The Cruelness of Memory

By Brady Power

My body chilled at the sight of the cloudy grey sky staring back at me. The woods in the backyard—dead. The decaying branches curled and coiled around each other, embracing the cold as one. The late-December evening had no mercy for warm times, yet I still loved it. The blissful smell of chimney smoke wedged its way into my room, mingling with the syrupy-sweet scent of a winter candle burning downstairs. The Christmas lights outside couldn’t even reflect on the windows because of the bleakness.

I stood up from a late nap, stretched and went to use the bathroom. School was out for winter-break, so I had few cares. The cold air managed to get through the bathroom window despite it being closed. Walking out, I stumbled upon my dog, Ellie, who was curled up in a ball in front of my door. She got up as I gave her a pat on the head, and we walked into the hallway, then went downstairs. As we descended to the first floor and into the kitchen, I picked up a blanket that was hanging on a chair and wrapped it around myself before boiling some water on the stove. Ellie stared at me, expecting something to fall on the floor. I poured the water and added some hot chocolate mix.

Standing at the glass slide door, I examined the outdoors like a scientist who discovered a new specimen. No birds, no animals, not even a whistle of the wind. This was not a common winter evening. I looked to my left and saw my father watching the weather on TV. Snow was expected for the evening and was surely going to be a heavy one. I looked down at my feet and noticed my socks were pulled down to my ankles, so I pulled them up over my pajamas to keep in the warmth.

When I finished my drink, I went down the basement steps and turned on the heater. It took a couple minutes for the room to heat up and Ellie came down and curled up on an armchair next to the heater. Then I sat down in the chair in front of the TV and turned on the football game.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the basement door. Not just any old knock, but a slow… methodical… knock. Ellie perked up and examined the door. I walked over to the door and opened it, but no one was there. Confused I closed the door and looked out the window, but it was too dark to tell whether or not someone was actually out there especially since snow had begun to fall.

So, I opened the door again, put my boots on, and walked out into the snowy mist. Worried, I called Ellie to come with me. She moped after I called and slowly made her way outside, tired as could be behind me.

I heard a crackle in the woods directly behind my house, so I made my way to them. It was difficult to tell whether it was the snow falling on the tree branches, a squirrel, or something else entirely. Nevertheless, I moved on to the wood line and gazed into the snowy dark. For one straight minute, I stood there in the frozen dust and peered in. In front of me was a giant fallen tree. There was a large ditch underneath the timber, and I bent over to look down there. Ellie started barking and the hair on her back rose. She stumbled back a few steps and began whining. I stood still, expecting to see something, and my terrible wish came true. In the ditch, a pair of yellow eyes gazed back at me from the dark. I could not see a face, but just eyes and the outline of a large head.

“What the hell is this?” I thought to myself. I felt a cold shiver come across me. These eyes were not those of a cat or an animal, but perhaps those of a mad man staring back at me without a blink. I did not say anything to him, nor him to me.

But right when I told myself to run, the creature said, “Do you live here?” Its voice was surprisingly high pitched.

I responded, “Yes, err, who are you?”

I received a dark, chilling laugh that seemed to somehow be colder than the weather. “I am just a man!” he yelled as if extremely agitated at my question despite his laugh.

His temper change surprised me, but I assumed this was just some nut.

“You look scared. What is wrong?” he asked in the high-pitched voice again.

“Did you knock on my back door?” I asked.

“Did I, didn’t I, does it really matter? All that matters is we are just talking now. Yes-yes, just- just you and me.”

I stood bewildered talking to some eyes in the snowy brush. Scared yet curious, I continued to talk to him. Curiosity is a funny thing. People don’t blame it for their problems yet, it is the true one to blame. I learned this on that night, talking to some eyes at 9:00 in frigid conditions.

I could hear Ellie pattering in place next to me. Her whining was getting more and more drawn out as if being tortured.

“What do you want?” I asked as confidently as possible.

“You may need to put a coat on. It is cold out tonight, but I see you’re sweating. Are you nervous? Are you afraid?” He disregarded my question.

“No! What? No…no.” I realized my knees had started to shake. I did everything in my power to stop it.

“What are you most afraid of?” he asked. The eyes still hadn’t blinked once.

“Nothing,” I said.

“Tell me.”

“No.”

“Tell me.”

“No!”

“If you come closer, I can show you.”

“NOOO!” I froze, staring into his eyes as if they were high-beams. Fear had completely taken control of my body.

Ellie was now barking madly.

“COME HEAR AND TELL ME!”

“NOOOOOOO!”

His eyes finally blinked, and I could see pure, unbridled rage. Suddenly, a black and gray scabbed hand with pointed nails reached for me with tremendous speed. I immediately turned to run, but his hand had managed to reach out and grab hold of my foot, ripping my boot off as I sprung away from his grasp.

I then heard a yelp. My heart stopped. I looked to my left and realized Ellie wasn’t next to me. I turned around slowly and saw a puddle of blood bleaching the snow red at the wood line. I panicked. My heart was now beating through my chest. Sweat was dripping down my back. I could not believe what just happened. There was no way this was real. I tiptoed a few feet and held my hands to my face trying not to burst into tears. It couldn’t be. I fell…

“Fascinating story, Mr. Jones. How old were you when this occurred?”

“I w-was 16 a-at the time.”

“Interesting, and after 29 years you still remember every single detail?”

“Y-yes ma’am. It h-haunts me every d-day…a-and every n-night. I j-just can’t g-get those h-horrible yellow e-eyes out of m-my head!”

“Did you have any other experiences like this?”

“N-no Doc, never. I sh-shouldn’t have gone out.” Mr. Jones slouched over in his chair and began weeping.

“I w-was young a-and curious and-” Mr. Jones abruptly stopped speaking.

“And?”

Mr. Jones stopped crying and looked up at his newest psychiatrist. Worry now struck his face.

“I c-cannot say. H-he will f-find me tonight if I talk and t-terrorize me as I sleep!”

“No Mr. Jones, that’s what your medication is for. Tell me.”

Mr. Jones hesitated and took a deep breath.

“And afraid.”

“It is okay to be afrai-

“N-no, you d-don’t understand.” The psychiatrist could see Mr. Jones’ eyes were bloodshot.

“It is late Mr. Jones, perhaps you are tired and overly worried. I will write your prescription and see you next week.”

“Th-thank you. I just w-want it all to g-go away.”

“As do I. Take care of yourself.”

Mr. Jones slowly rose from his seat. Thunder and lightning struck outside as it flashed the small, quaint room lit by a solitary lamp. Mr. Jones turned away from the chair and inched his way towards the door at the end of the room. He glanced out the window. Where the lightning had flashed, a pair of yellow eyes gazed back.

Photo by Blake Lisk on Unsplash

https://unsplash.com/photos/swdM6_NFnCs

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