My eyes opened, quickly scanning the darkness, while my lungs expanded repeatedly, flooding with oxygen, making my head spin, due to hyperventilation. My arms extended upward, seeking to free me from the prison in which I was held captive, however, when they collided hard against a metal surface, which resonated against my knuckles, I returned to my original position, standing still, expectantly, trying to process what the hell I was doing there and why I didn’t remember anything at all.
My pupils moved, examining my surroundings. I could see that it was completely closed, however, somehow I could see. Not that I could really observe what was around me, or even myself, but somehow, among all that blackness, I could guess my figure, naked, lying on that cold metallic cube. But, as I always said, one problem at a time. What was I doing there? As I began to concentrate, the memories began to come to my mind, clear and neat.
I remembered traveling with one of my friends, Caroline; yes, that girl a little shorter than me, with short hair and blond, like the sun; to the other side of the world (after all, Poland is not exactly close to America). Why had we taken our bags, filled with the first thing we had found in our cupboards and left our homes? Yes! Among one of her many crazy things, Caroline had wined a double ticket for a festival. "Hippie", is what she called it. Actually, such a festival was dedicated to rock and was one of the most famous in the world, although, to be honest, I never reached the goal of learning its name. Very early in the morning we boarded our plane and I, although usually indifferent, was excited, because when one lacks money, even going to the party of the year, organized by the institute, seems the greatest thing in the world. Our hotel, the first one, turned out to be everything a luxury hotel can be, with wide corridors, gym, swimming pool, room service, etc. However, this was the only lodging that the prize included and it was quite far from the town where the event would take place. For this reason, we were forced to get into a taxi, the next day, which took us to the nearest town, where we were warmly received by an old lady, who, accustomed to tourists, spoke excellent English, which for us was more than enough. The hostel also met expectations, but I must say, to my liking, I preferred this to the hotel before, with a cloying kindness and a pompous treatment. This was rather simple, neat in the way in which the nature can be. It was more me. Anyway, where to sleep wasn’t a problem.
When it dawned, and with a jet-lag to die, we rose in a rather zombie state, which, as it came, went away, thanks to the glorious black coffee, to which we Americans are totally flawed. With backpacks full of water, food, alcohol and some personal hygiene utensils, plus a small first aid kit and, in my case, my eternally faithful pocketknife, we headed towards the place and, I swear by Dionysus, that that was the most unnerving thing I had experienced. Of course, we couldn’t get close to the stage, but it wasn’t necessary, because the music managed to stun our ears perfectly at the distance where we found a small place to rest, leave our things and simply move to the rhythm, shaking our heads and singing the lyrics. It was wonderful.
But good things don’t last forever, it's something that life has taught me. When the day ended and the complex began to get empty, I insisted that we should stay a little longer, only to browse through the stores and the place in general. When we left it was already well into the night and we had to get to the hostel soon if we wanted to return for the next day. Such was our luck that, instead of walking towards the road, where we would ask for a taxi, or, failing that, we would get on one of the special buses of the event, which made their way to the town, we followed a series of lanterns too far apart from each one to be the correct way, although at the moment we didn’t notice it, product of the light state of drunkenness that we had on top. At the end of these, we came to a reduced clearing, where, if we raised our chins, we could observe the stars twinkling in the sea of blackness. In front of us a river broke through, which at that hour seemed the very channel of darkness, because, had we been a little more drunk, we would never have noticed its sound or the way in which it reflected the stars of the sky. But the beauty of the place and the feelings it caused in us didn’t last long. When we turned to retrace the road, we saw it.
He was a man, but that was a very juicy presumption. That had been a man, or, if he was, he must had been lost for years. The thing looked at us with a smile, that more than being one, it looked like a deranged grimace, but fuck, all of it represented incarnate madness! He was thin, extremely thin, we could recognize his ribs under the skin, pale and somewhat yellowish, dry-looking and unhealthy. He wasn’t dressed except for a piece of cloth in the pelvic area. He crossed his hands over his chest, his hands twisted underneath to his elbows, giving the ephemeral appearance of Nosferatu, with his long, cadaverous fingers. His legs were also crooked at the knees, causing his posture to be slightly bent and his feet to separate unnaturally. But that wasn’t the strange thing, no. His face, by God, his face. He had a Joker smile that would scare even the bravest. Their eyes were out thanks to the lack of flesh in their sockets and they were injected in red, with a totally lost look in us. We could even see his nostrils sucking the air, sniffing us.
- Are you okay, sir? Need help? - Caroline said, and I ventured, with an impressive sense of survival, my way to her shoulder, trying to shout to run.
But oh, she was always very charitable, which I always hated, and she shook my hand, muttering a - He may need help - to walk towards him, slowly, but surely swallowing her fear ... She didn’t even reach him, because as soon as she was within reach of his hand, that thing took her by the neck and the last thing she could do was let out a small gasp of surprise, before the being smashed her skull against the nearest tree, destroying her brain and leaving a horrible and huge carmine splash on the bark. So, in half a second, my friend was gone. Caroline was dead and her pretty blond locks were now covered with her blood, thick and hot, which slowly coagulated and matted in her hair.
With watery eyes and already panting with sheer terror, I retreated a couple of steps, still looking at that monster, which, under his grimace, seemed to be really laughing this time. For a moment I thought I could run, after all, it had waited for Caroline to come closer so It could kill her and surely he couldn’t chase me, the state of his legs totally twisted showed it. But then, just before I could turn and run, the thing did something I didn’t expect. With impressive speed, he started to walk towards me, but walking is not what he was doing, and I can’t say that he was running, because he wasn’t, no. That thing walked very fast, and surely he was slow due to his atrophied legs. For anyone who saw it, that should have triggered a reference in their heads: the pale man walked like Charles Chaplin, yes, if he had had an accident in which his knees were suddenly bent. Explaining what his way of walking caused me is useless, but suffice it to say that having met face to face with a hungry lion would have been less terrifying. Like Caroline, I could only utter a primary gasp of surprise and terror, before trying to get away from him, which sent me to the ground, from which I tried to get up immediately, but by the time I planted my hand on the damp earth, he already was on me and I was screaming for help.
The monster looked at me, opening his eyes wider if possible, and then leaned toward my neck, and then ... pain. A piercing pain that disarmed me from the little courage I had and turned me into the fawn that has fallen into the jaws of the predator and screams, calling its mother in vain. Shouting at the top of my lungs, I raised my arms to try to push him away, while my tears ran down my cheeks. I could feel all his teeth burying in my skin, in a brutal and bloodthirsty bite, that had my vital liquid spreading through the earth and the grass beneath us. In comparison, the bite that one gives to a hamburger when hungry, was nothing. I heard my muscles tear, and the bone of my clavicle crack. I could also hear the guttural sounds coming from his throat, completely sinking his teeth, and I heard the unmistakable sound of swallowing liquid. The very damn one was drinking my blood and no, I couldn’t die like that, in that stupid way and that nobody would believe. The bastard had messed with the wrong person. With trembling fingers, I reached for my pocket and pulled out the blade that had saved me from a hurry many times. He, feeling my movement, sat down, revealing a chin covered with blood that ran down to his chest. He no longer had that smirk and lunatic smile, and his eyes seemed more focused on what was happening. In general, he no longer seemed so much a psychopathic skeleton.
- S-swallow this, asshole - I managed to articulate, between the bubbling that my own vital liquid produced while I regurgitated it, like gargle when brushing my teeth, and, fighting against the unconsciousness that already threatened to take me in its arms, I held the dagger with all the strength I was capable of, and with a swing I sliced his throat.
The being, impressed, gave a shrill scream, like the squeal of a rat, and tried to cover the open wound, which oozed blood, which, having my mouth still opened, and rather because the inability to move, fell inside. And, like a weak struggle to live, I forced myself to swallow it, while the rest spread through his chest and splashed lightly on my face. And, between the blurred vision that was beginning to make itself present, I saw the thing stand up straight, covering its neck and shrieking repeatedly, as it staggered from one place to another, passing from my field of view soon, evidencing its disappearance when, under invisible ear plugs, I heard the violent splash of water. That thing that had killed Caroline and me, as much as I still imagined that I would survive, had fallen to the damned river. If I died I would be happy, at least I had taken the son of a bitch with me.
As my vision began to become more and more a small circle at the center of all the darkness, I reflected on why I had been so afraid of that thing, even before seeing it well, why It had installed a primal terror in me, more than being face to face with a predator, even though the human being usually doesn’t have predators. It hadn’t been his battered body, it hadn’t been his crazed face. When finally my orbs couldn’t see anything that wasn’t black, I realized that it had been for one thing: the unknown. The reason? That man was not breathing.