her back into the ground packing the dirt around her once more. I recalled the Bible story that spoke of humans being brought to life from the dirt and dust. That when we died, we would return to the earth the same way. I sat back onto the floor; the room was still dark. The house still distorted, but the shadow was gone. The malice was but a whisper in the air. Then the darkness rolled over me once more.
I opened my eyes and was spread eagle in the darkness. My body lay flat. Silent tears fell down my blue tinged skin into my braided hair. I gasped with grief, with relief, with fear, and with exhaustion. I could hear the whir of life saving machines, the wheezing snores of my neighbor, and the choked sobs that broke from my throat. The night had not passed but it seemed that my dream had. I tried to sit up but in my weakened state I could not move. I lay in the dark, crying silent tears until morning broke through the glass windows that hospitals always seemed so full of.
Hours after the light had broken through those glossy windows my mother appeared, shortly followed by my grandparents. I revealed my dream to them, confided how afraid I was. My mother comforted me. My grandfather looked at me with a maddening knowledge to his sky-blue eyes. He began to speak with feverous religion blazing in his tone. That I had passed a test, that God was favoring me, and that in three days time I would be released from the hospital in good enough health for that to be possible. He was proud, it shone in his eyes. He thought my dream was of God.
But I knew better. If God was real, was possible, that meant that everything was. My dream held no comfort of God, it was something else, something darker, malicious, and hungry. Though how could I make him understand such a thing. He was right on one front though. I was released from the hospital three days later. Not because of anything but the will of a thirteen-year-old girl. One who could not bare another moment of being inside a place, where the darkest of nightmares could capture your soul and keep you hidden away. As I left the grounds of the hospital I refused to look back. Not even when I felt myself being watched. Not even when I felt a gust of wind that sent a chill into my bones. Not even with the echo of cruel laughter following my steps.