I first met him in a nightmare.
In that dream, I was wandering though a carnival at night. There were bright, colorful lights, haunting music, and crowds of people, but everything was blurry and none of the faces were distinct. I had an eerie feeling, a mixture of vague fear and mystery, like I was searching for something.
After exploring the curious scene for some time, I came upon a pink tent that I had somehow missed the first time I passed through this part of the carnival. I couldn’t make out the words on the sign, but somehow I understood that the host of the attraction was a psychic. I pulled the flaps back and entered into the darkness.
A candle flickered at the other end of the room. After my eyes adjusted, I found her sitting at a table. She was an elderly woman with stringy gray hair and long, bony fingers; her appearance was similar to the stereotype of a wicked witch.
Her dark eyes met with mine, and she motioned for me to come closer. I approached slowly, my body felt like it was pushing through water, but she didn’t seem irritated by my pace. As soon as I was before her, she began to speak.
“I knew you were coming,” she started in a quiet whisper of a voice. “You’re here because he’s after you, but you can’t escape. If you try to fight, he will kill your loved ones until you’re in so much pain that you give yourself to him willingly.”
“Who?” I inquired, but she didn’t seem to hear me. She continued with her warning.
“The curse on your family cannot be lifted. An ancestor disturbed an ancient evil that will not rest until your lineage is destroyed. He’s already taken your mother.”
“My mother…” I whispered, remembering my mom’s mysterious death. The cause was never determined; her body just stopped functioning entirely, like all her energy had been drained.
“If I were you, I’d give up easily. I wouldn’t want to live knowing that all my loved ones were killed because I was too afraid to die when it was my turn. But it’s all up to you, dear.”
“What is this evil?” I asked again, determined to get an answer.
“The soul stealer,” she replied with an ominous laugh. “You may leave now, but remember what I told you.”
I left the tent in a fog, pondering this new knowledge. Could her story be true? Am I really cursed?
As I struggled with these questions, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around quickly to meet a tall, beady-eyed, bald man dressed in all black with a chilling grin on his face.
He reached out for a handshake, and for some reason, my hand, no longer in my control, grasped his. As he held my hand, I felt as though my very essence was being sucked though my arm and into his body. There was a spinning sensation, like I was going down a drain, and then everything went black.
I awakened in bed gasping for air. The nightmare was so vivid and disturbing that I shook my sleeping husband just to be sure he was alright. He was fine, though irritated that I’d bothered him.
While the memory lingered, I eventually convinced myself it was just a bad dream and moved on with my life. Months would pass before I’d understand how very real this curse was.
I’d just gotten home from work and was waiting for my husband to get off as well, so we could go to dinner. Since my outfit was uncomfortable and not exactly evening wear, I decided to take a quick shower and change into something a little more appropriate.
I had begun to brush my hair when I looked in the mirror. I jumped in fright when I saw him behind me though my reflection, the same beady eyes and bizarre grin. Through closed eyes and tears, I tried to tell myself I was seeing things, but when I looked again, he was still there, now with his arm reaching out for my hand.
After deciding that, because he was standing directly in front of the bathroom door, there’s no chance to escape, I turned to face him.
“Leave me!” I ordered.” I’ve done nothing wrong.”
The man didn’t flinch, move, or respond at all. He just grinned and continued reaching out for me. I cowered in the corner of the bathroom, crying and wishing he’d just go away.
Then he put his arm down and faced back toward the closed door, slowly turning the knob. For a moment, I felt relieved. He was leaving!
Before he opened the door, he faced me one more time, still grinning, and then quickly pushed it wide. Standing outside the bathroom was my worried husband.
Before my husband could comprehend the situation, the soul stealer grabbed his arm. Suddenly, I was watching my husband gasp and fight for life, trying in vain to hold on to something to keep him from sinking into the abyss. But there was no escape.
Soon the soul stealer was finished with my beloved, allowing his limp body to drop to the floor. I didn’t know how to handle these emotions; I felt like sobbing, screaming, and vomiting at the same time.
I looked up at the soul stealer as he stepped over my husband to leave. He didn’t look back, but I heard him say, “I’ll return for you. Make a better decision next time.”