Fiction: Stuck in the Middle With Me (Part 1)

This was born as a result of watching a Creepypasta video (which will be down below the story, if you want to watch it); it’s not finished yet, but I couldn’t work on it any more for the moment, thought I’d share what I have so far. Enjoy!

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The room had begun life as a spare bedroom. A place to put things that had no place of their own, those things to be shoved aside if company came calling and needed to crash. A mystical lost world where all things that had served a purpose once but which had since grown stale and valueless might end up. A land where decorations and furnishings that had gone out of style, either due to the passing of a seasonal event or merely saner trends in home decorating, could find rest.

Caleb hadn’t even been in the room for months, when he decided that it should be turned into his ritual room. The last time had been to toss an ex-girlfriend’s four foot tall teddy bear to the back of the room, ignoring the crashing sound and the follow-up of tinkling glass as it impacted a box that had probably been in there since the day he moved in and most likely contained Christmas decorations he’d never cared for but that his mother had insisted he take.

But the very fact that it stood unused, a dark domain where all manner of buried treasures had lived for the entirety of his six years in the house lived, unsullied by the assorted residue, be it physical or psychic, of other humans was what made it seem perfect to him, what made the idea call to him. Besides, according to all the sources he’d seen, that made it safer. It was charged up with all of his old belongings, things that had been his for years – decades, in some cases – and that would serve as grounding wires if something were to go wrong.

Not that he intended for anything to go wrong, of course. He was very careful. Once he’d sorted through the junk, arranged everything carefully in piles, shrines and monuments around the outer perimeter of the room, he had double and triple checked to make sure he was following the instructions precisely. Even if it was bullshit, more random crap some fool on the internet had decided would make a good snare for the gullible, there was no reason to half ass it.

“Treat every situation like it’s 100% real,” his father had told him once, when they had been playing a lazy game of catch in the backyard. Dad had gotten tired of Caleb’s poor performance, the half-hearted way he chased the ball and tossed it back, and had thrown a fastball. Ended up breaking Caleb’s nose. But the lesson to be learned was no less true for the abusive nature of the teaching. Always treat things like they’re real, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

He’d walked around the edge of his ode to lives and loves past, an industrial size can of Morton’s salt at the ready, drizzling a thick line all about the room. Staring at that made him think of baseball, which in turn reminded him of Dad’s lesson, so he went around once more, just to be safe. He made sure there wasn’t a single break or bend in that line of fine white grain that marked the barrier between the past and the present, safety and the unknown. If things went well, it wouldn’t matter, he wouldn’t need that barrier. But another saying of his father’s had always been that it was better to have something you didn’t need than to need something you didn’t have. Caleb hadn’t needed a broken nose to take that one as gospel truth.

When he’d finished with that, he’d taken the vacuum and carpet cleaner to the floors and a mop and bleach to the ceiling. Couldn’t have any stray things in the main space, after all. Wouldn’t want a tuft of cat hair or an errant marble slipping into the ritual area, ruining the vibe and possibly causing more trouble than he was prepared for. Once he’d been satisfied the room was appropriately clean – and double checked his salt line, to make sure he hadn’t accidentally disturbed it – he thought he was ready.

Caleb thought a lot of things that day. Most of them were wrong.

He lugged a chair in from the living room. Hideous, clunky thing, covered in denim that had been patched in many places with paisley patterns that probably hadn’t even been in style during the 70s. The patches covered up the rips and cigarette burns that his father had left in the chair over long years of sitting in it and issuing demands with a whiskey in one hand and his pocket knife in the other. Like some kind of drunken king who was still too fearsome to assassinate, he’d lorded over Caleb and his mother for twenty years until his heart gave out while he sat in this very throne. When he’d moved out, Caleb had taken it with him, grateful to have something to sit in more than he was repulsed by its previous occupant.

Caleb made sure to set the chair in the center of the room, then pushed it back an extra two feet. Standing in the doorway, eyeballing it and measuring against an upraised thumb, he nodded with satisfaction before heading to the kitchen to claim a pair of the wicker chairs that butted the card table he laughingly referred to as his dining area. Those he set to either side of the denim monstrosity, angling them so they were slightly facing it while still mostly pointed towards the center. Last, he brought in a round, beaten and scarred end table, setting it between the three chairs. Fussing with it, pushing and pulling it until it was perfectly centered, he stood back to survey his work.

The room already looked to have purpose to it. It brought to mind images of seances and secret meetings, associations Caleb found fitting. The single dim bulb that hung from the ceiling cast his older possessions into shadow behind a glimmering white line and kept the brightest spot exactly on the center of the table. Testing the distance with his own arms, Caleb made sure the three chairs were evenly spaced, and the angles were right.

It was good, he decided. Now for the final touches. He stood atop the table, wobbling as his left leg tried to buckle under him, gritting his teeth against the flare of pain in the long-ago shattered bone. Once he was certain he was steady, he reached up and unscrewed the bulb, ignoring the hissing of the searing flesh at the tips of his fingers as they made contact.

The room almost completely dark, the only light creeping in from the open doorway to the hall, Caleb almost thought he could hear expectant whispers, felt as though he need only reach out and ask and he’d find his hand making contact with a shrouded face behind which spiders and nightmares lurked. Repressing a shudder, he hopped down from the table and scurried back to the safety of the light for his last few items.

Mirrors, stolen from the bathroom medicine cabinet and the back of his bedroom door. They were mismatched – one square and frameless, the other long, rectangular, and trapped in a carved wood frame that showed imps and goblins cavorting about a meadow – but both equally reflective and unmarked, which was the important part. He carefully laid them in each of the side chairs, grunting and snarling as he tried to force them to stand up at the right angle, so they would each reflect the central chair and the other mirror without being full on pointed at one another.

He took another moment to survey the room, squinting in the darkness and trying to ignore the way the skin at the nape of his neck seemed to be trying to crawl right off his bones. Then he fetched the last pair of items: a large black candle with an overlong wick and a kitchen match, long wooden shaft tipped with a fat bead of sulphur.

Striking the match against the table, applying the flickering flame to the candle’s wick, Caleb smiled in the twisting shadows the meager light summoned. Had anyone been there to see it, they might have thought him one of the monsters of old, his features drawn haggard and maliciously angled, his eyes black orbs reflecting back a single pinprick of the candle’s light. They might also have noticed the way his reflection in the mirrors jumped and cavorted, not in sync with either each other or Caleb himself, or the manner that the teddy bear and other old things with human-like features seemed to recoil in fear from him, inching further from the salt line and pushing against the walls.

Caleb kicked the door shut behind him, locking out the small bit of light from the hall, leaving himself in darkness but for his candle. That he set atop the table before he slowly advanced on the denim throne his father had once held court from, and sank into its rough and wretched embrace.

Staring forward, careful not to look directly at either the dancing flame or the mirrors to his sides, Caleb’s lips worked as a single word fell from them.

“Showtime.”

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If you found the story enjoyable, and would like to help ensure stuff like this keeps coming, please consider stopping by my GoFundMe campaign; even if you’re not in a situation where chipping in is good, a visit or a share are just as welcome and appreciated. Thanks!

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