The Unknown Haze
By Ashley Quiah
In a fantastical dream, YouTuber Mark Ferris constructs a plan to protect himself from an unknown yet dreaded intruder.
Tired eyes close
Drift off to sleep
Stressed and morose
No one makes a peep.
The long twisting road was surrounded by mossy green trees, their shadows long and dark on the ground as the sun beamed down on them. Mark groaned at the never-ending road, his hands gripping the leather steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. Zoe’s eyebrows furrowed with confusion. His tense shoulders made her uneasy and she patted his back in an attempt to relieve his troubled mind.
Mark could feel the unease in the air as they approached their tall oak treehouses. The houses stood in all their glory, dazzling fairy lights wrapped around their brown bark and winsome windchimes hanging from the branches. They waved goodbye to each other, Zoe heading off into her treehouse. Mark climbed up his rope ladder, his breath coming out in rapid and shallow exhales as he thought about what was to come. The trees’ captivating beauty brought life to the soiled junkyard they grew in. An odd place for two trees to flourish, an even odder place for two people to settle, but that is what Mark and Zoe did.
Once Mark was in his treehouse, he steadied his breath and prepared himself. Grabbing a cardboard box, he packed the essentials: C6 colored Christmas lights, a shovel, twine, duct tape, and paint. He waited until midnight, his palms getting sweatier by the minute. Finally, when Zoe’s lights flickered off, he climbed down his ladder to go outside.
Mark got to work, first taping twine across the doorframe to create a barrier. Then the first rung of his ladder was painted with the neon green paint, its slippery texture dripping onto the floor. The hole he dug at the base of the ladder was big enough for a human to fall into. Mark kept his fingers crossed that someone would. After intersecting a trail of Christmas lights with a bucket of water, he stood back and observed his work.
When he was done, Mark knelt on a heap of forgotten toys and cardboard boxes near his house, binoculars hanging from his neck to closely view the catastrophe he predicted. He finally heard the gate swing open, revealing a man in a black ski mask, a rugged jacket, sweatpants, and battered black boots.
Mark fumbled for his binoculars, struggling to take the caps off. But when he looked back up, the man was gone.
He got up from his knees and looked around more, his eyes darting around frantically. Blood drained from Mark’s face as he heard crunching footsteps behind him.
He spun around, sticking his arms out in a helpless motion, closing his eyes to avoid having to see the intruder that stood before him.
He then felt a strong push to his chest. The air seemed to leave his lungs as he fell back.
But Mark wasn’t scared that he was falling. He was scared of the impact on his skin when his bones crashed against the ground. He was scared of his blood splattering on the dirt-filled floor. He was scared of the unknown.
And perhaps I was too.
For my eyes jolted open
Blinded by my sunny view
To inhale sweet air
Only to realize, I was falling too.
The inspiration behind The Unknown Haze came from a dream I had. Two YouTubers I frequently watch, Mark Ferris and Zoe Sugg, play the roles of the characters in the fantasy. The dream felt tense and unsettling, which might have been due to the thriller I had watched the night before. To make my dream come to life and fill in some gaps, I animated the scenes through digital art. By drawing what I remembered as well as matching it with the text I had written about the dream, the inner haze was externalized.
Ashley Quiah was born and raised in the suburbs of Queens, NY. She is currently a high school senior. She loves reading, doing yoga, and everything horror. Ashley plans to pursue Astronomy and English when she goes to college.