Graham liked noon. The feel of the sun being directly overhead soothed him somewhat, like it was a giant fiery guardian watching him from the sky. He almost felt certain that it would save him if another skeletal visitor came knocking on his door.
It helped, of course, that noon was pretty much equidistant from Graham’s bed time and his time of waking. It was the one point in the day where he was completely separate from the nightmares, when he wasn’t fearing their approach or shaking from their prior visit. He was at peace, with his amber bodyguard observing him from the beautiful blue sky.
Graham was sat in his study, a dusty copy of Poe’s ‘The Raven’ draped across his knee. He had been reading it when he had noticed it was noon. There was something comforting about ‘The Raven’, something that nestled in the darkest pit of Graham’s understanding, shifting about just enough for him to notice it. He wasn’t sure exactly why it comforted him – the poem hardly has an upbeat ending, what with the sinister raven refusing to leave the man alone – but there was something in the words that relaxed him.
The book’s spine was heavily creased and a number of pages had come loose from the binding. Graham had read the book a lot, almost every day in fact. Originally it had been part of a compendium of Poe’s works but Graham had removed it and bound it into its own tiny book. It was like a talisman to him, something to ward off the creature and the malformed visitor.
The clock on his desk clicked rustily past noon and Graham turned back to his book. His guardian was moving away now, so it was time to trust himself to his talisman again. Graham picked the book up from his lap and stared at the pages. A spider had crawled into the book at had taken up residence on the page Graham was reading. Graham slammed the book shut, squashing the spider between its pages. However, when he reopened the book the spider was still there, alive and well.
Graham took a closer look at the spider. It was a plump little thing with legs that seemed far too spindly to support its weight. It was turned away from him, almost as if it hadn’t notice this giant upon who’s book it was sat. Graham reached out and prodded the fat little beast. It wobbled drunkenly before slowly scuttling around to face him. It had a big head for a spider, about the size of a fingernail, which only compounded Graham’s disbelief that the legs could support this aberration.
The spider finished its little rotation dance and looked – for it really did look, instead of the compound eyes of an arachnid it had tiny human eyes – at Graham. Its gaze seemed to say hello? I didn’t see you there, what can I do for you?. The spider seemed to show no indication that it had noticed Graham’s attempt to kill it. The tiny eyes in the creatures head were ice blue and deeply penetrating. There was a wizened quality to then, a world-weary gleam of a creature far older than it should be. There was intelligence in those eyes and Graham knew it. Gently he placed the book onto his desk and adjusted his chair so he could lean forward to be eye-to-eye with the bulbous arachnid.
The spider didn’t move as Graham put the book down, its eyes fixed firmly on him. Graham leant in close, his dark-rimmed eyes perfectly level with the icy blues of the spider. He couldn’t think of anything to say. He wondered whether anyone had ever talked to a spider before and decided they probably hadn’t. People talked to cats and dogs, some even had brief chats with hamsters, but there was something deeply alien about a spider, something menacing about their abundance of legs and their general form that didn’t seem suited to a nice fireside chat. Luckily the spider broke the silence, its bulbous form wobbling to the bottom of the book to get closer to Graham. Then it spoke to him.
It didn’t actually speak – spiders aren’t equipped with the necessary parts for speech – but Graham heard it anyway, inside his head, like a tannoy down a long corridor. You want something? It said in a tone that Graham would almost have taken to be annoyed. I don’t have all day.
‘What were you doing in my book?’ Graham asked.
I was reading. And looking for you. Mostly reading though.
‘Why were you looking for me? Do you know me?’
A lot of people know you, Graham. You’ve never met them, of course, and you’re not too likely to if you set about grinding every emissary to dust.
I saw you with those little orbs. You took them from him when you shattered his skull. Well, I say his, but I suppose he did borrow it…
Graham didn’t like this feeling, an extra voice inside his head. His brain felt crowded, as if this voice was a physical infestation, or a balloon slowly inflating inside his head. Still, he felt what the spider was saying would be important to him at some point so he persevered.
‘Do… do you have a name?’ Graham felt quite stupid as he asked this. Why would a spider have a name?
Yes, but it’s very long and tedious to pronounce. Anyone who needs to talk to me just refers to me as Mr Nips.
Graham must have looked amused by this, although he didn’t mean to, for the spider scuttled menacingly close to his eye.
I didn’t choose it. Now, shall we stop with all the small talk and get down to business before I burst something in your head? I was sent to deliver a message. Go into that room over there. That’s the message.
Mr Nips extended one of his spindly little legs toward Graham’s bathroom. Graham heard tiny little creaks from the other legs, no louder than the sound a pin makes as it penetrates fabric. He was sure they’d snap, sending the malformed Mr Nips tumbling to the floor but they didn’t.
Graham opened his mouth to reply to the spider when he felt the second voice leave his mind. The ever-swelling balloon in his brain had burst, giving way to the overwhelming sense of euphoria that comes prior to the realisation that the pain has gone. Mr Nips had delivered his message and clearly had no desire to converse further. He made sure that Graham had understood the directions he had given then scuttled away from him, back to the prose of ‘The Raven’.
Graham got up from his chair and slowly made his way to the bathroom. He considered heading downstairs and getting his cane, but felt that may have been a futile move. Besides, time may have been against him, and he didn’t want to miss out on information that would explain what was happening to him.
The bathroom door was made of thick ash, and was probably older than the house. It creaked loudly as Graham pushed it open and stepped into his bathroom. Except it wasn’t his bathroom. Gone was the porcelain toilet. Gone, the fine metal bath. Gone, the proud pearl basin. In their place stood thousands of mirrors, lined up in a horrid little zigzag formation that reminded Graham of the circus. But these were different to the ones at the circus, these were ugly and imperfect. The surface of each mirror was littered with chips and irregular bubbles, and some even featured small cracks that were reaching into the centre like nasty little tree roots. All the mirrors showed the same image, in the deepest distance of their view lay a white light getting ever closer.
Graham had seen enough and turned to leave. At first he thought the door had shut behind him, then he noticed that the door blocking his path was not the same door he had opened. This door was black and sleek, a polished stone rather than wood. There was no sign of a door knob on this new portal, only a large keyhole in the centre even hinted at the objects purpose.
Graham turned back to the mirrors to see that the light had grown much closer, and darker, while his back was turned. He stared in horror at the nearest mirror as the features of a face began to emerge from the diminishing light. It was a face he knew all too well. He had stared at it as it shattered into a fine dust. It was The Visitor, and he was coming for his eyes.