Tim had been living on the streets for years now. Over time people started to know him as the blind man with the scraggly beard who slept in the alley between a big-chain department store and the local coffee shop, The Roasted Bean.
Tim mumbled nonsense to himself as he sat alone on the sidewalk, rocking back and forth. Used to be an easy-going guy, that's what everyone said. He was a mortgage broker that worked at J&H Brokerage, and his mother swore he was raised right. He was just your normal, average guy.
Until the Old Hag got him, that is.
People in the city began to notice their beloved broker started coming into the office wearing wrinkly clothes that used to be perfectly-pressed. Paranoid and talking to himself, he shuffled around the office as if in a trance. His eyes had become so dark and sunken his colleagues made it a habit to ask him every morning if he was okay. He swore he was fine, but the evidence against his words was overwhelming.
Every night Tim would lie awake, afraid to shut his eyes in fear of seeing her again.
The first night, she was in the bathroom. He saw her deranged, deformed face peeking around the corner. She didn't move, she didn't say anything. All she did was stare. While Tim was asleep he was paralyzed, unable to move anything but his eyes. He tried to focus them on the ceiling, but he always felt them slowly migrating back the Old Hag.
The second night she was in the hallway, and Tim was terrified. Not because of the rancid, musty smell that was emanating from her, but the fact that she was getting closer.
And the smile on her face was growing bigger.
The third night she was in his doorway, and Tim could see the thick layer of filth that covered her pale bluish skin. And now, every time he took his eyes off her, she glided one step closer to his bed.
All through the night, he was forced to stare into her dark, piercing eyes.
The next day Tim vowed to stay awake for as long as he could, even if it killed him. To be quite honest, he was starting to think death might be better than being terrified every waking hour of his life.
72 hours passed and then the hallucinations started. His pencils were snakes, his coworkers had no faces, and his office chair tried to swallow him whole. 144 hours passed and he swore he could hear the voice of God.
264 hours. Eleven days. That's what it took for him to shatter through the glass wall of reality.
He was sitting at his desk when he saw the Old Hag again. "But I'm awake," he whispered as he stared at her. It didn't make any sense. Now his entire body was trembling, and he couldn't understand why nobody else could see her.
Anne brushed past her to get to the copier and Jerry was still giving his spiel about closing a 2% loan. Tim was biting his nails down to the nerves, letting the blood drip down his chin and onto his wrinkled white shirt.
"Why can't you see her?"
All eyes were on him now as he stood in the doorway between his office and the main room. "Tim? Are you alright?" Tim shook his head and then pointed the steel letter opener directly at the Old Hag.
She just smiled at him, from ear to ear, exposing black, grimy teeth. She'd never leave him. She had imprinted on his very soul. No matter what he did or where he went, she would always come back to him. He would always see her.
It's the only way to escape, he thought to himself.
And that's when he jammed the letter opener in his eye socket and screamed like a wild animal. His coworkers shrieked in terror as they watched their beloved colleague, one at a time, gouge out his own eyes.
When it was all said and done, Tim felt nothing but relief. The pain was nothing compared to the salvation he had finally achieved. He could finally sleep now. He could drift off in peace, not having to worry about what horrors would paralyze him into the night.
He was lying on the office floor in a puddle of his own blood when he heard a whisper in his ear.
"I'm still here."