I knew a girl once…back in ’89…who said a spiteful thing to me one night. Fine. Be that way, I thought. And that was the end of our on-again-off-again relationship. Then I’d had a story idea…a really nasty horror-story idea…and I put it together with the aforementioned Miss Nasty’s comment in mind. It’s funny how things materialize into stories when you write them. Yeah, this is not my best work (a bit over the top in several ways)…but it is amusing-in-concept. The idea behind the story, the whole “night borders” thing. Ever had the same crazy idea in the middle of the night? No? Nothing you’ll admit to? Well, I bet you can’t say “Candyman” five times while looking at yourself in the mirror, either….
I’m not at all a spiteful, tit-for-tat kinda guy in any way…but the irony in the putting of the two events together was not lost on me and had in itself a certain…well, psychic…poetic justice to it. I didn’t—nor do I to this day—wish her ill. I hope she lived and lives a fine life, wherever she is.
But in this story….
This story has never been published…and probably for good reason. It will probably give you night terrors and insomnia…and that’s good thing, in—
© F. P. Dorchak, 1989
Quentin Strangefellow was possessed. Not by demons, but by a strange and unreasoning fear. Perhaps consumed was a better word.
This fear had followed him since his childhood, and now as an adult it had grown completely out of proportion. When you’re young it’s easy to take things at face value, but once face value has been passed on, things start taking on different weight.
This fear had no basis—no real basis, anyway—for coming into being, and definitely no basis for any furthered continuation. What’s more, Quentin had no past experience with which to draw upon for this fatuous phobia. It all began (as far as he could remember) one lonely night in a childhood bedroom. No rhyme, no reason. Like so many other childhood afflictions it just came into being on its own. A spontaneous conception.
His fear was of borders.
Nightborders. Borders of the nighttime bed (of course it was at night, things like this didn’t happen during the light of day). That imaginary perimeter between protection and annihilation, physically manned by the edges of the mattress that extended up to the ceiling.
It was an anxiety that no one ever put much stock in…yet some continued to live with in quiet-to-utter terror of their entire lives…quietly and unobtrusively following their hidden and unorthodoxed rules…their wives and girlfriends, husbands and boyfriends never coming into The Knowing.
So Quentin lay there, alone, eyes open and staring.
Once again, he hadn’t been able to get back to sleep and it was now three-twenty in the morning. His body had become rigid—it had never been this bad before—and lately he had found himself dwelling more and more on the borders. It wasn’t so much the borders themselves as it was what lay beyond…
Of what was to happen to those who trespassed.
Still quite awake, Quentin really didn’t feel like getting up and doing anything (like going through the piles of correspondence that kept collecting on the table, or watching TV), but he couldn’t get back to sleep, either. Restless and uneasy, he twisted in his sheets. Even if he had wanted to leave the confines of the bed the sheets would not have allowed it. Sheets were meant to keep you in bed, all of you, safe from the perils of the Nightborders.
Yet the heat was too much and he had thrown off the top blanket. But he was too afraid to turn on the bed-side radio for fear of attracting the attention of whatever there was just beyond the mattress’s edges…any motions he did make outside of these imaginary lines were quick and jerky—as if he were trying to beat the grip of some waiting demon….
Looking down the length of his bed into the darkened interior of his apartment, Quentin half expected to see a shadow rush past. He tried projecting his mind into the other rooms, to see where every piece of his furniture was…every little odd scrap of paper…to feel the familiarity he needed right now.
He saw the dirty dish with the half consumed pizza slice, which was probably quite hard by now…tipped over some dirty silverware and a washcloth covered glass. Saw the bundle of newspapers lying about his floor and couch…his plants quietly sleeping….
Lying there, his arms and legs neatly confined to the interior of his bed, he gave his fear more detailed consideration.
How had all this come about, anyway? And why?
Well the why wasn’t too difficult, he decided, childish imaginations were always quite active, active and somewhat unchecked. Quentin felt—and felt quite strongly—that his imagination was still every bit as active now as it ever had been as a kid. It was just more firmly under control now.
For instance, he no longer believed in monsters under his bed, or in his closet (quickly flashing an embarrassed glance to his closet), or in Tooth Fairies. His closet door was open, and there were clearly no monsters in there. And he wasn’t about to check beneath the bed just now.
He didn’t feel like getting out of bed, that’s all.
In fact all of this morbid indulgence brought back to him a poem he had once read, and for some strange reason remembered. It went something like this:
“It was the Devil’s own pitch
A darkness utterly corrupt and vile.
“I couldn’t see a thing, couldn’t hear a thing
The silence absolute—except of that internal ringing sound.
“I turned, slowly.
The only way I could know this
Was by the steps my feet made over each other.
“That’s when I came face to face with it—
Teeth ripping my face apart…. ”
The poem’s title was “Fear.” He’d always remembered that because it totally described how he felt being in the dark, and it pretty much described how he felt about his damned Nightborders.
Something was going to rip his face off, and his arms, and his legs…
But, he wondered, what would happen should he decide to tempt Fate?
To put to the test his old unreasoning horrors. Looking up to the ceiling, Quentin traced the image of his bed onto its stuccoed facing.
See, nothing there!
Hand reaching for the wall at the head of the bed, he quickly felt that out too.
Nothing. Nothing at all.
No, he still couldn’t quite bring himself to dangle an arm over the side.
What was the cause for all this sudden preoccupation? Shit, what a sissy!
What of reason?
How could dangling your limbs off the side of the bed bring about anything other than sleep? What is there in here that was going to harm you? You’re alone in the room (you checked that before the lights were all turned off), and there’s no such things as monsters.
Quentin had slowly become quietly neurotic.
It had gotten into his head way back that…for some strange reason…if you slept with any of your legs or arms outside the borders of your bed you would wake up more or less dead…
That your limbs would get sliced off by invisible guillotines from hell.
Or that some beast from the netherworld would come and rip them off if the guillotines missed them. It was all childish…totally unreasonable.
It was all just plain stupid and he bloody well knew it.
Now all he had to do was prove it.
The next night was much the same as the previous, insomnia and neurosis reigning as King and Queen…but it was getting worse. And this time he was not alone. He’d met an old girlfriend in the supermarket, and, well, one thing led to another and before he knew it she’d come home with him. Quentin was not too fond of this girl, hence the reason for the “ex” before “girlfriend,” but he had been rather lonely lately and was growing tired of sleeping alone. Besides being rather bitchy most of the time, Tammy was attractive and her good points at night sometimes outranked her bad points.
Today her bad points seemed non-existent.
But he still couldn’t get the satisfying sleep he wanted, even after romping in the sack with Tammy, who was now contently snoring away at his side. He stroked her arm.
“Why do you have to be such a bitch?” he quietly whispered to himself. She just snuggled in closer. She’d gotten what she wanted and so had he.
Quentin lay on his back, feeling her warm body next to him. It had been so long, feeling the warmth of another beside him in bed….
Sleep, goddamn it!
Frustrated and cranky, he flipped on the bed-side radio at low volume, an AM station merrily chattering to itself. Quentin lie there, a leg dangling off the edge of the bed, Tammy’s body still positioned beside him. The queen-sized mattress was perfect for two, heaven for one (more room in which to avoid the borders…).
Unconsciously he drew his leg back in. Recalled how he had told Tammy about his fear of the borders and how she had just laughed at him.
One night he had awoken in the middle of the night to muffled giggling, only to find Tammy crouched beside the bed, holding out one of his legs over the edge of the bed. She’d looked like an evil troll there in the darkness. Lightening wasn’t fast enough to catch his actions as he pushed her off him and snatched his leg back in. That had been the start of their problems. The beginning of the end for their relationship. She continued to nag him (sometimes in public) that he was becoming a whimpering wimp.
Putting his hands behind his head, he brought that same leg that had been out up in a bend, knee pointing ceilingward. Thinking about nothing in particular, he started swaying the knee back and forth to the music. Tammy moved away from him slightly, murmuring something in her sleep, something that involved someone by the name of “Jack.”
“Hope it was good,” he whispered back to her.
Suddenly changing position, she arranged herself nearly diagonal to the bed’s length, feet over one edge, head against his body again. It was a decidedly uncomfortable position, he soon found, so he moved his body to allow her her room.
He finally began to drift off….
Quentin’s dreams were troubled and he tossed and turned, groaning.
Our hero was being chased by monsters and demons…was just able to outrun them….
Sweat poured off him in tidal waves. He’d all but forgotten he was in bed with Tammy, who now had a different leg hanging over the bed-side.
In his dream, he was on his back—when his leg was grabbed.
He looked down to find an iron shackle cinched around an ankle.
Frantically getting up, he tried undoing the binding.
His demons had finally caught up with him!
Time to wake up now…time to wake up—now.
He felt the bed jerk.
He noticed she too must have been having troubled dreams, her mumblings no longer light and airy, but troubled and near sobbing. There was periodic moaning, which got him excited, but at the same time horrified.
Where was that movement coming from?
He felt around her naked body…the tugging intensified, and to his horror he realized it wasn’t originating from her—
Tammy’s eyes flashed open and a scream came from her mouth.
AM music continued to play from the radio.
Tammy twisted and thrashed about violently in bed, and shot a hand to her ankle. She’d tossed Quentin away from her and slammed his head into the wall at the head of the bed. He saw all manner of stars and white light as he tried to regain mental stability and looked back to Tammy. She was bolt upright, shouting and screaming and there was something about something about her leg….
Quentin squinted, wincing at the pain in his head. Directed his gaze down the length of the beautiful naked from of his ex-girlfriend to…to what?
There was…there was—
A rusty iron shackle was attached to Tammy’s ankle.
Was that right?
Was he still dreaming?
No this was too real…this was no dream.
Tammy had reached down to her ankle and he’d seen something sticky had came off in her hand.
Quentin immediately curled his legs up about him.
His throat had frozen up. Was unable to move.
He watched as Tammy had now reached out for him, her face a grimace of horror. He looked back to the shackle. The shackle held her tight. She grabbed at him.
He lent no help.
“Help me! Goddamn it, Quentin, help me!”
Quentin tried to say something, but nothing came out. He just stared at her…wide eyed and opened-mouthed. He balled himself up into a tighter ball, pushed himself farther away from her and her pleading, from her outstretched hands.
Finally he found his voice.
Found his anger.
“You laughed at me, Tammy…laughed and ridiculed me! I told you about the Nightborders and you laughed! Made fun of me to our friends! You’ve always laughed at me and taken advantage of me! No more! This time you pay!”
“What are you talking about? Goddamn it, Quent, this is real—I’m dying here! Help me—I’ll never laugh at you again! Please!”
“I know you won’t.”
The words came out thick as ice.
Tammy froze in mid-plea.
Quentin watched as she was jerked several times—hard and rough—the fear in her eyes…her mouth an open, silent “O.” He couldn’t see her eyes, but knew how they must look.
He actually felt sorry for her.
Tammy reached back over to the other side of the bed. Quentin heard the sounds of chains and things rattling…saw several things suddenly whipping through the air, but carefully remained within their border…outside the mattress edge.
Tammy was jerked about again, her screams renewed when she saw that her wrists had now been grappled with harsh, rusty shackles like those on her ankles.
“Quentin! Please, please help me!”
Quentin closed his eyes and covered his ears. Shouted back at her.
“I tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen! I…I can’t help you now! You trespassed! You broke the rules!”
Tammy clawed at the mattress. From her shackles blood flowed out and onto the bed.
Her body was yanked perpendicular to the bed…then yanked and drawn up a foot from the bed…her arms and legs outstretched by the chains that held her. Her painful screams to Quentin were now so mixed with her tears, it brought Quentin to tears as well.
He couldn’t let her die this way.
He broke from his huddle and went to her. Bitch or no bitch, she was still a person…a human…not a piece of raw meat to be so drawn and quartered.
He grabbed her writhing body at the waist, trying to pull her down.
“I’m sorry, Tammy, so sorry, but I tried to warn you! Forgive me!”
She looked to him, her stringy hair swinging in the air as the chains that held her rattled and pulled. Chains that came from above and below.
“Quentin!” The pain in her voice sounded unhuman.
Then a shadow emerged from the floor in front of them.
It followed the contours of the furniture and walls as it rose. It was manlike, arms to its sides.
Straining her head up to see it at its full height of seven or so feet, the shadow stood before them for a second before taking quick powerful strides to the other side of the bed. It checked the shackles. In a flash the figure was back in front of Tammy, who writhed in pain.
The night creature chuckled, filling the room with a contemptuous laughter.
“You shouldn’t have tempted the Fates, Miss Fowler. You should have listened to your boyfriend. Now you have to listen to me and my words are fatal.”
Numbed by her blood loss, Tammy was frozen by the demon’s voice.
It had spoken her name—her name—and that can mean only one thing: there was a spot in hell just for her.
“Let her go!” Quentin shouted, still pulling at her waist.
“I cannot. I am compelled to perform my duty. She has crossed borders that were not meant to be crossed. Illegally trespassed. For that she must pay.
In stereo Quentin heard sheathing sounds—just like a guillotine—that came in unison from both ends of the bed. One set had come from the ceiling, down…and the other came from the floor up. It deafened his senses, not from the sounds they made but from the effect he now held within his arms.
Tammy no longer screamed and no longer twisted.
No longer did she call out his name.
No longer would she ever sleep with him…or belittle him.
Quentin sank to his knees.
“Nooo! Why couldn’t you have listened to me—why!” he sobbed. “Damn you, Tammy!”
Quentin sobbed over the draining torso of Tammy Fowler in his arms.
The chains and shackles retreated back to wherever they had come from. Something wet and warm…smelling sickeningly pungent…unloaded onto his bed sheets and pooled about his knees.
The night creature picked up the separated remains of Tammy on the bedroom floor, holding them by their still-attached chains as he went to the quarters of the bed she’d over hung. He collected his due.
It again spoke.
“Obey the rules, my friend, and we can have a long and profitable relationship. But trespass and meet your reaper.”
It held up the limbs and head of Tammy Fowler and chuckled darkly…slowly disappearing the way it had come.
Quentin heaved the body over the borders…and cried….
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