The Phone Call
Late one night just after moving into your current apartment, your phone rang. You didn't recognize the number on your caller ID, but you were still curious and bored enough to pick it up. The voice on the other end, which sounded oddly like yours, simply said, “Listen,” followed by a loud burst of static. Before you could pull away, it ended, and the voice picked up again, “Don't tell anyone what you heard, until you receive the password.”
“What password,” you demanded of the voice.
“You'll know it when you hear it,” the strange voice said, and hung up.
Less than an hour later, a fist began hammering on your door. When you cracked the door to check who was there, a heavy shove forced it open and left you stumbling back. Before you could recover, a pair of people in dark suits marched into the place and grabbed you. Both had your face, though one had obviously suffered a broken nose at some point.
They began interrogating you, asking you where “it” was. They beat you a bit when you wouldn't – couldn't – answer, and eventually left with warnings that they'd be watching you.
You woke up the next morning in your kitchen, sore from the night spent on the floor but otherwise none the worse for wear. When you went to check yourself in a mirror, you were completely unhurt. But the strange number was still in your phone's caller ID memory.
Your parents really weren't the sort of people who should have had children. Certainly, you've wished more than a few times that they hadn't had you. It's not that they were physically abusive, no – if that had been the case, then a teacher probably would've called Child Services long ago. No, they never beat you... but you got very familiar with a certain dark closet whenever you misbehaved too much, or embarrassed them in public.
The dark, confined space frightened you a lot, especially at first. Over the years, though, you got more used to it. The dark became almost comforting, in a way – you learned there was nothing there, and it was a (forced, admittedly) respite from homework, chores, and your parents. You look back on it now and realize what a horrible experience it was, but at the time you just tried to make the best of a bad situation. The really bad times grew fewer and fewer, where you finally stopped having panic attacks and crying fits at the darkness.
You turned to your imagination to keep the boredom, loneliness, and growing claustrophobia away. You made up imaginary friends to replace the real ones, and created silly adventure stories to run through your head. And if you indulged in the occasional revenge fantasy where the shadows came and carried away your mother and father, well, who would blame you?
When you were twelve years old, you had a really bad night in the closet, the worst in a couple years. The place seemed to close in on you and the darkness grew oppressive and palpable, as if you weren't the only person in there. And then you were certain you weren't.
Some of the shadows seemed to take on a physical presence, an inky human-shaped blot distinct from the rest of the dark. And then it spoke, offering to kill your parents for you, just as you always wanted. When you refused, it grabbed you and began to take on your appearance and the sound of your own voice. You felt yourself fading away as the shadow took on more substance, until you found it in yourself to fight back with all your will. The last thing you remember was grabbing the shadow as it had grabbed you, and then you blacked out. You came to early the next morning when your father let you out.
You've rationalized it away, since then, as a hallucination of your traumatized, panicking mind. You understand how sensory deprivation chambers work, how if you're denied stimulation your mind will inevitably make up its own displays. Sometimes these hallucinations are beautiful and enlightening, other times they're horrible and damaging.
However, you still can't bring yourself to sleep without the flickering glare of the TV or the yellow glow of a streetlamp pouring in your window.