where the bad kids go
I awoke to my closet door fully opened.
My night had contained a dreadful, never ending abyss that wrapped around my body and clogged my throat so that I couldn’t scream. Anguished cries whirled through my ears and rattled inside my head. They were inhuman, distorted by shredded vocal cords and muffled from the sticky blackness that my paralyzed body floated in. I could feel thousands of hands grabbing at my skin and were cold as clay, or sometimes wet with something warm. Sharp hisses of whispers constantly spat in my ears, incomprehensible or insulting. My ears rang from the constant torture of sounds I never knew a human being could make; grotesque gurgles and sickening splatters that were too grisly for the imagination to create. The pleads to God, the wails of terror, the screams of misery surrounded me with the dark. Where did all of it come from? How could my mind conjure up such a horrific nightmare? Was it a dream?
I threw out whatever alcohol remained. I ignored the voices that penetrated my subconscious, no matter how much they begged and pleaded for me to listen. They promised me good things. They said I’d be happy, that I’d find that perfect someone, that I’d succeed in all of my goals. That I’d grow up to be a somebody.
I read my mother’s letter again and again, straining through the voices that screamed and cried in my head.
Last night, I was awake when It walked out from the darkness. I couldn’t move. It crawled from the end of my bed and laid on top of me...
The instant replayed in my head as The Thing slunk out from the empty closet. It was a chameleon, moving so painfully slow and carefully, though not so much to sneak up on Its prey but because It knew that It could induce a fear so powerful that the victim would be frozen in place.
I made a promise to myself to never sleep in that bedroom again and continued studying the note.
...It’s this stupid house. It’s a vessel that holds something else inside, and it will continue to bring you underneath its roof until it swallows you whole. I have to destroy It.
My childhood nightmare came to mind, and I imagined the house slowly digesting me through the carpet and how it groaned in pleasure as it absorbed my soul. I thought of how every time I’d stepped off the premises of the house, a magnet had tugged me back inside of its walls with a feeling in my gut that told me to stay in the house. I thought of the coincidence of having the same nightmare the morning I learned about my mother’s suicide, and I started to believe that maybe it wasn’t much of a coincidence after all.
If some...thing really dwelled in the darkest corners of this house, It tormented my mother until she killed herself, and then It had come after me. The house knew every secret of mine, and it knew exactly how to lure me in. The house really was alive. It would slowly consume me until I would break down and commit the same atrocity as my mother.
I obsessed over her death. Suicide by dumping herself in gasoline and lighting herself on fire. She deserved it. Was it really a suicide? I imagined her in a trance as she walked down the basement stairs carrying a canister of gasoline, guided by invisible strings that the house carried. And then she stood at the mouth of the crawlspace, and…
I looked at the letter again.
...I was standing at the crawlspace looking into it. I think It lives down there...
The terrible memory of the very last time that I was trapped in that crawlspace flashed in my head. I’d thought that my child imagination and the terror that my mother had unleashed upon me mixed together to create a monster inside the crawlspace, that it wasn’t real. But it was. And she knew.
I reread one line from the note over and over again. I have to destroy It. I have to destroy It. My mother’s voice overtook the one in my head. Something clicked.
She didn’t commit suicide. She tried to burn the house down, starting at the basement crawlspace. To destroy It.
I drove to the gas station down the street and filled up two 10-gallon canisters. The sun started to set as I topped the second canister and threw it into the trunk of my car. The voices in my head were absent. I was away from the house. For once, It didn’t call back to me.
I called Marco on the drive home and it went straight to voicemail. That wasn’t surprising considering what I’d said to him, but I had to tell him my plan. I needed his help.
Hey...It’s Jesse...I want to apologize for what I said the other day. That wasn’t me. I’m sure you know that...I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we haven’t had the chance to catch up. It’s been a really stressful two weeks for me. I’m sure you know that as well…
I’m going to sound crazy when I say this, but you have to believe me. Please, believe me, ‘cause you’re the only person who I can talk to about it. Something isn’t right. It’s this house, Marco. It took my mom, and now It’s coming after me. It...It won’t leave me alone. And there’s something in It that won’t stop until It takes me, too. I have to do this, Marco. It’s the only way to stop It. The voices. The hate.
I’m going to burn It down, Marco. The house. It’s the only way to stop It. I have to destroy It.