January 24, 2020


I looked at myself in the small, dirty mirror next to the sink. What had just happened? I thought. I put the toilet seat down and sat on top of it, bending over to examine my foot in for injuries. Was that just a dream, or...

I hesitated to ponder the other possibility. This thing couldn't be real. And yet, a small part of me suspected it was — there were things I couldn't rationally explain. For instance, there was that time in eighth grade, after the school dance, when I danced with Jennifer — she had just become my girlfriend at lunch near the old wooden picnic tables in the yard that overlooked the soccer field and was shaded by the large oak tree in the center. I wasn't sure if Jennifer proposed it or Rochelle did, and I wasn't sure what duties it implied, but coming to the dance was one of them.

I met her out in front of the big gym, the one they used for rallies and school assemblies. It lay some distance down from the building where we had home room together, past the small gym and down the asphalt path towards the field.

I was sick to my stomach. I didn't know what I would say to her, what I would do. I had no idea what it meant to be a boyfriend, and I was sure she wouldn't think I was good enough —

"Hi," she said, reaching out to grab my hand. I thought of all those times sitting next to her in the back of the bus, when she would let me rub my hands on her legs, above her jeans, feeling the ridges in the fabric, and then, sometimes, inside her shirt, slowly, slowly working my way up to her chest to fonder her small, sweet, soft and supple little boobs.

"Hi," I said.

We walked inside, and sat down on some of the bleachers near the wall. Rochelle wasn't here yet, so it was just us. I didn't know what to say.

"Did your dad drop you off?" she asked.

"Yea," I said. "He's going to pick me up at eight."

"Ok," she said.

The lights dimmed. We were sitting close to where the speakers were set up, holding hands. Mine were sweaty.

"Music ... makes the people ... come together," a familiar beat played over the speakers. I liked this song.

"Do you — do you want to dance?" I asked.

"Ok," she said.

We got up and walked near to the center of the now crowded gym floor. I started swaying my hips, and she reached around my back to pull me close.

"That was so funny what you said in Mr. Kopp's class," she said.

"Haha, yea" I said. I had gotten sent outside for that one.

We danced a few songs and then Rochelle came over. Jennifer wanted to talk to her, so I stood by myself next to the speakers. The music was loud, almost the loudest thing I had ever heard, but I didn't want to leave this spot because that would mean I might have to talk to Jennifer, and I became nauseous at the thought.

"Baby Bye Bye Bye," the speakers blared, and I could feel the air being pushed out from them with every beat, could see the virbration of the black felt on the front of the speakers.

I became entranced. There were colored lights flashing —they had been set up above the stage and played in time to the music, orange and then green and red, and finally yellow, bright, pure yellow, almost unnatural; it had a neon quality that pulled me in and made me forget about Jennifer and Rochelle, forget that my dad was probably now driving to the school, forget that I woud sit in the car and ride the forty-five minutes home silently, forget everything. I saw yellow and heard the pounding of the speakers next to me, which had receded to a droning in my awareness.

Somehow time must have passed in this state, because I became aware that The Backstreet Boys were no longer playing, it was someone else, possibly Christina Aguilera, although I always got her confused with Britney Spears. I loved Britney Spears. Ever since the girls had been talking about her when we went on the field trip to visit a college campus I had been fixated. They sang her song, "Hit me baby one more time," and danced the moves from her music video, jerking their arms and swaying their hips, stirring something in me that I could barely name, something down in my lower belly, something powerful, it had an intense gravitational pull.

Ever since then I would whisper the lyrics to myself in the shower, picturing the girls next to the yellow school bus, their hair swishing around in the sun from their movements, them laughing and giggling.

But this wasn't Britney Spears, it was Christina Aguilera. I started to feel sick and dizzy, so I walked over to the door in the back corner and went outside, out onto the black top where kids would play wallball at lunch. It was dark out here, and there were spots in my eyes from staring at the lights, so I was disoriented, unsure of my surroundings, and there was something else too, a noise, a strange noise, a high-pitched "Eeeeeee," conistent and unbreaking and somewhat loud, loud enough at least that it filled my awareness.

I started to worry. What was this sound? Was it real? Sometimes I heard sounds that weren't real, like the marching sound I heard when I pressed my ear against the pillow at night. But that sound would at least change, and in fact it would go away if I lifted my head up; this sound did not change, it's loudness didn't dim as I turned my head or covered my ears. I decided to walk to the parking lot and wait for my dad; if the sound was real, if it was coming from somewhere around here, then I wanted to get away from it.


I began to detect small variations in the sound, barely perceptible changes in the tenor, so that it in fact formed a sheet, a surface of sound with a rippled texture, and not the solid wall I thought it was at first.

I had walked past the lunch yard now, where the thick, gnarled and broad oak tree normally shaded the lunch tables; but in the dark it took on an eery quality, its leaves creating sharp sections of darkness against the light cast from the bulb on the back of the gym. I watched the shadows move in the pale yellow light and I became afraid.


The sound had not faded. It would never end, I thought, and I would hear this forever and it would never stop. I started to feel sick. I turned away from the shadows in the yard and began to walk up the hill toward sthe center of school. I could still hear the music from the gym at least, though it was dim over the sound in my ears.


It would never stop. I knew that now. I was broken, something inside me was broken and wouldn't work anymore, it was from the loudness of the dance, from the impurity of my thoughts, from the hard knot at the bottom of my stomach. It was punishment.


It became much darker after I turned the corner past Room Seven and the light from the gym went out of sight. There was still the light out in front of the library, but that was down the hill and far away, and always dim besides.


It was dark, I thought, but not that dark — not nearly as dark as it had been for Han Solo in the mining prision from the Star Wars book I was reading. Han had been taken deep into the planet's core, through so many branching mining shafts that no light whatsoever reached the prison. Han couldn't see anything, not even his hands if he held them in front of his face, but the Gamorrean guards had infrared goggles and could see everything.

I had just finished reading the part where they marched Han into his cell, him having to be led by a rope, following their grunting noises. They shocked him with their sticks and shoved him to the ground; he realized he was in a cell when he heard the door clank shut.

Yea, this is dark, I thought, but not that dark.


"I don't believe that anyone doesn't want to be seen," David says. But this man, the man that I say that night — he doesn't want to be seen.


I walked past the main parking log in front of the office; my dad always picked me up over by the library, at parking lot down the hill; it was easier to get on the freeway entrance from there. That suited me just fine because hardly anyone else went down there. At this time of night, it should be empty.

I felt a knot in my stomach churn and twist on up to my chest, just beginning to turn into a tightening at the base of my neck, near the adam's apple.

I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to see my dad pull up in the van, didn't want to say hi to him as I slid the back door open to walk all the way back to the row, not the two seats in the middle; didn't want to sit in the darkness on the way back, silently ruminating over what had happened.

I didn't want to go back. My throat tightened at the thought. Jennifer was still there.

I decided to walk down to the parking lot and wait there in the dark. That was when I saw him, I saw him on the way down there. He was perhaps the ugliest man I had ever seen, the side of his face was all mangled, ridden with lines; his left lip curled down in a twisted half-frown and his left eye seemed to pop out, forced open by the same pressure that shut his right eye and distorted the surface of his face.

I think that's why he didn't see me at first. I stopped walking as soon as I saw him in the distance standing near the library and instinctively crouched down. I knew something was wrong with this man right way, something was wrong, wrong wrong it wasn't good. I crawled sideways off the path, closer to the trees so I could hide. There was something next to him, but it was so blurry I couldn't make out what it was.


The noise was coming back. I started to cry, hunched over in the darkness next to the tree, holding my knees, grasping them, my toes curling in. What was that? What was it? The more I thought about it, the more I trembled. The thing looked like it might have been a person, a kid, but it was so swirled up and blurry I knew that couldn't be true. The man had had his hands on it, pushing it down, grasping it; his hands seemed to blur along with it. I became curious. How could his hand blur like that? It was like a movie, or the drawing on Time Warp, things couldn't really look like that.


I moved slowly, quietly — I definitely didn't want him to hear me. I peeked my head past the bark of the tree and saw him standing in the distance. What was he doing? What was that thing? Was it still there? I pushed my head out a little farther from the tree. The thing was still there, it was swirling now, moving, and I could see something else, something... something pressing out from the inside; the thing was suprressing it, holding it back, it was as if there were a thin film on the surface, or a force field, holding what was inside down. The motion started to get more frenetic, more urgent, there was so much coming up from inside the thing, pressing, pushing, that the thing's surface almost bubbling from it. I looked closer to see what it was that was coming up from inside the thing and saw... hands, hands pushing up, desperately trying to push out of their prison.


"Ah!" I cried, and fell back; the man let go of the thing and swirled around; as soon as he saw me he screamed, AAAAHhhhhhhhaaaaaHhhAAAAAAAAAaaaahhhhhhhhhaaaAHHHHHHHHHHH, and a blackness came out of his mouth, a true blackness; it shot towards me and curled around to enter my ear.

EEeeeeeeeEEEEeebEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEeeEEEEEeEEEEEEeeeeeeeEEEEee EEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEeeeEEEE EeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeEEEEeEEEEeEEEEeeEEEEeEEEeEEEEeEEEeeeEEeEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEeeEEeeeeEEEEeeEEEeeEEEeeEEeeeEEeeeEEEeEEEEeEEEeeEEEEeEEEeeEEEe eEEEeEEEEeeEEEeeEEEeeEEEeEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEeeeEEEeeEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeEEEEeEEEeeEEEeeEEEeeeEEEeeEEEeEEEeeEEeeEEEeEEEeeEEEeEEEEeEEEeEEEeeEEEeEEEeEEEEEEeeEEEeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEeeEEEeEEEEeEEEEEEEEEEEEEeEEEEeEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeee eeeEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEeeEEEEEeEEEeEEEeeEEeEEEEeEEEEEEeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I stood up from my seat on the toilet and looked again in the mirror. I rubbed my face. The marching sound hadn't been real — well, it ws real, but it was normal, it was just the sound my earlobes made as they pushed against the pillow frabic in tune with my pulse. But the man, the man... I don't know.

I stood up and walked back to bed, the gentle eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee of my tinnitus ringing through my ears.

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