I grew up in a town pulled between country and city, with too many people and too few buildings - there were bad spots in town where I was never to go, because the people there were desperate. The town was large enough to house our own historical museum, but small enough that it was only open for one hour on Tuesdays. Where this story begins, the large corporate chains had just begun moving in and choking out the family stores. Forests were being leveled in favor of houses.
My house is not an old one; I was born with this house, and I have grown with it. It was new since I knew it, and built on old farmland - it is a tiny piece of suburbia that is quickly overtaking the countryland; one of many signs of the growing population of cityfolk. My mother herself had come from Detroit, and my father an immigrant from Quebec - together, as cityfolk, they had chosen this island of modernity over the other, more rural-looking buildings, and had bought it with vultures circling overhead. While childhood friends -- living in the ancient houses in the outskirts, their only neighbors being trees - have many stories of their hauntings, I only have a few.
I was five when our story begins. Like all girls that age, I had an obsession with stuffed animals; namely, a large Sesame Street Ernie toy roughly a third of my size. It would talk if you pressed its hand, and I was enamored with it the previous week. Being a week older and wiser, however, I had become disenchanted with it; it was left, abandoned and with dead batteries, at the back of the closet.
I was a timid child, easily frightened and constantly hiding -- because of this, I was often plagued with nightmares. This night was no different. I woke wide-eyed and sweaty, my entire world seeming to focus on the way the orange light of my nightlight reflected off the bedsheets. The silence of the night was deafening.
That was when the night was shattered by a mockery of any human sound, and while it was English - "I feel great, I feel great" - it might as well have been heathen tongues to me. I ran down the hall, the mocking almost-human voice following me; while I remember being quiet about it, my mother told me I was screaming the entire time. And so I was - I remember crying after the parents had been awakened, watching my mother; my mother reaching to the shelf at the top of the closet and grabbing the Ernie doll, limp in her hands - "I feel great, I feel great".
I don't remember what happened past that point. She threw the doll away, or else dismantled it - when I asked her why it kept talking without batteries she told me the capacitors had held a charge, but it wasn't enough to make the voice work correctly. Satisfied with this answer, the Ernie doll was quickly forgotten until later years.
Regardless, this quickly set the tone for anything following - if you don't know what it is, you confront it. In the case of the doll, this ended painlessly - it was thrown out or elsewise forgotten, and it provided no further troubles.
The issue with this line of thought is that I proceeded to apply it to everything else, as well. There was a large boa-like snake I didn't recognize in the yard - instead of fearing it, I thought it was beautiful because of its yellow tail and yanked on it hard, only months later learning that the snake was a venomous copperhead. While out selling girl scout cookies, a large red-tailed hawk buzzed directly over my head and landed on the railing only a few feet from me - instead of recognizing it as a raptor, a bird of prey, instead of seeing the inch-long claws and curved beak, I decided that it too was the most beautiful thing I ever saw and tried to pet it. My bravery was only matched by my stupidity; the only thing that saved me from becoming Nine Fingered Alex on the latter instance is that my mother saw it for what it was and frogmarched me away.
After that, my dog had begun getting ill. He was old, and his body was failing him. He was the only dog I had had in my life, I being seven and he being ten - to lose him was unthinkable, so I thought he had a simple flu. My mother recognized the gravity of the situation and took me aside one afternoon. She told me what any parent would have said - the dog would not last much longer, and in a few weeks he would die. I quickly became hysterical, crying and snotting into her sweater. Too warm and too cold all at once.
What followed was entirely inexplicable, and I can barely even describe it to you without sounding insane. There was a sudden feeling, perhaps two minutes into my crying - like someone had reached a hand into my head and touched the brain. There was a sudden calm, and all of my own hysterical thoughts were muffled, and a simple question posed in this calm invasion; how long do you want him to live?
I did not take long to consider this question, and answered automatically; two years. Two years, after all, was a mighty long time. It was nearly one third of my entire lifespan, and only after I realized that this wasn't very long at all did I waffle and try to take back the thought. No, please, twelve years! Twenty nine years! Not just two years! Don't leave!
By then, however, the feeling of Something Else had faded, and I was once again alone in my mother's arms.
When I was eight, only a few months before my ninth birthday, the dog stopped eating carrots. Two weeks after that the carrots, it was peppers. Three weeks, and it was leftovers. After my birthday he would accept nothing but his dog food, and that, too, he stopped eating. A normally fat dog became thin, to the point of seeing ribs. His thick coat fell out in chunks. We went to the vet and they told us his liver was starting to fail; they could not pinpoint the cause of it, but they surely would be able to treat it soon. After his liver, it was his bladder, his stomach, his heart. Within several months nearly every organ was failing.
He was put down under the apple orchard by the vet's office. We went out for ice cream after, I remember, to try to recover a bit. Halfway through the dinner the previous wish for my dog's life occurred to me; I realized that was two years ago and I now was nine. There was this pervasive sense of guilt after that. I was closer to that dog than was perhaps healthy for a child, and I felt like I was responsible for his death.
There was a lull in anything happening here, to be frank. For several years I was just an angry little kid that didn't care about anything, straight up until I was 11. I played far too much Warcraft than was healthy, and looked down on the others my age with disdain, despite being exactly like them. It was at this age, then, that the OCD had begun to manifest itself once again.
Something you must understand is that OCD is not a simple compulsion, endearing in its eccentricity. OCD is not when one has to organize books or fold their clothes a certain way out of mild annoyance. OCD is about fear and adrenaline. It is about superstition - you must look away every time someone uncaps their pen, because it is a Freudian symbol of the penis and to look is to be a sinner. You must not make grammatical mistakes, because mistakes mean you are inferior, and only sinners are inferior. You must wash your hands until they bleed because it shows penance for your sins; you must starve until your nails are as soft as cheese to show you are not worthy.
True OCD has, to its core, a strong resemblance to paranoid schizophrenia, and to this day I do not understand why perfectly healthy people would ever want to lay claim to this disorder. The only true difference between schizophrenia and OCD is that the OCD-sufferer has a strong knowledge of how delusional they are, and how stupid; but they can't stop even if they know, because if they did stop, they would die from the fear.
This cycle began when I was eleven. I was unlike my sister; I had virtually no compulsions to wash my hands or fast. What I did have were the cyclic thoughts, and these cut me to my core. God to me quickly became an eternally disappointed creature, something that looked upon me with mild distaste; He became a creature that would stand on the surface of the water and watch me drown with neither like nor dislike of my death and damnation, and even if He wanted to help He could not; so completely trapped in his own power was He that action, or even inaction, was beyond His grasp, and He was forced to be a permanent, eternal Observer of the world. I became obsessed with trying to impress this eternally disappointed deity, for if I didn't Satan would find me.
Living without fear of my God's abandonment or the Anti-Christ's meddlement became an alien idea to me, and even though I knew it was crazy I was afraid. Every night became a sleepless one spent in the bathroom, either closer or farther away from vomiting than the previous night. My mental illness, indeed, was making me physically ill as well - the night I would get sleep was rare, and the day my bones did not hurt unheard of. When I did sleep there was no release from the disorder and demons followed me in my dreams.
In the height of one such night terror, however, when I was running from whatever flock plagued me that day, the dream lapsed into the silence of the Something Else - any sound faded away to the hissing pulse in my ears, and all of the characters simply dropped in their tracks. My thinking was muffled, and then stopped, and there was the same calm as the years before. There was nothing but the silence and the calm for a long time, and it seemed to stretch on infinitely. The same feeling of a hand within my skull holding the mind began before this, and it had stayed there; time itself seemed to have stopped.
There was a moving shape in the distance of the dream, the only thing moving, and as it got closer I saw it; it was a man but not a man, dressed in black with a face that I could not see directly. I think it had eyes, and they were green - or perhaps blue, or grey. Looking back it moved with jerking deliberateness, as if it only moved within key frames of an animation, but it seemed so natural, elegant to me at the time; it stopped in front of me and stood staring, no more defined than it was before. There were no words in the silence, but somehow I derived comfort from the stare; if it had spoken the words would have been simply; I am here. Then the image of a not-man went away, walking into a distant wall of the scenery and disappearing. The silent calm, however, remained.
The calm persevered into my waking life the following morning - fear and compulsion had seemingly been completely eradicated, instead replaced with an odd alien presence within my own head, something that extruded a sense of being an elder, something old and formidable that demanded reverence; at the same time it gave a sense of familiarity, as if I had known it or it had known me for far longer than it gave hint to. I was convinced I had finally reached psychosis, but I didn't care even if I had; I was happier now, and what was life without happiness?
Odd things began to happen after that day. I remember at least two occasions where, dreaming, I was being told a story by some sort of narrator with a forgotten voice. When I awoke hours after, trudging out into the kitchen for food, my mother would ask me if I had stayed up late watching Photoshop tutorials again - she had heard a voice in my room, she claimed, but it had sound canned and unnatural so she thought I was watching Youtube videos.
Soon after, I would often wake up to find a vague humanoid shape of a shadow (or perhaps smoke because it had form) standing in the center of my room. At first, I was barely surprised by this, as if such occurrences were merely a fact of life. Then I began to record myself sleeping, hoping to catch whatever this was in action; the recordings, upon review in the morning, were always exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes of empty footage. I was never able to get a recording that lasted far enough into the night to be of any worth.
There were a few isolated times that I remember where I was in the space between dreaming and awake, with the buzzing silence that comes before a faint; in the background, breaking behind the static, there was a lullaby being hummed. I would wake up from these dreams to the shadowman in my bedroom, passively staring.
I cannot tell you whether this was the Presence or whether I was just dreaming; I can only tell you that it happened, like all things. Even now I am just trying to put all of the pieces together, to see if there was any theme or idea behind everything.
I will not claim that, whatever this was, that it was some sort of angel or ghost or demon. Even at the time I did not believe it to be so - you must remember the clarity that OCD allows, and so I thought myself becoming unhinged from reality. I had many theories about this entity or delusion, and none of them included demons / angels; it described itself only as some sort of scavenger and would not go into detail much beyond that. The answer of what the Presence actually was (besides the possibility of schizophrenia), however, has not made itself immediately clear to me, and so I will avoid such a subject unless you wish me to explain my theories on a later date.
Slowly I am starting to recover one occurrence at a time from my childhood - my nightmares were far from normal.
I can only describe one such dream as a nothingness, which had the shape of a cube in the center. The nothingcube replicated on all sides. All of the nothingcubes touched at every point in space and lay side-by-side. Their edges, despite having none because they were touching at every point, had space between them. At the same time none of them existed at all while giving the impression that they did, all in a nothing-void that stretched out into infinity. It was one of the most horrifying moments I can remember. I was five at the time of that dream.
Even fondly remembered memories, as well, I am discovering new depth to - for at least six years after I had tried to pet the bird I had remembered it was a red-tailed hawk - to the point that I remember it so clearly I feel as though I could touch it. I remember the rust-colored tail feathers, and the warm brown of its wings, and the way its eyes caught the light and threw it back at me; I remember how yellow its scaly feet were, and that they reminded me of ducks, and that I liked ducks.
I told my mother of this memory perhaps a few months ago, and my mother gave me this dubious look, like I had gone mad. "It was a turkey vulture," she had said. I tried to argue this point with her, but she was set - it was a turkey vulture, and it was much larger than a hawk would ever be in any case, and she didn't understand how I could confuse the two when I spent all of my time in my room reading about birds anyways.
All I search for, in the end, are answers, and I have yet to find any. These are the memories I have recovered for you, so we could perhaps try to understand what has happened and why. Even if they are only mildly bizarre, they may yet have some meaning; hopefully in the future I will have remembered more, and then the picture will become clear.