Culture | Inkwell

The Dead-line

That night, inspiration stubbornly refused to bless me with her presence. The standard fogginess attributable to a nasty bout of writer’s block inhabited my conscience and disabled my ability to generate anything remotely worth reading. Even the sky, habitually dotted with dreamy constellations, mirrored my mind in its stark blackness. I willed a beam (a sliver, even) of moonlight to infiltrate my room and instill me with a temporary stroke of genius, one that would remedy the blank page staring angrily up at me. Useless. An obscure room and an unforgivingly white sheet of paper were all I had. I fidgeted and picked at the frayed arm of my swivel chair, desperately trying to avoid thinking about my deadline, but to no avail. It gnashed its teeth definitively, providing me with a dreadful confirmation that I was, for lack of a better word, screwed.

My brilliant ideas, I decided, were caught in literary limbo, and the ghost-like specters of ‘what-could-have-been-had-I-not-procrastinated’ haunted me ruthlessly. Leave me alone, I relayed to them, hoping to put an end to the unwelcomed séance; it’s harder than it looks. The unnervingly leaky bathroom faucet was not helping my anxious disposition. Drip, drop. I shot a furtive glance at my alarm clock, which glowed red – 2:46 a.m. That couldn’t possibly be the time. I looked back down at my sheet of paper and inhaled, trying for a deep, soothing breath. Drip, drop, the faucet interrupted. Startled, my exhale came out in ragged bursts- my meditative breaths were evidently leaving something to be desired.

As the leak dripped and dropped, my thoughts wandered dangerously. Echoes of an urban legend from my childhood – which, by rule, could only be narrated in hushed and forbidden whispers – now manifested itself quite freely with every resounding drip: A woman lies in her bed, she is frightened by the dark. Her dog licks her hand from underneath her bed to reassure her. The faucet leaks menacingly. Drip, drop. She goes to turn it off. When she returns to her room, her dog comfortingly licks her hand from under the bed again. Dripping noises continue to plague the silence of her home, but her dog continues to lick her hand soothingly and she eventually falls asleep. The following morning, the woman saunters into her bathroom, pulls back the shower curtain and finds her dog hanging from the ceiling, dripping blood. Drip, drop. The words “HUMANS CAN LICK TOO” are written on the wall in glistening red letters. Cue screams and flickering flashlights.

A shiver made its way up the length of my spine upon rehashing the spooky story’s gruesome end, causing my shoulders to convulse. Drip, drop. It was hitting too close to home. Without warning, I found myself erect and heading towards the bathroom. Stop, I yelled at whatever or whoever had possessed me to walk towards my impending doom. The unidentified force ignored me and marched me through the bathroom door. The shower curtains were drawn back – it was empty. I whirled around wildly to survey the sink. It was, indeed, dripping. As relief washed over my mangled nerves, I sheepishly realized that a part of me – likely the more sensible half – had known that I was being irrational and that the faucet needed to be turned off so that I could please, please get back to trying to make my deadline.

I splashed copious amounts of water onto my face in the hopes that it might appease my lingering nervousness, but a spattering of cold sweat had already begun to form at the nape of my neck. My deadline! What time was it? I turned off the faucet and jangled the left sink knob, determined to disable any and all potential distractions. The house was silent. I flicked the bathroom switch off and stood in the dark for a moment, endeavoring to recollect my thoughts. I paused long enough to notice the outline of my figure in the mirror, which was now completely cast in shadows. My features were impossible to make out in the darkness – I looked foreign to myself. Gradually, I began to wonder if I was even looking at a reflection of myself at all. Unbridled fright started to swell in the pit of my stomach as it dawned on me that the figure I was contemplating was a manifestation of a second urban legend that had haunted me as a child. Bloody Mary, it seemed, had come to pay me a visit.

Bloody Mary, legend suggests, was an infamous child murderer who was burnt at the stake for her wretchedness. To spite the villagers who had sentenced her to her fiery fate, Bloody Mary placed a curse upon any person audacious enough to chant her name three times in front of a mirror. Conjuring Bloody Mary’s presence in the mirror, it was said, would provoke her to lash out violently at the conjurer. This should, I deliberated as I watched the enigmatically still figure in the mirror, be reason enough to convince the bravest of souls to avoid thinking of her. Yet, there is a certain deliciousness attributable to the rush of fear that one experienced in the dark, chanting something so unarguably forbidden. It was, I decided, the ultimate game of courage.

I spoke her name a first time, quickly and without hesitation. My pulse instantly began to accelerate – I could feel it in my clenched jaw. I said her name again, this time deliberately emphasizing each vowel, daring her to protest. My knees buckled ever so slightly and my heavy breathing dizzied me in anticipation. I whispered her name a third time, this time almost inaudibly, and dashed out of the bathroom, hell bent on getting as far away from the mirror as I possibly could. A girl’s curiosity has its limits.

I threw myself into bed. My heart knocked wildly against my ribcage, saturating the stillness of the night with pulsing thuds so loud that I began to question whether they were actually mine. The thumps only seemed to be increasing in volume – all telltale signs of a vengeful heart hidden somewhere underneath the floorboards of my bedroom. As I cowered under my covers, sheltering myself from the wrath of the sprites and mythic characters that I had conjured and cursing my unrelenting powers of procrastination, I was struck with an idea. A wonderfully horrifying, scrumptiously terrifying, deviously wicked idea.

My Halloween article, I considered as I wriggled my nearly mummified body out of my knotted bed sheets, has just written itself. For once, the sheer terror attributable to a looming deadline seemed to have done me some good. I glanced excitedly at my clock – 3:52 a.m. glowed in encouragingly blood-red lettering. Plenty of time, I deliberated as I sat down at my desk. Not a sliver of moonlight in sight. Boogeyman, eat your heart out, I mused as I picked up my pen and began to write.


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