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Dark house. Darker woods. Darkest mind.

Short story By: Aaron Pandemonius
Horror



What exactly is going on in these woods?


Submitted:Oct 28, 2012    Reads: 77    Comments: 0    Likes: 1   


Dark house. Darker woods. Darkest mind.

He sipped his hot chocolate. Outside the window before him he saw the forest, still in the stasis of night; kept alive only by the calls of the owls and chirps of the crickets. By all practical means it was a completely normal and natural scene, but in it he saw something beyond the real; some invisible inhabitant staring back at him. He wrote it off as imagination as anyone would.

He got up from his recliner leaving it swaying back and forth, pulled the fancy, over-priced drapes over the window, and shuffled casually across the wide hallway and through the heavy redwood door into the kitchen. He placed the empty cup in the stainless steel sink and took a moment to admire the spacious room he stood in. The marble countertops, the heated tile floor, and the beautiful country view of the night sky seen through the skylight above him. "I really do love this house." He thought to himself. As he walked back through the masterfully carved redwood door and turned down the long hallway he silently thanked his beloved grandfather for leaving him this perfect gift. Grandpa Heisenberg had a very large fortune to give, but a very large family to give it to. He wrote his will carefully, and made all the right decisions; the best one, in Andrew's opinion, being leaving him this mansion. "Although I do wish he would have left me some of the artwork." He thought as he looked at the bare walls. Still, the quality of the woodwork made up for its nakedness quite well. He turned the corner, gripped the smooth, ornate handrail of the staircase -which was elegant in its design that turned to the left as it ascended-, and lifted his feet onto its carpeted steps. "The only thing I have to worry about anymore is what to do with all my free time. Maybe I'll take a hike tomorrow, get out and enjoy all this beautiful natural scenery I have around me." He stepped through the door and onto the comfortable blue carpet of his bedroom, closed the door behind him, hung up his house robe in the closet, and climbed into his wide, soft bed. "Yes, a hike is an excellent idea. I just need to fish all my hiking gear out of the closet, but that's a concern for tomorrow."

The next morning Andrew stepped barefoot onto the warm, smooth front porch, took in a deep breath of lively woodland air, and looked around at the environment he would be exploring. The sounds of the cicadas and the birds finalized the tranquility of his new home. He went back inside to get dressed.

He examined himself in the mirror as he stood in the comfortably sized walk-in closet attached to his room. A small smile appeared as he noticed how well the dark tan hiking clothes went with his dirty blonde hair and hazel eyes. "Alright, now to prep the boots for their maiden voyage." He held the right boot open and slipped his foot in. "Feels pretty nice. Comforta- wait, what is- AH!" He yelped and grabbed the bar the clothes hung on as his leg recoiled up in pain. He allowed himself to fall on his butt so he could put both hands on the boot and pull it off as quickly as possible; launching a rather large, hairy spider off his foot as he did so. He immediately twisted around and struck at it with the boot, swinging it like a mace; but was surprised -and secretly chilled- by how fast the spider was able to move and evade his attack. Within the second it disappeared through a crevice in the wall that he had not known was there. When he got over the brief shock from what he had just seen, Andrew took of his sock and examined his toe. It was swollen and sore, and sensitive to the touch; it would hurt to walk on, but he refused to let it ruin his hiking trip. He grabbed his hand carved walking stick and headed out.

He shielded his eyes from the sun as he stood in front of one of the lion statues that sat on either side of the stone porch, and looked along the dirt road that lead up to the house for the entrance to the hiking path. When he found the slightly inclined path that he was looking for through a small clearing in the trees, he walked over and started his brief and peaceful journey. His boots dug into the dirt more as his mind wandered away from his swollen toe; distracted by the songs of the birds, the foliage, and the clear blue sky seen from behind the branches and leaves of the trees. But after he had been walking for a while the pain began to come back, and he decided to give his toe a break. He stopped at a small clearing and sat on a fallen tree and lifted his cold water bottle up to his mouth to take a drink when he saw a white rabbit come hopping out from behind the trees. He watched it with delight. Suddenly the furry rabbit stopped and turned to look at him. "I won't hurt you." He called to it. The rabbit continued to stare. After a while, Andrew's delight faded as the length of time this rabbit spent staring at him, still as the lion statues in front of the house, became more and more unsettling. Then, his definition of the word unsettling was changed forever when the rabbit's beady red eyes began to grow steadily until they were the size of quarters. The animal's ears stuck out at an angle as its skull became large and deformed to fit its growing eyes. Andrew's mouth went agape and his hairs stood on end. His numb hand dropped the water bottle and his eyes became locked on to the pair of red, glowing orbs that inhabited the creature's skull. He could hear his pounding heart as if it were inside his ears, slapping his eardrums every time it beat. His face went red hot and his peripheral vision was filled with dots and swirls of color, as if something was pushing in on them. He did not know what to do or think, he just sat, glued to the tree trunk, and stared. Finally his brain caught up to him and his eyes slammed shut. With sweat pouring down his face he said aloud: "Clearly I'm seeing things. Clearly I'm dreaming. Clearly I'm dehydrated and hallucinating." He opened his eyes, but salty sweat from his forehead rolled down and blurred his vision. His arm shot up and wiped it away. He looked up again. The rabbit was gone. He let out a deep, shaky sigh of relief. "I think I need to lay down for a while." He headed home and spent the rest of the day on the couch.

He spent the next morning splitting wood. He needed wood for his fireplace, but much more than that he needed to take his mind off of what happened yesterday. Every time he closed his eyes he saw that demonic animal staring into him as if it were ready to drag his soul to Hell. Every time he blinked it flashed across his vision. He pulled the heavy wedge down on the wood harder and harder every time as he tried desperately to shift his attention to what he was doing. After a few minutes of building up heat in his muscles and baking in the summer sun, he pulled off his sweat soaked shirt and tossed it aside. He lifted the blunt tool over his head to execute another log when a small white rabbit came hopping out of the woods. His entire body went tense, his head pounded, and his eyes locked onto it as it explored the area. The only movement in his entire body was his eyes, tracking every move the animal made until it stopped and looked at him. He got even tenser, so tense that his muscles became sore, and his peripheral vision got dark and spotted like before. He screamed at it brutally, "What do you want?!" It only sat in the grass and twitched its nose at him innocently. His tense face twitched and trembled with terrified anger. He lowered the head of the axe down behind his head, swung it up and around with all his might, and released it; hurling it end-over-end toward the rabbit. The animal darted back into the woods just before the axe imbedded itself in the ground right where it had been standing. Andrew closed his eyes and wiped the sweat from his forehead, and in so doing discovered that the image of the demon rabbit burned into the back of his eyelids was more clear and haunting than ever. His eyelids flew open and his teeth grinded together. At that moment he decided that the only way to get any peace was to lose consciousness. He went back inside, took some powerful sleeping pills, and went to bed.

The entire time he was asleep he saw the rabbit. It was a dream of a still image, the same snapshot that was burned onto the back of his eyelids. It felt like he had slipped into black realm that contained only him and the rabbit, frozen in time. He began to think he would be there forever, and the thought frightened him so much that he darted up in bed, out of the realm and into his pitch black bedroom. "What time is it?" He looked at his alarm clock: 11:42. "Well, I'm not going back to sleep. Might as well get up and read a book or something." But then the door to his bedroom, which he was facing directly, swung open, and he saw a cougar standing in the hallway. His flailing limbs pushed him back against the headboard and he rubbed his eyes. It was still there. He still saw its glowing green eyes and vague, blurry outline; and there was absolutely nothing he could do. His trembling hands clutched the sheets and he screamed, screamed so long and so hard that he got light headed and passed out. When he came to he was alone again, laying in a big, dark room with only the summer breeze coming in through the window to accompany him. He stared down the hallway where he had seen the cat. "I need a doctor. I need to be seen by a doctor before I go completely insane. Maybe I already am." He scooted over to the end table by his bed that held his telephone and called his trusted family doctor that he had known since childhood. He was answered by the groggy voice of a tired older man.

"Hello?"

"Dr. Jennings, its Andrew. I need serious help, I don't know what's happening to me." The doctor cleared his throat.

"Calm down, tell me what you're experiencing."

"I'm hallucinating, or at least I hope I am. I feel like I'm constantly being haunted by something, and I have no idea what it is or what it wants. I feel like I'm losing my mind!"

"Have you felt anything else? Have you felt tired, achy, nauseous, any fever?"

"Actually, I have, I just assumed it was because I was going crazy."

"Have you been poked or scratched recently? Perhaps bitten by something? Anything that has broken the skin?

"Yes, I was bitten by a spider a couple days ago. You think that is what is causing all of this?"

"Yes, you probably have an infection. I'll come down with some antibiotics as soon as I can. Just drink lots of water and try to keep your temperature down until I get there." Andrew released a deep sigh of relief.

"Thank you, Dr. Jennings. Thank you so much."

"It's what I do, Andrew. I'm on my way."

He hung up the phone and let out another sigh. "Maybe I'll be alright after all." He said with an optimistic smile. He put on his silk robe, retrieved an ice bag from the hallway closet, got a glass of cold water from the kitchen, walked through the spacious living room to the elegant couch, and laid there with the ice bag on his head, sipping the cold water. He did not see the rabbit on the back of his eyelids anymore. He just relaxed, at long last.

It was a couple of hours before the doctor showed up. When Andrew saw his headlights sweep across the room through the window, he immediately went outside to greet him. He shielded his eyes against the beams of the headlights until Dr. Jennings turned them off and stepped out of the pickup, carrying a doctor's bag.

"Thanks for coming at this hour, I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Like I said, it's my job. Now let's just go on inside so I can take a look at-" The doctor was interrupted by some sort of huge spike made of bone, piercing straight through his neck and out the front of his throat. His bulging eyes stared up at the night sky in complete shock as his intended words were turned into the sound of gargling blood. Every hair on Andrew's body stood on end and his gaping jaw quivered as he tried to figure out whether or not he was dreaming. He got his answer when blood squirted from the doctor's neck and hit him in the face. He tingled with adrenaline as he bolted inside and locked the heavy double doors. He ran across the hall, threw open the redwood kitchen door, and pulled a butcher's knife from the knife rack. And there he stood, shivering, no idea what to do; when the lights went out. He could hear his heart pounding again. His peripheral vision started to get the dots and swirls like before. He moved his numb, trembling body into the hallway. He moved forward slowly, into the abyss, into the black realm he saw in his nightmare. He desperately felt his away along with his hand, scanning the wall for the hallway closet. When he finally found it he reached inside and pulled out a flashlight, knocking over several other things in the process. He was feeling around for the 'on' button when he heard a thud that rattled the floor. He froze, death grip on the kitchen knife, listening. Soon after there was another thud. And another. Piddle ran down Andrew's leg and onto the floor when he realized that the thuds were footsteps, and they were getting closer. They got louder and louder, until they were almost right in front of him. He closed his eyes tight, squeezing tears out of them as he did. The footsteps approached until they were right in front of him, and stopped. He slowly and reluctantly opened his eyes and turned on the flashlight. He saw himself, standing ten feet away from him, looking at him with cold eyes. Andrew was so confused that they stood there for twenty minutes in silence before he finally said something.

"Why are you doing this?" His anti-self didn't change his blank expression or even blink his soul-less eyes, he just replied:

"You're in my way."

"How? What did I do?" The anti-Andrew's expression grew angry and his eyes burned with hatred.

"You breathe my air. You eat my food. You live my life. You have taken everything from me. Everything you own is rightfully mine."

"What do you want me to do?" anti-Andrew's breath was so cold you could see it when he replied:

"Die." For some reason, as soon as he heard that word, Andrew was no longer afraid. He just looked into his anti-self's lifeless eyes and thought about all the misery he brought him. He thought about the good man that he killed. In that moment, his entire body burst into flames of anger. His face twitched and his hand squeezed the knife until his knuckles turned white. His vision went red and locked on to the demon that stood before him. He let out an earth shattering scream of fury as he lunged forward and cut the monster's neck open with the knife. It backed up away from him, clutching its wounded neck, when he plunged the blade through its ribcage and into its heart. His anti-self doubled over and hit the floor, but in his animalistic state Andrew cut and stabbed and gashed at it until nearly every drop of blood in its body had either spilled onto the floor or sprayed onto the wall. When he got control of his mind again, he was standing over the dead body of his curse, panting, light headed, and covered in blood. He tossed the bloody knife on the floor, and as soon as he did, the lights came back on. He looked down again and found that the body, as well as all the blood, was gone. He looked at his hands and clothes; he was clean. He stood there for a while, taking it all in. Finally he said:

"I almost killed an innocent rabbit."

Dark house. Darker woods. Darkest mind.

He sipped his hot chocolate. Outside the window before him he saw the forest, still in the stasis of night; kept alive only by the calls of the owls and chirps of the crickets. By all practical means it was a completely normal and natural scene, but in it he saw something beyond the real; some invisible inhabitant staring back at him. He wrote it off as imagination as anyone would.

He got up from his recliner leaving it swaying back and forth, pulled the fancy, over-priced drapes over the window, and shuffled casually across the wide hallway and through the heavy redwood door into the kitchen. He placed the empty cup in the stainless steel sink and took a moment to admire the spacious room he stood in. The marble countertops, the heated tile floor, and the beautiful country view of the night sky seen through the skylight above him. "I really do love this house." He thought to himself. As he walked back through the masterfully carved redwood door and turned down the long hallway he silently thanked his beloved grandfather for leaving him this perfect gift. Grandpa Heisenberg had a very large fortune to give, but a very large family to give it to. He wrote his will carefully, and made all the right decisions; the best one, in Andrew's opinion, being leaving him this mansion. "Although I do wish he would have left me some of the artwork." He thought as he looked at the bare walls. Still, the quality of the woodwork made up for its nakedness quite well. He turned the corner, gripped the smooth, ornate handrail of the staircase -which was elegant in its design that turned to the left as it ascended-, and lifted his feet onto its carpeted steps. "The only thing I have to worry about anymore is what to do with all my free time. Maybe I'll take a hike tomorrow, get out and enjoy all this beautiful natural scenery I have around me." He stepped through the door and onto the comfortable blue carpet of his bedroom, closed the door behind him, hung up his house robe in the closet, and climbed into his wide, soft bed. "Yes, a hike is an excellent idea. I just need to fish all my hiking gear out of the closet, but that's a concern for tomorrow."

The next morning Andrew stepped barefoot onto the warm, smooth front porch, took in a deep breath of lively woodland air, and looked around at the environment he would be exploring. The sounds of the cicadas and the birds finalized the tranquility of his new home. He went back inside to get dressed.

He examined himself in the mirror as he stood in the comfortably sized walk-in closet attached to his room. A small smile appeared as he noticed how well the dark tan hiking clothes went with his dirty blonde hair and hazel eyes. "Alright, now to prep the boots for their maiden voyage." He held the right boot open and slipped his foot in. "Feels pretty nice. Comforta- wait, what is- AH!" He yelped and grabbed the bar the clothes hung on as his leg recoiled up in pain. He allowed himself to fall on his butt so he could put both hands on the boot and pull it off as quickly as possible; launching a rather large, hairy spider off his foot as he did so. He immediately twisted around and struck at it with the boot, swinging it like a mace; but was surprised -and secretly chilled- by how fast the spider was able to move and evade his attack. Within the second it disappeared through a crevice in the wall that he had not known was there. When he got over the brief shock from what he had just seen, Andrew took of his sock and examined his toe. It was swollen and sore, and sensitive to the touch; it would hurt to walk on, but he refused to let it ruin his hiking trip. He grabbed his hand carved walking stick and headed out.

He shielded his eyes from the sun as he stood in front of one of the lion statues that sat on either side of the stone porch, and looked along the dirt road that lead up to the house for the entrance to the hiking path. When he found the slightly inclined path that he was looking for through a small clearing in the trees, he walked over and started his brief and peaceful journey. His boots dug into the dirt more as his mind wandered away from his swollen toe; distracted by the songs of the birds, the foliage, and the clear blue sky seen from behind the branches and leaves of the trees. But after he had been walking for a while the pain began to come back, and he decided to give his toe a break. He stopped at a small clearing and sat on a fallen tree and lifted his cold water bottle up to his mouth to take a drink when he saw a white rabbit come hopping out from behind the trees. He watched it with delight. Suddenly the furry rabbit stopped and turned to look at him. "I won't hurt you." He called to it. The rabbit continued to stare. After a while, Andrew's delight faded as the length of time this rabbit spent staring at him, still as the lion statues in front of the house, became more and more unsettling. Then, his definition of the word unsettling was changed forever when the rabbit's beady red eyes began to grow steadily until they were the size of quarters. The animal's ears stuck out at an angle as its skull became large and deformed to fit its growing eyes. Andrew's mouth went agape and his hairs stood on end. His numb hand dropped the water bottle and his eyes became locked on to the pair of red, glowing orbs that inhabited the creature's skull. He could hear his pounding heart as if it were inside his ears, slapping his eardrums every time it beat. His face went red hot and his peripheral vision was filled with dots and swirls of color, as if something was pushing in on them. He did not know what to do or think, he just sat, glued to the tree trunk, and stared. Finally his brain caught up to him and his eyes slammed shut. With sweat pouring down his face he said aloud: "Clearly I'm seeing things. Clearly I'm dreaming. Clearly I'm dehydrated and hallucinating." He opened his eyes, but salty sweat from his forehead rolled down and blurred his vision. His arm shot up and wiped it away. He looked up again. The rabbit was gone. He let out a deep, shaky sigh of relief. "I think I need to lay down for a while." He headed home and spent the rest of the day on the couch.

He spent the next morning splitting wood. He needed wood for his fireplace, but much more than that he needed to take his mind off of what happened yesterday. Every time he closed his eyes he saw that demonic animal staring into him as if it were ready to drag his soul to Hell. Every time he blinked it flashed across his vision. He pulled the heavy wedge down on the wood harder and harder every time as he tried desperately to shift his attention to what he was doing. After a few minutes of building up heat in his muscles and baking in the summer sun, he pulled off his sweat soaked shirt and tossed it aside. He lifted the blunt tool over his head to execute another log when a small white rabbit came hopping out of the woods. His entire body went tense, his head pounded, and his eyes locked onto it as it explored the area. The only movement in his entire body was his eyes, tracking every move the animal made until it stopped and looked at him. He got even tenser, so tense that his muscles became sore, and his peripheral vision got dark and spotted like before. He screamed at it brutally, "What do you want?!" It only sat in the grass and twitched its nose at him innocently. His tense face twitched and trembled with terrified anger. He lowered the head of the axe down behind his head, swung it up and around with all his might, and released it; hurling it end-over-end toward the rabbit. The animal darted back into the woods just before the axe imbedded itself in the ground right where it had been standing. Andrew closed his eyes and wiped the sweat from his forehead, and in so doing discovered that the image of the demon rabbit burned into the back of his eyelids was more clear and haunting than ever. His eyelids flew open and his teeth grinded together. At that moment he decided that the only way to get any peace was to lose consciousness. He went back inside, took some powerful sleeping pills, and went to bed.

The entire time he was asleep he saw the rabbit. It was a dream of a still image, the same snapshot that was burned onto the back of his eyelids. It felt like he had slipped into black realm that contained only him and the rabbit, frozen in time. He began to think he would be there forever, and the thought frightened him so much that he darted up in bed, out of the realm and into his pitch black bedroom. "What time is it?" He looked at his alarm clock: 11:42. "Well, I'm not going back to sleep. Might as well get up and read a book or something." But then the door to his bedroom, which he was facing directly, swung open, and he saw a cougar standing in the hallway. His flailing limbs pushed him back against the headboard and he rubbed his eyes. It was still there. He still saw its glowing green eyes and vague, blurry outline; and there was absolutely nothing he could do. His trembling hands clutched the sheets and he screamed, screamed so long and so hard that he got light headed and passed out. When he came to he was alone again, laying in a big, dark room with only the summer breeze coming in through the window to accompany him. He stared down the hallway where he had seen the cat. "I need a doctor. I need to be seen by a doctor before I go completely insane. Maybe I already am." He scooted over to the end table by his bed that held his telephone and called his trusted family doctor that he had known since childhood. He was answered by the groggy voice of a tired older man.

"Hello?"

"Dr. Jennings, its Andrew. I need serious help, I don't know what's happening to me." The doctor cleared his throat.

"Calm down, tell me what you're experiencing."

"I'm hallucinating, or at least I hope I am. I feel like I'm constantly being haunted by something, and I have no idea what it is or what it wants. I feel like I'm losing my mind!"

"Have you felt anything else? Have you felt tired, achy, nauseous, any fever?"

"Actually, I have, I just assumed it was because I was going crazy."

"Have you been poked or scratched recently? Perhaps bitten by something? Anything that has broken the skin?

"Yes, I was bitten by a spider a couple days ago. You think that is what is causing all of this?"

"Yes, you probably have an infection. I'll come down with some antibiotics as soon as I can. Just drink lots of water and try to keep your temperature down until I get there." Andrew released a deep sigh of relief.

"Thank you, Dr. Jennings. Thank you so much."

"It's what I do, Andrew. I'm on my way."

He hung up the phone and let out another sigh. "Maybe I'll be alright after all." He said with an optimistic smile. He put on his silk robe, retrieved an ice bag from the hallway closet, got a glass of cold water from the kitchen, walked through the spacious living room to the elegant couch, and laid there with the ice bag on his head, sipping the cold water. He did not see the rabbit on the back of his eyelids anymore. He just relaxed, at long last.

It was a couple of hours before the doctor showed up. When Andrew saw his headlights sweep across the room through the window, he immediately went outside to greet him. He shielded his eyes against the beams of the headlights until Dr. Jennings turned them off and stepped out of the pickup, carrying a doctor's bag.

"Thanks for coming at this hour, I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Like I said, it's my job. Now let's just go on inside so I can take a look at-" The doctor was interrupted by some sort of huge spike made of bone, piercing straight through his neck and out the front of his throat. His bulging eyes stared up at the night sky in complete shock as his intended words were turned into the sound of gargling blood. Every hair on Andrew's body stood on end and his gaping jaw quivered as he tried to figure out whether or not he was dreaming. He got his answer when blood squirted from the doctor's neck and hit him in the face. He tingled with adrenaline as he bolted inside and locked the heavy double doors. He ran across the hall, threw open the redwood kitchen door, and pulled a butcher's knife from the knife rack. And there he stood, shivering, no idea what to do; when the lights went out. He could hear his heart pounding again. His peripheral vision started to get the dots and swirls like before. He moved his numb, trembling body into the hallway. He moved forward slowly, into the abyss, into the black realm he saw in his nightmare. He desperately felt his away along with his hand, scanning the wall for the hallway closet. When he finally found it he reached inside and pulled out a flashlight, knocking over several other things in the process. He was feeling around for the 'on' button when he heard a thud that rattled the floor. He froze, death grip on the kitchen knife, listening. Soon after there was another thud. And another. Piddle ran down Andrew's leg and onto the floor when he realized that the thuds were footsteps, and they were getting closer. They got louder and louder, until they were almost right in front of him. He closed his eyes tight, squeezing tears out of them as he did. The footsteps approached until they were right in front of him, and stopped. He slowly and reluctantly opened his eyes and turned on the flashlight. He saw himself, standing ten feet away from him, looking at him with cold eyes. Andrew was so confused that they stood there for twenty minutes in silence before he finally said something.

"Why are you doing this?" His anti-self didn't change his blank expression or even blink his soul-less eyes, he just replied:

"You're in my way."

"How? What did I do?" The anti-Andrew's expression grew angry and his eyes burned with hatred.

"You breathe my air. You eat my food. You live my life. You have taken everything from me. Everything you own is rightfully mine."

"What do you want me to do?" anti-Andrew's breath was so cold you could see it when he replied:

"Die." For some reason, as soon as he heard that word, Andrew was no longer afraid. He just looked into his anti-self's lifeless eyes and thought about all the misery he brought him. He thought about the good man that he killed. In that moment, his entire body burst into flames of anger. His face twitched and his hand squeezed the knife until his knuckles turned white. His vision went red and locked on to the demon that stood before him. He let out an earth shattering scream of fury as he lunged forward and cut the monster's neck open with the knife. It backed up away from him, clutching its wounded neck, when he plunged the blade through its ribcage and into its heart. His anti-self doubled over and hit the floor, but in his animalistic state Andrew cut and stabbed and gashed at it until nearly every drop of blood in its body had either spilled onto the floor or sprayed onto the wall. When he got control of his mind again, he was standing over the dead body of his curse, panting, light headed, and covered in blood. He tossed the bloody knife on the floor, and as soon as he did, the lights came back on. He looked down again and found that the body, as well as all the blood, was gone. He looked at his hands and clothes; he was clean. He stood there for a while, taking it all in. Finally he said:

"I almost killed an innocent rabbit."

Dark house. Darker woods. Darkest mind.

He sipped his hot chocolate. Outside the window before him he saw the forest, still in the stasis of night; kept alive only by the calls of the owls and chirps of the crickets. By all practical means it was a completely normal and natural scene, but in it he saw something beyond the real; some invisible inhabitant staring back at him. He wrote it off as imagination as anyone would.

He got up from his recliner leaving it swaying back and forth, pulled the fancy, over-priced drapes over the window, and shuffled casually across the wide hallway and through the heavy redwood door into the kitchen. He placed the empty cup in the stainless steel sink and took a moment to admire the spacious room he stood in. The marble countertops, the heated tile floor, and the beautiful country view of the night sky seen through the skylight above him. "I really do love this house." He thought to himself. As he walked back through the masterfully carved redwood door and turned down the long hallway he silently thanked his beloved grandfather for leaving him this perfect gift. Grandpa Heisenberg had a very large fortune to give, but a very large family to give it to. He wrote his will carefully, and made all the right decisions; the best one, in Andrew's opinion, being leaving him this mansion. "Although I do wish he would have left me some of the artwork." He thought as he looked at the bare walls. Still, the quality of the woodwork made up for its nakedness quite well. He turned the corner, gripped the smooth, ornate handrail of the staircase -which was elegant in its design that turned to the left as it ascended-, and lifted his feet onto its carpeted steps. "The only thing I have to worry about anymore is what to do with all my free time. Maybe I'll take a hike tomorrow, get out and enjoy all this beautiful natural scenery I have around me." He stepped through the door and onto the comfortable blue carpet of his bedroom, closed the door behind him, hung up his house robe in the closet, and climbed into his wide, soft bed. "Yes, a hike is an excellent idea. I just need to fish all my hiking gear out of the closet, but that's a concern for tomorrow."

The next morning Andrew stepped barefoot onto the warm, smooth front porch, took in a deep breath of lively woodland air, and looked around at the environment he would be exploring. The sounds of the cicadas and the birds finalized the tranquility of his new home. He went back inside to get dressed.

He examined himself in the mirror as he stood in the comfortably sized walk-in closet attached to his room. A small smile appeared as he noticed how well the dark tan hiking clothes went with his dirty blonde hair and hazel eyes. "Alright, now to prep the boots for their maiden voyage." He held the right boot open and slipped his foot in. "Feels pretty nice. Comforta- wait, what is- AH!" He yelped and grabbed the bar the clothes hung on as his leg recoiled up in pain. He allowed himself to fall on his butt so he could put both hands on the boot and pull it off as quickly as possible; launching a rather large, hairy spider off his foot as he did so. He immediately twisted around and struck at it with the boot, swinging it like a mace; but was surprised -and secretly chilled- by how fast the spider was able to move and evade his attack. Within the second it disappeared through a crevice in the wall that he had not known was there. When he got over the brief shock from what he had just seen, Andrew took of his sock and examined his toe. It was swollen and sore, and sensitive to the touch; it would hurt to walk on, but he refused to let it ruin his hiking trip. He grabbed his hand carved walking stick and headed out.

He shielded his eyes from the sun as he stood in front of one of the lion statues that sat on either side of the stone porch, and looked along the dirt road that lead up to the house for the entrance to the hiking path. When he found the slightly inclined path that he was looking for through a small clearing in the trees, he walked over and started his brief and peaceful journey. His boots dug into the dirt more as his mind wandered away from his swollen toe; distracted by the songs of the birds, the foliage, and the clear blue sky seen from behind the branches and leaves of the trees. But after he had been walking for a while the pain began to come back, and he decided to give his toe a break. He stopped at a small clearing and sat on a fallen tree and lifted his cold water bottle up to his mouth to take a drink when he saw a white rabbit come hopping out from behind the trees. He watched it with delight. Suddenly the furry rabbit stopped and turned to look at him. "I won't hurt you." He called to it. The rabbit continued to stare. After a while, Andrew's delight faded as the length of time this rabbit spent staring at him, still as the lion statues in front of the house, became more and more unsettling. Then, his definition of the word unsettling was changed forever when the rabbit's beady red eyes began to grow steadily until they were the size of quarters. The animal's ears stuck out at an angle as its skull became large and deformed to fit its growing eyes. Andrew's mouth went agape and his hairs stood on end. His numb hand dropped the water bottle and his eyes became locked on to the pair of red, glowing orbs that inhabited the creature's skull. He could hear his pounding heart as if it were inside his ears, slapping his eardrums every time it beat. His face went red hot and his peripheral vision was filled with dots and swirls of color, as if something was pushing in on them. He did not know what to do or think, he just sat, glued to the tree trunk, and stared. Finally his brain caught up to him and his eyes slammed shut. With sweat pouring down his face he said aloud: "Clearly I'm seeing things. Clearly I'm dreaming. Clearly I'm dehydrated and hallucinating." He opened his eyes, but salty sweat from his forehead rolled down and blurred his vision. His arm shot up and wiped it away. He looked up again. The rabbit was gone. He let out a deep, shaky sigh of relief. "I think I need to lay down for a while." He headed home and spent the rest of the day on the couch.

He spent the next morning splitting wood. He needed wood for his fireplace, but much more than that he needed to take his mind off of what happened yesterday. Every time he closed his eyes he saw that demonic animal staring into him as if it were ready to drag his soul to Hell. Every time he blinked it flashed across his vision. He pulled the heavy wedge down on the wood harder and harder every time as he tried desperately to shift his attention to what he was doing. After a few minutes of building up heat in his muscles and baking in the summer sun, he pulled off his sweat soaked shirt and tossed it aside. He lifted the blunt tool over his head to execute another log when a small white rabbit came hopping out of the woods. His entire body went tense, his head pounded, and his eyes locked onto it as it explored the area. The only movement in his entire body was his eyes, tracking every move the animal made until it stopped and looked at him. He got even tenser, so tense that his muscles became sore, and his peripheral vision got dark and spotted like before. He screamed at it brutally, "What do you want?!" It only sat in the grass and twitched its nose at him innocently. His tense face twitched and trembled with terrified anger. He lowered the head of the axe down behind his head, swung it up and around with all his might, and released it; hurling it end-over-end toward the rabbit. The animal darted back into the woods just before the axe imbedded itself in the ground right where it had been standing. Andrew closed his eyes and wiped the sweat from his forehead, and in so doing discovered that the image of the demon rabbit burned into the back of his eyelids was more clear and haunting than ever. His eyelids flew open and his teeth grinded together. At that moment he decided that the only way to get any peace was to lose consciousness. He went back inside, took some powerful sleeping pills, and went to bed.

The entire time he was asleep he saw the rabbit. It was a dream of a still image, the same snapshot that was burned onto the back of his eyelids. It felt like he had slipped into black realm that contained only him and the rabbit, frozen in time. He began to think he would be there forever, and the thought frightened him so much that he darted up in bed, out of the realm and into his pitch black bedroom. "What time is it?" He looked at his alarm clock: 11:42. "Well, I'm not going back to sleep. Might as well get up and read a book or something." But then the door to his bedroom, which he was facing directly, swung open, and he saw a cougar standing in the hallway. His flailing limbs pushed him back against the headboard and he rubbed his eyes. It was still there. He still saw its glowing green eyes and vague, blurry outline; and there was absolutely nothing he could do. His trembling hands clutched the sheets and he screamed, screamed so long and so hard that he got light headed and passed out. When he came to he was alone again, laying in a big, dark room with only the summer breeze coming in through the window to accompany him. He stared down the hallway where he had seen the cat. "I need a doctor. I need to be seen by a doctor before I go completely insane. Maybe I already am." He scooted over to the end table by his bed that held his telephone and called his trusted family doctor that he had known since childhood. He was answered by the groggy voice of a tired older man.

"Hello?"

"Dr. Jennings, its Andrew. I need serious help, I don't know what's happening to me." The doctor cleared his throat.

"Calm down, tell me what you're experiencing."

"I'm hallucinating, or at least I hope I am. I feel like I'm constantly being haunted by something, and I have no idea what it is or what it wants. I feel like I'm losing my mind!"

"Have you felt anything else? Have you felt tired, achy, nauseous, any fever?"

"Actually, I have, I just assumed it was because I was going crazy."

"Have you been poked or scratched recently? Perhaps bitten by something? Anything that has broken the skin?

"Yes, I was bitten by a spider a couple days ago. You think that is what is causing all of this?"

"Yes, you probably have an infection. I'll come down with some antibiotics as soon as I can. Just drink lots of water and try to keep your temperature down until I get there." Andrew released a deep sigh of relief.

"Thank you, Dr. Jennings. Thank you so much."

"It's what I do, Andrew. I'm on my way."

He hung up the phone and let out another sigh. "Maybe I'll be alright after all." He said with an optimistic smile. He put on his silk robe, retrieved an ice bag from the hallway closet, got a glass of cold water from the kitchen, walked through the spacious living room to the elegant couch, and laid there with the ice bag on his head, sipping the cold water. He did not see the rabbit on the back of his eyelids anymore. He just relaxed, at long last.

It was a couple of hours before the doctor showed up. When Andrew saw his headlights sweep across the room through the window, he immediately went outside to greet him. He shielded his eyes against the beams of the headlights until Dr. Jennings turned them off and stepped out of the pickup, carrying a doctor's bag.

"Thanks for coming at this hour, I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Like I said, it's my job. Now let's just go on inside so I can take a look at-" The doctor was interrupted by some sort of huge spike made of bone, piercing straight through his neck and out the front of his throat. His bulging eyes stared up at the night sky in complete shock as his intended words were turned into the sound of gargling blood. Every hair on Andrew's body stood on end and his gaping jaw quivered as he tried to figure out whether or not he was dreaming. He got his answer when blood squirted from the doctor's neck and hit him in the face. He tingled with adrenaline as he bolted inside and locked the heavy double doors. He ran across the hall, threw open the redwood kitchen door, and pulled a butcher's knife from the knife rack. And there he stood, shivering, no idea what to do; when the lights went out. He could hear his heart pounding again. His peripheral vision started to get the dots and swirls like before. He moved his numb, trembling body into the hallway. He moved forward slowly, into the abyss, into the black realm he saw in his nightmare. He desperately felt his away along with his hand, scanning the wall for the hallway closet. When he finally found it he reached inside and pulled out a flashlight, knocking over several other things in the process. He was feeling around for the 'on' button when he heard a thud that rattled the floor. He froze, death grip on the kitchen knife, listening. Soon after there was another thud. And another. Piddle ran down Andrew's leg and onto the floor when he realized that the thuds were footsteps, and they were getting closer. They got louder and louder, until they were almost right in front of him. He closed his eyes tight, squeezing tears out of them as he did. The footsteps approached until they were right in front of him, and stopped. He slowly and reluctantly opened his eyes and turned on the flashlight. He saw himself, standing ten feet away from him, looking at him with cold eyes. Andrew was so confused that they stood there for twenty minutes in silence before he finally said something.

"Why are you doing this?" His anti-self didn't change his blank expression or even blink his soul-less eyes, he just replied:

"You're in my way."

"How? What did I do?" The anti-Andrew's expression grew angry and his eyes burned with hatred.

"You breathe my air. You eat my food. You live my life. You have taken everything from me. Everything you own is rightfully mine."

"What do you want me to do?" anti-Andrew's breath was so cold you could see it when he replied:

"Die." For some reason, as soon as he heard that word, Andrew was no longer afraid. He just looked into his anti-self's lifeless eyes and thought about all the misery he brought him. He thought about the good man that he killed. In that moment, his entire body burst into flames of anger. His face twitched and his hand squeezed the knife until his knuckles turned white. His vision went red and locked on to the demon that stood before him. He let out an earth shattering scream of fury as he lunged forward and cut the monster's neck open with the knife. It backed up away from him, clutching its wounded neck, when he plunged the blade through its ribcage and into its heart. His anti-self doubled over and hit the floor, but in his animalistic state Andrew cut and stabbed and gashed at it until nearly every drop of blood in its body had either spilled onto the floor or sprayed onto the wall. When he got control of his mind again, he was standing over the dead body of his curse, panting, light headed, and covered in blood. He tossed the bloody knife on the floor, and as soon as he did, the lights came back on. He looked down again and found that the body, as well as all the blood, was gone. He looked at his hands and clothes; he was clean. He stood there for a while, taking it all in. Finally he said:

"I almost killed an innocent rabbit."

Dark house. Darker woods. Darkest mind.

He sipped his hot chocolate. Outside the window before him he saw the forest, still in the stasis of night; kept alive only by the calls of the owls and chirps of the crickets. By all practical means it was a completely normal and natural scene, but in it he saw something beyond the real; some invisible inhabitant staring back at him. He wrote it off as imagination as anyone would.

He got up from his recliner leaving it swaying back and forth, pulled the fancy, over-priced drapes over the window, and shuffled casually across the wide hallway and through the heavy redwood door into the kitchen. He placed the empty cup in the stainless steel sink and took a moment to admire the spacious room he stood in. The marble countertops, the heated tile floor, and the beautiful country view of the night sky seen through the skylight above him. "I really do love this house." He thought to himself. As he walked back through the masterfully carved redwood door and turned down the long hallway he silently thanked his beloved grandfather for leaving him this perfect gift. Grandpa Heisenberg had a very large fortune to give, but a very large family to give it to. He wrote his will carefully, and made all the right decisions; the best one, in Andrew's opinion, being leaving him this mansion. "Although I do wish he would have left me some of the artwork." He thought as he looked at the bare walls. Still, the quality of the woodwork made up for its nakedness quite well. He turned the corner, gripped the smooth, ornate handrail of the staircase -which was elegant in its design that turned to the left as it ascended-, and lifted his feet onto its carpeted steps. "The only thing I have to worry about anymore is what to do with all my free time. Maybe I'll take a hike tomorrow, get out and enjoy all this beautiful natural scenery I have around me." He stepped through the door and onto the comfortable blue carpet of his bedroom, closed the door behind him, hung up his house robe in the closet, and climbed into his wide, soft bed. "Yes, a hike is an excellent idea. I just need to fish all my hiking gear out of the closet, but that's a concern for tomorrow."

The next morning Andrew stepped barefoot onto the warm, smooth front porch, took in a deep breath of lively woodland air, and looked around at the environment he would be exploring. The sounds of the cicadas and the birds finalized the tranquility of his new home. He went back inside to get dressed.

He examined himself in the mirror as he stood in the comfortably sized walk-in closet attached to his room. A small smile appeared as he noticed how well the dark tan hiking clothes went with his dirty blonde hair and hazel eyes. "Alright, now to prep the boots for their maiden voyage." He held the right boot open and slipped his foot in. "Feels pretty nice. Comforta- wait, what is- AH!" He yelped and grabbed the bar the clothes hung on as his leg recoiled up in pain. He allowed himself to fall on his butt so he could put both hands on the boot and pull it off as quickly as possible; launching a rather large, hairy spider off his foot as he did so. He immediately twisted around and struck at it with the boot, swinging it like a mace; but was surprised -and secretly chilled- by how fast the spider was able to move and evade his attack. Within the second it disappeared through a crevice in the wall that he had not known was there. When he got over the brief shock from what he had just seen, Andrew took of his sock and examined his toe. It was swollen and sore, and sensitive to the touch; it would hurt to walk on, but he refused to let it ruin his hiking trip. He grabbed his hand carved walking stick and headed out.

He shielded his eyes from the sun as he stood in front of one of the lion statues that sat on either side of the stone porch, and looked along the dirt road that lead up to the house for the entrance to the hiking path. When he found the slightly inclined path that he was looking for through a small clearing in the trees, he walked over and started his brief and peaceful journey. His boots dug into the dirt more as his mind wandered away from his swollen toe; distracted by the songs of the birds, the foliage, and the clear blue sky seen from behind the branches and leaves of the trees. But after he had been walking for a while the pain began to come back, and he decided to give his toe a break. He stopped at a small clearing and sat on a fallen tree and lifted his cold water bottle up to his mouth to take a drink when he saw a white rabbit come hopping out from behind the trees. He watched it with delight. Suddenly the furry rabbit stopped and turned to look at him. "I won't hurt you." He called to it. The rabbit continued to stare. After a while, Andrew's delight faded as the length of time this rabbit spent staring at him, still as the lion statues in front of the house, became more and more unsettling. Then, his definition of the word unsettling was changed forever when the rabbit's beady red eyes began to grow steadily until they were the size of quarters. The animal's ears stuck out at an angle as its skull became large and deformed to fit its growing eyes. Andrew's mouth went agape and his hairs stood on end. His numb hand dropped the water bottle and his eyes became locked on to the pair of red, glowing orbs that inhabited the creature's skull. He could hear his pounding heart as if it were inside his ears, slapping his eardrums every time it beat. His face went red hot and his peripheral vision was filled with dots and swirls of color, as if something was pushing in on them. He did not know what to do or think, he just sat, glued to the tree trunk, and stared. Finally his brain caught up to him and his eyes slammed shut. With sweat pouring down his face he said aloud: "Clearly I'm seeing things. Clearly I'm dreaming. Clearly I'm dehydrated and hallucinating." He opened his eyes, but salty sweat from his forehead rolled down and blurred his vision. His arm shot up and wiped it away. He looked up again. The rabbit was gone. He let out a deep, shaky sigh of relief. "I think I need to lay down for a while." He headed home and spent the rest of the day on the couch.

He spent the next morning splitting wood. He needed wood for his fireplace, but much more than that he needed to take his mind off of what happened yesterday. Every time he closed his eyes he saw that demonic animal staring into him as if it were ready to drag his soul to Hell. Every time he blinked it flashed across his vision. He pulled the heavy wedge down on the wood harder and harder every time as he tried desperately to shift his attention to what he was doing. After a few minutes of building up heat in his muscles and baking in the summer sun, he pulled off his sweat soaked shirt and tossed it aside. He lifted the blunt tool over his head to execute another log when a small white rabbit came hopping out of the woods. His entire body went tense, his head pounded, and his eyes locked onto it as it explored the area. The only movement in his entire body was his eyes, tracking every move the animal made until it stopped and looked at him. He got even tenser, so tense that his muscles became sore, and his peripheral vision got dark and spotted like before. He screamed at it brutally, "What do you want?!" It only sat in the grass and twitched its nose at him innocently. His tense face twitched and trembled with terrified anger. He lowered the head of the axe down behind his head, swung it up and around with all his might, and released it; hurling it end-over-end toward the rabbit. The animal darted back into the woods just before the axe imbedded itself in the ground right where it had been standing. Andrew closed his eyes and wiped the sweat from his forehead, and in so doing discovered that the image of the demon rabbit burned into the back of his eyelids was more clear and haunting than ever. His eyelids flew open and his teeth grinded together. At that moment he decided that the only way to get any peace was to lose consciousness. He went back inside, took some powerful sleeping pills, and went to bed.

The entire time he was asleep he saw the rabbit. It was a dream of a still image, the same snapshot that was burned onto the back of his eyelids. It felt like he had slipped into black realm that contained only him and the rabbit, frozen in time. He began to think he would be there forever, and the thought frightened him so much that he darted up in bed, out of the realm and into his pitch black bedroom. "What time is it?" He looked at his alarm clock: 11:42. "Well, I'm not going back to sleep. Might as well





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