This story was written in response to the following Writing Prompt on reddit–
[[WP] You’re known as “the Wanderer,” the only person fearless enough to go beyond their Great Walls and into the “wasteland” beyond]
You’d like to believe that the wasteland is worlds away. I get it. It makes you feel safe knowing that you’re sheltered from them. As far you’re concerned they can’t harm you. It’s not possible, seeing how they’re in their own land; a whole other world that you’re lucky enough to not see.
As for me, luck isn’t really on my side. For as far as I can remember, I’ve been able to peer into this wasteland. It’s not something that I’ve asked for, nor is it a skill that I take pride in. It’s just is what it is. I try not to pay attention to them. Most of the time I just pretend not to see them, it makes it easier.
However, every now and then I make the mistake of looking at one of them. Sometimes it’s hard to ignore them, especially the more unusual-looking ones. They just stare at me with their sunken eyes, shocked that I’m able to notice their presence. Some of them are just not used to being seen; not that they mind it. It doesn’t scare them. They’re more fascinated by the fact that someone can see them. Most of them don’t look too frightening. Maybe it’s because I got used to seeing them.
Their voices is what gets me every time. No matter how many times I hear them whisper, I can never get used to the shrill tones echoing in my ears; cold, unnatural, inhuman. I can never really understand what they’re saying, it’s as if it wasn’t meant for human ears. Some of them attempt to mimic our speech, which sounds even more unnatural. There’s nothing I hate more than watching their cracked lips mutter at me. Their jaws move so irregularly, so fast, and almost as if they’re disjointed, that my ears shouldn’t be able to register any words. There is only one phrase that I’ve been able to pick up from my interactions with them; the one question they all have for me, “Hal anta ta’eh?” And I simply respond with, “Yes, I am a wanderer.”
The most terrifying experience I’ve had was at a hospital a few weeks ago. My mom was recovering from a surgery and I decided to stay overnight with her in case she needed any help. I fell asleep at around 10:00 pm, and woke up a few hours later. As soon as my eyes opened, they scanned the dim room. My hand fumbled in the dark feeling for my phone across the nightstand. I felt for the hard texture and yanked the phone while pressing the side button; 2:00 AM. I always hated waking up at this time, it’s their favorite hour to stroll around. Whenever I’d wake up between 2 and 3 am, I’m bound to see one of them peering into my bedroom window. I sat up on the couch as my eyes adjusted to the dark. A dim light flickered from the window behind me, and I decided to turn around. Nothing. Just a neon sign flickering across the street.
I rubbed my hands as a chill traveled down my body; it was unbelievably cold. I turned my head to face the bed on my right, my mom was sound asleep. She didn’t seem to be bothered by the unusually cold room. It was weird, she could never tolerate anything colder than 74 degrees…a degree colder would awaken her and have her rush to the thermostat to adjust it. Maybe it’s the pain meds.
I stood up and made my way to the thermostat on the other side of the room to turn it up. I fiddled with the power button, listening intently for a sign that it’s been turned off. Weird. There was no sign that it was even on to begin with.
I stumbled into the hallway, searching for an orderly or a nurse to help me out. I felt uneasy walking down the narrow hall, something wasn’t right. I looked around trying to find someone, anyone…but it was as if the whole hospital was deserted overnight.
As I walked past a room, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand. A shiver ran down my back as I heard a familiar hum coming from the dark room. I turned my head slowly to face the closed door. I hesitated. I couldn’t just barge in. I stood closer and pressed my face against the glass screen. The bedside lamp was on.
I saw a boy, no older than 10, sitting up with his arms wrapped tightly around his body, shuddering. His pale face barely illuminated by the light, but I could see the terror in his eyes.
My eyes wandered around the room…not noticing the figure standing next to him. It took me a few seconds to see it.
Towering over him, it stood 7 feet tall.
Its slender hand rested on the boy’s head. Its long fingers stroked his hair until it noticed me. Its sunken eyes widened as it stared at me.
I opened my mouth….
It lifted its arm from the boy’s head and brought its narrow finger up to its face and pressed it against the dry lips.SHHHHHH….
The shrill sound send chills down my body. I pressed my lips and gulped.
Its hand once again rested on the boy’s head, stroking his hair, as its lips moved…whispering… Its eyes shifted back to boy.
My hand slowly reached to the handle, pressing it down. The door was locked.
I banged on the glass screen, hoping to scare it away.
Its eyes moved back to me, noticing the now angry look on my face.
It stopped whispering, as its lips moved…turning into a crooked smile. I banged on the screen again, finally mustering the courage to yell.
A loud cackle erupted from its lips. Its head shook hysterically and its long black hair ruffled over its bony shoulders.
It suddenly stopped and moved its hand away from the boy. It shuffled its feet across the floor…moving closer and closer to the door…
I backed away slowly, before running back to my mom’s room and locking the room.
You’d like to believe that the wasteland is a physically-distant place. Trust me, I do too. But unfortunately, it is only inches away from you. A thin veil is all that separates you from them. You’re lucky that you can’t see beyond it. But me? I’ve been cursed. I can’t help but peer into the other side, wandering between both worlds.