A Presentation for All Hallows Eve
Part 1 - Hallucination
I shot straight up in my bed, and gasped, covered in sweat. My heart was beating out of my chest, and I could feel the chill of the late-fall air permeating from my nearby window.
Was it another nightmare? I couldn't seem to remember what I was dreaming
I looked around my dimly lit bedroom, and tried to regain my composure. I placed my hand on my chest and slowly began to relax my breathing. My dog, Jinx, was sitting at the foot of my bed giving me a concerned look, and whined in disapproval.
I hadn't been sleeping well recently. Between my recent divorce, and extensive load at work I had been doing more tossing and turning than getting peaceful rest that I was accustomed to. The empty spot in my bed where my wife used to lay seemed to mock me, but seeing Jinx's sweet smile in the morning was always enough to give me that spark that I needed to get out of bed.
As soon as I laid my head back down on my pillow, the alarm from my phone rang out, shattering any semblance of peace that I had left in that morning. I reached over, silenced the alarm, sighed loudly, and swung my feet out to the side of the bed.
It was the week before Halloween, and although I wasn't especially looking forward to any of the holidays this year, I certainly was not looking forward to this day. Today, I was expected to show my presentation to the Senior Vice President of my department detailing exactly how I was going to save my company from catastrophic losses, and turn around one of the few departments in the building that was deep in the red into a burgeoning, money making hot spot. I had worked for months in getting just the perfect level of detail, and although I believed that my plan was exactly what was needed, I was still incredibly nervous. This is the make or break type of opportunity that some people live for, but I am the type of person who would rather die than to be put into the spotlight of a potential "all-or-nothing" roll of the dice.
I made my way to the shower, played some music on my phone, turned on the hot water, and hopped in. This was always the best part of my morning. I enjoyed the heat of the water, as I simultaneously loathed the endless list of chores I had to accomplish during my workday. Most importantly, the presentation and each item that I had so carefully prepared to speak echoed through my head again and again. I wanted it to be perfect, and I also wanted it to be over. I imagined a long vacation with sandy beaches and cocktails as I turned the valve off, and stepped out of the shower. After thoroughly drying off, I wrapped my towel around myself and began brushing my teeth. One of my favorite hits from my childhood came on, and for a moment I felt as if this was going to be a great day.
I looked down at the sink as I spit toothpaste, and as I looked back up at the mirror, I saw something terrifying. Standing there, directly behind me, was a woman with long red hair, tattered and broken skin, with black, dead eyes. She curled back her dark, black lips and revealed hundreds of yellow and brown teeth, some broken and others razor sharp, and she let out an insidious howl. I froze, and for a split second, my sight went dark.
I opened my eyes, and I was standing naked somewhere completely different, and I was freezing cold. My hands were stretched out at my sides, and my fingers were spread out as far as they could go. I was completely paralyzed except for the use of my eyes. I looked down to see I was standing on solid ice, I felt a wicked sensation of terrible cold against my feet. It looked as though I was standing on the surface of a frozen lake. I was completely surrounded by fog, and a merciless, and desolate wind lashed my bare skin, sending horrific pain to all of my extremities. I tried to scream out, and I tried to cry, but I couldn't. Each breath I took felt as if razor blades were cutting into my lungs. It was much worse than any cold I had ever experienced, and I had not a single piece of clothing to defend me from the blistering onslaught of the wind.
The pain was so unbearable I thought I would lose consciousness, but I was not sure if I was conscious or dreaming.
WHERE WAS I!?
Just as my mind lurched that thought out in pain, I could see the fog breaking in the distance. Nearly 100 feet directly in front me, the red haired mistress began to approach, and let out a deafening scream.
Part II - Nightmare
My shoulder hit the floor of my bathroom floor hard, and I pressed my hand against the ground to brace myself. I coughed extremely hard, and gasped deeply for air. I reached down to feel my arms, and my body to make sure I was actually there. My skin still felt cold, and Jinx whined loudly from outside the bathroom door with disapproval.
What the... What the hell was that?
My mind raced intensely. How could I be here, back in my bathroom. Who was that woman I saw. I shot up quickly onto my knees and looked all around me. I then jumped up to my feet and backed into the corner of the bathroom, nearly pulling the shower curtain down as I lurched backwards, looking for any sign of the woman I saw. There was no one there, and I reached down and jammed my finger repeatedly on my phone screen until the music stopped playing. I stood there in silence, still breathing heavily while I tried to gather my thoughts. For the second time this morning, I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest.
Was that the nightmare that I had last night? Was that why I was having trouble sleeping?
I was finally able to calm down a bit.
I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay.
I said to myself over and over again, trying to believe what I was actually thinking. Did I just hallucinate? Did I have a seizure. I looked back into the mirror to check myself for any injuries. My face, my eyes, my skin, everything seemed to be normal.
I had to have just imagined it. It couldn't have been real.
I decided that I would go to the doctor, but today was too important to miss. This presentation had been months in the making, and I needed to be there to show all of my hard work and plans. I reached to my phone to text my sister, Rayna, to tell her what had happened. She was always there for me, and no matter how crazy my experience had sounded, I knew that she would be there for me.
Call me. Very weird thing this morning. Love you.
I set down my phone and began getting dressed quickly. I needed to get out and into my car in a hurry to make it into work on time. After throwing my clothes on, I filled Jinx's food dish, and grabbed a banana from the counter for breakfast as I made my way to the front door.
I locked the door behind me and fumbled for my keys as I made my way to the drivers door of my car. My hands were still shaking. The vivid, ghastly image of the woman in red sent a chill down my spine. It had to have just been a dream though, right? I shrugged off a shiver, and got into my car and started it. As I backed out of my driveway, I turned on one of my favorite podcasts and started on my way to work. I was hardly listening to the audio in the background as I continued driving. My thoughts fixated on the scene in the bathroom this morning. I was trying to find any plausible reason as to what could have possibly happened. My stomach turned and I felt ill just thinking about it.
My phone buzzed, and I looked down. Rayna had texted me.
Got it. I will call you soon.
I reached down and tried to unlock my phone, and tried to text her back, my heart elevating just thinking about what I was going to say.
All of the sudden I heard a loud honk. I looked up and swerved back into my lane. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" I repeated myself while holding my hand up in the direction of the car that I almost struck as I crossed the center line. The man in the truck I nearly hit gave me some select sign-language, and mouthed some not so pleasant words of disapproval.
What was I thinking!? I never text and drive!
I thought to myself as the bright, red truck disappeared in the distance in the opposite lane. Just as I turned onto the main highway, my phone began ringing. It was Rayna.
I picked up, and nearly flew into a rage telling her about my encounter that morning. "Whoa, Adam, slow down," she said. Her voice sounded delicate, yet concerned. I did my best to slow my breathing, and told her what had happened as quickly and calmly as I could. "It sounds like maybe you've had a seizure, Adam," her voice was low and she sounded scared. "Can you get to your doctor this morning?"
"Rayna, I don't know how I can explain this to you," I stammered, hurt that she was second guessing me. "This thing was just as real as you or me, it was standing there next to me and then I," she cut me off just as I was about to move onto the next part again.
"But then what about the frozen lake?" She said, her voice serious and yet inquisitive. "You must have been dreaming or something, Adam." There was a short pause as if she was trying to search for words. "Have you been taking your medication?"
My heart sunk when she asked me that. I had drifted into a deep depression after my wife had left, and spent a brief time in the hospital. My doctors had prescribed a mild anti depressant to keep my mood elevated. They had said that I would need to take it for a brief time as I worked through some of the problems I was having after my marriage had ended.
"This isn't that," I shot back at her. "I'm not crazy, I know what I saw." My mind shot between hurt and disappointment, but I knew deep down that she was trying to help me. "I'm sorry, I know what this must sound like, and I know that you care about me," I said. "I'll go to the doctor as soon as I'm done with my presentation today."
"Good," she said sounding relieved. "Give me a call when you're done today, I want to know how it goes!" We exchanged I love you's and she hung up. I felt a little better after talking to her. Maybe this was just some crazy side effect of my medication, and after a visit to my doctor all of this would work itself out. I relaxed a bit as I settled back into my seat. I was nearing my parking garage, and reached into my wallet to grab my parking pass.
I pulled up to the terminal, and scanned my pass. The gate opened, and I drove slowly in. My anxiety had raised a bit as I began thinking about my presentation. It hadn't seemed to matter how much I had prepared for these types of things in the past. I could go over my material a million times, and I would still be nervous. Today was no different. I pulled into my parking spot, put my car in park, and shut off the engine.
Just as I was about to reach down and unbuckle my seatbelt, both my hands locked onto my steering wheeling, and I couldn't move. I looked into the rear view mirror, and there in my back seat was the woman with red hair. Her black eyes locked into mine, and her lips peeled back into a malicious grin, revealing her dilapidated, and decrepit teeth.
My vision went dark, and once again I was standing naked, arms outstretched in that frozen hell. The cold was even more intense than before, and I could feel my skin nearly pulsating off of my body in complete rejection of the frigid air. My feet started to burn as if exhibiting the first signs of frost bite and hypothermia. Involuntarily my lungs forced out a ghastly whimper as I exhaled, and when I tried to breathe in I felt as If thousands of pins and needles were piercing my lungs.
In the distance directly in front of me where the fog had separated before, the red haired woman appeared again. This time walking slowly towards me. She was wearing a white, torn gown. Her skin was gray and black, and her long black pointed nails pressed into her rotten thigh from one hand, as the other hand reached out toward me. Her thin snake like tongue danced between her decaying teeth as she moved forward. My heart was pulsating in horror nearly beating out of my chest. The pain of the cold wind shot against my body, and I was unable to close my eyes or look away. Walking towards me now, was sheer, unimaginable terror.
With each step she took, the ice beneath my now nearly frozen feet began to crack. Like a spider web, the cracks spread beneath my feet.
Part III - Rest and Peace
I opened my eyes to the sound of my car horn blasting through the parking garage. The horn stopped as I lifted my head off of my steering wheel, and tried to wipe the sweat that was profusely dripping from my forehead. A couple of passerbys, two young women headed into the building, were looking at me and whispering with concerned looks on their face. They quickly made their way inside, looking unsure if they wanted to be there as I exited my vehicle.
I was literally gasping for air. I had no idea what in the hell had just happened to me. Was it going to happen again?
I looked around my car frantically, and my eyes darted to my rear view mirror. There was nothing behind me, but my face was completely chapped red as if I had suffered wind burn. I looked down down at my hands, and they were also red and cracked. Both of my palms were completely dried out, and had started bleeding.
No way, no way, no way.
I thought to myself. This couldn't be happening. Not today of all days. I NEEDED to be at work today. I put my hand back on my chest, and my heart was still beating out of control. I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.
This isn't happening, it's not happening, it's not happening.
I repeated over and over again in my head. Finally my heart started to slow down just a little bit. On any other day, in any other situation, I would have called into work, and I would have gone directly to my doctor. This couldn't be real. I had never experienced anything remotely like this. Was it the stress of this presentation? Did I finally lose it over my divorce? No matter what it was, I had to continue with my day. My presentation was in the morning, and I could make an appointment after that. I took one last deep breath, grabbed my briefcase, and made my way inside.
I entered the lobby of the building, scanned my security badge, and pressed the up button outside the elevator door. I entered the elevator, and held the door for a woman whose meek smile disappeared as soon as she saw me. I must have looked just as distraught as I actually was. I was still sweating, and as soon as the elevator made it to my floor, I exited quickly.
As I was walking to my cube, I saw Alan from Accounting. Everyone works with an Alan from Accounting. You know the kind, loud, boisterous. Alan is an asshole. "Hey buddy, you're looking a little sunburned, and it's a little cold for that!" He laughed obnoxiously as he walked by, slapped me way too hard on the back, and turned around and said "surfs up, man!" as he pointed at me and disappeared in the other direction. What a dork.
I sat down at my desk and fired up my desktop, and opened up my briefcase, trying to organize all of the note cards and papers I had prepared for the presentation. Still shocked and nervous, and half afraid I was going to burst into another psychotic, frozen lake nightmare, I managed to neatly organize everything despite my hands shaking in a near violent manner.
I still had fifteen minutes until I had to start presenting, so I quickly darted to the bathroom to compose myself. I looked into the mirror, and I saw exactly what Alan was talking about, and also why the woman on the elevator lost her smile as soon as she saw me. My face was BRIGHT red. It looked as if it had been chapped by the hellacious wind in my dream state, or maybe my blood pressure had become so high my skin was stuck like that. I couldn't believe I was about to present in front of the Senior Vice President, and I looked this way. I didn't have any choice though but to go through with it at this point.
I made my way back to my desk, gathered my things, and headed to the conference room. I opened the door, and the bright lights were a shocking sight for such an early morning meeting. My manager, two directors, and several other members of upper management sat together around the large conference table speaking quietly. My manager recognized my entrance and waved me over. "Adam, did you get a chance to make those final adjustments I shot over yesterday?" She whispered with a smile, her eyes reflecting the confidence and experience that she had always exhibited.
"Yeah, I uhh, you see here," I said as I fumbled through some of my papers trying to show her the changes I made.
"No, no, don't worry!" She said. " I don't need to see them, I'm sure you're going to do great!" I wasn't quite sure how she had so much confidence in me, but it was nice to hear her pass that vote of confidence.
"Adam, shall we begin?" Boomed the voice of my senior vice president, Wes Daniels, his deep brown eyes shot over in my direction. Every time I heard the man speak I was nearly knocked over by his demeanor. He had been with the company since what seemed like the beginning of time, and demanded the respect of his peers. He was wearing a customer tailored navy blue suit, which looked like it was more expensive than my car, and it probably was.
"Yes, sir." I managed to squeak out, and I made my way to the front of the room. The SVP's secretary had already prepared my Power Point Presentation, and he handed me the clicker, so I could go through the slides I had prepared as I spoke.
I took a deep breath, and looked around the room. I realized that after what I had been through that morning, that this presentation wasn't bad at all. I flipped to my first slide, and started speaking. "Today is an important day in the development of our department." I said confidently. "I'm going to outline to you some major changes that will not only transform the way our teams operate together, but will ultimately change the way our company and our culture operate." Everyone around the room looked intrigued and engaged as I continued. "My plan is to..." I stopped. "my plan is to..." I stopped again. Involuntarily.
My manager had a concerned look on her face. "Adam?" She said, sounding concerned.
I froze and I couldn't move. I crushed the note cards in my hand, and dropped the clicker out of the other. In the window of the door on the conference room. The dead, red haired woman appeared again, and I lost consciousness.
I awoke and I was back standing back on the frozen lake unable to move. This time the dead woman was just a few yards away from me. Her menacing grimace and black eyes taunting me as she moved forward. The freezing pain shot through my body, much more intense than the first two times. My frost bitten feet felt like their were being torn apart as my toes started turning black. Each step the woman took toward me, the spider cracked ice expanded, unveiling a nearly catastrophic web of cracked ice below me. She stepped directly up to my face, and I couldn't stand the fear. I wanted to die right there. She let out a deafening scream, and the ice gave out beneath my feet, and I plunged into the subzero water. My brain immediately exploded in pain as I could feel the ice shoot through my veins. I tried to thrash my frozen arms, but I couldn't move. I inhaled and choked on water. The woman peered into the hole in the lake above me, and let out a low, sickening laugh. Just as I was about to lose consciousness again, I opened my eyes and found myself laying on the conference room floor frozen.
"Someone call 9-11!" My manager shouted.
I felt ice cold water leak out of my mouth onto the floor, and had a comforting thought.
Finally, some rest and peace
I closed my eyes, and passed into the darkness...
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