You stare into the blackness. The only sound is the howling of a wind whose origins you dare not contemplate. This wind slowly changes its direction and the howling its tune, and letters handwritten on crumpled, soft paper swirl up from somewhere below. One by one they blow into your trembling hands, presenting themselves for reading.
Ever since my sister returned from college, we haven’t been as close as we were before. Up through high school we were only a year apart and were practically inseparable, and for her first semester in college we tried to keep in touch via instant messaging but that sort of petered out as she got busier and built a new group of friends. Now that she’s living at home again for a while I hoped we would pick up where we left off, but she keeps locking herself alone in her room for long periods and when she comes out to eat or whatever she barely speaks, answering questions with single words or not at all. I’m worried about her.
Distant in Des Moines
You look to the void for answers. The shrieks of a thousand damned swell briefly before fading into nothingness; silence so pure your ears ring.
Darkness Without End, I seek your guidance.
Over the past year or so I’ve been building a friendship with a coworker of mine; let’s call him Daniel. Daniel is a funny and jovial guy and we share a lot of interests and media preferences on top of a shared sense of humor. A few months ago we started getting together for a movie night nearly every weekend at the apartment I share with my girlfriend. It’s been going pretty great, but Daniel seems comfortable with us always hosting, and until last week I’d never seen where he lives. Last week my girlfriend’s best friend from college was visiting and she suggested that Dan and I have a “boys’ night” at his place so she could have some time alone with her friend. Dan seemed unsure about this but didn’t put up much of a fight.
When I got to his apartment I was shocked. He was a hoarder! Every inch of floor space was covered in layers of trash, every kitchen cabinet was filled with it, and his only furniture was a sheetless mattress and an old plastic milk crate to elevate his TV above the piles of junk. I pretended to get a text from my girlfriend telling me I had to come home immediately, but from his face I could tell he knew I was lying and understood why. He has no hygiene problems that I can tell and you would never know how he lives from his behavior elsewhere! I don’t know what to do about this, or if it’s even my business to do or say anything about it. I just feel like the Daniel I’ve gotten to know is almost some kind of facade, a shell to prevent a deeply damaged person from finding help he may not want. It would be easy to continue hosting him myself as if nothing happened, but at the back of my mind I will always wonder what’s going on under the surface with him. I’m scared and concerned. What should I do?
Promised to you in the night,
Concerned in Calgary
The ringing in your ears grows deafening. Is this silence?
Dear hollowness without name,
My husband “Fred” and I just moved into a new house. It’s sort of a weird situation; Fred inherited it from his great uncle who he hasn’t seen since he was very young, and it came as a complete surprise to us when the lawyer contacted us to tell us the house was ours. It’s a beautiful old house in a really nice neighborhood, and the local public school is supposed to be really nice (should we decide anytime soon to take the leap to parenthood).
Since we moved in, I have this weird unsettled feeling like I’m being watched whenever I’m inside the house. Only in the yard and out on errands can I really manage to relax. Fred said he felt it too last week, but… Well, over the past week he’s been spending all his time in the attic, and barely says a word to me. He’s even put new lock on the attic door! Even if I could get in, though, I’m afraid of what I might find. When I so much as look at the attic stairs that watched feeling becomes overpowering, almost making me shiver. The past couple days I only know Fred’s been outside the attic at all because sandwich ingredients disappear from the fridge. He’s in there now, and I don’t know what he’s doing or what’s come over him, and I’m terrified.
With deference to your all-knowing ways,
Terrified in Tennessee
You begin trying to scream but no sound escapes. The ringing feels as if it is seeping through your ears and entering the inside of your head.
O great ones who dwell beneath,
This is gonna sound crazy, and I realize that, but I think my professor is robbing graves? I’m in my first year of med school, and at first I really connected with this guy, he was, like, the kind of professor you could have a beer with after class if that wasn’t frowned upon by the university’s super conservative administration. A couple months ago he started getting a little creepy, just gradually I guess, maybe to test the waters with me. I was like, naw man, let’s keep it chill, right? And then just like that all the connection was gone and he barely acknowledges my existence. I couldn’t help being a little hurt, but whatever man, shit happens, right? If it was just that I wouldn’t be writing this letter.
Shortly after cutting me off, though, dude connects in a very familiar way with another guy, a kind of weedy mousey dude we’ll call Max. Max adores the professor, like some hero worship shit, and I think he’d do anything the guy asked. And I think he has been. Lately he shows up to class looking tired as hell, like he’s not getting any sleep, and his conversations with the prof have gotten secretive and kinda heated. Yesterday I sat down next to Max in the cafeteria and was like, hey bro, you okay? And he does not seem to be!! I fucking busted some kind of guilt dam and he spilled this crazy-assed story about how the professor has been having him dig up bodies from the local cemetery and deliver them to one of the labs in the old science building that’s mostly used for storage since the fire. I didn’t want to believe him, but this dude was not having a laugh, he was unloading some dark shit that he had pent up, and he seemed relieved afterwards to have gotten it off his chest.
I think tonight I’m gonna check out that lab, see what’s what. With this letter I figure, if I disappear, at least someone I trust will know where to start looking, right?
You’ve always had my back,
Unchill in Utah
There is only darkness now. What have you done? What have you become?