It was 11:00pm on December 24th as two friends broke away from a late-night party at their other friend’s house. Both were dressed quite warmly, the woman wearing a cream-colored coat lined with a soft synthetic fur that would remind someone of a rabbit. The man, equally dressed in both warmth and fashion, wore a dark brown faux-leather, with buckles on the sleeves as well as the waist.
A little giggle escaped the woman’s mouth as they walked up the sidewalk toward their own places of residence. “Do you think Michael will ever grow up?”
“Judging by what I have seen in over the decade of knowing him: No, never.”
She broke into a full smile, and let out a laugh. “Well. I hope to see you at church tomorrow.” Emphasizing the ‘You’, and she eyeing him for any reaction.
Chase smiled politely. “We’ll see how I feel in the morning, okay?”
She gave a playful pout. “You said that last year too.”
“And the year before that, I know. But what can I say? Church seems more like a chore to me, ya know? Besides… I have other things to do.”
Chase let out a chuckle just as they came to a crossroads. “G’night, Mary. I’ll see you again soon.”
“Soon better be tomorrow,” she reinstated. “Night Chase, sleep well.”
And with that said, a quick hug was given, and the friends parted ways.
Chase walked home, his hands buried deep in his pockets in an attempt to keep them warm for the little bit longer time he would be outdoors. The crisp air carried the melody of familiar carols, softened by the distance and obstructions of buildings.
Chase breathed a sigh as he approached his house door, eager to get out of the winter wind. With careful hands, he grasped the cold key in his pocket and placed it in the lock. And leaving it there for a moment, he cupped his hand together since the chilled metal had left a feeling that burned his fingers. Quickly now, he unlocked the door, opened it, and stepped inside.
The house was not near what he had hope for, but at least there was no wind. A few logs in the fire would make it much better.
Without removing his coat, Chase stepped into the den and approached the old wood-burning stove. A few pieces of firewood had been placed inside already since last time he had used it, so now all he needed was a flame.
Padding his pockets, Chase realized his lighter was not on his person. “Now, where did I leave that thing?” He asked himself as he stood, and went to the other room. Spotting the lighter on the table, he reached for it, unaware he was not alone in here.
As he picked the tool up, a club came down. And Chase hit the floor hard… unconscious.
Vision blurred by pain and blood, Chase slowly awoke. He was sitting upright, in one of his dining room chairs. But this was not his dining room. This was the attic.
The room was cold, and the little moisture exiting the Chase’s mouth immediately crystalized, creating a dissipating white cloud.
His eyes narrowed, only now realizing there was a man in front of him. “What is your name? And what gave you the right to break in here, tie me up?”
“We have many names,” was spoken, but the stranger’s lips did not move.
At that moment a man nearly identical to the first, except his eyes were wildly dilated, stepped from behind the other. He placed his arm around the shoulders of the first and smiled, but without any emotion. “We are now your guests. Entertain us.”
Five hours passed without another word. The two men roamed aimlessly around the room, the first finally taking a seat near the window to Chase’s left. But an empty growl from Chase’s stomach finally broke the silence.
At this, the man at the window focused on him. And, pulling an apple from his pocket, he offered it out in gesture.
Chase stared at it a moment, then looked away.
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you hungry?” the first stranger asked, tilting his head.
“How can I eat if you have me all tied up?”
The man’s eyes darkened, and a malicious smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “That certainly is a problem. But I’m not in the mood to fix it.”
“So my fighting off starvation is up to your emotional whims?”
“That is correct.”
“And why is it so cold in here?”
“Shhhhh. Once you are numb, you won’t be in pain anymore. Embrace the cold.”
Meanwhile, the more fidgety fellow paced the room. “I can warm him up.”
The other glanced past Chase to look at his companion. “That won’t be necessary.”
But the one persisted. “I can warm him up.”
“I prefer him numb. Don’t touch him.”
“Numb isn’t fun. He won’t do anything, and that is boring.”
The man at the window seemed to consider this, all the while Chase paniced in his head at what all was going on.
“Fine,” the first concluded. “Have your fun.”
The fidget grinned, and took a step near Chase.
Chase tried to lean away, but his bonds restrained him.
The man reached out a hand, and touched him on the cheek. “So cold…” he spoke seemingly to himself. Then out of nowhere, his other hand collided as a fist to Chase’s chest, bruising the area above his heart.
His vision fuzzed, and he couldn’t breath, didn’t even know if he was able to gasp, or if that wretched sound was coming from some nearby train passing.
The man leaned near his face, examining it. “Did you feel that?”
It was all Chase could do to meet his gaze.
“Looks like you might have, but let’s make sure. Don’t want to let you get numb to everything. You wouldn’t care anymore, and that would be a shame.”
Again, the man’s fist hit right above Chase’s heart.
The pain was overwhelming, and he once again lost consciousness.
The dull light of the den met his eyes. He was on the floor, facing upwards.
Immediately, Chase had the thought that this was all a dream; that he had slipped on some melted snow walking through his house, and had hit his head hard. But those hopeful thoughts were soon crushed when a face leaned over his. It was the first stranger.
“Don’t fret,” he mocked, “we will return again one day.”
“Indeed,” chimed in the other, “we are now good friends, and will visit you often.”
Chase could barely focus on them threw his distorted vision, but he was able to see the expressions on their faces. Both smiling, but with a dark gleam in their eyes.
They both turned away then, and put on coats.
In desperation, Chase managed to get his throat to cooperate. “What are your names?”
The twitchy fellow looked up before tipping his hat in farewell. “Anxiety.”
“And Depression,” followed up his brother. And with that, they closed the door, leaving Chase once again alone, but far more frozen and tormented than before he had made their acquaintance.