I’ve been here before.
The old room is dark, but I know where I am. I know what the room looks like in the light. It’s cold tonight; I always remember it being warmer.
The clock seems louder than usual too, almost as if I can feel every tick wash over me from behind. The old grandfather with a mocha finish watches over the room. The glass panel on the front is cracked, a single shard missing from the top left of the pane. A piece of masking tape covers the glass around the edge of the hole, a temporary attempt to make it safer.
I can’t see it in the dark, but I know exactly what it looks like.
A radio plays some beautiful classical music from behind me. I couldn’t name the piece, I’ve never been in to classical music. For the life of me, I have no idea why it’s playing.
I’m sitting comfortably alone in an oversized elegant looking antique chair. The fabric is an olive green felt. The chair itself smells like it’s sat in a grandmother’s house for decades, but it’s worn in all the right spots to make it feel like it was made for me. The floor under my feet is covered by a red and black shag carpet, worn on all the common foot paths. I know all the details of this old house. The dirty windows, the china cabinet with less china than is necessary for a cabinet, the scratched rock on the mantle over the fireplace that has never been lit. I remember it all, but I can’t remember how. Every time I’ve been here it’s been dark.
The body lies on the floor to my right. I’ve always assumed it was a woman because of the pastel blue nightgown and the long fingernails with the remnants of a red nail polish, long ago applied, but never cared for. She’s old too; the blue varicose veins crawling up the outside of her legs like a parasite just under the surface of her skin are enough to guess she’s over seventy. I couldn’t tell from her face, because all that’s left above her shoulders is a blood soaked carpet, cracked skull, and the inside of her head spilled outside, like an egg dropped on the kitchen floor. Whoever she is, she didn’t die well.
I’m sad that she’s dead, no matter how right it feels.
And here’s the weirdest part: the beautiful music, the comfortable chair, the rhythmic pounding of the clock, the corpse; I feel at peace. I feel like I could be on vacation. As soon as I notice how good it feels I can feel my relaxed heart beat start to awaken. I can hear my breathing. My mouth is drying out.
All of this is happening because I know what’s coming.
Outside the house is nothing. I know that. This is all there is. The air in here is all that’s left, and it’s stale. It hasn’t been breathed since the last time I was here. I wonder if on one of these visits it will run out. I doubt it, I think to myself. This always goes the same.
My heartbeat begins pounding harder and harder, and now the sound waves from my chest have overpowered the clock. I can hear it in my ears, along with the music and the clock, both seemingly louder than before. Now I want to leave. I want to get out of the chair and run through the kitchen, make a right at the oven, over the bad step to the patio and out the front door. But I know I can’t. There’s nothing out there. Nowhere to go. And I’m terrified to move because as soon as I do, it will begin.
Static starts coming over the music, like the station is starting to go out of range and another program is intruding on the frequency. I hear voices speaking very matter of fact to each other. And even though I’m making the effort this time to understand them, I can’t. I never can. Then the pulsing sound starts, quiet at first but always powerful, always somehow gigantic. There’s no point in stalling anymore, it won’t stop.
Boom.... Boom.... Boom...
I turn around to look at the radio, thinking maybe if I see it I might be able to decipher the people speaking. It doesn’t work. It never does.
And when I turn back, she’s there.
The voices on the radio sound more frantic now. Something is going wrong.
Sitting in an olive green felt chair directly in front of me sits me. It looks like a giant mirror was placed in the room, but I know she’s real. She mimics every slight move I do, until she doesn’t.
"What time is it?" she asks me.
I take a moment. Maybe this time I won’t answer her. Maybe this time something different will happen. I sit still, and as I do a feeling of dread overcomes me. An urge rises up, like suppressing a yawn. I have to answer her. I can’t do this wrong.
I turn slowly to the grandfather clock behind me, now ticking louder, but being drown out by the almost painful pulsing drum beat lying under every noise in the room. The other me makes the same movement, looking behind her at nothing. The people on the radio are going into a full panic now. People yelling at each other, blaming each other. I still can’t make out what they’re saying. All I can do is see the clock, now lit by a single light coming from the floor. A light that no electrician would ever install.
It’s not a grandfather clock anymore. Now it’s a gold pocket watch. The hands are both pointed at twelve. Only there’s no twelve. Every number has been replaced with a roman X. And somehow, now it’s louder than ever.
I turn back slowly and give her the same answer I always do. I know this is when it all goes to shit.
"Three o’ clock."
When I turn back, she doesn’t.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
She starts convulsing, like she’s trying to turn back to me but her face is stuck to some invisible fly paper. This is wrong. We need to be in sync or else... something. I don’t know what. But I know it’s bad.
Then comes the gunshot. Through the static, over the music, over the arguing, barely over the ear splitting pulsing a single shot rings out. The arguing stops, the music stops. The static is louder than ever. I am terrified.
I don’t want to look, but I know I’m supposed to. I have to. This is how it plays out.
My reflection continues to struggle desperately to get away as I look at my hands, now covered in blood. The pulsing speeds up.
She’s starting to scream. Something is holding her there. Something is hurting her. It needs to let her go or everything will break. The static and the pulsing. The pulsing and the static.
"Emily?" a man’s voice asks somewhere in the room.
And everything stops.
The squirming reflection of myself, the pulsing, the static, the terror, all stopped. I take a deep slow breath. It’s almost over. But the worst part is starting.
The little girl is here.