Before he passed, my husband drove school buses for a living.
His name was Philip Wesley Gilbert, and we met when we were eighteen. While most boys his age were too busy smoking cigarettes and trying to come off as bad to the bone, Phil spent his time helping his elderly neighbor bake food for her grandchildren.
I was the new girl in town, and would be spending my last semester of high school there before leaving for college. I lived right across from Phil. I'd peek through my blinds and watch everyday as he left his home and strolled on into the one next door. Call me creepy, but he was a good-looking young man, and I was a lonely young lady.
I dreaded going to school each morning because I was constantly swarmed by wanna-be greasers who wouldn't quit calling me "sugar" and "baby" in an attempt to try and land a date. I was never flattered. I sure as hell wasn't "sugar", I wasn't a damn carbohydrate. Nor was I a "baby", I was a grown woman. Still, those bad-to-the-bone boys would call me that and other cute little names because they never remembered my real one. Katherine.
Only Phil did.
It was a couple days after graduation, and I was sitting in my bedroom with the window open, my radio tuned to Elvis, and I was painting my toenails a light pink color, suitable for the upcoming summer season. I heard some noises coming from Phil's house, so I reached to turn the radio off. Without the extra noise, I could tell that there was a domestic dispute going on. Curious and worried, I listened in to the best of my ability, but I was unable to decipher what the folks inside were fighting about.
Eventually, Phil stomped out of the front door, and his father's head poked out from the frame. "That's right! Run off to Florence's house!" he yelled. "You love her more than your own grandmother!"
Phil didn't respond or look back. He just trudged across the lawn, and towards Florence's home. He knocked on the door, and the frail, old lady opened it. Even from where I was sitting, I could see her eyes light up. "Phil!" she exclaimed. "I'm so happy you've come. I haven't been feeling all that well today. I was about to walk over to your home, but I don't even know if I could make it that far without losing my breath."
"Why didn't you just use your telephone to call me up?" Phil asked. "I'm always right by it in case you need anything."
"Well," she began to explain, "Barney was sleeping on the table where it sits. Yesterday morning, somebody called, and the ringing startled him so much he knocked himself and the telephone right off the table. Broke the thing completely."
"I'll see if I can fix it." Phil offered, "Let's go inside."
And inside they went.
I turned the radio back on and continued painting my nails. I'd just finished up when I saw Phil sprint out of Florence's house and back to his own, pounding desperately on the door. I turned the radio back down and watched. He was pleading to be let inside, but no matter how much he tried, he was ignored. Desperate, he turned around and started towards my home.
Quickly, I jumped up and raced down the stairs to see what he'd needed. I opened the door before he could even knock.
"Katherine, I need a car. Florence needs to go to the hospital." he said as calmly as he could. "My car's keys are in my house and-"
I was already rushing off to find my father's car keys. He was out golfing for the day and had been picked up by a friend, so it wasn't like I could ask permission. I gave the keys to Phil, and he requested I come with him, so I did. We went back to Florence's house, and I helped carry her to the car, as she was collapsed on the floor and wasn't moving. We got ourselves strapped in, and went off to the hospital.
Phil and I sat together in that waiting room for hours upon hours, waiting for news on Florence. He wouldn't stop expressing his gratitude towards me, and offered to take me out to dinner or buy me a gift for my troubles. I decided to accept his offer. I mean, why not? I already liked him, for crying out loud.
The doctor finally told us that Florence was going to be okay, but had we never given her the help she needed as fast as we did, she would've likely passed on. And apparently, her road to recovery was going to be rough; she'd never be the same again.
Time went on. Phil and I went on our dinner date and got to know each other better, and my crush soon turned to being in love. I began to help him take care of Florence, and we even repaired her telephone together. It wasn't long before he and I were official, and we were married exactly one year after we took Florence to the hospital. She was my maid of honor.
Phil went back and forth with a few different jobs before finally sticking as a school bus driver. I stayed at home for the most part, although I did volunteer for food drives at the local church. We tried to have kids, but that didn't work out for us. For whatever reason, I simply couldn't get pregnant. We mourned somewhat, but it ended up working out alright. Phil got his fill of kids during his job, and I interacted with plenty of wonderful children through the church.
Phil loved his job with all his heart. He managed to find joy in every little corner of life.
The accident changed everything.
June 3rd, 1999, was the second-to-last day of school for Arbington Elementary. It was the second-to-last day of Phil's job as well, one of the last few routes he'd be doing before his retirement. That morning, the school was taking a field trip, and Phil, of course, was one of the bus drivers.
He didn't do anything wrong that day. He did what he could. There was nothing anybody could've done differently.
Out of nowhere, a sleep deprived semi-truck driver slammed into the bus. As the semi-truck was carrying a lot of stuff in its trailer, the hit was enough force to send the back of the school bus skidding onto the other side of the interstate before tipping over. An unsuspecting car slammed into the bus, crushing both the car's driver and five children in its direct impact.
Phil came out of the incident without a scratch. But I'd argue a piece of him died that day. He always seemed to have this stare to him after the event, like he was looking somewhere I couldn't see. He'd become quieter, and would barely even engage with me from time to time.
Winter came, and Phil caught the flu. No matter how much I hoped and prayed, he only got worse, not better. And as such, on December 31st, 1999, Phil died.
And I entered the new century by myself.
I had my church friends attempt to provide me comfort, of course, but despite them being people I'd known for the better part of forty years at that point, like my husband before me, I, too, withdrew. I was angry at God, in fact, for taking Phil away from me. For letting that event happen to Phil.
I spent a long time angry. And, after awhile, after over sixty years of having been raised a Christian woman, I came to the conclusion that there wasn't a God at all. No mercy, no nothing.
And I'm still that way today.
It's been nearly ten years since Phil's death. Once again, I'll be entering a new decade without him. I just hit seventy years old this past spring; I think it's fair to say I'm an old lady at this point. Hell, I'm probably not in much better condition than Florence was back in the day.
I've been getting a check sent to me every month since Phil's passing, life insurance and all. It's really not much, though, and although I try to manage my finances smartly, I'm barely above the line of poverty. I'm in Kentucky, so at least I know I'm definitely not alone in that regard.
My daily routine is quite dull. I'd wake up at the same time every morning, grab the paper, read it through and through, then have some breakfast which was usually the generic eggs and toast. Each and every bite would make me sadder; nearly ten years had gone by and I still missed Phil's cooking. He loved working with food, and would dedicate many hours of his life to organizing the fridge and pantry to his liking. With every day that passed without him around, I'd forget more and more what his meals tasted like. They were delicious, but at this point, they could've been trash on a plate and I wouldn't know the difference. I'd yearn for it either way.
After breakfast, I'd try cleaning up the house a bit. But as I was a sedentary old lady, there really wasn't much to clean up, even with dishes and laundry added to the mix. So, the task never took too long, and I'd always have way too much time left in the day. I missed forcing Phil to clean. He hated it. Would always take ten minutes just to dust one knick knack. What a goof.
Once cleaning was over, it'd be time to entertain myself. I'd watch some cable, though honestly, it's never been as authentic without Phil's cynical commentary on it. We liked very many of the same kind of things, but never had matching television preferences. I found it to be a pain at first, but soon grew to enjoy it. I loved when he expressed his thoughts and ideas towards something, even if it was in a negative light.
After TV, I'd usually move onto board or card games. Phil and I spent way too much money on them back in the day and had an entire closet filled to the brim with all sorts of them. We were highly competitive against one another when playing. However, since Phil was no longer there to play, that meant I had to take his place as well. I'd act like he was still there and I was just moving his pieces or placing his cards for him. And yes, sometimes I did lose the games. Only sometimes, though.
Then, if the weather was nice enough, I'd take a stroll around the neighborhood. I'd pretend Phil was with me as well, and I'd point out things to him. Like how the Thomsons painted their house another color, or how I thought the Smiths put their Christmas lights up too early. It's something I'd have to do if Phil was still around, anyways, considering he was blind as a bat without the glasses he always somehow managed to misplace.
I know that to my neighbors, I'm the crazy old lady who roams around and talks to herself. And I'm fine with that. I don't need those people, I have Phil. Even if I had to reconstruct him myself.
Before I finish talking about my daily routine, I'd like to intervene and say that I'm not in denial that my husband is dead. I'm quite aware of that. I don't even think he's in heaven as I already told you, I don't believe in it. But I have no children, and no friends either, and I'd go insane without having somebody to interact with. Phil was my lover for forty-two years, I knew him through and through, like the back of my hand. I knew him so well I could pretend he's still here for my own sake, and it helped me cope with the loss of him. I can't do pets; I'm allergic to cats, start sneezing like crazy if I'm around them too long. I couldn't even stay in Florence's house for more than an hour at a time before my sinuses were overwhelmed by Barney. And a dog would be too much work and likely money for me. So, my best bet is simply invisible Phil.
Sometimes I wonder if I regret pushing away my church friends. Even though our religious beliefs conflicted, maybe they still would've been able to have been there for me. I don't know at this point. They tried to reach out for me; for over a year my house was riddled with phone rings and knocks at the door, neither of which I would answer. So, by 2006, the last friend, Peggy, had stopped sending me Christmas cards. Basically, everyone who was ever close to me at one point in time has died, or has given up. And I get the feeling it's mostly the latter.
Back to my routine. I go back to the house and make lunch, usually a sandwich. Watch more TV for awhile, then shower. Finally, I'd re-read an entire book, brush my teeth, and then go to bed, and wish Phil a goodnight before turning off the lamp and drifting off to sleep.
Wake up the next morning, rinse and repeat. I think it's fair to say I'm not a happy lady.
I dreaded the day every year, but as long as I'm still alive, it has to come; New Year's Eve.
I used to love them as a young woman. They were excuse to party, drink, smoke, and have way too much fun for my own good. Hell, I loved them up until the one Phil died on.
Now they're just a reminder of me sitting in the hospital and holding his hand, watching his heart rate monitor beat less and less until it ceased altogether.
Ten years had passed since that event, but the memory was crystal clear in my mind.
I treated this New Year's Eve morning like any other one, trying to ignore the hurting of my heart. I read the paper, made my breakfast, cleaned, and watched some TV, as I usually would. Right as I was walking down the hallway to leave for my walk, I noticed that one of the picture frames on the wall was crooked. The photo was of me and Phil sitting on the beach together, clinking our beer glasses against one another's.
That was a fun vacation; it was down in the Florida Keys. My father had just retired from his job, so we all went to celebrate there.
I missed being that wealthy to the point where we could just throw money on a vacation. My family was never rich or upper class by any means, but definitely well off. My father died of a heart attack merely two years after his retirement, and since he hadn't written a will, all of his money went to my mother. And she didn't spend it wisely.
His death shook us all, as it was sudden and unexpected. My father was a relatively fit and active man, so nobody ever expected him to just collapse that day. So, my mother, her mind clouded by grief, spent all of the money on fancy things, hoping the objects would fill the void that my father left. Of course, it didn't work. She wound up dying poor, miserable, and in great debt. And it was looking like I'd be following in her footsteps.
I realized my mind had gone wandering off, so I fixed the crooked photo frame before opening the door. I stopped dead in my tracks.
There was a wooden box sitting on my doorstep.
Confused, I reached down to pick it up, and I brought it inside, putting it down on the table. I opened the box to find a note.
We know you like games, Mrs. Gilbert.
My first thought was that this was some sort of belated Christmas gift from one of the neighbors. How in the world they knew I liked games, though, was beyond me. Maybe they overheard me talking to Phil out on one of my walks and I just so happened to mention my love of games in that moment. It made sense; they felt bad for the crazy old lady and wanted to give her a gift.
Below the note was a leather notebook and a pen, and I opened the notebook to see if there was any writing in it. Instead, a card fell out. So, I picked it up and began to read.
Your personal demon has arrived.
Tailored perfectly for your needs.
Alas, few have survived
The fury that theirs breed.
You have a notebook and a pen
You must write down its name
Because it is only then
That you shall win the game.
What in the goddamn world? What kind of game was this?
I looked the box up and down, turned it around at all angles and directions to get an indicator of what it was. But there was nothing. I flipped through every page of the notebook, and inspected the pen and the card, but still nothing. There wasn't even an indication of who the game came from.
I came to conclude that it was just a cruel prank one of the neighborhood kids played on me to try and spook me. I got up and went to go on my walk. When I passed the living room, however, my heart dropped into my stomach.
There was something in there.
It was a humanoid figure, and stood at about eight or nine feet tall. It was slender, with virtually no fat or muscle in its body. Its skin was bleach white and abnormally tight upon its skeleton. Its fingers and toes were skinny and long, disproportionate even for its humanoid body. It had no eyes, only sockets, and a broken jaw which hung from the rest of its head. And to top it all off, out of its mouth dangled a snake-like, grey, cracked tongue.
I blinked a few times, to be sure what I was actually seeing before me was real. With each blink I'd squeeze my eyes shut tighter, hold it longer, in hopes that the harder I'd try, the more of a chance it'd have going away.
But every time I opened up my eyes again, the sight before me remained the same all the more.
The demon didn't seem to notice me; it was fixated upon the TV that'd been left on. It took one of its fingers, and, with its disgusting nail, slowly scratched the screen. I winced, not daring to move until it was over.
My heart was pounding so loud in my ears that I was convinced I was going to die of cardiac arrest like my father before me. I flicked my eyes to the front door. I slowly crept towards it, doing my best not to have my steps cause any creaks or groans in the floorboards. Once I reached the door, I looked back before placing my hand on the knob. I began to turn, but it wouldn't budge.
Panic started flooding me. The door was unlocked, but it wouldn't open. I tried harder, but to no avail. I decided to stop wasting my time and made my way to the nearest window, and my attempt at opening it was met with an equal success rate.
With virtually no other options, I knew my best bet was to simply get as far away in the house as I could. So, I made my way up the stairs, quietly shut the bedroom door, and placed a chair underneath the knob.
I sat in my bed, placed a hand on my chest, feeling my racing heartbeat as I caught my breath. Now that I was away, I actually had time to think.
And in that moment I remembered I left the notebook and pen downstairs.
A new wave of panic set over me, and all I wanted to do was scream and cry for help, but I knew that wouldn't do me any good. I got up and pulled back the window curtains, attempting to open the windows once more, but yet again, to no avail. I began waving my hands around to try and grab somebody's attention, but there was simply nobody out there.
I sat back down on my bed, and stared at the ground.
Was I finally going insane? Had my years of misery finally deteriorated my mind? Was it a punishment from God for rejecting him after so many years of faith? Was it just a nightmare I couldn't wake up from?
Again, I squeezed my eyes shut to try and wake up. It didn't work, so I pinched myself. That failed as well. The more I analyzed my situation and ruled out the possibilities, the more hopeless and lost I felt.
The card said a demon had a name, and that I had to figure out what it was. But there were millions upon millions of names out there; how was I supposed to know what this thing was called? Were there supposed to be clues lying around?
So, search for clues I did. Within my bedroom's vicinity, anyways. However, my task was promptly interrupted by the sound of pots and pans crashing downstairs. Following the crash, I heard a noise I could only describe as a screech that an angry reptile would make. Then, one of the cabinet doors slammed shut so hard that I nearly jumped out of my skin.
A chill went down my spine once the realization dawned upon me. I kept my pots and pans in the kitchen cabinets. That meant that thing was exploring my home, and it knew how open doors.
I knew that this creature would make its way to my bedroom eventually. By the way it reacted to the kitchen cabinets, it'd be no surprise that upon finding out my doorway was blocked, it'd likely just angrily rip my door off its hinges instead of giving up.
I needed to get that goddamn notebook.
For a few minutes I attempted to listen in on where the demon could be, but with the combination with being old and being sealed off in a separate room, it was hard to hear anything that was going on. It took a few minutes to prepare myself, but I slowly removed the chair from under the door, and then turned the knob at practically a snail's pace, cracking the door open only a peek.
I looked through the opening, not finding any sign of the demon anywhere. I made my way out of the room, carefully stepping on the floor as to make as little noise as humanly possible. I made it to the stairs when my ears finally picked up on something.
I heard the monster breathing, something I hadn't noticed before due to how loud my heartbeat was beating in my chest upon my first look at the creature. Atop of its breathing, I could also make out the occasional gargle.
From what I could tell from where the sounds were coming from, it was still in the kitchen, and I'd left my notebook on the goddamn kitchen table. There was no way that I would get the things I needed without it spotting me.
And then I had a thought.
This thing- whatever it was- had no eyes. Only empty sockets were left of where they may have sat at one point in time. Maybe it couldn't see. Maybe that's why it scratched the TV; to try and understand what was making the noise.
I had a feeling it was wishful thinking, though, and I couldn't rely on that thought. I'd need a way to test that idea without drawing attention to myself.
I took a few deep breaths before descending down the stairs, debating more and more with myself whether I should just turn around and hide back in my bedroom with each step. Before I knew it, however, I'd made my way to the bottom.
I heard more noises, like things being thrown around; the demon appeared to be busy. I carefully tread towards the kitchen, and peeked in. The creature was digging through my fridge, all sorts of food items sprawled throughout the floor. I had no idea what it was looking for, but whatever it was, I hoped it'd never find it.
My eyes then fell upon the telephone that'd been sitting on my counter-top, and my heart skipped a beat. This could very well be my only chance to survive; the only problem was that it was all the way across the kitchen.
I knew I needed to take the action while the demon was still preoccupied with my refrigerator. Being sure to avoid hitting anything on the floor, I went to grab the telephone. As soon as my hands grasped the thing, the power went out, and the phone read as having no service.
I wanted to scream, but I couldn't allow myself to. I turned my head back towards the demon; it was still digging through the fridge, seemingly not even noticing it was no longer working. Perhaps it really was blind after all.
I turned my attention to the notebook and pen that were sitting atop the table. I kept the telephone in hand in case I could find any service bars, and grabbed the other items.
Then, the demon turned around from the fridge, facing my way. I gasped and stood still, paralyzed in fear.
My heart beat so loudly in my chest I'm sure you could hear it from across the country. A cold sweat trickled down my forehead, and I didn't dare breathe. I knew it was a terrible idea coming back here. I knew I should've stayed upstairs. It knew I was there, and it was going to kill me. It was going to impale me with its sharp, monstrous claws and rip my flesh into shreds. I was going to die, and I was going to die painfully, alone, and in vain.
They say that in moments like these, your life flashes before your eyes. You think about everything you've done, everything that's happened to you up until the moment you're about to die; and I did just that. But my heart sank deeper than I could ever imagine when I realized how much regret I'd been filled with for this past decade. How much time I wasted. What needless suffering I endured. And that all along, I was the one who put myself through it.
Maybe Phil was the lucky one after all.
The creature let out a low growl, swiping its hands around in the air. It didn't seem to be charging after me, though; it seemed to be trying to figure out where the hell it was. I ran off into the living room mere moments before it was standing right where I was before, still swiping around its claws in the air with no particular target. It let out a frustrated growl before slamming its hand onto the wall and using its nails to feel its way around the kitchen, and up the stairs.
I finally let myself catch a breath, thankful I decided to come down.
I flipped through the notebook a bit, trying my best to find any indication of anything that could help me figure out what the demon's name was. However, it was completely blank. I tried to recall the bad characters in the Bible: Delilah, Haman, Goliath, Leviathan, even Satan. But no matter what name I wrote in the notebook, I could still hear the creature rummaging around upstairs.
I wouldn't give up, however. I explored the depths of my memories to try and bring forth whatever potential name I could try. But thinking about the past came with the consequence of reminiscing on it.
I thought of Phil. I thought of the friends I had. The parties and events I attended, the good times shared. I missed them, and I wanted nothing more to be back on that Florida Keys beach with Phil and my family. Really, I wanted nothing more than Phil right now. He'd know what to do. He'd know how to get us out of this mess.
It was like the time we went out on a road trip in the mountains of Idaho. It was a humid July night in the summer of '61. It was the two of us along with a few stoners that Phil managed to befriend between jobs. In the middle of nowhere, our raggedy old car broke down, and looking back upon it, I'd be more surprised if it didn't. It was also the middle of the night, so far away and isolated from the rest of the world that I swore I could make out every speck of the stars in the sky. We got out of the car, stretched, and popped open the hood to see what was wrong with it.
I was no expert at anything related to automotives, so I leaned back as the guys talked amongst themselves to try and figure out the problem. As I wasn't busy, however, I was the only person to have heard the rustling in the trees next to the road. I hushed everyone else, and we all listened.
Soon enough, a grizzly bear emerged, its eyes glowing directly at us. We all stood in fear, not daring to make a sound. One of Phil's friends attempted to get back into the car, but Phil stopped him.
"Just don't make eye contact, and wait for it to go." he quietly whispered.
Eventually, the bear turned around and headed back into the forest.
As scary as it was, it was one of my favorite memories with Phil. The way he knew exactly how to handle such a life-threatening situation was admirable, and it's part of what I always loved about him. Calm and concise. Well, most of the time, anyways. He rarely ever got emotional, but when he did, oh boy, was he a wild card.
"I don't think you'd disagree, either." I quietly told him, still pretending he was around. It was all I had to comfort myself. "What do we do now?"
I tried to think outside of the box. Maybe this was all a trick.
Maybe the creature had no name at all.
So, I wrote down "It has no name." in the notebook. The sound of my shower rod falling onto the bathroom floor was enough to confirm that didn't work.
I was growing restless, hopeless. I shivered, and noticed how much colder my house had become. The lack of electricity made me lose access to heat, and it wouldn't be long until it grew dark, either. Since the creature was blind, I'd be put at an equal disadvantage that it had.
I needed to think soon and fast if I were to have any chance of surviving the next few hours. I didn't have any sort of weaponry, and I doubted any artillery would work against the thing, anyways. I heard the creature begin to descend down the stairs, and I headed for the kitchen as I'd have two ways to escape away from the demon as opposed to just one.
To my luck, the it decided to take a turn for the living room. I watched as it scraped its nails against the furniture, and impaled them into the cushions, tossing and turning them over, its unhinged jaw flailing back and forth in the process.
Boy, did I want to follow Phil's advice in that moment. I wanted to just not make eye contact- not like that was possible, anyways- and wait for it to go away. But it wasn't going to be going away anytime soon.
I went back up the second floor, weaving my way around carefully to be sure that I didn't make too much noise on my journey there. Once I laid my eyes upon my bedroom door, I saw that it had claw marks all over it, and that the outside knob had nearly been torn off. I decided to remove it myself in case it fell onto the floor and alerted the demon of my whereabouts.
As I held the doorknob in my hand, I saw my distorted reflection in its golden sphere, and, admittedly, was spooked at the sight of my own face.
I looked as dead as the creature inside my home.
I made my way into my bedroom, and covered myself in blankets, hoping to supply some heat to my slowly freezing body. I took another chance to think about what the demon's name could be, but soon found myself growing frustrated, as well as exhausted.
It couldn't have been very late, so being tired was a surprising feeling, but one I couldn't fight. Despite my fear, despite the situation, I nodded off. Figuring I'd be killed while I was unconscious, I wished Phil goodnight one last time.
The dream I had surely started of swell.
I was back in the Florida Keys, still a beautiful young woman. I sat in a pool, watching as a beach ball was tossed back and forth between my friends. Upon spotting me, however, Peggy swam up to talk. She moved her hair out of her face before speaking.
"I'm alive, you know." she said, then gestured to everyone else in the pool. "We're all alive, and we want to you to be with us."
I scoffed for a second. "Of course you're alive. Why wouldn't you be?"
"They're dead." she pointed to the people outside of the pool. There, my parents and Phil laid upon beach chairs, letting the sun tan their skin. "They've all been dead awhile now."
I blinked. "What do you mean?"
"You can tell they've been dead awhile." Peggy went on. "See how still they are? How at peace they seem? That's because they're doing nothing. They're doing nothing because they're dead. Nothingness is peace. They're all at peace. But you're not."
"Being on vacation isn't peace?" I argued.
Peggy shook her head. "You know what's funny about death?"
I raised my eyebrow. "What?"
"It only disturbs the living. Those who haven't even had to deal with it yet. And when somebody passes away, only the living are left to suffer from it. But those who've actually faced it? Not a word from them. I think they're doing okay."
"You're making me extremely uncomfortable." I told her. "Is something wrong? Do you need me to get you help?"
"You need help, Katherine." she stressed. "Your husband is okay. But you aren't letting him be."
I woke up to near pitch black. At first, the only noise I heard was the sound of my clock ticking upon the wall. But then came slow, deep groan of my bedroom door opening, and soon enough, the gargles and loud breaths of the creature that entered. I couldn't dare move.
I suppressed an audible gasp as I felt one of its long nails slowly begin to trace down my back. There was a thick layer of blankets between its finger and my flesh, but that didn't make it any less terrifying. If it truly wanted to, it could tear the sheets off and kill me with one swipe.
I thought of what Peggy told me in my dream, how death was nothingness, and nothingness was peace. In that moment, I was inclined to agree with her. As far as I was concerned, I was very much alive, and very much not at peace. My body, years past its prime, was still fighting to survive. Blood rushed through my veins, my heart pounded in my chest, and adrenaline flooded me from head to toe.
So long as I lived, would I ever find peace?
Maybe that was the point this entire time. Maybe the demon truly did had no name, and it was supposed to kill me. Maybe I wasn't supposed to make it out of this ordeal alive. Maybe I was supposed to die and find peace.
The demons nail managed to find my cheek. It felt like all of time froze in that moment. I imagined Phil was cradling me, his arms wrapped tightly around me, comforting me in my last moments.
I didn't want to die. I couldn't let this be my fate. I could manage to wait some more years for peace, I'd already been fighting a war this long. I wasn't ready to surrender now.
My eyes met the demon's empty sockets just as it seemed to notice what it'd stumbled upon.
It let out a screech and attempted to secure its kill, but by then, I'd already ran out of bed. I gasped loudly as I ran for my life, with it close on my tail. I ran through the kitchen, but couldn't seem to shake the thing off me. I went back around to the staircase, made a few stomping noises on the first step to make it appear as if I'd gone up, then ducked behind it, praying that my trick would fool the thing.
It worked. The creature bounded its way up the stairs and screeched, leaving claw marks embedded into the steps.
I let myself catch my breath as I made my way back into the kitchen, soon realizing that my house had become so cold that my breath was evaporating in the air. I was also left without the book, pen, or phone once more.
My stomach rumbled, and I flinched at the noise. I made my way to the pantry, quickly grabbing anything I could open easily to consume. As quietly as I could, I removed the wrapper from each food item, and ate. Not knowing what else to do, I made my way to the living room, attempting to warm my body between with the destroyed couch cushions. I didn't know how much longer I had until the demon descended back down the stairs, but I knew it couldn't be too long.
I had no concept of time anymore. No idea what time it was, no idea when this all began, hell, I didn't even know if it was still New Year's Eve anymore. I was left completely in the dark, both figuratively and literally.
Now that my adrenaline rush began to settle down, I was starting to feel the consequence of being an old lady and running for my life as well. Everything waist-down felt raw and sore, and my joints felt like somebody had personally lit a match underneath each and every one of them.
I wanted to live. Wanted to survive. Wanted to get past this, to move on. But at this rate, I had no clue how. I wouldn't be able to keep this up forever. I didn't even know if I'd be able to keep this up for the next few hours, however long that would be.
I took more time to think about the dream I had, and the last words Peggy spoke to me before I awoke.
Your husband is okay. But you aren't letting him be.
I repeated the words quietly to myself. "Your husband is okay. But you aren't letting him be."
I then spoke of them in first person. "My husband is okay. But I'm not letting him be."
A shiver went down my spine, and I didn't think it was due to the cold.
There was a reason the demon behaved the way it did.
It couldn't see, just like Phil couldn't.
It tore through the fridge, just like Phil would.
It hated what was on TV, just as Phil did.
It was a wild card, just as Phil was.
The demon's name was Philip Wesley Gilbert.
My demon's name was Philip Wesley Gilbert.
Phil wasn't here. Phil was dead. I didn't have Phil anymore. I pretended he was here, and it wasn't helping me. He was long gone. It was only me. It was up to me to be able to move on. It was up to me to take control of how I wanted to go about my life now. My demon, my personal demon, was somebody I held dearest.
As if on cue, like the demon knew I'd discovered its deep, dark secret, it let out another screech, and began to stomp its way down the stairs. I knew it was time to move. By the time it made its way to the bottom floor, I was back in the kitchen. It trudged its way towards me, and I sprinted, practically flying up the stairs as it took off after me. I dove for my bed, grabbing the notebook and pen, and it leaped after me. Right before it could latch its claws into my skin, I rolled off the mattress, and avoided yet another swipe as I got off the floor. I flew back downstairs, but slipped as I was about get off the last step, and twisted my ankle. I rolled over once more, watching as the demon stared down at me from the top of the stairs. It had no way of properly expressing it, but somehow, I knew it smiled. It radiated a sadistic grimace that knew I didn't have much longer to live. I quickly grabbed for my notebook and pen, and began to write its name.
It screeched as it threw itself down the flight of steps. I curled up in a ball, braced for its wrath. Before my eyes, the creature disintegrated into a million particles of dust.
I laid there, breathing heavily for a moment, watching as the moonlight that poured in through the front door displayed the particles beginning to slowly descent over my foyer.
The door opened, and a cold wind hit me like a whip. I stared in awe as the dust particles were swept away outside. Then, the door slammed itself shut.
The lights in my house flickered on, and I heard the roaring of machinery starting up, and I was hit with a blast of heat. I sat myself up, and realized that the notebook and pen I had were nowhere to be seen.
With all the strength I could muster, I stood up, gasping as I realized my house appeared completely untouched. No destroyed furniture. No claw marks on the walls. It was as if nothing had happened at all.
I went into the kitchen, and my eyes fell upon the oven's clock. It was twelve a.m. A new decade. A fresh start.
I noticed that the telephone had been placed back in its usual spot, operating just fine. I picked it up, and began to dial a number I hadn't even thought about in years, but was still ingrained deep in my memory.
"Hello?" a somewhat tired voice came from the other side.
"Hi, Peggy. I didn't mean to disturb you, I hope you weren't sleeping." I apologized.
"No, I wasn't asleep." she reassured. There was quiet for a moment. "Who is this?"
I felt my heart sink a little upon hearing that she didn't recognize my voice or my phone number. However, I answered her question. "It's Katherine."
I could hear a gasp from the other side of the line. "Oh my." she whispered, "My gosh, Katherine, I was sure you'd passed by now! Dear lord, I'm so glad to hear that you're alright!"
I hesitated a moment before speaking. "I know it's been awhile since we've seen each other last, but if you wouldn't mind, really, I'd like to come over sometime soon. It's been awhile since I properly got out."
"No, no, not at all!" she insisted. "Please, come on over later today. Gosh, Robert and the girls and- oh, I'm just so excited, they'll all be so happy to know you're okay! We have so much to talk about!"
"We most certainly do."
"I ought to be going to bed, but I'll be awake first thing in the morning, so please come by then, if you would?"
"That shouldn't be a problem. I've always been a morning person."
"Well, alright. Goodnight, Katherine. Oh, and happy new year!"
"Goodnight, Peggy. Happy new year."