It was a lovely fall afternoon with leaves crisp and fiery and nary a cloud in the sky. The sun shone gloriously in the deep cyan ether giving off the perfect amount of heat, the kind where you can wear shorts comfortably without that unsettling chill on your legs but you don’t find yourself covered in sweat, unless you happen to be one of those who always seems to be sweating.
I made my way to my last class for the afternoon. Having received word that my 5p.m. biology lab had been canceled, I was pretty happy about things. Just one boring economics lecture to go and I would be home free for a good twenty-four hours. Yep, I have Wednesdays off. I really love my schedule sometimes. As I made my way through the oppressive mob of students walking every-which way, I noticed my best friend and roommate, Tom. I waved to him, but he didn’t seem to notice. So, raising my voice above the dull roar, I said “Hey, Tom.” He lifted his head and his eyes darted over to me.
We began to make our ways toward each other and as we did, I noticed something strange about him. Tom wasn’t giving off his usual air of douchebaggery. Not to day he’s a bad guy, although he does have a certain arrogance to him. Couple that with an appearance that would put Scumbag Steve to shame, and you have a snapshot of the guy your mother warned of. He had a heart of gold, though. Earlier that semester, he had snuck a dying kitten into our dorm. I mean, this thing was on the brink of death. And yet, somehow, Tom managed to nurse it back to health. And that’s not even the most amazing part. He had five exams over the course of the two weeks he kept the kitten. He managed to ace all of them, which was quite an uncommon event for Tom as his free time was spent more on cheap alcohol than expensive textbooks.
Yeah, douchebaggery is an unfair word for Tom. I guess liveliness would be better, as he was full of life. But right now, he seemed out of it. In a sort of uneasy haze. He certainly didn’t look this way Monday night, when he told me he was going to stay with his girlfriend for a couple of days. I pulled him aside and asked what the matter was.
“Meh,” he said. “I just haven’t been able to sleep much lately. And I haven’t been concentrating in class well either.”
“When have you ever concentrated in class?” I said jokingly. He faintly smiled at me. His look was tinged with a slight degree of pain, suggesting that maybe I had hit a raw nerve.
“Actually, it’s not just class. It’s everything. Anything. I can’t focus on anything.”
“You think you might be developing a case of ADD or ADHD?”
“More like a case of TRIMEWLMTFA.”
“This Ringing In My Ears Won’t Leave Me The Fuck Alone!”
“Clearly,” I chuckled.
“I’m serious. It’s this obnoxious high-pitched hum. The kind of thing you would normally dismiss as an effect of listening to music too loud. Only, it seems to be coming from…something else.”
“I don’t know; it’s like there’s something in my head. And I mean, something in my head.”
“When did you first notice it? Have you been to a doctor?”
“No, and yesterday morning. I dismissed it as just me being hung over.”
“If I was talking to anyone else, I’d ask why you were out drinking on a Monday” I said in a last-ditch effort to lighten the mood. But he didn’t even give much of a response to that one. Just a look that said “are you gonna let me finish?”
Tom continued “anyway, I felt like shit, so I skipped out on class. And as the day went on, I began to feel better. But the ringing…that ringing…it got louder…slowly, as if someone, somewhere was turning up the volume. The funny thing is, every time I notice it getting louder, I get a little more…uneasy…”
“Well, I’m heading to class” I interrupted.
“I’m heading back to the dorm.”
“Wrong answer. You said dorm. You need to see a doctor.”
“I would…” his voice trailed off.
“But…I feel like I would make no difference…”
“Somehow…my fate is sealed.”
Since Halloween was a few days away, I normally would have attributed this to Tom’s rise in douchiness around this time of year. He always gets in to the spirit of the Holiday…so far in that his stupid pranks have thus far cost him two relationships and an all-night trip to the hospital when he literally gave Old man Johnson a heart attack. (Thank God he made a full recovery.) Point is, he likes to scare people. But what scared me more than his words was the look in his eyes. It was a frightening look that I had never seen from him before…
After class, instead of going for dinner, I went straight to the dorm, where I found my roommate lying on the bed, a blanket covering his face. I saw on his desk a prescription for some antibiotic with the bottle on top. It looked like Tom had taken a few, probably more than the recommended dose. Tom tended to that. I felt a little bit of weight lifted off me. Some, but not much. Ever since I had seen him earlier that day, I had been worried. What was wrong with Tom? Why did he have that look in his eye? What did he mean by “fate is sealed”? What is up with all of this?
Tom moaned. He groaned. Softly, quietly. Suddenly he leapt out of bed and onto the floor, screaming with the whirling hysteria of a madman! His deafening scream lasted almost thirty seconds, and it was a blistering screech the likes of which sounded almost inhuman. I nearly pissed myself in fright, listening to that awful sound. That wretched screech. It was hideous beyond imagining. I shudder even now thinking about it. The worst thing about it, like before, were his eyes. They had rolled back into his head and the veins and arteries within were beginning to leak…
Just when I though I was about to plunge into insanity myself he stopped. Breathing heavily, Tom looked up at me. All I could do was look back at him in silence.
“Those eyes. Those glowing red eyes. And the screeching” His voice escalated “My God, the screeching! It won’t stop! It won’t stop! It’s so loud! Can you hear it? Can you? YOU MUST BE ABLE TO, YOU MUST! YOU MUST! IT’S SO LOUD!”
“CALM DOWN!” I shouted. “TAKE YOUR MEDICINE AND CALM DOWN! FOR FUCK’S SAKE, CALM DOWN!”
“CAN’T YOU HEAR IT!?” he repeated. “IT’S BLARING! OH GOD, MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP!”
His eyes started to roll up again and in pure fear and rage, I grabbed my backpack, which held several heavy books and hit Tom on the head. Hard. Then again. Then again. Tom mumbled something else about eyes before he passed out.
“Is everything alright in there?” asked Corey, the RA. “I heard some god-awful noises just a minute ago. Lot of people out here are concerned.”
I went to the door, I told Corey what I knew and everything that had just happened. We both agreed we needed to get him to the psychiatrist’s office and fast. So we picked him up and put him in Corey’s truck. Once there, we got Tom out of the flatbed. He was asleep, but not sleeping peacefully. He kept mumbling “oh God” or “the eyes” or some other unintelligible garble. I was disturbed on so many levels.
After almost three hours of waiting at the office, Dr. Shannon gave us unsettling news. Not about the terrible screams. Corey and I could hear that aural carnage for ourselves. No, what Dr. Shannon told us was more disturbing: that those moments of screaming madness were all they could get out of Tom when he was awake. They had given him a strong sedative and were prepared to move him into the asylum the next day. In the meantime, he would have to be taken somewhere to rest.
I sat at the foot of Tom’s bed crying. Of all the things to come out of nowhere, of all the tragedies that could have happened, why Tom? Why now? Why like this? Somehow, the thought of Tom dying in a car accident or having his throat slashed brought me comfort. At least then he wouldn’t have to be tortured like this. Constantly, he mumbled about the eyes. Always the eyes. Red eyes. And the screeching. Unnatural screeching. Otherworldly screeching that he begged would rob him of his hearing, but never did.
At 4:36 that morning, Tom shot up out of bed. Exhaustion had driven me into a light sleep long since and I was startled by the sudden movement. But, I wasn’t concerned. He’d sat up like this four or five times before since I had been watching. That sedative they had given him was awfully powerful. They said it would keep him down at least until noon. Of course, the dose they had given him to accomplish this feat was near fatal. Hopefully it didn’t kill him. As long as he was alive, there was still some chance that they could figure out just what kind of little spider had crawled into Tom’s head. Hopefully, his healing could start around noon.
But it didn’t. Because, at 4:36 Tom began screaming again in a tumultuous rampage. “MY HEAD! THE BURNING! THE EYES! THE SCREECHING! MY HEAD! MY HEAD! MY HEAD! MY GODDAMN HEAD!!” In utter shock and horror, I witnessed the gruesome atrocity unfold before me in slow motion. What took less than fifteen seconds slowed to agonizing hours to me. First, his eyes rolled back and the veins leaked as they had before, the demonic shriek still piercing the black air. Then the veins in his head throbbed, and I heard an even more disturbing sound. Underneath the horrendous hell-shriek was the sound of someone…something…eating…sloppily munching on some kind of wet morsel. It took me a moment to realize just what that sound was. As the sound began to intensify, Tom’s blood-stained whites bulged from his sockets and at last exploded, resulting in an eruption of crimson life. Then came the spiders.
I don’t know what else to call these things, but spider definitely comes the closest. The were tiny, almost furry creatures with multiple legs. But the worst thing about them was the eyes. Those soul-piercing red eyes that glowed with some disturbing, otherworldly, underworldly aura. Oh god, those hellish eyes! Now, I understood what Tom meant about the eyes! But even that wasn’t the worst thing about the spiders. In the pale glow of the digital clock beside Tom’s bed, I could see..they were gnawing little chunks of something. And suddenly, it dawned on me. They were eating…Tom’s brain.
The next thing I knew, I was in my bed, scared voiceless and shitless from the ordeal that had seemed so vivid just a second ago. I took a certain comfort in the very possibility that this hellish nightmare might have been a dream, but I was scared to look at the bed across the room, for fear of seeing Tom’s eyeless corpse. I debated weather or not to do it for a while. A long while. Then, for some insane reason, I decided to check Tom’s bed. Empty. I heaved a sigh of relief. For the time being, I could count this off as the most fucked-up dream I had ever had. I even chuckled a little. That chuckle grew into a laugh. And I laugh for a good long while. I couldn’t wait to tell Tom when he got back. I laughed and giggled and chuckled some more. And when I was done, I noticed a felt a little odd. A bit uneasy. I heard…like a sort of hum or ringing in my ears that seemed to come from in my head…