“Here is the bad boy!” the young veterinarian commented cheerily, handing me over Salis, my black cat. The little devil had yet again jumped through a window to explore the nearby back alleys and garbage, only to step on something nasty and cut his right paw open. Thank god a vet has set shop at the neighborhood and I bandaged Salis up before the wound got infected. Who knows what this damned cat had been up to. Always up with an adventure this bugger.
After some chit chat with the vet, I began walking back home, Salis safely in his carriage bag. The block I live in is quite, without any traffic or annoying teenagers. So, the walk was quite uneventful, as usual. The monotony of my little promenade was suddenly broken by Salis meowing repeatedly. At first I thought nothing of it, I knew that the cat was always restless, but after a few more steps the meowing grew louder and more desperate. Something had surely startled the poor bastard.
So I turned back, and looked around to find anything out of place. I immediately noticed that near the garbage, two huge boxes were stacked next to each other. Maybe this was the cause of the meowing. I stepped closer. Salis moved inside the carriage bag. It was probably a mouse, or some other vermin hiding in the boxes that caught Salis’ attention.
I was about to leave, when Salis suddenly jolted upwards in his bag, making me drop it. The lock holding the little door closed broke from the fall and the cat jumped out, heading straight for the boxes. But he ran right past them, stopping behind the garbage bin. I quickly followed him. I peeked above the boxes, and there he was. He was sniffing at a doll. I chuckled. He always had a thing for toys.
And what a toy! The doll was pretty cute, and even in the dim late-afternoon light I could make out her chestnut hair, big black eyes and pink, chubby cheeks. And it seemed brand new. I don’t know why anyone would throw it away like that. For a few seconds I stood there and watched as Salis observed the doll. He seemed to fancy it. It was actually long since I got him a toy, so I thought -why the hell not- I could take this home.
And sure I did. When I got home, I put her in a self above Salis’ bed. That way Salis can easily reach her, plus she will not get dirty lying on the floor all day. I took a moment to examine her more carefully. This time, under the light from my room, I noticed that she was wearing a white dress with red dots here and there. But when I moved my eyes to her face, I am not embarrassed to admit that I was taken aback for a second. Even though her eyes and nose were normal, her mouth was shaped in a broken smile, like it was cut from another doll and stitched on her face.
I wondered who might have been her previous owner. And why had he, or -probably- she, thrown her out? Maybe because of the smile? It seemed possible that it was simply an industrial mistake and nothing more, but still, the doll seemed… wrong.
But I didn’t pay any attention to that, I mean, who cares? I was tired and only thing I wanted was to go to bed. So I lay down and my body was swiftly overcome by a sweet and peaceful slumber. Even though I was sleeping quite deeply, I was awakened in the middle of the night by an urge to pee. So, I got up, looked at the clock -it was 3.35- and rubbed my tired eyes. I then walked towards the bathroom.
On my way there, my peripheral vision caught some slight movement. It probably was my cat, but I paid no attention. I was used to Salis getting up in the middle of the night. I think this is what cats are supposed to do. That and eat. Anyway, I opened the bathroom door and I went on with my business. As my eyes are sensible to lights, I kept them off.
When I was finished, I turned around to wash my hands. While I was trying to find the soap in the dark, a feeling grew on me. The feeling everyone gets in the darkness. An illogical fear that something lurks in the shadows, just out of sight, watching us. I tried to steady myself. Somehow, just thinking about it, makes the feeling worse.
But now came the worst part about washing my hands in the middle of the night. I had to look up, in the mirror. I don’t know why, but I always have to. My greatest fear is that I will look up and there will either be a creepy old lady, or some other horrific apparition, looking back at me or I will see a murderer right behind me. If I had the choice, I would choose the latter.
With a deep breath and closed eyes, I slowly tilted my head upwards. I opened my eyes. Nothing. I chuckled, grabbing a towel to dry off my hands.
I opened the bathroom door -when did I close it?- and stepped outside. Almost instantly, I heard Salis hissing. I stopped and listened for anything strange. Nothing. Maybe he had seen a cockroach or a scary shadow. I yawned. I moved in my room, got on the bed, pulled the sheets up and slept.
I opened my eyes. I was awake. But the alarm hadn’t gone off yet. It still had five minutes to ring. I tried to savor the few carefree moments left until my day officially started. But I couldn’t help but wonder why had I woken earlier? That never happened. And I had this strange echo in my head, as if someone had been screaming straight into my ear.
I threw out a hand and shut the alarm off.
After going about my daily routine -washing face, brushing teeth, drinking a glass of water- I sat down to enjoy my breakfast. My stomach could never handle much food in the morning, so my meal was lacking, to say the least. A cup of tea and some biscuits was all I have for breakfast, ever since I moved in the house. My house. It might not be much, but it is pretty cozy in here. And it might at times feel lonely, living alone, but I have Salis to keep me company.
He lived with us in my parents’ house for two years before I moved out. But something special had grown between us and I couldn’t leave him behind. So I took him with me. I think he wanted that too. He is five now, and despite the misadventures he gets himself into, it seems he likes it here.
After finishing my breakfast, I went to my bedroom to find something to wear. So, I opened the wardrobe and looked inside. Without giving it much thought, I chose a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Very imaginative. I took off my pajamas and threw them on my bed. But something caught my eye.
The doll had fallen on her side. As I put her straight, I noticed scratches on the doll’s torso and right arm. Surely Salis decided to play around with the doll last night. I turned around and put on my shirt and jeans.
Leaving, I noticed that the doll had toppled over again. I once more straightened her up. This time I steadied her against the back of the self, hoping she wouldn’t fall over again. But I couldn’t wait to check, I was running a bit late and I needed to hurry, or I would be caught in traffic. I grabbed my backpack and keys and I was off.
The day at work tired me more than normal, even if nothing out of the ordinary happened. Maybe the day was a bit too ordinary. But now I was just glad I was back home.
As I was entering the apartment block, I bumped into Tim, my next door neighbor. He sometimes took care of Salis when I was away.
“Hi Tim,” I greeted him.
“What’s up mate?”
“Just everyday stuff.”
“Hey, is Salis OK? I heard you went to the vet last evening,” Tim asked opening the elevator door.
“He is fine, thanks for asking,” I replied, pressing my floor number button.
“You know, he was terribly quiet today.”
“Maybe it’s the painkillers. I am sure he is fine.”
“Hope everything’s good. Anyway, see ya around.”
“Sure,” I said getting off the elevator. I took out my keys and opened the door.
Salis was sleeping on the couch. His food bowl was empty. I put my backpack down, I took off my shoes and socks -washing my feet immediately afterwards, a habit of mine- and filled Salis’ bowl with dry cat food, before putting my lasagna in the microwave.
When my meal was ready, I took it and went to watch TV. I love eating while watching my favourite shows, even though people say it isn’t healthy. Yeah, like eating on a table would make such a huge difference! The only hazard is leaving a stain on the couch.
That night, at about one o’clock, I was woken up. The place was chilly. It was mid-autumn, and although we occasionally had bad weather, never had the temperature been so low this time of the year. I sleepily brought the sheets up to my chin, repositioned myself to feel comfortable and closed my eyes. I was beginning to nod off, when I heard whispers coming from the living room.
I tried to make sense of the situation. But as soon as the whispers had started, they stopped. Initially, in my drowsiness, I thought that a sinister ghost was haunting me, or whatever, but I rebuffed this ‘theory’. I was more afraid that burglars had broken into my house.
Suddenly, I heard light footsteps. I froze. I had never faced an intruder before. I felt powerless. My mind raced. I needed a way to protect myself, a weapon I could use to fend off whoever was threatening me. I heard the floor creaking. The intruder must have proceeded in the hallway between the living-room and the storeroom.
I needed to act quickly. I carefully got up from my bed and scanned the bedroom for something to grab. My eyes fell on the lamp on the bedside table. ‘That will do,’ I thought, grabbing it and slowly sneaking up to my door. There, I stopped. I could no longer hear the footsteps. Maybe he had stopped? Or has he heard me and was waiting to ambush me?
Taking a deep breath I stepped through the doorframe and headed towards the hallway. But despite my best efforts, the floor creaked under my feet. I stood still. At the end of the hallway I sensed some movement. For about ten seconds, or more, I waited. But nothing happened. Everything was still, as if time had stopped. I realized I was holding my breath for this whole time. I slowly breathed out, as silently as I could.
Then I heard it. A scratching noise. Something was clawing at the kitchen door. I shivered. The hair at the back of my neck stood up. I stiffened my grip on the lamp and reached for the light switch, flicking it on. And with my heart beating hard and fast against my chest, I saw him. Salis was standing against the kitchen door. I let out a sigh of relief. He probably got hungry and wanted to eat something from his bowl, which was in the kitchen. I just had forgotten to open the door.
So I did just that and the cat sprinted into the kitchen. I turned around and entered the living-room, checking if the door and the windows were locked. Everything was in place. My heart was still beating like crazy, but I managed a smile. It was just my imagination playing tricks on me. I walked back into my room, closing the hallway light and leaving the lamp back in its place. But I tripped over something. I looked down and I saw it. That damned doll. Those jet black eyes always staring at me gave me the creeps. Looking into them felt like staring into an empty sky. And that smile. That sinister grin. I could almost hear a twisted laugh escaping that dreadful smirk.
Pushing these thoughts aside, I bent over to pick her up and put her back on the shelf. I reached with my hand to catch her. But as soon as I made contact, I felt a blunt pain at the back of my head, as if someone –or something- hit me with a plank. I fell on my knees. My eyesight was blurred. Disoriented, I tried to get up, but something pushed me back down.
My face was inches away from the doll. My eyes were fixated on her. I tried to look away, but to no avail. Her gaze was piercing me, pinning me to my place. I had never felt so vulnerable. I wanted to scream, but my throat was dry. A sulfuric taste filled my mouth. I tried to move, but my limbs wouldn’t obey me. My whole body started to ache. I felt invisible hands around my neck. I was choking. I desperately tried to move. I was transfixed by the doll’s face, filling me with a savage sense of dread. I could hold my breath no longer. The world around me was beginning to fade. My surroundings got darker and darker, until my vision was filled with endless black.
My eyes suddenly opened. I was lying on my bed. The sun was shyly shining through the windows. Was that just a dream? It felt so real. I noticed I was sweating. Maybe it really was just a nightmare. I looked across the room, at the shelves. The doll was still there. It surely was only a bad dream.
It was six o’clock in the morning. I still had a couple of hours since I had to go to work. I knew I wouldn’t be getting any sleep, so with trembling legs I got up and went in the kitchen to drink some water. My heart was still pumping against my chest. I had never had such a vivid dream before. Everything had been so real.
I needed to take a cold shower. It would help me shake off the horrors of last night. I let the almost freezing water run against my body, the cold awakening and invigorating me. After a few minutes, I stepped out and got ready for work.
When I returned home, I filled Salis’ bowl with fresh food and set my backpack down, before sitting down to eat the left-overs from the previous day. I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and I was really hungry. It goes without saying, I gobbled down my microwaved lasagna in seconds.
When I was done, I put the dishwasher on and took my laptop, heading for my room. I almost instinctively checked the selves on my left. The doll this time hadn’t fallen over. It wasn’t even on the self. It was nowhere to be seen. A sinking feeling overcame me. Not wanting to dwell on it too much, I plugged my laptop’s charger and hopped on my bed.
As I was getting myself comfortable, I noticed a strange bump. Something was under the covers. Annoyed, I pulled them down. I was greeted by two blank black eyes. The doll had somehow crawled under my covers. She was lying on her back, staring -almost malevolently- back at me. I felt like I was being mocked.
I couldn’t take this anymore. A sense of anger overcame me. I grabbed the doll and threw it at the wall. Her head collided with the drywall and for a split second, I thought I heard her neck snapping. I felt my guts churning. It was sickening. I needed air. I run outside and breathed in deeply. I had never acted so violently before. What was happening to me? Everything went from bad to worse since I brought the damned doll in. I went for a walk, hoping I could finally clear my mind.
By the time I got back home, the sun was beginning to set. An explosion of colours had replaced the dull autumn sky, with the deep blue of the sky broken by the crimson and golden hues of the setting sun. It was truly a beautiful sight. Nobody could feel down while witnessing this painting of a sky.
Then and there, I decided I would put the past few days behind me. I didn’t know what has stressed me so acutely, but I was determined to get over it. When I would find that doll again, I would put it back in its place. Maybe that would put my mind at ease and set things back to normal. And after entering my apartment, I did just that. I put the doll back on the shelf.
That night I ordered some pizza and watched a movie it had on TV. But soon I got tired. So, I put the empty pizza box away and went to sleep. But sleep didn’t come easily. Maybe I had eaten too much for the night. I tried to relax, but my mind was racing. I found myself thinking about that doll. And after I had conjured the image in mind, my imagination took over, as I succumbed to a state between awake and unconscious.
The doll was standing in an empty room. No furniture and no windows. Just the doll. I could very clearly see that it had no mouth. Instead of the sickly grin, blood was dripping from the place her mouth used to be. As if it was ripped apart. My vision was gradually getting better. I could now make out that the doll was sitting in a pool of blood, holding a pair of rusty scissors. Suddenly, a spotlight shed light at the back wall. The word ‘Silence’ was smeared with blood on the wall.
Then, out of nowhere, a violin started playing. It was a very sad and sorrowful tune that brought a sense of melancholy to my heart. The doll started swaying at the rhythm of the violin. She raised her scissors at her head, and cut at her neck. Blood flowed down her side, soaking her and tinting her dress crimson red. With her free hand, she reached at her wound and pulled out a handful of black strings. Afterwards, dropping her scissors, she picked a needle she had tucked away in her dress’ folds.
The music was now getting more savage, the invisible player scratching furiously at the strings with the bow. The doll had passed the string through the needlehole and begun sewing at her face, in the place where her mouth should have been. Blood was dripping from the small holes the needle pierced. And when she was done, the horrid smile had returned on her face.
The violin was now reaching its heinous crescendo, a violently high pitched screech. I could feel the strings tearing up under the sheer brutality of the player. And when I could feel my ears couldn’t handle the torturing for much longer, the tune abruptly stopped. My ears were buzzing. I felt drained. I fell on my knees, screaming. Suddenly, from every corner off the room, light erupted, filling everything in a cold white.
I opened my eyes, bathed in moonlight. I was lying down. I stood upright, noticing I was in my room. Another horrible nightmare. But this time, a sense of dread still loomed over me. Something told me this was going to be a long night. I hesitantly got up to drink some water. Going in the kitchen, I noticed that all doors have been opened. I was a little spooked, but I went on. I had just forgotten to close them.
I grabbed a glass and filled it with water. I finished my glass of water and I moved towards my room as hastily as I could. But as I walked down the hallway, I heard a shuffling noise behind me. I turned and looked. Nothing. With a sigh I turned back around. And for a split second, I saw two green eyes staring back at me. I blinked, and they were gone. I slowed my step. I could feel the blood pumping through my veins, as I carefully made my way towards my room, where I had previously seen the eyes.
I leaned on the doorframe, peeking left and right. Again I saw nothing out of the ordinary. I tried to convince myself it was only my imagination, but deep down I knew that wasn’t true. I was now lying on my bed. My room had grown eerily silent. I pulled my covers up. The air was stale, and the whole place felt… dead. Everything was unnervingly still. I had a feeling this was only the calm before the storm.
Out of nowhere, a thumping noise broke the silence. A few moments later a scraping noise followed, as if something was being dragged across the floor. When the sound source reached the edge of my bed, it stopped. I struggled to keep my composure. I pressed myself against the wall behind my bed, putting as much distance between me and its edge as possible. I was terrified. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply.
When I reopened them, I was greeted with a blood-chilling scene. The doll was sitting at the edge of my bed, staring at me with her lifeless eyes. But this time something else made shivers ran down my spine. She had an old, bloody pair of scissors on her lap. Images from my nightmare flashed before my eyes. I could even feel the echo of that terrible violin in my ears.
I was staring wide-eyed at her for what felt like an eternity, when all of a sudden, the door started closing. At first it went slow, the old hinges squeaking uncontrollably. Then, as if forced by an invisible hand, the door slammed shut. I sensed some movement on my bed. I looked back at the doll. She was now much closer at me, almost within arm’s reach.
Her dead and empty gaze had me transfixed. Somehow she felt more… void than before. My eyes were sharply blinded by an explosion of light. I covered them, but it was too late. It felt like a thousand needles were stabbing my eyelids. I tried to look away, but everything was covered in light. I was now facing the back wall. As soon as I felt my eyes had got somewhat used to the light, I slowly opened them.
Across the back wall, countless bloody handprints made up the word ‘Silence’. It all felt like a feverish dream. My ears were buzzing and my eyes started tearing up from the intense light. I felt a cold hand grab my neck. I needed to act. Gathering what courage I had left, I jumped sideways, hitting my head on the bedside table as I fell on the floor.
Dizzied, I started running. I flung the door open and jolted outside my room. I frantically searched for my keys and phone. I grabbed them and headed for the door. I inserted the key in the keyhole and started unlocking the door. I could hear faint whispering behind me. I didn’t want to turn around. Finally the door was open. As I was about to get out, I remembered Salis. I couldn’t leave him behind. I turned around and looked for him. With the corner of my eye I saw a shadow materializing out of thin air in the hallway. Salis came running towards me. I scooped him up and exited the apartment just as the shadow was taking a human-like form. I quickly shut the door behind me, and all the horrors that lay within.
Shortly after, I was safely resting at a friend’s motel. Sarah is her name. Of course, I didn’t tell her the truth -not that I knew what really had happened myself- but she was kind enough to let me in one of her rooms for a few days, until I sorted everything out. My plan was that I would send someone to collect my stuff when I calm down. I couldn’t even imagine going back in the place.
I was sure that the doll and those horrid nightmares would haunt me forever. I had no idea how I would get over this. But all I desperately wanted now was to calm down. I drank a glass of cold water and went in the bathroom. While I was looking at myself in the mirror, I heard a noise. Something was scratching at the bathroom door. My heart skipped a bit. I heard Salis meowing. Relieved, I opened the door to let him in.
He lied down on the cold floor and I sat down next to him, resting my hand on him. Had he noticed anything back in the house? Was he scared too? I could never know. And in fact, I didn’t care. I was just glad we were over this.
My phone rang. It was my neighbor, Tim. I picked it up.
“What’s up Tim?” I asked confused. It was just 2 am.
“I’m fine bro. I just wanted to see if everything was alright.”
“I am fine, don’t worry about it.”
“Good to hear. Is Salis OK?”
“Yes, of course. But why all this questions? Did something happen?”
“Oh, nothing serious. But Salis came in through my window a few minutes ago. Maybe you left a door or a wi-”
“Wait what? Salis came in? No way, he is right here with me. You probably got another cat.”
“I’m telling you, this is Salis. I’ve been taking care of him for years. He even has his front right leg bandaged.”
I dropped my phone, shattering its screen. When I realized that the cat next to me wore no bandage, the beast –as if it knew I now understood- looked at me and smiled.
Credit To – Antoine Dupin