He stands there, staring at me. He fills the entire space of my bedroom door frame. His white, featureless face obscured more than it should be given the illumination. When I blink he disappears. When I focus my eyes he disappears. His eldritch figure remains permanently in my periphery.
His mouth opens from the corner of my vision. The edges of his mouth stretch too far apart and where his teeth, tongue and cheeks should be is nothing, a deep vantablack nothing. From the nothing comes a horrendous cacophony of animals screaming as though they are eaten alive, slowly.
I turn my head to try and catch him with focused eyes. This time he does not disappear. I see him… I see it… and it is as dreadful and macabre as I had feared it would be.
A thousand dying screams rip my ears.
It remains still with it’s overly large mouth agape but it’s shadow expands. The shadow of it’s fingers lengthen, it’s face distorts into shapes pulled straight out of the abyss. It’s silhouette still remains roughly human but it’s shadow now portrays what I always imagined it to be.
I squeeze my eyes shut as powerfully as I can.
Please go away, please go away, you’re not real, you’re not real! I think.
I keep my eyes closed until I am sure that if it wanted to take me it would have by now and then I tentatively open my eyes one millimeter at a time.
Doorway empty, room quiet and still except for the coat rack that seemed to move…
The instant I look at the coat rack it lunges at me.
I struggle to wake up, caught between the absolute immersion of Morpheus’ realm and the full relief of reality. Sweaty and screaming I finally snap awake. Although I feel the sweat covering my body and the cold dampness of the sheets and pillow, no sound fills the room. I scream and reach for something, but no sound or movement comes. My lips and limbs are frozen but my eyes are wide open.
I find myself wondering where I am, looking around with just my eyes, only to find nothing familiar to see myself in relation to. It is black, it is endless, and if some hint of shape or light can be seen I get no closer to it despite how far I travel. I am startled into rapid movement, a sprint to feel something, to see anything, but my body is frozen. I can only reach into empty space to feel only emptiness.
The familiar shape of the room starts to take form. I become aware of the texture of the duvet, my duvet. I am in my room and in my bed. I know where I am now, but my body is frozen. I scream again, then I scream louder but my lips do not budge. I call for help, for anyone to see me, yet I am paralyzed and terrified.
I look toward my door with relief. He, it, is not there. He does not watch me from just outside my room like he always does.
I look forward and relax when out of the corner of my eye I see my girlfriend lying next to me. I see where her face should be — and it is not her face. The mouth is too wide. As soon as this awareness penetrates my mind he opens his mouth.
I am standing in the living room, naked and drenched in sweat. How did I get here? I think as pieces start coming back to me. I am finally awake. There is no shadowman, there is no paralysis, there is only lucidity. The full relief of reality.
Although wakefulness brings solace, I know that the shadows of this experience will linger for days, possibly weeks. With each repeated visit I can feel the seams of my mind fraying. I think I am coming undone from the inside out and I wonder if the damage will be repairable, or will it be permanent this time?