Tag Archives: figures

The Museum

Right out of school I wasn’t really ready for life yet. I needed to get out; get away – see the world, and if the money wasn’t enough for the world, then at least my own country.

I stumbled into him on the way South. A kind lady threw me out on a country road – and he was already there, lying in the dry grass with a cheap grin on his face.

“Been here for an hour,” he said. “Hard spot to catch a ride.”

We talked. Shared a cig he had stolen from his last ride. When there was still no car in sight – at least none that would stop – we walked side by side, our loose shoes sliding over the dirt in unison.

The heat was bad, but worse was the lack of prospects. No cars in sight and only an occasional house interspersed between the large fields. Max saw it first. The blue sky was still above our heads, but a front of gray was approaching from the horizon.

“Better find some roof,” he said.

We had passed the last house nearly twenty minutes ago. The next one, a large building with white walls, was not that far ahead. We pressed on, with larger steps, while the front of gray already swallowed the color of the land.

A large sign, nailed against the fence. The first word must have fallen off, but most letters of the second one remained:

“Muse m” Continue reading

“Don’t ever let them in.”

I am terrified of the dark. My grandmother, on the other hand, had an affinity for the dark. She loved and enjoyed the dark so much that most windows in her house were walled shut and the few that remained were, except for rare occasions like family visits, blacked out with several layers of black curtains.

It was only when I was about 16 that I realized that those two, her love and my fear of the dark, were connected.

When I was small I was, supposedly, very hyperactive. My mother never managed to control me and my father only did so on those rare occasions when he threatened me with punishments. But I loved my grandparents and, as my parents, said, I always behave right when my grandmother was around. Accordingly my parents dropped me many times at my grandmother’s place so that they themselves could have a calm weekend.

I was 8 years old when she died. At that time I was already scared of the dark – except, of course, when my grandparents were around.

Those eight years I stayed many times over. I remember vividly how I played with my grandfather and uncle Owen in the darkness. We had our special games, like a noise-based version of hide and seek which only worked when the house was particularly quiet and my grandfather taught me how to carve wood into spoons and flutes with just my sense of touch.

I remember their faces exactly – the way their faces were lightly visible in the dark but their eyes always penetrated even through the thickest curtains of darkness with a black pupil surrounded by a bright white that seemed to glow from inside.

My grandmother was always working around the house – cooking and baking for me, cleaning or tidying or preparing the beds for the night. The room always felt warmer when she was there and so, usually, i asked my grandfather and uncle Owen to play with me in the room that she was in.

Those weekends I never missed the light. Even my dreams were, often, just noises and smells and textures and shapes – never colors or visible objects. Still today I can navigate perfectly in the dark. And still today I can see very well in the dark and around my 16th year of life I concluded that my strong vision at night was the cause for my paralyzing fear of the dark.

The fear had been there as long as I remember and on most nights I slept with a nightlight. On those weekends with my grandmother the darkness had never been a problem. Cuddled up to her warm body I never felt fear and I never minded the figures that seemed to stand in the room, all around my bed.

They only came with the darkness. Never when there was a slight flicker of light, just with the absolute blackness of a night in a room without windows.

My grandmother called them the ‘Outcasts.’ She said that they were family and friends, former close ones, that wanted to return from the other side. She taught me again and again that I should never let them return.

I remember the way she said it. We were lying in the bed, my head cuddled up to the warmth of her shoulder. Somewhere behind me my grandfather was snoring and when I turned I could see his face glowing in the darkness, with his white skin it was even more visible than that of my grandmother.

“You can see the difference in their faces,” she said. “Their faces are darker. But if you really want to make sure then you have to look at their eyes. If their eyes are as black as their face or even darker then they are on the wrong side; they are dead and and they should stay that way no matter how much you miss them.”

“So they can’t come?”

“They can’t come unless you allow them to come.”

“What if I let them in?”

“Don’t ever let them in.”

Black on black, but I still saw them as clear as a pencil line pressed hard on a piece of paper, the type of pencil line that doesn’t just color the paper but rather pushes itself into the paper.

That night my grandmother fell asleep quickly but I, in the safety of her arms and with my grandfather behind me, watched the figures. They were gesturing and moving, voiced words and sometimes fought against one another; they pushed each other to the side and backwards, fighting for a spot on the borderline to life.

I saw their figures and I recognized their sizes and hairstyles, often I even thought I knew which clothes they were wearing. I never asked my grandmother about that, but for myself I concluded those were the ways they looked in the moment that they stepped from life to death.

With my grandmother I was safe. But without her the nights were terror. They came closer and they seemed more energetic, more violent, more likely to break through that barrier. Maybe they were closer because I was closer to letting them in, half out of fear and half out of curiosity.

The nightlight was my savior, but in those nights when my parents forgot to plug the light in there was no salvation. They stood above me with their dark figures pressed into the darkness and those eyes so dark that they seemed to extend deeper into space; as if they were hollow.

With 16 I tried to cure myself off my fear by “shock therapy.” I threw myself into one dark night after the other but rather than improve the situation got worse.

There was one figure particularly pushy. A smaller one with wild, curly hair and the darkest eyes of them all. I always knew who she was. She had only been there since I was 8.

The conclusions of my 16th year made too much sense to be overturned. I gave up my defense and accepted my fear and eternal dependence on nightlights. When I moved to university I even chose an apartment with a street lamp outside so that the light would certainly come through my window and keep the figures at bay.

With 23 I learned the truth about my fear.

I was at my mother’s place. We were at our second bottle of wine and a soothing melancholy, the type that you can see in a French actress’s eyes, had enriched the air. Somehow we came to speak about my grandmother.

“I miss her,” my mother said.

“Me too,” I said. “Sometimes I still dream of her cookies and when I wake up I can nearly taste the vanilla.”

“Oh,” she said. “Your grandfather loved those.”

“Did he? I don’t remember him eating any?”

My mother laughed.

“You were probably too young to remember that.”

“Not really. I remember playing with him.”

“Oh, you do?”

“Yeah. I played with him all the time.”

“Really, you remember that?”

“Of course.”

“Wow,” she said. “I’m really happy for that.”

“Me too.”

“I always thought you wouldn’t remember him because you were so young.”

I took a sip from my glass and let the bitterness fade from my mouth.

“I don’t remember going to his funeral.”

“Of course not,” she said. “We left you with a friend and went alone.”

“What? Why?”

“We thought you wouldn’t understand it. You were just 2 when your grandfather and uncle Owen had their accident.”

When I was 16 I thought I was scared of the figures standing at the borderline to our world.

Since I’m 23 I know that I’m not actually scared of those figures at the borderline. I’m scared and wondering how many others were allowed back inside.

They Look Like Us

t was three in the morning and I walked down Smaug Avenue. A woman passed me. Attractive, a tight red dress that wrapped smoothly around her body, a shy smile on her lips. She looked on the ground while she passed me.

It was instinct. Pure instinct. I turned and looked. From behind even better than from the front. With a guilty smile I looked forward again.

I don’t know why I looked a second time. A second time my head turned and my upper body followed.

She just stood there. The dress was still tightly wrapped around her backside. Her body was still turned towards the front. But her head was turned to me. She grinned but her mouth and teeth were too large for her face.

That night I ran. I don’t think she followed me. And I don’t think she needed to. Continue reading

Listen to the Graves

I grew up next to a graveyard. As a child the calm darkness made me uncomfortable – my bedroom looked out over the graveyard and often I found myself at night pressed against my bedroom window. I stared at the flickering candle lights and the shadows they threw and imagined things climbing out of graves.

As a teenager that fear faded. The graveyard was the only green area in the neighborhood and until the security was tightened it actually became our smoke-and-meet spot, a place where our parents would never look for us.

Since then graveyards seem to me more like parks. I think of them as places where I can go to relax and read a book without disturbance. There are always pretty flowers around.

I got my job offer before I even graduated. I didn’t have much time to go apartment hunting. So I wouldn’t say that I particularly looked for an apartment near a graveyard, but I certainly didn’t mind it either. Continue reading

Deep Down, Where He Should Be

“You think they want to drown you?”

“I don’t just think so,” He said. “I’m sure of it.”

His arm jerked to the side.

“Okay, Steve, when exactly do they try to drown you?”

“All the time.”

“Even right now?”

Steve nodded; his whitish-yellow face seemed to reflect the light.

“Yes, right now. They are pulling on my arms.”

“I can’t see anyone.” I said.

“No one else can see them. It’s only me.”

“And you can feel them pulling on your body?”

“Yes, and when I am close to home I can sometimes smell them too. That’s when they are also the strongest.”

“How many are there?”

“Twelve. Eight men and four women.”

“And they just stand around here, right now, and pull on your body to try and drown you?”

“Not all of them,” he said. “There’s always at least two, sometimes three or four, but never all at once.”

“And since when do those figures attack you?”

Steve jerked sidewards; his chair leant to the side. Steve grabbed the table just in time to catch himself.

“See?” He said.

It seemed as if there were tears in his eyes, but otherwise Steve was composed.

“Okay.” I said. “Since when do those figures appear?”

“Since I’m eight, I think.”

“Did something unusual happen that caused them to appear?”

“I was playing with my friends next to a lake.” Steve said. “And my friends dared me to swim to the island in the middle.”

“And you did?”

“I wanted to be cool.”

“So you did?”

“Yes, I did, and I made it to the island. But I was exhausted and couldn’t go back; so I stayed on the island for about an hour and then, when it began to get dark, I tried to swim back.”

“You tried? So you didn’t manage to get back on land?”

“I’m not sure what went wrong.” Steve said. “I was swimming towards where the others were sitting; I was already halfway there, but then either my leg cramped or maybe something pulled my leg down. I screamed for help, but the others didn’t do anything; or maybe they just were too slow. I sank and I couldn’t breathe anymore and then I felt this immense pain in my lungs.”

“So you nearly drowned?”

“I’m not sure.”

“How did you get out?”

“I don’t really know. I remember that I was struggling and then suddenly I had ground under my feet and I pushed myself out of the lake. My parents were there and everything was dark already. But my friends were gone.”

Steve leaned his head backwards.

“Sorry,” he said. “That’s not me.”

“And since then the figures appear?”

His head first leaned further back, and then quickly returned into a normal position.

“Yes,” Steve said. “They started attacking me while dad carried me home. Mom was walking next to dad, crying, and then one of them grabbed my leg and pulled. Dad told me to stop struggling; I told him that it wasn’t me – and he said that I should stop making silly excuses. But mom cried even worse and said ‘Maybe God wants that we leave him.’”

“And your dad still brought you home?”

“Yes. But since then they kept me at home. They didn’t allow me outside at all and they didn’t invite any friends over. I thought they were just scared of the figures pulling me back in the water; but it stayed like that all the time – the figures kept pulling and dad made me stay inside.”

“And your mother?”

“She wanted to bring me to the lake.”

“Your mother wanted to drown you?”

“I don’t know what she meant. But whenever I told them about the figures mom said that maybe it was the right thing and that it was the way things should be.”

“So your mom agreed with the figures.”

Steve lowered his head.

“I think so. I don’t know whether she really wanted to drown me; I guess she just wanted it all to stop.”

“So your parents kept you inside and the figures kept pulling on your body to try to drown you?”

“Exactly.”

“So you didn’t go to school or anything?”

“No, my parents didn’t allow me to. They said I would harm the other kids. I mean, it makes sense now, but back then it made me cry. I was so incredibly lonely. That’s why I ran away when I was fourteen. I couldn’t take it anymore”

“And your parents found you?”

“No.”

“No?”

“I don’t think they were even looking for me. I think they were happy I was gone. Dad was happy when I called and he asked whether I was okay, but mom didn’t even want to talk to me.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“It’s fine,” Steve said. “It hurts, but I understand her. I’m a freak, with those things and everything.”

“Things?”

“Those people I mean; the ones that want to drown me. It’s hard to hide that when they keep pulling on my body.”

“They never leave you?”

“Never.” He said. “But at least they are weaker here, when I’m far away from the lake.”

“So you don’t go home anymore?”

“I don’t, but it’s not because of them. I think they aren’t strong enough as long as I don’t get too close to the lake where I drowned. I just don’t want to meet my mom. I think she is scared of me.”

“Your mother is scared of you?”

“Yes. It took me long to accept that, but it’s true. She is scared of me and thinks that I might harm her or others.”

Steve pushed his body forcefully to the right. The chair moved with him.

“Why would she think that?” I asked.

“Well, I think she thinks I’m one of them. She thinks I’m one of the figures and now I also understand why.”

“And, why?”

“Please, just tell me how to get the figures away.”

“I’m not sure how to do that, Steve. We can try some medication, but –“

“I tried medication. They don’t go.”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know, maybe you can talk to them, tell them to go away, tell them I’m alive and that they have to find somebody else. They don’t listen to me and when I talk to them they always get stronger. It feels as if every time I talk to them part of my strength goes over to them.”

“So your strength is feeding them?”

“I don’t know,” Steve said. “I think it’s more my soul or something. I think they have my soul.”

“Why would you think that?”

“I don’t really remember any of this, but a few weeks ago I tried to look for articles about other people drowning in the lake; I thought that maybe if I knew what they wanted I could make them go away.”

“And you found them?”

“I found a few articles,” Steve said. “And one of the articles had a picture that looks like one of them.”

“And it helped?”

“No,” Steve said. “But he also died while swimming back from the island. And they never found his body.”

“So you think the figure that’s pulling you is this other guy that drowned?”

“One of them,” Steve said. “But my point is that while I was looking for these articles I found articles about myself.”

“Yourself?”

“My own drowning.” Steve said.

“I thought your parents saved you?”

“That’s what I thought too,” Steve said. “But the newspapers said that I had drowned and that they looked for me for a week and couldn’t find my body.”

“I don’t follow.” I said.

“I was down there for a week.” Steve said. “They sent divers and everything but they couldn’t find me.”

“You mean –”

“I think I died.” Steve said. “And I’m still dead, but somehow I got out of the lake, and now those things try to pull me back down where I should be.”


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.