A moment before an amorphous shape drifted into my bedroom; its preceding glow illuminated the darkness. A sudden chill filled my bedchamber, making my pores dimple like gooseflesh. My eyes widened in disbelief. The unmistakable form of an apparition floated just seven paces from my terrified soul! Like a cowering child; I desperately clutched my covers and sought the irrational security therein. My world was rapidly deteriorated into madness.
As much as I fancied the unfolding nightmare to be the product of an overactive imagination, I knew I was completely awake and lucid. I was no longer alone. Somehow the inanimate being before me had bridged the gap between the living and the dead!
It outstretched a ghastly finger and pointed directly toward me. I took the gesture to signify that I was the sole subject of it’s etherial visit. My panic stricken heart thundered in my throat. It continued to pound for the duration of the phantasmagorical confrontation.
Almost as quickly as it had arrived, my uninvited guest vanished back to the realm of the dead. While gone, it was not before leaving me trembling uncontrollably in a fetal ball. Only at the welcome glint of daybreak did I somehow manage to regain my composure. I sought to carry-on; with some semblance of normalcy.
In the rational rays of sunrise, false courage did its best to quell my state of agitation. That being said; I was still too rattled by the paranormal encounter to completely deny its truth. All the scientific reasoning in the world couldn’t dismiss the gut-wrenching terror I had experienced a few hours earlier.
For every internal argument I won, I had five others that were certain the haunting had been as real as my still-trembling bones. Had it only been a vivid dream in the landscape of the unconscious mind? Such an unnatural occurrence between man and restless spirit was never meant to be. Yet I had personally witnessed the illusive barrier to the great beyond, crumble.
As the last vestiges of afternoon sunlight faded, a morbid dread filled my thoughts. Would Hades; the vigilant guardian to the underworld; allow this unspeakable thing to return to the sanctuary of my bedroom? I honestly didn't know what the approaching darkness would bring. Only time would tell. In the back of my mind, I feared I already knew.
That evening I procrastinated blowing out my lantern. It was but a feeble attempt to be less accommodating to the wandering spirit. I knew it was futile gesture; born of desperation. A locked door or pistol under my pillow offered no defense from an entity unaffected by the constraints of the physical world.
Intellectually, I knew those truths to be self-evident. Regardless, the rational mind does what it must to overcome the primal element of fear. If it did come back; there was nowhere I could flee or escape its unknown mission.
Anticipating the return of an underworld messenger filled my soul with an impending sense of doom. Never had I been more painfully aware of the countless creaks and groans that lurk in the realm of shadows. All-to-soon, the final embers died in the fireplace hearth. The identity and purpose of the unwelcome visitor drew the focus of my thoughts.
I had an eternity in the darkness to reflect on my dealings with others. I tried to recall anyone who bore an ill will against me; or might seek revenge from the grave. I questioned my ethics, morals, actions and deeds. In all matters, I concluded that I had treated others as I wanted to be treated.
I remained convinced that I had always acted with reasonable fairness and respect to my fellow man. That further illustrated my strength of character after being taken advantage of many times. Those abuses of trust and friendship had left a bad taste in my mouth. Eventually it led to my reclusive nature in recent years.
Try as I might, I had no luck in guessing the hidden identity of the phantom who haunted my thoughts. Whatever reason it had sought my audience the previous night, I was unable to surmise. I only hoped there wouldn't be a repeat visit.
To my dismay, the bilious aura of charged protons appeared again in the hallway. This ethereal haze grew in intensity until it hovered at the foot of my bed! This time, my determination to understand the wisdom it had to impart; temporarily outweighed my fear.
The otherworldly-entity manifested an indistinct shape throughout the second encounter. It's overall form was basically transient; except for a very familiar looking human 'face'. That uniquely clear focal point was in sharp contrast to the rest. Regardless, I was too distracted by its stern relay of ominous gestures; to notice any other details.
It was as if we were doomed to act out a tragic, silent opera on a nightly basis. Compounding the tragedy was that we had no means of successful communication. Failing that essential connection, there could be no closure and no end to the cycle of frustration. I shook my head to impart my lack of comprehension. Its cold, lifeless eyes starred blankly through me. If the phantom understood my reaction, it did not register in its facial expression.
It's mouth delivered indecipherable 'words' that no living soul could have grasped. I tried in earnest to bridge the communication gap, none-the-less. No sound emanated from its pale lips, nor did I hear telepathic thoughts in my head. There was nothing tangible I could gain from the baffling discourse to explain its presence. Only my galloping heartbeat thundered in my ears.
The two of us were locked in a futile cycle of necromancy. Eventually the surreal, serial meeting would run its course. Hopefully I would glean my supernatural visitor’s purpose. Had it came to warn of my immanent demise before the cock crowed three times? Maybe it was trying to reveal a future event that I was somehow connected to. Perhaps it ventured forth from 'the beyond' to chastise me for a long forgotten sin.
After my initial fear dissipated somewhat, I was left with a nearly equal measure of morbid curiosity. Eventually it occurred to me that I could try another way to communicate with the specter. Just because I was unable to unlock his cryptic message, didn't mean that the formless spirit couldn't understand me.
When I first tried to speak, no sound would escape my throat. Even my lips refused to part. Panic set in and my heart raced even more. I was unable to utter a single word; for what seemed like an eternity. I suspected that supernatural forces beyond my understanding were preventing me from interrupting the twice delivered sermon.
At last I found my wavering courage but the words themselves still would not come! I had countless questions but I was unable to organize my thoughts to pose them. Only the shadowy expert at the foot of my bed was in a position to answer such deeply sought, universal questions about life after death. It remained to be seen however, if he was willing or able to divulge those forbidden answers.
For the first time since our unlikely paths crossed, the apparition took notice of my intention to lead 'the conversation’. To my relief, he ceased his angry exhortations and allowed me to guide the exchange of information. Rather in-eloquently, I sputtered and stammered a few cursory questions. I asked who he had been in life; and why he was invading the private sovereignty of my home.
After my previous attempt had failed, I was actually taken aback when I heard his response inside my head. It was even more startling because he used my own 'voice' to speak.
“I stand here; not to judge you for your actions thus far; but for those things that you have not done. I am the earthly manifestation of your lost opportunities. As of late, you have completely squandered your life; to the point of absolute separatism. The hermetic, solitary existence you lead in this loveless dwelling is a waste of humanity. It will be your end. Avoiding others has deprived you of meaningful relationships and starting a family. That is the nature of your sin. Repent, before it is too late!”
In that pivotal moment of clarity, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The familiar, lifeless eyes boring holes through me were actually my own. I was him; and sadly the ‘lifeless specter’ in the darkness was I. The hair-raising, supernatural experience was apparently a psychological cautionary tale. My subconscious mind had woven an intricate tapestry of hallucinatory visions to encourage me to start living a more socially rewarding life. I needed to start interacting with others again.
From that day forth, I made a much greater effort to bridge the gap I felt with others. I worked hard to build upon whatever mutual strengths I had with them. At the same time, I did my best to diminish personal differences that previously kept me at arm's length. Eventually I came out of my paralyzing shell of insecurity and shyness. With my renewed positive attitude, I married a beautiful young lady who bore me four precious children.
That was more than twenty years ago. I've never divulged my harrowing experience before now; for fear they might question my sanity. Regardless of whether it was real, or imagined out of desperate loneliness; I owe my happiness and personal fulfillment to that spectral visitor in the dark.
A tribute to the great Ambrose Bierce
Submitted May 23, 2019 at 09:06PM by OpinionatedIMO