Sketch -- by Ryan McGinnis

After a nasty breakup Sarah retreats into her art. Immersing herself completely in the elaborately detailed picture she finds she may not be alone there. Is it all in her mind, or is something lurking deep within the sketch?



There is something about the feeling of a pencil dragging across paper, leaving its mark, leaving part of itself as it goes, all in the name of creation. What starts as a swirl or line soon becomes part of a greater whole, whether it's a landscape, a portrait, an abstract, or something more. 

Sarah sat staring at the drawing, taking a piece of paper towel and absently smudging the varying shades of lines until it became a perfect shadow, becoming less of a sketch and more taking on a life of its own. She had been working on these landscapes for months and the show was coming up way quicker than she had hoped. Still, she couldn't think about that now. Drawing was a way of relaxing for her and she couldn't forget that. 

She had thrown herself entirely into the work of sketching out the old castles she had visited while traveling and now her body of work was nearly complete. The fact that Tracy had managed to secure her a showing during the art gala was unbelievable to her. She was so lucky to have such a good friend. Tracy had stood by her throughout the breakup and all the ugly proceedings that came after and she didn't know what she would do without her. 

She stood up to stretch her back and get some perspective on the work she had been hunched over for the last couple of hours. It was a beautiful sketch of a medieval archway, draped in shadows and moss. Her way of smudging and blending the lines gave it a surreal quality with deep shadows accenting the lighter parts of the drawing in such a way that it almost seemed illuminated. 

Sarah took a sip of her coffee as she gazed deep into the sketch. She could stare at it for hours, exploring all the lines and shading, losing herself in it completely, almost as if she was beckoned into another world. As she was looking at it though, something bothered her. She couldn't shake a nagging feeling that something was not right. As she stared at the picture she figured out what it was. Deep in the darkest section of the drawing, deep in the corridor under the arch, she could almost make out the vague silhouette of a figure. It was almost unnoticeable due to the varying shades of darkness, but the more she stared at it the more she saw it. It was such a strange coincidence to her that she had been so up close and so intensely working on the shading that she didn't realize she had caused the strange shape to appear. She would have to remember to work on that section in particular, to blend out the abnormality. 

She heard the door behind her banging against the wall as Tracy pushed her way through with an armload of supplies, and from the smell of it, lunch.

"Have you eaten?" said her friend, as she unloaded the supplies and two piping hot containers of broccoli cheese soup. "I picked up some soup from the deli downstairs and a couple grilled cheese sandwiches." 

Sarah smiled as the smell of the soup reminded her that, while she had been working since the early morning hours, she had neglected to eat and her stomach gurgled with anticipation of the hot nourishment. "Thanks, you're so good to me! I am actually starving."

"How's work going?" Tracy asked, as she tore into the sandwich. Sarah laughed to herself at her friend's enthusiasm for, well, everything. Tracy never attacked anything without seemingly putting her entire being into it. She wished she had half the energy and drive that her friend did. She nodded as she pulled off a strip of her grilled cheese and dipped it into the hot soup.

"It's going okay. I hit a snag right before you got her, but once I get a full stomach  it'll be easy enough to tackle."

Her friend looked around at the sketches. "Which one is giving you trouble? It's so rare to see you hung up on anything."

Sarah felt a warmness in her cheeks. Tracy always made her feel so incredible. Yet she couldn't help but feel as if she didn't deserve it. Throughout the last few years Tracy had always been the one, sometimes the only one, to believe in her.

"Hey! Are you going to keep me in suspense or what?" Tracy poked Sarah with the back of her spoon. "Lost in thought, or is it the early stages of starvation?"  

Sarah laughed. "I'm good. There's just this weird spot on the sketch of the archway. I had been hunching down over it and when I backed off there was this weird smudge that almost looked like a person."

"This archway? I don't see it," said Tracy, as Sarah turned to see her staring at the sketch she had been working on all morning. In the darkness, in the deepest part of the corridor, the figure was gone. Only the deep shading that Sarah had been working on all morning.

"I swear, it was just there," said Sarah, as she stared at the archway where moments earlier she swore she saw a figure.

"Lack of nutrition, my friend!" said Tracy, as she shoved a container of soup back into Sarah's hand. "Told you going this long without eating was bad for you. Now it's got you seeing things!"

Sarah gripped the soup and stared at the paper. "I don't know," she said, shaking her head. "Maybe you're right. I have been working awfully hard. But still, it was so real."

"Yeah, yeah. That does it. No more work for you! Finish your sandwich and I'm going to take you to the park so we can get some fresh air. All this time alone with these gloomy castle pictures is bad for your health."

Sarah grinned at her friend and nodded. She was ahead of schedule so what was the harm in some fresh air? Moments later, as she was pulling the door shut to leave, she stole one last glance at the drawing and the empty space where no figure stood, only blackness.


*


Tracy had been out of town for a few days to visit her mother. During that time Sarah had disappeared almost totally into her work. Late one night she was cleaning the studio, sweeping up bits of eraser and graphite off the floor. She was glad her friend wasn't there to see how disheveled the studio had become. She bent down to sweep the debris of her creative endeavors into a dustpan, like so much collateral damage, when she felt it. It was a strange feeling, as if she was being watched. She raised up and dumped the contents of the pan into the trashcan as she scanned the area. Shadows filled the normally bright lit room. 

Sarah had turned off most of the lights to rest her eyes, which had grown tired from constantly staring at the paper and lack of sleep. She clutched the broom, as if to protect herself with it if she had to, and slowly made her way toward the light switch. She thought she heard a rustling, like sheets of paper brushing against one another. She froze. 

"Who's there?" she asked, in as brave of a voice as she could muster. 

She waited but there was no response, just the silence of her studio. Then she saw it. In the dim light she could barely make it out. On one of her sketches she saw a figure, partially obscured by an old column. It was misshapen, with a strange profile that was only partially visible, but the one thing she could make out in the darkness was a single wide eye, staring straight at her. 

How had it gotten there? Who had added it on to her sketch? 

Her mind raced, thinking this was all some strange joke and that Tracy was going to jump out any minute and belly laugh at her. But nothing happened. She stood in the dark, frozen in the intense stare of the figure in the drawing, straining to make out any other detail, frozen by this strange spectacle.

She reached out her hand for the light switch, fumbling slightly as her fingers felt across the wall for it. Her heart pounded in her chest. She was mystified as to why she was so worked up. 

It's just a sketch. Someone vandalized her art. 

She continued feeling for the light switch, afraid to take her eyes off of it. She felt that exposing it in the bright light would remove the strange, almost claustrophobic, constricting feeling that its stare was causing deep inside her. 

Where was the light switch? 

She paused, knowing the switch was nearby but unable to take her eyes off the figure in the drawing. As she had moved sideways to find the switch she swore the eye had followed her. That was crazy, though. It's just a sketch. Why was she so freaked out? 

Finally, summoning her courage as much as possible, she broke the gaze of the figure for an instant, turned and flipped on the light. The studio was instantly flooded with bright light and she had to close her eyes momentarily against the brightness. When she opened them she turned to face the figure in the drawing, only to find it was gone. The sketch was there with the column and everything intact, but the figure had vanished.

Sarah stood in the studio, her heart beating nearly out of her chest. Her head felt dizzy. Had she imagined it all? Was the figure ever there? She felt as though she was losing her mind. She leaned against the wall, afraid to move, more afraid to turn the light back out.


*


The sun shone in through the windows as Sarah touched up a sketch of a castle she had visited in France the summer before. After the incident from several nights ago she had decided to only work during the day, and if she did have to work at night she did it only with all the lights on. Her sleep hadn't gotten any better though, as she refused to turn the lights off. 

She felt safe during the day and the warmth of the sun felt good on her skin. After looking the sketch over she stretched and decided that a walk in the fresh air would do her good, as Tracy was so fond of reminding her. 

She put away her supplies and while washing her hands she studied her face in the mirror above the sink. She was sad to see the bags under her eyes. The lack of sleep and normal eating was wrecking her health and Tracy was going to kill her when she got back. She determined that she was going to try to get some rest. She was almost finished and the show was coming up in just a few weeks. Once the show was over she would take a break, maybe even travel for a week or two. She smiled, thinking of the wind in her hair and the smell of an ocean breeze.

She was jolted from her thoughts, as she noticed the sketch behind her in the mirror. In the window of the castle she had just been working on, a face leered back at her. She could see more detail now and in the light she saw the misshapen head. What seemed to be a tangled mess of... tentacles? Worms? She couldn't tell, but what she could see were those eyes staring a hole in her through the mirror. 

She screamed and reflexively lashed out at the mirror, hitting the sink and smashing into a million pieces. She spun around and the figure was gone from the sketch. The window sat there empty, no sign of the grotesque figure that was there just moments before. Sarah collapsed onto the floor in the corner between the cabinets and sobbed uncontrollably.


*


Tracy chewed her lip pensively as they drove in silence, her brow knotted with worry as she tried to work through the events of the past few days. She was listed as Sarah's emergency contact and had rushed back from what had been a glorious beach trip. Now she drove in silence as Sarah sat beside her, staring at the floorboard, her hands folded in her lap. She looked like a wreck, her hair hung in knotted strands. Her skin was pale and pasty, and she had dark rings under her eyes. 

The doctor told Tracy that someone had heard a crash, and when they went upstairs they found Sarah sobbing hysterically in the corner. It had taken two days of anti-anxiety medicine before Sarah had finally calmed down.

"You want to talk about it?" Tracy finally asked, as she continued to gaze at the road ahead.

Silence.

"Look, I'm sorry about all of this. If I've been putting too much pressure on you to get everything ready for the show we can cancel it. I didn't mean to put all this pressure on you."

"No." Sarah suddenly interjected. "It's not that."

The silence hung in the car. Sarah looked as though she was as surprised as Tracy that the words came out.

Tracy glanced over at her friend. "The doctor told me. She said when they brought you in you kept raving about some figure in your drawings."

When Sarah didn't respond Tracy looked over to see her friend's hands trembling in her lap. Sarah nervously tugged at the bandage that wrapped her hand where she had cut it on the mirror.

"Look, it's okay. Take a few days off. You said it yourself. You're almost finished. I just think the pressure got to you. Maybe you had some issues that were unresolved from... you know."

Sarah glanced at her friend, who continued to look at the road ahead. "It's not that. It's... it's something else. There is something in the drawings. I've seen it three times now. I don't know how to explain it, but it follows me."

Tracy drove in silence, letting her friend's words soak in. "Look, I don't know what you think you saw, but this just sounds nuts. The doctor threatened to keep you for observation but I explained you had been under a lot of stress and I promised to keep a close eye on you. That's the only reason you're sitting here right now."

"You don't believe me?"

Tracy sighed "It's not that. I believe that you think you saw it, but I just can't wrap my head around it. Look, no matter what, we will get through it." Tracy smiled at her friend and thought she saw a slight upturn in Sarah's lips.

"Okay, so first we're getting you out. Away from the studio for a few and making sure you get plenty of food and sleep."

Sarah sighed. "Good luck with that. I may be able to eat but I definitely can't sleep."

Tracy grinned and held up a prescription bag. "Luckily the doc thought of that. I guarantee you'll sleep like a baby tonight."


*


That evening had been glorious. Tracy was a great cook and she had made a magnificent meal of sautéed asparagus, pasta with olive oil and parmesan, and the most delicate dill salmon Sarah had ever tasted. It had taken a while but Tracy had finally gotten Sarah to warm up and break out of her shell a little and they had spent the next several hours talking and laughing. Then Tracy drew a warm bath for her and afterwards helped brush the kinks out of her hair. After Sarah had taken her medicine Tracy took her to a cozy bedroom with the covers already turned back.

“But, Tracy, this is your room,” Sarah protested.

“Nah, this bed is way more comfy and you need the sleep way more than I do. I don’t mind the guest room for a night or two.” 

Sarah blushed. “I don’t know what I would do without a friend like you.”

She noticed a small tablet and pencil on the nightstand. “What’s that?”

“Oh, that? It’s a dream journal. I keep it at my bedside and when I’ve had a dream or occasional nightmare I jot down as much of it as I can remember once I wake up. I’ve found it’s a great tool for understanding your dreams.”

“Oh, that’s really cool,” said Sarah, as she yawned. She was feeling the effects of the sleeping pills. It was like she was sinking into a thick fog. She felt warm and relaxed.

“Get some rest," Tracy said. "You need it. I’ll stay here and watch over you for a little while." Then she tucked her friend into bed.

Sarah thought she might have said thank you but wasn’t sure, as she seemed to sink into blackness

Tracy sat reading a book and listening to her friend snore. It was the most peaceful she had seen her in some time. She wondered what was going on in Sarah’s head and still fretted that part of it was her fault for pushing her too hard. She meant well. Her friend had been through enough bad times and she wanted to see her win for a change. 

She wondered who the show meant more to -- her or Sarah. She shook her head and quickly squashed that thought. It meant more to Sarah and Sarah meant more to her than anything. That made this show, and helping Sarah reclaim her life, the most important thing. Period.

Eventually Tracy slipped out and back to the guest bedroom and tucked in for the night. She left her door open in case Sarah screamed out, but she doubted she would. The dosage on the pills was high and no matter what Sarah had been through they should allow her to get a long night's sleep. Tracy rolled over and turned off the light and soon was snoring away herself.

The next morning she had slipped downstairs and had made coffee, checked her emails and was preparing to fix breakfast for the two of them when she heard a blood curdling scream from upstairs. She ran up to find Sarah out of bed, pressing herself into the far corner of the room.

“Sarah, what the hell? What’s wrong?”

Sarah responded by pointing at the nightstand. There on the open page of the dream journal was a drawing of a grotesque figure with a misshapen head, wriggling tentacles around its mouth, and eyes that seemed to burn a hole in whomever they viewed.


*


“So what? You woke up and drew this?” Tracy asked, as they sat at the breakfast nook. 

Sarah’s hands trembled around her coffee mug. The closed journal sat between them on the table top.

“No," Sarah shook her head, still staring at the journal. “I never woke up. I slept the whole night. I don’t even think I dreamed. At least I don’t remember anything. When I woke up I remember thinking what a great night’s sleep it was, then I rolled over and saw that."

“But you had to have drawn it. Sketches don’t just appear on paper.” it was Tracy’s turn to shake her head. “You must have drawn it during the night and don’t remember it because of the drugs.”

“That’s just it. I’ve never drawn this figure. Everytime it has just appeared in one of my drawings. Actually, this is the first time someone else has seen it. Normally it appears, and then it’s gone.”

Tracy didn’t know what to think. Clearly her friend had drawn this figure. What other explanation could there be? She was determined to help Sarah but she didn’t know what to do. She reached for the dream journal.

“No!” Sarah pleaded with her. "Don’t open it. I don’t want to see it again.”

Tracy placed her hand on the journal and slowly slid it towards her. “Take it easy. I won’t show it to you. I just want to get another look at it. I know your drawing style. If you drew it I’ll be able to tell.”

Sarah watched with a worried look as her friend opened the journal. 

“What the hell?” Tracy got a confused look on her face as she flipped through page after page.

“What is it?” asked Sarah, her heart racing as she watched her friend frantically flip back and forth in the book.

Tracy flipped back to the front page and tossed the open journal back down on the table. “It’s gone!”

Sarah looked in horror at the blank page of the journal. There was no sign of anything being erased. No paper torn out. It was as if it was never there.

“What in the serious fuck is going on?” exclaimed Tracy, as she felt her skin crawl. 

The silence stretched on for several minutes with neither girl moving.

“You believe me now?” asked Sara, quietly. Her friend continued staring at the book.

“I believe either you’re telling the truth or we’re both losing our minds.”


*


“For the record, I think this is a really bad idea,” Sarah complained, as they both stood in front of an easel with a blank sheet of paper fastened to it.

“Look, I told you, it’s like cognitive dreaming. You have to take control of your situation. You said yourself that this thing keeps showing up randomly. Instead of letting it choose the time and place you need to take control,. Own it. Who knows? If you purposefully sketch it into a drawing it might end the whole thing.”

Sarah looked at Tracy with an odd look on her face. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I was doing some research and Native Americans used to believe that when you took a photograph you trapped a person’s soul in the picture. Maybe if you draw this thing onto a picture and seal it, then it will be trapped as well.”

Sarah rolled the whole thing around in her head before nodding. “Okay, fine. I’ll give it a shot.”

Tracy beamed, “Awesome! Now, do you remember what it looks like?”

“Are you kidding? At this point it’s burned in my memory. I couldn’t forget it if I tried.” And with that Sarah picked up her pencil and started sketching.

Hours later it was finished. Tracy and Sarah stood staring at the horror she had created.

“So this is it? Any details you left out?” said Tracy, staring at the monstrosity.

“No, that’s it. My skin is practically crawling having to look at it," replied Sarah, her arms folded nervously.

Tracy had to admit, it was a horrifying vision of terror, but it was also some of Sarah’s best work. The detail was almost unreal. Its head was a misshapen lump, bits of hair flicking out of the scalp; a beard, if you could call it that, of what appeared to be either tentacles or some small type of worms. And the eyes, more reptilian in nature, but with a touch of human. They seemed to burn with an intensity that was both unnerving, and yet almost strangely hypnotic. It wore a robe and you could just barely see the tips of inhuman fingers hanging just past the sleeves. The bottom of the sketch was more shadowy and you couldn’t make out if it had feet below the robe.

“Okay, well if that’s it. Let’s set it," said Tracy, as she picked up the aerosol can.

They sprayed the sketch, waited on it to dry, and sprayed it again, just for good measure.

“Now what?” asked Sarah, when they were finally done.

“Now we get you back to preparing for the show and hope that this worked,” said Tracy with a smile that felt nervous, as she looked at the thing in the picture looking back at her.


*


The next few weeks went by in a blur of activity. Tracy’s plan had apparently worked as the thing hadn’t appeared anywhere except the portrait that Sarah had sketched of him. They kept the sketch in the studio where they could keep an eye on it. Although its eyes still seemed to follow them the thing never showed up anywhere else, and after a while even Sarah got to where she could block out the feeling that those large eyes were following her.

Finally it was the night before the gallery showing. Tracy had ran out to grab a few last minute things and Sarah was busy sealing and doing last minute touch-ups on the drawings. She couldn’t believe her first art show was the next day. 

At last she finished the last touch-ups and sealed the last sketch. Her work was finally finished. She walked over to the light switches and decided to turn the lights down except for the ones over the pieces, just to soak in the ambiance and try to get a feel for how the pieces would look under the gallery lights. Her hand paused on the switch and she looked around wearily at the thing. She had positioned it off to the side of the gallery pieces and its large, unearthly eyes stared back at her intensely. When she assured herself that all was good she flipped the switch and plunged most of the studio into darkness with just the sketches illuminated. 

She walked from piece to piece, admiring her work. She felt so accomplished and so satisfied that she had come so far. A few years ago she would never have been able to complete such a task as putting together an entire art show. She couldn’t wait for Tracy to get back and see it all.

Then she heard a low sound, almost like papers rustling against each other. She turned to glance around the room and suddenly she saw it. The thing had disappeared from the sketch. 

Her heart was beating out of control. Her throat tightened as she stared at the empty canvas. 

She heard the rustling sound again, coming from every direction. The sound grew in intensity and Sarah screamed and covered her ears. 

Abruptly it stopped and the studio was completely silent. Sarah looked around the studio, and in the darkest corner she saw unnatural eyes fixed on her.  

It slowly started to shuffle forth, its movements sounding like rustling papers. As it moved closer to the light Sarah could see that the thing still appeared to be drawn with pencil and its shading, which changed with the light, also appeared to be sketched. It was as if a drawing had come off the paper and was standing before her. 

The sheer horror of it threatened to overpower her. She felt her legs growing weak and her head growing dizzy as the thing shuffled towards her. Finding her courage she sprang off to the side toward the backroom of the studio. She ran through the main room and into the supply room, knocking supplies over as she crashed through. She hid in the supply room and shut the door, locking it and backing all the way against the far wall.

The room was quiet and dark except for the light of a full moon that poured in from a window high on the wall. Sarah crouched at the end of the counter, gripping it tightly. The silence was broken by the soft, ominous sound of rustling paper. Sarah looked all around the room. There were no exits and the insulated windows didn’t open. She was trapped. All she could hope was that the locked door would hold against the creature. But what would happen if Tracy came back and encountered the creature? She had to do something. 

Just then the rustling grew louder as the thing approached the door. She prayed that it would hold, but to her terror the creature passed right through it, and faded into view inside the room. It shuffled forward as Sarah fought to not faint from pure fear. 

The creature stopped just before the shaft of moonlight.

“YOU FREED ME.”

The hollow, otherworldly voice seemed to almost echo in her mind. She shook her head, trying to comprehend what it was saying.

“Wh-what??” Sarah weakly asked, as she stared at the apparition that stood before her, its tentacle-worms wriggling in front of its mouth.

“I WAS IMPRISONED IN THE WALLS OF THE CASTLE LONG AGO. DRUIDS SEALED ME THERE. YOUR IMAGINATION FREED ME.”

Sarah’s head reeled from the revelation. She had somehow accidentally freed this thing. She thought about what Tracy had said about Native Americans believing that souls were trapped by photographs. Could it be that the photos she took of the castle pulled this creature's soul out of it? But how did it make it into her drawings? 

It mentioned her imagination, but she couldn’t believe that she had somehow willed it into existence. Could it be all the effort and concentration to make the castle pictures as realistic as possible had somehow, subconsciously pulled this thing back into the world? 

She heard the rustling again and saw the creature passing through the moonlight across the room from her. She could see now that it appeared to be an actual sketch, somehow animated by forces beyond this world. She had to think. She was trapped. What could she do? Her imagination had created it but how could she stop it? 

Suddenly, she had an idea. She grabbed a large sheet of paper on the table in front of her and grabbed a pencil, spilling the rest across the floor. In a frenzy she drew a huge circle on the paper and filled it in with furious strokes back and forth. When it was filled the thing was within 6 feet of her and closing. She quickly took the paper and tossed it at the base of the figure. 

Sarah stared at the paper, willing it to be what she wanted it to be, and as the thing passed onto the dark circle it fell into it, as if falling into a great pit. The minute it fell completely out of sight Sarah grabbed a boxcutter and shredded the piece of paper and scattered it about the room.             

The room was silent and Sarah sat in the middle, sobbing, turning in every direction with the boxcutter extended in front of her. 

A thought dawned on her and she jumped up and rushed back into the studio. It was still draped in shadows. The only thing illuminated was the sketches for the show. She moved quickly across the room and saw that the figure had reappeared in the drawing, as if it had never left. 

Sarah ran to the picture as if storming into battle and swung the boxcutter, slashing the picture. She continued slashing in a frenzy until the picture was reduced to ribbons. 

She grabbed the ribbons and scattered them across the room. She stood breathing heavily, looking at the pile of ribbons when she heard the rustling again. She turned, and to her horror the thing was slowly fading into one of the pictures for the show. Without a moment's hesitation she attacked the picture, ripping it to shreds. Again she heard rustling, and again the figure started to fade into another picture. Again she attacked the picture, ripping it to shreds with the boxcutter.

The rustling started again, louder this time, and the figure appeared in another picture. Sarah found that as she would start to shred a picture it would almost instantly start to appear in the next picture. 

The rustling became almost constant and she threw herself into a frenzy, slashing and ripping the pictures to shreds. 

As she was ripping the last picture to pieces she felt a touch on her shoulder. In a panic she turned and slashed blindly into the darkness with her boxcutter. She was startled to feel a warm spray across her face. 

Tracy stumbled forward into the light, blood gushing from a gaping wound where the boxcutter slashed across her throat.

Sarah dropped the boxcutter and screamed as her friend stumbled forward, her hands grasping numbly at her throat, a look of confusion on her face. She collapsed and Sarah caught her as they sunk to the floor in a pool of congealing blood.

Sarah sobbed and held her friend. Tracy looked as though she was trying to speak but only gurgled as the blood pooled in her throat. With a slight jerk she breathed her last breath and the room was silent except for the sound of sobbing.


*


Sarah sat in her cell at the Ravenshearst Asylum. She had been here for several months now. Occasionally, they came and brought her out for her pre-trial, but she only had fleeting memories of that. When the police arrived they found Sarah on the floor holding Tracy, both of them covered in her blood, sitting in a sea of shredded paper. She had been mostly incoherent and babbling something about a drawing coming to life. Between her behavior and the talk they had with the doctor, who had seen Sarah several weeks ago, the police quickly put together a picture of what must have happened. In their minds Sarah wasn’t well. Tracy had overruled the Doctor and checked her out. Sarah had snapped, and in a frenzy ended her friend’s life. 

A court psychologist testified and they ruled her unable to be tried by reason of insanity, and she was to be confined at the asylum for the rest of her life. She barely spoke these days, no one would believe her anyway. She settled into a normal routine. She was fed and medicated. Twice a week a counselor would attempt to talk to her, normally without much luck. 

Finally, they decided that she wasn’t a suicide risk so they thought it would be a good idea to try giving her some art supplies. She appreciated the gesture and thrilled them by almost smiling when they brought them to her. At first she could only use the supplies with supervision, but eventually they trusted her to not harm herself and she was able to sketch to her heart’s content. She had repaid them by softening up slightly and getting in the habit of answering at least some of the counselor’s questions.

Late one night Sarah was busy working on a landscape she had taped up on the wall of her cell when she heard a soft rustling, like the pages of a book rubbing together. She knew that sound and snapped to attention when she heard it. She turned and in the shadow of the corner of her dimly lit cell was the figure. Even in the darkness she could make out the creature’s misshapen head, wriggling appendages and menacing eyes. It made no attempt to move and just stared at her. 

Knowing what to do Sarah instantly grabbed the top sheet of paper and flung it onto the floor in front of her. Quickly she used a pencil and a piece of charcoal and scribbled out a huge black circle on the paper. She then grabbed several more pieces of paper and repeated the process. 

As she worked she would glance up at the creature, its eyes staring intensely at her. She continued drawing the holes on the pieces of paper and placing them in a circle around her. When she grabbed the last three pieces she would need to complete the circle. She heard the rustling and looked over her shoulder in a panic as the thing started shuffling forward. 

She worked furiously on the last three pieces and hastily shoved them into place. Then she realized she no longer heard the rustling. She had been working so intently that she didn’t notice. Instantly she jumped to her feet and spun around only to find the figure inches from her face, inside her circle. Her eyes widened with terror as she beheld the creature in all its grotesque glory. The wriggling tentacles were now revealed to be small snakes that surrounded a gaping maw of a mouth that was filled with uneven rows of teeth. She looked up and saw the eyes staring down at her like two otherworldly orbs. The half reptilian, half human eyes seemed to glare at her with an intensity and intelligence that caused her mind to melt. It was as if it stared not at her, but straight into her soul. She stumbled backwards, overwhelmed by its presence, and stepped onto one of the black circles. 

Suddenly, she felt the sensation of falling and was confused as she dropped into the pit of her own making. As she fell into the blackness she looked up and saw the figure still staring at her from the cell, shrinking as she fell ever further into the blackness.

The next morning the orderlies were stunned at what they found. Sarah was nowhere to be found. The cell was still locked and there were no windows. The floor of the room was covered with shredded paper, like it had been ripped apart in a frenzy. Most puzzling of all was the terrifyingly realistic drawing that was taped to the wall. In it a hulking, horrifying figure with an oddly shaped head, was bent over a girl that was held in his clutches, his intense unearthly eyes staring at the girl, the wriggling snakes on his face flicking dangerously close to her neck. Most unnerving of all was the girl, who looked astonishingly like the patient once held in that very cell. Her eyes were so realistic that the orderlies couldn’t look away. It was the helplessness, the look of sheer terror in them, as if trapped for all eternity.


About the author

I grew up reading Science Fiction, Horror and Suspense Novels at the local library. Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ian Fleming are heavy influences on my fiction writing. Occasionally I dabble in non fiction as well. And I have been known to play music from time to time…

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