Counting To Six

You eyed the closet.

You couldn't see it in the dark- but you knew well enough exactly where it was. The years of your childhood spent staring at that same, black space in your room. Waiting for that inevitable creature. That "delusion", "your eyes playing tricks on you".

Were you under the boot of some only-nightly, psychotic illness? Did your brain make things up and manifest these completely nonexistant images to your retina?

Sure seemed it. Visions of trepidity, seeing things that were not real in the dark were common among children, but for it to continue and seep into your young adulthood was... embarassing. Though, you certainly didn't carry along the other naive beliefs. Beliefs most children your age had held dear corroded all too soon during the time this thing began to relentlessly terrorize your nights. The Toothfairy, for instance; you'd determined that either she was not real- or she was a real bitch of royal proportions. Why would she take your teeth without leaving you money? Or candy. Or something. You'd awaken and flip over your pillow to see a heap of absolutely nothing. Tch.

It wasn't that you held on to various things that belonged in those years and with that age. It was just... this. The fear of the dark- the fear of the thing in the dark. So you weren't foolish. Or immature. Or childish.

So, maybe you were crazy.

But you could see him. You could see his gaunt features and glittering, yellow eyes, his pointed teeth flashing in ebony surroundings. You could see and hear him. He was no figment to you. He moved things. Even grabbed your ankle and pulled you halfway under your bed when you were young; thin and long fingers clutching your skin with shocking palpability and giving a rattling hiss to elicit a scream from your terrified throat. You were either severely crazy, or this guy was real.

"The Boogeyman", you'd dubbed him. You couldn't bring yourself to use that term anymore, not foremostly, but it still remained in your head. Crammed to the back, but ever loud, flooding you with its impossible bluntness to a point it was embarassing.

And you still slept with a nightlight. Pathetic.

You'd been told to close your eyes and count until you finally succumbed to sleep whenever these disturbances were running about, and you never made it to 'six' before it washed over you.

Something that felt of blackness marked its appearence with its unfortunatelty usual hiss, breaking off your thoughts. Him. You turned your head to stare intently on the golden glow of your nightlight, fighting the black abyss of your room.

Don't look at the closet. Count.

You got to 'five'.

A lithe index finger slowly crept into the light from that abyss, an arm shaded in incresingly dark shades of black extending into appearence along with it. The finger tapped its tip against the top of the nightlight; the way it bent, elongated and the other likewise digits sprung straight out around it, appeared almost elegant but carried a visage of something akin to snottiness. Prissy. Its joint dipped down barely, boredly. And the plug dipped with the movement, tugging out of its slots and downward- cutting off the yellow glow. Your breath hicupped as you attempted to hold a gasp in your throat to smother.

"Oopsie..." A maliciously playful-toned whisper slithered into the moonlight- the only means of perception you now had- from the darkness.

You squeezed your eyes shut.

It's not real, it's not real, it's not real...

"Oh, but I am."

The whisper was closer, slick like a snake in water. Your senses almost lost their tight grip on your eyelids, but defiantly mustered themselves to tense back again.

It's not real. Those are my own thoughts- how else could it know what I'm thinking? C'mon, (name), count... one. Two. Three...

That feeling again. The blackness. Closer, and closer. The hiss louder and louder.

Four. Five-

"Six."

Your eyes could stand it no longer and sprung open as the whisper defined itself with more concrete male vocals, curling in your eardrum, fingers slipping across your jawline and turning your skin to gooseflesh. In a flash that face was apparent and entiredly too close to yours, black-garbed figure bent to loom at you, and in another flash it vanished in tar-y wisps of smoke.

You begged silently for sleep, however fitful, mashing the back of your head into your cool pillow with a frustrated and shaking groan that sounded more relieved than it should have. He never failed to show up, to mess with you in some way.

Just leave me alone.

"Never..."

You closed your eyes, ignoring the, what you assumed to be, schitzophrenia-induced whisper licking the air around you. It was too dark for your liking without the nightlight, but you didn't dare reach down to plug it back in, lest that arm reappear and grab you. Regardless, your mind relented and slipped into sleep.

Did this mean your mental state was deteriorating?

The past few nights, returning home had been full of the knowledge that someone was following. No matter how silent, you knew he was there. It always played out the same, but initially you'd ran as soon as that information had registered to you. You'd only just managed to slightly conquer your own psychosis during the night with your constant counting and refreshingly settled sleep- a skulking psychopath hiding in the dark just out of reach of the streetlight's orange tint wasn't necassary.

However, upon reaching your doorstep, whoever was following ceased to do anything further. It beckoned you to look out your window, seek reasoning and glimpse the visage of this person.

And it was him. That lanky, shadow-coated hobgoblin phantasm. Outside of your room, walking away from your house after shamelessly following you home. The recent attempts and occasional success in ignoring him, the harder you tried, the more markedly he wormed his way in. That feeling in your gut, the unsettling of your nerves, the idea he could cause you harm- once it all mashed together, it didn't matter how irrational you knew it was, how much you counted.

But you hadn't questioned that- he never did hurt you. He didn't even taunt you. You always made it home, pulling back the curtains of your window to see him calmly walking away. So why was it so unsettling? Why were you afraid?

You reached your doorsteps again, contemplating this. It felt somehow fragile to consider and ask yourself questions of that ilk... but why shouldn't you? You doubted your ability to reason, and most of all you doubted your sanity, but you never cast doubt on what this thing wanted, his reasons and his own ability. You were allowed to ask, after years of huddling under covers and having to leap onto your bed for fear of what was underneath, after being unable to go near your closet without reluctance. Listened to the door clicking shut behind you, felt curtain fabric under your palm. Scanned his back, tilting your head without fear- rather, in curiousity.

Why won't you leave me alone?

A response- whether or not it was from your own mind, you were not sure- as he stopped walking, casting a vacant yet intent gaze over his shoulder at you, gold eyes glinting with the words.

Come and find out.

You breathed slowly, anxiousness and the impulse to follow hammering the muscles of your legs. Some people described the strange desire to jump when looking down from a profoundly high place- perhaps this was that same, irrational compulsion. A devil on your shoulder, chanting, "Jump."

He was close to the blackness, the point away from the orange light. The closer he stepped the further you were imbued with that inexorable urge. You breathing felt caged and short from the need, but you marked time 'till he had reached the dark.

And then you 'jumped'. As cautiously as you could manage, you slipped back outside and in the direction, not pausing to examine the devoid place before entering.

Of course it'd be in the woods.

The melanoid area with arboraceousness that disallowed even the stars from shining. Your eyes adjusted to the dark, but you still had to feel your way around more or less- pawing at the brambly trunks, rubbing the skin of your palms rough. It was apparent that he'd aspired your following, the occasional vibrating sigh of his voice prompting you in the right direction when you lost insight.

"This way." You looked up to catch his shadow standing clear and then skating out of view, marking itself even darker than the already caliginous enviornment. You heaved, tired, but impelled yourself on.

And suddenly found yourself in the middle of a nosedive, foot snagged in the gap of a hardwood's root. You felt fingers encircling your arms and the force of being pulled up, but your senses delaying, still trying to zig zag their way back into your blurring state of conciousness.

It was lack of noise that'd stirred you, deafening silence to the point your ears began to ring in your stupor.

"Ignorance is bliss" was how the saying went. You could have just remained ignorant. Erratic bliss- uncomfortable comfort. Because this place wasn't something you fancied coming to know about. Dismal and sideways, you felt as if you'd fall and corrode in the abyss of some of its parts when you simply stood. Wincing at a pain in your head, you stumbled to grip the closest, gloomy wall; your foot kicked into a solid object and you moved your focus to it. A box, hued a somber color appropriate to its surroundings. Something clattered inside as you gripped its edges, and upon further inspection you found stained alabaster objects, tiny chips of.. bone?

No, teeth. You squinted at them, analyzing.

Your teeth.

"Recognize them?" That dreaded English inflection rang in an unusually benevolent tone from behind you, his shadow creating an overcast. Y ou spun on the tips of your toes.

"Demon!" It'd come out in cliched-sounding panic, and you bit back a flush of humilation, letting your arm follow its own startled reaction- throwing the box at his feet, your teeth rattling wildly inside as if offended. The questions and all the doubt flooded from you, "Why would you take these? Why do you always try to ruin my sleep and scare me, why would you stick around for years, why do I have to feel like an insane person, why? Why... did you lead me here?"

He only chuckled, albiet a restrained-seeming one, tilting his sharp jaw up at you. "I prefer to be called Pitch, but... as you will, I suppose."

You growled, feeling the tug of impatience. "Answer."

Pitch bent down, picking up the box and flipping open the lid with a calmed gentleness that irked you. Scooped the ivories in his palm and stared at them, a contented grin crossing his mouth.

"Do you have any idea why baby teeth are valuable to the Toothfairy?" He asked simply, not taking his eyes off the small, white nubs as if he were only musing.

You blinked, squinting your eyes in confusion. "Don't answer my questions with another irrelevant one, just-"

"Because they have your memories," He inturrupted, glittering orbs sliding to acknowledge you. He was closer- you didn't see him move, but nonetheless his visage had pulled itself smoothly foward. "I don't just know your fears, the way you've been ignoring them and I lately isn't of tremendous use- because I know exactly who you are, (name). "

It was so... bizaare to see his mouth move to usher actual sentances. Even weirder to respond. You felt your throat bob with a nervous gulp, fingers curling to push biting nails into your palm. Counting the numbers silently in a section of your mind, not to make him disappear this time- but to assure yourself. "Why would you need to know?"

He offered his cupped palm, the extending of his arm making you pull your body back. His expression contorted into something that almost resembled a wounded look in response to your inching away.

"Don't be afraid now- you've come this far."

"I'm not," You gritted out, nostrils flaring. "I'm not afraid of you anymore."

At this, Pitch moved nearer, edging you into the wall.

Maybe you were still afraid.

The thought flared an anger in you, defiantly screwing your face to reflect and expand upon that emotion.

He stretched his neck, sharp nose now touching yours, corners of his mouth curling back into the previous appeased grin. The pale face that'd haunted your childhood now closer and more physical- more real- than ever before. He brushed his black-tinted lips against yours faintly. The action so ephemeral and outlandish that you weren't even sure if it'd really happened. "No?"

"No." Your gaze was hard, you could feel it rigid and pointing at his own.

"You don't need to be." He commented, making you discharge a disbelieving guffaw.

"Then why do you try to make me?"

His eyes, eclipse-esque and now stocked with gleams of sincerity, ignored the harshness yours bore into them. "So you won't stop believing."

You gave a sigh of bewilderment, unwinding your tension and the resentful presence in your optics. There was a hint of something overwhelmingly heartsick about the justification, howbiet the lack of full detail you'd known, or even the minused amount of the nit and grit.

"I can only exist," He continued in the wake of your silence, "through those that believe. Exist to others, at any rate. Otherwise-"

"You may as well... not exist at all?" You reflected aloud, but pressed on with a slightly indignant tone, "It doesn't make up for tormenting me, really..."

His lips touched yours again- less fleeting this time, however cautious, and you were more positive of the occulation's occurance, skin heating at its foreign and unexpected feeling.

"I can make up for that," His accent curled with velvety octaves, "As long as you believe."

Your own chin tilted upward toward his face, lips tingling on their own accord for another breif touch. Betraying that original notion of fear he'd always incited. No longer an incubus or imaginary fiend, but something... tempting in his strangeness.

That's why you wanted me to follow? So you could tell me this?

He nodded, flashing a toothy grin- and you ruminated on the question of whether or not he could read your thoughts, before he craned his neck down, jaws securing the motion of not a graze, but a kiss. That recognition of how idiosyncratic it was boiled up- the monster that hid under your bed and slithered out of your closet in inky soot was kissing you.

And it felt correct. The numbers whirled, counting the seconds before you finally pressed your lips back, eyelids lolling shut and the tactile members attached to your hands seeking upward to grip his face or touch his hair to solidify the realness, the strangeness, the lack of (yet entirely imbued with) craziness you'd questioned over.

He pressed you into his chest, and you breathed in scentless warmth that suddenly encased you, breeze swirling around. Your eyes unlidded, and you stared at your closet; wooden texture evident in the approaching sunlight.

Doubt mingled over you. After all that prodding you'd done, all the events you'd been able to actually perceive and swim with rationally and with such profound awareness- after finally questioning- you were still without an incontestable answer to Pitch's validity. You closed your eyes and counted to five mentally, relief replacing the fear you'd held once before when Pitch's hum made itself audible, his fingertips pressing lightly into your eyelids.

"Six."