by R.T. Allenson

“Here.” he said softly, with a tone of regret “Is where you’ll live now.”

He ushered me inside and for a moment, I hesitated; something about the outside world seemed to invite me back. I tried to remember but my mind was blank and it pained me to try harder. Somewhere within the myriad of shadows was the truth but it was lost to me by some way, or another.

“Come now.” he beckoned through the open door of the house. “You aren’t safe outside. Come now.”

Numbness overcame and passed over. I pushed myself to move inside though deep within me, the urge to run away was itching, scratching my insides painfully. From afar a deep, mechanical bellowing resonated through the air. My companion forcibly pulled me inside the house, suddenly distraught, and closed the door behind me with a bang.

Silently he led me through the halls of the house. The house was cold and the old wooden floor creaked with each step but it was strangely inviting despite the deathly atmosphere it exuded. I moved to touch the walls and it was, like everything else, cold and familiar. I tried once more to remember  but the sharp prick in the back of my mind made me pull away from the wall and resume following my companion. He smiled at my attempt at remembering..or at least I think he did. We finally arrived at the living room and he sat me down facing the fireplace which had been lit beforehand and exuded a fragrant warmth that I found extremely disturbing. Presently, he sat next to  me with a sigh.

“The trouble we go for credence, eh my old friend?” He lit a cigarette and offered me one though I unconsciously rejected the offer. “Really?” he chuckled. “Must have hit your head harder then.”

I took a moment to gain sense of my surroundings. The living room was dimly lit only by the fireplace and it smelled like old wood and stale air. The window was large but fogged by humidity, though I could somewhat see the horizon filled with a vista of far-off buildings. The room itself was modestly decorated, with only the sofa where my companion and I sat and an end table at the far side of the room being notable. He would glance at me sometimes as I took in all that was in the room but was silent for the most part.

Eventually he stood up, mumbling beneath his breath and took a piece of paper from his pocket which he handed to me.

It wasn’t a piece of paper but a picture of a man in his early 20’s. Below his face were the words ‘Steven’ scribbled hurriedly with red font. The sense of familiarity overcame me again and the pain of remembering afterwards.

“Steven.” I whispered, holding the picture. I felt my companion’s hand rest on my shoulder. “That’s your son.” he said. “He’ll be looking for you. They all are.”

“Who?” I asked bluntly.

“The world.” he replied. “The whole world is after you.”

“Why? Who am I?”

He smiled but there was something sinister in his face, something callous that edged at me like a knife. His eyes twitched rapidly and his hands moved towards his chest, tearing fabric and skin and muscle beneath. He leered at me, the cavernous smile in his face not fading as blood trickled down from his wound and hands to the floor.

I stood up and tried to run but he pinned me down, his face transfixed with a hungry grin inching closer to my own.

“The pain inside is your doing!” he yelled. “The hands, the little fingers that claw and carve inside!  It’s all your fault!”

He opened his mouth and I instinctively kicked, flinging him towards the fireplace wherein the hungry flames consumed his hair and eventually himself. He stood up, hands opening the wound on his chest and advanced towards me. He bayed loudly, roaring towards me as blood and the smell of flames overcame my senses. The picture was still in my hand and I found the strength to run towards the corridor and burst through the door.

Behind me, I heard my pursuer tread heavily through the wooden floor. He was laughing, gibbering and raving at the sky as the flames consumed him fully. The grinning skull peered at me through the flames as everything else was reduced to soot and ash.

The sky was lit with orange hue and the bellowing did not cease. Somehow, I knew, that everything he said was true. They were after me for some wrongdoing of which I had forgotten. Where I would go, I wasn’t certain; only the picture of my son was with me. Somehow, this was reassuring though I knew it was also my demise.

“I’ll find you.”