I was twelve years-old when I first saw it. I remember sitting in my room playing with my legos, when something in the closet caught my eye. A silhouette. A dark, twisted shadow leering from within the closet.
I tried telling myself it was just a trick of the light, when a hand reached out from within and shred that explanation. Long and spindly, crooked and mangey like the hand of some foul aberration of the night. Needless to say, I ran away screaming to my parents.
I told them about the monster in the closet, but after they searched, they found nothing there. It took me weeks to sleep in my room again, but finally I got the nerve to return. My mom had installed a nightlight directly beside the closet, but that didn’t stop it.
That night as I lay in bed, something emerged from the closet. That same dark from, featureless with skinny extremities. It had no face, no eyes, just a blank obsidian silhouette. It’s form was so dark it seemed to contrast the darkness around it, like a shadow painted an even darker shade of black. It’s hide shimmered and fluctuated like gasoline in water.
I sat there, trembling and crying as the faceless entity stared motionless at me. I felt my sheets and pajamas grow damp and warm as I lost control of my bladder. The thing just stood there motionless, skin shifting ever so slightly as it stared.
It went on that way for hours, with me and the thing maintaining our silent deadlocked stare. I wanted to scream, but my voice had left me. Wanted to run, but my legs wouldn’t respond. After what seemed like an eternity, sunrise finally came, and with it, the thing just vanished like smoke in the wind.
The relief I felt upon seeing the light once more was more than I could ever possibly describe. My parents immediately asked what had happened as I made my way downstairs. The lack of sleep and soaked pajamas must’ve displayed my fear. I only managed to convey one thing.
“Monster.” Again, they checked the closet, but this time, they found something. Dad was livid, and dragged me back up to my room to show me what he had discovered. He showed me the inside of the closet, and within it, I saw something scribbled on the wall in black ink.
“No one cares.” Dad thought that I had written it, and no amount of me arguing could convince him otherwise. He bought some paint and had me conceal the message. I did just that, but I never forgot that incident.
I saw that thing regularly after that. In that same closet, on the stairs at night, out in the backyard. Not just at night anymore either. It began to appear during the day too, in random places at home, school and around town. It was only after seeing it at the local swimming pool, lurking at the bottom of the deep end, and pointing it out directly to my mother that I realized something. I was the only one that could see it.
That realization was incredibly difficult. At just around twelve years old, I began to think I was insane. The thing never approached me, never tried to hurt me, never spoke to me. It just lingered, watching and following. It also continued to leave occasional messages.
I didn’t understand the messages, but it was the proof I needed to know I wasn’t crazy. Time went on, and I became almost accustomed to my unwanted follower. At first, it showed only on occasion, but as time went on, I saw it everywhere. His presence provided an omnipotent anxiety, but he never actually harmed me.
From the corner of my eye I would see it hiding in corners, or behind objects. Always close so I wouldn’t forget, but far enough to not be completely off-putting. No matter where I went, it was there. In time, I noticed it never left.
My parent’s animosity for one another grew as time went on. They would get in constant arguments, and would sometimes go weeks without speaking to each other. They both told me that their troubles were not my fault, but it was undeniable that my issues had strained their relationship.
I began developing sleeping problems, continued bedwetting, and constant nervousness. Due to my issues I became somewhat of an outcast with no real friends. Spent most of my time locked up in my room, playing video games and browsing internet forums. Whatever I could do to distract myself from it.
Mom eventually brought me to therapy. Went through multiple therapists before long, but none of them ever really helped. I was diagnosed with a myriad of different mental illnesses, and given medication to help cope. None of it helped.
I was absolutely petrified about telling them about my stalker. I thought for sure I would be labeled as insane, and dragged off to an insane asylum or something. I was already a social pariah, and the last thing I needed was a stigma like that looming large over my head. So, I kept quiet, forcing a smile and attempting to forget.
It went on that way for years, but it was clear that my efforts to conceal my condition had not been persuasive enough. One night, dad flung the door open to my room as I was playing Xbox. He stared at me, face beat-red, pupils dilated with clenched fists.
“You need to cut this shit out.” He roared in a slurred voice. He stumbled closer, slamming the door behind him. I pressed my back against the wall, and he seized me by the shirt-collar.
“You just gonna live your life up here huh? Just be a loser like this? Not even try to better yourself? You need to get out and do something.” I could see the pain in his eyes as he spoke. His years of frustration unleashed in a drunken flurry, uncensored and unrepentant.
Mom burst into the room a moment later, and dad released me. The two of them began to scream back and forth like never before, hurling all manner of insults and painful truths. Mom finally ended the confrontation by telling him to leave through a stream of tears. Dad wanted to fire back, but instead began to storm out leaving one final thought on his way.
“You’re enabling him to be like this. He’s a failure because of you.” Dad slammed the door behind him, and his car roared out the driveway a few moments later. Mom embraced me in a tight hug, sobbing as she combed my hair with her hand. She told me not to worry about what dad had said, but I did.
He was right. I was a loser, I was pathetic and a failure to him. Their only son, reduced to a basement-dwelling cretin with no ambition to speak of. I had to be better for them, I had to make something of myself.
Mom left the room after a while, still crying softly. That’s when I saw it again, once more peeking out from within the closet. A multitude of emotions struck me then; fear, hatred, sorrow, confusion, but the strongest was apathy. For so long I had lived with such drastic emotions, and to cope, I had grown numb.
My pursuer then did something I did not expect. It lifted an arm, and pointed over to my dresser. There I saw it, a pocket knife gleaming in the light. Suddenly I knew what I had to do.
I had to feel something again, anything to remind myself I was still alive. I got up, and without a moment’s hesitation flipped open the knife. I took the blade and pressed it to the inside of my forearm, then I looked to my pursuer.
It was nodding, just barely, and despite it not having a face, I felt it was smiling. I pressed hard and slid the blade horizontal. I watched as the skin split apart, and blood rushed from inside the wound.
It hurt, it hurt so good. My eyes fluttered, and goosebumps lined my arms. A freezing cold sensation descended my spine like droplets of arctic water. It was like all the internal agony I had carried within had corporealized into something real. Something that actually existed, and not just a figment of my deranged mind.
I bandaged up the wound and crawled into bed, hoping the usual insomnia would leave me be for once. The night had been incredibly taxing on my mind, and all I wanted was the sweet release of sleep. But it would not come, for the thing that follows me was standing at the foot of my bed.
It stayed that way for hours, motionless and devoid of any human features. I always knew it wasn’t human, but seeing it so close was incredibly unnerving. At some point exhaustion finally overtook me. When I awoke, I found a new message scribbled upon the bed sheet.
“Eat the pain.”
That thing became less vilified in my mind after that. If it wanted to kill me, it had every opportunity to do so and part of me wished it would. I thought maybe it was something meant to help me. As crazy as that may sound, I felt as though it were a sort of angel sent to watch over me.
It never left my side after that. I tried to get out into the world more. Got myself a part-time job and applied myself to finish high-school. I wanted to take dad’s advice, and give him a son to be proud of.
Unfortunately, mom and dad never really reconciled. They fought more and more, until eventually deciding a divorce would be a mutual benefit for them both. Mom told me it wasn’t my fault, but I knew the truth. The pursuer had revealed the truth.
“It’s all your fault.”
He was right after all. If my issues weren’t so severe, their marriage wouldn’t have become so stressed. I wished I could be more for them, but everything I tried just left me empty. No matter what situation or who I was with, the pursuer always followed. It was like the passion I once had for life had crumbled into dust. There was no happiness, no sadness either, just nothing.
I felt myself fizzling out, like my mind had lost the will to live, but my body refused to die. The only time I felt at all, was when the blade met my flesh. That feeling of raw, primal pain was just so invigorating, and knowing where it came from was empowering. Unlike my mind, I couldn’t put a band aid on my brain.
Scars soon began to dot my arms like stars in the milky way. I wore long sleeves and avoided drawing attention to them. I felt shame upon seeing them, but ecstasy when the delicious blade pierced my wretched skin. I deserved to suffer.
I tried to go out and make something better of myself. Tried to go and force a smile for the sake of my family. For a while it worked, and I honestly felt things were getting better. I got a few friends and even my first girlfriend. My pursuer came around less and less, but then I got the news.
I was fired. It was such a petty thing, and in the grand scheme of life events it shouldn’t have even registered a reaction, but it did. It was just another tally on my long list of failures. Like I couldn’t even do something as simple as put some fucking boxes on a pallet without messing up. That was the spark that ignited the inferno.
I lost it that night, returned home and trashed my apartment. Smashed my pictures, tore my notebooks to shreds. It was all useless anyways and I hated all of it.
In a drunken stupor I grabbed my razor-blade from the drawer in the bathroom. I pressed the blade hard into my thigh, and slid it sideways along the skin. It split apart, and our poured a gushing stream of warm crimson.
I took the lemon juice from my fridge and dumped into onto the wound. The pain was excruciating, and I nearly vomited as I keeled over on the bathroom floor. The blood had formed a puddle around me.
One way or another I hauled myself to my feet, and stared at myself in the mirror. My cheeks were flushed white, with pupils quivering in my eyes.
“I hate you. I hate you so fucking much.” My teeth gritted in my mouth as I muttered all manner of curses at my reflection. Then from the corner of my eye, I saw something written on the bathroom door.
I knew what I had to do. Without hesitation I took the blade and pressed it against my wrist. I thought about everything in that moment. My entire life, and all the people that encompassed it. All the words they had spoken, and memories we shared. I wanted all of it gone, and I wanted to disappear forever. I slid the blade vertically across my wrist.
My knees grew weak as the blood poured from my wrist and thigh. I fell to the ground, as the blood formed a sticky puddle around me. My eyes fluttered and breath grew labored. My time was short, but before I went, I saw the bathroom door creak open. There was my pursuer, laughing quietly, as the world went cold and dark.
A bright light burned into my eyes as they opened. I flinched, and heard the sounds of beeping all around me. Pain struck with great ferocity, eliciting a stinging sensation in my left wrist and right thigh. I realized then, I wasn’t dead.
Around me forms took shape, silhouettes, that morphed into faces I recognized. My mother, my father, my girlfriend and several other of my relatives. Mom was the first to notice. She sprung to her feet and quickly rushed to my side. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and bottom lip curled inward.
She lost it as she met my side, and began sobbing heavily as she gently embraced me in a hug. Part of her seemed to shrivel as her eyes fell upon the scars on my forearm. The physical pain was one thing, but seeing mom so completely distraught was true agony.
“I’m so sorry mom…” The guilt within mounted, and I suddenly felt terrible for my actions. Mom just continued to hug me and run her hand through my hair. My girlfriend Monica approached on the other side, sobbing relentlessly as she melted onto my side. I held them both, and saw dad looking on from the other side of the room.
He then cautiously approached. I expected scorn from him as always, but as my vision fell to him, I saw tears in his eyes. He approached and embraced me as well, almost collapsing onto my chest. I had never even seen him cry before, but that moment he completely broke down. I tried to reassure them all, and apologized profusely to everyone.
I felt terrible for what I had put them through, and the fact they had to see me in that condition. I had no idea how I hadn’t died, but found out later that my roommate had discovered me in the bathroom and called 911.
We spent hours together that day, with me receiving reassurances from all my relatives and a profuse number of hugs. I must’ve apologized a dozen times that day and cried more than I ever had in my life. Eventually they filed out one by one, but mom and Monica stayed behind. We talked together for hours, and both of them refused to leave my side. The two of them finally settled down in chairs at my side, and the mentally exhausting day lulled them to sleep.
Once again I was alone, at least, as alone as I could be. It was there the entire time though, looking on from the corner in silence. As always no one had noticed it was there. It’s midnight silhouette forming a human-shaped void in the corner of the room.
It seemed taller all of the sudden, and walked over to my side. It’s blank face stared down at me, but said nothing, did nothing. It’s arm then lifted and grazed the side table. It’s index finger swiveled upon the surface, guided by a determined mind to leave another message.
As it finished, it turned and walked silently away, phasing right into the wall itself. My eyes fell upon the message. As always there was an element of truth to it, one that I could not deny. But I had been given a new perspective on things.
Life at times for me was painful, and I knew that pain would linger and continue with me. I could not run from the pain, or disguise it with primitive coping mechanisms. I had to acknowledge it, and work despite that pain to carve out my own path. I couldn’t always find the will to go on for myself, but I could for mom, dad and Monica.
I will not let the pain overcome me, but instead I will use it to inspire me to make that pain meaningful. Rise above the pursuer, and work to make myself better. Not only for me, but for those who cared so deeply for me. So as my eyes fell upon that message once more, I laughed.
“You cannot leave me, you and I will always be together.”