Originally published in Sanitarium Magazine #38 (2015)
The Watcher Through the Window
by S. Alessandro Martinez
I know I should have listened to my instincts, my initial fear of going down into that place. I should have told him that it was a bad idea to go down there. But foolish pride got in the way, as is the downfall of many. Evan and I were just children at the time. And as most children are prone to do, I felt the need to prove myself to my friend or be laughed at for being scared. This would turn out to be the beginning of our end.
Evan and I were born and raised in the town of Shadow’s Path. We grew up as next door neighbors and best friends. I have many fond memories of my life there. I remember jumping in the piles of dry leaves my father would rake up during the fall, of visiting my grandmother just down the street, of going down every weekend to the little cinema run by Mr. Mayfield, and of course spending almost every day with my best friend, Evan. It’s such a shame that all those memories are all overshadowed by one haunting, maddening event, the memories of my last summer in Shadow’s Path, the last time that I would see Evan alive.
That summer was a gratefully cool one. I had just finished my breakfast of sugary, chocolate cereal one Saturday morning when I heard Evan’s unmistakable knock at the door. My mom let him in and he burst into the living room where I had been eating and watching cartoons. Evan excitedly told me to hurry up and get dressed so we could go out, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Apparently he had found something in the woods that he wanted to show me. He gave no hint as to what it was, which made me even more intrigued, so I put my bowl in the sink, got dressed and headed outside with my friend.
We took our usual route down the street and into the vast expanse of dense forest that was that backdrop for our small town. Evan and I had vowed to explore every inch of that enormous, dark woodland. At the time, I do not think we had even gotten around to exploring a third of it. The forest enthralled us. With its thousands of tall trees, cold dank caves, bubbling streams, plentiful wildlife, and an overall eerie, mystical quality, the forest had been our playground and land of adventure for many years.
As Evan and I hiked through a part of the woods we had only just begun exploring that summer, he told me of a dream he had had the night before. He dreamt that he was in a room of complete and utter darkness. How or why he was in there he had no idea. As his story went on, Evan said that he tried to make his way out of the darkness to find the light, but there seemed to be nowhere to go, which put him in a panic. I got a sense of unease and a little chill down my spine as Evan went on about his nightmare. He said that after giving up hope of getting out of the dark, a strange voice began calling to him. The voice was speaking in a strange, almost inhuman language unknown to Evan, but he recalled that he was still able to understand it somehow. He said the voice told him that it, whatever being this voice belonged to, would help him get out of the darkness if Evan took it with him. That is where the dream ended.
My friend continued with his story saying that he had woken up in a cold sweat. He decided to sneak out of the house and take a walk in the woods, as he often did, to get the memory of the dream out of his head. He went by himself knowing that I would still be asleep and that was when he found the thing that he wanted to show me.
Evan’s recollection of his dream left an unpleasant feeling in me. But he seemed to forget about the whole thing as we approached the edge of the trees that came out to the side of a craggy cliff. We stood at the bottom of the rock wall and I peered up, inspecting the height of the thing, when Evan called my attention downward. At the base of the cliff there seemed to be a cave opening of some kind that led somewhere we could not see because it was all covered by large boulders and rocks, blocking any entry into it.
And sticking out of that rubble like a putrid flower was black and decayed human hand.
Evan smiled deviously at the surprised look on my face. I had never seen a dead human being before. My shock almost caused me to stumble backwards. I assumed there was more attached to that rotted hand underneath the rubble. Evan pulled out two sets of his dad’s leather work gloves from his backpack and handed me a pair. He grinned at me and asked if I wanted to see what else was under all those rocks.
We all have a sense of morbid curiosity. After an initial hesitation, I became intrigued to see the rest of the corpse, if there was one, and to see where this entryway led. I slipped on the gloves and began helping clear away all the heavy debris.
After a few hours, Evan pulled out a rock, causing a little collapse, and a small hole formed in the center of the rubble. He brought out a flashlight from his backpack and bid me to follow him with a nod of his head. I watched as he disappeared into the inky blackness, and he called back to me to hurry up unless I was a chicken. I was hesitant at first, but the urge to prove that I was unafraid overcame my resistance and I followed him in.
We were in a tunnel. At least that’s what I assumed from what I could make out. It was complete darkness in there except where the white beam of Evan’s flashlight hit. He aimed back at the wall of rocky debris we had crossed and there was the lower part of the corpse. Its tattered legs were sticking out from underneath a boulder at odd angles, having been crushed from the weight of everything, and I felt a little nauseated. We stared at those grotesque legs for a good while, both of us taking in the sight of the first dead person we had ever seen.
When Evan put his hand on my shoulder I nearly jumped into the air. He just laughed softly and said that we should see what was at the end of this tunnel. I agreed, taking one last look at those limbs, and started after him. We walked for several minutes in the darkness, following Evan’s beam of light. We seemed to be walking at a downward slope. The air felt cooler and there was a dampness in the air.
The tunnel eventually led us to large cavern. Evan let his flashlight roam around what seemed to be a cold, cavernous, and circular room that was definitely not a natural formation. There were drawings on the rocky walls depicting human shapes along with very inhuman ones in violent situations, which gave me the chills. There were also several shelves and what looked like altars of a dark blue stone along the walls, with many strange and disturbing instruments upon them, composed of wires, hinges, levers, and blades, made of a metal so black that they ate the glow of the flashlight rather than reflecting it. Many of them had unsettling, deep red stains on them. In the center of the room was an altar much more intricately designed than the others, with numerous paintings, etchings, and glyphs on it, and large enough for several people to lie upon.
And right on top of the center altar was an elaborate stand with a strange artifact placed within it.
When I first laid eyes upon that object I got a nauseating chill through my entire body. The object was a black metal sphere of sorts, but with many carvings, protrusions, and indentations on it in patterns that seemed to make no sense at first glance, but became clearer and even ominous the longer I stared at it. Whatever man carved this must have been exceedingly mad, for the very sight of that thing made my skin crawl.
Evan, on the other hand, was fascinated by the artifact, entranced almost. He just stood there with his eyes firmly affixed to it. From what I could tell in the very limited light, it seemed that his lips were moving, as if whispering to himself…or perhaps to something unseen.
Even in the coldness of the room, I began to sweat. Everything in here seemed wrong, not to mention there was a corpse up by the entrance. I was about to say something to Evan when a small gust of wind began to fill the room. My mouth froze before I could utter a word. I swear I could hear something that came and went with that wind. It was as if there were faint voices on it, if they could be called that, for they were not speaking any language that I knew. Obviously I did not know every single language on earth. But what brought a chill to my bones was that these voices spoke words that sounded like they could not have even been made by a human tongue.
A sudden loud crash of rock against rock finally brought me to my senses. My head instinctively turned toward the source of the sound. I feared that the hole we made in the debris pile might have made the whole thing unstable and was beginning to collapse. I heard a rumbling growing closer when a boulder bigger than I was came careening down the tunnel and smashed into a nearby wall. I grabbed the flashlight from Evan, who was still staring at the strange metal sphere, for I heard the sound of something else sliding down. I pointed the flashlight toward the tunnel. A few smaller stones tumbled down, and along with them came the dislodged corpse. I shone the light upon it and almost lost my breakfast as I saw that not only was his head partly crushed in from being buried by rocks, but also that the skin on his entire torso and face had been removed, as if neatly sliced off with a knife or some other sharp object.
I stood there frozen in fear when another boulder came down straight at us. My adrenaline kicked in and I managed to grab Evan by the shirt and pull him out of the boulder’s path. It smashed into the wall causing the whole room to shake violently. I heard the whole debris pile above shudder and begin to give way. I decided that it was definitely time to leave. I went to grab Evan again but he was gone. I waved the flashlight around and saw him hunched over the center altar. I jumped to my feet, grabbed his arm, and ran up through the tunnel avoiding the incoming rocks as best as I could. Thankfully the dislodged rocks had made the entrance bigger, but with all the boulders rolling down at us, I had to use all my willpower and reflexes to get out of their way and to pull Evan up with me.
I finally made it to the surface as my legs gave out and I collapsed with Evan onto the forest floor. A puff of dust blew up from the tunnel entrance behind us as the last rock rolled down and settled. I crawled over and shined the flashlight down. Further down, the large rocks and boulders had stuffed up the tunnel once again. I was grateful to have made it out and to not have been trapped in there forever among those malicious-looking instruments, that wretched corpse, and that disturbing artifact.
I looked behind me to see Evan rising to his feet and putting on his backpack. He helped me up and said that we should head home. He had a strange look on his face and acted as if nothing had just happened as we walked all the way home in total silence. When I got home I made no mention of the day’s events to my parents. I just cleaned up, ate dinner, watched some TV, and then went to sleep.
The next day I went next door to Evan’s. His mother let me in saying that I could go upstairs to Evan’s room, but that he wasn’t feeling too well. I nodded and headed up to his room. After knocking on the bedroom door and calling out to him, Evan said to come in.
I opened the door and found Evan lying on his bed staring at the ceiling. I asked what was wrong; he looked like he hadn’t gotten any sleep. He just mumbled to himself as he gazed upward. I walked over and shook him a little and asked again. He stopped mumbling and looked over at me with weary eyes. His gaze locked onto me and he began saying that he should not have taken it. I asked him what he meant. But he kept repeating in a sorrowful tone that he shouldn’t have brought it home with him.
I wasn’t sure what to think until I saw it. The black metal sphere with the weird carvings and indentations on it from that dark cave room was there on Evan’s desk. He apparently had taken it with him during our narrow escape. That feeling of chilling nausea washed over me again as I stared at it. Why had he taken it?
I turned back to look at Evan and asked him why he had brought it home with him. But Evan’s gaze had returned to the ceiling, although his words had changed. Now he was saying something about a creeping watcher. Something had been apparently watching him through his window all night long. Something with yellow, inhuman eyes, he said. He could not make out any more detail than that in the darkness. I wasn’t sure what to think of this. Perhaps, I thought, he just had had a nightmare relating to our ordeal the previous day.
This went on for several days. Evan never came to visit during that time; I always had to go to him. And every time I went over, I found him in his bed staring at the ceiling and mumbling. His appearance became worse over the days, as if he hadn’t been sleeping or eating at all. His mother had called the doctor over one day, but he could not find anything wrong with Evan except a lack of sleep and a severe drain of energy affecting his physical and mental capacity. The doctor prescribed food and rest.
One night, as I was in bed trying to sleep, the wind had decided to pick up. I could have sworn I heard a faint, unintelligible voice coming and going with the wind. A fear went through me as I recognized the strange words from the cave. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, hoping that it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I turned my head to look out my bedroom window and my eyes went wide. Across the yard at the house next door, I could see Evan standing at his bedroom window on the second floor, staring out. He looked sickly and frightened. But the cause of my fear was the dark figure attached to the side of his house, just above his window and staring right at him. The thing was cloaked in shadow, but I could make out a thin body with long, spindly arms and legs. I wanted to scream and yell to warn somebody and to bring attention to that thing, but my throat had tightened in terror and I could not utter a sound.
As if sensing my gaze upon it, the creature turned its head my direction and stared at me with yellow, inhuman eyes.
I quickly dropped to the floor, hoping the thing hadn’t seen me. This had to be just a dream, a very bad dream. I would eventually wake up in my bed, go over to Evan’s and see that everything was alright. After what seemed like an hour, I gathered up the courage to take the smallest peek outside my window. I lifted my eyes to peer outside. But there was nothing.
There was no sign of Evan at his window. And thankfully there was no sign of that thing that had been crawling on the side of his house. I breathed a sigh of relief as I sat down on my bed. I wiped some sweat from my brow and felt my breathing beginning to slow down. I told myself it had just been my imagination. But I still didn’t get much sleep that night.
The next morning, I woke up to sirens and shouting. I jumped out of bed and ran to my window to see police cruisers and an ambulance at Evan’s house. I got the worst feeling in the pit of my stomach. I put on my slippers and ran down the stairs and out the door, making my way to my friend’s house. I saw Evan’s mother crying loudly in the arms of his father outside, surrounded by police and onlookers. I ran past them and into the house as a policeman shouted after me. I ran up the stairs as quickly as I could and burst into Evan’s bedroom.
I stood there in utter horror at the scene which lay before me. There was blood everywhere, all over the walls, ceiling, and furniture. And there was Evan, pinned to the wall, his hands and feet held in place at odd angles like some sort of unholy crucifixion by strange metal instruments that resembled those that I had seen in the cave room. His mangled body had numerous lacerations across it and above his head, written in blood on the wall, were markings and characters like those we had seen down in that accursed room. But there was one thing that disturbed me above all else:
Evan’s face…was gone.
The skin on his face appeared to have been sliced and peeled off. The muscles and bone could be seen and I promptly vomited.
Two police officers burst into the room shouting that I shouldn’t be in here. Their sudden entrance surprised me and I jumped backwards, bumping into Evan’s desk. I saw something begin to rock and fall out of the corner of my eye, so I instinctively reached out and caught it. It was that damned metal sphere.
The policemen quickly ushered me out, paying no attention to what I held in my hand. I stared at the strange and repulsive object as I was led outside into the yard and into the arms of my parents who had come over to see what was happening.
That summer was the last time I saw Evan alive. But not the last time I saw Evan.
It had been years since my traumatic experience. My parents and I moved away from Shadow’s Path. I grew up in a new neighborhood, went to a new school, and spent years going to a therapist. But nothing could make the memories of that scene fade from my mind.
I kept that dark spherical relic with me all these years, even as I grew into an adult. I do not know why. I wanted to get rid of it, but something inside my mind would not let me. It was if an unseen force made me keep it. The most I could do was lock it somewhere deep inside my house, hoping it would one day be forgotten and lost.
One night I awoke in bed after a fitful night of terrifying nightmares. I sat up feeling a chilling nausea wash over me. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and was about to reach for the light switch when I heard a tapping at my bedroom window along with the faint sound of familiar indecipherable words. I slowly turned my head toward the noise and I felt fear grip my heart.
There was that dark figure that had watched my friend through his window, now staring at me through my window with its yellow, inhuman eyes. In the moonlight I could see its facial features, which were weathered and decayed after so many years, yet still recognizable. It wore Evan’s grinning face, and in its black, grotesque hand it held sharp, metal instruments that I remember seeing pinning my friend to the wall so long ago. The window began to slowly open
And I screamed and screamed and screamed.