The Five Rules of Traveling: Rule Number Two.

Rule number two: Don’t panic.

I remember how it all started, and it is not pleasant. It was probably the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had. It is that moment, when you are not gone but you want to leave, that your mind starts playing games with you, teasing your deepest fears. Perhaps it is for you to be so afraid that you’ll decide to stay, or maybe it’s just your subconscious, trying to answer the question as of why you are feeling the way you are feeling. The heaviness on your stomach, the slight vibrations of your whole body, the sensation of someone or something watching you…
I experienced it for the first time about a year ago, the second worst year of my life. I was hardly afraid of anything at that time, and certainly not afraid of death. There was no reason for me to fear darkness other than the one inside me, or to be scared of any monsters but the ones that lived under my skin. I was fifteen, and by then I was so used to be alone that it seemed childish to worry about whatever horror movies teach people to be afraid of. I really wasn’t worried. That night I was just more tired than usual. It was late and dad wasn’t home yet but I didn’t expect any different. It was past midnight when I finally decided to turn the television off and go to bed. That was my daily routine: TV dinner while watching cartoons until I was too tired to even pretend I was paying attention. That night I did nothing different. I left the kitchen light on for dad, like I always did, and turned off the rest before going upstairs.
We lived in a small house with two bedrooms, the big one for dad and a smaller one for me. The second door to the left led to my room, with its cheap furniture and bare light green walls. Every surface, from the small desk and chair to the single bed in the corner, and including the floor, was covered with clothes. I turned off the light and waited a few seconds for my eyes to embrace the darkness then, I walked toward the unmade bed and lied there, fully clothed. I was so tired and it was so dark and I just wanted to sleep but I couldn’t because I was beginning to feel anxious again. I had taken my meds so there was nothing to worry about but my mind was uneasy.
I could feel my body reluctant to respond smoothly, and my eyelids firm on their decision to stay closed. It made me glad to be so tired because I had this tendency of doing things I shouldn’t do whenever I felt anxious or sad. And I didn’t want to do them anymore, so I tried to follow my body’s lead and rest my mind. At first I couldn’t stop my brain from bouncing from one idea to another; bad ideas, mostly. But after what could have been an eternity, I fell asleep; a deep, quiet and dreamless sleep. It didn’t last long.
Something woke me up softly and slowly, something weighting me down. I could feel it, sitting on my stomach, pushing me against the mattress, and for the first time in almost a year, I felt fear, paralyzing fear. I could feel my pulse beating on my neck, a constant sensation of being watched, a cold sweat covering my body and when I finally tried to see what was pressing me down, I couldn’t move.
Then I saw her, out of the corner of my eye. First her hair, thick and white, falling down the back of my chair, then her face, her wrinkled emotionless face. It was still dark but I could see her clearly, sitting there, staring at me. Her eyes were small and red, not shiny red but a black pupil immersed in a blood injected eyeball. The moment our eyes met, she smiled. As she curved her chapped white lips the temperature of the room dropped. And then she talked to me. I heard her whispering to my ear even though she was still sitting on the opposite side of the room. Her lips were barely moving as she held her smile and spoke. Her voice was ice cold and sharp, scratching the silence with iron nails. I was shivering with coldness, fear and sadness as she talked about me, and about dad, and about the things that made me sad and anxious.
Slowly, she moved closer, widening her red eyes and raising her voice as it escaped her mouth full of sharp yellow teeth. The sound was still a whisper but somehow I heard it fill out the room, every piece of furniture vibrating as she spoke. “She’s not here”. I could hear my heart, banging against my chest like the beat of a requiem, violently, desperately. She grabbed my arm with her long crooked fingers, white and cold as snow. “She’s not here”, I told myself but it was her voice the one that echoed in my mind. Her face was just a few centimeters away from mine and I was still unable to move. I tried to get up and I tried to scream but I could only close my eyes. “She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone”. My voice, her voice kept repeating the same words over and over. I felt my fingertips tingle and I closed and opened both hands a couple of times. The pressure on my arm and my stomach was released and the room was not as cold anymore. “She’s not here, she’s gone… please”. I opened my eyes. She was gone. The morning light was sneaking through the window and I was awake. Unfortunately, that was only the first of our encounters.


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