Fear. Dread. Terror. All manners of emotions of such qualities sparked together in an instant, with a cause unknown, triggering the absolute extremes of fight-or-flight instincts and making him jump off his bed, interrupting his slumber. Regardless of the blanket flying off, he ran off out of his bedroom, crossing the door and slamming it shut behind him, and then held the handle up as hard as he could to prevent whatever lied within from opening it. The rush of adrenaline numbed his senses, as if the transition from unconsciousness to absolute panic in the blink of an eye had not left his mind disoriented enough.
Then, as seconds passed, his mind returned to its proper state, regaining awareness of all around him, and all that was not. His heartbeat calmed, and he let go of the handle to look at his hand, almost in reflex for he could see nothing in the darkness; it ached, after having held the handle with such strength that no doubt it left marks if he could see. Soon enough, a tired sigh followed before he opened the door again, walked to the bed, and threw himself on it, ignoring the blanket that now lied anywhere except on the bed.
Another night terror. An unexplainable occurrence he never found the source of, that keeps waking him up in the middle of the night with an absolute sense of dread around him, imagining himself in danger with a desire to escape what unimaginable threats he imagined around him. It always took a while for him to fully wake up, to fully realize that his mind had decided to play an ugly prank on him, more often than not at a time where he had already run off elsewhere.
Night terrors. Something impossible to get used to, impossible to act against, or even control, as much experience as he had with them ever since birth. Unpredictable too, with some nights sleeping fine, and others receiving them without warning, though insomnia adding insult to injury gave him no luxury of the former possibility.
At least he was alone, to have nobody be woken up by him running off in his underwear. And yet, it kept hitting him hard, to always come to the conclusion that being alone at least had some benefit, despite no desire to be alone at all.
Little old truck, a marvel of engineering to survive for so long against the elements despite bits of rust here and there, moving down the road till it came to a halt by a group of people with their own trucks parked around.
“You’re late, buddy.” Said a voice afar, before he even had the chance to open the door. Once he stepped out and closed it, there he spotted a satyros marching up to him before she leaned with her back against the truck. Nia, her name was. “Looks like the other guy is running even more late. You’ll have to wait for a while.”
A quiet sigh escaped him before he leaned just like her. A little marketplace, this place, of a few people gathering around, mainly of farmers and fishers selling what they had to store owners and the few people around in this little town by the shore.
“How much did you bring?” She asked, turning to check the back, all full of harvest.
“Brought anything I could use?”
“What, you’re interested?”
“Well,” she chuckled, “business’ been going a little too well and I’m running short on what I can brew.”
“You should’ve told me earlier, I’d have grown more for you.”
“Yes, well, the problem is that it was too sudden for me to do anything about it beforehand.”
“Shame. I should have somethin–“
“Hey, Frank.” Greeted another voice, passing him by almost face to face, close enough to startle him in part. There it was the culprit, finding her in front of him, a blonde girl with a lengthy braid smiling over the reaction she had received with the sudden greeting. Her hands remained together behind her as she leaned forward ever so slightly towards him with such an innocent smile, of innocence somehow complemented by her conservative blouse and skirt that reached all the way down.
“H…hey, Evelyn.” He greeted, still in surprise.
“Say, I heard you grew fruit.”
“I didn’t bring any.”
“Aw, really? Well, how about next time you bring some and we make a fruit salad? I’m sure you’ll like it.”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Great. See you, then.”
With her smile never disappeaing, she turned and marched off, with her braid following her movements.
“She’s taking more initiative lately.” Remarked the satyros as she and Frank stared Evelyn off. “You could invite her for a date and she’d say yes in a hearbeat. Why are you not going for it yet?”
“Scared of jumping off my bed with a night terror so bad that she flies out the window, if we ever get to that point.”
A snort escaped her as an abrupt chuckle took her over, lowering her head for a secon before regaining her composure.
“Unfortunate.” She said.
As he cleaned off his glasses, his dog abruptly barking caught his attention in the afternoon, prompting him to put on his glasses and step off his house; it certainly was strange for it to bark, if he lived kilometres away from any semblance of civilization in his small farm. Stepping onto the soil out of his home, he saw the dog barking towards the road, and once he turned his head, there he could see a car driving towards his place in the distance, soon hearing its engine as it came closer.
Soon enough he recognized it as Evelyn’s car. Anxiety befell him over company he had not asked, let alone planned for, the likes of which had him saying ‘Oh God, no.’ in his mind. The reaction he had become self-aware of only left him to think over how much of a hermit he had become. In enough time, the car came to a halt and opened for Evelyn to step out.
“You forgot something, dummy.” She greeted, much to his confusion, to soon hold a bag out high. Curious, he stepped closer, yet as much as he looked at the bag, his expression gave away the fact that he remembered nothing. “You left this in the store.”
He grabbed the bag, and though he didn’t even check what he bought earlier, he could only take her word for it.
“You drove all the way here for… two packs of flour?” He asked, glancing into the bag. Only then did he notice the absence of violent noises, that of his dog which should’ve been barking madly even till now, for even in the presence of Nia, the one who most often arrived, he still remained hostile. Instead, he spotted his dog wagging his tail as he stood next to Evelyn, staring fondly before Evelyn herself bowed down and reached with her hand. He’d bite her, he figured, yet instead the dog gleefully received a rub on his head.
“Too much for just that, isn’t it?” She asked in return. “My car is all dirty now, but I guess it couldn’t be helped.”
Too transparent to even pretend. It was dumb to come so far just for that, but she knew that, and banked on him knowing that. As much as he didn’t want the risk of unintentially coming off as making advances, he couldn’t just kick her out. Unthinkable.
“Come in, then. Can’t have you waste your day like this.” He said, turning and heading into his house with her following close behind. “Make yourself comfortable. I got alcohol in the fridge and some juice. Want anything?”
“Juice will do.”
He stepped off to the kitchen, and soon returned with two glasses of juice, to find her already sitting on the sofa. He handed her a glass, and sat next to her.
“Do you live here all alone on your own?” She asked.
“No. Parents are with my other brothers elsewhere, though it was my dad that gave me the truck. I like it here.”
“Doesn’t it get… lonely?” She asked between sips.
Silent, he gave it some thought, unsure what to answer, though as he brought one finger to scratch his cheek, a yawn surfaced, to which he couldn’t help but cover with his hand.
“Sleepy?” She asked, grinning. “Am I that boring to be around?”
“What? No, I just… uh…”
“Problems sleeping, isn’t it?”
“…Alright, you got me.” He answered, defeated. “How did you know?”
“It shows on your face most of the times we see. Had troubles for so long?”
“Is it something you’d be alright with telling me?”
“It’s just insomnia. That’s all. Don’t know why. Had it since birth.”
Couldn’t tell her about the night terrors. Didn’t know why, just a hint of paranoia prevented him, as if unwilling to see how it’d go.
“I’ve heard that some people can’t sleep alone.” She said. “Some have bad nights, and other keep staring at the ceiling for hours on end.”
“So they need to sleep with someone?”
“Well, there has to be a reason why dakis have become so popular, lately.”
As she stirred her glass in circles, he remained silent in thought, seeing it clear as day as to what purpose it’d have to say such things at all, the intentions behind them. Inevitably, he’d have to answer no, unwilling to pursue anything involving sleeping with another for reasons that could very well involve limited flight to those around him. To say no so blunty, however, fell out of place, as if breaking the thin layer of euphemisms in the conversation to brutally shoot down what she had taken care to imply at best. Perhaps he could just say something that’d make it uncomfortable to continue.
“Shame I sleep naked.” He said.
“So do I.”
Had he been drinking at that very moment, the floor would no longer be dry. Instead, the shock left him petrified for a second, at least until Evelyn giggled.
“I won’t sleep with someone before even a date first.” She said. “Still, I’m always free if you’re up for it.”
“I’ll… keep it in mind, then.”
“And, I’m not always free, like now.” She stood up, handing him the now empty glass. “I won’t lie, I had plans to go out and it’d take me through this road, so I figured I could bring you what you forgot on the way.”
“Huh. Thanks for the visit, then.”
What hour was it? He couldn’t gauge, for the pitch black darkness gave no sense of time, and nor did he feel any desire to turn on any light to check the time, lest he blinds himself. All he knew, or at least attempted to deduce, was that hours must’ve passed already, lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling with eyes closed, with his mind refusing to fall asleep no matter how sleepy he actually felt. All around him, a silence engulfed the world, only interrupted in errant intervals by the crickets surrounding his tiny farm. So predictable was the noise, and for so long had he listened to it in his attempts to sleep, that it felt like it was drilling into his head already; he could throw a wild prediction on how the noise would never experience variance, only of crickets and crickets alone, and he’d end up correct.
At least, until an almost silent noise caught his attention, a watery noise he could not fully hear, let alone describe in own words. Immediately thereafter, his dog began barking mad, waking him up fully and erasing all hopes of proper sleep. What could it be, he wondered; an animal? A buildup of water from earlier rains on the roof that finally found its way down? Without recourse, Frank grunted as he stood up, got his glasses from his nightstand, put on his trousers, walked over to his shotgun at the side of his nightstand, and walked off after taking hold of it.
Once he stepped on the soil outside his home, he found his dog barking towards the road, but as he turned to see what he barked at, he could see nothing, for his eyesight had already deteriorated to the point mere glasses could not fix all issues. At day, he’d see fine, yet the low contrast at night left him half-blind even with glasses on. However, he could see no movement other than a few trees having their leaves gently blown by the breeze. The dog then stopped barking, and when Frank turned to look at it, he found the dog looking back at him before walking off back to the road he had been barking at, over a hundred meters away. Shrugging it off as an animal, he marched back to the door, yet with the mild paranoia of it having been something else, with the mental note to prepare in case his paranoia was right.
Upon touching the door handle, however, he immediately jerked his hand back at the strange sensation he felt. Cold, damp. A thin layer of goo now rested on his palm where he touched the handle, not unlike that of a snail yet different in ways indescribable. A quick sniff, and it revealed no proper smell at all, nothing he could immediately identify. He wiped it off on his trousers, marched in, and told himself to write it down, for he’d most likely forget about it the next day.
“Nia, this is weird, what do I do…?” Said an anxious boy, barely of proper age, sitting at the counter of the satyros’ bar with his elbows on the counter and his hands over his head. At the other end of the long, long counter with numerous stools around stood the satyros.
“You like this girl, right?” Asked Nia.
“Yeah, but Nia…”
“You want her hot kraken body.”
“Yeah, Nia, but…”
Uncertain, he couldn’t answer at first, altering his gaze to see the kraken at a corner of the bar by a table, as if finding solace in her image afar.
“…Eight legs.” He finally answered.
Unfazed, the satyros merely took her own mug and gave it a sip, meditating over her future words momentarily.
“Seven vaginas.” She said, leaving the mug on the counter.
Though the man remained in his anxious posture, his expression changed to absolute wonder and surprise, with eyes wide open and no muscle moving for those few seconds. Then, he broke from his stupefaction to step off his stool towards the kraken.
“Okay thanks, Nia!”
Another sip then followed for her, till she stared off aimlessly with a smile growing in her face.
“Imagine…” She said to herself.
“Imagine what?” Asked a familiar voice, snapping her back to reality, to find Frank sitting down on the same stool the other man had just left.
“Eh? Ah, nothing, I was spacing out.” She answered before rummaging below the counter. In due time, she reappeared with a mug and a bottle clearly used for local brewings. “Made this out of what I got from you. Have a try. No charge.” She said, opening the bottle and then pouring it on the mug.
Yet, as she poured, Frank caught glimpse of the ring on her finger. Marriage. A sacred union between man and woman, which only reminded him of what it’d be like to have such a trusty partner in life, a partner that wouldn’t fly out the window at a moment’s notice. A shame that finding someone who wouldn’t mind that, even if randomly being frightened awake wasn’t taken into account, would be exceptionally difficult.
However, as soon as she left the bottle on the counter, a loud slap broke through the bar, catching everyone’s attention. Both the satyros and Frank turned in an instant to the source, to see the kraken by the corner standing up as she carried the man over her shoulder.
“Tell me he didn’t ask her about that…” Said Nia to herself.
Yet, when she passed them on her way out, Frank and Nia saw the guy with a peculiar expression: a smile from ear to ear, with a cheek red as cherry, and holding a thumbs up. At that moment, Nia smiled and soon chuckled to herself, with the door opening and then closing, with a kraken and a man no longer present in the bar.
“He didn’t even wait till Valentine’s.”
“Do I want to know what happened?” Asked Frank, returning his eyes to the drink and taking hold of it.
Firmly grasping the mug, he took a sip. The taste, he found it anything but special; not good, but not necessarily bad either.
“So? How was it?” She asked.
“The taste gives away you’re running out of drinks.”
At that moment, her remark on Valentine’s popped into his mind even though it had fallen on deaf ears earlier. No doubt Evelyn would expect something from him, and to do nothing but ignore in such day would seem too evil despite all the effort she had applied. Strangely enough, however, he had not seen her at all today. Perhaps her trip involved multiple days away.
“Hey, have you seen Evelyn lately?”
“Evelyn… Is she a friend of yours?”
As if the dark circles under his eyes gave away no mood for jokes, he stared blankly in silence. Unwilling to apply further effort on her, he instead reached for the phone in his pocket and looked at his contacts, if only out of curiosity’s sake, for he then realized that he’d not call her there and then. Maybe at a later time he would.
Evelyn wasn’t there. Under the letter E, there was nothing, only an empty void, despite certainty that she once used to be there. Even as he checked on recent calls, Evelyn’s number was nowhere to be found, no matter how many days back he looked at. His memory pointed to the absolute opposite of what his eyes saw. Deleted perhaps? Surely it was by accident, as he couldn’t recall ever getting so drunk to enter a state where he could’ve done something without remembering.
Still, he came to the conclusion that it was neither the time nor the place to wonder. He’d have time to figure things out back home in quiet peace.
A few days had passed. Early signs of insomnia, as subtle as they were, compelled Frank to stay up this night, as if the loud thunder didn’t help enough already. Not much had been left available for him to do in these late hours, reducing him to menial tasks, of which checking the truck’s engine turned out to be one. Outside of his garage, the world seemed to not exist, for the pitch black darkness outside blinded him from all surroundings other than the light illuminating him.
And then, the dog began barking once more, gaining Frank’s attention. The animal had returned, or whatever it was, he figured, and for this day he had been preparing. Almost glad that the monotonous check had been interrupted, he walked off to the corner of the garage and grabbed his gun and flashlight, and stepped off onto the soil outside. From what he could hear, the dog barked from the way the road lied, and so he marched there.
After a good few steps, he came across the tire marks of the last few cars to arrive. A rather useless sight, though it soon caught his attention the pattern of the tire marks themselves, eyeing them with confusion. None were of Evelyn’s car; in fact, only his and Nia’s marks remained on the ground.
Beore he could attempt to understand what he saw, a raindrop fell on his head. He turned his head high, with a second drop falling on his glasses, knowing now that a heavy rain would follow if the clouds blocking the moon itself were anything to go by. Without a coat, and figuring that his dog would scare off or at least delay whatever was out there, he turned and marched back to his house.
He reached the door and turned the handle, only to find his hand smeared with strange goo. With the light coming from within, he saw it of a purplish , almost transparent color, and though he sniffed he found no noticeable smell. A sigh of disgust almost escaped him, but kept silent as he stepped in and closed the door with his foot, holding his goo-smeared palm open as he threw his flashlight and gun on the sofa nearby, then marched off to the kitchen. Under the sink, he cleaned it off, and walked back to the living room with a mental note to write it down, lest he forgets, but as he reached for paper and pen on the table, he found something already written.
Goo on the handle. The exact same situation he faced, somehow written on the paper despire never remembering anything like it before, as if it happened for the first time. Strange, he thought, staring at the paper as he walked off towards his computer, turning it on without even glancing at it. It sure was his writing, no doubt about it; did he forget about it sometime?
When he glanced at his computer now all ready, he stood still in disbelief, with only the rain hitting against the ceiling to create some manner of ambient noise in his silence. The desktop screen could barely be seen past all the new icons he saw, all of them text files. He leaned closer, and saw that all of them shared the same title, with the only variance being that of numbered copies. A plea to read it, all in capital letters, on and on with each and every file he found, with a chill running down his spine as he read it.
Felt like the start of a horror film. Leaving the paper on the desk, he sat down and randomly picked one of the files. Immediately it opened, and so too were the very first words in all capitals.
‘EVELYN DOES NOT EXIST’
A deafening lightning strike tore through his ears, as if it had landed just meters away from him, and the lights of the house all went out at the same time, making not only his heart jump but also his body, jumping out of the chair. His heart raced, his body now stood petrified, and his mind couldn’t forget the lines upon lines of text it couldn’t read, seeing the scrolling bar at the side hinting of multiple pages, and he could swear he saw the word ‘goo’ in there too.
He couldn’t say it was a completely unexpected turn of events, for the lights to go out, if twice already have them died a month ago in storms of such magnitude, as if life laughed at his face. Still, the backup generator would do wonders, but he needed to start it up. He slowly made his way to the sofa, blinded by how his eyes had gotten used to the light, and picked up flashlight and gun. With the flashlight on, he made his way to his bedroom and then to his closet, to get a coat out.
As he took it out, a flash of light snuck through the window with a loud thunder following, but on the window he saw something which made his heart skip a beat, the silhouette of a person. In reflex he left his coat to fall and pointed his flashlight at the window, to find no one behind it, but instead some bright substance by the metallic bars. Undeniably frightful, he slowly stepped to the window, and upon looking at the bars in closer proximity, he found them sparsely covered in the same kind of goo.
Goo. The paper. The various files in his computer. He needed to get to the generator soon. With haste, he put on the coat which fell on the floor and marched off to the front door. Before opening it, he couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of fear, knowing that he’d be stepping outside with God knows what running around, with the only other alternative being sitting duck in darkness till sunrise, an alternative he saw as anything but. He checked his gun one last time, and with a deep breath, he turned the handle and opened the door, stepping into the absolute darkness. In anxious haste, he turned the key to the outside, closed the door, and locked it, if only in case that thing planned on entering to ambush him in his return.
As he marched to the generator, fear and paranoia set in, for the darkness around him hid what could lurk a mere few meters around him. Despite his flashlight pointing at various directions in erratic fashion, the openness of the scenery only made him think of the worst, that whatever was out there hid in the directions his flashlight didn’t cover, moving as the light moved, always in darkness, following. His quick pace led him to the shed in record time, entering it and closing the door behind him, knowing it to be the only means to enter. In the middle of the shed, he found it, the generator.
But as he tried to start it, he found it unresponsive. Again he tried, yet resulted in the same lack of response. Again, and again, and again, with desperation sinking in with each attempt, trying and trying past all semblance of logic, as if it’d magically work the hundredth time. Surely it had everything it needed to work, always cleaned, always with fuel stored by it for emergencies like this, and yet, it refused to work. Defeated, he brought his fist down against it, only to find a cold substance now smeared on his hand.
The purplish goo again. Sabotage immediately jumped into his mind, as strange as it seemed for what lurked in the night to beeline to the generator at the same time lightning struck; certainly not something someone who had come for the first time here would know, with how weak his farm seemed to be to lightning. Paranoid, he stared around the shed to find it empty once more other than the generator. Now thinking thoroughly, it’d add up that whatever stalked him knew beforehand and that he wrote the paper he didn’t remember writing, with his memory being the culprit in believing it otherwise. Then, his attention changed to that which he found on the computer. It could’ve been him who wrote it. The paragraphs he had barely glanced at seemed vulgar and crude enough to be his writing, even though he remembered not, but now that he couldn’t fully trust his memory, he asked himself in his mind: did he really write that? Why would he, what would compel him to write about Evelyn not existing? What could’ve been in the full file, had he gotten enough time to read through? If Evelyn didn’t exist, then surely him finding no tracks of her car would explain things, as far-fetched as it sounded.
Time to think meant time for the stalker to move around. Leaving the generator in its useless state, he turned and marched out, heading back home with no other option than to entrench himself. Yet, as he came closer and pointed his flashlight to the door, he stood petrified upon finding it slightly open, despite once having locked it. Stepping closer, gun now aimed over the arm which held the flashlight pointed steadily, he noticed on the look the very same kind of goo.
A chill ran down his spine, coming to the conclusion that it could open locks.
The light went out. His heart sunk, desperately trying to turn it on again to no avail, screaming to himself in his mind for it not to die on him in such time, berating himself for the possibility that he had been running it on old batteries, yet nothing worked. Now blind, he helplessly stood in place throwing glares in all directions, unsure whether the ‘thing’ was within the house, or outside it, no longer feeling safety in the prospect of running in.
Lightning. All his surroundings momentarily flashed as clear as day. At that very split-second, just as he glanced in one direction, he saw it in front of his very eyes: An amorphous figure as tall as him, humanoid in shape yet all but human in details, an undescribable aberration comparable only to the phantasms of terrible nights.
Not even a scream could escape his mouth before he let go of the flashlight and stepped back, slipping on the soil and almost falling, only for him to regain his balance and book it in the opposite direction as fast as his legs allowed without a single glance back.
Running, running, and still more running. Judging from where ‘it’ stood in relation to him, and how he ran the other way, he imagined he’d be running towards the road. A run for the town seemed like a sensible idea, as stupid as it’d sound to walk kilometres upon kilometres in the dead of the rainy night. That much of a distance running, however, was out of the question, as even before reaching the road he began running out of breath, forcing him to slowly down to a jog, and then a walk. He could feel the key in his pocket, the key he had used to lock the door which the aberration had unlocked so easily, which only led him to conclude that it could enter at any time it pleased. His insomnia must’ve saved him, as much as he hated it with his whole being.
Any time it pleased. His steps came to a full halt, realizing the severity of the situation. He had seen goo himself a few times already, and the paper led him to believe he had mysteriously forgotten about numerous other times he had seen it. If the length of the file was anything to go by, then surely he must’ve seen it a fair share already. Could it be that the aberration had already gotten to him before? The question ‘what would it do if it caught me?’ had no answer to his knowledge.
No doubt that the file had something to do with it, with the aberration and the apparent memory loss; certainly, if Evelyn truly did not exist, then not only memory loss was at play, but memory replacement too. Or, at least, that was the theory.
He took a quick glance behind him, berating himself for the stupidity of staying still for so long, yet he saw nothing. Nothing, not only no signs of the aberration, but a pitch black darkness past a meter. Was he running towards the road anymore? Couldn’t tell, made worse by running to a direction he only hoped was the road’s. He began jogging once more forward, deciding anywhere to be better than here even if lost, but it was clear that he was running blind like a headless chicken. With the blinding darkness, he could not tell how far the aberration was, or if it even followed in the same direction; it could be to his left, to his right, ahead, or at arm’s length behind him catching up, and he’d be none the wiser; and what a useful thought it was, if it made his heart beat faster and faster with paranoia as his jog turned into an all-out sprint.
No longer could he tell where exactly he was running; too cloudy to see the stars, or to even let the light of the moon through to see the terrain. He could be running towards the open field, with dozens of kilometres waiting before any semblance of civilization, if he didn’t fall into the river nearby first, though the latter seemed like a great option, if only to finally know that he could properly figure out where he was.
His next step fell on nonexistent ground, hitting solid footing way below his expectations; he tripped, and fell forward into a properly elevated terrain with no grass, with his arms reaching forward in reflex to brace for impact avoiding him a face-full of mud, though his glasses had been sent flying during the ordeal. He knew it instantly, that he stepped into the ditch by the side of the road itself, and now he lied upon it. He searched with the hand he did not hold the gun with, smearing it with mud in the attempt to find his glasses, but as much as he tried, he couldn’t find them, as if they had ceased to exist. He moved forward to try again, yet found nothing, but on the third attempt, his knee pressed against something, creating a cracking noise which petrified him whole. When he reached with his hand, he found his glasses, yet now all shattered and bent. He kept silent, as if not wanting to believe, yet soon enough he let out a painful sigh as he let it fall to the ground again.
Seemed useless. The aberration could’ve gotten him at any point in time, and surely enough it already did if what it did involved memory manipulation. Quiet, he let himself go as he crawled back, willingly falling into the ditch which now served like a natural rest place, with his back against one side and feet propped onto the road. His years of fighting back against insomnia with randomly reading whatever he came across on his computer finally seemed to serve a purpose, remembering one idea he had read about. The idea that reality actually wasn’t, but instead an illusion, like a brain in a vat. As useless as it sounded back then and even till now, he couldn’t help but wonder, was he actually in the real world escaping, or was he in an illusion brought forth by the aberration messing with his head as he slept? Was the real him asleep, blissfully ignorant of whatever it was doing, while he dreamed of what was currently occurring?
As much as it should send him into a vicious cycle of despair, he didn’t feel it as effective in doing so. Almost as if he didn’t care. No wonder, if his mind was currently busy with his body’s exhaustion and adrenaline rush; maybe later on, after magically avoiding that aberration, he’d have the time to contemplate an existential crisis. The ambient noises themselves seemed eerily calming, with the raindrops hitting his coat, and the sound of the running river nearby, one that gave away just how far he was from town.
Another lightning strike. Now, ahead of him, he caught the bare glimpse of the horror haunting him, as terrifying as it was the first time he saw it. His body began burning with the fright and adrenaline setting in within that very split second, making him open his eyes as wide as they could, and taking full hold of the shotgun he held to aim at it. Before he could even aim fully, he fired a shot, and the flash of burnt gunpowder spewed from the barrel blinded him momentarily.
But when his eyes recovered, against the clouds hiding the moon’s light, he still saw the outline of the horror, standing tall as if nothing happened, staring immobile.
A second shot followed, aimed as quick as he could, yet the same thing happened, without any effect whatsoever. Three, four, only for zero effect, and so on till no more cartridges remained in the gun. Absolute desperation set in, unwilling to remain a second longer in the ditch in front of the abomination even to reload one single shell, and so he used all his force to prop himself up as he made his way to the side, all so quickly that anything gripping the earth just slid till he finally caught speed.
But as he made distance, his foot found no solid footing, leaving him to fall instead.
The river, full of rocks by the side.
A splitting headache gave away the fact that it was no dream, or that at least he still was in the realm where he fell into the river. His eyes ached partly, awakened by a light past the eyelids, an uncomfortable feeling contrasting with that of the bed he found himself on. Squinting first to relieve the aching, he slowly opened his eyes, and saw the top of his own room with the light shining, despite memories of a generator never fixed. Not only that, he found himself all pristine clean, only on his trousers which also seemed clean, to find them being a different pair entirely.
Something passed his weak eyes. He turned them to see what it was, only to find… ‘it’ by the bed, though behaving in manners unimaginable to him: sitting quiet by the bedside, with a bottle in her hands and a piece of cotton by the end of a tendril-like appendage, soon returning to his head and tapping it where it ached. Cotton and alcohol, he recognized it, as much as he didn’t believe it.
His weak state left him unafraid, if only out of resignation, of defeat. However, as he stared with clarity at what sat on the bed he lied on, he couldn’t help but see familiarity in its appearance. Though violet and flesh-looking in its entirety, as if all of its body were organs and appendages, its lower body shared appearance to that of a long skirt going down to her feet, if she had any. Her upper body and all upon it, though wearing nothing in the sense of clothing, looked like an actual outfit with her skirt-like bottom half, like a blouse despite the numerous tendrils here and there. Her head, the most damning detail of all, held numerous of such tendrils of thicker and longer nature, yet all seemingly tied back into a braid; the abomination itself held all the anatomical features of a woman, at least in base.
“Evelyn…?” He asked in a weak whisper, barely mustering the strength to talk.
It, or she, only grew a smile without response.
“What are you…?” He asked, but he only received silence in return. “What are you going to do to me…?”
When she opened her mouth and spoke, her voice came out distorted ever so slightly, as if echoing upon itself. “Nothing you don’t want me to, anymore.”
“Then… What are you here for?”
After a few taps on the wound on his head, she slowly took back the cotton, before staring at him with no words for a moment.
“Night terrors, insomnia,” she said, “those are things which have plagued your mind since birth. You’ve resigned yourself to a lifetime of solitude, yearning for the warmth of a partner pressed against you and vice versa, with you two feeling each other’s heartbeat… and yet the fear of violent awakenings outweighed them all.”
Try as he might, Frank couldn’t say a thing, staring blankly in wonder.
“I can fix them, I’m sure.” She continued. “After a month of seeing into your mind, I should know what parts need mending.”
“A month…?” He asked, soon remembering the first time he had seen Evelyn, memories of a month ago if any of them had been true. “Were those memories… fake?”
“That, they were. I can return them.”
“Why did you toy with me? I’ve nearly died, out there. Why didn’t you just…”
But seeing her ever-present smile, he couldn’t continue asking, as if knowing that she’d not respond. Of that which he already asked, she kept silent in response. Instead, she returned a tendril to her lap and brought a bandage towards his head, pressing it against his wound and then setting it in place with an adhesive. Blank-minded, he stared on without reacting, with paranoia plaguing his mind with skepticism on her intentions; deep down, however, he couldn’t deny one thing: if she wanted to do something, she had more than enough chances already.
“Are you going to ask for something in return?” He asked.
Torn with the decision in front of him, he mustered his courage, and took a deep breath.
“Very well.” She said, extending a tendril and ruffling his hair. “Just try to sleep. When you wake up… we’ll see.”
Goo on the door, goo on the window, goo in places that would give away an attempted entry. All of it came to mind like an epiphany, remembering it all. The doubts on what the goo was, only to go to sleep and forget about them the next day after being made to forget, yet the times he wrote it down began to tally up. Then, night terrors and insomnia followed, forcing him up along with the dog’s barking, making Evelyn not show up and preventing his memories from being replaced with others.
The day came when he found the papers for the very first time, of finding goo he never remembered about yet trusting it nonetheless, like the last time, yet finding more and more written experiences on and on, making his paranoia flare up. With so many forgotten and re-found experiences, soon enough he had decided to transfer it all to his computer for him to find again the other days, as papers had been trickier to come across. Suspicions, dates, even the set hours of goo found and other manners of clues, all written down in detail, with the file increasing in size the more he added, piling on and on to the length of a novella. Eventually, he could only narrow it down to his memories fleeing at night, whenever insomnia or night terrors didn’t haunt him.
But he kept forgetting.
The day soon arrived, where the satyros arrived instead of Evelyn as his memory would indicate. Handing him what he had forgotten from the store, at no point had she not been barked at by his dog, from her arrival to her departure. In that same day hours later, he found once more the file in the computer, reading it thoroughly and staying up all day and all night to his limits, thinking it thoroughly, heart beating harder the more he felt sleepy over the fear of being visited by company unwanted. After hours, he came to the only conclusion that Evelyn did not exist, a theory at best, and wrote it down at the very top of the file, then copied it over and over until the entire screen lied smeared with said files.
But as much as he tried to remain awake, soon he fell unconscious in the very late hours, almost at sunrise.
Strange to see, the dream-like recollection altered itself, as if switching perspective, for he no longer see through his own eyes, but instead he saw his unconscious body from afar, just after the almost-unheard noise of the lock being tinkered with, and the door creaking open. Whatever he viewed through the eyes of moved closer and closer towards him, till within reach it lowered itself, for a tendril to come into view moving towards him. The tendril, however, merely caressed the top of his head, before arms and tendrils reached for him, gently picking him up with utmost care. He was then taken towards the bedroom and up to the bed, where the blanket was moved aside with unused tendrils, before he was laid down and then tucked in.
No headache greeted him when he finally came to his senses. All the contrary, a comfortable wamrth did so instead. A warmth unlike any other, strangely so, not of the types found in a hot day while waking up all tucked in, but one giving him a peculiar tingling sensation. When his senses came fully, he felt it properly now, how he was holding something warm, embracing it.
He slowly opened his eyes to find them not aching, a surprising turn of events with how every day eyes desperately wishing for more of what tiny amount sleep didn’t want to be opened. He felt fully rested instead, a sensation he had never felt to such extent, and as he looked at the light flooding in through the window, he felt it midday already, a paradox for him to sleep for so long if he fell asleep so early.
He felt it against his chest. A tingling warmth, of breathing against his body, and when he glanced down, he found her. Evelyn, tucked in with him in the same bed, resting her head against his chest, with every warm breath gently hitting against him. Her smile had disappeared, replaced instead with comfortable relaxation, a sleeping face which could melt hearts.
His insomnia seemed to have gone. Though someone slept with him, she remained in the bed rather than on the floor with a night terror removing her from comfort. Fixed, as if. Still, as he kept quiet, he couldn’t help but believe it too good to be true. Maybe it was just an illusion. Maybe he’s just remembering a random memory. Yet, he smiled and gently rubbed her head, to which a little tendril entangled on his finger in sleepy response, as if returning the kind gesture, just as a little smile grew on her expression.
Even if it was fake, at least it’s a short break from it all. And if it’s real, then he’ll hope it truly is.
“Happy Valentine’s.” He whispered.
The sign turned from ‘open’ to ‘closed’ in her bar, and she returned to the back of the counter and sat. In front were two mugs, of which one belonged to the kraken sitting at the other side, with no other soul left in the building.
“You were saying?” Said Nia.
“Your friend. Frank, was it?”
“The one with the sleeping issues.”
“Broke a promise by telling you, you know.”
“Oh I know. Tell me, has he ever mentioned a certain ‘Evelyn’?”
“Evelyn…” She pondered. “No, I don’t think so.”
Nia’s gaze lowered, thinking it thoroughly, until the memory came to her.
“Oh right, it was just after I told that guy you slapped that–“
At that very instant, she brought her hand to cover her mouth, desperate over careless words escaping her. In response the kraken stared almost expressionless, only with annoyance in her eyes half-closed.
“So it was you?” Asked the kraken.
“You got me.” Replied Nia with a smile. “Did he seriously ask what I think he asked?”
“How did you answer?”
Again an annoyed gaze, before a sigh escaped her lips as she brought her hand to rest her jaw on, staring aside.
“I slapped him, then asked him if he wanted to find out. I guess I have a partner now, though it was awkward saying ‘Name’s Claire, by the way’.” She said, as much as Nia suppressed a snicker, soon returning her eyes. “Still, he mentioned Evelyn around that time, right?”
“Well, I can’t say she isn’t methodical in what she does… Anyways. Evelyn is a friend of mine.”
“You know that he won’t go out with anyone, right?”
“Because of his sleeping issues, I know. That’s why I spoke to her about him in the first place.”
“I don’t follow.”
“The girl can work his mind out. She’s a mindflayer.”
“You knew a mindflayer?” Asked Nia, eyes opening wide.
“Yes, we met back when we were kids. I originally thought she was a squid with autism or something, but… I guess she wasn’t. I told her about the guy, where to find him, and a bit of first aid–“
“Why first aid?”
“She’s… unpredictable. We may have grown up around the same place, but mindflayers are… something else. I’d be surprised if Frank doesn’t end up injured one way or another, mostly uninentionally.”
“You could’ve asked me beforehand. I don’t want him injured.”
“The question would be on whether you’d be alright with letting him get injured or letting him be alone for the rest of his life. As much as she’s unpredictable, it’d also be dealing with someone who wants to stay alone despite being given the opportunity to fix what forces him to be alone, because he’d believe it impossible to fix. What would you answer to that?”
Nia couldn’t answer, reduced to an uncomfortable gaze as she lowered her head to her drink.
“He’s a grown man, too. As much as you’re one of the few who know his condition, you can’t just suddenly become the equivalent of a legal guardian.”
“Right… Still, are you sure that this Evelyn can fix Frank?” She asked, raising her eyes once more. “This sounds like it rests on pure luck.”
“You’re asking me if I’m sure?” Chuckled Claire. “Nia, I went through the exact same thing. Evelyn fixed me up, and here I am with a partner this Valentine’s. She’s a great psychiatrist. Frank will be in great hands. Maybe for life.”