He finishes the last paragraph and hits the period button. He moves the mouse cursor over to the file tab and clicks it, moves the cursor down to "save" and confirms the choice. It is very late. His newest project, his opus, is finished, and he leans back and sighs, relieved and anguished at the same time. He has worked on it for over two years, and feels like there is nothing else for him to do. No more ideas, no more situations, no more inspiration. The story is finished, and so is his creativity.
At first, he is happy. The writing of the opus has exhausted him beyond recognition, leading to many episodes of sorrow, anger and despair. He is free. On the other hand, this means that he will not be able to do what he loves. Write. If he cannot write, he cannot be happy. The work will surely earn him money, more than he could ever dream of. He will not worry about it ever again. Ever. The word tastes good in his mouth, and he rolls it around with his tongue some more before dropping his jaw in realisation as he remembers that he will not write again. Ever.
He sits in front of his screen, tears of happiness and sorrow flowing down his cheeks. He looks at his expensive desk. Oak, solid oak with drawers that can be pulled out without as much as a creak. His floor, covered in wood panel, expensive. Everything in his study, his bookcase, the books themselves, the lamps…everything. Bought with money he has earned with his writing. The Persian carpet, bought on a whim as he browsed the World Wide Web. The chandelier, an impulse buy while waiting for his brother in a store somewhere in Paris.
He rests his head in his hands. What will he do now that he cannot write anymore? Will he travel the world? Will he buy a larger abode? Will he liberate his friends and relatives of their financial difficulties that he could do nothing about before, apart from wondering how they got in them to begin with? Will he ever touch a keyboard again? Would it not feel like betrayal after so many years of working together to create wonderful worlds and people?
The screen glows ominously, mocking him in his misery. He glares at it. How dares it to be amused by his feelings? How dares it to glow so much it hurts his blurry eyes? He turns it off, his hand shaking as he lowers it to his lap, joining the other. He wipes his face with his white shirt sleeve. It's over. The panic attack is over, and he has come out of it stronger yet again. He turns the screen on again and exits the writing program properly, but not before setting the computer to "print". He hears the large printer under the stairs whirring to life and starting to churn out paper at speeds that normal printers could only hope to achieve
He starts his internet browser and starts surfing on the information superhighway. He finds something to laugh about, something to glower about and something to cry about. He needs to know how emotions feel so his characters can be as real as possible.
He can write again, he has realised, and has no intention of stopping, his mind already whirring with new characters and places, names and plots. His opus, his most horrifying and frightening piece to date, has already reached halfway in the printing process by the time he looks at the status bar. He grins and goes back to his surfing. A lingering feeling of eeriness is still in his heart, a remnant of his previous writing. He makes no secret of it; he is scared of his own stories. They frighten him and have even given him nightmares at times, and the Opus – he likes to capitalize words in his head – is most likely one of the nightmare-inducing ones. If he really is as good as he believes he is, perhaps he will even experience night terrors.
He looks at pages about ghosts and goblins, on witches and devils, demons and angels…there is no limit to what he finds interesting. Even these frighten him somewhat, the personal tales of encounters, alleged "real" photographs of the things and even other fictional tales. He absorbs it all, moulds it in his mind to fit in with whatever story he is forming in his imagination. He has been accused of plagiarism before, but he has always exposed the accusers of jealousy of his talent or just plain madness or nitpicking. Sure, many of his novels contain similarities with others, but they do not realise that he does indeed respect others' writing and tries his hardest not to step on their toes.
He laughs at a particularly amusing fake of a spirit in the process of walking down a stairwell. He can see the dark edges where the vaguely female shape has been drawn on the photo. He makes a humming sound and opens his picture manipulation software and wonders if he cannot make a better fake. He decides to try to recreate a scene from one of his novels and spends the next thirty minutes looking for a fitting picture before he gives up and takes a digital photo of the corridor outside his study, turning off the lights for the added effect. He grins as he uploads the photo on his computer and gets to work. He finds a good picture of a woman, looking very similar to his creation in words.
It takes time, but little by little, he creates a fake picture of an anguished spirit in desperate search for a way to redeem itself so it can move on. He is not a religious man, and neither does he believe in ghosts. A theory of his concerning the subject explores the possibility of a separate realm or dimension that the spirits of the fallen occupy. That is, if ghosts actually exists, which they obviously do not. They make good reading material though. He is convinced he can write more stories, he just needs a few weeks of vacation, a chance to rest and recuperate from over two years of constant writing.
The Opus has been printed out completely, and the large printer gently falls asleep, lights shutting down. He leans back for a second, relishing in the feeling of completeness. Surely, he thinks, this is the feeling that an architect experiences when he has finished a building and seen it built, or a proud parent as he gazes at his newborn for the first time.
He does not let himself relax too much, lest he fall asleep. He has a fake to complete. Another twenty minutes pass by before he clicks "save" and leans back yet again to look at his creation. A female shape, stretching its arms upwards, mouth frozen in a horrified scream at the end of a dark corridor in front of a pitch black window.
No. He sees that the window is not completely pitch black. There is something there. It is pitch black, but he can still see something in the blackness. He shakes his head and closes the program. He rubs his eyes and swivels his chair to the large window behind his desk so he can look into his large garden from above. He sees nothing. He opens a hidden panel on his desk and flicks a switch. Large lamps come to life all over the yard, illuminating gravel paths and a gazebo. He can see his decorative pond containing several Koi fishes. He really understands that he is a successful writer when he sees his garden. He loves his garden. He swivels around again and surfs the web some more, neglecting to switch the lights off again. He can afford the power bill.
He shuts the lights off anyway. No sense in wasting power when the globe is always desperate for more. Besides, it does play havoc with both nocturnal and non-nocturnal animals' habits. He really doesn't need an owl eating a mouse outside his window during the day when he's trying to write.
He shuts the door to his study and turns around to make for his bedroom at the end of the hallway. Did he forget to turn the lights back on? No matter, he was going to shut them off in any case. He pads softly down the hallway, his mind slowly becoming aware that he was approaching the window in front of which he had placed his "ghost". He feels his neck hairs stand up as it comes closer and closer, his imagination placing images and sounds in his awareness. He blocks them, ridiculing himself for even thinking such thoughts. The ghost is fake, just like his stories, just like everything spiritual in general. The world is made up of cold, hard, scientific facts.
He scoffs at his reflection in the window, the partially covered moon providing the bare minimum of light required for this. He opens the door to his bedroom, steps inside and closes it. He flicks the switch for the lights, and they blink to life. It is a large bedroom, with the actual bed on a raised dais close to a wall. He likes to sleep knowing that no one or nothing can sneak up on him from behind. At this too, he scoffs. Childish habits remaining from his youth. The small bathroom provides just enough space for the necessities, and he likes it that way. A bathroom's a bathroom, and nothing more.
Having brushed his teeth, he undresses and slips into the covers, sighing in content at the soft touch of the sheets and the embrace of his pillow. He flicks the switch on his nightstand and the lights die away, leaving the room and its occupant in complete darkness. He closes his eyes and sighs again, turning on to his side to get comfortable in preparation of a good night's sleep.
He does not fall asleep. He realises this after fifteen minutes, and sits up and turns on the lights. On his nightstand lies a book by a competitive writer. He has to admit, it is a good story, and has him reading the next page, and next page, and the next one after that frequently. He picks it up and starts reading, soon enough sinking into the semi-conscious "reading mode" that he is quite aware of. While in this mode, he hardly registers anything that happens around him. This, though, he registers.
A large bang from the corridor makes him jump in his bed and fling the book from his hands, his eyes focusing themselves on the closed door to the hall. He listens. Nothing. Wondering if he imagined it because he was reading or it came from outside, he sits some more, sweat starting to wet his forehead. Deciding that wondering would just be ridiculous, he gets out of the bed and opens the door, poking his head out in the hallway. The difference in light and the time it takes for his pupils to re-adjust makes it impossible to see, and it takes some seconds for him to get a complete picture. There's nothing in the hallway. He does what his characters always do in a situation like this. He shrugs and goes back to bed, making sure to lock the bedroom door. Just in case, he thinks. He picks up the thrown book and starts reading again, this time making sure not to fall too deep into his trance.
Another bang, louder this time. He flies from bed and runs to the door, unlocking and hurling it open in a single, hurried motion that would hardly be seen if someone else had been there. The hallway is empty once again. He laughs slightly to himself, feeling foolish. Surely, he must be hearing things that are not there. He starts to close the door again, but notices something. The door to his study is open. Not widely, of course, only by a crack, but he remembers clearly that he closed it firmly before going to bed. He grumbles to himself, realising that he must have failed in doing so and a breeze from an open window in there must have blown it open and caused it to bang against the frame. It slips from his mind that he had never opened the window in his study.
He closes the door and turns to his bedroom door before he is gripped by an urge for something to drink, something fizzy. Remembering the six-pack of Coke he has in his refrigerator, he turns around yet again and descends to the first floor. The spacious kitchen seems to take an eternity to cross, but he finally makes it to the cold cabinet and opens it. He grabs a can and opens it, drinking the contents with loud slurps. Throwing the can in the trash can, he heads for the stairs again, sure now that the caffeine in the soda will keep him awake all night. He does not care. Halfway up the stairs, the bang rings out again louder than ever, prompting him to run up the remaining steps, rounding the corner to his hallway.
His study door is open. Again. Instead of simply closing it this time, he opens it completely and turns on the light. Checking the room, he makes sure that all the windows are shut and that his computer is off. Satisfied and slightly puzzled, he shuts off the light and is alerted by continuing illumination behind him. He turns around and finds – to his surprise – that the garden lights are on. Now slightly unnerved, he turns them off. Just as the lights gave their final jolt of light, he saw something move by the koi pond. He hastily turns the lights on again, but whatever it was is gone by the time the pond can be seen again. The moon is hidden by clouds, providing no helping light whatsoever now. Rubbing his eyes again, he turns the light off and closes the door to his study and returns to his bedroom.
He tries to hard to sleep, but cannot. Something gnaws at the corners of his mind, willing him awake. It tries to catch his attention, but is butted out of the way by his other thoughts. It's his defence against fear. His only defence.
Another bang exploded in the hallway, but this time he decides that he has had enough. He does not get up; he only shuts his harder, mumbling under his breath. Another bang follows the newest, this one seemingly more urgent, more desperate. It is followed by another. And another. Again and again, the slamming and banging in the hallway continues, making him mumble louder and louder, eventually shouting to drown the horrible sound out. It stops, and he sinks back into the bed, exhausted and terrified. He slowly opens his eyes and realises his vision is extremely bleary, as if he has just woken up. Maybe it was all a dream?
He opens the door to the hallway and peeks out yet again. The door to his study is closed. He breathes out, relieved. Upon closing the bedroom door, another bang rings out, making him jump momentarily away from the door before he rips it open. The door to his study is flapping open and closed. Something moves at the other end of the hallway. He cannot see what it is, for the darkness is too deep, but he can see two glowing red dots, hovering a few feet off the floor. He slams the bedroom door shut and locks it. His heart beating wildly, he barricades the door with a chair, pushing the back up against the knob, preventing it from being turned.
He becomes aware of something behind. Turning around, he sees nothing. The banging has stopped, but he does not remove the chair. Barricading the bathroom door as well, he retreats to his bed, exhaustion making its horrible presence known as collapses among the sheets. Thankful for the silence, he closes his eyes, and falls asleep.
Something is wrong. He opens his eyes again, and slowly pans his eyes around the room. The chair is still blocking the bathroom door. The chair blocking the hallway door is gone, and the door itself is ajar. He sits up quickly, but is paralyzed with fear when he sees that the chair is standing directly in front of the bed, outlined against the gigantic window. It is a highly ornate chair, delicately cut and beautifully decorated. Something is sitting in it. He does not see what it is, for it has no form. It is just…something. A feeling of absolute malice fills the room.
He stares at it. It stares back. The study door starts banging again. Sweat pours down his face, his entire body soaked with the salty water. An eternity seems to pass as the two stare at each other. He feels like he is staring into the face of something that should not be allowed to walk this earth, and he now knows that what he writes is nothing compared to the sheer terror that this being channels into his soul.
Time passes. He takes a quick glance at the clock behind the chair. Daybreak is soon. A hissing sound emanates from the being, and the two red dots appear where he believes its head to be. The sky brightens outside the window along with the room. The first few rays of the sun crawl over the hills in the distance, and the two dots vanish, and along with them, his disability to move. He immediately falls asleep.
Some days pass by, and he still feels terrified at night. He does not know it yet, but as he does more and more research, he will discover that what visited him that night and held him in its terror grip, was none other than the Beast itself. Why it did so, he will never know, but he will hope and pray that it never returns.