The first time she saw the apparition, she was too young to keep the memory alive by the morning.
She would not remember its grey skin nor the long, nimble fingers clasped in front of its chest. Rotted clothes in shades of green and blue; the acrid scent of blood and decay. It was tall enough to bend at the waist and hover above her crib with a smile so wide, it stressed the flesh folding into its cheeks. Its breath was stale and its teeth rotting; empty spaces where they’d fallen out while what was left shrunk into the gums black as the night. The eyes were wide orbs painted with excited black and blue irises that animated its manic amusement.
She’d screamed bloody murder until her father came to lay her down again. The image faded into the blackness of her room and her mind filed away the monster as a bad dream.
As she grew, the girl faced a world tainted with a shade of darkness that quickly concerned many classmates, teachers and friends. She was plagued by nightmares of twisted smiles and dark eyes which bled into her sketchbooks. Her parents tried to be openly accepting of her strange artistry and thoughts, teaching her that there was nothing wrong with seeing the world under a different light. If only they knew the knotting fear choking off her lungs.
The next time she saw it, she was thirteen and there was no way to brush it off as a mistake of her mind. It was the middle of her math class. 1:47pm to be exact. She would never forget.
It was in a long black trench coat and wore shining red boots with pointed toes. There was a black top hat hiding the meeting of curly, matted red hair that tumbled about broad shoulders. It was still grinning maniacally and she could see in the light how its mouth almost tore in the sides with the unnatural distress. It didn’t have eyebrows. Its hands were tucked away in the coat pockets; it was standing directly in front of her desk.
Her lungs stopped working. It leaned down, bent again at the waist to pull its incredible height down to meet her grey eyes. Its skin was shining. Sweat?
Her spine vibrated with fear. It breathed out heavy, cold air across her intensely defined high cheekbones and full lips. The coil tightening in her chest finally snapped.
She screamed, falling out of her chair and stumbling into the kid next to her. It bent back; arching in such a way, its spine should have been shattered while it let out a whooping, guttural laugh before dissipating.
The girl was sent to therapy shortly after and her fellow classmates avoided her eyes. One by one, her few friends faded away. She was labelled ‘weird’ and ‘crazy’. She was too afraid to care about their opinions. In fact, she believed the judgements whole heartedly.
She had to be insane.
It was the only way she could accept the nightmare visiting her in the middle of the waking day. It was the only conclusion to make sense.
Her parents stopped encouraging the dark mind almost immediately; fearing they may have built her illness with their bare hands.
She did not react when it came to her for the third time.
Dull, grey eyes stared at the tall creature, examining its manic smile, and then dropping down to the matching sketch beneath her hand. Her mind was a haze, hardly aware of the threat bending over her while the pencil scratched at paper. All around the room were discarded drawings of its smile, its demented, amused gaze, and long lean body.
“You can stay if you promise you’ll be quiet,” she whispered absently.
In an overly dramatic rush, the legs collapsed beneath it to bring its strange body to the ground. Even seated before her on the floor, it loomed a full foot taller than the sluggish, empty girl sprawled out on a chilled marble floor.
When she finally looked back up at the creature which haunted her nightmares for years, she was surprised to see that mouth turned down into an exaggerated frown that nearly touched its chin. The cheeks were pulled taught so its huge eyes tilted down slightly as well.
There was sorrow in the darkened depths of its once entertained gaze. Even the cause of her own insanity pitied the girl’s pathetic state. She could have laughed at the irony if she wasn’t so tired.