Warning: This story has content that may be triggering to some readers.
Images, and Images. All I see are these Images. They follow me around constantly; every time I close my eyes, these Images are glued to my eyelids. Whether I am awake or sleeping, these Images follow me. Dark creatures, silently stalking; these Images are never-ending. What do they mean? Am I cursed, destined to lead a life full of despair by the haunting of these Images?
A corridor is ahead of me–there is no end in sight, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is the way out. Through a window, I see eerie gray light and what appears to be the remains of trees. They are burned, apparently with purpose, as each one casts a shadow similar to that of a monster. Grotesque shapes that I know will follow me if I continue down the corridor. I have been here before, this world. The only way is forward. There is never any option to turn back.
Each door down this hallway holds a different horror behind it. Behind one, it replays the death of my mother. Her screams as we crashed into that truck, the blood that trickled from her head as I laid there screaming for help.
Other ones hold my greatest fears–pure darkness, loneliness, silence. Each has its own room, each one designed to be a torture chamber for me. I have learned to never open the doors though. Each visit here has made me wiser.
The shadows follow me as I make my way through the endless corridor, skittering along the walls as if I don’t know that they are following me. I do know, though. sometimes I’ll abruptly stop and watch as they continue feet ahead of me. It’s almost a bit of game, but it’s not fun, more of a test to see how much attention they pay to me.
A fork forms ahead of me, a new addition. I decide to go left towards what appears to be light. There are no doors this way either, so there will be no temptations. However, I do notice a figure a ways ahead. It isn’t a shadow, but it has the same threatening outline as them. I decide to slow my pace and study it. Every encounter with this creature is different. Sometimes, it lets me pass, other times we will just stare at each other blankly. This time feels different though, like the creature is scared of something. It’s cowering, hunched over.
All of a sudden, I feel a sense of urgency, like someone’s life, possibly my own, is in danger. So, I bolt. I look behind me to see the creature still cowering over, but now it’s rocking back and forth. There is no time to think about it, though. I have to keep running. As I turn back towards the front, crashes are heard behind me. The world is collapsing as it does every time I visit. It means I am due to wake up soon, but it never really ends.
Suddenly, I jolt up and notice the real sunlight that streams through my curtained window, illuminating the covered walls of my room. I immediately grab the pencil and pad located near my bed. The sketch comes easily. It’s as if my hand is guided by an unknown force; I sketch the monster from my dreams, its cowering figure.
There is something that follows me to the waking world, a shadow always in the corners of my vision. Oftentimes, I see it stroll around the vicinity I’m in; sometimes, its presence lingers on the back of my neck. Rarely are there times when it is truly not around. I’m not sure how it follows me out of the dream world, but it reminds me of the horrors trapped there. It is the Image that haunts me, always.
At every moment this shadow, this force, consumes my being. It controls me. I am the puppet, and the shadow is the master, pulling the strings, deciding how I live my life. Even a trip to the grocery store is ruled by the shadow. It guides me to the different aisles and decides who I will talk to. If it lets me talk to anyone at all.
I continue to lay in bed, pondering the shadow—what it means and how it is able to have such a hold over me. Maybe I need to seek help, see if someone else knows how to get rid of these shadows, or even if there are others who see the shadow. Is it normal? Do other people have this huge figure constantly navigating their every move? Oftentimes, I feel like it does completely take over, possesses me, in order to stop thoughts like these. Like it doesn’t want me to find out its weakness.
As I check the time, I realize that it is time to face this reality. The one where I am still haunted by my nightmares, even though I am awake. When my feet touch the cold floor, I see a shadow move behind me. It is here. My routine continues, even though there is an unwanted audience. I walk to the bathroom attached to my bedroom and begin to prepare for my morning shower. The shadow doesn’t like the steam from the scalding hot water; this part of my day is one of the rare occurrences where I am unwatched. However, just as I begin to wash my hair, it enters the steamy room. This time, though, it is not in my peripheral; the shadow is standing fully in view. Staring with emptiness and radiating with feelings of despair.
“NO! GET OUT. THIS IS MY PLACE!” I scream as the shadow begins to drift towards the shower.
“PLEASE, NO…no please just stop,” and stop it does, right in front of the door to the shower.
“What do you want? Why do you follow me? I need peace. Peace, please. Jus—go away.” Then, I am engulfed in blackness…
Sirens are blaring as I wake up, people are talking, all I see are bright lights around me as my sight begins to refocus. As I look around, I see that my arm is hooked up to a heart monitor, humming quietly as those around me are scrambling. It is at that moment I realize that I am in an ambulance. I can’t speak; my throat is incapable of making any noise; my body is aching all over.
I have no memory of what happened after the shadow engulfed me. Apparently, a neighbor heard me screaming and called 911. Maybe it finally took control of me. Maybe it is winning.
Images, and Images. All I see are these Images, these Images of one shadow. Looming over me, maybe one day I can vanquish it. If I am strong enough.