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A Horrible Story
The door closed with a sickening thud, putting a stop to the agonized groaning of the ancient hinges. Elly held her breath with her fingers still touching the end of the rusty doorknob. She let her hand slip and walked a few steps into the gloom: no one had heard her, all was as quiet as the frosty air. The moon was obscured entirely by clouds and a heaviness hung in the total darkness. And then, for the second time that night, she began to feel very silly. It was one o’clock in the morning, and here she was, a coat thrown haphazardly over her nightgown, standing near the back door of her house. And why exactly? For the second time she had heard a voice telling her a place and time with a curt “be there”. the first time it had been an early hour of the afternoon in a deserted chapel a few blocks from her house. She had gone there at the appointed time, waited an hour, and then left mildly exasperated. What had annoyed her most was that she had actually believed the voice, expected something to happen, and obeyed its instructions. And this time the voice had said one in the morning near the twin trees. She could not help wondering why she was being so foolish. A bad cold, she reflected, would be in all likelihood the only tangible result of the expedition. But her feet, it seems, did not yield to skepticism, and as she was brooding over her stupidity and the inutility of all such ventures, they made their way surely in the direction of the twin trees, (a fair distance from the back entrance of her house).
It was very cold. She inwardly thanked heaven that there was no wind at all. About five minutes later, she was no longer so thankful and began to think it distinctly odd that everything was so completely motionless and frozen. She even had the strangest sensation that she was the only thing moving. That everything else had somehow given up and stopped, while she walked in the silent ruins of what had been space and time. Not a leaf rustled, not a twig snapped, not an owl hooted, and our protagonist broke into a run from very fear. It wasn’t long before she reached (or collided to be more precise) with the smaller of the twin trees. She blinked, straightened her hair, and nervously looked about herself. Nothing, no one. of course she hadn’t really expected anything, to be sure. She looked at her watch, it was still five minutes off one o’clock, she had left early in order to be in time. She huddled against one of the trees and shivered from the cold. On second thought, she realized that she absolutely did not want to meet anyone or see anything in this place, at this time of night. Why not run back? But it immediately struck her not as cowardly, but as so utterly senseless, that she shrank form its blatant vapidity. If she was going to get a bad cold, she may as well have something to show for it. She settled down to thinking how long she should wait for it to be “good enough”. An hour, like last time, seemed too brutal in this weather, and besides, falling asleep would be fatal. Twenty minutes perhaps, a good solid half hour maybe. She was not expecting anything at all to happen, and was merely trying to make herself look less foolish in her own eyes than she already did.
She began feeling very drowsy…twenty minutes…twenty plus five minutes….one hundred and seventy seven minutes…..her head was drooping and she slid down onto the snow……how many minutes are there in eternity…..thirty seven minutes minus a good, solid half hour……how many minutes are there in no time, in nothing……how many-and she suddenly sprang up with a jolt. Something was moving several paces from her, it was a person-the blood rushed to her face and she clutched one of the trees with a mad frenzy. Who could it be? The figure, covered in a brown shawl from head to foot, so that the face was not discernable, threaded its way through the trees until it stood directly in front of Elly, who had been so shocked, she had not even thought of running, and the blood that had rushed to her face had now rushed back down, so that her face was as pale as the waxy moon, and a lot less serene. When the figure raised its (strangely familiar) hands to its hood and began lifting it, Elly thought she would faint. And then it happened. Nothing, in all her previous experience, and in all of her wildest fantasies, nothing at all could have prepared her for what she saw when the figure took the hood off its face, and revealed-to put it bluntly, Elly’s own face. The figure was Elly. It took a few seconds for it to dawn on Elly that there was something monstrously wrong with this second Elly, whereupon she (the real Elly) let out a horrified scream, so piercing in fact, that the tree she was clutching vibrated to it terrified sound, and the very branches trembled. She could not look at that face. It wasn’t ghastly or hollow, it wasn’t distorted or nefariously twisted, but there was something about it, something so horrible….she glanced at it again, yes, that was it, it was dead, there was no life in it at all….but no, that didn’t seem right either, it was not dead. Why couldn’t Elly look at the second Elly? After all, she wasn’t moving or saying anything, she was just standing there, motionless, completely silent and still. And then it hit her in a flash. It was not death she was looking at, that was not so horrible since it was a distinct state, with a precise and tangible substance to it. No, what she saw in the apparition Elly was-nothing. Absolute, complete nothing, and the shadowy void gleamed in her eyes. It was inhuman, it was completely monstrous, but even though tears streamed form her eyes, Elly could not help looking at the apparition Elly, however painful it was. She had never seen anything so horrible, or so powerful. She was sure that if the second Elly were to but blink her eyes or move her finger the whole earth would be obliterated.
And then the apparition Elly began to shrink, and in a few seconds there was nothing left of her, absolutely nothing, completely nothing, and Elly put her hands to her face and wept. She wept herself to sleep, and by morning she had frozen to death



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