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It was late summer when my mother died. I guess it's 21st century etiquette that you
shouldn't give somebody that sort of news with a computer, but when I received a message
on Facebook from her long time friend telling me to call her I knew what had happened. I had
not been close to my mother or my father since I left home after high school. When my dad
died five years ago, I told myself I would be a better son. I made a lot of excuses in five years
and apparently she wasn't worth the hour drive or twenty minutes a week on the phone to
stay in touch. I waited a few hours and called my older brother. He told me that he and my
younger brother had already made funeral plans. They had enough time to stay in touch with
her. I wasn't surprised; she was a diabetic with deteriorating health and often dulled the pain
of her myriad diseases with the comfort of gin. Her friend, who had sent me the message,
was her favorite person to drink with. I didn't bother calling her back, but knew she wouldn't
have been surprised either. My mother was sixty-four.
A week passed before her attorney called and informed me that I would be receiving
the enormous farm house we had grown up on. The question of why she had left me the
house is one that I don't have an answer to to this day. Down to the creepy ceramic cocker
spaniels, every other piece of her property had gone to one of my two brothers. I knew the
house needed work and wondered if she had left it to me as punishment for not so much as
responding to one of the poorly-formatted conservative email forwards of which I received
about a thousand every month. Truth be told, I didn't know her well enough to fashion a
guess, but I was stuck with the house.
Though corn didn't grow in front of it these days, the house was built to be hidden by
walls of farm product. It was a testament to an age of function over form. A relic from the midwests proud agricultural history. It sat on 50 acres of farmland that had been sold to and
managed by a farm company when my father died. Even as a kid with no responsibility for the
chipped, uneven paint or decaying foundation, I hated the house. I probably watched too
much television or something because growing up, I never found an ounce of charm of
comfort in the halls of that isolated manor. I wanted to get out and, the day I graduated our
rural high school, I did. Ownership over the prison of my youth was not something for which I
ever had a passing thought.
Walking through the old dump, my mind was void of the warm childhood memories
people swear charge at you like an angry boar when you revisit such places. I was careful to
note every needed repair on my phone, attaching a photo of the damage to each entry. After a
few minutes, I had more photos of the living room than I did of the winter cruise I took six
months ago. Above the never ending list of repairs the house needed was the fact that it was
completely trashed. Boxes of ancient newspaper nearly covered the floor of the kitchen,
leftover strips of moulding were strewn about the hallway, and empty food packages
decorated every solid surface in the living room and downstairs bedroom. I wondered how
capable even my mother had been when she passed away and I partly wished I had called
her friend and found out. My brother told me she died in her sleep but I wondered, at her age,
how much the stress of living alone in a big old house had contributed to her list of maladies.
I decided to sleep at the house that night. The tattered pull-out sofa was still in the
bedroom upstairs that used to belong to my younger brother and I. This would allow me to get
to work on the rest of the inspection first thing in the morning. My pockets felt lighter just
thinking about what else I was going to find. The creaking of the old stairs was like the
whining groan of an old woman. I thought about my mother and how I had spent more time
thinking about her over the last week than in all of the years of my adult life. I wont return to
the tired cliché of appreciating what you have before it's gone, mostly because I still didn't
appreciate her. I didn't feel much for her beside the dim, existential fear that any person has of
finding themselves alone at the moment of death. This whole house ordeal was determined to
devour my entire weekend.
I took off my suit and went to bed. That night, I dreamt of the house. It was as young as
I ever remembered it and the wallpaper was fresh and bright alongside the dark, recently
polished wood trim. I walked up the stairs to my room and saw myself as a teenager asleep
on the sofa. Slowly, around me, the house began to evolve and shift into its current form as
wallpaper ripped and furniture disappeared. When I looked down again, it was at my adult self
asleep in the white shirt I was wearing. My point of view in the dream shifted and I was now
awake in the sofa bed. I looked up around the room, details of the surroundings hazy. My
door was open and as I looked down the hall, I saw a man walk by. Except, this was not a
man. You know that feeling you get when you see a robot trying to mimic human behavior?
Like something isn't quite right. I instantly picked up on unexplainable nuances that gave
away this character's artifice. The “man” walked past twice before turning and looking at me. It
was too dark in the dream hallway to see any details of his form, and before I could adjust my
eyes, its arms melted to the ground followed quickly by the rest of its body. What remained
was a dark circular pool of dream-shadow-guy in the hallway just outside my door.
Because the curtains on the window had been taken down years ago, I woke up when
the sun did at 7:20. I should've eaten something, I thought to myself when I woke up the next
morning. I had the feeling, however, that if I would've pulled something out of the freezer
downstairs, the dream would have been even more strange. Bolting to silence my phone's
alarm before it went off, I made a quick note of my dream and swung my feet off the surface
of the pull-out bed. What was left of the wallpaper was garish in the natural light. I hadn't
inspected this room yet but there was already quite of bit a work it needed. For starters, the
wallpaper needed to come down. It was probably a clearance bin buy when my father
purchased the house in the 1970's and was now peeling off in awkward strips around the
room. Next, the combination light and ceiling fan had two broken blades. How this had
happened, I am not sure. Finally, there was a hole slightly bigger than my open hand on the
wall opposite the sofa bed.
This house was, for all intents and purposes destroyed, so there was nothing about a
hole in the wall that, by itself, stuck out. I looked at the opening in the drywall. The size looked
liked somebody had put their hands through. I couldn't explain that, though, since my younger
brother had moved into my older brother's room the year my older brother went off to school.
This room was mine until I moved out and, as I understood from my brothers, had remained
vacant ever since. My father was a stoic, even-tempered man who used effective tools like
silent disapproval rather than reactive violence to voice his frustration and curb our
misbehavior. He was not the kind of person to ever lash out or strike something in anger.
Maybe my mother had fallen and put her hand out to break her fall only to have it go through
the wall. As I looked closer, all of my ideas about the reason for the hole seemed to
disappear. There was no torn wallpaper surrounding the hole and, while it was not perfectly
round, there was no broken drywall along the edge. Although across the room, the hole
appeared to have been cut with a power-saw. In a word, it appeared intentional. Inside, there
was only the blackness of an old uninsulated upstairs wall. Among the unfurnished wall, it
appeared almost as a work of art and took all of the attention from the generic dandelion
prints that hung on the adjacent walls. I had yet to get to the upstairs on my inspection so I
didn't bother photographing the imperfection.
Planning to use the remainder of the day and, if need be, the night to continue the
investigation of the extensive property, I went to a cafe in town for the morning to send emails
and do an hour and a half worth of work. I resumed my inspection of the first floor upon
getting home and worked through sundown. The survivor theme started as I threw the last
egg carton away from the fridge and I knew it was 9:00. Exhaustion had set in about two
hours ago but the kitchen was the last room to inspect downstairs and I wanted to finish the
floor. The only thing I could think about was giant rats climbing through the hole in the room I
had slept in last night so I decided to stay in my brother's room next door. Unlike my room
which had been primarily used for storage space after I left home, my brother's room had
become the guest room. It was maybe used twice, but my mom and dad had built it up like a
room at a bed and breakfast. An ancient, dusty comforter lay on the full size bed and still the
idea of a musty bed set was less off-putting to me than the various vermin I imagined crawling
through that hole in the room next door.
It didn't take any time to fall asleep. Any hope I had of a less imaginative sleep was
culled within what must have been minutes. This time, I was in the guest bedroom, looking
down at myself tossing and turning. Looking up, the large mirror on the wall caught my eye.
While everything else in the house had been a perfect representation of reality, the mirror was
obscured by perfect blackness. The center of the frame screamed with the depth and
communication of a nightmarish void. I was starting into it and it frightened me deeply. It was
the the fear of whatever was the opposite of existence and it was alive and reaching out to
steal me. Hopelessness overcame every thought. I wished for death. Fighting everything
inside of me, I turned away to the oak cabinet and realized I had woken up and was now
sitting up in bed.
Sweat poured over my face and I became aware of how frightened the dream had
made me. My white undershirt was soaked along with the bottom of the comforter and (it
embarrasses me to write this) I knew it wasn't just sweat on the sheets. The clock radio
showed 4:12 - morning already. I flicked the light on to see that everything in the room looked
as it had a minute ago. Except...Holy shi- The mirror was crooked. Not enough for me to have
noticed before going to sleep, but enough that it would keep me from sleeping again if I left it
that way (I really was not a country person). I felt like I needed something to do before going
to sleep any way. Again, I regretted skipping dinner.
The mirror no longer frightened me. I had woken up; this was the real world. In middle
school, I won the admiration of my friends by saying “Bloody mary” one-thousand times into a
dark mirror at a sleep-over. I had read that when you see yourself, your brain undergoes a
weird feedback response and warps the facial details that you're not focusing on. So what
looks like your face transforming is actually just your brain trying to make sense of the
continuous image in front of it. This is the same way you can tune out a ticking clock or a bad
odor after a few minutes of not paying attention to it. In the real world, there was always an
answer. None of that is to say that fear was a foreign emotion to me. I was afraid two months
ago when my sales were down. I was afraid when my ex-girlfriend sent me a “we should talk”
text message. It scares me every time the doctor comes into the room after blood work
without a smile on his face. The mirror was not a reasonable or mature fear like these things
and yet the amount of terror that it had struck me with was undeniable and fresh.
Shoving my weight against it, the mirror didn't budge. I twisted and turned. I counterturned and pulled on the ornate frame and it didn't move an inch. It felt glued to the wall.
“I guess that's one more rotten thing to fix,” I said out loud. The room responded with
predictable silence. That is until a deep growl filled the space between my stomach the wall. A
routine of breakfast immediately following waking up had ruined me. I had cleaned out the
fridge earlier but wondered if there was something in the freezer that could be heated up or
thawed out until I could get into town later today. As I left the guest room and walked past the
bedroom, I noticed that the hole in the wall was on the shared wall with the guest room. I had
absent-mindedly assumed it was on a single wall and behind it had lay a thick layer of
insulation or whatever other guts are inside old houses. As I thought about the wall, however,
it hit me that there could be no more than five or six inches behind the hole before getting to
the guest rom wall. Another thought hit me as I turned and walked toward the stairs. The hole
was right behind the mirror.
The living room was dark, but I could see that lasted only until the entrance to the
kitchen. There was a small amount of light penetrating the dining room and kitchen. It was
soft and sporadic. Walking into the kitchen confirmed my guess that I had left the refrigerator
open. The light eking out of the barely open door illuminated strange shapes on the diverselytextured surfaces of the shared kitchen and dining room. Going to close the door, I saw
something inside – something that would have been impossible to miss cleaning out a
I was losing my mind, I knew it. I wouldn't wait until tomorrow. I had to leave now. There
is always an answer. There is always an answer. There is always an answer. There is always
an answer. There is always an answer. There is always an answer. There is always an
answer. There is always an answer. Inside the fridge, on the top shelf was a plate. On the
plate were two soft piece of meat. They were shaped like pork chops. Pitch black in color, it
was easy to see the shapes were not burnt.. In fact, they were marinading in a layer of black
liquid which submerged the saucer ridge on the tea plate. The otherworldly juxtaposition of
color and texture made me want to puke. I wanted to run forever and yet knew that what I was
looking at was not real. My attempt to rationalize what was in front of me out of existence
added to the strange of the something I now felt moving around me. There was another in
the kitchen. No, it was downstairs and upstairs. It was all around me. It was inside of me. I
was it. Two persons at once. Terror overtook me and I knew I had to get out of the house at
There is always an answer.
I sprinted toward the front door.
There is always an answer.
I threw my weight into it.
There is always an answer.
I jumped through the door and landed on the porch.
There is always an answer.
I opened my eyes and got up to make a break for my car.
There is always an answer.
The carpet from the guest room was the first thing I saw upon opening my eyyes. The
light burned on the nightstand above me. The clock glowed 1:48. Bedding lay disheveled at
eye level. It was a dream, another hyper-realistic night terror about the house. No time at all
passed before the tested spirit of my skepticism returned to me. I felt stupid for being afraid of
these nightmares. I felt stupid that it happened twice. On the bright side, I guess, I hadn't
really wet the bed. Scanning the room, I saw that there was no mirror. There never was a
mirror. The other side of the hole was fixed where the mirror had hung in my dream. My
rationale for sleeping in this room dissolved before me upon realizing that it went through to
this wall. Putting my feet underneath me, I stood up and walked over to the wall. The hole
was bigger on this side than it was in the old bedroom. I couldn't see anything on the other
side, but knew that was because I had turned out the bedroom light before settling in the
guest room. It was round on top and flared out as it came down. I could look right into the
blackness of it without having to slouch or lift myself up on my feet at all. The cleave was
similar to the other room. Absent of debris along the edge, the existence of the other side of
the hole should have erased any rapidly vanishing doubt that there was an answer for its
quirks, the uniformity of its design added to its intrigue.
I retrieved my glasses from the nightstand and turned to leave. I didn't need to put
them on,however, to see something that made me question whether or not I had actually
woken up. That puzzle of a shape in the old wallpaper had grown to the size and shape of a
human being. The arms hung by it's side. Somehow, I avoided the knee jerk reaction of
running out of the room and yet again pronouncing myself insane. Choosing instead to calmly
continue in my belief that I was still entangled in a multi-leveled nightmare, I stood and faced
the ghastly shape on the wall.This dream had now twice convinced me of not only being
awake, but of having actually woken up.
I learned about lucid dreaming in a psychiatry class in college. In a dream, if you
become aware you are dreaming, you can change the dream around you and imagine what
ever you would like to see. Hoping to engage lucid dreaming, I shut my eyes and held them
tightly and imagined a bright yellow sports car on the floor of the guest room in front of me. I
imagined a garage door next to it that I could speed out of the room with.
I opened my eyes to see that the wall wrapped around the room uninterrupted by the
door I had imagined. Likewise, the rug sat in front of me unburdened by so much as a lug nut
of my imagined escape.. I was awake and in the room. Closing and opening my eyes in the
nightmare must have triggered me to awaken. Except, this time I was
in the wall.
I blinked but I shouldn't have and in an instant I was inches from the wall. The wall had
moved closer to me and I was now staring into the depth of that terrible hole. It squirmed and
recoiled in sightless movement and silently bellowed a seething hatred. In an absurd way,
was interesting and I could not, no didn't want to, turn away. I was kissing Bloody Mary on the
mouth with the lights on. I felt my desire to run away being ripped from me and along with it,
everything of myself.
“I am nothing but a bag of bones, blessed by a borrowed existence.” I thought to
“And when all that is borrowed is asked for, to the darkness it must be returned.” It
answered. Staring into the void, any detail or element of my life was profane and putrid. I was
overcome by the thought of how little my wet skeleton mattered in relation even to the rest of
the vile race to which it belonged.
My mother was gone.
My father was gone.
My brothers were gone.
All were gone.
Were it to be taken from me, my life would leave behind no frayed ends and I
welcomed the liberation which staring into this darkness promised.
But no! I am me. None of that was right. The haze of the darkness's trance evaporated
and my attachment to my life (however lonely it was) returned to me. I needed to escape, but
the hole in the wall held me there. It filled me with fear and for the first time, there was no
answer. I was staring into the void of all answers. I decided to live and I resolved to run. I
would jump through the window in the hallway and then, I don't know, burn the house down or
something. If this house wasn't the door to hell itself, then I had surely lost my mind and
burning down a house with no insurance to gain seemed like an appropriate cry for help. I
could be half way home before anybody knew the fire to be more than a farmer burning
The more I thought, the deeper the nothingness gripped me. Deep down inside, I was
certain that the it was playing with me. I didn't know what to expect when it pounced but would
not be devoured without a fight. Expecting to be frozen in place, I was miraculously able to
put my feet beneath me and sprint for the door. The guest room sat on the second floor, but
there was a roof outside of the hallway window and I hoped it would give me a chance to
make a more controlled jump to the front yard. Turning the corner, I saw the window within
reach at the end of the hall. From behind the window, the blackness of the early morning (and
the idea of ouutside) was a tremendous comfort.
Ready to jump, I hit the window at a full run and it was then that two truths became
immediately apparent to me. The first, that the window was wide open. Where I had
anticipated a pane of glass, there was only empty space. The second, which was less of an
immediate concern but far more sinister, was a realization of how wrong I had been with my
observation a few sentences ago. The darkness I had seen outside was not the midnight sky.
It was too deep, too hard, too full to be something so warming. These two truths immediately
planted my feet on the carpet of the upstairs hallway but not soon enough and I found myself
tumbling through the open window and into the lonely ink.
Time means nothing to me. It is dark and cold and hours pass as weeks. It may be that
I have been here for one day or one hundred-thousand years. Blackness surrounds me, and
every day I feel like the idea of 'me' grows smaller and more foreign. I see nothing and hear
nothing outside of the silent screaming of the all-encompassing nothingness in which I exist. I
see nothing and hear nothing outside of the silent screaming of the all-encompassing
nothingness in which I don't exist. Every sense is devoted to the texture and taste and sight of
the infinite depression. I pass time by imagining that a dream can feel as real as this feels and
when I wake up it will all seem silly but I know this is not true. There is no answer to where I
am. Every faculty of my perception is continuously preoccupied with estimating the depth and
reason for the darkness I know. I am dead and I am in hell. In between the screaming, I have
named the silence god.
Some time ago, I found a hole. Not the monster that ate me in the old farmhouse. I was
here and a hole opened up. There was once a hole in this darkness. It had been only seconds
in the spire that I had waited millions of years for this interruption. Through the opening, I saw
the bedroom I had slept in that first night in the house. I was asleep on the bed in the center
and saw my body (now a stranger) tossing and turning on the old sofa bed. Through the other
side of the hole, I saw that same body look up and notice the bridge between our two worlds
separated by an infinite expanse of hope. I saw in its face the curiosity with which I remember
gazing into the abyss that first time we were acquainted. It looked closer. I looked closer. I
looked into my own face. The right corner of the mouth peeked up and the expression
became a sly smile. The thing wearing my skin looked into me and as for the eternity I will
spend in this darkness, I will never forget the last words I ever heard and the laws words I am
ever to hear.
“Fits like a glove.”