Deep in the shadows of an unknown murky realm there lives a race of beings, demons if you will, for lack of a better visual description.
You may think that because they are labelled as demons that they are necessarily evil creatures. They could be evil, they are after all selfish creatures. Their primary concern in their reality is to get what they want and what they need in order to survive from one moment to the next.
You see, for them to continue their sad existence they need to feed on the anxieties that breed in the dark of the night. When the great many souls in the universe come to rest in their domiciles and sanctuaries, there is a moment in their restful sleep when their bodies realise that they are completely alone. In this moment their forms recede into the dim light of that murky realm and for a brief instance the starving demonic inhabitants are able to gain some sustenance…at a cost to the host.
Isaac lived what he considered to be a normal life. He had a girlfriend that he loved and who loved him. He had a job, a roof over his head and food when he was hungry. For all intents and purposes you could say Isaac had a home where he was happy. ‘How normal could a person get?’ is often what Isaac wondered. This thought bothered him, because what was so great about a normal life? Everyone around him coveted this normal life, his girlfriend didn’t mind if it was normal or not, abnormal was fine to her as well. When she said such things Isaac would be reminded why he loved her. But this didn’t help the thorn in his mind that made Isaac wonder about the normality that had taken root.
In recent weeks and months Isaac had started having sleepless nights. He wasn’t sure why, obviously he had had a sleepless night here and there, but now they were gaining in frequency. Was this a crack in the normality of his world? Was he coming undone, just like he thought would? Isaac wasn’t sure.
His job wasn’t stressful, least not what he would consider stressful. At times it was strenuous and demanding. Also he believed that his relationship with his girlfriend was in a good place. Naturally there were better times than others, but that’s what relationships are, right? With the right person they require work to keep it worthwhile, that’s normal right?
These were the questions that would go through Isaac’s head when he would lie down in bed. Sometimes going to sleep would be easier than other nights, but eventually he would always sleep. His partner would be beside him, at least if she was able to sleep. She seemed to have sleepless nights as well, apparently her mind would keep her busy before sleep too.
One night, Isaac’s questions kept him up in the dark, at the edge of being awake. He was wondering what would be the catalyst for changing the normal to the non-normal, the absence of normal. Eventually he fell asleep and dreamt a dark dream.
Isaac’s body felt like it was falling, through a gloomy world of water and curtains of shadow. As he fell a sense of unease started to grow in him. And at the same time he felt as though something was leaving him, he wasn’t sure what, but a pit, a hole in his stomach would form when he thought about it. A chill would enter his arms and legs, the deeper the hole in his abdomen became.
And then he would wake up, startled and soaked from sweat. Not that his girlfriend would notice, it always seemed to happen at a point where she disappeared into her dreams. These were the moments where Isaac thought, I am truly alone right now, aren’t I?
Isaac considered his dream, had he had this dream before? He felt like he did, but maybe he didn’t quite remember it, or at least he remembered a remnant of a fragment. But this time he could recall it clearly, there was something there in that dark world.
He wondered if he should mention this to his girlfriend, would she have the same kinds of dreams, or was he just crazy. Maybe this was the start of it all, the time when that illusion of normality would come crashing down around him. Or maybe he it was just a bad dream, hopefully…
In the mornings they each had their rituals for getting started with the day. Isaac would do his and his girlfriend would do hers. As Isaac stood there looking at himself in the mirror while he was brushing his teeth, he thought back to the cold feeling in his limbs and the pit that formed in his stomach. He could almost imagine it while staring into the black holes of his eyes in the reflection. Looking deep into them he pain shot through his head, a sudden crack, an iron bolt of heat and fire straight down the middle, his mouth open wide in a primal scream. And just as quickly as it had come, when he broke eye contact with himself, the pain vanished. ‘What was that?’ Isaac wondered through blurry eyes. His girlfriend hadn’t come running, ‘Had I not screamed?’. Isaac left the bathroom and his girlfriend was in the kitchen, preparing her food for the day. She wished him a good morning and a good day, kissed him and went on with her day.
Perhaps he had imagined it, a twisted fantasy from staring too long into the mirror. People did say the eyes are the windows of the soul, maybe his soul wasn’t something to be stared at for too long. He shook the experience and the thought from his mind. His ‘normal’ day was awaiting him after all.
As Isaac fell through the shadows on a different night, icy hot tendrils wrapped around his extremities. The hole returning mid-section, digging deep into him. He could feel his mind trying to grab onto something, anything as he fell. Finally it managed, he could feel fingers wrapping around something solid. Searing heat over took him, something was being ripped from him. Burning eyes stared at him from the dark, deep pits of crimson. And he was back in bed, a layer of sweat on his skin. ‘What the fuck was that?’ he wondered to himself. His girlfriend wasn’t there beside him, she probably couldn’t sleep or got up early to get a start on the day. But he was alone again there in the twilight of the morning.
Laying there in bed, covered in sweat Isaac tried to remember the burning eyes, was there a face that went with them? He couldn’t recall, but this was certainly abnormal. Similar dreams and something was there, was it causing the pain and fear? Isaac considered this notion, Nightmare on Elm Street was fiction right? Monsters in your dreams were just that, not real, creations of the mind. Was he stressed at work or in his relationship? Isaac didn’t think so, no more than stressful than usual, both required effort and some days were easier than others, but that was life after all, he had told himself this many times over before and never before had he had these kinds of dreams.
Lying there wondering he realised his girlfriend must have headed out to work as there was silence in the apartment. Not wanting to dwell on what was essentially a nightmare, Isaac got up and headed to the shower to start his day.
Eating dinner in the evening with his girlfriend, Isaac thought about the being with the red eyes. He wondered if he should mention it to his partner. He looked up at her, munching away at her food, lost in thought as well probably. He decided against it. Don’t want to trouble her and anyway, it sounded pretty crazy; hey have you had a dream where a metaphysical pit forms in your stomach and a creature with no face and red eyes stares at you while you scream soundless scream of fear and pain? Yeah that sounded pretty crazy. Instead he ask her how her day was, they chatted and finished dinner and went on with their evening until it was time for bed.
There was a burning smell, sulphur maybe, it had that eggy smell to it. Isaac opened his eyes, there were black flames everywhere, a world occupied with ruins and dark velvet sky. He tried to stand up but he was already standing, well floating up right, as he checked his surroundings. He tried to walk forward but he simply hung there. From the corner of his eye he could see shadows moving, he turned to look and they disappeared, puffs of smoke falling down like ink in a glass of water. He looked around and could see that the smoke from the fires was doing a similar swirling of falling as if they were part of some murky waterfall.
As Isaac scanned around a standing figure in the dusk light of the strange plane emerged on the horizon. A tall lanky being, arms unnaturally long for its frame and legs as thin as burnt wood. As it came closer and he stared at it, Isaac could see two pits of burning crimson where his eyes should be. It’s mouth, appeared to sewn shut, though it’s could still part despite the threads being embedded. No nose or ear and clear clean scalp of a head. This was the creature that had stared at him the last time he had this dream, or rather this nightmare.
As Isaac thought that he realised he was aware of it, that doesn’t usually happen in a dream, he decided he rather wake up than discover what horror his mind would create with this creature. He concentrated and the world shifted for a moment, as if phasing out, like TV trying tune itself. And then it was back to the hellscape, creature still slowly approaching with limping walk. A fear crept into Isaac, if he can’t will himself out, then perhaps this wasn’t a dream after all…was he trapped?
The creature appeared in front of him, no more than a few centimetres from his face. It held up a hand with a wound in it, a black tarry substance emanating from it. The creature lowered the horrid stigmata to Isaac’s abdomen, and he felt the pit in his stomach sink until he could no longer feel where it would end.
Ice overtook Isaac’s body, he felt no pain or it had gone beyond the point of pain and there was only a numbness. He felt something leave him, a great amount of exhaustion sank into his heart and limbs and his eyes started to close. The creature gaped at Isaac as he fell into a world of slumber.
Isaac awoke in bed, covered in sweat again. His girlfriend stirred next to him, unaware of what he had gone through. Isaac stared out into the dawn light that entered their room. Had it been real? Or was it really just some horrid nightmare? He inspected his stomach, there was no wound, no bruise no sign of the creature’s stigmatic attack. He decided to get and go to the bathroom, as he stood his world spun and he felt a level of tiredness he had not known before. He managed to stumble to the bathroom, switched on the light and saw the husk that stared back at him in the mirror. The man staring back at Isaac was at least his father’s age if not his grandfather. A withered and tired look he had. Had he always looked this tired? Was that what the creature had taken from him, his sleep, the vitality that kept him going? Staring into the mirror Isaac lost himself in the dark holes of his eyes, and there he saw it again, the thin creature with sewn mouth, it’s eyes burning a brilliant scarlet, filled with life and malice. It smiled a dreadful smirk to Isaac from within those depths, and it turned away.
Isaac’s girlfriend found him on the floor of the bathroom, eyes still open, a ghost of who he was a day before. His hand clutching his stomach and him whispering ‘give it back…’…