's 2016 Horror Write-off:

The Evil Eye

Submitted by Jenne Kaivo (email)

I've spent all day putting up charms against the Evil Eye. My window is crowded with glass cobalt discs, their centers with whites just like targets, blue irises, black pupils in the center, all staring endlessly. It should make me feel calm. I bought metal things too, hamsa hands stamped on cheap tin with blue enamel, dangling plastic beads; tin eyes staring with beaded lashes. I've taken chalk, and carefully scrawled all over my walls with kind blue eyes that should protect me: I've nailed up horseshoes, and put little mirrors all around. Big glass baubles hang from my ceiling, which should distract it. The tree in my yard has grown a fine crop of blue bottles.

All of these are things I read should work against it. I've learned the hand gestures, too. I drew on my palms, so they are my own flesh eyes of Fatima, and learned the mano cornuto and the mano fico on the advice of a friend who knows about such matters. I circled my house with salt, and my wrists are covered with their own little staring glass discs, and a very realistic one hangs close to my neck, just about matching my own.

I'm ready. I should be ready. It can't come in now. These apotropaics will keep it away. I keep the lemon juice close at hand, and sit tensely, staring at the front door.

It begins to creep open slightly. I know it's coming. The fear makes me still and silent.

The door opens just a crack, and it crawls in, dragging itself on too-long lashes. On the underside, its rubbery lid just slides along the floor, skin rolling over the orb. Long optic nerves hang behind it, like a tail. The eyelid-skin seems to merge into these, to protect them.

The eye comes closer. I am fully in its sight now, and I don't think I could run even if I had the courage. It just gives me that fixed stare, dragging itself along on tendril lashes. It passes over the circle of salt with no ill effects, and pays no attention to the new decorations. I make the mano cornuto, try to ward it off with the horns, but it has no reaction. I try again, make the mano fico, a thumb-through-the-fist gesture which serves the dual purpose of representing a vulva and warning off evil. The Eye is not so easily swayed. It edges towards me.

When it's in range, I pick up the lemon juice and dump it. A whole gallon of lemon juice, all at once from a pot. The eye closes, and looks up again from under lashes dripping with acid juice. It blinks slowly, and advances, utterly unimpressed.

Its lashes finally reach me. They lengthen, like they did before, thin hairs wrapping about my leg like vines. It pulls itself up slowly, gradually. The lashes seem to grow longer with every second, but no less thin. I am just wrapped in dark hair: thin, dark, and now sticky and sour with the failure of my plan.

For a last-ditch effort, I reveal the eyes drawn into my palms. I spread them wide, dramatically. The Eye blinks slowly again; its lashes now several few feet long, it simply plucks my hands out of the way and wraps around me so they do not move forward again.

It now reaches its goal. Lashes wrapping around my ears, my chin, my head, my neck support it. It pulls out to nearly a foot in front of my face, and just stares.

Nothing I did could help me at all. There is no avoiding the Evil Eye. I tear up, and tremble in its grip. I struggle not to meet its gaze. It's somehow hypnotic, and I can't stop myself from looking.

It just stares at me, so terribly unimpressed. Its tail of nerves neither twitches with anger nor wags with pleasure, but just hangs stilly behind. It blinks, on occasion, languidly. I break down in sobs, tear up disgustingly, snot coming out of my nose, gasping for breath. It just looks, enigmatic.

After some time has passed, and I've brought my panic down to a low roar, it begins to disentangle itself from me. Long lashes draw back, leaving thin marks in my flesh. It straggles down, tendrils shorter and shorter, until it reaches the floor and they're barely as long as fingers. They draw it forward and out. As a last-ditch effort, still hoping to free myself from the Evil Eye, I stomp down hard on the trailing nerves. Nothing happens. I feel almost, but not quite, as though my foot connected with real flesh, or just real matter.. It creeps out  casually, unopposed, as I begin to plan out what I can do when it comes the next time, and the next.