This will sound mad. I know it does, but I have to tell someone.
There are scratches up and down my legs. I sleep alone, and have no pets, so I’ve no idea where they came from. This has happened every night for a week, so I’m writing it down now. I don’t really know why, I guess I just need to be sure that I’m not inventing stuff in my head.
Last night, I dreamt of a corridor, and I have done for the last week, but last night was the clearest dream. I could see the emptiness that seemed to go on forever, a dim light up ahead that faded away, but flickered back to life, over and over, as if it was teasing me. A cruel light that seemed like it was self aware, like it could sense my fear. Again, I am aware that I sound mad, but I promise you, I’m not. At least, I hope I’m not.
I walked forward, even though I didn’t want to, and I could feel the air turn to ice with every step. The floor felt frosty, and I was afraid to look down.
His laughter was loud. I don’t know who. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there. Him. Maybe in the darkness before me, maybe in the shadows that lurked behind, sometimes above me, and sometimes on the ground, where I couldn’t look. It seemed to be everywhere. A smoky, maniacal laugh. Nothing more, just laughter. One voice that seemed to bounce around the corridor.
I felt like if I reached the end, I’d be safe, but something in me knew I wouldn’t make it. I can’t explain why, I just looked ahead and felt that my fate was already sealed.
Last night was the night that I got close. As I approached the light, I saw a hand holding it. It was a lantern, held by a hand that crept from the darkness. A single, skeletal hand, swinging the lantern to and fro. The light was brighter as I got closer, flashing madly.
Yellow. Red. Yellow. Red. Yellow. Red.
I reached out to touch it. My hands shaking with the rest of my body. It was so close, and I wondered if maybe I could be safe, after all.
My eyes snapped open and I was back in bed, alone. I pulled back the covers, to see the marks I knew would be there. Deep scratches up and down my legs. He had visited.
I wore gloves to bed last night. I wanted to be sure my nails were not responsible.
Last night, he spoke.
It was the same, at first. The corridor, drowned in darkness, except the distant, flickering light. The glacial air whipping all around me, the tell tale crunch of the floor I couldn’t bare to face, and the echoed laughter that seemed to follow me.
I walked, resigned that there was nothing else to do, just hopeful that soon, the light would be within my grasp, and I would be free by the mercy of waking up.
I could hear him breath now, as if he was stood behind me, but his laughter still danced around in the darkness.
I could do nothing but walk. The light was getting close again, beginning to flash, and I didn’t want to walk any further but I couldn’t stop. The light was so bright.
Yellow. Red. Yellow. Red. Yellow. Red.
“Don’t be afraid of the dark.” His voice was scratchy and strained, and suddenly I felt hands on mine, scalding my skin, but I couldn’t scream. He pushed my hands towards the lantern. Towards that one, familiar frightening hand, leering from the darkness.
The darkness came, and I was afraid.
My eyes snapped open. My gloves were still on my hands, just as I had left them, but there were holes on the top, with charred outlines, as if they had been burned.
Fresh scratches covered my legs, and my stomach too.
He was there. I could almost feel his fingertips, thin and rough against my thighs.
I didn’t sleep last night. I couldn’t face it. Hourly coffees, keeping all the lights on. I’m exhausted, but it’s worth it not to see him.
It didn’t make a difference.
He was here.
It was around 3AM. I was trying to keep myself, in the kitchen, making another coffee. The slow rumble of the boiling water in the kettle was soothing, and I leant against the counter, hoping the sunlight would arrive soon.
“Little fawn…” My skin was crawling. The voice was so close, right in my ear. I could feel his breath against my neck.
I turned to face him, but there was nobody there, just the kitchen, as it should be. Just me, all alone.
Am I losing my mind? Maybe. I don’t know at this point. I can’t be sure of what’s real and what’s not. I can’t understand what I’m seeing. Do you know what I mean? (Is anyone even reading?) I don’t know why he’s here. I don’t know what he wants from me. I don’t know who he is.
I’m back in my room, sunrise is still hours away. I’ve got more coffee. The silence is infuriating but comforting at the same time, because when the silence comes, I am safe, for a moment.
I need sleep, but I fear it. I don’t know if it even matters. He’s everywhere now.
I’ve just looked down and seen his nails, slowly sliding down my legs.
Here come the scratches.
I finally succumbed to sleep last night. I don’t really remember falling asleep, but the second I saw the familiar light up ahead, I knew it had happened.
There was no laughter last night, just his breath, ragged and almost excited. Every now and again, those words.
“Little fawn…” I just looked straight ahead. I could hear his voice around me. I could see beckoning fingertips, the glow of the lantern, and I walked, reluctantly but resigned, like a moth to the flame. Like a lamb to the slaughter.
“Come home, little fawn.”
There I was, as I always ended up, inches from the lantern, reaching out with shaking fingertips, feeling the heat of his slender hands as they encased my own. Breathing through the burning, begging for the scream that was denied to me, but this time was different.
I should have woken up, but I was still trapped. The laughter began, brassy and bold, his grip on my hands became intolerable, and he pulled me close to him.
The smoke rose from our hands and his laughter was everywhere. I tried to pull back, but he was relentless, cackling as he held onto my struggling body. Cigarette smoke seemed to fill the air, and the light was flashing with some kind of madness that made me sure that I’d never be free.
That was when I woke up, but for a second, I saw him.
His hands, thin but with sharp nails, almost claws, a tattered suit, a wide smile and a top hat that seemed to go on forever. As I sped back to reality, it felt like I was falling down into the ground, where I’d never ever looked, so I fixed my eyes on him, the endless hat, the way the lantern lit up his face, and his charmless little wave as his laughter rang out.
Tonight, when I go to sleep, I am going to take the lantern from him. I don’t know how, but I think if I do, something will change. I got so close last night.
Last night’s dream was the same, for the most part. I’m not even sure they are dreams anymore, it’s like he takes me away somewhere, when I’m too weak to stop him. He likes to torment me, to torture me.
I walked towards the lantern, as he laughed, taunting me with the incessant whispering.
“Little fawn…” His voice was husky, with an almost playful tone, like that creepy uncle you plead with your parents not to invite to your birthday party. Every time he spoke, I saw his wide smile, the towering top hat, his eyes, black like coal, that seemed to dart from place to place within seconds. “Come home, my little fawn…”
I kept staring ahead, fixing my eyes on the lantern, walking and walking until I saw it within my grasp. As always, I extended my hands towards it, the pain of his hands upon mine as I reached for it. The manic light was flashing.
Yellow. Red. Yellow. Red. Yellow. Red.
His laughter rang out, loud like a bell, and I should have been awake, but again, he kept me with him, so I held on, pushing myself through his searing grasp, until my fingertips rested on the lantern.
His face was across from mine, and as I wrapped my hands around the lantern, his immediately fell. Gone was the smile. Silent was the laughter. He looked as helpless as he had made me feel.
He reached forward, grabbing at the lantern, pushing me, pulling it, and we struggled.
“Be a good girl…” He mumbled breathlessly, pulling my fingers until I worried that they’d break. I held on as long as I could until my body gave out, and once again, I was falling.
The lantern lit up his face again, his smile had returned, and he cried out one last thing before I awoke.
“I’ll see you again, little fawn!”
I got it! That son of a bitch thought I couldn’t, but I got it!
Last night’s dream, or journey, or whatever it was, I finally beat him!
You should have seen his face. Torn up and twisted by grief. I was the one laughing, and it felt amazing.
It all started the same. I walked down the corridor, like his good little fawn, his breath heavy and constant in my ear.
The light up ahead was bright, and his laughter rattled around in the darkness, but I had grown used to it. My boldness the night before made me feel stronger than I ever had, and I knew what I had to do.
As I got closer, he spoke, as usual, and this time, I decided to answer his calls.
“Little fawn…” He whispered, a small chuckle followed, and I felt his claws on my shoulders.
“I will go home.” I didn’t really know what home meant to him, but I knew that he was pretty insistent on me going there. I heard him gasp, and then he was silent. The breathing was hurried, almost excited. His grip on my shoulders softened, and rather than being pushed, it felt like he was leading me to the lantern.
“My little fawn…” His voice was gentle and adoring, his claws moving down towards my hands, warm, but no longer scalding.
“Where are we going?” He was standing beside me now, his maniacal smile had softened as he turned towards me, with his dark eyes glittering. The top hat towered above us and cast a long shadow as we reached the lantern. The light gave off a soft glow, no longer flashing wildly.
He pointed to it, with glee all over his face, and I took a step closer. It was warm to the touch, bright and beautiful. Lighting up a red door ahead. “We’re going home.” He stepped forward, his claw on the silver handle, and the door swung open.
Flames poured through, the unbearable heat beating down on my face. Screaming laughter surrounded me, as he took a step through, and then, I ran.
Clutching the lantern close to my chest, I ran back towards the darkness. I could hear him lumbering after me, the shadow of his hat looming in front of me as I ran, but I didn’t dare look back.
I ran, and I ran until darkness swelled around every particle of air, and my eyes suddenly opened to the brightness of the sun rising outside of my window.
He’ll be back, but he will know not to underestimate me, next time.
I haven’t slept, but that didn’t stop him.
I think taking the lantern was a mistake.
I am so tired, and he won’t leave me alone.
I’m back on the coffee again, keeping all the lights on, and every now and again, I’ll see the endless shadow of his hat, or hear his shallow, scratchy breaths in my ear.
I took a shower to wake me up, and he was there. There was blood swirling in the drain every time I looked. My legs covered in deep scratches. I didn’t have the energy to scream or cry, I just tried to keep myself awake. The pain honestly helped.
I haven’t seen him, but I know that he’s here, somewhere.
I asked him what he wanted, but he just laughed.
I need sleep so badly, but I know I’d be at his mercy, and that he isn’t likely to be in a forgiving mood after what I did.
I thought I might get some fresh air, but I can’t remember where I put my keys, and the doors are locked. I tried to smash a window, but my arms would not cooperate.
It’s so hot. I can hear him next to me as I type.
I have to stay awa
He took me home.
I must have fallen asleep, in the end. My eyes had felt heavy, and I’d close them for a second, just one peaceful second, before I’d open them. I must have tried it one too many times, because when I opened my eyes, I wasn’t in my room anymore.
I was surrounded by the sea, on a little wooden boat, the lantern in my hand as the roar of the ocean harmonised with the creaking of the wood. The shore was fading into the night and ahead of me was nothing but a starless sky.
The air was fresh and cool against my face, and I was too tired to fight back.
There was beautiful music up ahead. Distant and dreamy, and he was across from me, with a bright smile, pulling and pushing the oars.
“You always hated the door.” His voice was soft again. I stared up at the hat, watching it extend endlessly, wondering why he had always taken me to the corridor when he had the power to take me here. “When I used to come and fetch you, the boat was the only way.” Used to? What did he mean? “You don’t remember. Do you?”
“Remember what?” I couldn’t be sure, but he looked hurt by my words, like he had when I had stolen the lantern.
“Running away.” He sighed, but gave me a reassuring smile. I could see land before us, as it came into view, I had a strange feeling that I’d seen it before, but I couldn’t recall where. “You used to drive your mother and I mad.”
“What are you talking about?” Another weary sigh, like we had been having the same conversation for years. We had reached the shore.
“You run away and get lost in that world.” The boat gently swayed as he dropped the oars. I looked around and it all felt familiar, but I couldn’t remember why. “Then I bring you home.” There were palm trees lining the beach, the faraway music was soft, like a lullaby.
“Home?” It sounded strange to say it, but part of me understood, instantly.
“You don’t belong to that world, little fawn.” The sky was aflame, and the sand bubbled underneath my shoes as I stepped off the boat, but the warmth was no longer overwhelming. There were people just like him. Wide smiles, long claws and dark, shining eyes. Their cheers were deafening. They surrounded me, hugging me, kissing me. There were tears in their eyes, and I felt tears forming in my own. It felt like I was supposed to be there.
“The Princess has returned!” He announced. Joy rang out, his laughter echoed with the crowd joining him. “The Princess of Hell has returned!”
I felt the familiar burning on my hands as he took them, but this time, I dared to look down, and our hands were the same. The scratches were gone, the scars from his fiery touch had disappeared. Long claws, slender fingertips. I turned back to the calm waters and saw my eyes, dark and endless. I looked just like them. An endless crown atop my dark tresses. All the scratches were gone.
“Welcome home, my little fawn.”