There are worse things than death, believe me. Sometimes, during moments of nothing,
He barked Monday, and I crept around the corner at the end of the hallway-nothing. On Wednesday, he was barking, standing at the foot of the bed with hair on end. I thought he might have heard something that time, and so I grabbed the gun and crept down the hallway once more. He walked in front, occasionally looking back to see if I was following the edge of the living room door, he paused. He started growling as if something truly horrible was just beyond that doorway, and this turned my body to ice. I was afraid, again. I had to make a move and so I swung into the opening and stuck out the gun. There was nobody there, only my cat.
“Oh for christ’s sake, Chip, there’s no one in there but Prissy.”
My work makes me jumpy. It makes me believe that maybe, just maybe, there is something at the end of that hallway.
I’m a writer. Like the starving artist, I work hard for very little. From sun up till sun down, I browse the markets and update my blogs. Life outside my home is alien to me. I hardly ever leave, and so gradually, I think the world is disappearing entirely. Someday, it may just fade away. I don’t think I’ll miss it, because I am a writer. I write from sun up till sun down. I work hard for very little.
I had a story somewhere in my head. In the back where the files are kept. It was a horrifying story that will keep you up at night. I started to write, creating the characters and building the personalities, but then I stopped. A wall shot up in my mind and blocked the rest of what I needed to know.
I got tired of trying after several hours. The sun sank into the horizon and nightfall told me it was time to rest. Many times, I ignored that moment and kept writing into the night. Thing is, I couldn’t do it. My fingers hovered over the keyboard and nothing came out. I was frozen.
I retired to my room and turned off the light. Because my mind was so empty, in moments I was asleep
Then, like the other nights before, he was barking and that’s what woke me. Unlike my previous routine, I lay back down and went to sleep.
This time, I wasn’t going to bother. It was just Prissy jumping on things or trees scraping against the window. There was nothing to be afraid of. I turned over and stared at the wall. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to sleep. Chip stopped barking and growled for good measure.
“Would you please shut up!”
When I turned to yell at him, I was something else in the room A figure stood in the doorway-tall and thick. I saw no details, just the outline of its shape. My first reaction was shock, then I fumbled between the mattress and wall, searching with my fingers to find my gun. I heard my heart in my ears, sweat erupted on my chest and my breath came in sudden gasps. When my hand curled around the gun, I turned toward the figure. It was gone. I released my grip on the Judge’s handle.
Chip sat on the edge of the bed and whimpered. In a moment, he crawled over to me and lay down. I couldn’t sleep, he may have been soothed by the simple fact that the intruder was gone, but I wasn’t satisfied. I held the gun and waited. After an unknown length of time, I woke to morning light filtering through the windows. Chip was not in bed.
“Chip, come here boy!”
I sat at the computer for an hour before I could find any words. The assignment was vague and that’s the worse kind. Write a short story, he says. Make is fun and yet horrifying. The words didn’t come and that seemed horrifying enough to me. My mind was blank. I had written every short story you could think of. I thought about demon coffee cups that made you drink coffee until you were filled with the spirit, the dark spirit of the porcelain king. I stared at my cup and realized that I still hadn’t poured a cup of coffee yet. I was lost, and so I decided to sit down and start putting words onto the screen. Maybe the story would create itself, If I tried.
I poured the hot coffee into my cup and thought about the demons that could be living in the coffee beans. After all, coffee was addictive, it had to be created in hell.
I walked back to the computer, rubbed Chip between the ears, and started to write. It was lunch before I realized I had filled five pages of something. It was disjointed and mad, but somehow the story grew larger. I toyed with the hallucination from the night before and decided not to include the villain. As suddenly as the idea erupted in my head, I was frightened. AT my feet, Chip started to growl.
“Hey, it’s okay, buddy. We’re safe.”
My words were confident but my thoughts were iffy. I was still not convinced that the intruder was a sleepy halucinations. Those who doubt my tale about the intruder would probably call him a lump of clothes piled atop a chair, or a trick of the light. I knew better. I didn’t leave piles on clothes in chairs and I didn’t sleep with the light on. Rubbish!
I sleep well most of the night, until Chip began to back again. He was insistent, just as before, staring at the open doorway to my bedroom. His hair stood on end and his lips curled over his canines. He was angry. It was hatred which fueled his discontent. Immediately I reached between the mattress and the wall. This time, I would shoot it. I didn’t care what it was, it was trespassing and I had every right to protect myself. I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to steady my nerves. When I opened my eyes, it was there. The same dark outline from the night before, but this time, it spoke.
“Let me help you.”
I didn’t understand what the words meant, but I thought I heard the voice correctly.
“Don’t come any closer, or I will put a hole in you!”
“Let me in…”
It spoke again, but it didn’t come closer. In fact, it didn’t even waver. Chip growled softly perched on the matress.
“Who are you?”
Then the figure moved forward, and the light of the moon, filtering through my window, shone the truth of the thing. It was a man. For a while, I didn’t recognize him. He wore a uniform with symbols I recognized all too well. His hair was dark and a square bit of hair sat atop his upper lip. I guess you could have called the thing a mustache. He was pale with the bluest eyes and I knew who he was. Shivers passed through my body when realization hit me.
“How is this possible? How are you in my room? Of all people on the face of this earth, why you and why me?”
“I’m an artist and so are you. I admire your work and would love for you to join me.”
“Join you where?”
“Oh, just a place where the muse never leaves. I always have inspiration there, and my roses have never looked better.”
All the while the figure stood before me, it didn’t move its’ lips. I heard the sound from deep within the thing, reverberating and smothering out the low growls from my dog.
“ Why me?”
For a moment, there was no sound and then the voice spoke softly.
“You are an artist, just like me. I knew at the moment of your birth that you would have the talent to create things, things so vivid that it was if life was in your work and fantasy was the world you perceive outside your window. I knew you, and you knew nothing of me.”
I was confused. “What do you mean?”
“Your mother didn’t have it, but you do.”
He smiled, the figure smiled. I saw the capsule between his teeth. He reached and took the little pill, placing it in his other hand.
“You see this?”
“Yes, what is it.”