This story is by Charles Vincent and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
– It’s unbelievable, Paul. I still can’t make sense of all that happened. How could my sister have endured this for years? I still believe everything started after that trip to Salem. Why didn’t she confide in me from the beginning?
– Please Sandra, stop blaming yourself. Carmen had gone through such an ordeal. The death of your parents, her boyfriend dropping her and finishing her Master’s. It’s no wonder she collapsed after graduation.
– I wish I could have her drink a nepenthe to drown in oblivion all her yesterdays but all I could offer was a short trip. My heart melted when I saw that glitter in her eyes, her smiles and such excitement. She was in her own little world, living in the moment, carefree, buying books at the sidewalk sale. She was always fascinated by metaphysics, the occult and the paranormal. She’d add twenty more to her library and never read them. Strange for someone so logical don’t you think, Paul?
– Yes, dear. Speaking of logic, I never understood why she embarked on such a gargantuan enterprise as a Ph. D.
Sandra would drop by at Carmen’s but she was seldom home or didn’t want company. They often spoke on the phone, then calls started decreasing, then nothing.
Research and writing. True, she was a recluse. No calls, no visitors, no outings. She also stuck silly notes on her door. ‘Meeting with Einstein’, ‘Beware, beware!’ and ‘They are HERE!’
Yes, Sandra worried and yes, she missed the real Carmen.
Later that year, Carmen had called her from the airport with astonishing news. She was going overseas to teach for a few years, pursue her research and write. She added that she would be meeting with other researchers. All seemed vague to Sandra. She would only receive short emails or postcards from different countries. She hadn’t heard her voice in almost two years. The unique closeness they once shared was vanishing.
Then wonderful news! Carmen phoned. She was back home. Sandra couldn’t wait to visit her. She gasped when she saw her. She had changed so much. Her figure as thin as a rake. Her eyes, black and blue circles around and her skin as white as milk. She looked like a scholar with white hair on her temples.
– What the heck, Carmen! What happened to you? You look so… you should go for a check-up. Do you want me to phone for an appointment?
– You never change, do you. Come here, let me hug you! It’s all the traveling and long days at work. Haven’t finished my thesis yet.
Sandra’s eyes shifted top-down and left to right as she entered the apartment.
– The place is a mess, sorry.
Sandra stretched her neck to one side as she sauntered passed her sister’s bedroom and stopped.
– Busy is not the word! Why is your hide-a-bed still opened? It’s noon! No time for yoga?
– Too busy.
– A new piece in the living room? Wow! Let me try it, I love rocking chairs.
Carmen embraced her sister and whispered in her ear.
– Don’t sit there. It’s only for … I can’t see it but the chair often rocks by itself. I know something’s watching me, watching us. Let’s go to the kitchen. It’s always safer there.
Sandra knew something was very wrong with her sister. Carmen whispered again placing her hands on each side of her mouth.
– This Monster can hear me.
– What monster?
– I don’t know, Sandra. I can’t see it. I get a sore stomach when it’s around.
– I don’t understand?
– It comes only when I’m falling asleep. I’m always afraid to sleep. Anytime, day or night, that ‘Monster’s here. Soon, it will take me, I’m sure.
– I’m taking you to the hospital. This is serious.
– What? You think I’m hallucinating or paranoid? Look at me. LOOK AT ME. Do I look crazy to you? I had a breakdown after our parents died but this is far more than a depression.
– I’m not judging, I want to understand, Carmen?
– It’s a Monster, I tell you! An invisible force. I can’t explain it.
– Try Carmen, please!
– Well… remember how nice it felt when mom would tuck us in? Something’s tucking me in but it’s not hands. Something strange presses around the shape of my body. Let me think… It’s like when you lay on the beach and the tide comes in and rushes in all around you.
– I’m listening.
– Then, my blanket becomes weightless. A breeze blows around me, on my skin as if I’m naked in bed. I get goosebumps. I know it’s here. This Monster surrounds me like the tide. Then tingling sensations, then small electric shocks. I have internal tremors. After that, I can’t move at all. It’s invaded my thoughts, my emotions, my memories for six years.
– Carmen…not possible, come on!
– I knew you wouldn’t believe me, wouldn’t understand. It followed me even overseas.
– Carmen, did you think of seeing a priest?
– Are you kidding?
– But Carmen, we have to do something. Do you want us to sleep together until it goes away?
– No, Sandra. Something terrible could happen to you as well. I sleep a few hours in the elevator between midnight and 4:00 a.m. when I can’t resist falling asleep. It’s my only protection you see. I return early to my flat since some tenants leave before 5:00 a.m. Go home. I’ll be fine.
– Okay but let’s get rid of all your magic paraphernalia. Every bit helps.
– Did that. Nothing changed. I’m weak, Sandra. Can’t eat much. Food makes me sick. I can’t see my own reflection in the mirror anymore. The monster plays that way. It’s out to kill me. I know it’ll come soon. It smells my fear. It talks to me. It’s intelligent.
– What? Now you’re hearing stuff?
– It says: “I’m going to kill you”. Other times, one word: “Die”.
– That’s it, Carmen. I’m taking you home and we’ll take you to a psychologist.
– I’ve seen one when it all started. He treated me for five months. The genius came up with ‘sleep paralysis’, prescribed sedatives and anti-depressants. As if I hadn’t done my research. Idiot! He couldn’t even hypnotize me. I’d watched YouTube documentaries, people discussing their sleep paralysis with doctors. Nothing compared to what I’m going through. I can’t even leave the building now. I’ve tried every way to escape this, believe me. The Monster shocked me each time I tried. Nobody can help me. I’m doomed!
– No, Carmen.
– It’s out to kill me, I know. It told me.
– You heard it? Hang on. We’ll get through this. I’m not going anywhere.
The twins hugged and cried. Sandra pulled away from her, holding her throat, falling to her knees gasping for air. It was here. Carmen immediately pushed her outside the flat and she landed in the hall, safe again. She locked the door.
– I only doubted before but now I’m sure. It wants us both.
The Monster pushed her against the wall and she fell near her bedroom. She struggled to reach the entrance door. Before she could open it, all doors in her flat closed at once. She heard a ‘Peeeshhhhhhhh’ noise resembling the sound of a train coming to a full stop. It was even louder, almost deafening. Carmen realized that all doors were now sealed tight. Unfortunately, the bathroom was the only place to search for anything to keep her awake. Then, dead silence. She couldn’t hear Sandra screaming. Voices of neighbors had gathered around her. She was safe. The Monster had finished toying with her for now.
All Carmen ever wanted was to protect her twin sister from this ‘Monster’.
She had an epiphany. She collapsed on her hide-a-bed and spoke to the ‘Monster’ for once.
– This was your only chance to get us both. That was your goal all along! Now that you failed your evil plot, I know you’ll never be able to return here. You failed, FAILED!
She knew it couldn’t resist her invitation to feast as she whispered ‘close your eyes, it’s okay Carmen, close your … close…’ and fell into a deep sleep. The tide came weighing heavy on her. The tucking-in choked her, electric shocks chewed at her wrists pouring blood. The hide-a-bed on which her frail body laid, folded. It forced it inwards. Sounds of crushing bones and the bed closed completely. Then nothing but silence.
Sandra opened the door. All doors were now open. She walked into the bloody room.
– Thank you, poor sacrificial lamb. Identical twins yes, yet SO different! It’s not my fault it preferred you so, let’s blame Salem!
She smiled as she dialed 911.
*Experts ruled out ‘Sleep Paralysis’ as a cause of death. Investigations are still ongoing.