Anya sat bolt upright in bed and sucked in air through clenched teeth. Her nightshirt clung to her skin and her hair was smeared wetly against her cheek. She gasped and patted the bed frantically. Damp, but only with sweat. The hot thrill that had been surging through her body faded, as it did every time. The night clarified, and the dream fogged away. She looked at the closet, but of course nothing was there. It was not her childhood closet. She was thirty, and alone in her studio apartment.
She lay back on the damp sheets and stared at the ceiling, clinging to the vestiges of the dream as it faded. Ah to go back to that night for real, to live those months over again…
The first time it happened she was ten years old and woke from a nightmare with her pajamas drenched in hot, acrid wetness. She’d tried to cry out, but couldn’t. She tried to move, and was frozen under some crushing weight. She managed to turn her head and saw an enormous pair of golden eyes watching her from the shadows of her half-open closet. The eyes were so big, so open and unblinking, and they drank her up. At that moment a secret door inside Anya unlocked with an irreversible click.
Thirty-years-old Anya’s skin flushed just remembering. The transition had been unforgettable. One moment she was terrified, uncomfortable, immobile and soaked in urine, embarrassed, on the edge of sobbing—then, she saw the eyes in her closet and everything flipped on its head. They’re watching me. The eyes seemed to emit an aura that she could physically sense, it washed over her in an extremely pleasing way. She imagined what the eyes saw, and visualized herself as if from in the closet. She saw herself lying on the bed in a puddle of piss, right there in plain view of anyone. In fact, it was quite obvious to her that everyone—her mother, her father, her friends and teachers at school, the neighbors, the people at the park—everyone everywhere was at that moment watching her from inside her closet.
It was the most delicious, exhilarating thing she’d ever felt. Molten gold pulsed through her veins for minutes on end as she lay there, eyes locked with the thing in the closet.
She woke some time later and her parents helped her clean up, then she went back to sleep on the floor. She scooted up as near to the closet as possible. But the eyes weren’t there anymore.
For months after, she constantly woke in the night unable to move except to turn her head and see the eyes in the closet. Sometimes she thought she saw the outline of a body, small, childlike. Once she thought she saw gray skin. Each time the pleasure of being watched scorched her like fire and she thought she’d die of excitement. She started to hope for it each sleep. She would go mad if the eyes didn’t appear for a few nights in a row. She would leave food to rot in the closet and would dance and sing in front of the door for hours hoping the eyes would appear for her during the day, but they never did. No matter how loudly she cried for the ‘peeky eyes,’ as she called them, they only came when she slept.
She discovered that certain things enhanced the thrill. If she slept without covers (as she had that first night.) Especially if she wet the bed (she did this so many times her parents sent her to a specialist and she had to stop.) Or if she did other humiliating things, such as writing vulgar words all over her skin and face, or wearing the most ugly and torn clothing she could find. One night she took a jar of mayonnaise from the fridge and went to sleep with it smeared all over her hair and face. Each morning she would be certain that everyone alive had seen her in her bed that way. They had all seen her but were unable to mention it, due to the special power of the peeky eyes. Her parents, her friends, her crush, even the man reading the news on TV, all of them wore a certain knowing smirk meant specifically for her. It was wonderful. Every day was wonderful.
Then, to her horror, her parents decided to move house. She cried and screamed about it for weeks leading up to the move. Her parents had precisely zero sympathy after she could give no reason why they shouldn’t move a mere thirty minutes away. She wouldn’t even have to change schools. She cried and raged and then turned to begging—not her parents, but the eyes. She prayed in front of her closet for hours at a time. She went to sleep with pleading messages written on her face, and eventually wrote the new address there, in hopes the peeky eyes would follow her.
But in her new house, in her new closet, the peekies never appeared.
Over the 20 following years she dreamed of that first night—and the feeling of embarrassment shifting into pleasure—at least once per week. But the remembered feeling was a thin, weak imitation. She thirsted for that original thrill constantly. For 20 years she satisfied the desire in myriad other ways that always lost their excitement quickly, like little bursting fireworks, burnt up and gone.
Adult Anya swung out of bed and opened the closet door. There were no golden eyes there. It was an empty useless space filled only with shadows. The delicious sensation of being watched had drained out like blood, and she felt gray. She thought about going live on her OnlyFans, but even that had started to lose its appeal. A thousand people watching her strip or fuck or piss herself was exactly nothing compared to the whole world watching her through the peeky eyes.
It was three AM but she knew she wouldn’t sleep anymore. She paced back and forth for a while then hopped online to check on the people who currently lived in her childhood home. It had been a few weeks since she looked them up. The house was only 20 miles away and she often drove past it to see if the lights were on. Sometimes she stopped and watched for a while to see if anyone was in her old room. If it hadn’t been on the second floor she would have crept up to the window. For all she knew the room might even be empty or used for storage, with nothing for the peeky eyes to watch but the gathering dust.
She’d learned the current owners names years ago, and now scrolled through their Facebook pages. Mary and Jay (what insipid names,) a thirty something blond couple with money and lots of hobbies. Neither of them had posted in several days. Jay’s last post was a selfie of him holding luggage in an airport. “Off to Amsterdam, back in two weeks!” Anya stared at the picture, and a plan took root in her mind. She pulled a coat over her sweat stained nightshirt, grabbed her keys and shot out the door.
She broke the speed limit the entire drive over while she hummed the peeky song she’d invented as a child. Peeky eyes, peeky eyes, come out and see me peeky eyes.
Some instinct made her park a block away and walk up to the house. The night air chilled her bare legs. She’d not even taken time to put on shoes, and jagged cracks in the sidewalk bit into her skin. All the lights in the house were off, and she crept up to the front door in the dark. It was locked, of course. She went around the side of the house trying all the windows. Her feet got wet in the dewy grass, then muddy as she pushed through shrubs to try each window. She gasped with delight when one of the kitchen windows slipped upward. She pulled out the screen and scrambled inside. A dog barked somewhere down the street, and she hurriedly shut the window behind her.
Even in the dark, it was obvious. The tilt of the ceiling, the island countertop, the cabinets, the location of the fridge, it all washed over her in a dizzying wave of nostalgia. Her kitchen, in her house. There was the hall, and the stairs. How many hundreds of times had she walked down that hall as a girl? How many more hundreds of times in her dreams since then? And that floorboard, still split. Anya felt as if she were shrinking into her ten year old self. Without really knowing why, she opened the fridge. Cool air and yellow light buffeted her face. She saw cans of beer and soda, packages of meat, condiments, and a plastic takeout container of what looked like some kind of curry, with a crown logo on it that said ‘Spice King.’ “Peeky eyes, peeky eyes,” she sang softly to herself, and took the container of curry.
Up the stairs. The third step creaked exactly as it always had, and she giggled. “Creaky peeky,” she said. She could hardly believe her room was right there, mere yards away. There was her door, her own door that her hands had touched a thousand times. Her sweat and her tears (and even her blood that one time) were on that door and in that room. She gripped the knob, her heart in her throat.
A bed with rumpled blankets, in the wrong place. A dresser, also wrong. A vanity and mirror in the corner, all wrong—but there, the closet, that was right. The same closet door! The same sliding door, and there, the handle which could even still have her fingerprints, and it was open halfway, just as it had been on that night. Her breath roared in her ears. She peered into the darkness of the closet.
There was a shifting sound like something moving against cloth. The room was perfectly silent, as if the walls were soundproofed and the silence seemed to press in on her ears, but then she heard it again: a little shifting sound, a tiny motion. Something had moved, but she did not see the eyes. She stood right in front of the dark opening to the closet, but didn’t see the eyes.
“Peeky peeky,” she said, barely above a whisper. “Come out and see me.” She dropped her coat and pulled off her nightshirt. She kicked her panties to the floor. “Peeky, Peeky.” She opened the curry and dumped it over her head. She smeared the coldly congealed stuff across her head and face, then down over her chest and arms. “Come out and see me, please, please.” She bounced on the balls of her feet with her hands pressed together.
Another shifting sound, then a voice, a small and thin voice that was high but also raspy and rough: “Hello?”
“I’m here!” Anya said. “Oh I’m here, please see me!” A key clicked in a lock inside her and she was filled with thrilling molten gold, and the closet was filled with pure gold, gold everywhere, all one huge golden eye watching her, swallowing her. She laughed and let go of herself, and hot liquid ran down her thighs and onto her feet. “Peeky!” she screamed.
“What the fuck?” Someone else screamed, and the liquid golden eye vanished like a dream and the closet was only filled with plain yellow light. Anya spun around, piss still dripping off her knees.
Someone was sitting up in the bed, someone with frazzled blonde hair and wide, blurry eyes. “What the fuck!” Mary screamed again, and frantically dialed on her cellphone.
Anya stepped backward into the closet, back until she smeared the wall with curry. She closed the door in front of her.