Day One, and the beginnings of something else

I've decided to try my hand at some sort of psychological horror. It's a genre that's entirely not in my comfort zone.


Mother said that our lives are messy homes. Sometimes, the doors to the rooms are locked. As we travel through the rooms, learn them, clean them, we find the keys to doors we knew were locked. They will open for us (but not until we’re ready), and on the other side we’ll find another dirty room that needs us to straighten them up.

I’m in the kitchen, the heartstone. Mother left clues for me. I found the key to the kitchen in the living room, under the broken brick in the fireplace. She said that’s where I first landed when I was learning to fly. I sat down in the middle of the floor, exhausted and perturbed. I had to think. Think. Think.
Then it hit me. The refrigerator magnets. I stood up almost too fast; the blood rushed from my head.
But I could see it there shining and perfect, and I plucked the key from the refrigerator door. This one would open my bedroom, the last room. I’ll come back tomorrow.

I turned to lock the front door and add the new key to my key ring, which was starting to get heavy.

As I walked off the stoop, I made sure to check my window. He was still there, staring, watching.

He’s given up on the window. It’s been locked for as long as I remember.

“Good morning, Russel,” Dr Grisson said as he prodded my eyes with that bright light. “And how did we sleep last night?”


“You’re making progress, I assume?”

“Yes. I found the key to my bedroom.”

“Good. Good.” He always repeated good to ensure me that things were certainly… good. “So your treatment seems to be effective.”

“I suppose,” I answer, not sure if it was a question he asked.

I dither about my day, walk through the gardens on the premises, speak to the other patients, play some chess with Yusef the Yeller.

As soon as the sun sets, I’m back in bed, swallowing my pill, remembering everything Dr Grisson has taught me.

I’m back at my house, but it takes me longer than usual. I see myself getting out of bed and having to walk there. The treatments must be working because these dreams are becoming more and more real, which will certainly help me identify who I was.

I turn the corner down the street, pull out my keys, and walk the short distance to my house, the one with the hand-painted numbers, the peach tree in the front yard, and the dead Mercedes in the driveway. The key goes into the door with little trouble, as always, and I step in.

Mother also said there are some doors that should remain locked, doors that can take you into someone else’s house. I’m certain there are none here. This is my house.

I clean up the living room briefly, sit on the couch, and pull out the key to my bedroom. I stare at it for several minutes, gaining the courage to open it. Tonight could be the night I wake up with my memory.

I climb the stairs, passing the pictures of my family. Mom and Dad, Mom and me, Mom and my brother, Dad with me, Dad with my brother. We’re all smiling. The top of the stairs is the family portrait, all of us dressed in ugly winter sweaters with our faces as ridiculous as we can make them.

I approach my room, and I can hear it breathing on the other side, waiting like always. What it is, I didn’t know. Perhaps it is some manufactured metaphor for my childhood.

The key fits. I turn it slowly, my breath rattling, my heart’s pace quickening. When I hear the click, I open the door. My room’s immaculate, not like the others. And it’s there, at the window, panting loudly. It slowly faces me, and whispers something. I swallow, blink, and it’s in front of me.

I slam the door shut.

Run down the stairs.

Run out the front door.

And stop on the street.

It’s there, staring at me, watching.

And the window moves up.



I swallow. I blink. It’s in front of me.

This is the first time I can see it close. They aren’t fangs, they are teeth, burned beyond the gums and lips. The eyes spin in their sockets, death is on its breath. The fingers drip flesh.

It’s muttering. It’s saying, “Fire killed us.”

Then I am engulfed in flames.

The pain is sublime. I will awaken from this. I will once again be in the comfort of the hospital bed. As my clothes shed, and my flesh began to melt, the neighbors open their doors. Some have phones.

Then I become aware of this sensation. It is awakening. It is dawning. And that day I stood over my family with the gasoline in one hand and a lighter in the other brings me to the ground and turns me into ash.

-JR Simmang


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