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  1. It was the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know something is out of place in the dark. I got out of bed and searched the bedroom. I found nothing unusual, yet the feeling persisted. I opened my bedroom door and lumbered up the hallway toward the kitchen. As I walked, head hung low and eyes half closed, the blanket of darkness surrounding me was suddenly pulled away. I opened my eyes, blinked several times, and focused. The kitchen light was on.
    Now there’s something you must know about me. I was diagnosed OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, in my early twenties. At thirty four, I can assure you this tightly wrapped disorder, disguised as a super power, has remained with me. I meticulously unplug, disconnect, power off, disengage, and shut down everything that uses electricity before leaving a room. I cannot help it. I will not leave so much as the time on the cable television box illuminated. Blinking red lights, static blue lights, pulsating green lights, and soft white lights all have to go off. Thank God for power strips. I have tried several times leaving a light on, or letting the television play, just walking away from the microwave. Each time my resolve is met with worry, then panic, then blind terror.
    So now that you understand the depth of my condition, you can begin to see why it unnerved me to find the kitchen light on in the middle of the night. Following my first inclination, I returned to my bedroom, found the bat underneath my bed, and approached the kitchen with all the stealth of an overfed tabby. When I reached the kitchen, I found the room empty and untouched…except for the container of Miracle Whip sitting on the countertop. I was positive, I was absolutely certain I had not used Miracle Whip earlier that day. I decided not to press the matter, returning the Miracle Whip to the refrigerator. I surveyed the kitchen in a single three hundred sixty degree turn. Satisfied that my imagination had gotten the better of me, I hung the bat over my shoulder, switched the kitchen light off, and went back to bed.

    It was 2:07 A.M., two hours after the first time awoke. I bolted upright out of a deep sleep panicked for no justifiable reason. I flipped the lamp switch on the nightstand and pushed myself to the edge of the bed, where I sat for several minutes. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling. There was something wrong in the house. I reached for the bat underneath my bed again, stood reluctantly, and headed down the dark hallway. With the Louisville Slugger held high over my head, I moved quickly and directly into the brightly lit kitchen.

    The kitchen light was on, but there was no one in the kitchen.

    I relinquished the batter’s stance I had assumed. The bat slipped from my fingers, struck the tiled kitchen floor, and rolled. I stood frozen in place, unable to move. Sitting on the countertop, not to be outdone by the kitchen light, defying all rational explanation, was the container of Miracle Whip.

    In an instant, darkness spread across the room in a wave of silky ripples. Since the rest of the house was already dark, the sensation was like closing your eyes in a closet. I was left standing in a room totally void of light.

    “What the fuck?”

    I remember saying the words out loud because the words echoed back to me in the dark— except not in my voice. I took a step backward and started counting in my head. Even in my worst nightmares, counting never failed to transport me back to sanity.

    “One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one—”

    Without warning, the kitchen light was on again and the Miracle Whip on the countertop was gone! Without a sound, it had simply ceased to be there!

    A kaleidoscopic echo of hellish voices erupted around me, giggling and taunting in soft malevolent whispers, “What the fuck now? What the fuck now?”

    I took another step backward. The heel of my foot hit the bat, causing it to roll in an arc around my foot. I didn’t look down. I was too terrified to look down; heart pumping blood to my head hot and fast, mouth as dry as West Texas in August. Another step backward and the kitchen went black again; icy cold darkness filled with the malevolent voices of the damned.

    It was like a game. One, two, three, red light!

    I took another step back. White light penetrated the darkness again to show the refrigerator door in mid swing. A dark appendage flowed out. Odd shaped fingers opened then closed, flexed then relaxed, trembled in sharp spasms as if it were a thing being born. I turned to run.

    There is a point when you are so consumed by fear, a point when you are taken to the brink of unconsciousness, a point where reason ceases to exist and insanity prevails— a point where you go from shitting your pants to scared shitless.

    I turned to run, but that was the last thing I remember. Something struck me hard in the back of my head. Just before I lost consciousness, the crack of rigid wood striking the tiled kitchen floor rang behind me.

    The distorted cacophony of voices erupted again in hellish unison. “What the fuck now? What the fuck now?”

    “This is it,” I thought, as I fell helplessly into unconsciousness. “This is how it all ends.”

    “Next thing I know, I'm here in the hospital.”

    The nurse pressed her lips tightly into a half smile. Disbelief was written in her brown eyes.

    “Well, that’s the fourth time you’ve told me that story. I promise there are no kitchen lights or possessed refrigerators on the eighth floor of Mercy Hospital, sugar.” Her accent was sweet and Southern.

    The nurse swung her hip left as she rounded the foot of the bed. She folded her arm beneath the patient chart and began writing.

    A hospital attendant from the cafeteria rolled a tiered food cart through the open room door.

    “Dinner time,” the round woman announced in a melodic voice.

    The sudden shrieking behind her caused the chart to fall from the nurse’s hand. She circled around. The bed was empty. She caught a flash of the patient's bare ass crashing through the window. Both the nurse and the attendant listened in shock as the psychotic screams grew distant then, finally, silent.

    “What the hell just happened,” the attendant cried out, eyes glazed over and her mouth gaping.

    The nurse viewed the meal tray brought in. She raised the condiment packet. “You put Miracle Whip on the dinner tray, sweetie.”