We are all haunted…
Have you ever been kept awake when you wanted to sleep? Have you been pushed upon by the preying thoughts that you keep resting deep within your mind? Almost as if your psyche is trying to remind you of everything you want to forget. The spatter of the mental blood splashing against the inside of your skull can start to coalesce into a figure. It’s different for us all, some might tell you they carry a spirit around with them, a large black bird with the head of a woman. Fat, pursed lips and ink black eyes that stare. When she speaks, she chirps. She cackles in the night sky as she stands outside of the window, waiting to get inside. She wants to feed you. Some would tell you that they find their thoughts moving slowly across the floor. Leaving a trail of slime behind it as it moves. A severed arm, the hand still holding a pen as it travels towards them, prepared to do more pain than a knife could dream of in the hands of Michael M.
Some, like myself, will tell you that our thoughts gather like forming clouds. In the font of my skull when I am lying awake at night I can feel the pressure forming within. Like an executioner holding my head down to my pillows, waiting to sever my head and add to his cranial archive. The executioner is just a grafter, something that comes to visit every so often to haunt me when my future becomes too real. A hulking man, clothed in black that enters my bedroom just after the lights have gone down, the phone screen has been turned against the particle board end table I spill my daily guts onto with each rising of the moon. He isn’t that frightening, not compared to the others. The frail man I see at night that stalks me from just a bit out of reach, hardly out of sight. His frail and shattered figure guised by a clean black suit. A black silk hat resting upon his molding head. The flesh I can see covered in spores bursting from every single pore on the grey canvas that covers whatever pumps inside of him. He has hollow eyes, too. Just like your bird. Some nights I can’t see the figure at all. It is just a presence I know is there. Behind me, clinging to the trunks of the trees nearby me. Resting behind a door and I know the shadows will reach for me when it closes if I don’t turn the lights on fast enough. They frighten me some days, other days I ignore them, knowing they can’t harm me.
There is only one haunt that can get to me in a way that none of the others can. She visits me every night after the executioner in the black hood. She floats from the front of my mind every night it seems. Coming from the clouds of memories and poison I keep pooled above my eyes. As if she is soaking her life right from behind my skull she crawls from my head one limb at a time like a spider escaping the clutches of a flytrap. Her fingers burst from my skin with the gentle brush of silk as I pull the covers to my head, begging for a single night in peace, at least every once and a while. It’s no use, once she is emerging, she will leave and crawl along my floor and up to the ceiling. Her limbs thin and covered in sores. Her skin grey and dying. She clings to the ceiling of my bedroom and waits until I am nearly asleep, so that she can turn and watch me. I only know this because I saw it once.
After she had made her grand entrance, I rolled onto my side and tried my best to ignore the incessant scratching and clawing on the painted walls around me. When it finally stopped, she made no further noise and I fell to sleep unharmed. That night I had my first nightmare. I woke from the slumber, startled at the horrors inside of my mind and when my eyes popped open, my skin speckled, carrying my hair to stand rigid. She was there, hanging on the ceiling above me. Her head spun backwards like an age old doll. Her porcelain face glaring at me. She was reaching two hands towards me, almost as if she was intent on caressing my night terror out of me. She had a hungry look upon her glossy face. She was hungry.
I jammed my eyes closed and heard no noise from her. Eventually, through sheer force of will I had fallen asleep. I have seen her ever since, especially on stressful nights. Days where the simple act of waking the next morning seems impossible she comes out of her hiding place within my mind. Crawling from my mind like an insect, gently she touches me as she ascends from the pits of my thoughts.
All of the things that I cycle through my head like a ticker tape banner: that I am not good enough for the life I am giving myself, that I have lost my way, that my friends and family are let down by me. She senses this and like any predator, she braces herself for the nights when her prey is weakest. I have lost many nights of sleep because of her. The relentless attempts to devour me through my pain or my inadequacy leave me restless and begging for sleep, for peace.
However, the beast that visits me night after night has lost something on me. She begs for me to give up. I hear her whispers. She wants me to kneel to her. She wants me to admit that I am sinking, knowing damn well that I don’t feel that way. These predators that visit us at night, no matter the shape, have forgotten one thing about us.
She comes to the fields of memory at night when they are still fresh, when I am there picking through the events of the day. When I am recounting all of the good and the bad, weighing them against one another. She sees that I am preoccupied and wants so badly to strike, to deal the final blow that will end me. She wants me to stop fighting to be better, because she knows that when I do give up, my flesh will taste that much better to her. I will be sweetened by doubt, but the taste that would come from hopelessness… the delicacy is quickly missed. But she knows better.
She knows that in order to have me, she must wear me down to nothing. She must remind me of the voices that whisper to me that I am not worth the trouble. That I am going to fall time and time again and it will hurt. That I may as well give up today and pass the torch to someone much more capable.
She knows this, but I know her. I have watched her reach for me for twenty years. I know what she craves, I know how badly she hungers for it. The spirit begs for me to lower my guard, to show that weakness to her that she knows I have.
But that is not how it will be.
I may have gone to the fields to reminisce and see all of my shortcomings, but she doesn’t understand why. She knows I drink from the river beside it and am filled up with regret, but she doesn’t understand why. That is why I already have her beat.
She can come to me every night, cling to my ceiling and watch me my dreams pull me in and out of terror. She can sit beside me on that stream for as long as she wishes, whispering words into my ear and telling me that it is already over, but she will never harm me. She knows that I am more than just a man. I am a bear. The things that I care so much for are like my children. My writing, my friends, my future. All of them are cubs to me.
Have you ever seen a bear defend its young?
The spirit knows better than to tamper with my cubs. I am hard enough on them on my own. So she must aim for me, to wear me down. But she will fail in that endeavor as well. The reason I lay awake at night is not to recount all of my failures and be dragged down by them. I lay awake and count until I know every way that I can rise from my den the following morning and conquer the world in ways that I didn’t yesterday. She will never see that, because there is no morning for her. She lives in a constant night time that has been created from my own thoughts. She is nothing more to me than a part of my imagination who has grown arrogant.
As is the same for you.
The ghouls that come for you in the evening are not physical, they do not truly exist to you. They will claw and scratch and try to beat at you, but they don’t have power over you unless you give it to them.
Don’t give it to them.
Doubtful flesh is sweet, I’ve been told.
Bu the flesh of someone who is proud of who they are?
Every spirit in the world will come to bite off a piece of you, and their teeth will break upon contact. No matter how sharp, no matter how rigid, no matter how durable.
They cannot combat your own thoughts. So fight them tonight.
If you’re into clothing (At least a little bit.) Pick up the RE:Stay Alive shirt from Random Acts Creations on Teespring! They are only available until April 21st. 🙂