Oliver burst open the door to his apartment with excessive force, the swiftness with which he shut and locked the door would never betray the fear he felt inside but the four-letter profanities spilling from his lips as if a broken record did. He threw his backpack onto the table knocking off two ceramic cups standing there. With one hand still on the door handle, he swiftly reached for a container on a shelf mounted beside him and began fixing the line of salt that the swing of the door had broken.
This salt line slithered like a snake along all the walls of the apartment and just like the snake Uroboros, it consumed its own tail to form a never-ending loop. The ritual of maintaining the unbroken line of salt along the perimeter of the walls was sacred to Oliver as he believed it is a barrier that keeps away ghosts, demons and other evil. Not all of them unfortunately but still that’s what he believed as his mother did and her mother before her.
Raising his hand to the forehead he wiped the sweat that was trying to escape his body as much as he was trying to escape the situation he found himself in. Next Oliver rushed to the bathroom to wash his face, he stopped in front of a mirror looking at his reflection, self-hatred made him wince. He proceeded to wash his face and quench his thirst at the same time, few scarlet drops mixed with the water fell on the ceramic decorating it with ruby specs. Oliver looked at the blood and then himself in the mirror as if trying to ask if it was his own or not. The face in the mirror looking back at him was unwelcoming and was looking worse every day. Eyes bloodshot with grey circles surrounding them, the beard was growing wildly and his hair was longer than he is comfortable with. His appearance reminded people of a poorly maintained alcoholic, truth is Oliver never was one and stayed away from alcohol, but today he could use a deep glass of good whiskey to calm his shaking hands. Oliver took one last look at himself, shivered and looked away, he hated mirrors due to past experiences and paranoia that his reflection won’t mimic his movements or that he will see someone else in the room with him.
Days like this happened often, too often, reminding him of groundhog day, Oliver kept running back to his apartment with fear, fear of something catching him off guard or fear of being seen what he was doing. In his profession leading a solitary life was better off for everyone for various safety reasons, unfortunately, extended loneliness deteriorates one’s mental health and it was hard to tell if Olivers was still there. To keep partially sane Oliver called his friend on the weekends to chat, report on the week, ask for advice, comfort and most often used har as a private shrink. Today was a good day to call and after 4 ringtones, the phone was answered with a crackling static and then a voice that was warm and soft like velvet, equally alluring as comforting with a slight accent that can’t be pinned to any country.
“Hello Oliver, are you alright?” the voice asked.
“Lucy, it’s nice to finally hear you” answered Oliver.
“You are the one who decided to call only once a week, every day I’m worried if you will come back alive.” Said Lucy with evident worry in her voice.
“I get by, few more bruises and scratches but alive, hunted 2 this week so I have enough for rent, might even be enough for electricity.” replied Oliver.
“Oli, why do you keep doing this? How long do you think you can hunt monster demons or whatever it is you do before it gets out of hand and you end up the one that’s killed.” pleaded Lucy
“Oli.. it sounds… Nicer from your lips. There are too many of them walking the street and I have to follow my family tradition, you know that. And about what you said, something is getting out of hand, don’t know what but something follows me around. I can feel its presence when going out, its eyes on me, home I’m safe but it haunts me in the dreams.”
“You always end up in bad situations don’t you, I think it’s your special power” she laughed, “Tell me more what’s going on and about the dreams”.
“Hope you got time and somewhere comfortable to sit that nice butt.” Oliver said grinning to the phone
“Do you remember that place where we signed up for the experiments with the mirrors, the one you’ve read about led by Dr Kaputo and you insisted on trying it. The one where we stared at the mirrors in dim lighting and our reflections started deforming. Oli asked
“Yeah, I remember that it was like an acid trip without any acid, my face started to melt in front of me, then it was changing shapes growing in disturbing ways, it was creepy as shit. Yet for some reason we never really talked about it.” confirmed Lucy.
Oliver decided to tell his view of the events that happened back then and what might have caused what is happening now and Lucy like a good friend decided to listen without interruptions.
“It was just like you said for me too, it was so disturbing I snapped out of it a few times and had to start over again, that’s why I had to stay longer to complete the experiment. With each attempt, the hallucination got progressively worse, more disturbing, at one point I even saw horns growing out of my skull. Again I lost focus and had to restart and this time it was completely different, I didn’t see myself anymore, I saw my parents looking back at me, my deceased parents. Of course, that snapped me out of it right away, I was shocked. As you can imagine I wanted to see them again, it’s been years since I last saw them, who knows maybe I could talk to them, maybe it’s not just my imagination playing tricks. And like an idiot I fell for this trick, whatever it was, I tried, again and again, I saw them in that damn mirror, no longer smiling at me, no longer smiling at all. Their faces contorted in agony that I have never seen and no child wants to ever see on their parents. Flames licked their faces until they blistered, then charcoaled until black and pink chunks of cheeks began to fall off. I tried to snap out of it, I screamed, kicked and howled but nothing helped. Then I heard laughter, more like cackling from those burned bodies which began to turn into an unfamiliar face, next the experiment attendees and staff also started laughing. I lost it and ran out kicking down all the doors on the way and tried to forget it all.” Oliver exhaled with distinct pain in his voice.
“Oli… I.. I don’t know what to say, I’m sorry you experienced that” she tried to comfort him. “But what has that to do with what’s going on now”?
“First of all I have a slight phobia of mirrors, and that unfamiliar face I saw at the end, I’ve seen it again, 3 weeks ago in the crowd, 2 weeks ago in the bus just staring at me, today on my street. I thought i’m imagining it, or I confused that face with a random stranger because I forgot about it. Then he started laughing, that spine-shivering cackle brought back all the memories in detail. Whatever it is, it started to follow me and now knows where I live. Now I have nightmares, bad ones that turn into false awakenings and lately I’m experiencing sleep paralysis every night.” Oli explained with a slight tremble in his voice and Lucy couldn’t guess if he is scared or unsure how to continue so she took the opportunity to speak.
“Listen Oli, it all sounds dreadful and I’m sorry it’s happening to you, I want to help you but I don’t know how, you never let me in that close. I know you see a lot of weird shit in your outings, but at least don’t let sleep paralysis get to you. I know it is horrible, I experienced it too, you wake up paralysed in the middle of the night unable to make a sound and you see a dark figure walking towards you. It sits down on your body and you feel the weight of it as it stares right into your eyes and all you can do is wait and look. What I’m saying is that it’s just your imagination, your brain hallucinates as your body wakes up before your brain exits the dream state.”
“That stranger was also a hallucination and now he is following me Lucy” Oliver interrupted.
“Oli stop, that path of thinking scares me, that would mean somebody actually was in my room” she said
“I don’t want to but you should know, I recorded myself sleeping. Each night, each night it’s the same thing. The bedroom door opens slowly, on its own..” Oliver hesitates. “When it opens fully the screen goes static for an hour only to come back in focus when the door begins to close.” Fear is evident in his voice now. “I am watching a video from last night now…”
If he could see Lucy at that moment he would see tears flowing down her cheeks, she was about to make a comment about his revelation but her words were halted in her throat by a sound she heard in the phone’s speaker. It was low quality and volume, indicating it was the recording Oliver was watching. The sound she heard was laughter, it was odd, not happy but sinister. She realized it must have been the thing Oliver was talking about, she was about to say something but the phone line went dead all of a sudden.
Oliver was frozen when he listened to the recording, so much so that in the first moment he didn’t notice the power outage in his building. Maybe because he was so petrified or maybe because even when the lights went out, the computer turned black and the landline silent, the laughing continued to be audible. Oliver’s grasp of what is happening came with equal amounts of terror, trying to hold it together he realized that the sound is too quiet to be in the room, with unease he approached the window and from the third storey he saw the source of that haunting laughter. This thing was standing there with a hood over its head and a grin wider than humanly possible, in one hand it was playing with a lighter while the other was mockingly waving at Oliver. The eyes were difficult to see from afar but he knew it was looking straight at him and it sent shivers down his spine. The creature took a step forward then another and Oliver instantly tripped over his feet as he was trying to get away from the window faster than he could. Scrambling in the dark he grabbed a torch from the drawers in the desk that supported his old computer. Next he rushed to the bedroom and from his nightstand he pulled out a pistol, Oliver had no idea what he was dealing with but it was worth a shot.
He could hear all the neighbours in the apartment block coming out into the hallway asking in confusion if anyone has power, without much thinking he went outside as well telling everyone to get back inside. He would have been ignored if not the outline of a gun in his hand, the hallway was empty again with just Oliver and a growing sound of laughs and giggles. Oliver crouched beside his door, aimed the gun at the stairway and waited as the sound of twisted joy grew with the footsteps. The stairway was slowly illuminated by a dancing flame that made the light and shadows sway in their danse macabre. Oliver heard a few screams and quick shutting of the doors on the second floor, this meant he wasn’t the only one who could see him. The footsteps turned rapid up the last set of stairs causing the flame to cast unnatural shadows on the wall. Once Oliver saw the flame at his level, running towards him he gripped the gun tightly and fired. The gunshot in a quiet hallway defend him for a moment, but it also did something else, the flash from the gun illuminated his target. To his shock, it wasn’t the creepy face that was haunting him but the equally shocked face of a little girl he sometimes saw in the building. She stopped, dropped a candle she was holding and collapsed beside it, the blood oozing from the wound quickly extinguished the candle. Then that laughing got ever louder and more maniacal as the second flame entered the corridor.
Oliver was so frozen in disbelief he didn’t look away from the girl in front of him, not even when a raspy voice greeted him.
“Isn’t that a beautiful sight Oli? You did a good job, she only suffered for a minute or two, she is gone now. And I will feast on her delicious soul” the thing said.
“Oh, I should say thank you even, you see Oli I sustain myself by devouring souls, and the young ones taste the best, exquisite actually. The thing is, I’m not able to kill, so I orchestrate events such as this in my favour. I won’t bore you with the details now, it might be too complicated for you but I will tell you this. You will be arrested for a murder of a child, the police after searching your apartment and seeing all the occult crap you have they will decide you are mentally unstable, rightly so I might add, and will lock you in a mental institute where I will have you all to myself where, how shall I put it, I will season you before a good meal. See you soon Oliver.” the thing hissed into his ear before vanishing into the dark.