The heavens are destitute. The void is not fertile.
Here are the things that I thought that I knew:
—They only come out at night.
—If I kept driving, I could get away from them.
—There was hope.
The radio frayed into Static, and the “woman’s” Mona Lisa smile curved upward. There was no meaning behind that smile, no actual emotion or sense. Just like the “smile” of a shark. “She” opened my car’s locked door with no resistance, and kept her eyes on me always.
Like the others, she stayed behind the GoPro. Cameras are what kept my uncle safe until they tricked him, and this camera kept me safe. She slid into the front seat of the car, eyes still on me— no, in me. I instinctually checked for my car keys by patting my pocket. They were still there. The static howled behind me.
My car’s engine turned, and it put its hands at ten and two. “You have an hour,” it said, “we like the sport of it.” My car pulled out in reverse, and slowly drove into the oppressive darkness of the night.
My GoPro was gone. My flashlight was in the car. There was nothing keeping them out of my motel room and I could not check for shadows. I was stranded. My radio howled static.
The room’s lights went out.
I grabbed my radio and ran straight out the door. I didn’t have a plan, there was no time to think one up. I just ran and kept away from the areas where I had seen the owls earlier. The static never faded. I dared not to look behind me.
Once I had got to the front of the motel I saw it. I finally noticed it. There were no lights in the complex at all, there were no cars either. The attendant’s room, where the front desk was, was not just dark, the windows had been boarded up. A sign that read “condemned” had been nailed to its door. The motel looked abandoned because it was abandoned. I had been tricked. I had been trapped. They showed me what I wanted to see. They had stared at me and they had learned how my mind worked, and they used it against me. They made sure that the only room I could stay in lacked enough cover so that they could stare into me more. There was no one here but them.
…And now they were on the hunt. I had only an hour.
I had to avoid the road. It was the only thing out here not covered in trees. You could see me a mile away if I ran up it. I had gone north, into the northwest from Nevada after they got my uncle. I was originally happy to have an overcast sky, but now, even the moon was covered, muting its glow. The darkness was oppressive, and there was nothing but trees.
I darted into the forest.
The air was crisp and wet, nothing like the dry hot breath of the desert. I picked a direction and kept the moon behind me. The static on my portable radio gave way to Music. I ran in the direction that the music was clearest. Twigs snapped under my heavy footfalls. Only the wooden spires of trees lay ahead of me.
I realized then how quiet, how utterly silent the forest was. I realized then that my radio was actually a liability. They gave me a head start because they wanted to chase me. They wanted the game. Though the static would tell me they were near, the sound of it carried too far. The music gave me away.
My one tether to safety, my last life preserver, now working against me.
I don’t think I had ever clutched something so close to me the way I did that radio at that moment. Did I leave it on and run if I heard static, knowing that it would give them something to follow? Did I shut it off and hide and …hope? I still had an hour, I could turn the volume down but—
The music faded. The static started.
I felt their presence before I saw them. I knew they were staring at me before I saw their eyes. I ran. I darted in different directions. I kept hoping that one direction would give in to music. None did. I was surrounded.
I could feel them behind me.
I saw them ahead of me.
The owls did not stand in the trees. They were not perched in their branches. They stood on the ground. Their dark, obsidian eyes the color of malice and indifference.
If an owl can smile, well, it did so then. Slight Mona Lisa grins, each with the same meaning as a blank piece of paper.
I picked up the nearest boulder. The static cackled with intensity. Each direction I turned there was another one of them.
“What do you want?!” I demanded, knowing that I didn’t sound tough.
My head began to throb, and a migraine gripped my head like a vise. They drew closer, yet they did not move. I raised my boulder…
The heavens are destitute.>
I wasn’t holding anything.
The void is not fertile.>
My head felt like it was imploding. I screamed in agony. I could feel them drink it in. Their eyes! Their colorless, formless eyes! As barren as the void, as barren as the sky! The shape of madness.
The air did not vibrate then. No. The space that the air occupied vibrated then. I heard nothing but static. Saw nothing but darkness.
Then there was nothing.
I don’t know what happened next. Maybe I just can’t understand it. Maybe I’m just not allowed to see it. Maybe that’s mercy. I don’t know how I got home, but somehow I’m not surprised that they knew where to put me. I woke up with scars.
Some things that I thought I knew: I could run, there was hope, I was free.
I know to tell my therapist that, “Yes, it was probably a psychotic breakdown.” I know to tell her that, “Yes, I shouldn’t tell anyone about it.” She’s very nice. She is always smiling, just slightly. She casts no shadow.
Some things that I know now for sure: They always knew where I was. They own me. Don’t watch the skies. Don’t trust yourself.
[Part 1.] [Part2.]
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