I wrote this just now; I awoke early, scared of snakes. A little background: a long time ago, probably in early middle school or late elementary school, I dreamed I had found a rattlesnake, put it in a box, and put him in my closet. Many years later, I awoke terrified that the dream was real, and that I still had a starving, and probably angry, rattlesnake infesting my closet, just waiting for me to stumble upon it, at which point it would kill me. I awoke tonight with the memories of that first acute fear heavy upon me, and felt that it would do me some good to write it out. The developed piece is of a style I don’t normally use, but it felt right in this case; honestly, H.P. Lovecraft was much on my mind the entire time, despite the fact that I have not ever read any of his work. But I’ve played enough games of Arkham Horror and remember enough of the mood in Eternal Darkness to get a sense of what he’s like, and I felt, in a sense, that this was my attempt to do something similar. This is what came of it.
I arise early. For the first time in many years, the fear of them has entered my bones.
It has been a long time since this terror of the early morning slipped into me, a slow wakefulness, a slow mindfulness that one of them might finally repay my ancient, ephemeral kindness by slipping unnoticed and unheard into my bedroom, climb with her ancient arts of stealth up my bedpost, interject himself—unobtrusive as morning light creeping beneath a windowshade—between the covers and the mattress, and kiss me ever-so-gently into the full glory of the morning. But it entered me again, like an old and terrible friend, the sort of friend one makes but never likes: when, as a tormented and tormenting member of the childhood class, one is young and still learning what it means to laugh, one discovers someone who knows something about them as well, and a bond is forged that runs only as deep as a ridge of paper diamonds rubbed against a rock.
I am certain I dreamed this fear into existence, but I do not know for certain if anything I am about to say is true. The uncertainty of my own certainty on this matter provides much of the substance of my fear, I am sure. At some point in my childhood, perhaps after the stage of wide-eyed awe at every rock, but before leaving home with any sense of finality, I became convinced that I had brought them in. The details are murky, but I know I placed them somewhere, maybe just one of them, but maybe as many as three. (The number does not matter; as with all such things, they breed; even one of them may become many if given time and dis-reflection). The closet, perhaps, it seemed appropriate then. It was a place to keep many things, so why not these? They would find a nest there, and become more.
I had, by then, passed the years of my life when the closet contained monstrous horrors; I had slept so long with my closet door open that it had ceased to be a place of fright for me. I was more horrified of the coats hanging in the hallway just outside my door, the way in the light of the bathroom seemed to shine on them in just the right way. At some point every night, if I could stir myself to look, the coats had seemed to slither themselves together into one form, and it seemed to move of its own will. Every time its movement was the same: it would turn its countenance toward me, and stare. And then, with the object of its chilling regard in view, it would smile.
But I the fear that is in me now is not of old coats transforming their dimly imagined selves into sepulchral phantasms. It is, instead, the memory of the night I awoke, certain as I was born that they were in the closet, and they were angry. I had brought them in, for reasons that now I do not understand; I guess that maybe it was morbid fascination, the tiny thrill of alarm that strikes as a faint echo of ecstatic communion when encountering something dangerous, surviving a car accident, touching one of them along its ridged belly. Maybe for the same reason, they had slept as icons pinned to my wall for many years prior; the rare nights my brother made use of my quarters when I was away, he would remove them or cover them with thick fabric, so as not to have their twisted shapes stare down on him. Perhaps he feared them as I did that rack of coats; perhaps he feared that they might smile.
But that night I awoke afraid, for I realized it had been many months since they had become my friends in the dark. And in those many months, they had been hungry. Perhaps instead of breeding, they had turned on each other one by one. And now perhaps one, victorious champion, lay with all its meditations set on what lay beyond the confines of the world in which it resided, the bag, the box in which it had found itself transported from the world of its own habitat to the inner realm of endless night.
I was afraid because I knew then how weak my craft was, for whatever it (and any brothers and sisters it might have consumed) had been placed in was surely too weak to hold it. I had brought it in—if indeed I did bring it in, on this point my mind is hazy. If this is indeed merely nightly ghast or the remnants of a sordid dream, then perhaps I relate not the genesis of the fear, but rather the birth of a personal mythology—and my skill at containing its horror was not great. It was only a matter of time before this hoary champion stirred itself to loose its bonds, to walk again on legs that would carry it out of bondage in vengeance against its neglectful master.
I have said, quite carefully, that the fear is not purely of them. I believe now, as I sit by my window writing these words with the daylight stirring itself and the birds chirping, that indeed this dread that inhabited my body not an hour ago is based on a misremembered dream. I never really did bring them into my house—what a fool thing to do! I merely dreamed I did, and on the night of that same dream I awoke in terror, feeling that I had done the deed months ago and now the god I ignored was ready to move against me. I say, rather, that the fear is of the memory of that first morning when all these fearsome thoughts first rose within me. I fear this memory, for I have moved many times since that gruesome birth, and yet still its placental wrappings enter my mind at odd hours. Eleven times have I gathered boxes in hand and moved my household since the day I awoke with this fear, and yet now it gathers within me again.
The fear has left me now. I must admit, I feel silly to have even felt the need to write any of it down. But still…but still I wonder what it is I must have done, to have dreamt so great a terror, and a part of me still wonders if it was dreamt at all. I have not, after all, ever really developed the courage to explore that closet to my satisfaction. Perhaps in it there really is a bag filled with skeletal nightmares and several pounds of flesh-become-dust. Or perhaps there are only portfolios of memories, reminders of a long time ago, photographs of what life was like before I dreamed their existence into my being.