The sheets were wet with sweat and the air inside the bedroom was heavy and warm. Much too warm for Simon to sleep. Nights like this were always the most uncomfortable. Despite opening the windows and tossing the blankets off of the bed he could find no reprieve from the heat. Darkness strangled the room as tightly as the humidity.
Although Simon appreciated the dark, as well as the peaceful deprivation it brought, he noticed it was unusually black that night. He found himself wishing there was a source of light on in the room so he could find something to look at. Not that the room contained anything of particular interest. The only pieces of furniture were his bed, desk, dresser, and a few book shelves. But the combination of darkness and restlessness was beginning to frustrate him.
The aggravation building inside him nearly turned into action and he was about to get up to turn on the light when an abnormal feeling disrupted his train of thought. Suddenly, and without warning, a headache erupted from the back of his skull. Simon experienced migraines every now and then but none as brutal as this. It pulsated from a single point within his head like someone was poking their finger deep into his brain causing the gray matter to ripple forward.
A voice, not his own, but coming from within his mind, spoke to him.
I can see you.
“What the hell,” Simon said, or thought he said. His lips had mouthed the words but he’d heard nothing.
The pain rattling inside his skull continued to press against the back of his eyes and he scrambled toward the edge of the bed with the anticipation of vomiting.
Calm down Simon. I can’t actually see you.
Listen to me.
Now, slow your breathing. Match your breath with the pulse in your head. You must synchronize with it.
Slowly, the pain diluted. The voice, despite its unsettling arrival, was strangely soothing. Simon straightened up from the edge of the bed. The rotation of the room decreased like a carousel stopping to let off its passengers. After his focus returned he tried to address the voice.
“I must be dreaming. Or losing my mind,” Simon said, still unable to hear himself speaking, “… I … What is going on? Why can’t I hear myself?”
You have achieved synchronization, Simon. Rather quickly, I might add.
You are no longer speaking with your mouth.
You are speaking with your mind.
“Oh, So I am losing it.”
You are losing nothing, Simon.
I do not expect you to believe a word I say, but if you choose to believe any of them, believe these.
I AM REAL.
“You’re right, I don’t believe a single word.”
That is fine, for now.
However, it is important you remember this.
Whether you believe that I am real or think that you’ve lost your mind you must remember this encounter.
“I’m, uh, confused. What are you talking about? If you’re not, like, my subconscious, then who are you?”
I’m sorry, I cannot risk answering these questions in a way you will find satisfactory at this moment.
If you are patient, I will find a way to answer your questions.
Just do not forget.
“How could I forget,” Simon replied, hearing himself once again.
The sound of his own voice startled him. Compared to the one in his head it was loud and harsh. Although, not nearly as harsh as the flash of light that came next. Simon’s bedroom instantaneously shifted from the absence of light to the very essence of light. The bright and piercing whiteness that filled his vision was stunning. When his eyes adjusted, it was morning.
196 Days Later
Simon pulled into his usual parking space outside of the Goshen Athenaeum. He’d been working in the library for a few years and even though the pay was below average, he enjoyed it. A year ago, however, he’d nearly quit due to the increasing number of migraines the hours of reading were causing him. Mysteriously enough, the migraines had stopped after his episode seven months earlier. This was probably the only positive thing to come out of the “experience”. After visiting his doctor, a psychiatrist, a neurologist, and even an optician, he still had no answers in regards to the weird occurrence. Simon was in above average physical condition, had a clean brain scan, showed no signs of any mental illness or disease, and had 20/10 vision.
Considering the amount of time since the event took place, he managed to stop worrying about what was wrong with him. Yet, every so often he would lie in bed until the early morning, waiting for the voice to return and keep its promise. In a way, he wanted it to visit him again and bring with it the answers it claimed to have. In another, completely opposite way, he feared its return would doom him by affirming the fear that he may have really gone crazy. Regardless of whether the whole thing had been a dream or not, life still went on and he still had to work.
Simon hurried down the cement walkway and entered the library through the large, heavy wooden doors in the front of the building. He clocked in and gave a cordial nod to his coworker Diane, who was busy scanning new books into the system. Normally, he would’ve stopped to catch up but the return box was filled with books from weekend drop-offs. Soon, he was deep within the stacks with a cart full of books and a list that seemed to span the entirety of the Dewy-Decimal system.
The library had not been open more than fifteen minutes when Simon started to spot people perusing the shelves. One of them, a young boy, approached him and asked him to locate a book. He took the number from the child and proceeded to lead the way, weaving through the connecting aisles. When they reached the correct shelf Simon grabbed a nearby stepping stool and followed the numbers up to the top row. It was not until he reached the highest books that he realized what section he was in and what book he was looking for. The copy was old and dusty but in pretty good condition, as if it had spent its whole life at the library waiting for this boy to check it out.
“Chariots of the Gods, by Eric Von Daniken. An interesting choice for someone your age,” Simon said, “How old are you, kid?”
When he received no answer he turned to where the boy had been standing but the child was gone.
“Hey, where’d you go? I have your book right here.”
Simon looked up and down the aisle but there was no sign of the young patron. Instead, his eyes landed on the shadow of another.
The man did not seem to be looking for any particular book. Actually, it looked as if he was staring directly at Simon. He was dressed in dark clothing, with a hood hiding his face, and half of his body obstructed from view by a shelf. Simon waved but the man did not move.
“Probably can’t see me from under that hood,” Simon mumbled as he approached the man. “Is there anything I can help you with today, sir?”
At the sound of Simon speaking the man slid behind the shelf that he’d been standing next to. Simon quickened his pace, intent on confronting the suspicious character but when he rounded the corner the figure was nowhere in sight. He continued down the aisle looking both ways each time another aisle intersected the one he was in. He did this all the way back to entrance area where the front desk was located, surrounded by numerous reading tables. With his search about to be called off, Simon noticed that Diane was no longer at the front desk. All the patrons who had been wandering about and reading at the tables were not around anymore either. Simon thought of yelling out to Diane, hoping she had simply stepped aside for second, but kept quiet.
An eerie feeling wrapped its arm around him. In order to shake the embrace Simon decided to take over the front desk until his co-worker returned. He was less than eager to re-enter the stacks and retrieve his cart of books.
When he reached the front desk he approached the computer and poked the space bar to wake the screen from sleep mode. It flashed on and he moved his hands to the key board to sign into the library’s program. But someone was already signed in. He looked towards the top right of the screen, checking to see if Diane had neglected to log off. Her name was not the one in the staff menu. It was a different name.
The revolution of his thoughts quickened. He thought back to when he’d entered work not an hour earlier. There was no way he signed then. And Diane would never use his account even if she could have figured out his password. Simon’s confusion turned over into panic when he looked at the search results on screen.
Daniken, Eric Von
Chariots of the Gods
“Hey, Diane,” Simon shouted, “was this you? C’mon you know I don’t like being messed with.” It was not like Diane to play with him, especially since she knew how much the “experience” had affected him.
Simon felt someone approach the desk and was relieved to no longer be alone.
“I apologize if I was disruptive just now, sir,” said Simon, “I believe one of my co-workers may have just played a prank on me. Now, what can I do for you?”
“Oh it was no joke, and it was not your co-worker,” said the man in the black hoodie.
“Sir,” Simon responded, his feeling of relief dissipating into a fog of fear, “Are you implying you had something to do with this?”
“Your name is Simon, right?”
“That’s what my staff username is. Now tell me how you knew that.”
“You’re co-worker told me. What kind of books do you like to read, Simon?”
Simon could tell the man was lying. It would have been easy enough for the guy to discover his name, seeing as how he wore a name badge. But he could not have known it was Simon’s username too and Diane would never have told him that. Though the strange man set him on edge, Simon decided to play it cool. Worst come to worst the police station was only two blocks over and the phone was right next to the computer.
“Sir, I hardly think the type of books I read is any of your business. Neither is my username or password so tell me where you found them and what you think you’re doing.”
“Ever read a book like this one,” the man said, holding up a copy of Chariots of the Gods. Simon must have left it behind in the stacks.
“How did you,” Simon felt himself becoming visibly shaken, “Was that kid your son or something?”
“Tell me, Simon, have you ever heard voices in your head? Have you ever talked to them? Don’t be embarrassed, I do.”
Simon almost broke down and ran. Was this man responsible for the voice that had contacted him seven months ago? There was no possible way he could have known about the experience otherwise. Simon had been half hoping the voice would reveal itself again. Was this it? Did this man have the answers that had been promised?
Simon forced himself to slow down. Looking at the man, Simon knew there was something off about him besides his general creepiness. His tone, his presence, both felt wrong. The voice’s feeling was lighter, and its presence much more soothing. Whatever this man carried with him was heavy, damp, and frightening. Like Simon’s room had felt before the voice visited him.
“Sir, if you do not produce your library card or a form of identification I have the right to throw you off the property and call the police,” Simon said, recovering a bit of his confidence.
“Where do you live Simon? I’d like to stop in sometime. Could I do that?”
Simon grabbed the phone and began punching in numbers. He took the time to enter the four extra digits required to reach the local police station. The cops would send someone running over the second they received the call. Before he finished dialing, Diane broke the silence of the library.
“Simon, get out of my spot. Are you trying to steal my job again? Trust me, the pay is the same as yours,” Diane said, “Hey, who are calling?”
Simons lifted his head to see people emerging from the aisles and returning to the reading tables. The man was gone.