Chapter 1 – The Pen
I took a seat at a sunflower yellow table perched between two matching benches. My black and white composition notebook and pen rested in front of me. I started rolling the pen back and forth upon the table. The waitress made eye contact and made her way to my booth. She smiled faintly, recognizing me from previous lone Saturday nights. As she reached me, I pulled the headphones that fed music from my phone away from my ears.
“Coffee?” she said. I simply nodded. That is all I ever purchased and she would know to bring me a handful of those tiny cups of creamer. This place wasn’t much to look at. The paint seemed to fade and everything could use a better cleaning. The sink in the bathroom was inches from coming off the wall and the commode rocked like a dime store mechanical horse. The décor was circa 1978 and no one had bothered to ever update. It just happened to be one of the few places to get a hot meal at all hours of the day. This led to their patrons being mainly late night drunks, stoners, and loners like me. As I cracked open my notebook the waitress returned with my coffee and creamer. They offered what they called a ‘bottomless cup of coffee’ for $1.99 and when you are working minimum wage right out of high school that’s the kind of deal you are looking for.
“That all for tonight?” the waitress asked. Again, I simply nodded and offered to go ahead and pay. She pushed my money away and with a smirk said, “I got you tonight, honey.” Maybe she felt sorry for me or maybe she liked me. I didn’t come for companionship though. I came to write and she knew that. I thanked her anyway and put my headphones back in. Picking up my pen and putting it to paper, the words started to flow as heavy rock drowned out any noise from the room. Within minutes the rest of the world faded away from me as my ink bled out onto the paper. Most of the time it was random thoughts, ideas, poetry, or sketches that came to me. I had spent almost every Saturday night here this summer and it was always the same. My notebook, my music, and the pen.
Chapter 2 – From the Beginning
I was 20 and the only one of my small group of friends in high school not to make it to college. They all went their respective ways and in the next few years they slowly stopped communicating with me. Everyone used to call this little town in Alabama a black hole. They said that if you didn’t get out after high school you never would. I guess they didn’t want to risk being pulled back in. I, however, had fallen into the void. I worked stocking groceries at a local super market. I had no friends left and had always had a hard time making them. Females where confusing and my few attempts at dating ended badly. Here I was, alone again with my pen and paper.
When my hand stopped moving I noticed the time. It had jumped from 9:45 to almost 1:00 A.M. I stared at my phone for a minute not wanting to believe I had lost track of that much time. Then my eyes turned to my paper. It was full and so was the adjacent page. I flipped back and both of those were full too. Again and again I turned back pages until I noticed it totaled to ten pages, front and back plus a picture I drew after page eight. I didn’t remember any of it but the picture had me curious. It depicted a young man sitting in the middle of a dark room. His knees pulled to his chest and arms wrapped around them. He seemed to be crying and a mass of dark mist rose from within him. The smoke grew wider as it ascended and at its peak appeared to be a head with a wide mouth and sharp teeth. Jagged letters just beside the entity’s mouth appeared to illustrate a conversation, “Let me in. I am your only true friend. I have been there from the beginning and I will be there until the end.”
Chapter 3 – The Pages
Flipping back to the beginning of my diatribe, I began to read. It started with thoughts of loneliness and my life as I knew it. Then it fell into complaints about life in general and things we as humans don’t appreciate. About five pages in I read about things I hated and things I wished I could change. I started dialogue with myself about problems and solutions. They say that talking to yourself is normal but if you begin to answer you might be insane. I think I slipped into insane for a few hours that night. I held full blown conversations between two halves of myself. One seemed optimistic and hopeful. The other very callous and spiteful. By page eight, the dark half had sent the other part of me into a depression. It hurled insults and reminded him of regrets and short comings. As I turned the page, I came back to the drawing I had made between pages and for once it made sense.
I stared at the picture for what seemed like an hour before remembering that there were still two more pages I hadn’t read. The page lifted and fell to reveal words scribbled on top of more words. My hand must have been bearing down hard because I had even tore through the page at one point. Words like, “hate”, “hunger”, “fear”, “pain”, and “despair” blotting out other words such as “love”, “family”, “friends”, and “hope”. They swirled around a larger word in the center of the page. Large bold letters, almost like graffiti text that read, “LIGHT”. Then I had dug the end of that pen deep and cut through it with a heavy stroke. I can only imagine the look of my face as I sat there in that tiny diner. I know my eyes were wide and my face must have lost all color. I felt my heart fall into my stomach. The final page returned to my inner conversation.
The light side had been beaten down by the dark. I could imagine the young man defeated on the floor again as he asked what the thing wanted from him. It replied, “I will make you a deal. If by the twenty-fifth year, you have not found happiness then I will take over.” I could imagine the despair as the man reluctantly agreed. I was in pure shock; my mouth hung agape. I could not remember a single stroke of my pen in this and that idea scared me. I broke from my trance, gathered my things, and ran from the diner to my car.
Chapter 4 – What is Buried
I pushed that little Chevy S10 as hard as I could. The speedometer bounced off the red line again and again. Then as I reached my single wide trailer at the end of my dirt road and hit the brakes; dust flew up all around me as I barreled out of the cab. I was inside in a matter of seconds and headed straight for my bedroom closet. I tossed things from the bottom of it that had collected atop a black trunk full of memories. Jerking the keys from my pocket I removed the padlock and slung open the lid. Tossing the composition notebook inside and slamming it shut before locking it again. I fell back on my rear and sat there staring at the trunk for a good thirty minutes until a laugh could be heard from the trunk. I quickly slammed the closet door.
My childhood had been that of fear. My father felt children should be seen and not heard. He also loved the phrase, “If you want to cry I can give you something to cry about.” I learned early in life to be quiet, be still, and to bury my feelings. It would start as a lump in my throat and I would quiver. I could feel the tears bounding up in my eyes. Then with a deep swallow I would push it down. Down deep in places that no one else could see and then pull down my smiling mask that everyone preferred to see. They ask, "How you are doing?" but they really just want to hear you say, “I’m fine.”
A lifetime of sadness, pain, and anger filled me up and up until that night I was able to contain it. I guess every bottle has its filling point before it runs over. That night must have been my limit and it spilled over. So, like my entire life before it I buried it there in that trunk. This time not for the sake of others but for mine. The fear I felt knowing those words had come from my own mind was like no other I had ever felt and I knew it was best to leave it hidden.
Chapter 5 – Going Down
The next few years were a roller coaster. I finally met the woman who would become my wife and she bore me a son. I had found my happiness. I had the love of a woman and the pride of being a father. I had been hired for a local maintenance company and the pay was good. I was providing for my new family well and I was sure I had achieved the life I had always wanted. That was until the day my wife told me she was unhappy in our marriage.
It started with small arguments. Things like her wanting me to help with chores, me wanting her to pay more attention to bills, and our respective families. She and my mother didn’t get along and I truly couldn’t stand her father. Both sides interfered in our lives a great deal and that only started the wedge. The divide grew larger when she began spending a vast amount of time visiting her family. She would stay gone for weeks at a time. It wasn’t long before we began accusing one another of cheating. Neither of us had proof but the seed of doubt had been planted and it only grew.
Then one day, as I arrived from home, she told me that she wanted to go visit her sister in Florida. I expressed my displeasure but she had found a way to make me feel guilty each time she wanted to go. She always seemed to get her way. So, with a bag of her clothes and our son, she left again. A week went by and then another. Soon she had been gone a month. I would call her each night to see how she was doing and to check on our son. I would always ask when she intended to come home and the answer was always the same, “Soon”. Two months and then at three, I made a determined call. I was ready to tell her she had to come home. I was ready to see my son and I was tired of living a life apart. So when she answered I asked again when she would be coming home. The answer I received was different this time. In a tone of frustration and exhaustion she said, “I’m not coming home”. I could almost hear the sound of my heart breaking in my chest. My life had fell apart in one simple sentence.
Chapter 6 – Twenty-Five
The divorce was ugly. It left me beaten, broken, and deeply in debt from legal fees. She won in court and was granted custody of my son. I had to find ways to make up for the child support payments. I was struggling to pay my bills. Eventually, I had to move back home with my parents and after five years of being on my own that made me feel as though I had hit rock bottom. I began drinking heavily. I would purchase two or three half gallon bottles of whiskey a week just to keep me numb. I had found myself drowning my pain at night and pushing it down during the day to get through work. I had started the habit of hiding my emotions all over again but this time the darkness inside was just too much at once. I found myself crying myself to sleep many nights and even contemplating the worst. Something had to change. I had to find a way to pick up the pieces of what use to be me and keep going.
My twenty-fifth birthday was close. My parents asked if there was anything they could do to make it special. I told them not to make a fuss over me and I found myself saying those words, “I’m fine”. The words almost choked me and as I said them I could have sworn I could hear the sound of laughter. Something deep and ominous ringing in my ears. I couldn’t help but think of the trunk I had shoved away in my father’s shed. I knew buried beneath stacks of paper there was a notebook that called my name. I shook the feeling as my mother finished dinner. We all sat and ate in silence before I disappeared to the spare bedroom. I pulled the bottle from under my bed and poured a glass of that amber liquid. I filled myself with it until it dulled my ache then passed out on my bed.
The night before my birthday all I could think of was the promise that had been made in my notebook. I watched the clock and imagined it rolling over to midnight. I could see my body being consumed by darkness and I couldn’t get the image from my head. The thought of me kneeling in the floor while this beast hovered over me laughing. It gnawed at me all night long. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I bounded out the back door with a key in my hand. I pulled open the shed and dug through boxes of my life until I found that cursed trunk. I let the padlock fall and flipped the lid open to let it crash on the floor behind it. Dust flew into the air around me and I began digging through my mess for the book. When I saw the worn binding of that old black and white composition book. I brushed off the dust and ran my hand across the cover. It had scratches and tears from being moved a few times over the last couple years. Even though I had no intention of looking at it all that time I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. Now here I sat in my father’s shed preparing to open it once again.
Chapter 7 – The Deal
I sat on the edge of the doorway of the shed. Opening the notebook it automatically opened to the picture I had drawn as if it had been folded back all this time on that crease. I stared at it for a moment before pulling out my phone. It was 11:59 P.M. and I watched intently as the seconds ticked by. I was holding my breath as the clock changed to 12:00 A.M. and when the next minute passed I gasped for air finally. Nothing. Absolutely nothing happened. There I sat in the quiet dark of my parents’ backyard and not a single thing happened. The silence was broken by my laughter. Loud, almost maniacal laughter. I couldn’t help myself. I had spent so much time being afraid of this stupid book and my dark thoughts. I was so sure something devilish would happen once my birthday arrived. Finally, I composed myself and tucked the book under my arm before closing the shed and returning to my bedroom. I smiled for the first time in what seemed like forever as I went to sleep that night. The notebook rested on my nightstand.
In my dreams, a voice called out my name. It sounded like multiple tones speaking at once and almost rolled away in a growl when it completed speaking. It beckoned me to wake and when I did not, it grew louder, more determined. I tossed and turned but remained in my nightmare. It grew agitated and yelled in my ear, “GET UP!” I jumped up from the bed and found myself sitting in the darkness of the spare bedroom. I glanced over at my alarm clock and it read 3:55 A.M. I caught my breath as I looked around the room. I was alone. I slid from the bed and made my way down the hall. No one was awake but me. Both of my parents were still sound asleep. I walked to the bathroom and relieved my bladder then returned to my bed.
As I turned the corner to the hall I heard a very faint fluttering sound. The closer I got to the spare bedroom the louder the sound seemed to get. I slowly passed through the doorway to stop abruptly just inside. The notebook on my nightstand was shuffling through pages rapidly. Two or three pages at a time whipped by until it finally came to a stop on the final page of the final entry. I read those words again, “I will make you a deal. If by the twenty-fifth year, you have not found happiness then I will take over”. The pages whipped backward again to show the sketch I had made previously. The image of the entity above the man on the page seemed to grow darker in hue. The ink around it appeared to pull in close and make it grow larger. Then the words from the pages around it turned to little droplets of black and wriggled its way from the page it was on to this one. The image grew larger and larger until it covered the page. Then when I didn’t think it could get any larger the creature began to rise from the page and form into reality within the very room where I stood.
Chapter 8 – Until the End
My body quaked in place and sweat poured down my body. My mind told me to run but every muscle in my body was locked in place. I could feel my heart trying to beat out of my chest and all I could do is stare as this thing became real by my bed. Slick black skin dripping ink from his hoof-like feet up his scale lined legs and torso. It had lanky arms that reminded me of how primates hunker over but at the end of them where large palms adorned with almost razor thin fingers. The truly terrifying part is that its face was mine but with deep indentations along the skin and an array of horn-like protrusions from the head.
As it completed its way into my room it began to smile. The mouth widened far more than it should and revealed teeth that could be mistaken for knives. They even glinted like metal and had a similar shade. It finally spoke, “It has been awhile, my friend.” His mouth didn’t even open. It was like he was in my head. I couldn’t speak at first. I was in complete terror and awe of what I had just witnessed. Again his voice vibrated inside my skull, “It’s almost time,” before pointing to my alarm clock. I had no idea what he meant and millions of little thoughts jumbled together as I tried to make sense of this whole scene. I had to be dreaming, this could not be real. “It was almost funny waiting and watching you earlier tonight,” the words rang out again in his deep guttural tone, “You kept waiting on midnight like a silly boy trying to catch Santa Clause.” I almost began to cry. I could feel the lump in my throat and the tears begin to well. He almost looked like he was laughing as I heard, “Didn’t your mother ever tell you what time you were born?” I looked at the clock again and it read 3:59 A.M. “It’s time to keep your end of the bargain,” the voice came with a chuckle.
The thought rang in my head that I could not let this happen and I couldn’t just let this thing take control of me. It began reminding me of my pain throughout my years and my regrets. It tormented me with every single bad memory and failure it could possibly brought back to light. It even told me things I had long forgotten. The lump in my throat grew larger and it was becoming increasingly more difficult to hold back my sobs. Then as he began retelling my marriage, divorce, and loss of my son it was like a dam had busted. It all came rushing into me then out. My tears flowed from my eyes like a faucet and I wretched in agony. It drew closer to me and as I fell to my knees it lowered over top of me. Then it placed a hand on my head and said, “Let me in. I am your only true friend. I have been there from the beginning and I will be there until the end.”
I looked up at the thing and with a quiet, defeated tone I finally spoke, “Okay, you can takeover.”
Written by L0CKED334