Stacie had lived with voices inside her head for her whole life and it was exhausting. A shrill, echoing voice that didn’t command her to hurt herself, or even to kill her friends as one might assume is the nature of auditory hallucinations. This eerie murmur deep inside her core beckoned to be found, begging Stacie to rescue her, to save her.
When she was a child and quite a literal person still, she searched for this imaginary person high and low. Instead of being afraid of closets and dark spaces like under her bed, she always checked for the mystery person calling out to her. She peered down into storm drains—whenever she could get close enough to one without her mom flipping out, that is. The darkness seeped out from the opening, but there was, of course, never anyone down there. Once she about had a heart attack when a family of raccoons—a mother and three tiny babies—came scurrying out and hurried across the street. She stopped checking gutters after that.
An overweight, bald therapist had once tried to help. Even gave her pills. Not a bit of relief.
As a teenager, she was embarrassed by the voice and did her best to pretend she didn’t hear the woman. She was sure it was a female voice but regardless of who it was, her little follower had no business in her active social life. There was no way she was going to let on to her real friends that she had an imaginary friend. She would be mortified and everyone would surely avoid her just as sure as they avoided the girl who picks her nose and eats the gooey snacks that she pulls out. So Stacie became fairly adept at snubbing the inner turmoil.
Ignoring the voice did nothing to ease her burden. In fact, it probably made life more stressful. Made her feel crazier than she probably already was.
She went off to college, not with a career goal in mind or to pursue higher learning but with the hopes that moving far away might quell the demon screaming to be saved. It didn’t, but she made friends and managed to cope. Managed to pass her classes and squeak by. The availability of alcohol in the dormitory helped a great deal, much more so than the anti-psychotic medication she used to take.
Stacie was pretty loaded on energy drinks and vodka, in fact, on the night she went with her new friends to a haunted house located clear on the other side of the city, on the outskirts of town. An abandoned farmhouse.
The haunted house started at the side of the house, descending concrete steps into a pitch black cellar that looked like a angry mouth. There were plenty of twists, turns, and other frights. Stacie heart was racing from the spirits jumping out at her and her head was spinning from the spirits she had drunk earlier. Happily, the voice was silent.
Until the end.
Somehow, the journey had led them into a large barn. The expansive structure reeked of old hay. At the final turn, they had to run through chickens were hanging from the ceiling. The chickens were wet and somehow kept warm, which grossed out the girls as they pushed the dangling birds out of their way to get to the exit. As she pushed away the final rows of chickens, she was confronted with a large mirror that someone had written in red lipstick-looking paint: “What does fear look like?”
People were staring at themselves and making faces and giggling, then exiting.
When it was Stacie’s turn, however, she stopped cold and her chest felt like her heart stopped. There in the reflection, stood an emaciated figure in tattered clothes that hung off bony limbs, pressed up to Stacie’s side, stroking her hair, as if she were a lover. The figure had thin messy hair and wide yellow eyes.
“Why won’t you help me?” The haggard form in the mirror shrieked out. Stacie felt spittle on her cheeks from the creature’s coarse words, as if it came through the mirror. Its eyes were not glaring out at her; they were burrowing into the eyes of Stacie’s mirror image.
Her skin went cold and drained of color.
Stacie bolted from the barn, past her chuckling friends.
“Did you guys see that?” She asked when they finally caught up to her.
“See what? You running in a panic?” One girl said and they all roared in laughter.
Stacie tried to ignore them, but her face burned with shame. She would never be free of the voice, free to be herself and enjoy life. It just wasn’t meant to be. Her shoulders drooped like dead flowers and she turned toward the car. Her stomach lurched and she vomited on the gravel.
She wiped the hot liquid off her chin and stood. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the years of only hearing the voice and never actually seeing the speaker that drover her, but Stacie took a deep breath, pulled her hair back, and marched past her friends into the barn.
Someone in dark overalls tried to tell her that this was the exit, that she had to go around, but Stacie ignored him and pushed through the door into the gloom.
Eyes tightly closed, she faced the mirror. Deep down, she knew it had been her imagination and when she opened her eyes she would only be staring at a pathetic loser.
But she wrong.
The poltergeist waited in the reflection, grinning. What teeth weren’t missing were brown and cracked. “Save me, Stacie!” Its words drifted from the mirror like an icy breeze.
“What do you want from me?” Stacie shouted. People around her were keeping their distance, avoiding her by walking in a huge arc. Stacie figured they probably thought she was part of the haunted house.
The woman’s arms reached out for her.
Stacie found herself reaching back, but her efforts were blocked by the surface of the mirror. She half expected her hands to pass through.
“Shut up!” She screamed, making fists.
She pounded the mirror and the entire wall wavered briefly and then everything shattered. Silver shards of mirror exploded, showering her feet. She was crying, staring at a brown plywood wall. She looked at her hands, blood coated them. She could feel the stings of glass embedded in her face and legs; could feel the soft tickle of blood.
People around her were gasping and fleeing for the exit.
She continued staring at her hands as fingers became blurry. She saw two sets of hands, oscillating from her wrists. She felt sick and knew she was about to vomit again.
The double image of her hands solidified and an extra set of arms extended down from the extra hands. She fell to her knees, barely aware of the glass tearing into her.
A ghostly image was yanking its way out of her.
The hands clasped around Stacie’s wrists and pulled. She sat helpless on the broken glass, feeling the stretching and struggling of this thing jerking its way out of her body. When it was completely out of Stacie, it continued to clench her wrists.
It was the woman from the mirror.
“Hey, sis,” she chortled. It was the voice from her head coming from person standing before her.
The woman stank of putrid flesh. Her eyes widened and her shoulders rose as she pulled on Stacie’s wrists. Hard. Stacie spilled forward, tumbling inside the woman.
People rushed past the old lady in the torn garments as she shuffled out of the haunted house, smiling. She heard a few of them calling for Stacie and chuckled at the irony. She savored the crisp night air and headed for the fields.
I wrote this down for all those who continue to search for Stacie. She is safely tucked away deep inside me. I hear her screaming sometimes, begging me to let her out. I love the sound of her voice.