This story is by Maya Kuipers and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
The night I came face to face with my darkness was the moment I stopped viewing the world as full of good people. All my life, I had taken comfort in the good individuals that walked this planet; refreshed by my ability to focus on those people when evil seemed to be running rampant. But I was met with a cold, harsh reality when the evil within myself – an evil I never thought existed – decided to make itself known.
At first, I thought I was hallucinating. As I stared into the darkness that filled my bedroom, I saw a figure slowly forming out of the seemingly impenetrable blackness. I blinked and rubbed my eyes, hoping that it was simply my mind playing tricks on me. To my dismay, however, the figure became clearer and moved towards me.
It stood at the foot of my bed, stopping my heart as I realized I recognized it – I was staring straight at myself. Frightened, I laid back down, closing my eyes and praying that I was simply having a realistic nightmare. I opened my eyes again, and the creature before me smiled; not a warm, inviting smile as one would typically expect, but a cold, sadistic smile that made my blood run cold.
“Hello, beautiful.” The thing said, its calm smile growing wider.
“Who are you?” I asked, my palms beginning to sweat. I continued to hope desperately that the creature would disappear at any moment, but it simply continued to stand there, staring at me with a smile.
“Why, I’m you, of course.” It said, moving slowly around my room, but never getting any closer to me. “I’m every bit of evil within you that you deemed too ugly to be seen by the world. I am from the depths of your mind; I am your darkness.”
“I—I don’t understand. Is this some kind of nightmare?” I asked, trying to make some semblance of sense out of the situation.
“I suppose you could say that.” It said, the grin on its face not faltering. “Some say that reality is the worst type of nightmare.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and pulled the blankets over my head, creating a false sense of security for merely a moment. I held my breath, hoping that I would not hear that voice again. In the thickness of silence, however, I heard a soft whisper.
Strangely, rather than an external source producing the whisper, it resounded from deep within myself.
For hours, I was tormented by the soft, calm whisper in my mind as it spoke of horrors beyond my imagination. It whispered to me details of how I could torture and murder my entire family, vivid images accompanying its words. It spoke of harming myself, placing horrific yet somehow tempting thoughts of self-mutilation and suicide in my mind. It reminded me of each and every instance of emotional trauma that I had endured, digging painfully into each wound that I had – even the ones that I thought had long since healed into scars.
I did not sleep for even a moment that night, experiencing relief from the torture only when the first ray of morning light managed to make its way through my bedroom window. As soon as that single sign of light appeared, the whispers inside my head immediately ceased, and when I managed to muster up the courage to look out into my room, the creature was nowhere in sight.
For the next three nights, I could not bring myself to turn the lights in my room off; the only sleep I managed to get being the few moments I would occasionally doze off, only to be awakened again by the smallest of noise. By the morning of the fourth day, I was a complete physical and mental wreck. The sleep deprivation, coupled with the traumatizing terror that I had experienced, proved to be an unbearable combination that left me barely grasping reality. Worried for my mental health, my family convinced me to seek professional help, assuring me that speaking to a therapist would solve whatever problems I was experiencing.
On the day of my appointment, I was wary to explain the details of my experience out of fear that they may deem me psychotic on the spot. After much persuasion from my psychiatrist, however, I began to speak of what I had witnessed, hesitantly at first but then pouring out every detail.
“And this has only happened once?” She asked, looking intrigued.
“Yeah, only the other night.” I said, playing nervously with the end of my shirt. “I’m just terrified that it’s going to happen again.” She removed her glasses and looked at me, leaning forward.
“I have had a few other patients who have experienced similar episodes – hallucinations of something that resembles themselves, but is malicious in intent. From further analysis, I have come to conclude that the nature of such hallucinations stems from a concern that their subconscious – the parts of their brain that they have no control over – are more devious than they would ever like to believe. Strangely, because of this, it seems that this ‘dark side’ of themselves manifests, sometimes simply as an auditory hallucination, other times as both auditory and visual, as in your case. For those suffering from these delusions, it is as though they are battling against this side of themselves; to them, it is good against evil – essentially a battle between two different worlds within themselves. I believe this is what’s happening to you.”
As she spoke, I, on some level, felt comforted that I was not the only one who had experienced such a thing, and yet was completely unsettled by the notion that the horrors I experienced that night were created completely by my own mind.
“How do I stop it?” I asked, hoping that she would have a simple solution for me.
“I wish I had a formula to fix everything, but as with all matters of the brain, that’s not a possibility. With other patients, these hallucinations only happened a few times, but then ceased. The most important thing while waiting for them to stop is to remember that there’s no way for it to harm you – it is simply a figment of your imagination.”
I continued seeing the psychiatrist on a fairly regular basis after that appointment, desperately hoping that it would help my situation. As time passed, however, I began to grow increasingly more frustrated after each visit, feeling as though the psychiatrist was attacking my character rather than addressing my issue. After a few more sessions, I stopped going, not wanting to tolerate her condescending behaviour any longer.
The creature still visited me each night, relentlessly whispering horrific things as I tried to ignore it. Over time, however, the things it was saying began affecting me less; I was becoming desensitized. Noticing it was no longer frightening to me, it began changing its appearance. It started simply as its eyes growing slightly wider and its teeth becoming pointed, and progressed to an almost skeletal thinness to its body and twisted limbs. It began to wreak distinctly of death, a scent that I would detect before it even emerged from the shadows.
The final night I encountered the creature, it stepped out of the darkness looking just as it had the very first night – identical to me. Surprisingly, it did not speak – in fact, it didn’t even look at me. While I despised the attention of the creature, being in its presence yet remaining ignored somehow felt more unnerving.
My gaze drifted down to its hand and my stomach tightened as I realized it was holding a knife. It lifted the blade to its wrist and slowly dragged it across, grimacing at the pain, but then smiling in a content, satisfied manner. The crimson blood dripped down its hand, the stream rushing more quickly as it sliced across its pale skin. I stared at the pool of blood that was growing at its feet, glancing at its face and seeing the colour drain. I laid in my bed and watched this sight, noticing my own head beginning to feel light. In the daze that had fallen upon me, I glanced down and noticed that my sheets seemed to be stained by an unknown substance.
Confused, I grabbed the sheet beneath me, feeling that it was cold and damp. When I pulled back my hand, it was covered in the same red that was pooling beneath the creature before me. Frantic, I looked down at my arms, only to see gaping wounds decorating them. My eyes darted back to the creature that was now nearly lifeless, and before it closed its eyes, it gave me one last smile.
My vision began to cloud, and despite my best efforts to stand up, I was simply too weak. Exhausted from the fight against myself, I allowed myself to slip into unconsciousness and succumb to my darkness forever.