I couldn’t distinguish real life from nightmares anymore.
My mother was never the same after the accident. I don’t think I’d ever seen terror light a fire in someone’s eyes the way it did when I saw her. As I laid motionless on the ground with my blood slowly seeping from beneath me, a warm pool of my essence; murky maroon globs of my moments left here on earth. I used what little was left of my life to turn my head and glance back at my mother who sprinted towards me. I saw her pupils trembling, the hazy green vein that bulged across her face as she cupped the top of my head in her hands.
She was hazy like a dream, the sun above her cloaked her figure in shadow, a black mantle cast over me as beams of the other side hung over her head. My bloody finger slipped from her grasp, smacking against the floor with a violent thud. Darkness clouded my vision and my breath felt cold, I could feel my chest slowing down.
“I’m right here, sweetheart…” I heard my mother’s voice fade out like an echo down a well. I understood why death was always cloaked in black, as he was the void we greeted when we departed this life and return to the same trench that coughed us out. The darkness consumed me and yet, I felt so at peace.
And then I wake up.
Some nights I sleep and feel no time pass in between. There was no rest for me in my waking life. Not even in my dreams where my mind was a ballroom for its own devils and loathsome specters to galavant throughout the evening on a hellish crusade. It was a hit and run, happened in broad daylight while I rode my bike across the street to relax and maybe blow a few trees with the neighbor. Fortunately, the neighbor’s mother was an EMT and came rushing to my rescue. I don’t remember much, only the awful shriek of tires and the tepidness of my own blood. My mother was holding me the entire ride to the hospital, I could feel the warmth of her hands against my cold skin even so lost within my own consciousness.
“He hardly has a pulse.” The paramedic said over me.
“Hardly’s more than enough for me to believe he’s gonna make it.” My mother said.
I couldn’t shake the voices in my head after that incident. It was like being that much closer to death lured me further through the veil. I could feel the thin fabric of this time and place tickling against my skin.
They only ever called my name. That’s all I would hear before the truly terrifying things began. The voices came as a warning, internal messengers; the phantasms would again stalk the night and drag their dreadful ball and chain across my hollow heart. I could hear them hissing in my room in the dead of night.
The voices would say in hushed tones. They spoke in low rasps and growls. The human spirit once again becomes feral after death, the anger and confusion…. they avoided the light for so long they can’t find it anymore. Or worse yet, they believe other people to be their beacons, torches in the dark.
The spirits that haunt this house fear only one thing: the woman with three faces. And I know that as she incites terror within myself. When I hear the baying and howling of the canine in the dead of night I knew she was near. The nocturnal symphony of barking dogs heralded her arrival. Everything fled from her, from the loathsome things that crawled on their bellies to the talked specters whose heads towered past my ceiling. But mother wouldn’t believe that she was there. Mother acted most days like I wasn’t even there.
My mother was full of light. Bouncing curls and raucous laughter. Sunday mornings we would always sit out beneath the Willow tree pointing out shapes in the clouds and drinking spiked lemonade. My 18th birthday wasn’t until next month but she never cared, I was adult enough in her mind. I think she told herself that to justify her enabling me, but I knew she just wanted the company. She was lonely, a wallflower trying to grow tall enough to be noticed. The only problem is after my father passed from Cancer he took all her pedals with him to his grave. Every beautiful thing that was inside her died with him, maybe that’s why she seemed so eager to be with you again. Maybe in death, she might find herself again. To find that beautiful thing she lost to the void, the cruel abyss that takes unforgivingly.
Our house sat perched atop a hill. The wood was starting to rot, it was built when the pioneers settled in the area. There’s still even the first train station that was established about half a mile from here. Mother used to take me there because she said you can just ‘sense’ the other side as if that rusted train station were a barrier between worlds. She stopped taking me after the accident. She also stopped everything all together. I’d try to get her attention, but she never listened.
“It’s not like I died.” I would say.
But mother would just turn away and shake her head quietly.
“No… not again.” Mother would reply.
Then she would close herself in the bedroom and refuse to come out. I’d bang on the door relentlessly. She would open, screaming.
“What do you want!!”
“To be near you again,” I said.
My answer never changed. But she was a prisoner of her own mind. She kept reliving the moment. The blood oozing onto the pavement, the sound of my shallow breath and how weak I was. I stayed up most nights listening to her crying in her bedroom. Comforting her was pointless. She’d only ever scream for me to leave and bang on her own door. She couldn’t look at me, I’d broken her in some kind of way that I’ll never understand but never try to stop fixing.
It was a different rejection, being pushed away from your life giver. She fed me and whispered to me while I sat in her womb. I entered this world screaming and covered in blood and she held me up like gold to the light. Now? Well, that’s just a distant memory. But it seems all we are, are memories, and mine are beginning to fade. So what is to become of me?
I slept mostly to pass the time. I hated doing that because I’d keep having the same nightmare. Waking up screaming and with my chest collapsing was the only thing I knew now. What was rest? The thought of closing my eyes and slipping away gently to meet Morpheus in the cloud of my mind was foreign. I traded hell as a feared foe for a fateful friend. I have always known I’d die alone, but loved. Yet now I’m wondering if I’ll have love. My mother was the only model I had of what love looked like and I can’t see it in her anymore. But I can’t see her anymore, her flesh remains the same but I don’t know who she is.
Weeks passed, and not much communication had been made between us. It seemed the voices that called me took the place of her own, lulling me to sleep with desperate cries for my attention. Evening approached yet again, and the moon hung full and a deep amber in the sky just outside my window. The satin curtains flapped gently, cradled by crisp winds that seeped through the crack of the window. As I drifted to sleep all I could hear was my mother crying softly.
“Eddie… Eddie, sweetheart.” My mother said.
I bolted upright in my bed, her figure was silhouetted, almost translucent.
“Mom?” I said hesitantly.
My legs trembled as I watched her standing at the end of my bed. She was shaking, crying inconsolably. She swayed softly side to side gasping for breath.
“Mom… is that you?”
“Yes!” she screamed.
I jolted back, my shoulders slammed into the headboard of my bed. I pulled the cover over my eyes, my eyes burning with tears and fear. My hot breath wafted around me, the air was dense and humid, like sleeping in someone’s mouth. I hoped that the longer I stayed hidden she would forget about me. Whoever stood at the end of my bed wasn’t my mother.
The hairs on my neck stood. Tears streamed down my face I was too terrified to raise my eyes. A slow shriek of something rocking filled the room.
A raspy voice spoke through the curtain of night. I covered my ears, shaking my head and mumbling desperate words of denial.
It’s not real.
It’s all in your head.
The voice screamed. I yelped and threw the bedsheets from the top of my head, facing the twisting shadows in front of me. An eerie silence swept over the room, I could hear the saliva I swallowed sliding down my throat.
My heart sank.
“God…. no…,” I said to myself.
I closed my eyes and ready to accept my fate. I turned around and saw the same silvery-haired old woman that plagued my deepest horrors. She rocked back and forth with her mouth wide and ajar and her eyes lulled to the back of her head. She kept her sight focused on the ceiling as if she were dialing into some higher power or communicating with disembodied spirits.
“Edgar…. Listen to me….”
“No…” I said.
I stood from my bed and backed into the wall behind me. I felt the dream devouring me, the light inside of me was dying, the old woman was sucking away my will to carry on. I just wanted death, I couldn’t live with the torment any longer. My mother abandoned me and left me to my ghosts. How I longed to me among those who dwelled in the sunshine yet I remained entombed here in the perpetual night. I wished the accident would have killed me, then I wouldn’t be between worlds anymore. Then I could continue the delusions of my own existence and not cry for those too far lost in the shadows.
“Trust in me…” The old woman beckoned.
“Never. Stay away from me!!” I screamed.
“I have your mother….”
“LIAR!” my face flushed and my cheeks blushed crimson.
“Your mother is with me….”
“EDGAR!” My mother scream pierced from beneath my bedroom.
I bolted out of my bedroom and down the hall. The path was abysmal, the way ahead of me was shrouded in inky pools. I didn’t care if it was a nightmare anymore, now the things that haunted me have found refuge in my mother, and I couldn’t allow them to take the both of us.
“MOM!!” I screamed.
Lost in the dark, hopeless and desperate to find her. I couldn’t see my own hands in front of my body. I couldn’t feel my body, I felt light, like I was just a thought passing through the mind, a floating force aimlessly wandering, searching but never finding refuge. I searched for what felt like hours, my breathing fluctuating and my face dry with tears. I stumbled and fell down the staircase and landed on my face. I groaned and rubbed the top of my head. My mother stood at the kitchen counter alert and upright, startled.
“Edgar?” She said.
“Mom…” I said, standing to my feet.
“Edgar…” She said in a hushed gasp, smiling weakly.
I looked into her eyes and saw that glimmer again, that same sparkle she had before the accident. Tears streamed down her face as she cupped her mouth.
“Eddie…” She said beneath her breath, choking on her own incredulous laughter.
“Mom… are you okay? I–I heard you screaming, so I came running.” I said.
She stared at me incredulously. The awful cry of the rocking chair filled the room again.
“He’s here.” The old appeared beside my mother.
“MOM SHE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!” I yelped.
My mother turned around and looked at the old woman, blase and unconcerned.
“Who is?” She said calmly.
“The–The old woman I’ve told you about. The old woman in my dreams.”
“I know,” she said. “I can see her too.”
I stepped back from her.
“You can’t touch him.” The old woman said firmly.
My mother stopped herself from reaching for me.
“Mom… who is she?” I said, my voice rising. “What is going on?”
Tears streamed down her face as she held out a trembling hand towards me. She closed her eyes, unable to bring herself to look at me.
“I haven’t been the same…. Eddie, baby….” She began.
“Mom… you’re scaring me.” I said, backing away slowly.
“I’ve tried to let go, but I just can’t. I can’t, not when… when…”
“When what, mom? I… I don’t understand.”
“When you’re here.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “I’ve always been here.”
She shook her head, I could see it broke her heart to tell me no. She laid her hand on her chest, sniffling.
“Be careful.” The old woman said.
“He has to understand, now. I think now he understands.” My mother said.
“Understand what?” I said.
My mother said, offering me her hand. I meekly stepped forward and reached for her hand, when my fingers phased right through hers. I gasped and pulled my hand away, staggering backward.
“That you’re dead.”
The day of the accident flashed through my eyes, I fell onto the ground in the fetal position.
“Baby…” my mother said softly. “I need you to move on, I need you to go.”
This was the nightmare. I closed my eyes tightly waiting to wake up again the following morning. But I was still there, still nearly convulsing with the reality of the situation.
“I’ve been trying to contact you…”
“You’re the voices in my head…” I said, heaving.
“It’s time.” The old woman said.
“Wait, but, but mom…” I said, panicking.
I tried to embrace her but passed directly through her. I tried desperately, each failed attempt leaving me more destitute than the last.
“I love you, sweetheart…. I love you.”
“No, no, you can’t let me go. Mom, you can’t let me go!”I cried.
I tried desperately to grab her, to clutch to the umbilical cord that attached me to this life. My mother stepped away from me and folded her arms, hanging her head in turmoil.
“You were the first love of my life but I crutched you in this life, and I’m keeping you here when you need to go.”
“But I don’t want to go… I want you here.” I said, my eyes blinded with tears.
“Eddie,” she sniffled. “I need you to move on.”
The old woman closed her eyes and raised her head towards the ceiling. Her mouth slowly cracked open.
“Heca, Heca, Heca….”
“Follow the woman with three faces,” my mother said.
Everything around me began to dim and fade into the darkness. A swishing black cloak swept over her body rapidly.
“The woman with three faces will take you home, Eddie….”
A painful quiet swept us away in a torrent of tantalizing tension. Not even my mother nor the old woman stood with me. I stood in a vacant sea of black, shadows hanging above me and beneath my feet.
“Mom…” I choked. “Mom, can you hear me?”
Then that woeful sound of barking dogs filled the void I stood in. My knees turned to gelatin, I collapsed beneath my own weight and my blood ran cold. I looked down at my stomach and caught a faint glint of a long flowing thread attached to my navel. It glowed bright enough to see but just faint enough that you can overlook it. I scrunched my face in confusion and held the wispy silver cord in my hands.
The air became heavy, dense and almost smothering. I could feel my lungs on the verge of combusting from pressure. I clutched onto my chest and gnashed my teeth, a powerful presence filled the room. An unearthly force began to fill the room and all I could do was curl up in the fetal position.
“No… No, this isn’t real.” I said to myself.
I was going to wake from the nightmare any moment. I was too shaken to look up from the ball I’d curled myself into. Two slimy wet surfaces rubbed against my ears, blowing steaming hot breath down my face. I jolted up and met two pairs of blood red eyes from black Great Danes. They wagged their tails and nudged me with their noses onto my feet.
“I’m not going with you.” I said.
The dogs growled and barked rabidly. I staggered backward scanning the empty pit I stood in for a way out, but there was no escape.
“I SAID I’M NOT GOING!!” I screamed, pounding my chest.
“Edgar…” A sweet whisper echoed through the darkness. The dogs barked excitedly and ran into the void out of sight.
“Who… Who’s there…” I said as my knees knocked together.
“Edgar…” It beckoned for me.
I looked ahead of me and saw two sparks of fire in the dark that erupted into the flames of two twin torches.
“No…” I said, my eyes welling with tears again. I tore my hair and gnashed my teeth. The fire revealed the infernal silhouettes of three faces to distant to see. In one of her hands, she held the mother end of the cord attached to my stomach and she began to reel me in like a fish.
“NO!!” I protested.
She chuckled, her laughter filled the entire room. It wasn’t menacing or threatening, but she seemed entertained. Amused that I would try to escape from her when my time had come. She pulled the string again and I felt my body become weightless and my stomach fluttered inside I felt a warmth and a tingle slither around the crown of my head and travel down my spine and a sensation like falling asleep overcame me. I saw my mother’s face in my mind begin to wither and turn to stalk. I was suddenly forgetting what color the sunshine was and what the warmth felt like.
Then I forgot I had a body all together as I grew closer to the blazing fires from her torches in hand, yet her faces remained obscured by the shadows. The fires became like bright white lights in my vision and I was wrapped in a cocoon of warmth. My memories were fading, slipping from my fingers. I forgot the sound of laughter, the taste of lemonade on a hot Summer’s day.
How old was I when I passed?
I was fading.
What was my name?
My essence was depleting.
Who am I?
Nobody at all. Not anymore.