Never Trust the Quiet Ones :
I finally understand! See, silence is key. It’s tranquil. Noiseless. Golden. That’s the true beauty of it; at its very essence, its very core. It can mean nothing at all, or absolutely everything. Why didn’t I see it before? WHY?! …Or should I say who?
I remember tossing and turning deep in sleep when I abruptly sat up, heart pounding. Naively I was quick to shrug it off as the latest in a string of nightmares. Little did I know mine were as lambs, sweet and innocent, compared to the monster waiting so patiently, so still, in the unnatural abyss I found myself in; the same that even at this moment threatens to swallow me whole. Lambs…and I the neglectful warden, turning a blind eye as they waltzed past one by one, straight into the slaughter house to be silenced. For good. And this was just the beginning.
When I lay back down I didn’t realize it at first, but I was not in bed. How terribly I long for it; for the ground was covered in smoothed concrete, cold and unforgiving. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the dim light, which gave me no consolation, since the shadows were thick as fog and appeared to go on for miles around. I was alone, and uneasiness began to take over as I hesitated. Where was I? Did I manage to leap right out of one nightmare and into the next? During dreams of this assortment, this was about the time I would call out to see who would be unintentionally joining me in the accursed romp through my illusions. Unfortunately, this was like no other I had accidentally stumbled upon, and regretfully, I broke the only precedent that mattered in a place of this caliber: the golden rule.
“Hello?” I recited out of nothing more than a bad habit, one of which I should have broken myself of long ago. My tone set in motion something beyond my sight, which began to slowly make its way towards me, sounding of glass being grated along with each step. A shadow moved into view swaying ever so slightly back and forth as it lumbered closer. A giant of a beast at least four feet from ground to shoulder, its pelt hung off its body as if a size too big and was covered in stark white fur, that held streaks of black that ran haphazardly across its surface. Huge ears sat atop the head and it had a muzzle to match, filled to the brim with teeth that looked out of place, as the canines jutted passed the jaw.
My nervousness began to rise, I’ve never known such a blatant fear before; just thinking about that scourge sends chills down my spine. As the fiend approached I froze. What could I have done? Run and be hunted down? I really wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere but there. For my alarm to go off and wake me up so I could hit the snooze button per usual; then finally get up to open the window and see what the day would bring, coffee cup in hand. I hated that alarm, but it was punctual. Never. Late. Not even once to pull me from the bad dreams. So where was that bothersome toll when I needed it most?
The brute came to a rest several feet away and something didn’t feel quite right; this creature had a foreboding air about it. My subconscious was screaming at me to get away, to do something, anything to move. Fight or flight, yet all I could do is recoil in terror. Towering above me it yawned, baring its teeth as if to show what the outcome of this encounter was to be. Then it slouched forward, eyes level with my own, and a striking pale blue gazed deep into my soul and I had to look away out of suspicion of what might become of me if I didn’t.
“I was growing impatient,” someone retorted from behind me, though I dared not turn to see who it was. “Too much longer and I would have awoken you myself.” That voice, I pondered, I’ve heard it before, but where? While I was attempting to work this out their speech continued, “You are right to despair, but you are mistaken as to why you are right to do so. Not many have caught sight of this form and lived, but you human are an exception for the time being. Such a weak species.”
The animal began to pull at its skin, “much like this abomination. Their leader, a king who refused to give up his kingdom. He chose to fight me rather than hand over his lot; so I acted accordingly and consumed them all, keeping his body as a trophy. Yet knowing this you haven’t cause to fret as their story came to an abrupt end the day I arrived. What you see before you is the husk of one who should have passed on over a millennia ago. Unconsciously trapped in a dark plague of the mind, the fallen king will continue to thrive in a state of permanent exile as long as I will it. Therefore, it is what you cannot see you should be afraid of.”
I was endeavoring to rationalize what was occurring, albeit dismally trying to pass this all off as a simple nightmare. Don’t worry, it’ll be over soon. I’ll wake up, I know it. Right? Right. But all the assurance in the world wasn’t enough to stop the tremors or make the entities disappear; everything was too real, and the severity of the situation seemed to grow with each fleeting second. Though that voice, for some forsaken reason or another, my current predicament wasn’t pressing as it should have been. I had just heard it, very recently. Even with the terror sitting close enough for me to reach out and grab if I so felt the need to; I still had the inclination to turn around and see who it was. Then…that’s when it hit me! My facial expression must have changed as well for the specter pulled me from my contemplation,
“You wish to speak?” My vocal chords acted almost as if of their own accord as I somehow managed to squeak,
“I-I know who you are.” And for the briefest instance, I know I saw that thing freeze up as if backed into a corner with no way out, however only for a second, before regaining composure and ultimately control over the situation.
“You know this human? Interesting,” The voice was both aghast and amused at this turn of events as I felt a hand of my shoulder and they whispered in my ear. “Alright, I’ll make you a deal. Guess my name correctly, I will let you go. And you will never hear from me again. On the other hand, get it wrong,” the monstrosity snarled, snapping its jaws, “and you belong to me until time ceases to move. Of course you can choose not to humor me; if that is the case I can set you loose and we can see which one of us can outwit the other. I would never give up a chance for a game of cat and mouse. Today I am feeling a bit generous, so take your pick. But be wary: for each ounce of my benevolence, there lies a pound of malevolence; so I would not rest upon my laurels for too long if I were you.” A choice? More like heads you win tales I loose. Option number two sounded like a death sentence, but guess wrong and I would be no better off. I briefly mulled it over.
“I’ll guess.” The beast lifted a massive paw into the air raising three digits as it did so,
“Then three guesses. No more.” Alright, so his name? It was…
“Strike one.” A claw lowered. Not Frank? I swore it was him. How about, yeah, that guy from down the street who was always up gardening at the crack of dawn. It had to be…
“Rick?” Another curled over into its palm,
“Third one is a charm they say.” Drat. I was never very good at putting a name to a face, let alone when I couldn’t see whose face it was. Dread washed over me as the reality sunk in that this was not going in my favor.
“I don’t know!”
“Giving up already? You have one more go. Just say something, the first that comes to mind.”
“NOW.” The behemoth became infuriated, letting out a head splitting discord unlike anything I had heard before as the hand on my shoulder tightened. Reluctantly I was quick to obey as I cracked,
“…Not quite. The voice dissipated, echoing all around as the presence behind me vanished. Then the monster began to shake, much like a mutt coming indoors during a downpour, though if only that were actually the case. Instead it gave the impression of diffusing its color. The pitch black bands started to spread, engulfing it from nose to tail as bits of white began to show through. Completing the transformation, the being now stared back at me with amber eyes, lips twisted, gnashing teeth exposed. Hunkering low to the ground it looked ready to devour me whole.
“Wait a minute!” I shouted, sticking my arms in front of me as a last ditch attempt to somehow stop this before it had a chance to happen, “I just want to go home! Who are you?! What could I have done to deserve this?!” My plight must have struck the right cord as the aggression ceased; and the voice returned from the fog, speaking in a mocking tone,
“It’s always the quiet ones isn’t it? You can’t ever tell what they’re thinking. Calm one minute and -BAM- they’re flying off the deep end the next. Sound familiar?” Footsteps filled the air and the once mysterious voice took shape as someone walked out from the darkness. “That was the only conversation I had this morning with a human. I was in the process of tracking down a most peculiar individual when I found myself being nudged abruptly in the arm.” Standing next to the savage he turned to face me as he patted it on the head, “and that same human then deigned to speak to me, inevitably forcing me to loose that of which I sought. Any idea who dared to commit such a heinous crime? Of course you do, I can sense as much; but do you really know who I am?”
Indeed when he looked at me I remembered seeing his face before, if only I had known then what I do now; it was a matter of being at the wrong place at the worst time imaginable. I would give anything to change the past. I would have walked in a bit later than usual and missed that telecast. I would have chosen to get some more work done and skipped lunch. And I most definitely would not have struck up that conversation.
I recall that morning was no different than any other before it: I yelled at my alarm, got out of bed, enjoyed my coffee, and drove to work, getting on the elevator for the fourteenth floor. See, just as you pass the thirteenth, you always hear the news; since the lobby was small, and the television was barely put out of the fire code violation kiddy corner to the elevator doors. The news broadcast every morning on the hour, every hour, and if you had even the briefest of thoughts to change the channel, you would get more than a few dirty looks which would follow you around until the work day ended. The secretaries were always eager to hear the newscasters tales of tragedy and triumph to see if there was any fodder for their daily gossip get-together over lunchtime.
That day as I got off the elevator there were breaking up to the minute headlines rolling fresh off the press. A university professors ‘unique one of a kind look’ into the mind of a recently caught serial killer who was found walking around in broad daylight only a few towns over from ours. I never paid much attention to the details as I walked passed the outdated decor and upholstery on the way to my office; but every great once in awhile I tried to catch a bit, just enough to be able to join in when noon rolled around. Since I didn’t get out of my work area very often, it was my way of being seen and to not be known as anti-sociable.
So on those days, the appointed hour was always upon me before I knew it; and I stole away a minute early to beat the usuals to the water cooler and look as if I had been anxiously awaiting their arrival. First the weather was discussed, be it too cold or too warm, then we moved on to politics, how so and so could stand to improve this or that; then once those were out of the way, the talk moved on to what everyone had been waiting for, the piece de resistance, front page material.
And being next to the water cooler like that it wasn’t unusual for coworkers, CEOs, the general public, or even janitors to walk by. Most wouldn’t bat an eye our direction, but the occasional on looker would ask questions or there were those who would attempt to join in on the conversation as if they had been there the whole time. That’s where I went wrong, mistaking that thing for an average joe looking to waste precious work hours. I did nudge what I thought was someone in the arm that morning, in an attempt to get them in on the debate over the killer. All I had to show for it at the time was a glare and a ‘Do you know what you’ve done?! Move!’ As I apologized he left us standing there wondering what to make of it; though the group shrugged it off collectively, and we got right back into the news as if nothing had happened.
Nothing had happened?! Those bitter, deceitful, agonizing words! Lies. All of them! I shun their existence! Curse he who first uttered their likeness! If only I could remove them from the pages of history. If only I…could…
Again I was pulled from my thoughts as I connected the dots,
“Drawing a blank? I was thinking you might know the truth of this world, yet you are as the dirt and grit which I grind beneath my sole. Allow me to enlighten you before I leave your mind to slowly waste away into the deepest pit of oblivion. Soon the time will draw near when all shall cower before my likeness in its every form, for I am a disease, here to eradicate the weak and purge the degenerate. And as I am unending, this plane too will never glimpse the light; and while chaos and madness roam freely it will be plunged into an eternal darkness. This is where I must depart, for I have much to do before the nights end; however know you will see me again. When I have need of you, you will be called forth from this tomb to do as I behest. Also know the eyes and ears are quick to perceive what they discern as reality, you should rely more on your ability to reason. This human is a guise from a time farther on in the expanse of the continuum. So unless extenuating circumstances applied, it would be impossible for you to recognize him; since he was born long after what would have been your demise had you not crossed my path. As for my namesake, I have none. I cannot be seen, or heard; therefore I am as nothing. Take heed, learn what those long since gone failed to understand, it is what you can’t see you should be afraid of.”
The fiend licked its lips, setting forward a paw, “Now, we need to preserve you and rid you of your subconscious, so hold still and it will be painless, I assure you.” This time I scrambled to my feet and shakily took off running as fast as my legs would carry me. Glancing back I heard both the being and its counterpart exert forth what can only be described as pure insanity, a combined laugh that sounded more monstrous than anything else; it hung in the air and made my ears ring, “I guess I get to have my fun after all.”
I didn’t get far as what seemed to be miles of space wasn’t so. I quickly found myself against a wall; and following it, a corner where I stopped to listen for the predator lurking in the void; except there was nothing but my own irregular breathing. Defenseless as a newborn, I crouched with my back to the wall as my imagination began playing tricks on me. Hearing little noises from every which way I momentarily closed my eyes for a quick reprieve to gather my thoughts; when the feeling rushed over me instantaneously. The tremors returned as the chill down my spine told me what had taken place in that brief second. Preceding to open my eyes the horror was inches from my face, blood lust written all over its features; and this time it spoke of its own accord.
“No matter where you run, I will catch you. Hope, dreams, the light, none can hide from the truth. Here is where your tragedy ends, and life begins anew.” It opened its mouth wide and let out a deafening noise as it raised a paw and swung with all its might. I braced for the worst, however, it never happened. Neither the monster or his doppelganger were to be found.
But just as it said, here I’ve been. Hidden away from the world in its entirety. Its life, its people, its trees, its animals, food, sounds, warmth, rain, news, jobs, coffee, beds, its…everything. The simplicity of daily occurrences, like being able to call someone, or driving through the park on the way home, or to go to a movie theater and berate the popcorn, or even getting the chance to threaten that blasted alarm clock. I miss it all. Here there is nothing but darkness. An eight foot ceiling to a fifty by fifty foot enclosure, completely covered in smoothed concrete. It’s cold.
At first it was pretty lonely. That hasn’t changed much, though I find myself talking aloud every now and then to make it feel like I’m not the only one. But not too often, otherwise I feel my sanity slipping away. And now I take refuge in my nightmares, which might sound a bit silly, but it helps remind me of how things like trains, or snow, look. Being secluded you tend to forget what they look like after you pass the forty year mark. Not to mention people. But why must they scream and run from the monsters which no longer frighten me? All I find myself doing is following the people around trying to start a conversation; then I am reminded how that put me here in the first place. …and unforgiving.
I gave up long ago on finding a way out, for there isn’t one. However, it didn’t take long before I knew every crevice and speck inside and out. To begin with I never kept track of time, but I found a way, by keeping a mental note of the little bumps on the ground and walls. I’ll admit it took some time to make sure I was at this spot and not that one, but trial and error helped to get it right. A very good idea if I do say myself. How intuitive of me.
So after guessing the amount of time before genius struck I would say I have been here, let me think, yeah, that sounds about right. Sixty years. Sixty years?! Some might say this is a long time, but I don’t appear to age at all. I’m no older today than I was when I was first brought to this condemned prison. I don’t eat or drink either. I breathe. And sleep, yes I do that too. I remain here and wait. Nothing more. Nothing, but listen to the depravity of this place. The emptiness. The silence.
Wait…that’s the answer! I finally understand! See, silence is key. It’s tranquil; Noiseless. Golden. That’s the true beauty of it; at its very essence, its very core. It can mean nothing at all, or absolutely everything. Why didn’t I see it before? WHY?! …Or should I say who?