I am in possession of a horrifying mind. It’s both a blessing and a curse to have thoughts that instantly turn to the dark and macabre side of life. While on vacation a few weeks ago, my 13-year-old daughter and niece of the same age played in the ocean jumping waves and drifting ever so slowly away from the shoreline. My mind drifted to the rip tide warning and their foreseeable demise because of teenage obliviousness. All ended well (though they did receive a stern lecture from my wife, who went Mom/aunt mode). The knowledge of the ocean’s dangers and the strength of the tide was both a blessing and a curse during those five days on the Florida beach.
Yet there is something else in this horrifyingly macabre mind that I must share with you, dear reader. Like the knowledge that the ocean is both beautiful and deadly, it is a blessing and a curse.
I know what scares you.
The sound that emanates from another room in a house where you are supposed to be alone. You clutch yourself tighter as a chill courses through your body. The room catches your gaze as you contemplate investigating.
Shadows cling to the edges of a dimly lit parking garage as you hurry to your car. The support columns make a perfect hiding place for someone or something…
The black SUV with the tinted windows made identical turns as you and remains in your rearview mile after mile. It’s probably someone who lives in your neighborhood on their way home after a long day’s work. It’s nothing, nothing. Probably.
A young child stares at you with blank eyes while in a crowded space. There are many people around, but for some reason you have caught this youngster’s attention. You smile to deflect your unease. The child only stares back. Your brow gets sweaty as you avert your eyes, though you keep checking. Still the child stares.
The circus is in town for the weekend. Naturally, you take your family. A fun time is had by all. That is until the clowns make their way into the audience. Your pulse quickens as you watch them get closer and closer.
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! Comes a sound that reverberates throughout the house. You sit up in bed, suddenly wide awake. Someone is at the front door. A glance at the clock reveals a time in which no good news is unleashed.
A basement. Damp and dark and without lights.
If asked, you’d say you don’t believe in ghosts. Yet you cross to the other side of the street when passing that long-abandoned house. It’s the subject of whispers and rumors. You don’t believe it, of course. Your footsteps quicken while stealing glances out of the corner of your eye, nonetheless.
You stop for a bite to eat in a quaint little burg just off the highway while on a road trip. The streets aren’t exactly deserted, though the few people you do see return your gaze with icy glares of their own. On second thought, you aren’t hungry after all. What’s a few more miles?
Alexa/Siri suddenly speaks from across the room, answering a question you hadn’t asked. The room falls silent as your brain starts churning this over. If she is always listening, what else does the AI know?
You’re tossing and turning beneath the soothing fabric of your sheets in bed. Yet for an unknown reason you have awakened ever so slightly with a sense of unease. Your fluttering eyes catch glimpses of a small figure standing by your bedside. Now sitting up, you turn to see your child staring at you with a sleepy gaze. You wait for them to speak as your heart beats irregularly.
An elevator lurches as it starts its descent from the top floor of a high-rise building. It’s empty, other than you, of course. The pocket computer that is your cellphone has amazing reception all around the country, except in the elevator for some unknown reason. You look up at the surveillance camera wondering if anyone is truly manning the security desk, and if they’re awake.
While out about the town you have an encounter with someone claiming to know you. They know your name and even specify where you met. You have no recollection of this person despite your best efforts. Are you losing your mind? Or is something dastardly afoot?
If none of these rendered your spine tingled or your flesh speckled with goosebumps, don’t worry. There’s more in this horrifyingly macabre mind. However, I’ll save those for our next meeting in the confines of the imaginary world we create when writer and reader connect. In the meantime, I’ll return to the written page, pen in hand—my weapon of choice—to bring your fears to life, if only in your mind.
Because I know what scares you, even if you don’t.
I’ll see you on the written page and perhaps in your dreams. Thanks for reading. Remember to follow your dreams, even if they terrify you.
Stephen Michael Roth