All In Your Head
“Sir, I said I wanted water, please,” I mumbled, looking at the waiter, who was giving me a broad smile. He was holding a glass with inky black liquid and presented it to me like it was some kind of award.
It took him a couple seconds to respond. “Yes, of course. My bad. I’ll bring you some water right away.” I could barely hear him under the thundering rain that was pounding against the restaurant window. Placing the glass next to my plate, he spun around and strutted back to the chef’s office. I didn’t know how anyone could even mess up that badly on an order for water, but whatever.
Amber, my sister, laughed. “I dare you to drink all of that!”
I stared at it, shivering. I had gone to this restaurant with Amber because my parents thought we would be fine on our own. Amber was ten, but I was thirteen and could look after her. Now, I was getting uneasy. The restaurant was full of seats—none of which were occupied. Even the waiter had seemed creepy. He had wispy dark gray hair with a few white streaks and a wrinkled face, with a smile revealing yellow teeth that looked a little too friendly. Looking at the swirling pitch-black liquid, I wished I hadn’t come.
“So? Go ahead! Are you scared of a little grape juice?” She stuck her tongue out and made a mock-scared face.
That’s no grape juice, I thought. It wasn’t wine, either. There was no reddish tint to it at the edge, just pure black. Not wanting to make a fool of myself in front of my younger sister, whose blue eyes were staring at me expectantly, I rolled my eyes and brought the glass to my lips, taking the tiniest sip possible.
As I put the glass down, the waiter appeared again with normal water.
“Thank you, sir,” I mumbled as he set it down by my plate. I wrinkled my nose as I smelled something burnt. Looking up, I saw him holding a cigarette to his lips. Is that even allowed in a restaurant? Even Amber looked wary.
“Now, what can I get you two to eat?” he asked, smiling. I glanced at Amber. She figdetted with her hair tie and avoided his gaze.
“Um, we just came to get drinks, that’s all. We’ll be on our way now. Thank you, sir,” I said quickly, not wanting to be there a second longer. Giving him the money, we rushed out of the building.
It was pouring outside. The wind picked up, blowing Amber’s soaked, long, autumn-brown hair into my face. The raindrops blurred my thin glasses and I shivered in the frigid rain. Despite the weather, I was relieved to be out of that creepy restaurant. My relief didn’t last long, because I smelled something burnt and Amber suddenly let out an ear-splitting scream.
And that was when everything went black.
I stretched farther back against the couch and fumbled around for the remote. Grasping it, I clicked the TV on and turned it to the news channel.
“How’s it going?” Amber popped into the room.
“Okay, I guess.” I rubbed the back of my head, groaning as my hands reached the bruise. It was better than yesterday, at least.
“Are you still up for a bike ride?” I winced. Two weeks ago, I had fallen off a bike and hit my head really hard, and it still hurt. At least, I think I did. I didn’t really remember it, but Amber told me I had. All I remembered was a burnt smell and thundering rain.
Normally, I would say no, but Amber wasn’t the kind of person that took no for an answer. She would just keep pushing until I agreed. Plus, I didn’t want it to look like I was scared in front of someone who was three years younger than me.
“Sure,” I muttered, my voice echoing against the walls.
Sighing, I got up and walked with Amber into the garage. We got on our bikes and went outside.
Pedaling as fast as I could, I raced against Amber, the wind whipping my blonde hair into my face. A few trees whizzed by as I pedaled harder.
“Wait! I’m tired!” Amber called from behind me.
Reluctantly, I slowed down to a stop and turned to her. “Do you want to go back?” Wait, what? Why was my voice echoing? I glanced around. There were no hills or trees in sight—we lived in the vast plains of Vermont. There was nothing that could cause an echo. “Do you hear that?”
“No,” she said, gazing at me curiously. Why didn’t her voice echo?
“Okay then.” Maybe I was just imagining it. As I moved my hands to turn the bike around, something stopped me. My hands wouldn’t go farther apart from each other. I yanked my hands outwards, but it was like some invisible rope was tied around my hands. “Let’s get back to the house quickly,” I mumbled to Amber, noticing that she moved her hands freely. What was going on?
Shaking my head, I biked back home, all my excitement gone. Eventually, we reached the garage and I put my bike away. As I was walking into the living room, a voice came from my ear.
I screamed and spun around, only to find no one there. Fear seemed to grip my lungs and strangle them as I stood frozen in place, horrified. Who was speaking? My heart pounded in my chest and my ears were roaring. And then I realized the voice had echoed.
“Only me.” Suddenly, I realized the voice was vaguely familiar. Where have I heard that? I spun around desperately, trying to find the source of the voice, but I couldn’t. “Calm down. Look at me. What do you see?”
A burnt smell touched my nose. I recognized it, too. Where had I smelled that? An image flashed into my head. An image of inky black liquid and rain battering against a window, cigarette smoke fogging up the view. I could faintly remember my head throbbing with pain, but that had happened when I fell off a bike, hadn’t it? Not somewhere with cigarettes and black liquid...right? I tried to remember where I had seen it, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to slip away, like trying to remember a far away dream. Pushing the thought away, I squinted my eyes and tried to look at where the voice was coming from. “I see...nothing. It’s just my house. What do you want from me?!”
“Your house? Hm, I see.” Was that glee in his voice?
“But...who are you?!” I cried, grabbing the closest thing to me and flinging it in the direction of the voice. It passed through the air as if nothing was there. But if nothing was there, then what was I hearing?
“Elizabeth. Calm down.” The voice was closer now. All of a sudden, something grabbed my arm, twisting it behind my back.
“Amber!” I screamed, but there was no response. Struggling against whatever was attacking me, I screamed and thrashed. “Help!”
I heard a chuckle, and the thing released me. That didn’t stop me from screaming and running around, trying to find Amber and get away from whatever had grabbed me.
The old man chuckled to himself as he leaned forward in his chair to look at the security camera better. Amused, he sat back and lit his cigar again as he watched the girl continue to scream. Her tied-up hands were pounding on the white brick walls of the asylum. She clawed at her scarred face and yanked her blonde hair, still screaming. The man smiled as he remembered his triumph from two weeks ago. Images of inky black liquid flashed through his mind as he remembered his long years of work, until he had finally done it on that rainy night. For two weeks, he had been monitoring her, making sure everything went as he had hoped. He had confirmed it a few minutes before, when he spoke to her. He had finally done it, after ten long years. Watching in amusement as the girl continued to shriek, he let out a puff of smoke.
The human mind is so easy to fool…