The Coal Stain
The following is the final letter of Mr. Jonathan Manning [missing] to Dr. Steven Cunningham:
I hope this letter finds you well. I, however, am so, so tired. Do you remember the shadow I wrote to you about six days ago? I have observed it every night now since my last letter, and I would like to correct my initial description. On that first night, the sight of it struck such fear into me that I could not bring myself to look closer, but as I can hardly sleep in its presence, my sheer exhaustion has lowered my inhibitions. Four nights ago, I got close enough to perform a more thorough inspection.
It is not simply a shadow, as I had initially believed, but rather a vague suggestion of a shape, like a three-dimensional coal stain upon the air itself. It continuously rocks back and forth in slow arcs that appear drunkard-like at first, but upon further observation reveal themselves to be quite deliberate. In absolute darkness, I can just make out small glimmers within its non-mass, like small lights refracted off chips of diamond. With each sway, it brings itself away from the wall and then back against it with a thud. The sound renders images in my head of a human skull cracking against hollow wood and works its way through me, clinging to my ears no matter the distance I put between myself and the stain.
I considered that it might be an environmental entity which is attached to this house and has been awakened by some unknown stimuli. To test this, I spent a night at my brother's apartment, and when sleep finally came without the interruption of that insidious thudding noise, I concluded that my assumption was correct. It was only at 3:57 in the morning–I note the time in case it turns out to be of some importance–that I awoke with the sound rattling in my head. The stain was on the air at the other end of the room, rocking itself in that horrifically hypnotic motion against the walls. A thought occurred to me then, and I went to fetch my brother. As I suspected, he could neither see nor hear it. For reasons unknown, this entity has attached itself to me.
I have been back home for two nights now and have noticed something that causes me great unease. When I first wrote to you about this stain, I noted that it lingered in the far corner of my living room, between the wall and the lamp. When I made my second inspection, it was still in the living room but on the other side, closer to my bedroom. And when I spent the night with my brother, it was in the very same room with me, though on the opposite side.
Tonight, it is in my bedroom doorway.
Aside from the rocking motion, I have never seen the stain move, but I have begun to suspect that it draws nearer when I am not looking. Whether this is a restriction of its abilities or a mind game it is playing with me, I cannot say. But–
I apologize, I've entirely lost my train of thought. That noise it makes; it's embedded itself so deeply into my head that it's beginning to shake my very thoughts. I fear that if I must listen to it for even the rest of this night, I might lose my mind. I suppose that is why I've taken to writing this letter. To organize my thoughts and to help me remain alert. I am terribly afraid. If I fall asleep with it so close, it may move again, and I do not know what will happen when it reaches me.
It disappears when I turn on the lights, but it is still there, even during the day. I realized this earlier today when I walked through the spot I had last seen it and a terrible sense of dread washed through me. And if it is there but not visible, it must be drawing nearer.
Still, I cannot stand that awful thudding noise much longer. It sends shivers down my back and makes me want to vomit. I must turn on the lights. So what if I won't be able to see it? So what if it moves! What does it even matter, so long as that noise stops?
I'm sorry, my friend, but my vigil ends here.