THE FEAR LADDER
Some people are afraid of cats, or dogs, or snakes. Some people are afraid of elevators, spiral staircases, or even other human beings.
Some fears are rational.
I'm afraid of turning left.
I've had this condition ever since I ran over an old woman while high on a mixture of quaaludes and bourbon. At first, I thought that I had accidentally hit a stray dog - until I saw her broken body lying on the rough asphalt.
My first instinct was to call an ambulance. But when I went to check on the old woman, I saw that she wasn't breathing anymore. Her blood formed a crimson pool on the ground and her limbs were splayed in unnatural angles.
She was already dead.
Nothing I could do about that.
So I gave myself two choices: turn myself in or drive away. The street was empty. There were no cars or pedestrians around. The thought of spending a lifetime in jail frightened me more than anything else in the world.
What I did to that woman was craven and unforgiveable, but the potent combination of fear, drugs, and alcohol coursing through my veins made me jump back into the car and step on the gas pedal. I didn't look back. I couldn't.
I stopped taking quaaludes. Never touched that shit again. It was difficult to go cold turkey, but I managed to kick my habit after spending a week inside my room, feeling like I was gonna die after throwing all my pills away.
For several days, I struggled with recurring bouts of stomach and chest pains that were so intense, I blacked out more than a dozen times. On Sunday, I had to be admitted to a nearby hospital and get treated for severe dehydration and malnutrition, but I was finally cleansed.
Of course, I waited for the cops to arrest me, but they never came. There wasn't a mention of a hit-and-run on the newspapers. Then again, a week had already passed. Perhaps people alreadt forgot about it, or perhaps that nameless old woman was one of those homeless bums, the dregs of society that nobody really gives a damn about.
I tried to forget about what had happened.
During the next three years, I found myself a new job, a new girlfriend, moved out of my ratty old apartment bought a decent home in the suburbs. Things were looking up. Sometimes, I even thought that the incident was nothing but a bad dream caused by my abuse of prescription drugs.
Everything was going to be all right.
Until I saw the old woman once more.
I had just bought a pack of Lucky Strike from a convenience store downtown. While lighting a cigarette, I heard a strange, slopping noise, like wet seaweed hitting a stone wall. From the periphery of my vision, I caught a glimpse of something that looked like a person suffering from multiple sclerosis trying to cross the road.
Ignoring it, I kept on walking. But the shape continued to follow me. When I quickened my pace, the thing also shambled faster with an awkward gait. And that bizarre and awful noise, kept on pursuing from a distance, not too close, but close enough to make me hasten my stride.
Upon finally reaching a crowded streetcorner, I believed that I was safe from whoever was chasing me.
Until I made a left turn toward an overpass and saw the old woman crouching on the cement stairway like a grotesque spider. Her face was bloody, and she greeted me with a vicious grin that exposed her yellowish, rotten teeth. The woman's limbs were twisted and bent, with jagged splinters of bone jutting out of her broken, bleeding skin.
I thought that I was hallucinating, which was impossible, since I had been clean and sober for more than three years. For a full minute, I closed my eyes and muttered: "It isn't real. It isn't real," like a prayer.
When I opened my eyes, the old woman had vanished. Breathing a sigh of relief, I thought that everything was gonna be okay, I really did. Then, I started turning to my left, and there she was again, still waiting for me with those wild, insane eyes, and that mocking, cruel grin.
The shock was enough to send me running.
But no matter where I went, no matter how far and fast I ran, she was always there. I saw her crouching in solitary bus stops, in empty alleyways, on the steps of fire escapes, on rooftops and doorways and entrances to underground subway stations. I still didn't know if she was real, or if I was only losing my mind. I didn't care.
All I wanted to do was to escape.
"What d'you want from me?" I shouted.
And the woman just laughed, a high-pitched, inhuman cackling that I would hear for the rest of my life.
From then on, I would see her in every street, in every darkened corner, even inside my house.
She would always be there.
That is how I came to develop my sinistrophobia.
Soon, I realized that the apparition only showed herself whenever I turned to the left. Even a slight glance westward would make her appear out of nowhere. Because of this, I decided that the only sensible solution to my strange predicament was to never turn left, ever again.
I won't go into detail regarding the effects this had on my daily existence, but because of my condition, I've lost my job, my home, and the only person I've ever loved.
I can't drive cars anymore. I have to take a dozen rightward detours through unfamiliar streets just to get to any destination. If I need to grab something placed on a leftward location, I must spin around clockwise every single time just to avoid seeing that specter.
Even sleeping has its own challenges. Before going to bed, I have to strap down my wrists and legs with leather restraints. This prevents me from rolling over sideways; there is nothing more horrifying than waking up and seeing a dead woman staring at you with bloodshot eyes, her mouth stretched wide in a foul and lustful smile.
This is how I live now.
Constantly afraid, constantly tormented.
But instead of accepting my fate, I started doing research, reading books on religion and obscure occult tomes that might hold some explanations. I asked myself: why does the woman only appear whenever I look to the left?
What, exactly, does this mean?
It has been a decade since I began living with this affliction, and I believe that I've found some answers.
According to the famed esoteric philosopher, Helena Blavatsky, the worlds of the living and the dead exist simultaneously in different dimensions. Most people cannot see this hidden realm of specters and otherworldly creatures, but sometimes, there are others who might be able to pierce the veil - lunatics, junkies, men and women whose minds have been ravaged by madness or narcotics.
I am one of those people.
My history of drug abuse has opened my eyes to things that exist beyond the boundary of human sight. The use of quaaludes alters the structure of the brain's pineal gland, referred to in some eastern theologies as the "third eye."
But unlike those mystics who spent their lives developing this ability, my talent was discovered by accident. It can't be controlled, it can only be ignored, and to commence the same journey of enlightenment that various holy men, witch doctors, and spiritualists embarked on would take entire lifetimes to finish.
I don't have that luxury.
I don't even know if I'll survive another day.
And so now I've decided to stop living in fear. I've had enough of turning away from the things I've done.
Tonight, I will climb the fear ladder for the last time. It's a psychological device used to treat severe phobias. Each step on the fear ladder corresponds to a gradual exposure to the source of one's worst nightmares. The ladder can take many forms: mine happens to be a swivel chair placed in the center of a dimly-lit cellar, with the degrees of a circle written around its base.
For half a year, I've attempted to make a full 180-degree turn to the left using this swivel chair as a conditioning mechanism. It has been difficult, to say the least, and each angle I've conquered brings me closer to the spectral dimension where the dead woman dwells.
She no longer tries to frighten me, but instead she whispers, softly, that I have gained her forgiveness. The nameless old lady once thanked me, in her gravelly voice, for showing her a realm full of wonders and terrors beyond imagining, and now she wants to share those sights with me.
With every step taken on the fear ladder, this world of the dead, this necropolis that exists beyond space and time, reveals itself to my eyes. The old woman keeps on goading me, encouraging me, her voice a constant buzzing in my ear. She's no longer alone. Others have come along with her, the spirits of those long dead and gone.
Every night, as I climb the ladder, a chorus of the damned visits my basement, and they whisper my name over and over again. The closer I move to 180 degrees, the louder their voices become. Now, there are only a handful of angles left before I make a complete leftward turn.
I'm leaving this note in case something terrible happens. Whoever you are, please, I need you to understand that I've tried to be brave. I'm still the same coward that I was all those years ago, but I've stopped running from the ghosts that haunt me. If this is the penance that I must perform to set things right, then so be it.
The old woman's here.
The others have come with her.
I have to go now.
@styxbones @ellowrites #horror #horrorfiction #darkart