Ten Fingers, Two Hands

tenfingers
Artwork by Joshua Insole

 

Wednesday 13th April, 2:33 a.m.

Dear Diary, I have lied to you. Or was it myself I lied to? Perhaps they’re both one and the same. After all, I’m the only one who writes in you and I’m the only one who reads from you. The entries for the last week are scribbled across the pages preceding this one, and whilst the handwriting gets messier and messier, the content of those passages show no distress. I look at the entry for Monday — Nothing new, just can’t sleep. Diary, I know you’ve got no ears through which you can hear me, but I have just laughed to myself in my empty house. The sound is a bit frightening, the sound of an unhinged madman.

Nothing new. Really? Really? Well, perhaps I was just trying to convince myself. I know that if I’d told anyone else, they would have laughed at me. Maybe I was worried that I’d do the same. Perhaps I just wanted to believe it was a hallucination, some remnants of a dream that lingered on beyond waking. Well, the events of tonight certainly proved that those notions were false. I don’t want to say that I’m not crazy — because maybe I am — but at least I can say that what I saw wasn’t a one off. I’m not sure if that’s more or less reassuring.

But I don’t think I’m crazy. I’ve thought about this a lot, and whilst I’m certainly starting to lose my white-knuckle grip on reality — just a teensy bit — I don’t think I’ve cracked. Not yet, anyway. And not completely. I don’t think it’ll be too long before I’m completely gone, however. I’m starting to get dark bags under my eyes, and my complexion looks paler than it used to, but I’m still me. For now, at any rate.s I’m still me.

I also think that he is real.

I first saw him in the night on Sunday. I don’t remember what the time was, but I remember I woke up needing to use the bathroom and feeling dehydrated. Stupid body. I got up and urinated in the dark, hearing the tinkling of the invisible water somewhere down in the bowl. Afterwards, I wandered over to the kitchen, naked feet padding on the floor, hands extended out in front of me on the off chance that I’d forgotten the layout of my home in the few hours since daylight.

Fumbling my way through the shadows, I gulped down my glass of water like someone who’s just been rescued after wandering in the desert for weeks on end. I gasped once I’d emptied the glass, feeling the cool liquid running down into my belly, feeling my stuffy brain soaking up the water, relishing its new state of hydration.

I then stumbled my way back to the warm confines of my bed in the pitch black of the night, wholly unaware of what I’d see.

I don’t want to write the rest now, Diary. Please forgive me. Just know that I saw him again tonight.

I don’t know if he’s gone yet or not — I’m currently writing this from my bathtub, feeling more and more like this world isn’t the one that my mother taught me about when I was young.

But that’s enough about him. I don’t wish to cloud my thoughts of his face and his hands before I attempt sleep once more. That’s even if I can sleep.

Puppies. Kittens. That’s what I’m trying to focus on now. Little baby golden retrievers. Tiny cats that can barely open their eyes. Oh, God, please let me dream of these instead of him.

 

Thursday 14th April, 11:03 a.m.

Forgive me for my cowardice last night, Diary. I couldn’t bring myself to explaining the whole situation in the dark, my clock tick-tocking melancholically in the silence of the house, my eyes sore from lack of sleep and my brain running mad in the insomniac’s hour.

But now it’s daylight, and what seemed frightful in the shadows now seems ridiculous and… well, not real. I question myself now, because of course I do. Part of me wants to think it was just a nightmare, or a dream that’s lingered on beyond waking, but a deeper part of me — a primordial, instinctive part of me — knows that it’s rubbish. I know what I saw, and I know what I felt.

So, my only friend, allow me to lay the facts out as I see them. Please reserve your judgement for the end, thank you.

I woke up the other day (Sunday? It seems like it was simultaneously a year ago and just yesterday) and needed to pee. I then got some water, as I was thirsty. Upon returning to my bedroom, I saw

Okay, I’m trying to remember the events as they happened. My bedroom door was slightly ajar, and pale moonlight was spilling out into the hallway from the crack in the door. My window looks out onto the garden (ground floor). I never normally draw the blinds, as I like to see the trees swaying in the breeze, like to gaze up and our lunar friend.

I remember pushing open the door. It seemed to take forever to open, time seemed to stretch out before me. I know that’s not true, and that it probably took less than two seconds, but, Diary, that’s how it felt. I knew something was off before the door had completely opened.

There was a silhouette cutting through the silvery light of the moon.

Him.

Diary, I’m not ashamed to say that I froze.

He was pressed up against the window, both hands up against the glass. Even in the gloom, I could see his eyes. Diary, never before have I seen someone who looked completely insane. Now I have. In his eyes was utter and absolute madness; not a shred of rationality lingered there. His eyes were wide and unblinking, and something was very wrong with his pupils. I’m not a religious person, but his eyes looked like that of a demon.

Fear immobilised me and I tried to scream. No sound came out, and I could feel my heart lodged at the base of my throat, choking me, struggling like a wild animal caught in a trap. The seconds stretched out before me and my eyes locked with his. I saw him, and he saw me. And he knew that I had seen him. In spite of the encroaching shadows, I knew he was grinning. A mad, maniacal grin.

I struggled through the paralysis and broke free of my self-imposed prison. My hand darted to the bit of wall beside the door, searching for the light switch. For one panicked second, I couldn’t find it. I knew it was there — I’d used it a thousand times, maybe more — and yet I couldn’t find it. My fingers groped the wall blindly, crawling along like a five-legged tarantula. And then I found it and flipped the switch.

The bright light from the overhanging bulb blinded me. I cringed against the offending flare, and by the time my eyes had adjusted, he was gone. The piece of grass outside my window was empty, the trees gently swaying in the spring breeze, darkness all around. He hadn’t left so much as a smudge on the window or an indentation in the lawn.

He’d vanished.

Heart thundering, I tried to sleep and failed miserably. Naturally, once the cleansing rays of dawn began peaking in through my window, I had chalked up the entire encounter as some poorly digested bit of food, or an overactive imagination. I read somewhere about sleep paralysis, and people who continue to dream whilst their eyes are open — I had thought, maybe…

But then last night happened. He came again. I’m positive he’s real, because I hadn’t even fallen asleep yet — I couldn’t have possibly been still dreaming. I got up to grab a book, as I couldn’t sleep. I was just lying there, mind racing, tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable. I’ve always been an avid reader, but, as of late, I’ve found myself reading less and less. My passions have seemingly lost their colour. I thought — if I can’t sleep, I may as well read, right? Who knows, I may even find a new favourite, and rekindle that spark. God knows there are enough books lining my shelves that I’ve been meaning to read but have never found the time to do so.

I shuffled over to my bookshelf and turned on the lamp that stands in the corner. I stood there for some time, contemplating which of my unread tomes I should select. I must admit, dear friend, that I can be quite picky. What if I were to pick something that I didn’t love? What if it bores me? What if there’s a better book that I could be reading instead of whatever I picked? What if, what if, what if? In the end, I selected a medium-sized light fantasy novel. Nothing too lengthy as to feel intimidating, and nothing too heavy either. Magical and fun; that’s exactly what I was in the mood for.

I turned around — and I remember this next bit clearly, as it felt as if it were happening in slow motion — I locked eyes with him. He was there, pressed up against my window, illuminated in all his maddening glory by the soft yellow light cast by my lamp. There was a dull thud that seemed to have come from miles away, and I only discovered later that I had dropped my book and bent some pages, damaging it slightly.

I remained there, frozen to the spot, unable to breathe, gaze intertwined with the madman’s. From the light of the lamp, I saw him in greater detail than I had previously. His skin was yellow and sallow, and seemed to sag from his bones. His hands were dirty, and his nails were long and sharp — broken in many places, coated in a dark brown substance that looked to be either dried blood or faeces. I’m not sure what’s worse. He was grinning, his teeth long and stained, bits of rotting food lodged between his tombstone-like rows. And his eyes — dear God, his eyes! The whites were a dull grey, the blood vessels bright and somehow angry. The pupils of his eyes were all wrong — as if the colours had somehow been inverted or something. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: looking into those eyes was like looking into pure insanity itself.

The seconds tick-tick-ticked away for what felt like an eternity, and then

Then

Then

Then, Diary, I’m ashamed to say, that I ran out of the room and locked myself in the bathroom. I remained curled up in the bathroom for the entire night.

I only left once the first burnt rays of orange began poking through the frosted glass window, and — of course — by then he had gone, leaving not even a trace of his presence.

It’s almost as if he’s feeding off my paranoid energy that I’m worried about going insane.

 

Saturday 16th April, 1:53 a.m.

He came again, I saw him again.

What does he want?

 

Monday 18th April, 3:47 a.m.

AGAIN.

Something curious — two of his fingers were curled inwards. Did he hurt himself?

What do I care if he did?

 

Thursday 21st April, 0:47 a.m.

I think I’ve figured it out.

The first time, Sunday — ten fingers, two hands.

The second time, Wednesday — nine fingers, two hands.

Third, Thursday — eight fingers.

Fourth, Monday — seven fingers.

Fifth, this morning — six.

He’s counting down.

But down until what?

 

Friday 22nd April, 1:52 a.m.

I don’t sleep anymore. What is sleep, anyway? A shutdown for a biological computer? What is dreaming? A vivid hallucination? A glimpse of things to come? A glance into an alternate dimension or another universe?

I feel as though I’m floating through life.

He came again tonight. Two days in a row. He’s ramping things up, now, I know it, I can feel it. Just the one hand today — five fingers.

What happens when he reaches zero?

WHAT HAPPENS?

 

Saturday 23rd April, 3:43 p.m.

He didn’t come last night but I didn’t sleep.

I stared at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror for

What — an hour? Two? I don’t even know any more. I could’ve sworn I saw my own face rippling and warping. Once or twice, it turned into some alien or some deformed monster, but each time when I tried to focus, it was gone.

What’s happening to me?

What’s he doing to me?

God help me.

 

Sunday 24th April, 2:21 a.m.

Again.

Of course.

Somehow, the waiting for him to come is worse than him actually being here.

Except it isn’t.

The waiting.

The unknowing.

It’s unbearable.

But seeing him… That’s the worst thing of all.

Four fingers now.

 

Date? April, I think. Late night/early morning, I don’t even know any more

Three fingers left. Three.

I swear his eyes were crazier, his grin was wider.

Sweet Jesus, what happens when the countdown is finished? What’s he counting down to?

Dear God

Dear god

Dear god

Dear god

 

Next day or same day, not sure, late at night, might have passed midnight, is it still April?

Well, this is it my old friend only friend.

One finger left.

I think I forgot to tell you when he held up two fingers. I could’ve sworn that I wrote about it, but flicking back through the pages I can’t find the entry.

What will they find, when they kick down my front door?

This diary of madness, documenting my descent into insanity?

A pitch-black house?

An empty bed?

An open window?

 

9th April 2020

 

Written for Reedsy’s weekly Short Story Contest

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