Much like those nightmares you cannot wake up from, I felt like a prisoner in my own mind. I followed the skeletal woman, unable to stop and unable to speak. To my own absurdity, I felt my eyes drift down to watch her hips, to see if they swayed like a living woman’s did. They were swaying. I almost vomited and I immediately wished thoughts like that would stop slithering into my brain like an anaconda that sought to strangle sanity from me. Drawing myself from the unsettling cauldron of my own strange thoughts, I focused my overtired eyes on my surroundings. I hoped to first ascertain where I am and secondly, how the hell I might escape my skeletal companion.
The sun was setting. I noticed that first, which was strange because it had been mid-afternoon when this had all happened. The red, orange and lavender light spilled across a tangled network of trees that should have leaves for this time of year, but didn’t. It was springtime. All the trees should have had their leaves, but instead, they were dead as the woman who guided me here. Their branches were dark with splotches of white sickness upon them and the branches were tangled like arteries torn from a once living thing. I wasn’t surprised when I looked down and saw we were surrounded by dirt and dead grass and I was less surprised to find an empty grave where she and I had come to a stop. I felt a sense of familiarity about where as I was when I looked at the hole carved in the earth and looked up at the tombstone.
It was an older style. Long, somewhat slender and bereft of ornamentation, sans a small cross on the very bottom. I could not see the name on it clearly, despite leaning over to squint at the weather-worn lettering on the bleached white and grey slab. As I stared at it in almost entranced curiosity, the lettering seemed to become clearer and with that clarity, came a sudden rapid blinking as I read it aloud.
J.T. Harris it said. That was me. Jerald Thomas Harris. But I wasn’t dead. I still had a whole life ahead of me! Why was I looking at this? I turned to ask my skeletal companion why I was looking at this horrific impossibility, but my answer came with boney fingers dug into my shoulder and a powerful shove that a thing without muscles should not have been able to accomplish. I hit the top of a coffin with a bone-jarring thud, that ripped the air from my lungs and left my eyes blurry from the dirt, dust and debris that was kicked up into them with the fall.
I felt myself blacking out again, despite my best efforts. Darkness swam in from the corners of my eyes and closed in from all corners, as I felt dirt being pushed onto my back. I opened my mouth to scream but instead found it oddly muted. I could barely hear myself, but I could hear her terrible, seductive voice all too clearly. Cannot be unbound! She hissed into my mind, the weight of the words sinking me into the blackness of unconsciousness or perhaps death. I would have been thankful for the latter, for the end of torment it would bring.
I woke to the sound of my name being snarled. It was an evil sound that happened only once but one time was sufficient to draw me to being awake. I had been dreaming again. I had never awakened and I could not comprehend why! I was tangled in my once clean off-white sheets, which were now covered in a pungent mingle of my sweat, dirt and smatterings of blood. I couldn’t tell if it was mine and my mind was swimming too much for me to care. I stumbled out of the cocoon of bed sheets and ended up tripping upon them in my frantic attempt to get free. It was as if they were hands crawling on my flesh, attempting to drag me back into the bed, where more nightmares could be made. I didn’t want to sleep but I could feel the numbness in my head from not sleeping enough. I stared at the clock for lack of a better thing to focus on. It was 2pm. Still the middle of the afternoon. What the hell is going on here?
I stare at my iPhone. A moment of rationale washes over me as I seriously debate checking myself into the hospital. I have good health insurance and with any luck I’ll have a pretty nurse watching over me while somebody attempts to put the screws back in my goddamn head. It seems the perfectly logical choice in a string of events that have been nothing even remotely resembling logic. I look back at the bed I abandoned and attempt to discern why there’s so much dirt on me and on the bed. I look down at my hands then, for the realization they hurt. The dull pain in each hand was thanks to blisters that had formed there. They were the kind of blisters you get if you use a shovel too long without gloves or an ax. I could be guilty of either or both at this point and I wouldn’t have known the better. The blisters had been bleeding. I must have ignored the pain doing whatever the hell it was that I was doing while I was out. I find some sanctuary in the thought that the blood on the sheets was probably mine from my hands and not some innocent person I caught in a murderous trance created by whatever the hell was whispering to me from the basement.
I need to do something about this. Whatever this voice was, it had me digging up something and I was fairly certain I didn’t want to discover what it was. Having a vague recollection of the skeletal woman’s voice and its effect upon me, I realize that I cannot go down into the basement, but I can’t sit here and do nothing. Was I sane? Was I being haunted? The pretty psychic said to just leave the house. I was beginning to seriously consider it given the present turn of events. I felt like a door swinging on rusty hinges and it was only going to take a few more swings like this for me to break free and fall to the floor of my sanity. I stare at my iPhone again. It’s doing the vibration dance on my night stand and threatening to bounce right off to the floor if I don’t do something. Ignoring the irony of similarity between me and the stupid phone, I snatch it off the nightstand and look to see who’s calling me. To my surprise it’s the pretty psychic. Her name is Helena. I almost let it ring to message, but at the last minute I pick up and answer.
Her voice is soothing. Helena had one of those voices that had that smoky, sexy quality to it without any effort on her part. I almost forget what she’s saying to listen to the comfort of her voice but snap out of it quickly when she says she’s coming over. I make the predictable joke about just thinking about her but the real joke was, I wasn’t joking. She says she’ll be right over and I agree to it. The urgency in her voice is something that surprises even me, but as I look at the dirt on myself and the bloody blisters on my hands, I wonder if she really understands the depths of my torment. She hangs up after saying good-bye. I hold onto the little piece of plastic, electronics and bright screen colors for a moment longer, as if it served as some sort of spiritual link to her. It’s the first hope I’ve had in a long time that there might be some chance to quiet the sinister thing lurking in the basement.