by Rich Young
The stairs were the problem. That Thomas could hear the Scraping within the walls and see the Face in the glass were of no consequence compared to the fear that the steps invoked. The steps led up and out — away — out into the light where bad things were decided, fates were cast, and the people bowed and prayed to a god of light. Thomas knew that light would first blind him, then burn his skin, and finally, after a lifetime of painful torture, he would die.
One fearful night, Thomas awoke from sleeping to find himself standing on the steps. He was three steps up and it was as if all the good in the world was focused on him. Thomas was born of the darkness, lived in the pain of others, and hid in the shadows, horrifying the living that entered his world. He would stay there forever if he could. But, in his weakest moments the Good tried to pull him out, up the steps, and into the world that would slowly destroy him. The weak moments were coming more often. He would wake and find that he was on the first or second step and quickly jump back inside through the window.
Thomas decided to ask the Face why she thought this was happening to him.
“Face, I am becoming drawn to the outside world. Why would this happen?” Thomas asked.
“Thomas, you have lived here alone for many years. Have you ever wanted to be with another like you?”
The Face never answered questions without posing new questions.
“No. I don’t wish to leave. I am just not in control of my own body at times,” Thomas answered.
“Thomas, you are not the only creature of your kind in the world. Maybe you need a friend.”
“But you are my friend, and the Scraping is also my friend,” Thomas said.
“We are not your friends, Thomas. We are not real. You created us to play with you. Look deep and you will see.”
With that, the Face disappeared from the glass and left Thomas alone.
Thomas thought about this for a long time and became furious. He tried to take his frustration out by rolling around on the broken glass and miscellaneous debris that covered the floor of his world. Sometimes the pain would help when he felt angry. He rolled and cut, punched and dragged, bled and oozed, but the pain of the words that the Face said were stronger than anything Thomas could do to himself. He needed something more. He yelled out for the Scraping.
The walls vibrated with the energy that the Scraping evoked when called. Then, the sound began. First, from the floor, then up towards the ceiling.
The Scraping was so named by Thomas for its ability to scrape and tear from the inside of the walls. Thomas found the sound to be soothing. Once, when Thomas had lured an outsider into his home, he let the Scraping play with him until he went mad from the music within the walls. Thomas enjoyed watching as the outsider used his own hands to rip at the sides of his head to stop the noise from entering his mind through his ears. The outsider bled out from where his ears were and collapsed, screaming, in a heap on the littered floor of his house. The Face asked Thomas to feed her the man while he was still alive, and Thomas obliged.
Today, the Scraping was in a foul mood and Thomas did not want to play the same old games that it wanted to.
“Never mind, I am not in the mood to play your dumb games,” Thomas spoke aloud.
“Fine, Thomas. I was perfectly happy sleeping.”
The Scraping slept a lot. It took a lot of rest to be so horrific. In fact, Thomas decided to nap as well.
Thomas was jolted awake by the presence of a man walking by his house. He rose and looked out of the closest window to see the man staring back at him. The man smiled.
Outsiders generally avoided this place where Thomas lived. The man turned from the window and started up the walkway to the front door. Thomas called for the Scraping to scare him away, but the Scraping was asleep. Thomas called for the Face to frighten the man, but the Face was not in her glass. The man grasped the handle on the front door and pushed. The door creaked open on old, rusty hinges.
The man called out, “Thomas.”
Thomas flinched at the sound of his name. He stood tall and proud and pulled out all the fear that he could find from deep inside his dark soul. The man said his name again, but Thomas did not hear it. All he could hear was the rage building inside himself. It roared like an old steam train.
The man flinched. Thomas did not know if he could hear the sound or just feel the darkness that Thomas created in his evil, tainted soul. Thomas reviled in the timing of the arrival of his new toy. He would put this man through the worst of everything that ever incited fear in any outsider.
Thomas reached his powerful, mangled hands towards the man. He would start by choking him. As his hands drew closer to the man’s neck, he felt a resistance that he had never felt before. The man smiled again.
“Thomas, time to go,” the man said. Then he raised his hands over his head and the house around Thomas disappeared. The Scraping was no longer, as the walls were gone. The glass where the Face lived was also gone. The world that Thomas knew was dead. The sun beamed down upon Thomas and he felt the evil within, the darkness in his soul, dissolve. He walked slowly up the stairs.
Rich Young is a writer, guitar-player, business analyst, father, and husband from Michigan. He has completed one novel, Letters From Tomorrow, and several short stories ranging from horror to science fiction. He is currently working on a new novel that sums up all the experiences of his life in some odd fashion or another.