The world is a scary place. Every day we’re forced to make choices, no matter how small, that may be leading us along a new path. Whether that path is heading towards something good, like a promotion or meeting some special, or towards something bad, like an accident, or even death, we can never know. In the end, that’s possibly the scariest thing of all.
Despite the terror, you’ve all be helping me to shape #YourHorror, an interactive horror story, for the last three months. I had no idea how the story was going to play out, but we made it to the finale and our female protagonist made it all the way with us. Who’d have thought?
Thank you for the endless support and votes over the last three months. I quite literally couldn’t have done it without you. Now, lock the doors, turn off all the lights, and prepare yourself for the last chapter of the horror story you helped to create.
Did you definitely lock the door?
She slumped forward, her body seeming to weigh more as the blood gushed from the gashes in her wrists. It didn’t make sense, but it was last thing she cared about.
The sea of faces around her continued to smile and whoop and pray – of course, they had reason to be happy – the sands of time were flying upwards for them, grain by grain. All it took was the death of a stranger.
(Not without a fight, you bastards.)
Teeth gritted, she struggled against the straps restraining her. Her entire body shook, and internally she screamed. She’d been expecting no reward for her efforts.
The sound of fabric tearing gave her renewed strength.
Though she couldn’t be sure, she thought that the strap on her right wrist was gradually giving more freedom. It was minimal, only a few millimetres, but each pull made her even more sure that it wasn’t imaginary.
As the blood inside her lowered, so did her will to fight. She had the strength for one last struggle. If she couldn’t tear through the strap this time, she was a good as dead. Her blood would continue to depart from her body while, all around her, the beginnings of a joyous celebration was taking place.
(Fuck that noise.)
She gritted her teeth, eyes wide, bloodshot, a vein throbbing in her neck, and pulled with all her might.
(Yes. Yes. Come on.)
The strap was giving. Slowly.
(Just a bit more.)
At last, just when she thought she was going to collapse back against what would be her final resting place, her right arm tore free. Despite being surrounded by the very people that were bleeding her like a stuck pig, it took everything she had not to celebrate. No-one seemed to have noticed what she was up to.
With a hand that was fast becoming numb, slick with her own blood, she managed to undo the strap holding her left arm down. As quietly as possible, she reached down and undid the straps on her ankles, holding onto the contraption so that she didn’t fall to the floor.
It somewhat resembled a cross, though it was tipped back slightly and had a small rest for feet at the bottom. Presumably, this took some of the weight off whatever sacrifice the pensioners brought here while they tied them down. The thought of the countless others that might have been here before her made her feel queasy. No time to worry about that now.
They may not yet have noticed that she was free, or perhaps didn’t even care, since she’d surely bleed to death before long. Either way, she needed a plan. She still thought she could fight a few of the greys off, if it came to it, but they were getting younger with each passing drop of blood. She needed a weapon.
A number of urns were littered around near her feet, discarded now that the mirror copy had been summoned to do their bidding…
(Traitorous bitch. Where even was it?)
For a second, she’d completely forgotten about the existence of her glassy doppelgänger. Surprising, considering that it was liking a living blade with her own face. She turned, and in an instant, she was looking into that very face. Without a sound, her copy was stalking towards her.
If she hesitated, she died. She grabbed for the nearest urn. It was heavier than she’d thought, made of a thick clay, and still contained the lumpy dregs of whatever they had used to scrawl the markings around her. Of course, she knew what it was, but that was a flashback for another day, if there was one.
The copy was headed straight for her. She raised the urn above her head with shaky arms, feeling the occasional pit-pat of her own blood on her skin. At the last second, when the copy reached out with its razor-sharp talons, she smashed the urn down on its face. She thought she’d seen some semblance of sorrow in its eyes, but then it was shattered. Thousands of shards of glass glittered in the light. All eyes were on her.
She sunk to the floor. Adrenaline could only do so much, and she felt so empty.
(This is really it. I can’t fight off 100 OAPs on a good day, let alone without any blood. Could I even forgive myself after punching 20 Dorises in the face?)
She thought she could, given the circumstances. The circle around her began to close, and her eyelids closed with it. She didn’t have enough life left in her veins to even give a fuck what happened next. Then she got bored.
(I know they’re old, but… what’s taking so long?)
She opened her eyes.
(White. So white. Am… am I dead?)
She was lying down.
No. It was much too stiff to be a cloud, and a clinical smell stung at her nostrils.
She sat up. Alive, perhaps, but where was she?
All around her, white. White walls, a white chair, a white toilet and sink, a white door. Below her, a bed, wrapped in thin, white sheets. At the back of the room, high up, a barred window.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and hesitated before placing her feet onto the floor, as if she didn’t really believe what she was seeing. The floor could be lava. Probably was. Or not… Her toes touched the cold floor, also white.
The door was the obvious option, but of course, it was locked. Maybe she could reach the window by standing on the chair?
When she reached for the chair, she caught a glimpse of her wrists. Ugly scars twisted their way upwards. Though the sight of them made her skin crawl, she couldn’t help but prefer them to the open wounds she’d had only a few moments ago. Or, at least she thought it was a few moments ago — the scars on her wrists said otherwise.
After running her fingers over the scar tissues on her wrists for a while, she snapped back to the task at hand. She needed to know where she was. The chair was scraped over to the window, and she could just about see out when she wrapped her hands around the bars and stood on her toes.
Outside was the polar opposite to the clinical interior; green upon green. Trees, flowers and grass, interspersed with dots of white. These dots of white were people, dressed in white attire. Some were gardening, being watched over by a couple of stern looking women. Others were being wheeled around, limp, a faraway look in their eyes. No matter what they were doing, someone was always nearby, watching them, helping them, controlling them.
(An asylum… No, I’m not ill. I don’t belong here. What did they do? What have they done to me? I need to get out. I need to get out now.)
She wanted to scream out the window until her lungs burst:
“I don’t belong here. I’m completely sane. Let me out.”
What would be the point? Surely everyone in here was screaming the same thing? No-one sounded crazier than when they had to tell someone that they were sane.
As if to prove her point, wails erupted from the room next door, shortly followed by a soft thump. Then another, and another.
She almost wished the wails would start again. They never did, and she almost collapsed from the chair to the bed.
She pulled the sheets from the bed and worked away on them at a relaxed pace. If anyone had walked by, they might have thought that she was shaping them into some sort of swan or flower, like fancy hotels did for their guests.
When her hands finally stopped working, what she held was much darker. A tired smile twitched at the corner of her lips. If it was the last thing she ever did, it was a damn fine noose.
In the end, the final choice would be up to her. She couldn’t even be sure whether anything that had happened up to this point had been real or just a figment of her imagination, but it didn’t matter anymore.
She climbed back onto the chair, sheet in hand, and tied one end around the window bars. They seemed sturdy enough. The other end looped over her head and around her neck, which itched under the scratchy material. It wouldn’t bother her for long.
Even though she would be grateful to be free of the nonsensical terror that had been the last few days, her eyes welled up at the thought of the people she’d be leaving behind. Her parents. Her friends. They would all just continue with their lives, meeting new people, creating new memories, living.
She wondered how her life might have panned out, in the end.
(Would I have been successful? Would I have found someone who made me laugh, smile, cry, fought with me, pissed me off, understood me, even loved me? Could we have had a couple of children one day? Maybe a little cottage in the countryside, where we’d read together over a pot of coffee in the morning, radio playing softly into the kitchen while the kids watched cartoons in the living room.)
Another tired smile twitched at her lips.
(Yeah. I think I would have liked that. In another life.)
She squeezed her eyes shut, unable to fight the spark in her that hoped against everything that life would return to normal when she awoke on the other side.
(Wherever you are, Mum, Dad… I’m so sorry.)
The chair clattered to the floor.
Eyes rolled backwards.
Black spots crowded her vision.
Everything was disappearing down a welcome, dark tunnel.
Her rasps slowed.
The dance was ending. Gladly, ending.
In the darkness, voices. Softly spoken, calming.
(I did it.)
Somewhere in the dark, she felt herself smile.
“Can you hear me?”
She couldn’t answer. A sense of calm embraced her too fully for her mouth to form words. In order to see the person with such a kind voice, she begrudgingly found her way out of the dark.
So much white.
A man wearing a white coat looked down at her, a chart in his hand. A doctor.
(No. It can’t be.)
“Good, you’re awake. You had us worried there.” He smiled down at her, his patient, strapped to the bed.
Her neck was a deep purple, and if she’d had enough energy to actually speak, her throat would be too sore to do so.
“What were you thinking? There was no need for all of that. This is a nice place. A place where we can keep you safe. A place where no-one needs to worry about how you’re doing, because you’re being looked after.”
All she could do was look up at him.
“I know it’s hard to understand right now, but you’re going to be okay. Everyone has bad days, and this was one of your worst. It will get better from here, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.”
She shook her head, hearing the pillow rustle behind her.
(No. It’s not like that.)
“You’re safe now.”
In her dazed state, she wanted to believe him. Almost did.
He began flicking through her chart, filled with information and charts that shouldn’t have existed, and that’s when she saw it. It made her blood run cold. Beneath the sleeve, on his right wrist, a small tattoo. It was faded, half-hidden, but she’d have recognised it anywhere. She’d seen it first in a letter, then in a nightmare of fire and bugs, and it had haunted her every waking thought since.
It was the symbol for madness.
She tried to twist and squirm from her place on the bed, but she was held firm.
The doctor followed her line of sight and smiled, pulling his sleeve over his wrist, and placing the chart down on the side of the bed.
“Now, now – don’t get yourself all worked up. Like I said, we’re going to be with you every… step… of the way.” He chuckled. “I feel like it’s going to be a long, long journey.”
Then he picked up the chart and left the room.
She tried to scream, but she was too weak. Her throat burned from her failed attempt to escape it all. Her eyes stung from the barrage of tears that flooded them. Her hands, bloodied from clawing at her noose, scratched and pulled at the sheet. Helpless.
When she heard a key turn in the door, she stopped struggling. Outside, she could hear the wind whistling through the trees, taunting her with memories of afternoons spent in a park, reading. Inside, she lay strapped to a bed. Sore. Exhausted. Broken.
Through blurry eyes, she stared up at a ceiling that she knew would be the backdrop for the rest of her life. If she was lucky, it wouldn’t be a long one, but she didn’t really think she had a choice in the matter. After all, someone else had been deciding her fate from the beginning.