Rain is falling heavily outside, confirmed by the rapid rhythm being played out against the window. They are the only sounds present in the otherwise silent office I sit in. Despite the angry persistence of the rain now thrashing at the window as if desperate to get inside, the sounds are somewhat soothing, especially when you close your eyes. I move from the desk and make for the window. When presented with the grey imagery through the glass, the sound of the rain takes on a sinister composition. No longer does it feel soothing as it did only moments earlier. Together, the rain and images are dark and the collective anger appears real. However, I dismiss the threat of whatever the intentions may be.
Bored, tired and alone, I sit uncomfortably in my chair trying desperately to avoid shutting my eyes. I feel hungover from the disruption to my sleep last night which was caused by yet more nightmares. I would give anything to be free from the regular torment and crave the ability to rest. Lately, I have been trying to avoid sleep in the hope it will prevent the visions. This isn’t a reliable practice though, as evidenced by last night. The results of sleep depravation have presented somewhat worrying consequences. Coffee serves as a minor relief to my current level of fatigue, but I cannot face a third mug given that it’s only just turned 9:00am. I need to sleep and feel I could quite easily drift off, however, it would be inappropriate to do so at this moment. I snigger to myself at the irony of the situation.
The miserable grey sky outside accurately reflects the mood of the offices current occupant. Meandering from one side of the office to the other, I feel the numbness of being lost in my own consciousness. Without distraction on offer, my mind begins to wander off unsupervised. It strays into the hidden woodland rather than staying in sight as agreed. Left to it’s own devices, it begins to betray me. Simultaneously with the increased intensity of the rain, my mind releases images of darkness and pain to be played out as a macabre slideshow. My inner-self must truly despise me as evidenced by the internal monologue of “You’re nothing Jacob, you’re nothing!” being shouted at me repeatedly. More voices can be heard as they join in the chorus of condemnation torturing my mind sadistically. “You fucking loser!”, “You’re nothing!”, “You’re worthless Jacob” and their raucous laughter is all I can hear, apart from the thrashing rain and howling wind. They too mock me. Clasping my hands tightly to my head I scream loudly enough to wake the dead. No one will hear me though as I’m certain I’m the only one here. Even if they did hear my painful cries they wouldn’t care, no one does!
I get up and stride purposefully across the office. I need to find calm, Perhaps refreshing my face in the bathroom will help? The un-lit corridor leading from the office presents no sign of life and the connected rooms appear un-occupied, although the darkness could conceal a presence easily. Rain continues to smash against the corridor windows almost drowning out the noise in my head. The bathroom is cold and the silence is broken only by the slow dripping of a tap. Strange how sounds seem to take on a new meaning when you’re alone in near silence, how the senses register noises they’ve so instantly dismissed previously. Soaking my face with cupped hands, I look up from the cracked sink and stare at the person in the mirror. I recognise him, but he isn’t me. He is Jacob Wilkes though. His eyes are grey and lifeless, devoid of all emotion. No redeeming qualities in my opinion. Yeah, I agree with the voices, he is nothing! Jacob Wilkes is nothing at all, a fucking pointless waste of space! I scream out loud once more and punch the mirror and Jacob straight in the face. Confused, I wrestle with the thoughts that consume me from within. My fist is still clenched and blood gently emerges from the fresh wound across two of my knuckles. Turning back to the mirror I recoil at the sight of Jacob who is laughing maniacally. His eyes are now missing from his face, the sockets where they once were are evident, blood seeping effortlessly from the open cavities. Jacob laughs loudly and hauntingly as if he’s the only one in on the joke. Transfixed upon this vision, I am compelled to watch as Jacob places his bloodied fingers into the holes that once housed his eyes. His fingers grip at the loose skin and he proceeds to tear the flesh slowly and cleanly from his face, revealing bloodied sinew to the chorus of laughter. I resist the urge to vomit but accept the need to run, to get away from this moment and away from Jacob.
Bursting through the bathroom door I head straight for the stairs that lead to the exit. Despite the darkness, which is only fractionally assisted by an emergency light, I can just make out the shadowy outline of what surely must be another person, stood to the left of me. An arm reaches out towards me and startled by this presence, I lose my footing at the first step of the stairs and fall. Despite the downward trajectory being brief, I land hard on the surface, catching my elbow acutely on the final step’s protective metal edging. Pain is minimal but blood is instant and regular. Clasping my elbow tightly to stem the blood flow, my brain reconciles momentarily to advise that a dressing is necessary, meaning I should return to the office. Thanks for that input! On hearing the echo of laughter, I look up towards the top of the stairs to where it seems to originate from, but I can see nothing. Making to my feet cautiously, I feel somewhat dizzied from the effects of what I witnessed in the bathroom, the sight of the apparition combined with the subsequent fall. Tension is rising within me and I hear the laughter inside my head once more, at least I think it’s in my head this time, I’m really not sure. I hear the doors at the top of the stairs swing back and forth. No footsteps follow so I presume that the presence at the top has now retreated through the doors. I decide to continue downwards and make my return to the office in the opposite direction, taking the longer route.
If it was another person, a colleague perhaps at the top of the stairs, then thanks for the fucking help! I’m unnerved by the whole experience in the bathroom and the presence at the top of the stairs. Was it Jacob? No, that’s surely not possible, is it? Was he stood behind me in the bathroom? No, that can’t be right, even though he was definitely in the mirror. If it wasn’t a person what could it have been? I’m open minded to the possibility of ghosts but think it highly unlikely that it was. I dismiss the notion that it was anything other than my bastard of a mind tormenting me further, trying to break me completely. Guess what? You’re doing well, but I’m not giving up yet! Blood is seeping through the fingers on my right hand that are clasped tightly around the wound on my elbow, dripping periodically downwards. Crimson droplets burst outwards like a firework when they connect with the ground. I don’t have anything else upon me that would suitably repress the flow of blood. My right hand looks as if it’s been sliced wide open given the amount of blood now collected on it. I move my hand away from the elbow to reveal the jagged smile of the wound, that appears to be speaking silently to me. Whilst only approximately 4 inches long, it is quite angry and in need of attention. I’m beginning to feel nauseous at the sight of my own blood, mixed with high levels of anxiety resulting from the experiences of the day thus far. All in all, it’s been a pretty shit day!
The rain is constant. As I peer through the windows in the foyer, all I can see is the bleak greyness. There is no sunlight as such, it’s being forcibly restrained by the dark cloud hordes which seem intent on destroying it’s soul in order that darkness can reign throughout. The sunlight fights on though, it doesn’t appear to have given up or lost hope. It believes that it will break through. It knows it will eventually prevail by defeating the demons that attack it. I must follow it’s example, I must be strong. I must fight through my darkness and prevail. The sound of the rain’s intensity is amplified throughout the vast emptiness of the foyer. Reverbing all around me and drowning out any frequencies of lesser audio. However, I can still make out the sound of laughter, albeit faintly and with no possibility of establishing it’s whereabouts. But it is there, of that much I am certain. I notice movement of the door situated to the right of me, suggesting that it has been opened although I can see nothing to indicate passage through. An acrid smell almost overpowers my senses. Never before have I encountered such foulness and I am bewildered by it’s origin. I don’t have to wonder for long. As I turn to make my way to the door, I am confronted by a monstrous beast, the likes of which must have come from a damnation below hell! Standing easily in excess of 6 feet, the beast’s muscular frame appears to be reptilian. I recoil both physically and mentally, fear and anxiety consuming every fibre of my being. I freeze on the spot, fight or flight instincts have abandoned me. Slowly advancing towards me, the monster emits a shriek of seismic proportions whilst salivating profusely. “You are nothing Jacob, you are no more!” The beast’s loud, rasping voice instructs.
The monster reaches me and lashes out powerfully with it’s vast hand, striking me hard across my chest. The impact catapults me several feet backwards and I land painfully against a wall to a chorus of satisfied demonic laughter. Searing pain across my chest is excruciating. A quick glance downward confirms that there are three open wounds spurting blood angrily. The beast strides towards me once more, blood, presumably mine is dripping from three of the claws on it’s hand. I cannot move and I feel my breathing struggle whilst my consciousness draws weaker. If this is to be my end, then my last vision is of a powerful demon, the colour of night coming in for the kill. Outside lightening cracks, briefly illuminating the sky, revealing the beast to be upon me. “You are the nothing Jacob, you will die in pain” threatens the beast before it laughs, revealing rows of sharpened and jagged teeth. I need to fight back, but it’s pointless. This beast is too physically strong, too powerful and I couldn’t vest it even without my injuries. I’d need to be a superhero and not an average nothing. I try almost apologetically to make it up on to my feet, but it’s too much and I stumble weakly to my knees, much to the amusement of the beast.
I cough painfully, spewing blood in the process, Yeah I’m pretty damn fucked. I stare at the beast who is standing over me, a predator toying with his prey. I begin to laugh ironically, “I’m not Jacob you dumb fuck. Anyway, I’m not afraid to die. So come on, finish me you fucking piece of shit!” I laugh whilst coughing up more blood. I wait for the end, for the beast to strike me dead. My head is gone, overdosing on the cocktail of pain, fear, anxiety, insignificance and terror! These final moments are confusing and I’ve never felt so alone. I don’t want this. I don’t want to die! But I cannot fight this fear of the inevitable.
“Ha Ha Ha, you are nothing Jacob and you know this. You don’t need eyes to see that you are nothing” rasps the beast as it reaches for me. With a final act of defiance, I muster what remains of my strength and swing a clenched fist at the beast. It’s a futile and painful exercise for me anyway. The dark beast catches my hand without effort. Pulling it upwards and back against its allowed angle, the beast snaps it virtually in two away from the wrist exposing the bones and tendons from beneath. My pained screams almost drown out the sound of thunderous weather outside and I nearly feel the voluntary need to slip away from this life, unable to take the torture any more. I cannot focus on anything other than the incredible pain I am in, but I don’t want to die. My breathing is slow, debilitated from the attack and vision is becoming increasingly blurred. There’s no mistaking the beast though as looms closer, moving in for the kill.”Your soul is mine nothing!” crows the beast. “No, my soul belongs to another. It always has and always will! So fuck you!!!!” My final words are very eloquently put. I can’t comprehend what’s actually happening although there is only a little confusion. I saw Jacob rip off his own face and yet the beast calls me by that name. Has the monster mistaken me for Jacob or am I actually him?
An explosion of lightening illuminates the foyer as the rain continues to pelt the windows. The beast reaches out for me and I smile at it. “Die nothing, die!” It says as it clasps it’s clawed hands either side of my head. My time is up and I’m going to die. I stare at the beast silently as it rams it’s clawed thumbs into my eyes, forcing them back into the centre of my skull. Then, all is quiet. The pain has gone and all is peaceful!
Startled I awake, covered in sweat and with my heart beating relentlessly. My breathing struggles to regulate itself at first but eventually finds a sense of rhythm as I take in the surroundings. It hits me. I can see. I can actually see! My last recollection was that my eyes were taken from me by the beast. What the fuck is happening? Scared and confused, I make sense of the images before me, confirming that I am in the bedroom that I share with Nicola and I am alone in bed. Familiar sounds of aggressive rainfall can be heard against the windows supported by the bassline of thunder. The storm was or is real, I think? Sweat runs heavily from my brow as I struggle for recollection, attempting to make sense of what is happening. My mind is cloudy and pain shoots from the temples making everything seem grey and jagged. Is this the remnant of, or the introduction to, either a migraine or anxiety attack? I cannot be certain. I rise sharply from underneath the duvet and step out of the bed. My left arm is painful and numb from the sensation of pins and needles, suggesting that I’ve lay on it awkwardly. Urgently inspecting the elbow, I don’t see the mouth-like open wound smiling back at me. “What the fuck?” I mutter blankly. Confusion levels are running ten-fold. I distinctly recall gashing my elbow on the stairs and blood being everywhere, but where and when did this happen?
The door immediately to my right opens quickly and an angel dressed in a flowing white gown walks though it. She instantly recognises my face and makes her way to me. “Jacob my darling, are you ok? You were tossing and turning in bed last night and you looked in so much pain again. Oh baby, my troubled and precious one.” Her words are soft like silk and they sooth me. She embraces me tightly, tenderly and I can feel the love. Embracing her tightly and greedily, I kiss her neck, pulling her closer still until she is more or less part of me. I cry unreservedly in her arms and she allows it, stroking my head gently to encourage the exorcism of emotion. “Nicola, what the fuck is wrong with me?” I ask painfully. “There’s nothing wrong with you baby. It’s ok, you just had a really terrible nightmare. But it’s ok Jacob, I’m here.” She tries her best to reassure me and her love is felt wholeheartedly. “Talk to me Jacob, you know that you can. You were so animated in your sleep I was getting scared. I tried to wake you but you were gone so deeply. Did you take your medication before bed?” she questions softly. “I, I, I don’t know what was happening and I’m not sure if I did take my meds. Did I? Can’t remember. Everything’s a blank again and now my head fucking kills.” I reply meekly. I’m confused still and my head is spinning with noise, blurred images and pain. I feel ashamed and guilty for upsetting Nicola like this, I don’t want her to suffer. She holds me tightly and whispers “I love you” in my ear and she tells me that it’s for all eternity and that her soul is mine. How I love her with a passion. The sensation of love, of being alive, being wanted and being something washes through me, cleansing as it goes.
Lightening strikes outside once more, illuminating the bedroom with a pale electric blue colour. Nicola clenches me tightly. My mind seems clearer and provides some order of last nights events. I play them back and I am disturbed by them. I wish I could tell Nicola about the beast and how it sliced open my stomach and removed my eyes. How I seemed to visualise my own death. How I witnessed Jacob, my own reflection, removing my own face. But how the fuck could I tell her any of that? What would she think of me? Surely if she heard this horror story she’d freak out and maybe even leave me? No, the love I feel from her powerful embrace tells me otherwise and I begin talking and relaying the events from last night as I saw them. During the tale, she winces a couple of times and squeezes me tightly. Her eyes fill as she hears the torture that I went through. “I love you Jacob and I always will. You are something! You’re a husband, father, lover and my eternal soulmate!” Boasts Nicola proudly and I reciprocate in kind. I feel so alive and I really do feel like something!
We start to kiss passionately and fall backwards onto the bed. Nicola is on top of me and I pull her closely, tugging at her clothing to loosen it. The top of her long white gown opens and falls down from her shoulders. She sits upright and begins to pull my t-shirt upwards away from body. She throws my shirt over her shoulder, staring lustfully at my chest. Then she screams loudly and fearfully. She jumps away from me fighting to keep hold of her gown. I jump up in her direction. She cries and points at me, startled and visibly frightened. “What the fuck is that across your stomach? What the fuck is going on Jacob?” She demands hysterically. I look down at my naked torso to inspect, instantly horrified and disturbed by what I’ve seen. For there are three long, jagged and recently healed scars! They look as if they’ve been left by something sharp, like a hunting knife or more accurately, claws!
Featured art courtesy of Chris Favero