A Piece of Paper

SHE was rummaging for a Sidney Sheldon novel in one of the bookstore’s shelves when her eyes happened upon a seemingly interesting book. It was sandwiched between two softbound books and was hardbound in chestnut cloth and along its spine vertically ran the title in black, caps and lower letters. Tricia pulled out the book and checked its cover, momentarily glancing at her boyfriend, Max, who was checking the nearby shelf.

The author’s name (a few inches below the embossed title) sounded familiar. Tricia scanned the pages, reading a few phrases and eventually found a piece of paper tucked between the pages. There were writings on it. She extracted the paper and held it near her face to see the writings clearly. The writings seemed Latin made of nine words and written in three lines. She murmured the words to herself, not knowing why or what they meant.

A hand on her right shoulder startled Tricia. When she looked it was Mac, smiling at her.

“What’s that?” her boyfriend inquired.

“Nothing, just some bookmark, I guess,” Tricia replied, putting the piece of paper back among the pages. She showed the book to Max but he was not interested so she returned it to the shelf and resumed her search for a Sheldon.

That night Tricia indulged herself with a mystery novel she found in the bookstore. Max had kissed her goodnight over the phone a few minutes earlier but she; on the other hand, chose to stay up late to read. Moreover, it was just half past one in the morning and she could stay up late until the wee hours after her graduation from college the previous week. No more early classes to worry about.

She has read halfway through the novel when a light rattle from the closed window caught her attention. Tricia stared curiously at the window, wondering if she really heard a rattle or not. Another rattle, however, erased her doubts and replaced them with questions. There was no tree outside her room so it was definitely not made by branches scratching against the window. Maybe it’s just some insect or a house lizard that was making the noise, she thought, and went back to her reading. But another rattling reached her ears and it seemed much louder. Annoyed, Tricia stood up, book still in her hand and went to the window to check what was making the noise. She pulled the curtain aside and what she saw was utterly unexpected that she was not able to react immediately. She just stood there rigid as a statue, gaping and staring wide-eyed at the sight before her.

It was something out of a Creepshow movie. From behind the glass panels, dark and empty eye sockets stared back at her. The face to which those sockets belonged was emaciated and the skin was dry and had the color of ancient papyrus akin to an Egyptian mummy’s. The head was hairless and in place where the skin and flesh have peeled off, dry ivory bones were visible. The ears were two shrunken stubs with minute holes in the middle of each; while all that was left of its nose was a pair of vertical openings. The wrinkly and thin lips of its mouth were pulled back to a grin, revealing mummified gums and variously-shaped teeth. The bony frame of its body was clocked in a tattered black robe.

Then, the thing’s jaws parted and an ear-shattering shriek issued from its mouth, followed by the shattering of glass when its bony hands broke through the panels and grabbed Tricia’s face. That’s when Tricia opened her eyes with a start and found herself lying in her bed with the book beside her. She got up quickly and probed her face with her hands while her eyes looked anxiously around. The window was intact with the flowery curtain neatly draped over it. There was no shattered glass. Everything seemed OK. There was no “mummy”. It was only a dream. Tricia was relived. She glanced at the clock and it indicated that it was past three in the morning. Tricia got out of the bed, wanting to have a drink downstairs.

Her feet have just touched the floor when, suddenly, two cold hands grabbed her legs. Upon looking down she was greeted by the grinning mummy-like face. This time she screamed her lungs out; more so when she was pulled down and more corpse-like hands appeared from nowhere and got hold of her. Despite her struggles the things have pinned her flat on her back. They were chanting something that. Although unintelligible, sounded familiar to her. Escape seemed impossible. Tricia shut her eyes tight as cold hands groped over her face. The things were falling into frenzy, their chanting getting louder and louder to the point of drowning her screams. It was like being tied helplessly in a satanic ritual where she will be sacrificed to The Dark Prince and anytime soon a dagger will be plunged with surgical precision to her heart. The thought made her heart skip a beat. Then she felt a powerful shake on her shoulder and out of the blue she heard a familiar voice calling her name again and again. The voice seemed to have blasted away the horrid things because their frenzied chants and groping hands were gone. She opened her eyes and saw the worried face of her sister, Tish.

“Hey, what’s up with you? Are you OK?”

Tricia’s eyes wandered wildly around but saw none of those mummies. Everything looked fine and proper. She started to calm down.

“Gosh, Tricia, you had me worried. Good thing you woke up.”

“Oh, God, what an awful nightmare,” Tricia mumbled as she sat up.

“You OK now?” Tish said.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

“Wait I’ll get you water.” And Tish padded off, leaving Tricia musing about the nightmare that she had. It seemed so real. She pinched herself and winced at the slight pain that she expected it will give her. She smiled to herself and turned to the door when she heard Tish’s approaching steps outside her room.

“Here’s your drink,” Tish said from the doorway.

Tricia screamed in horror because instead of a pretty sister, what she saw was a mummified corpse shambling toward her with a glass of what seemed like blood in its bony hand.

“What’s wrong, sis?” the thing gurgled to her; black, grease-like fluid running down its peeling chin. The voice reminded her of someone speaking with phlegm in his throat.

She backed to the other side of the bed until she fell to the floor. Quickly getting up, she screamed more at the sight of her brother and parents, who entered the room. All three were in the same mummified-corpse appearance. Her mother even had eyeglasses although its eye sockets were desert dry and devoid of eyes. They were all grinning at her with their beef jerky lips pulled back, revealing teeth that would give nightmares to a dentist.

“What’s the matter, child?” her father croaked as they advanced toward her.

“Come here, sweetie, let mama comfort you,” her mother cooed with outstretched arms: the long, bony fingers eager to get a hold of her.

Tricia backed further off until she felt the concrete wall against her back.

“NO!” she screamed, tears streaming from down her cheeks. She held out her arms as if it would do any good to ward off the mummies.

They had her surrounded, cornered like a prized pig in a town fair. It was too much for her. She has to get out of the nightmare she’s in. Running for the door would do her no good because the way was blocked. But she has to get out – to escape.

So, turning to the window beside her, Tricia closed her eyes and with all her force, hurled herself right through it; her arms over her face. Shattering glass and breaking wood filled her ears as her body went through. Bits of razor sharp glass cut her skin. She crashed two stories below, her scream was cut short when she hit the concrete ground with a sickening mixture of a thud and snapping bones, and a shower of broken glass.

At the funeral, Tricia’s family wept bitterly with the unexpected fate of their beloved daughter and sister. Her boyfriend cried as though he had lost everything.

Investigators said it was just another case of suicide. There were no foul plays. What puzzled everyone was the lack of motive. Many angles were considered but they didn’t add up. And her family swore she was OK in the head.

Few weeks later after the burial, one of Tricia’s acquaintances was rushed to the hospital after passing out at a certain bookstore. Upon recovery, she swore that she saw Tricia in the bookstore standing in the corner with a piece of paper in her hand. But it was not Tricia who caused the acquaintance to faint but the shadowy figures standing behind the recently deceased girl.