The 13th Floor

Is the Thing Behind “The Barricade” Real or Delusion… or Both?

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In 2008, one of several posts to 4chan’s notorious /x/ paranormal board by a user identified as “Josef K” apparently documented the author’s life-long struggle with a very unpleasant conundrum: despite being examined for every possible physical, mental or behavioral illness, and being prescribed every medication in the book, Josef continued to be plagued by terrifying hallucinations.

According to his most disturbing journal entry — which has since become the stuff of viral legend — Josef admits he’s no longer able to trust his own senses or memories, and he’s not entirely convinced that the alleged “hallucinations” aren’t actually some form of reality which only he can perceive. All he knows is that the situation has become much, much worse in recent years… and he’s finally reached a point of desperation.

“I’m about to do a very stupid thing,” Josef posted. “I know it’s stupid. I know it. But I don’t think I have a choice anymore. And I have to do it now, while I have the nerve and the will. While my hands are still steady.”

He explains the history of his condition, how he was diagnosed by three different doctors — all of whom failed to run down the cause of his hallucinations and waking visions, which have often been accompanied by sounds and smells.

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Six years ago, he thought perhaps the doctors had finally found the pharmaceutical key to subduing the hallucinations, to the point where he was eventually able to live on his own, in his very own apartment, without the need for round-the-clock caretakers.

Apparently that apparent peace and solitude didn’t last long.

“Friday morning, I awake from the first dream I’ve had in years,” Josef writes, describing a “phantasmagoria of colors and sounds” which vanished when he awoke… but on his way out of the apartment, he began to feel a sense of increasing panic as he realized his most familiar hallucination had returned: a sense that he was completely alone in a seemingly abandoned world.

The sudden return of these sensory stimuli terrified him — not just because he’d finally come to terms with a more “normal” existence, but because he’d experienced a brush with death the last time this “empty world” hallucination had clouded his mind, causing him to walk into the path of an oncoming car. Severe injuries resulting from the collision required him to walk with a cane.

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He retreated back to his tiny studio apartment, and eventually the hallucination began to subside.

Double-checking to confirm he’d taken his proper dosage of medication at the correct time, he began to breathe easier again… until he heard the screaming.

Unable to locate the source of the sound, he realizes the hallucination may have taken on a new form. He describes the sounds as “horrid, terrified, inchoate clumps of half formed words and pleas, punctuated by wet, ragged shrieks and heavy muffled thudding,” and they seem to be emanating from the very framework of the apartment building itself.

Even worse, the pills, combined with long-remembered relaxation exercises, weren’t working at all to dispel the horrifying wails.

Then a new sound came… the sound of something shuffling in the corridor outside his door.

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That’s when he heard — and saw — the door shudder violently, as something unseen was hurling itself against it from the other side. The impact was enough to make the door visibly shake in its frame.

The voices continued… but this time, they’re joined by “a mad, gibbering chorus of voices… a strange nonsense of broken syllables.”

Gathering his courage, he threw himself onto his tall bookshelf, sending it crashing to the floor, and struggled through the pain in his broken body to shove it against the door, followed by his desk and chairs.

With the crude barricade in place, Josef drew back to the far corner of his room and waited… and eventually, the pounding and grotesque voices faded to silence.

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Many days passed before Josef posted a new update, and in the interim the unseen invaders had periodically returned — scratching at the door, twisting at the knob, muttering in those nightmarish voices.

Josef also reveals that his phone no longer works, his electricity and water have been mysteriously cut off, and he is rapidly running out of food. Any attempts to yell for help out the window are met with only hellish shrieks in reply.

Faced with the possibility of starvation, he is faced with the ultimate choice.

“What happens to me on the other side of the barricade only depends on how sick I really am,” he writes. “I want to believe with a sudden desire I am just ill, simply and profoundly ill. I just need to break through this… I need to go outside.”

With great effort, he slowly moves the chairs… then the desk… then the bookshelf. He reassures himself that he’s doing the right thing.

Finally, fighting back the terror rising within him, he unlatches the deadbolt and slowly begins to turn the knob, easing the door open a few inches.

“I hear a dry shuffling and a low rising murmur of unfathomable voices,” he writes, and it’s clear his confidence has faded away completely.

“I’m about to do a very stupid thing,” he repeats.

There are no further entries.

If you don’t want to crash the illusion, you might want to stop reading now… but there’s a very interesting epilogue to this tale:

You see, “Josef K” is actually a pseudonym for author Cameron Suey, creator of several “flash fiction” short stories — many of which have evolved into heavily shared creepypastas — and these early works continue to proliferate throughout social media.

Suey has since moved on to write professionally under his own name, but “The Josef K Stores” are still available on his blog, and an edited version of BARRICADE was published in the horror fiction anthology A QUICK BITE OF FLESH from Hazardous Press.