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Steven Blake
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missing.jpg
Art by Paula Friedlander

The Days When I was Missing

 

Steven Blake

 

I think everyone has a part of their life they never forget. They must have or what would be the point of living? I’ve been thinking over the last few days about my life, now it’s coming to an end. I have so many questions I want to ask.

 

          I’m the only person left alive that knows what happened to me, everyone else—my mother and father, Father Norton—are all dead. So I want to write this down, hoping someone will find it and read it, as I couldn’t bring myself to tell someone again face to face what happened. They probably wouldn’t believe me, just like my friend Elma, who’s a few singers short of a choir anyway. She had listened and then laughed in my face. So, no more, I’ll write it down, and this is how it went. I’ll be brief.

 

          I was fifteen, struggling with adolescences—if it isn’t hard enough to deal with, shaving, puberty—and I got a bad bout of flu and was happy to get off school for the week. When you get flu, as most people know, you’re really not well. I thought I was dying. Getting the flu is a shit time.

 

           I was in bed, waiting for my mother to bring me some chicken soup, bolstered up on a mountain of pillows. When I looked over into the corner of my room I saw, through a fog of tears, a silhouette of what I first thought was woman in a black gown.

 

           I wiped my eyes. The black silhouette had gone. I lay there feeling worse, my head was spinning quicker than Walt Disney’s electric meter and once again, nausea washed over me. 

 

           I closed my eyes and vanished for nine weeks.

 

          When I woke, I wasn’t ill anymore. I felt fine, as good as normal but I wasn’t in bed. I stood in darkness, but a vague light shone from somewhere. My feet swam in a cold mist, like dry ice splashed with water. I touched the walls on each side of me. I wasn’t in a room but in a very narrow corridor. And now, moving towards me like the mist itself, were terrible stenches. Moulding cheese. Dank, stewing canal water. Spoiled meat.

 

I covered my mouth and started down the corridor, mainly to get my feet off the cold floor. Behind me, it seemed, a scream rattled the walls and floor. It sounded like it was me screaming. I paused, looking up at the grey ceiling.

 

              “Jesus,” I said.

           Another scream rattled me, and I had to stretch out my hands and use the wall to balance myself. “What’s going on?” I said, and carried on down the corridor. I wanted my mother now, and this sped me up.

 

          At the end of the corridor, which had gone on forever, I turned into another corridor. The mist on the ground had softened and I was now walking across a bed of cracking ice, as if I was walking on a frozen river. The ice eventually faded away to a normal floor of white tiles, blotted with grime.

 

          This part of the corridor was warmer and my feet weren’t burning from the ice anymore. At the bottom of the corridor, there was a thick body of mist, curling as if around people, thinning out. I saw a door.

 

          I ran for it, built up with panic. I approached the door and more screams chimed around me like maddening bells.

 

          I grabbed the door handle. I sensed someone behind me and looked back. Running up the corridor, black streamers of his robe flowing outwards like flags in the wind, was a man with an ashen, gaunt face. His pale lips were peeled back from his ivory teeth. He threw out his hands as if to pull me back.

 

          I opened the door.

 

          I was in my bed again. I looked around the room. My mother was slumped on the carpet. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

 

          She snapped her head up at me. Blood poured down from the corner of her eye. Her hands were trembling. She had gone the colour of piano keys.

 

          Now, in the doorway, my father appeared, looked at me in stark horror and then crouched down and grabbed my mother.

 

           I sat up and my neck screamed in pain. My head pleated and I juddered. I put a hand to my forehead, waiting for the pain to go. I had forgotten about my flu and had just been so glad I had woken up.

 

          By my mother’s bare feet was a Bible, torn in half.

 

          “Dad, what’s going on?” I asked, staring at my mother as he cradled her.

 

I noticed my knuckles were glowing red, and then I was back in the corridor.

 

          Back in the cold mist. Enclosed within the grey walls. This time it was my mother’s scream, mingled with my father’s, that rocked the corridor.

 

           I stretched my arms out again, stabilizing myself and then I heard, as if from the bottom of a tunnel, the voice shouting from the other end:

 

“He sent me to prove He hates you.” The rasping voice was frantic with rage. “You will not find the door again. We are too strong now.” The voice over my shoulder was colder than the mist. It sent shivers up my skin. 

 

          I turned around and was face to face with the man in the robe. I was close enough to see the depths of his murky grey eyes. Crazy as it sounds, I saw terrible suffering and hate. I stepped back.

 

          He smiled.

 

             “Where am I?” I asked.

 

          “With me.”

 

          I stepped back again, not wanting to be near him. “Who are you?”

 

          He cocked his head, examining me, and then looked up at the ceiling. The morbid bliss in his eyes dulled like clouds passing over the sun.

 

             Another one of those virulent cackles shook the walls. “He allows this to happen?”  the voice said above us, around us.

 

          The man in the robe tilted his eyes back to me.

 

          “I wanna go home,” I sobbed. I wanted to see my mother. I wanted to cure that anguish I had caused her. I wanted to get rid of that fear on her face.

 

          “Why go back to a place where He allows you to suffer?” He followed his question with a smile.

 

          I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what he meant. All I could think of was: “Who?” And it came out trembling.

 

             Him.”

 

             “What, I don’t know what you mean. Just let me go, please, please . . . I’ve done nothing wrong.” I was crying now, stoked with fear.

 

          “You can go back but not until my point is proven,” he said and turned away.

 

          He walked away. I shouted:

 

          God will save me!”

 

 I had never prayed in my whole life, I had never read the Bible, I had never even been near a church but for some unknown reason, I shouted this at him. I didn’t even believe in God.

 

          The man in the robe turned around. His grey eyes flecked with yellow speckles like a dull sky full of shooting stars. “We will see,” he said and continued down the corridor.

 

There was no sense of time down there. I could’ve been there two hours or two years. I didn’t see the man in the robe for awhile. Nor did I ever find the door, but all the time I heard the voice either laughing or ranting.

 

           I had given up. I was going to die down there, curled up in the corner of the corridor. The man in the robe was right, God hadn’t saved me. He had abandoned me, left me in the stinking depths of hell.

 

          I heard a lot of crying, and after so long I heard that callous, rasping voice—not the man in the robe though, his voice was as calm as Sunday school hymn—but the voice of the man who he had sent to do his work.

 

              Something was going on up above in the real world. My family were trying to save me. In the gaps where the voice, spitting with rage, broke I heard a choir of response. Religious chants, read from the Bible?

 

           It was then that I knew. I was being exorcised. I was possessed and I was being exorcised. But it wouldn’t work. The confidence in the robed man’s voice was too potent. He knew God wouldn’t save me, he knew regardless of my family’s attempts.

 

          For a long time there was silence. They had failed. Every so often, jabbing with mockery, the voice would cackle and laugh, enticing the people trying to save me to have another go. 

 

           I thought about why this had happened to me. Why God had let it happen to me. I got no answers.

 

 

 

I had become a part of the corridor, festered into the wall like a huge human welt. I didn’t know what I was thinking, I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know who I was.

 

          “He left you to suffer. And yet He promotes love. I proved to you and your family that He is a liar. He lies to you all. Loathe His word. Remember who saved you, remember who sent you home. Not Him!” The man in the robe was standing in front of me.

 

          I looked up at him and then my eyes switched to the door in the wall.

 

          “Go,” he said and stepped away from me.

 

          I scurried across the cold floor, and heard him laughing. I had this terrible feeling that he was teasing me with freedom. I grabbed the handle and pulled the door open. I looked back and saw the man in the robe walking down the corridor. I went through the doorway, through the light and was back in my bed.

          I sat up. The bedroom light stung my eyes. A Bible was on the bedside cabinet. I climbed out of bed. My legs were mushy like sponge. I eyed the wallpaper torn into streaks.

 

              “Mom!” I shouted down the stairs. Ahead of me, in the bathroom, a small mirror was broken into shards but had held in the wooden frame. Above the stairs another mirror had shattered. “Mom!” I shouted again and heard rummaging downstairs and then:

 

              ERIC!” my mother shouted and raced upstairs to see me on the landing.

 

She stood away from me. The one side of her face was purple from bruising. On the corner of her left eye was a nasty swelling. 

 

              “Mom,” I said and burst into tears.

 

          She knew it was me and not that other entity that had beaten her over the last nine weeks. She grabbed me and I have never felt her hold me like that, like she had expected to never see me again. “Oh my baby,” she said into my ear and cried tears on my face.

 

             “Where’s Dad?” I asked.

 

          She moved back from me, cupping my face. She was sobbing. “He’s trying to find another priest. But that don’t matter now.” And she was hugging me again.

 

Another priest.

 

              Sometime later, once I was feeling better, she told me everything that had happened. She said the priest gave up on me and before I had come back they were trying to get help from another church.

 

He had given up on me . . .

 

           I’ve spent many hours thinking about life and what happened to me. I don’t know how much longer I’ve got left—the doctors reckon about two weeks. The tumour in my stomach’s eaten up most of what I’ve got left to offer—, but I’m ready and I know exactly what I’m going to ask when I get through them pearly gates. 

 

          Peace to you all.

 

 

Steven Blake is twenty-two and has written stories since he was a young boy. He has had three stories published online with Bewildering Stories and The Horror Library.  His latest story, “Down on Garrison Lane,” will appear in Dark Fire Fiction in October.

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