Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The short story // She still waits for me in the words of her book

What's the haunting season without a few short stories to make that chill run up your spine? I offer you a story I came across, that upon reading this morning, has stayed with me. If you tell me you don't read horror, but still read Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti, then you read horror. It's that thrill you're seeking.  I make no apology for my love of horror movies and books, just like I don't apologize for reading romance or science fiction. Read on, if you dare.

She still waits for me in the words of her book

I sleep soundly, in my cozy, comfortable bed. Most nights I climb in and am asleep within minutes. Other nights I read. I'm not talking of e-readers, those that lull you to the other side with their easy interfaces and slick controls. Real books are what gather me up, the ones you can grab on to and feel the pages as the story leaps to life. I want to feel the spines of books that give you purchase to hold and grip – to become lost in pages made of paper.
Books mean a lot to me and I have read voraciously since I was a child, really at a very early age. By first and second grades I was reading proficiently at an adult level. In my rush to reading my interests expanded to genres that included spine-tingling novels, and by fifth grade, I was reading full-fledged horror novels.
Where were my parents?
They were there, and they were readers as well. Never ones to censor much of what we read, watched, or listened to - I was able to get my hands on deeply disturbing tomes that called out to me when I passed them in the bookstore. My eyes were drawn again and again to that section that held black-spined books with names like The Omen, Ghost Story, and The Amityville Horror.
I devoured them word by word.
My novels, piled intricately on a shelf dad had built me, were aligned according to my eleven year old mind. When I went to bed at night my bed was facing the shelf, that way I could always see them. My books, you see, were as important to me as any collection. People collect things. I collected books.
Books were attached to me, as any avid reader knows, and at any given time you could find me in a corner taking in words and sentences as if they were water. It was just that now, the words I was taking in were tinged with the blackest horror, the thin edges of madness, and scratchy whisperings that floated under my door at night. My mind was awash with ritual slayings and rites of satanic cults that slid down easy, easy into my soul. Mesmerizing, they were so mesmerizing. And I couldn't stop.
The purchase of a book called Audrey Rose brings goose bumps, raised high, to the surface of my skin. As I write this, my hackles slowly raise and I glance outside my dark window. I pull my sweater a little tighter, just a little closer for comfort, or what I don't know. The night presses in and whispered fragments, or words, travel up the back of my neck and fall gently into my ear. I turn and brush them away. I can't let them in. Had I known what the book would do I would have dropped it and run.
I delved in, always reading by night, and I consumed each word, letter by letter. I'm not sure when things started....changing. At school, as I sat numbly in my seat, I could sense the slightest blur at the edge of the classroom door. If I looked twice it was just a door, firm and blue, standing guard as it always had. The fringes, though, were alive with murmurings and activity. If we were playing on the playground at recess I could sometimes glance in the distance and see a small, dark figure standing just on the edges of the grass. I squinted hard and nothing was there. When I used the restroom during class, I would sit on the edge of the toilet seat squeezing my eyes shut tightly. The dark corners of the bathroom threw their shadows towards my stall, and inch by inch crept underneath the door.
The book, you see, had come alive.
It was as if I was running a race to finish it, to feel and render the book into the very depths of my being. I could feel her in every crevice and crack of my room as I read and read and read. When the last words were absorbed and the book was over, I breathed a silent sigh, a nearly imperceptible washing through my body of relief. I crept to my shelf and placed the book carefully in its place - the place it would reign with all my other books filled with horror. I lay down and turned off the light and an instant dread filled me.
She wasn't going to let me go.
My room became black as night and I could feel the tomes on the shelf reaching out to me, their pages yearning for me to slip inside of them and be lost forever. The door to my room....oh the door....swung silently open creating a vortex of mindless swirling in my heart. My body lay rigidly still, and I could smell the sweat from my fear dampening my nightgown - a nightgown that an eleven year old wears to bed believing she will wake up in her room safe and sound.
My eyes were frozen open in soundless horror as I could feel a presence enter the room with authority and float silently towards me, the hole in its center ever-widening. My chest became tight and I knew without knowing that it was on top of me...pressing the air from my lungs - keeping me from the good that I knew my life should be. Images of every scene of horror I had read slowly played in my head, like a silent movie, as the face of evil, disguised as Audrey Rose, tried to steal the very breath of life from me.
I shut my eyes and mouthed, "Please God, I'm so scared. Help me."
I woke up with a start and the morning sun was throwing its light softly through my white, frilly curtains. I sat up and looked around the room in stark horror as the juxtaposition of my safe surroundings screamed in protest to what I knew had happened last night. I never did know how I fell asleep and evil fled. I only hope that a bigger God had rescued me. My eyes fell on my bookshelf, those black-spined books staring at me in restful repose - their edges lined up like soldiers ready for war.
With my nightgown still damp from sleep and terror, I gathered all the books of horror...those novels filled with evil reckoning and restless spirits...and I stumbled outside in the early morning dew to the fire pit in our backyard. With match burning in hand, I lit those books up until all I could see were the twisted faces of the covers burning in the flames. I could feel Audrey Rose screaming for me, the smoke stifling her shrieks. And then she was gone.
My flesh, shivering with the writing of this tale, has finally been warmed with a blanket I've thrown around me. Though I am now married and have raised children, reading is still one of my first loves. Deep in the dark, with book in hand, I climb the night. It takes me to places that nothing else can, and I soar with the thrill the words bring me. Yet still, I sometimes feel the tiniest of breaths on my neck and a thin whisper calling me. I glance outside and on the periphery of my line of sight I can see her, a dark shroud that will always stand just outside of what I can comprehend. She waits for me to pick up her words so that she can live, once again, through me. I resist her, for now, and fervently hope that I can stay away from the words that would lead me to her.

This book does exist. It came out in 1977.