These Four Walls

These Four Walls

A Story by Summerisle

My first attempt at a short story as an adult; writing was my childhood hobby. It’s about depression and getting into a rut, with a supernatural element. Any feedback is massively welcome!

Paul couldn't pinpoint the exact date he stopped leaving his flat. It wasn't a conscious decision. There was no particular trigger. Not that he analysed that �" or anything else about his changes in circumstances �" much at all. He was just sort of drifting through the days, and that was fine by him. Or at least, it demanded the least amount of effort possible from him, and that was how he liked it.

Firstly he had stopped going to work. It was a relief to leave that place, with the stress and the noise and the demands to be "on" all the time, smiling and asking about weekend plans. One year before he quit entirely, he had stepped back from his middle management role to take on a part-time, entry level position in the warehouse at the same company. His old co-workers had regarded him with bewilderment, but he hadn't cared, and by then he had stopped associating with them outside of work hours anyway. Friends were too much stress. Eventually, the part-time packing role had begun to take its toll. He had always been prone to throwing the odd sickie, but after throwing one he got into the habit of taking the rest of the week off, and so on, until his attendance dipped below forty percent one month and his employer �" their understanding of his various, ever-changing and vaguely explained "ailments" exhausted - demanded he see a doctor to verify his illnesses. He quit on the spot.

Besides, he had told himself, he would have more time to perfect his job hunting skills without an actual job dragging him down and making him tired. It was just a temporary thing, he had told the few friends who still cared enough to enquire about him. He was never quite sure if he had believed that himself at the time, and didn't care to analyse that too much. Or much of anything about himself, in fact.

He had crafted his withdrawal, even without having to consciously plan it. It was almost a work of art. Everything that had made demands on him �" work, social life, family relationships �" had been gradually downgraded, until he woke up every morning with a clear schedule of nothingness ahead, like an undisturbed, open field. Some would call it laziness but, if he had had the energy to object to this, he would have done: it had taken effort to build this existence.

Paul's flat was �" how did he like to describe it? �" minimalist. There was precious little in the way of decoration, and very few possessions other than his thousands of computer games and old CDs he couldn't bear to part with. He kept the curtains drawn almost all of the time nowadays. During sunny days there would be an odd glow around the blackout curtains, giving the whole flat a slightly odd feel.

Months had gone by like this when Paul first felt the flat trying to drag him into itself. He was scrolling through threads on his favourite message boards to lurk on, only half reading the various posts splashed across his screen. Suddenly, his finger paused, and he was unable to move it. Alarmed (arthritis at his age?!), he looked down at his hand and screamed in horror. His finger was fused with the mouse, melted in somehow as if it was a piece of soft clay he had pushed his finger into. With a yelp, Paul fell backwards off his chair and violently pulled his whole arm away. With a popping sound, his finger freed itself. Lying on his back and panting, he grabbed the offending hand. It seemed fine. He touched his scrolling finger with his left hand, as if to check it was really there. It was. There was no sign of anything unusual about the hand at all. The screen continued to cast its eerie glow across the whole of the darkened flat.

He climbed gingerly to his feet and inspected the mouse from afar, as if it was a wild animal. Picking up the box of a retro computer game he had played for eight straight hours the previous day, he poked the mouse. It jolted across the table and banged into his keyboard, clearly as solid as ever. Paul rubbed his eyes and laughed, slightly hysterically. The sound of his own voice made him jump; when was the last time he had spoken to someone? Days ago, certainly.

Paul didn't know how long he stood there. His grasp of time was shaky, recently, at the best of times. His breathing returned to normal. He gave his right hand one final rub, and smiled. Surely he had just nodded off at his desk. There was no other explanation.

He spent the rest of the day feeling lethargic, even by his own standards. Maybe it showed how alien the idea of an unpredictable event had become that even this �" a simple momentary nightmare at his desk �" had the power to sap his energy. Something niggled him at the back of his mind, telling him it wasn't natural to live this way, that he was failing himself. He silenced it instantly. He had grown used to doing that, and nowadays that voice �" whatever the hell it was �" bothered him less and less. This was his existence. It was how he liked it, he reminded himself, firmly.

He decided on an early night. Early for him, anyway. Nowadays he slept when he felt like it. Often he would stay up until four and rise at midday. Time didn't hold much meaning. He couldn't remember when he had last had to be in a particular place at a particular time.

The bathroom was cold and dingy, so this was the one room in the flat that he kept the curtains open. He splashed cold water on to his face and brushed his teeth, looking at himself in the mirror. His reflection glared back, looking pale and older than his years. He hadn't brushed his hair in days but it didn't seem to matter when his only human contact was taking delivery of his online shopping, and the people who delivered that never seemed to care what he looked like.

Paul put his toothbrush back on the side of the sink and then looked back at the mirror. His heart froze in his chest. He took a sharp, horrified intake of breath. His reflection was still holding the toothbrush. Grinning at him maniacally. He wanted to run but he was held to the spot as if stuck by quicksand. The reflection didn't change its expression or seem to move at all. It was static, like a painting �" a terrifying, evil painting, with eyes shining with malice.

Suddenly, the reflection leapt towards him like a pouncing tiger. Its arm pushed through the glass as if it wasn't there. It grabbed Paul's shoulder with a super human strength and dragged him towards it. All this time, its wild grin didn't change.

Screaming, Paul fought against his captor. His hands flailed frantically, searching for anything solid to grab. His reflection continued to draw him ever closer. He heard that same strange popping noise that he had heard from the mouse as he passed through the barrier between the real world and the mirror world.

Realising he had seconds to go, Paul reached out one arm and grabbed the bathroom sink. With all the strength and adrenaline his terrified body could muster, he pulled back and screamed into the reflection's horrific face.

A louder pop this time, and Paul �" to his own shock �" did it. He fell heavily on to the bathroom floor. He shot up again and looked into the mirror. He had never felt such relief to see his own shaking, bruised reflection mirroring his every move. He stumbled back into his living room, his muscles tight with terror. He had to get out. He needed to leave. But where would he go? Who could he tell? He hadn't spoken to family or friends in weeks.

In the living room, Paul felt overcome with an overwhelming exhaustion. This was a million times the activity his body had been trained to take. He looked over at his well worn computer chair, where he had spent countless hours over the past few months. That was home.

He dropped into the chair, defeated.

Instantly, the worn threads of the chair's arms threaded their way across his hands like snakes, fastening him to the spot. Fear gripped him in place; he couldn't struggle. More threads lassoed their way around his neck. He tried to move his legs but they too were stuck, tied into place. Finally, he gained the strength to scream, but it was too late �" his mouth was already gagged by worn threads, pulling his head ever further back. Suddenly he was sinking, falling backwards strapped in, like on a rollercoaster. With a huge pop that no-one else heard, Paul disappeared into his chair.

Silence descended on the flat. It would be many weeks before anyone would come to investigate this place. When they did, they would find a computer in standby mode. A worn chair. Ready meals in the fridge. A pile of retro CDs and computer games. Signs of an existence, but nothing to indicate life.

© 2018 Summerisle

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Added on May 26, 2018
Last Updated on May 27, 2018
Tags: Horror, depression, supernatural



United Kingdom