's 2017 Horror Write-off:

The Orb

Submitted by Anonymous (email)

I was sitting on a recliner pulled over to one side of the room, bolt upright, my heart pounding and every muscle in my body tensed from anxiety. It was about an hour before midnight, and the only source of illumination in the room was from the slotted beams of light shining in through the blinds. It was coming from the thing outside, it always radiated that intense white light whenever it came near. I could see the others sitting across from me, Mary, Tyler, Kevin, and Elise, all crammed onto a single couch together and nearly as quiet and tense as I was. I'd gathered everyone in the house into the living room to make an announcement. Had it been a few months ago, they definitely wouldn't have agreed to do it at such an ungodly hour, but nobody said a word. I doubt any of them had been able to get a wink of sleep with the bright glow outside, or maybe they were just resigned to what was happening. I'm not sure. We were only waiting for one last person. Judging from their expressions, they probably thought I was going to announce that another person had gone missing. I suppose in a way I was.

After another minute or so of sitting in silence, we heard the door creak open and the one we'd been waiting for walked in, an older man called Jeb. He searched for a spot on the couch briefly, but ended up just standing awkwardly next to it, staring and waiting for me to start speaking. I sat there, squirming, feeling like I was going to vomit. Talking to them was hard enough at the best of times, but what was essentially me putting on a speech for them all might as well have been torture. The only reason I was able to speak at all was the steadily growing embarassment at having them all wait.

"I'm going out to see the orb." I barely managed to choke out the words, my eyes were watering and it felt like I'd been stabbed in the throat. The effects of my words were immediate. Mary gasped, Elise stifled a sob as if she'd been expecting this and had barely been managing to hold herself together. Tyler turned to comfort her, while Kevin started screaming vulgarities, most of them not even directed at me. I don't think he was mad at me specifically, just frustrated with the whole situation. Jeb was the worst of them all, he just stared at me. I've never seen a man so angry before, even more angry than Kevin screaming just a few feet to his right, all conveyed without saying a word. I had to look away as soon as I met his gaze. Nobody said anything to me for a good while, the room filled with only with the sound of crying and cursing, slowly dying down to nothing but a few sniffles.

Kevin was the first to speak after that. He had a hand raised to his face and was pinching the bridge of his nose, his eyes shut tight. Without looking in my direction or even opening his eyes, he said one word, his voice a barely suppressed shout. "Why?" I said nothing. All the reasons I'd carefully planned out beforehand, about how I was going to find out what'd happened to the other people who'd disappeared and how it was probably going to happen eventually anyway, I couldn't bring myself to say any of it. My mouth suddenly felt dry and the words died on my tongue, coming out as a raspy exhale. He didn't wait for an answer; when he realised I couldn't even form a single sentence, he stood up and stomped out of the room, slamming the door open behind him. Elise left soon after that, still crying, and Tyler followed with an arm hooked around her shoulder. As they walked out of the room, I saw Elise give me a look. I'm not quite sure what it was, something like a mixture between pity, anger, and sadness. She quickly buried her head back into Tyler's shoulder before I could pinpoint it exactly.

Having recovered from the initial shock, Mary started talking, the words spilling out of her mouth faster and faster until she was babbling near incoherently. She wanted to know why I was doing something so risky, what did I have to gain from it, why was I putting them all through this. To be honest, I don't remember most of it. All I remember is the glare from Jeb and sitting in that chair as if I were tied down, tears running down my face out of shame at what I was doing and out of fear at what was going to happen next. I had hoped admitting my plans to them would be the hard part, but even after that, gathering up the strength to even get off of the chair seemed like a Herculean effort. Somehow I managed, getting up off of the sweat soaked recliner and staggering towards the door leading outside, high on adrenaline. I think Mary might have gotten up to pursue me, but I didn't look back.

I saw the orb as soon as I opened the front door. Well, maybe 'saw' isn't the right word. The light constantly pouring off the orb made it impossible to look directly at it, so I had to turn my head to the side and squint, the glare from the snow being slightly more bearable. Taking a few steps forward, I passed through the doorway out onto the porch, and the orb responded immediately. It started giving off a low, powerful hum, strong enough for me to feel in my feet. I don't know how it sensed me, but it definitely knew I was there. I glanced behind me and saw that everyone in the house had bunched up around the windows, squinting against the light of the orb to see what I was going to do, what was going to happen to me. I hopped off of the porch onto the lawn, slowly advancing towards the orb. I had my arms half extended in front of me, part of me wanting to keep them outstretched to feel where I was going and touch the orb, another part of me afraid of what would happen if I did.

As it turned out, I didn't have to worry about that after all. Once I got within five feet of it, the orb suddenly let out a burst of light, even brighter than what was already shining off of it. I tried to bring my hands to my face to cover my eyes, but I was only able to move them an inch before they ground to a halt, all my muscles locking up until I couldn't move an inch. The orb had frozen me in place somehow, but it made no attempt to approach me, it just kept hovering in the air in front of me. My body started moving of its own volition, my hands moving away from my face, my head turning to face the orb, my eyes prying themselves as wide open as they could. Waves of sensation started to course through me from my head to my feet as I stood there, varying between heat, cold, tingling, and a dozen even odder things that I can't find the words to describe. At first, I thought it was trying to attack me, but I figured if it wanted to kill me then it could've easily done so before I'd even left the house. The sensations stopped for a moment before suddenly refocusing inside of my skull, feeling like a car battery had been connected to every synapse in my brain. Suddenly, a realisation hit me: it was scanning me, though for what purpose, I couldn't say.

Through a film of tears as my eyes struggled to cope with the powerful light pouring into them, I saw that the orb was moving closer and growing even brighter. I tried as hard as I could to close my eyes, but whatever paralysis the thing had caused had affected my eyelids as well. Yet somehow, even though the thing was shining brighter than the sun, it didn't seem to be causing any actual damage to my eyes. It was certainly unpleasant, but I wouldn't be going blind from it; all I could do was stare open-eyed into the light pouring off of it and into my skull. I couldn't even scream. Yet as it got within an inch of my face and the entirety of my vision had been overtaken by white, it recoiled. The orb suddenly jerked back, its light dropping from an overwhelming white to the little more than a candle. The paralysis it had put over me disappeared, and I crumpled to the ground. I saw it rush off down the street and out of sight in the blink of an eye, and I blacked out soon after.

By the time I regained consciousness the sun was up, and I was lying in my bed as if nothing had happened. For a moment I thought that it'd all been a dream, but when I looked out the window I saw the footprints I had made in the snow last night, along with two other pairs that lead out to where I collapsed and then back around into the house. Though even without the footprints, it wasn't too difficult to tell that something had happened last night. None of the others tried to talk to me, usually they avoided even looking at me, often leaving the room whenever I walked in unless there was some pressing need for them to be there. I think on some level they wanted the orb to take me. At least that would've made sense, it would've matched up with everything else it had done that had lead up to this point. Instead, all they got was uncertainty as to what it had done to me, what it wanted, what it was going to do next. I couldn't blame them for how they treated me.

From then on out, I felt more like a ghost than a man, staying in my room most of the time and only coming out to eat, drink, and occasionally bathe, although I was doing that less and less as the days went on. It was difficult to see the point in keeping myself clean when I never interacted with anyone. Sleeping became one of my preferred pastimes, followed by lying around in a depressed stupor, staring off into space. Sometimes I'd try to read, but I found it difficult to focus on the words; I'd inevitably end up drifting off back into my own thoughts mid-sentence, eventually realising that I'd been staring at the same page for ten or twenty minutes without reading a single word. The fleeting glimpses of the others that I got during my food runs revealed they weren't doing much better. They were looking more dishevelled and downtrodden as the days went on, and I heard them talk to each other less and less. I doubted that the depression that had fallen over the household was a reaction to the abductions, or to my interaction with the orb. Rather, I thought that the orb was somehow directly causing it.

This suspicion was confirmed about two weeks later. It was midnight, and I was lying awake in my bed, my excessive sleeping having given way to insomnia. A loud creaking filled the house, cutting through the silence of the night. Someone was opening the front door. I sat up in my bed and went over to my window, looking out towards the porch in an attempt to see what was going on. It was Kevin, hunched over and shuffling out into the snow in his pajamas. My first thought was that he was sleepwalking, but I quickly discarded that when he turned around to close the door behind him and saw me staring at him, locking eyes with me. We stared at each other for a few seconds, but neither of us made any sort of motion towards each other. Figuring I wasn't going to do anything, he finished closing the door and turned back around, walking back out into the night.

Expecting it at this point, I wasn't surprised when I saw the orb. It was floating down the road towards the house, its light dimmed to little more than a firefly, as if it didn't want to be seen. Kevin had spotted it as well and started walking towards it, like he'd been waiting for it. The orb stopped and waited patiently for him to approach, and as he reached out a hand to touch it, the orb exploded in a flash of white light. Shielding my eyes, I staggered back from the window, but quickly gathered myself and pressed myself against it to see what would happen next. The orb apparently noticed this, as it let out a small pulse of light and sped off back down the road, quickly moving out of sight. Kevin was gone.

The rest of my housemates disappeared in a similar fashion, with the ones remaining hardly commenting as the others disappeared. First Mary, then Kevin. Tyler and Mary left at the same time, hand in hand. I started feeling less ennui and more concern as this went on, as I realised that I was soon going to be the only one left, all alone in my own snowy hell. One night, when only Jeb and I were left, I went downstairs and saw him. He was sitting on the couch, staring blankly out the window. I'd grabbed him by the shoulders and screamed in his face, asking him why he didn't care that the others had all sacrificed themselves to the thing outside. He just gave me a resigned look and asked me if I hadn't tried to do the exact same thing, before any of them had, in fact. No amount of yelling after that got any response out of him, he just kept staring at me and waited patiently for me to stop before he got up off of the couch and walked back to his room, locking the door behind him. When I woke up the next morning, he was gone.

At first, I tried going on alone. I tried keeping myself busy with work, stuff like collecting wood for the furnace or scavenging the other houses for anything useful, but that didn't last long. It wasn't the manual labour that was the problem; sure, it left me feeling sore most of the day and I didn't like doing it, but all that helped distract me from thinking about everything that'd happened. No, the problems started when I started seeing things. At first it was just shifting lights out of the corner of my eye, but I always chalked it up to the orb skulking around. That quickly escalated to curtains jostling in houses that I was sure were empty, loud, unexplained noises in the night, things moving ever so slightly from where I put them down. I attributed it at all to the orb and kept working, almost out of spite. It kept getting worse until one night, I woke up to tapping on my window. I was no stranger to strange noises at that point, so I just turned my back towards it and tried to go back to sleep. Apparently the source of the tapping had gotten tired of waiting for me, because the curtains flung themselves open, bathing my room in bright light. Sitting up in my bed, I saw that this time, the light wasn't coming from the orb. Crowded around my window were my five former housemates, all of them now transparent and shining with a brilliant white light. They were all staring at me with expressions of pity, like I was the saddest thing in the world. As soon as I started getting out of bed to walk towards them, they disappeared. I couldn't go on after that.

I fell back into old habits, spending all of the time I didn't dedicate to sleeping and eating to wander around the house or lying around in an almost trancelike state. I'd started sleeping in whatever bed was closest, as I no longer saw a need to limit myself to using only my own. It wasn't as if anyone else was around to be offended by it. Jeb's bed was closest today, and when I threw myself onto it, I felt something hard under the pillow. It was a snubnosed revolver, an old Smith & Wesson model. There was a single bullet in the cylinder. At that point, I had to have slept in every bed in the house three or four times at least, and I definitely would've noticed something like that under the pillow if it had been there before. Someone had to have put it there, and I had a good idea of who, or what, had done it.

It's around midnight now. I can see the orb hovering around the driveway right outside the house, like it's been doing for the past forty minutes. It hasn't gotten this close since Jeb left, and I get the feeling it knows what I found. Now it's just sitting there, taunting me. I'm not going to keep going on like this. I'm going to go out there and end this, one way or another.