Ghost Story competition entry
|When my parents told me they were leaving me in this house for 6 weeks, I never thought I’d have to worry about the supernatural. I thought it would just be locking the door and making sure I turned off the cooker. Not living with ghosts and fearing for my life. The first few days were fine, I kept myself busy and was so tired at the end of the day that sleep came effortlessly. But now, sitting here in the dark, something doesn’t feel right. It’s like the energy of the house is off-centre. Like someone has come in, picked up every object and put it back down. It looks the same, nothing is in the wrong place, but at the same time everything is. I can’t shake the feeling that things have been moved, even if they lie where they always have.|
It’s just too quiet. I think that’s it. I like the quiet, but this is a different kind – it’s the kind of quiet that gets under your skin. The kind that if you heard just one tiny creak, it would be enough to make your blood run cold. I’ve always thought of silence as just the absence of sound, but now I feel like that’s wrong. Silence doesn’t feel like a lack of something, it feels like a thing all on it’s own. It’s living and spreading all over this house, making my heart beat just a little bit faster because I’m just waiting for the moment when something breaks the silence. It’s this huge, suffocating force surrounding me and although I know there’s billions of us out there, I feel like the only living person in the world.
I’ve always wondered what happens after we die. I think everybody does, it’s this great big question mark in our existence that no one can really answer with absolute certainty – not scientists, not religious types, no one. Because we all see it, that light in a person that somehow gets turned off and they’re just a corpse. Where does that life go? I stopped believing in ghosts a long time ago, like that was one option I could definitely rule out. But I don’t believe that death is the end. That energy has to go somewhere, it can’t just vanish. I just didn’t think it would be going somewhere in this house.
I look up again, back into the swirling mist before me. It’s been half an hour since I woke up, feeling the cold like an icy whisper against my skin. It was 3am, and I thought it was just my imagination. That was before I noticed the fog all around me, blocking my view of anything past the foot of my bed. I could just be dreaming but I’ve never felt so awake in my life. Every nerve in my body is screaming at me through the silence and I want to run but that seems ridiculous. The mist isn’t physical and outside would be just as dangerous as in here. And what if my moving causes something terrible to happen? My mind wants me to just run and keep running, but my legs feel like lead. And now I realise… this is what being paralysed with fear is like. So I just stare.
In the corner of my eye I can see the numbers on my radio clock move and that’s how I know time is passing. The red light glares at me through the dark, through the lighter mist around my bed. Weirdly, the thing I’m most afraid of is my own curiosity. Part of me wants to move, venture into the haze and get some answers. But most of me wants to stay right here, very still, until it goes away. But it’s not moving, the mist is just hanging in the air like the sound of a gunshot. It jerked me out of my sleep and now I’m just sitting here in shock, my mind racing with a million goosebumps on every inch of my skin. The silence is back, except for the distant sound of my broken watch ticking away in the corner of my room. I’ve hated that sound for months but right now, I’m so thankful for it. It’s giving me something to focus on, so the quiet doesn’t crush me completely. I drag my eyes away from the fog for just a minute, just to see where the watch is as the ticking seems to be getting louder and louder. And that’s when it happens. The mist pulls away from me, convening in a thicker mass in the centre of the room. It’s twisting and swirling, compressing itself into a shape. I don’t know what I expected. Ghosts are so obscurely reported, any facts lost in the whirlpool of myth and camp-fire silliness. It could be anything from a sheet with two holes or a fully formed, finely detailed sergeant lost to the horrors of the first world war. I just watch in shock as it manifests into something resembling a human shape. It’s getting smaller and smaller, too small to be an adult. The legs and arms form and finally, I see a little boy. He stands in the middle of my room, transparent yet so real. He’s crying but I can’t hear a thing. I can’t hear a thing… my watch has stopped. I look over at it and it’s covered in ice, frozen so deeply that the hands and face have crystals jutting out of them. For the first time, I notice the entire room is freezing cold. Every bit of energy, any heat or sound, all of it has been sucked in towards that little boy. I get out of bed and go to him. He doesn’t seem threatening, he’s just a small boy, sobbing. It’s so cold that my teeth begin to chatter and my muscles make me shiver, trying to get some warmth, any warmth, generated in my body. I can’t see his face but I’m so close to him now – somehow my limbs are moving despite the cold. I reach out to him, expecting him to be the same temperature as the rest of the room. But he’s not and the moment my fingers touch the centre of the mist, I feel my hand burn. It’s like a fire, eating it’s way up my arm. I can see my hand turning scarlet but I can’t move it. The boy swings round and I finally see his face. I recognise it but I have no idea where from and I don’t have time to figure it out. His eyes bore into me, as fierce as the fire and he screams. I can see the scream break out across his face, with such force and terror that even Munch couldn’t capture it. I still can’t hear a thing but the scream is horrifying, like thousands of shards of glass are being pressed slowly into my skin.
I feel his hands close around my arm, the heat so intense it feels like ice. He yanks it out and continues to scream. The moment I’m released from his grasp, he stops. Mid-scream, he suddenly breaks down and the surface of his skin starts to turn black. The darkness spreads from his ears over his face and he seems to disintegrate. In seconds I realise he’s not human anymore, he’s changing again. I have no idea what he’s changing into until he collapses into a mound of spiders. There are hundreds of them, great, hairy, beast-like creatures that cover my bedroom floor. Dozens crawl towards me, trying to latch onto my body. I just scream and scream even though I know it’s completely futile. The cold catches in my throat and once again, it’s like knives cutting into me. I try frantically brushing them off but they keep coming. My mother always used to tell me that they were more scared of me than I was of them, but that’s just not true. Thousands of little legs jab into my skin and my body doesn’t feel mine anymore. It’s like I’ve been forced to give it all over to them, just give in to the tiny ferocious creatures that made up the ghost that would haunt me anyway.
Hours later, I can still feel them on me. I can still feel the chill from his scream and I can still see his face. I’m trying so hard to remember when I saw him alive, I know I knew him once. Somehow that’s the worst part – not knowing. If I knew who he was, I could figure out what he wanted. If I knew why he was there last night or why he was crying, I could have helped. But I don’t. And I don’t know if he’ll come back and if every spider I see is a part of his ghost. It’s like a part of my mind is missing, as if I don’t have complete control over my memory. That’s the thing that scares me most – losing my mind. Not ghosts, not murderers, not natural disasters.
It’s the not knowing that scares me.