For all things creepy
full of creepy gifs no diffrence then the others http://www.reddit.com/r/creepy_gif nsfw's need to be tag
All Things Horror: From Movies & TV to Books & Games
R/HORROR, colloquially known as Dreadit by our subscribers is the premier horror entertainment community on Reddit. For more than 8 years /R/HORROR has been reddit.com's gateway to the darker side of entertainment. So if you have a little time to KILL, come on over. We'll get the chainsaw warmed up for you.
I would love to hear peoples opinions on this.
I love Dead of Winter. It isn't scary at all but has possible bluffing with a possible traitor and unique bonus win conditions.
There are cards that help build the story and make EVERY game unique, very co-op for the most part and not scary at all... ZOMBIES.
Tell me your favorites!
I’ve read quite a bit of good things about it here. Excited to watch it.
Six weeks ago, I challenged the /r/horror community to come up with their best horror movie. The rules were simple: fellow /r/horror users would choose a subject and a condition for each contestant, and they would have just six weeks to write a feature-length horror screenplay.
Over 50 people entered, and 11 people have made it to the end with their very own horror movie, with everything from killer clowns to invading aliens to religious maniacs. Along the way, The Octoberists, a production company specializing in horror, joined board to help. The co-founders of this film company, Cody Lyons and E. Thompson, have been involved in the development of horror and indie films, including films such as After Dark Horrorfest's The Gravedancers and Percy Jackson & The Olympians, and will select a winner.
Now, we want to know what you, the /r/horror community, think of the scripts that your fellow users have come up with and to help us choose /r/horror's favourite! This community has such great opinions, creativity and knowledge of horror, so it will be cool to see what you all think, and hopefully these scripts straight from the minds of /r/horror users and real horror fans will also be great reads for the Halloween season.
You can read through whichever screenplays sound cool to you and if you have a favourite or two, you can award them a point using a (+) symbol in your post.
On Halloween, the winner will be announced. The day after Halloween, we will announce the Reader's Choice winner, selected by the /r/horror community. Who knows, maybe one day, one of these movies will be produced and will have started here on the /r/horror board.
Without further adieu, the eleven horror screenplays:
Subject: Cursed items / Condition: It's a heist movie
Set in the Yucatan Peninsula, three brothers are ordered by the Catholic Church to heist a cursed object from an infamous tomb raider.
Subject: Demons/Satanism / Condition: Protagonist is a stage actress
At a Shakespeare festival production of Hamlet, a rising young stage actress discovers the play's star, a method actor, hides a dark secret to his astonishing performances.
Subject: On-the-run/road trip / Condition: A redneck Christian has to be a protagonist and has to be likable
A pair of spirited youth team up with a cranky redneck to survive a night of hell from a deranged killer.
Subject: Cults / Condition: Protagonist is in grade school/is a kid
A newly orphaned eight-year-old boy must survive and escape his orphanage’s psychotic matron, who believes she is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
Subject: Gothic horror / Condition: Main character is a detective with insomnia
Father George believes homosexuals are evil, and he’s about to be proven right.
Subject: Vampires / Condition: They don't sparkle, can't go out in sunlight, but also don't require blood, although they can drink it
A stressed-out young mother starts to grow suspicious of her new neighbor's bizarre behavior... particularly since the neighbor's very pale children only come out to play at night. Children Of The Corn meets The Lost Boys
Subject: Aliens/extraterrestials / Condition: Takes place in an urban environment
A night of partying in the city turns to terror for a young man when it is discovered that his cousin's drug dealing friend is the host to an alien parasite
Subject: Killer doll / Condition: body modification/dismemberment must be part of the plot
An old doll that can move on its on proves to be more horrifying than astonishing.
Subject: Skinwalker / Condition: One of the characters can't speak
A touching love story... Set against the backdrop of a small desert community terrorized by a rash of unusual, grisly animal attacks.
Subject: Occult creatures/rituals / Condition: Takes place in a large city
The employees of a storage facility realize the contents of an untouched locker could reignite an ancient conflict.
Subject: Killer clown / Condition: Takes place in a trailer park
An agoraphobic comic book writer teams up with his schizophrenic ex girlfriend and an emotionally fragile socialite to take down a deranged, maniacal clown.
If you would like to participate in a contest like this, please come over to /r/screenplaychallenge and subscribe. The contestants and I are hoping this can become a regular/annual thing for the /r/horror community
I'm looking for some great horror from the 70's. Some of my favorite include Alien, Halloween, Black Christmas, Alice Sweet Alice and Suspiria. What about you guys? 🙂
I watched this a few nights ago and didn't really love it, but the more I think about it, the higher my rating gets.
I think I was a little frustrated that it was found footage (I went in 100% blind without even reading the Netflix description) and by the fact there was no twist ending. I felt like it was building up to some huge revelation, but the movie ends exactly how you expect it to as soon as you start watching it. Now that I think about it though, it's pretty brilliant.
It's sort of like the "twist" is that there is no twist. The moral of the story is to trust your instincts.
Anyhow... after sitting on it for a few days,I've currently got it at an 8/10. A great dark comedy and one of the better found footage films I've seen.
What do y'all think about the film???
Just watched this on Amazon Prime and needless to say it was probably one of the most enjoyable pieces of shit I’ve ever seen.
The movie feels like it was shot as a student project. Long takes, awkward conversations and so many random things happening that make no sense ie the Mom sitting on the kitchen floor eating thanksgiving leftovers with her hands. Lol
I hate to admit it but I enjoyed the movie and it made me consistently laugh(unintentionally)
The kills were fun enough and honestly I loved how batshit insane the killer was.
I can’t stop thinking about it and I might just love it.
1.eerie; weird; spooky.
I didn’t see any other posts about this one.
Got to see the 4K remaster last night at Dismember the Alamo and it got me wanting to finish the trilogy, so I’ll be watching this tonight.
I didn't realize until the third or fourth viewing how brilliant the scene with the Harbinger is. He has the interaction with the college students, then he talks to Hadley and they're so busy making fun of him that they don't hear his warning about The Fool. Later on when Truman asks how they can bet when it's rigged, one of them explains how they have to transgress. They say they are given the chance to turn around with the Harbinger and how he is practically a sign saying "You will die" and that they have to choose to ignore him and also choose their mode of death. I just love little stuff like that that shows how much thought is put into the story and might not make sense on first viewing.
For me it's this scene in Halloween 2, it's so ridiculous I busted out laughing over the weekend watching it..
It's like.. Wait...What the fuck? lmao
Not seen a lot of promotion for this so thought I'd let you guys know that all of season 2 of slasher is released on Netflix tomorrow! Its a new storyline and set at a summer camp!
This movie really blew my expectations out of the water. I watched it as a part of my 31 days of horror and I didn't expect much. I've seen the original and I can honestly say that this film is better than the original. The kills are great, the cinematography is awesome, and Elijah Wood did a great job as the lead. Not sure what the general consensus on this movie is but I enjoyed it. Definitely a solid 8/10 for me.
Diabolique (1955) is a wonderful mixture of suspense, thriller, and horror at a time where the focus of the horror genre was in many ways leaning toward science fiction. Now seen as a classic, this film went on to have an impact on the psychological horror films of the 1960s, especially Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Interestingly, this french film is one of the earliest examples in which viewers were repeatedly asked not to spoil the film.
What do you think about Diabolique (1955)? How does the 1996 remake compare, if you have seen that one as well?
This one had been suggested to me over, and over again. Now I see why. I loved the setting, because I was uncomfortable before anything creepy even started happening. Some elements of it reminded me of Oculus in a good way. Nice build up, and tense moments. They did a lot right, and I will be suggesting it to others now too!
Hi everyone! For the entire month of October, I've challenged myself to do a new horror related portrait each day. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoy making them!
Vincent Price is basically the Babe Ruth of horror movie actors, absolutely legendary. House of Wax, The Pit and the Pendulum, Abominable Dr. Phibes, Witchfinder General...there's so many incredible and influential films he was in. My first real exposure to him (outside of his part in Edward Scissorhands) was House on Haunted Hill, which I sought out after the seeing the remake in theaters. I have a real soft spot for that film, and it's remake, in which Geoffrey Rush turned in a spot on Vincent Price impersonation. With as many great performances as he's had, it's hard to pick just one Vincent Price film as a favorite. I bounce back and forth between Witchfinder General and the Last Man on Earth, personally, what are yours?
Is anyone watching this? Me and the wife binged the entire first season and caught up with the second over the weekend. It's overall good, with great acting all around and is actually scary. Curious if anyone here digs it and appreciates/hates the "twist."
Welcome to /R/HORROR's official discussion series.
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Someone recommended it here years ago and I try to watch it every fall since. It’s fantastic! Starring Elijah wood and Christopher Lloyd
Summary: Tree Gelbman wakes up again and again on the same day – her birthday – only to be murdered and restart the process until she finds out who killed her.
Director: Christopher B. Landon
Writer: Scott Lobdell
- Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman
- Israel Broussard as Carter Davis
- Ruby Modine as Lori
- Rachel Matthews as Danielle
- Charles Aitken as Gregory
- Rob Mello as Joseph Tombs
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
NoSleep is a community for original horror stories. Stories may be true or not (but they are usually not). While most of our stories are fiction, we treat all stories like true, real life experiences, because the best scares come when you are immersed in the story. If it helps, don’t think of it as reading a story. Think of it as witnessing an event.
My parents were missionaries. I guess that’s why I decided to go into a service profession. I grew up mostly in Haiti, but as I entered high school, my parents sent me back to live with my grandparents in the United States. They went to an “undisclosed” country. During my senior year, they were supposed to come home. I hadn’t heard anything from them in close to a year. That was normal, though, in these hard to reach areas. I found out before graduation night that they had been killed almost three months before that.
A lot of people think I’m stupid for wanting to follow in my parents’ footsteps. I’m not a missionary, but I am a teacher. Six months ago, I signed a contract to teach at a rural school in a poverty stricken area. It’s a program similar to Teach for America. Since I grew up in a small town in Kansas, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for me.
I moved out of my grandparents’ home and made my way toward a tiny town in Missouri. I thought I knew what a small town meant. This was nothing like it, but in a positive way. I almost felt like I stepped into a different era. There were kids running across the main road, adults sitting exhausted on their porches, and dust rising from the gravel around my car.
The April weather was warm for the season. I opened my car door and heard music playing from all of the homes. It was nice. The agency arranged for me to live with the other teacher that was teaching in the town. Her name was Megan and we hit it off right away. She had arrived that morning and was awaiting my arrival.
That night, we all gathered in the high school gym to have dinner. How 1950’s of them. The dinner was surprisingly fun. The residents got up on stage and played instruments and sang. Megan and I danced with the kids and it felt like this really could be a place to call home.
The music continued to play from the gym and in all the houses. When we got back to our house at around 10:30 that night, I figured it would get quiet. By midnight the music was still going. I couldn’t stay up any longer, though. So I let the soothing tune lull me to sleep.
Megan and I were brought here in April because the agency wanted to start a summer school program. As June started, the music that played into the night became second nature. I barely even noticed it at all anymore. We focused on lesson planning and trying to make a curriculum for a wide age range of students. I was thankful for Megan, though. She made the move a little easier, and she had a passion for teaching like I did.
The kids were much farther behind than we both anticipated. After working hard on lesson planning, it proved to be in vain due to the delays these kids had. One night towards the end of June, Megan went to bed before me after we worked for seven hours straight fixing the curriculum. This was our third night of doing this. I was determined to stay up and finish it.
The dull roar of the music flowed through my open window. The swing jazz tune was swirling through my head causing quite a bit of distraction. I tried to block out the noise, but it continued to distract me. I looked at my phone and it was close to 3 am. Despite my efforts to finish this lesson plan, I decided that I would get some sleep.
I put my hands on the window to push it down. Before I could, though, the music stopped.
The noise was coming from in front of the house. The noise pierced through the silence.
Different variations started to form together. There were no street lights on the immediate road. The closest light was three to four streets over. I strained my eyes to see what was going on. When I couldn’t see anything, I gave up and decided it was just some of the left over musicians walking home.
Again, my hand touched the top of the window, but before I could put it down, I heard the low hum of voices. In the distance, I could hear a familiar tune being hummed in unison. The hairs on my neck stood up as the group of voices continued.
I quickly shut the window and forced myself to go to sleep. I’m sure there was some explanation for it. I was just letting my mind wander.
When I was working late the next night, though, it happened again. At 3:00 am on the dot, the music stopped.
This time I laid in bed wondering about all the possibilities of what was going on outside my window. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I couldn’t.
I started to keep track of times and when things would shift outside. I set an alarm on my phone for 3:00 am and sat perched at my window.
I listened hard for the noise while the music still played in the background. Like clockwork, the town became silent.
The bells of my phone alarm made me jump. I frantically tried to shut it off. When I looked out the window to try to hear if I had disturbed anything, the crunching started to go in a different direction.
The noise quickened.
I peered out my window and met the gaze of a pair of yellow, glowing eyes. They burned like the sun as I tried to look away. I scrambled backwards, slammed the window shut, and turned out my light. Like a little kid, I jumped in my bed and covered up to my chin. I could only think of the jaundice eyes staring in my window, waiting for me. As I laid there, I decided that I would go find out what was going on.
As the previous nights, I did my same routine. Instead of setting my alarm, I got dressed in my running shoes and clothing that I could easily run in. I went out to my porch and sat in the muggy darkness. Today’s music had been big band themed and the Glenn Miller tune carried through the street.
This time, I could hear the noise before the music stopped.
I squinted to see lines of residents going down the street in unison. They would drag their heels and step on the same foot one after the other. When the music stopped, I stood up, ready to follow them.
Behind me, Megan came bolting out the door. She flew right past me and fell into the same steps on the road. It was like she didn’t even see me.
I ran behind her, scared to call for her as I followed behind the group. I wasn’t able to match the robotic movements of the people in front of me.
I followed them until we got to the small river behind the school. The moon illuminated the river. Being out in the middle of nowhere has its perks.
One by one, each of them entered the water and went beneath the surface. All of them were under for 30 seconds. As they emerged, a small stream of fog came from their mouth. Like what you might see on a cold, winter night.
They continued down the river, humming as they waded through the pitch black waters.
I could barely see Megan as I stepped up to the bank of the river. I tried to look into the water to see if something was down there. When I came up empty, I decided to turn around and head back to the house. I was already regretting my decision to follow Megan, and my decision to come here altogether.
I took a few steps toward the school when I heard droplets of water falling into the river behind me. An icy chill hit the back of my neck. I held my breath.
When I turned, a large, black figure stood before me. Only the silhouette could be seen in the darkness. The figure towered over my small stature and the same fog escaped it. With each wisp, a twinge of pain ran through my hands from the cold.
In an instant, my body paralyzed.
There I was, face to face with those burning, yellow eyes.
We were at the bar for Connor's twenty-second birthday when the world first began to fall apart. It started with an absurdly small detail; I ordered two Blue Moons for us like always, but he picked the orange slice off the rim of his glass with a frown. I looked down at the one on my glass and asked, "Something wrong?"
His frown momentarily changed to a look of disgust. "I hate oranges."
That was odd, since it had been our ritual since his twenty-first birthday to always get that brand together when we were out at the bar because fruit's good for you! Therefore, this beer is healthy! But it was his birthday and he could do what he wanted, so I didn't ask about it. Rebecca, however, had already had a few. She cut past the group conversation to proclaim, "But isn't the orange the healthiest part?"
Connor shook his head. "No way. Oranges are gross."
Across the table, Dan said, "Oranges are great, man. They're nature's candy!"
Rebecca's older sister Shannon was with us that night; she countered, "No, beets are nature's candy." When we stared at her blankly, she asked, "Doug? You know, the Nickelodeon show Doug? With the dog, Porkchop? Best friend Skeeter? Everyone in that world loved beets?" When we only vaguely recalled the show she was talking about, she threw her hands out in defeat.
Near us, an older regular was watching a television above the bar. He sneered. "Man, I'll tell you what's wrong with this country. It's them." He pointed at the screen. "I hate 'em." Around him, fellow regulars cheered, and he grinned with pride. He held his hands up high and said, "Round of shots for the whole bar! On me!"
And that was all I really remembered of the first night things began to unravel. After that, my memories got blurry, and I woke up under a villainous beam of sunlight with overwhelming nausea and a killer headache. My first mighty act of willpower was to close the blinds and hide us from the monstrous Sun; Dan was on the floor of my room under my computer table, and Rebecca was in the hallway swaddled in every single blanket the house had to offer.
With relief, I saw that Connor was propped up on his bed by an array of pillows that kept him on his side. A trashcan below him was filled halfway up with vomit, and Shannon sat in the corner on her phone. Upon seeing me, she said, "Oh, does your head hurt? Good. He's all yours now. I'm going home and going to sleep."
I was left to take care of the birthday boy, which admittedly was much easier now that he was half-awake. The one thing I did ask him during his stupor was: "Do you really hate oranges?"
"Always have, man," he groaned.
And I was left feeling as if our roommate ritual for the entire last year had been some weird sort of lie that he'd grown tired of carrying on. I stewed on that feeling for the rest of the day. What if he didn't really consider me a friend? What if he was just humoring me because we were roommates? It felt as if my entire position in the group was in jeopardy, as if the way I thought of myself was under threat. It was a gnawing, lonely, and terrible feeling that kept me up all Sunday night.
On Monday, I downed coffee and sat morosely at my computer. This was my first job after graduation, and I was finding it unfulfilling. Did we even do any real work? While my coworkers spent most of the day huddled around a meeting room television watching the news, I could only think about the orange issue. By the end of the work day, I'd decided to cave.
I was the first one at the bar that evening, and Dan sat next to me about twenty minutes later. He looked at my stout and said, "No Blue Moon today?"
"I, uh, hate oranges," I lied with a grimace.
To my surprise, he said, "Me too."
That was weird. "Didn't you say they're nature's candy?"
"Not even close." He looked to be rather offended. "Oranges are the highest carrier of disease among all fruits and vegetables."
Mortified, I asked, "Seriously?"
He folded his arms. "Yup. Absolutely disgusting fruit."
That was a bold enough claim that I put down my stout and picked up my phone. After a few searches, I began to grow very confused. "Citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot, gross. Sweet orange scab. How have I never heard of these diseases before?" The pictures were horrifying. "Oh, but wait, these only affect oranges and are not dangerous to humans."
Dan just shrugged. "Science says a lot of things are safe, then suddenly they find out they're not. I'm not eating anything that looks like that."
I didn't agree with him, but the images had still unsettled me. Maybe there was a reason to avoid oranges after all. The rest of the gang showed up soon after, but the disturbing images never truly left my awareness.
Later that night as we all spilled out of an Uber in front of my place, we were laughing and joking again as normal, and I was starting to feel a little better. I'd overblown the whole issue, really. There was nothing to worry about. These people didn't secretly hate me, and I did belong.
Across the street, one guy began yelling angrily at another. The Uber pulled away, removing the barrier between our group and the guys; we saw them push at each other, scream back and forth, and then begin trading punches. This was a nice college-age neighborhood where nothing of the sort had ever happened before. What were they thinking? We stared until they noticed us. Abruptly, they separated and returned to their separate houses—next to each other. They were neighbors.
"How ridiculous," Connor said with a laugh before leading us inside. "We'll have to make sure not to invite them over next time we have a party."
He didn't seem to be in any sort of deceptive or bad mood, so, once we were all sitting around the kitchen table drinking water, I took the opportunity to ask him about what had been bothering me.
"Yeah, I do hate oranges," he told me. "You'll never catch me eating the damn things. They're like, the biggest carrier of disease among all fruits and vegetables."
"Never?" I joked. "What about the last year of us getting Blue Moons?"
He tilted his head at that. "I never get that beer. It comes with an orange slice, and I hate oranges."
That was when it finally occurred to me that something was seriously wrong—either with my memory, or with the world. No longer smiling, I said, "We've been getting that beer every time we go out since your birthday last year when that hot girl that night thought your joke about it being healthy was hilarious."
His expression darkened. "That never happened. I don't drink Blue Moon."
"That's how I remember it," I insisted flatly.
"Then your memory's messed up," he retorted, growing strangely angry. He balled up a fist between us. "I never drink that shit. I never have. You stop saying that shit now. Oranges are disgusting."
Rebecca and Dan watched us in awkward silence. I figured I had one more back and forth within in the bounds of politeness; I decided to make it count. "Dan, you remember us getting the orange slices with our beer, don't you?"
Dan stiffened in his chair. "Oh don't bring me into this. I hate oranges too, always have. I wouldn't hang out with people who didn't."
I stared at him. "What? What the hell does that mean? Since when is this such a big deal?" I turned to Rebecca. "You remember, don't you? That whole exchange with your sister about oranges versus beets on Saturday night?"
She kept her eyes on her water and did not reply.
Connor stood and approached me with menace. "Look man, you've been a good friend for a long time, but you're gonna have to cut this shit out if you wanna keep hanging with us."
Was he serious? How could he possibly be serious? I looked to Rebecca and Dan, but neither one met my confused gaze. "I was just joking," I finally told Connor. "You know, messing with you guys."
His face immediately lit up. "Oh, damn, you got me good!"
"Ahh, yeah," I laughed with him, secretly terrified.
Rebecca and Dan finally looked up, relieved, and the mood immediately went back to happy and carefree. I hung out and pretended to be normal until everyone finally went to bed—Rebecca in her room downstairs, and Dan and Connor in the hallway next to my room—before I finally had a chance to investigate. For the first time in months, I closed and locked my door. The wonderful atmosphere that our house full of friends had started with was now one of fear and suspicion. I sat in the dark in front of my computer and began to scour the Internet in search of answers.
I'd seen enough science fiction to hazard a few guesses. Was I in the wrong reality somehow? Was my timeline changing for some reason? I didn't know enough particulars about history to see if anything was different on Wikipedia. No. This was my room. My credit card worked, and my social security number was correct. If reality or time had changed in even the slightest way, those randomly-generated numbers would have been different. This was my world—just changing for some reason.
And because of that small and utterly inconsequential change, my home life and friends group were on the line. Was I going crazy? The only conclusion left was that I was the problem. Something was wrong with my memory or belief that had left me at odds with those I cared about.
Just then, as I sat in the dark, I heard my door knob turn—and fail to open, since I'd locked it.
Someone had just tried to come into my room.
And something told me it wasn't for cuddling. It had been a subtle and stealthy attempt. On a horrified hunch, I quickly and quietly opened my window and slid out into the night. Five houses down, I saw a roof ablaze—someone's house was on fire! What the hell was happening?—but I couldn't worry about that at that particular moment. Peering in another window, I saw a silhouette of darker darkness move near a gleam of metal.
Someone had just tried to come into my room—with a knife.
The silhouette disappeared into deeper shadow, leaving me with no identity beyond the fact that it had to have been one of my roommates. How in the ever-blazing Hell had a like or dislike of oranges come to such a point? This was not normal. This was not natural.
Crouched out there in the chilly night, illuminated only by the house-fire five lots distant, I was forced to face the only conclusion left: something supernatural was going on. As soon as I truly entertained that notion, the fire-lit darkness felt suddenly far less solitary. Were eyes upon me? Was something watching me even then? I found it hard to believe that hating oranges was the primary goal of whatever was happening—rather, just the side effect of a slowly creeping insanity or possession of some sort.
There was nothing to do about it at that particular moment. I didn't feel safe outside, but I didn't feel safe back in my room, either. I barricaded the door and windows and found only the least satisfying half-awake form of sleep. In that odd mix of dreaming and waking, images of diseased fruit tortured my awareness.
I didn't get a chance to catch Rebecca alone until Wednesday. She was the first to show up to the bar that evening, like Dan had been on Monday, but she seemed uncomfortable and apprehensive. After she looked over her shoulder for the third time at the entrance to the bar, I asked quietly, "Are you afraid, too?"
Her gaze spoke volumes; she bit her lip, looked at the door again, then told me, "Just stop screwing around with the oranges thing, alright?"
"What is the oranges thing?" I demanded in a whisper. "What is going on?"
Half-panicked at my questions, she insisted, "Just tell them you hate oranges, alright? Just freaking tell them you hate oranges! Stop asking about it, stop poking at it! I like my life! I like you guys! I like my house! Stop disrupting everything!"
I grabbed her hand as it lay on the table between us. "I just want to understand. Where did this hatred for oranges even come from? What is going on that is making our roommates act like this?"
She finally looked me in the eyes, and I saw bloodshot exhaustion there.
"Wait," I whispered. "Have you been sleeping poorly, too? Bad dreams?"
Her eyes opened a little wider; she went to speak, but she saw someone come in the back door of the bar and quickly pulled her hand away from mine. Connor fell upon me rather forcefully from behind, but only to wrap his arm around my shoulder and neck. "Ooh, what are you two lovebirds up to?"
He knew we weren't a thing anymore. What was his problem? Following the cue from Rebecca's masked terror, I said, "Just talking about how much we hate oranges, bro!"
Connor jerked his neck toward her. "Is that so, Rebecca?"
She didn't speak. She just forced a smile and nodded weakly.
"Awesome, awesome," he said with genuine relief. He let go of me and sat between us. "I knew you two would come around."
Dan arrived soon after, complaining of a vendor selling oranges he'd seen on the way over. "Grossest pile of disease you've ever seen." He shuddered.
I looked to Rebecca, but she silently warned me to just go with it.
And I did. For the next hour, I carefully observed Dan and Connor, trying to figure out what was going on with them. It wasn't until I went up the bar to get Rebecca and myself more drinks that I saw something that chilled my soul. A girl took a picture of three of her friends to my left; the angle was such that my table was in the background. While waiting for the drinks, I happened to glance at her phone.
My table was indeed in the background. There was Rebecca, there was Dan, there was Connor—
And someone else.
I only saw her phone for an instant before she turned away, but I was certain enough to surreptitiously turn around and pretend I was texting while I angled my camera up at my friends.
There, among the crowded patrons of the bar—and shown only in choppy frame-by-frame rendering—was the shadow of a person bent down near Connor's ear.
As I stared at my phone in paralyzed terror, that shadowy head tilted up, as if it was looking at me with concern. Rather than react and give myself away, I shouted to my friends, "Picture time!"
The silhouette turned a half-step and vanished as if a gust of wind had dissipated it in one fell swoop. My friends smiled and made faces; the flash irritated a few surrounding patrons, but I'd gotten away with it.
And there was something among us. Holy Christ, a literal shadow whispering in Connor's ear—murmuring insidious words of hatred, no doubt.
But why oranges?
That Wednesday night, at 8:42 PM EST, a runaway car smashed into the front of the bar, smashing all the windows and killing a woman. I know the exact time because the police forced us all to give statements before we could go. We'd been across the entire bar and had only seen the aftermath, really, but I was still pretty unhelpful. All I could think about was the shadow lurking among us.
As the Uber pulled onto our street that night, I absently studied the blackened shell of the house that had caught on fire five lots down. It was still smoldering, and it looked like nobody had come to put it out. In fact, it looked like nobody lived there at all. Looking left and right, I noticed that half of the houses on our street had no cars in their driveways. We weren't so fancy as to have garages.
Was the lurking shadow driving people away? Why hadn't anyone said anything? Were they even conscious of the shift in tone of our community? It had been the best time of my life until suddenly neighbors were getting in fistfights in broad daylight, my roommates had developed a random weird hatred, and houses were burning down without anyone calling the fire department.
We sat in silence around the kitchen table for at least ten minutes. Shaken by the car crash that had killed someone across the bar, Rebecca finally spoke. She murmured, "I hate oranges, too."
Dan and Connor moved to her and hugged her tight. "It's alright. You're one of us. We'll always be here for you." As they held her, they glanced at me a few times, and I joined the huddle to avoid starting another fight.
I wondered if the shadow was there with us, embracing us the way we were embracing Rebecca. I could even feel the issue clouding in my mind. Did I hate oranges, too? I mean, everyone else did. And those pictures of diseased oranges were disgusting. Had I really liked orange slices with my beer this whole last year? If I had, I might have just been horribly mistaken. Misled, even, by beer advertisements. Those ads never said anything about the diseases oranges could catch. That was odd, wasn't it? It was like they didn't want me to know. It would hurt their sales for me to know.
These thoughts plagued me that night and all the next day. At work on Thursday, while my coworkers randomly cried in their cubicles or had hushed discussions that broke up as soon as a manager neared, I sat on my computer and researched paranormal possessions and hauntings.
One of the things I learned was that demonic beings—that is, entities from a religious sphere of ideas—hated signs of God and good, and tried to get those they were trying to possess to destroy crosses and pour out holy water and the like.
That made sense.
But if the being haunting my friends, my house, and my street was not from the religious sphere, but perhaps a different space—what if oranges were a representation of the things that made it vulnerable? If this was some sort of anti-nature spirit, maybe it was pouring hatred of oranges into my community because oranges could drive it away.
But that was crazy. I actually laughed out loud in my cubicle as I internalized the idea, and one of my crying coworkers looked at me like I was a monster. "Oh, sorry!" I told her, grimacing awkwardly. "I was just thinking about something else." She glared and rotated away in her chair.
Thursday night wasn't one of our usual bar nights, so I was at home when Rebecca's older sister Shannon stopped by. It was for something trivial, but on the way out, I caught her on the porch. I needed reassurance. "Hey, Shannon, you remember that whole conversation about oranges versus beets last Saturday?"
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah. What about it?"
I gulped. "So that did happen?"
"And Connor and I have been joking about orange slices for the last year?"
Narrowing her eyes, she said, "Yes. Why?"
"I don't know," I told her truthfully. "I'm just starting to doubt my own reality. I had to be sure."
She scrolled through Facebook on her phone, then showed me a picture. "Look, it's the two of you on his twenty-first birthday last year, when I was designated driver as usual."
In the picture, we were both holding our beers forward, orange slices on full display. The hot girl who had sparked the entire tradition was sitting next to Connor, exactly like I remembered. "It's real." I looked up at her. "How do you feel about oranges?"
She grimaced, but not out of disgust. "What? Why? They taste alright I guess."
"Seriously. What's your opinion on oranges, beyond just whether you personally like their taste?"
"Neutral?" she replied. "I literally don't care. Why would anyone have an opinion on oranges unless they're like, a botanist or a farmer or something?"
That was an incredible point, actually. "I wish I knew."
As she turned to leave, we began to hear a commotion at the end of the street closer to campus. We were only a few blocks away from campus, and still close enough that street vendors often passed this way. When I saw an older man pushing a cart of oranges being surrounded by a group of my peers shouting profanities, I knew exactly what was happening.
And I could see Dan and Connor among them.
Rebecca came out onto the porch at hearing the violent shouting, and the three of us stood staring as the mob began to push at the unfortunate cart owner. We started running toward the fray after Dan sent a wild punch—and the man fell. The mob was screaming with furious bloodlust and stomping en masse by the time we got there.
But the cart owner was fine, if shaken.
The mob was stomping his oranges.
It was some eerie otherworldly version of a group murder. Bits of orange peel flew this way and that with the force of the stomping below, and fruit juice splattered across clothes in every direction. The gore would have been vomit-inducing had it been human; as it was, I was still mortified by what was happening. These people, my friends and neighbors, had become rabid animals full of irrational hate.
Shannon looked at me in confused askance.
I shook my head. I had no idea.
But Rebecca, terrified as she was, chose to join in. Running forward, she started screaming profanities and stomping on the last of the oranges while the others began cheering. Soon, they would notice that we had not joined in.
"Shannon, you better go."
She took my advice immediately and began walking away toward her car.
Covered in the juice-blood of his victims, Connor glared at me with the eyes of a devil. "Why aren't you helping?"
"I got here too late," I lied lamely.
Dan, his gaze red with anger, fixated on me as well. "There's one left." He held his arms out. "Everybody leave that one." He pointed down. "Come on."
I needed to buy time for Shannon to escape, but I also knew I had to live with—and sleep near—these people. The thought of that silhouette with the knife promised no good end for anyone that defied the group. It might have been the shadow itself that had picked up the knife—but it also might not have been.
The cart owner looked at me in terror from down on the sidewalk as I approached his last orange. "Please, no, why you do this? Why you do this? I just sell orange. Please no!"
I closed my eyes and stomped.
The orange splattered under my shoe, and arms grasped me from every angle as my neighbors jeered and cheered. I opened my eyes and shook with shame as the cart owner got up and ran off. Dan lit a match and set the wooden cart on fire while the others began dancing. I had no choice but to dance with them. They wouldn't let go of me. They shook me and made me chant with them and tested me constantly to make sure I wasn't faking. To get through it, I had to temporarily convince myself they were right and that oranges were an abomination. To get through it, I had to give up part of myself, and, after, I returned to my room, locked the door, and sat crying under my computer table.
But then, I got angry.
I got mad.
I was not going to let my community be consumed by this madness. The entity whispering in our ears would pay. I was a man, goddamnit, no longer a boy, and I didn't have to grin and bear it. These people weren't my parents.
I got in my car and drove the way the cart owner had gone. I found him five blocks down, forlorn and sitting at a city bus stop. He began to panic as he saw me, but I held up my hands peacefully and asked him a question that immediately changed his mood.
I didn't make enough to save any money, but I had a credit card. I bought the entire rest of his inventory, and took it all home with me. When the crates didn't fit, I just plain dumped the oranges in my trunk and back seat. My car would smell like fruit for months, I was sure, but it had to be done.
When Dan got home that night, I caught him behind the front door and held a knife to his throat. "Sit down," I directed, tying him up on a chair in the kitchen.
He shouted when Connor got home, but it was too late. I put Connor in a chair, too, and tied him up. Then, I stuffed clean socks in their mouths so they wouldn't warn Rebecca.
I didn't grab her. I didn't tie her up. I simply held the knife and said, "Sit."
She nervously took the third chair.
I'd thrown the oranges from my car all about the kitchen. They were on the table, on the floor, and in the sink. I picked one at random, peeled the skin off, and held it in front of Connor. "Eat it."
"Why don't you make me?" he spat.
"I won't." I told him. "But I also won't let you out of this chair until you take a bite of a goddamn orange."
"We used to eat them all the time."
"That didn't happen!"
"It did." I showed him the picture on my phone of his birthday the year before.
He frowned. "Is that photoshopped?"
"It happened!" I screamed in his face. "Eat the orange!"
He pulled his head away. "They're the highest carriers of disease among all—"
"Yes, yes I know the sound bite," I yelled. "It's wrong! Those diseases aren't dangerous to humans, and this orange isn't diseased! Eat the orange!"
"But we hate oranges," Connor insisted, indignant. "Right guys?"
Dan bit down on the sock in his mouth. "Mm-hmm."
Connor looked to Rachel.
About to cry, she hid her face and did not respond.
Connor seemed more shaken after that. After gulping down hesitation, he warily took a bite from the orange. He blinked. "Oh. It's... fine."
Dan seemed surprised, and Rebecca just cried harder.
I pulled the sock out of Dan's mouth and held the other side of the orange. "Try it. If you hate it, that's fine, I'll let you go either way. Just try it."
Seeing Connor break, Dan hesitantly tried a bite, and then pushed back in his chair. "That doesn't taste like I remember. I swear it used to have a horrible antiseptic taste."
"No," I told him. "Our heads are being messed with! We just attacked a street vendor and stomped on his oranges because we've been worked up in a frenzy of hate. Does that make any sense to you objectively?"
Blinking as if waking up from a dream, Dan began to look horrified. "Oh my God, we did do that, didn't we? What were we thinking?"
Connor looked up at me with the same guilt. "Oh man, I—" He cut off as his eyes jumped to something behind me.
That warning gave me just enough time to shift to the side. The knife went into my left shoulder, and I slipped on rolling oranges and fell to the floor on top of a splatter of my own blood. Above me, I could see a knife dripping with red—and the shadow of a man beyond it. Its hollow eyes were red.
Dan and Connor began screaming and fighting their bonds as the shadow stepped near, but I'd tied them in too well. The shadow's red eyes moved from me to their squirming bodies, as if it was deciding which of us to kill first.
"What do you want?" I screamed at it. "What the fuck do you want?"
Those red eyes swung to me and seemed to bore into my soul. A sinister chill raked across my senses as it whispered, "Buy lemons."
I stared. "Buy lemons?" I hesitated. "Why would you even care about that?"
"I don't," it rasped, bringing the knife nearer. "It is simply what my master wishes."
It couldn't be so absurd as that, could it? Had some lemon-farming company hired a demon-worshipper and summoned an entity from beyond our world just for profit? Had they brought the incarnation of Hate among us just to make money?
But it was that simple. It had always been that simple. Why else would anyone do anything?
It moved to stab me—but Rebecca leapt against it, and a piece of the shadow tore out where she passed. It screamed in pain, dropped the bloody knife, and grasped at the hole she'd made. Darkness sifted out of its wounds like black sand falling from a sideways hourglass; it flared its red eyes, hissed venom, and vanished.
It had gone.
The demon that had been among us and whispering in our ears all week had gone.
We all remained frozen in shock for thirty seconds before Dan snapped out of it and said loudly, "Would someone please untie me already?!"
We did, and then we patched up my arm.
As a group, we didn't know what else to do, so we went and sat at our regular table at the bar. It was early on a Thursday, so few other people were there. We didn't get Blue Moons, but not because we hated oranges—no, our house was full of hundreds of the fruit, and would smell forever.
"I can't believe it almost got us to go from loving oranges to hating them in less than a week," Connor murmured sadly, crouched over his drink.
I shook my head. "I even doubted myself there for a minute. Did things I'm not proud of."
Dan looked up at us. "What even hurt it? Why did a being made of Hate get wounded by Rebecca just moving through it?"
She looked at me; I looked at her. We both looked back down at our beers. She'd hadn't just moved through it. She'd jumped at it because of me. We both knew the answer, but that was private.
Near us, an older regular was watching a television above the bar. He sneered. "Man, I'll tell you what's wrong with this country. I hate—"
The four of us shouted in unison. He jumped in his chair and looked over at us.
"Don't," I told him calmly and sadly. "Please. Just don't."
He watched us for a moment, then, subtly embarrassed, he gave a slow haunted nod and turned back to his drink.
It all began 5 months ago. I was a regular teenage girl living a regular life. Well, almost regular. I was a ballet dancer and a violinist, always burying my nose in books and studying the world around me. Being an introvert, I never had many friends. I could tell you everything there is to know about the mind and mental illnesses, but I couldn’t start up a social conversation. Anyway, apart from my semi-regular life, my religion was my main focus. I spent my time at church every day after school, and you’d be able to recognise me with my wooden cross necklace and my bible in my arms. I was frequently teased for my innocence and vulnerability, considering I trusted everyone and was blind to cruelty, refusing to acknowledge the bad. My naïveté often made me an easy target to manipulate and fool.
Anyway, now that I’ve given you a brief background of myself, it’s time I share my story.
It was a particularly cold and dreary winter morning. I remember it specifically because we were in the midst of a storm and the rain was pouring down like thick buckets of water. The weather is always gloomy and cold where I live, but on this frozen December day it was even colder. I regret not being able to truly enjoy what would unknowingly be my last morning of freedom, and I breezed through the day like it was any other. I never had a tolerance to cold, I was so used to living in my cloudy town that it sort of became a part of me. I can tell you exactly what I wore. I slipped my signature silky white dress that flowed down past my knees, and pulled a thick, oversized blue knit sweater to cover my bare shoulders. My wooden cross necklace was around my neck as always, and my pale hair was always put up in a bun, with two thick loose strands of hair clinging to the sides of my face. I kissed my father goodbye and slipped on my black shoes and slung my grey bag over my shoulder. That would be the last time that I would walk down the creaky wooden steps of my front porch for a long time.
I take public transportation to school, and so I patiently waited for the bus to arrive and save me from getting drenched in the rain. When I got to class after shortly arriving at school, my friend Finn had a troublesome look on his face. I should’ve took this foreshadowing that something wasn’t right seriously, but I didn’t. “Rosemary,” He glumly began. “Another body was found.” Cold shivers jolted up my spine, because I knew some at point that I was going to have to accept the evil in this world. “Clementine Waters.” He muttered. Clementine was a local at my church. She was a sweet girl, only a year older than I. I remember that she was home-schooled due to her disabilities, and that she wanted to become a nun. I was too numb at this point to even be shocked; nothing made sense. The only connection I could make was that she was the 4th victim, and that everyone that was kidnapped were females 15-17 all attending my church.
Some of you may be thinking, why hasn’t our church been investigated, or perhaps, why hasn’t it temporarily been shut down? Well, these girls were all kidnapped within 5 months from each other. No one knows where they disappeared, and none of our priests have any suspicious background. Father Lewis was one of the many priests who taught at the church. I wasn’t really close with any of the other priests with the exception of him. Of course, Father Lewis was seemingly the definition of pure. He was 33 years old, single, and he enjoys church and art. Nearly every nun admittedly had a slight crush on him. He had wavy brown hair and a dashing jawline that made him look like an Eastern European prince. He was most certainly a father figure in my life, apart from my real father, of course. I guess he mothered me more than anything, because I lost my mom when I was very young. Strangely enough, she disappeared when I was five and her body was found in the woods. It was ruled a suicide, because they found drugs in her system. I would’ve looked into it now, but it’s too painful for me to go through again.
Anyway, after that tragic ordeal in class, I went on with my day. That girl was still on my mind, and her name echoed continuously and the thought of her name chilled me to the bone. I prayed that whoever was doing these things would stop, or that they would be found. Once the school bell rang, indicating the end of the day, I rushed outside faster than my usual slow pace, so I could get to the church as quickly as possible and inform Father Lewis if he already didn’t know. I always go to him when I have problems, and he’s the first person I tell everything to, since my real father was never a good listener. I arrived at the church in 5 minutes by running, rather than arriving in 10 minutes from just walking. I rushed inside and weirdly, the church was empty. Usually Father Lewis is here doing work or setting up for the next service. I searched all throughout the church, and no one was there. I sat down on one of the benches, trying to wrap my head around what was going on. First, the murder. Then, everyone in the church is missing. I couldn’t help but to sit there and beg god to give me answers. I just closed my eyes in disbelief and silently prayed. In the midst of my prayer, I heard soft footsteps behind me on the velvet carpet. I ignored it, and continued. Just as I was about to open my eyes, a firm hand was rested on my shoulder. Startled, I flinched and looked up. It was Father Lewis.
“I’m sorry for startling you Rosemary.” He chuckled. I breathed a sigh of relief and flashed him a warm smile. “Where were you and the others?” I questioned. “That doesn’t matter, just business.” He replied. He held a small glass of water in his hand and he handed it to me. It was bubbling, and that was the second thing I should’ve noticed. “You must be thirsty.” He said as I began to drink. Within 5 minutes, my vision began to become hazy and soon everything was spinning and my head began to pound. My vision flashed in black orbs in and out, and I could barely find the strength to stand. “Father..” I began. “What did you give me?” As I collapsed, he caught me in his arms and smiled sadistically. “You’re so pretty.” He cooed. That was the last thing I remember before I blacked out.
Check for an update in 24 hours.
The outskirts of Brennwood doesn't have many residents.
Of course, there is a reason for that. The Town Council simply says that residents there aren't close enough to stores to be comfortable to live in. Plus, being close to the surrounding forest can attract unwanted animals, and most agreed, but I know better.
There is a single well on the outskirts of the town. Other than being a wishing well that kids dared others to use, but it was also a staple of the older days of the town. The time when the well was vital for people's lives. Until the 1950s.
The well was, of course, not being used for a very long time, but by now, the well was filled at the bottom. So people decided to use it as a good old wishing well. If you had a quarter on you, you might as well use it for something, right? Not many people know that those wishes didn't come true.
Until the thing that lives down there came around.
People first learned about what was giving out wishes when a man came by, wishing for love. The thing asked, "And who do you wish for your true love to be?" The man was startled for sure, but assumed that this was part of the process of wishing. So he named the woman of his dreams. About a month later, they announced their marriage.
People soon learned about the thing that speaks in the well and the voice gave a response. All it stated beyond a wish to them was that they could only make 3 free wishes.
When they saw the results of the man's wish, they decided to abide by this creature's rules and make their dreams come true. People wished for money, fame, power, anything. It was paradise. But then people got their wishes.
Soon enough, the majority of the town used up their three free wishes. Some saved their wishes for the day they needed it. This brought unwanted attention from people who wanted that wish. They would be forced, bribed, whatever you'd think would persuade them, people tried it. And then someone decided to ask the thing down there.
It was a kid. He went up to the well and asked why they only had three wishes. "Oh! Well, you could only have three free wishes. I never said you couldn't have more!", he replied. "But there is a price to pay for a fourth".
The kid asked for his parents to love him more. He thought all his parents' attention was going to his newborn sibling. The thing replied, "Bring the child to me, and your wish shall come true".
The newborn was brought late at night, and the thing applauded him. "Now drop him into the well", he instructed. The child did it without hesitation, and a dull splash was heard at the bottom. The thing began to growl. "Congratulations, child. You have paid for your fourth wish", it responded.
The child was showered with love by broken parents who were torn apart by the disappearance of their baby, and didn't want to lose another. The child was elated. A fourth wish came true.
The boy talked about his discovery of the fourth wish and how you could get one. Yes, people could be horrified with the loss of a child for it, but who had time for that when there was a way to get more wishes.
There was a noticeable amount of disappearances on the outskirts. Kidnappings, people would presume, pretending to not know what was going on, even if they may have done it themselves. But the thing was even worse.
Soon it began to ask for a sacrifice for a third wish. And then a second wish. But it kept the first one free. It needed someone to be willing to pay an increased price after the first.
A child that wasn't abducted came to the well. He didn't even want to make a wish, just ask it a few questions out of curiosity.
"Do you eat?", he asked. "Oh, of course. But I get so hungry sometimes when people don't want to feed me. And I can't leave the well!", the thing lamented.
"Oh. Well I wish you could come up and get food for yourself!", the boy exclaimed. He pulled out a coin, dropped it into the abyss of the well, and sealed the fate of the town. "Thank you", the thing rasped.
The boy went missing. Along with 10 other people. It got so out of hand that the Town Council ordered for the well to be blocked. It didn't help.
Claw marks and a gaping hole were left on the lid that sealed the well. This thing wasn't planning on stopping thanks to that kid.
The outskirts' population dwindled when this thing hunted. It's been pretty dormant lately, but I know it won't last. Why do people dare each other to make a wish in that fountain? Because whenever they do, they, along with a few others, disappear without a trace.
I don't know what that thing is, but it really enjoyed the taste of a sacrifice.
I think I was about four or 5 when we moved to Ohio from California with my dad after my parents divorced. My dad bought an old colonial home near Kent Ohio.
As I recall, I always sort of felt creeped out by that house. It wasn’t anything I could put my finger on, but it was strange just the same. Sometimes you could hear sounds coming from places in the house that didn’t make sense or broken voices or sometimes pounding on my bedroom walls.
My dad said it was the house settling and that it was all in my head, you have heard it all before. Bla Bla Bla
Anyhow, I recall after I was about 21 my father had died and left the house to me in his will. Not long after that I got engaged and my fiancé moved in with me.
Now I said it was a strange house but to this day I have no idea how to describe what happened to me there. My now wife, Sandi, and I were newlyweds and she was between jobs so she was home alone a lot. She wasn’t the skittish type or anything like that either and it was the late 70’s then so it wasn’t unusual for one person in the home to stay at home and the other go out and work.
One afternoon something happened that I had all but forgotten until later, but I had gotten a strange call from Sandi while I was at work.
I was at typing up some reports for my boss and slowly trying to move up the corporate latter when I get a call from my wife.
“Jerry? I need you to come home. “
“Is everything alright?” I queried.
“No, I mean I don’t know. Just get home as fast as you can.”
Now being that Sandi was a sort of non-hysterical woman and more of a realist I figured it must be very serious.
“I looked at my watch and realized it was near quitting time anyhow so I made an excuse I had a headache and left for the remaining part of the day.
When I got home my wife was drinking a glass of wine, which was unusual for her to do this early in the day. I took one look at her sitting on the stairs and stopped.
“I don’t even know what to say.”
“Well damn it Sandi I left work early, tell me what the hell happened!” by now I was getting annoyed.
“Jerry, I need you to listen to me and please whatever you do don’t make fun of me.”
This was going to be good I told myself.
“I was in the laundry room in the basement this afternoon just hanging up some clothes to dry. Well, I walked over to the other side from where I was standing and I don’t even know how to describe it.”
“Okay?” I looked at her puzzled wondering where this was going. “I wasn’t in the basement anymore. I was like in the woods and there were these people around me. They looked so scary. One had a painted face like a Native American or something and the other was bloody and his face..Oh my god Jerry his face!”
By now she had started crying into her wine and lit a cigarette. I took a deep breath. I sat down next to her on the stairs and put my hand on her shoulder.
“I think that maybe we need to get you some rest.” She agreed and I took her into the house and put her to bed. I figured maybe she had just seen one too many stories in the news lately about wars and such. Too much alone time can spark the wilds of the imagination.
That following day I was working at my desk and got another phone call. It was Sandi, but she was calling my name.
“Jerry? Can you hear me? Jerry are you there?”
“Honey we must have a bad connection or something. I’ll be home in 30 minutes.”
I thought it was strange but thought no more of it because it was a Friday and I was glad to be getting off early and going home to enjoy the summer weather.
Later that day I was in the yard and Sandi came out with a glass of Lemonade. She seemed okay and no longer seemed to be worried about the incident from the day before. Whatever it was it was now forgotten.
We talked a while about the yard and the fact she still wanted a little curb appeal. We planned to go to the garden center in town later that day. Sandi and I went in the house and we prepared dinner.
Shortly after dinner is when things got really strange. I was in the kitchen preparing some meat for the grill when I saw Sandi go into the fridge and pull out some potatoes. As she was cutting them she cut her finger on the knife she was using.
“Gotta be careful hon.” I said looking at it.
“I know. I’ll be right back going to go grab a band aid.” With that she went to the bathroom that was just off the kitchen and when I tell you I saw her go in, I saw her walk in, shut the door. I even heard the sink running.
After about 15 minutes I had started to get worried. I went to see if she was okay and I knocked on the door. I opened it and nothing but the sink was still running water and my wife was gone.
There are no windows in the downstairs bathroom. It consists of a toilet and a sink with a little medicine cabinet that hangs below a little mirror. In other words, it isn’t anything special. She didn’t even shut the door all the way. When I tell you she went in, but didn’t come out I mean it. I have no idea where she went. I never saw her leave the bathroom and I was facing the bathroom at the counter in the kitchen while I worked on seasoning my meats and cutting up vegetables.
I turned off the sink and quickly looked around. Maybe I was going crazy or something. I looked around the house for her. I looked outside too. Both cars were still in the driveway and I yelled to my neighbor Bob, across the street who was outside washing his car. He too had not seen Sandi.
When I went back in I realized that something felt off. One thing I knew, my wife had vanished into thin air. I started to freak out a bit. How could she just vanish? It was impossible by all accounts. This stuff didn’t happen in real life.
I tried to remain as calm as I could but an hour turned into two and before I knew it three days had passed. I was scared to death at this point. I had reported her missing and when the detective spoke to me he basically looked at me like some sad sack whose wife had run off with some other guy.
A few days turned it a week then a week into a month and then before I knew it I had lost track of time all together. I had basically stopped going into work and I had to take medical leave because they figured what the detective had that my wife left me and I had a nervous break-down.
Finally, years passed by and Sandi never came back. I had finally moved on and met another woman by the name of Mary. Mary was really into the occult and stuff and was always reading about new age philosophies and such. We weren’t married but after two years of dating she moved in with me.
I came home one afternoon from work and I found a note from Mary that she had went to the store. To be honest me coming home from work and not finding Mary there gave me that odd feeling I had from when Sandi went missing. In the back of my mind I was always afraid of what might happen to Mary if she was alone too long in that house. I had even been looking for a place to move so I could sell this house.
Mary did come home after her trip to the store and we talked about my interest in buying a new place. There was just that odd feeling I had of guilt. What if Sandi came back? What if she came back and I was gone? It had been 12 years by this point and Sandi was gone and I knew she would never come back. I loved Sandi and I couldn’t just forget her. I reluctantly moved on and Mary and I rented out a unit for a new age shop and we lived in the apartment just above it.
Now here is the strangest thing of all, as if the rest of this wasn’t strange enough, when Mary and I put the house up for sale I had no takers for another 10 years. I tried switching realtors time and time again. They would bring people by to look at the house but they were never interested. I ended up keeping the old house on Emmerson street. I used it as a storage unit basically and we continued to live in the apartment over Mary’s shop.
By now it had been 22 years since the event and Mary and I still lived together. We never got married nor did we have any children we lived in a happy sort of “take it as it is” existence.
Then one day I got a random phone call from a young man named Jason, asking if he could rent the house with his two buddies. He was in town to attend college at Kent State and the house was close to the main campus. I ended up going ahead and renting the house. By now it was paid for and Mary and I could use the money to save for a cruise we planned on going on.
I put my things in the attic of the old house and rented the two lower levels out. Overall, they seemed like good kids, then I started getting the phone calls.
One evening not long after they moved in Mary and I were lying in bed just about to fall asleep, when the phone rang.
“Hello?” I answered groggily.
“Hi, this is Jason, I’m really sorry to bother you, but have you or your wife been here today?”
They didn’t know Mary wasn’t my wife, but I was too tired to correct them.
“No, um why?”
“Well there was someone banging on the door from the basement and it was going on for a while and I thought maybe you were down there fixing something.”
I was thinking perhaps this kid was on drugs.
“Why would I not tell you I was there fixing something? No, neither of us were there today. Are you sure it wasn’t just raccoons?” I felt like my dad just then turning abnormal things into everyday things. The kid sounded as confused as I was but we let it go for the moment.
Then a few nights later I got another frantic call from Jason.
“Hello Jason? How can I help you?”
“Sir, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think you should know your wife has been calling us at weird times during the day and night on the phone. She always asks for you and I always tell her you don’t live there. I just wanted you to know because I think she may need like a doctor or something.”
I hung up the phone and told Mary. She was as confused as me but there was only one thought I had in the back of my mind. I tried not to think of Sandi, what if she was calling me? Yet, from where and how?
My 20- year old nightmare came to an end a few days later. I was at work and I got another call from Jason. He was frantic saying the house was haunted that he kept hearing weird knocks on the walls and always from the downstairs bathroom. He was insistent on me coming over so I left work and went to my old house to help my tenant.
To say I was annoyed was an understatement. I walked up the front porch of the house and knocked. He came to the door immediately opening it and frantically telling me about the odd goings on that he had been experiencing. He was talking so fast I asked him to slow down.
What I gathered was that he would often hear a woman’s voice yelling and he would often hear other people pounding on the walls.
I sat down and put my head in my hand. I had often heard the knocking from the time I was a little boy. It was the same thing that happened to me as a kid. I would often hear pounding and discombobulated voices. I could never make out what they were saying but it always sounded like someone in distress.
Just then I heard the same pounding and Jason and I looked at each other in horror.
There was no one at the house as Jason had explained to me on the phone, so who was making all the pounding? My fear was maybe an intruder but that was soon a fear I tossed aside as I began to shake with tremors I had never experienced before.
The bathroom door began to shake and the handle twisted hard and fast like something unseen was on the other side of the door. I saw a strange glow of light from under the door then slowly the handle began to turn.
The door opened slowly and there stood Sandi. She was unchanged my time and space. Her hair was up as it had been the day she walked in to the bathroom to mend her bloodied finger. She had a band aid on her finger and she was smiling till she saw me.
She stopped in her tracks and looked around the room. I could see the confusion on her face and it had to mirror my own. Sandi was unchanged as the day she entered the bathroom. It was like she was frozen in time.
“Sandi, where were you?” I asked stepping forward dying to touch her once more as I stood in awe.
“What is going on Jerry? You look so tired. Is dinner almost done? I’m starving! Who is this young man? Is he staying for dinner?”
Twenty-two years and Sandi didn’t skip a beat. I knew I looked different and so much had changed.
“Sandi, I think we need to talk.” I said sitting her down in front of me at the kitchen table. I held her hand and I told her the story of her missing.
I wish I could say that everything went back to normal, but it didn’t. Mary and broke up after and I moved into my own apartment. Sandi moved in with a relative and tried to piece those missing years back together. To say we were all living in a sort of shock was an understatement.
I have tried to come to terms with this entire event. The only thing Sandi recalls is she went into the bathroom and then came out and everything was different. The only time she recalled talking to me was when she said she recalled calling me on the phone at work prior to my coming home the day we had planned to have a barbecue. I wondered if those phone calls were somehow Sandi calling me?
I had no idea it was like she was in another space or time in that old house on Emmerson street. I have one thought that still creeps me out. All those years as a kid I would hear banging on the bedroom walls and voices. Who or what was still inside that house trying to escape?
That voice said "Crush." It seemed so odd. Was it a suggestion on how to kill someone? Did it mean I subconsciously had a crush on someone? No. I figured it out.
It meant one girl. She was one of those stupid "only I can fix him" types. She was short, about a foot shorter than me. Big, brown, cow eyes that said "I love everything." And long, brown hair that always covered her right eye. I heard rumors, but... I always dismissed them. I knew something was up with her, because she was always inviting me to things and asking me about myself. The voice all but confirmed her feelings for me. I decided to plan out my next victim's death this time.
One day passes since I heard the voice, and I approach her. "Um, hey... Lily?" I asked with a fake nervousness in my voice. She seemed taken aback that I spoke to her. I knew I couldn't ask her back to my house, since that's where I killed Ashton.
"I was, uh, wondering... Movie- See-" I let out an award winning sigh. She looked confused. "Sorry, I'm just a little nervous... Would you, maybe, want to see a movie or go out to dinner someplace?" My hand twitched with anxiety. "Are you... asking me on a formal date?" she asked, her breathing getting louder. "It doesn't have to be. What do you want to do?"
I wanted to see what she'd say. The twitching was getting worse. I slowly slid my hands into the pockets of my jeans. "I was hoping you could come to my house on Thursday. My parents won't be home, and it'll give us some privacy." she said, blushing and looking down. I couldn't help but smile. It'll be too easy. No witnesses. Lily rubbed her arm and said "You should smile more..." I hugged her. Her breath shuddered as she pulled me in closer. I'll have to use that when it happens. I slowly pushed her away, and said "See you Thursday, then."
On that Thursday, I packed something special in my backpack for her before heading to school. I monotonously worked through my normal classes (I got good grades at the time), and sat with her on her bus route. She moved much faster than I was expecting. She held my hand like we were already a couple. The bus stop let off about a mile from her actual house, so we walked the rest of the way up together.
When we got to her house, I was as polite as I could be. I told my parents I was going to mourn Ash, so my alibi was taken care of. She led me to her room, and politely asked me to sit on her bed. "I have something to show you. And in case you get freaked out..." She locked the door. I wasn't anticipating anything like this. I made a move for my backpack when she pushed me back. "Wait. I-I hope you like it." She opened her sliding closet door.
"Wow..." She was right. I like it. A lot. Her entire closet had weird cutouts of me plastered everywhere. She was obsessed. I could use that. If I was smart about it, I could get her to do anything. I snapped back to reality, though. I saw from the mirror on the wall that she had a knife behind her back. "W-well?" she pressed onward. "Do you like it?" I stood up. I could see her tense up. "I love it." I had to keep her with me. She dropped the knife onto the carpet.
She was crying. I didn't know what to do. She was too unpredictable at this point. She should've been dead by now. I stepped closer to her and she immediately clung to me. "I'm so happy." she said, a brief laugh escaping her lips. "Me too, Lily." I could use her. I will use her. I suppose I can't kill everyone that trusts me. Or maybe I can, but not yet. "Family." the voice uttered. This is the perfect opportunity to test my pet.
"Hey, Lily?" I asked. "Yes, my love?" she replied, her face buried in my chest. "Would you kill for me?" I smiled evilly. "I'd do anything for you..." she answered. I knew what to do next.
The baby didn’t cry at all when it was handed to me, it just stared up at me with its wide, blue eyes.
There was noise all around me, the child’s mother was crying, or moaning, but her words burred together into one unintelligible stream of sound that I filtered out. The baby blinked, a fringe of black eyelashes brushed its cheek and I shook my head- in the moment of clarity before the baby’s eyes opened and entranced me again.
The gaze seemed to me, completely aware and oddly complacent- as if the child had trusted itself to me, to my arms. The mother, Angeline- I think her name was reached out for her baby, but I stepped back from her grasp- unkind perhaps, but I couldn’t muster a single ounce of sympathy for the woman writhing before me. I despised her for what she had put the child through.
She would die soon, I imagined- but again, I felt only relief. I checked the baby in my arms, the child was shaking; convulsing- its frantic movements mirrored the mother’s.
The baby was female. Her skin was warm against mine, feverish. I hummed softly and bent down to bring my own eyes level with the mother’s.
“I want my,” The woman hissed at me. Sweat beaded her forehead and her hair was matted around her head. Detached, I watched the spit fall from her mouth as she struggled to speak. “I change- I don’t.”
I cut the contemptible woman off. “No.” Compared to her raspy vowels my own voice was pure and unusually forceful.
The baby shook against me; the child had been born addicted to whatever vile substances the mother had forced through her clotted veins. A horrible cruelty, I thought, to subject someone so innocent, so utterly defenseless to torture at the hand of one’s own despicable cravings. I stood up, and fixed the warm cotton blanket around the child.
“You know what the agreement was. I’ve fulfilled my end.” I made my voice soft, for the baby’s sake, but the power was still there. The woman drew away from me, cringing into the filthy ground of her apartment. A beer bottle rolled across the floor as she knocked into it.
“You promised,” The woman tried to raise her head, but gave up. It made a heavy thunking sound as it hit the ground. “I’m not, my life isn’t what...”
I ignored her, and stepped around her prone body towards the door. If she had false hopes, then they were her problems. I didn’t even bother trying to assuage her doubts, she was to weak to do anything, and I had paid her the money she’d asked for anyways.
The mother tried again, “You can’t… You won’t”
“I will.” I told her, allowing an edge of steel to creep into my words. The baby, the little girl was mine now.
I called her Lila, the short form of a traditional name in my mother language- shortened because I didn’t want her ridiculed by the children in her classes. I knew children could be cruel.
She was a beautiful child, special somehow, as if the fates were compensating for the trial of her first days. I never came to regret the adoption, as unorthodox as it was; Lila was my only light in the world.
When I’d brought her home, I’d held her to me, skin to skin against my chest and sang to her until she’d stopped trembling. I couldn’t feed her myself, of course, and I couldn’t bear to get her a wet nurse- to give the job of sustaining my baby to some other woman. Besides, I couldn’t stomach the thought of some alien girl’s bodily fluids coursing through my own child.
I bought her best nourishment money could buy, and I gave her what no one else could; my undivided attention and unconditional love. I had enough money, more then enough, to spend every single second with her. I never tired of my baby, the way other mothers might have. I had lost enough to realize how lucky I was; every moment with Lila was a blessing.
Her mother had had brown eyes, with ugly dilated pupils and bloodshot veins marring the whites of them. The father was unknown- any number of philandering men could have donated half of my baby’s genetic makeup. The doctors had told me that eyes darkened over time- but that was never the case. Four years later, Lila’s eyes were even more stunningly blue, and her hair was dark and wavy against pale cream skin.
The doctors had also said she could face any number of symptoms; from sudden death to attention defects, to delayed and stunted growth to mental retardation. I should have paid less money for their council.
I was my daughter’s guardian, I watched over her, helped her learn, taught her to read and write, and to solve problems and form conclusions. I watched as she played in the bath, and I sang to her every night- protective lullabies against whatever evils the mother may have lashed to her fate.
Lila was gifted, by far the brightest out of all her classmates. Her school was a private one that advertised the best facilities in our city- one with teachers that loved their jobs and a big list of successful alumni. I doubted that it was the facility alone that had produced the fame and fortune of their graduates, but rather, the bar of excessive wealth that gatekept the progeny of the less fortunate.
My own wealth was a huge aid in the world, an untimely inheritance that I had never felt I deserved. I had privileges that the vast majority of society never would- Lila had been legally mine six months before she was even born. She had privileges too. I’d enrolled her in the stupid pedigreed elementary school full of stupid children from ridiculously affluent backgrounds, after all.
But wealth wasn’t everything, because Lila’s biological mother hadn’t had a penny in the world- at least not before she’d met me. Lila’s biological father was, presumably, equally bereft. Still, Lila had had full reading comprehension while most of her classmates struggled to read single words.
Today we sat together on the couch in our home, her head against my chest and her legs tucked up besides me.
“Mama,” Lila had said, reminding me of the first word she’d ever spoken. She hadn’t cried at all as a baby, and she hadn’t babbled, just watched me until she’d been able to model my own words, to call me Mama in a pretty sing-song voice that had sent a thrill of pride through me.
“Yes darling?” I brushed some of her hair away from her face and tried to imagine what she would look like as a grown woman.
“Will you swim with me tonight?”
She’d always loved the water, something that brought me great relief. I missed the beaches and the glittering waters of my home. Although we were far from the beach, I was glad she could still appreciate the pool I’d had built with the house.
I agreed easily and poked her in the side, prompting her to tell me about her day.
We talked about all of her feelings in depth, and she was angry because the children in her class were boring and self absorbed. She was frustrated because the classes moved too slowly for her.
I called the school while I prepared dinner- they would move her up two grades. She was mature enough not to be stunted socially, and the coursework was advanced enough for her.
Lila was twelve when she came home from dance class upset. She never cried, but I could read it in her posture, in the tense way she carried herself and the shallow breaths she pulled in. I poured her a glass of water from the fridge and passed it too her, motioning for her to sit besides me on the couch.
We sat in silence for a while, and I looked at her. She was my proudest accomplishment, my baby, my daughter and my only light in the world. She looked like me now; we both had black hair and strong bone structures. Her face was symmetrical, a product, I thought, of a good childhood. It took the body a great deal of energy to grow symmetrically, and symmetry was an indicator of health and ample resources during the growth periods. She was softer then me, though, a gentler beauty whereas I was regal and harsh. I was proud of that too.
She also danced with an elegance that was unusual amongst her awkward, prepubescent peers. Already, she carried herself with the grace of a young woman, with a quiet confidence that set her apart.
“Do you think Fermat’s principle is prophetic?” She broke my reflective silence.
I didn’t share her love for all things physics, but I kept up with her because I loved our conversations. I furrowed my brow, worried.
“No, and neither do you.”
Her love for the sciences and math’s had never been philosophical in nature; she delighted in the purity and in the fixed properties of physics.
“What’s bothering you?”
Lila was silent a beat longer. “Did you date?”
I laughed now, relieved. Boys bothered everyone.
I had attracted men as a teenager, a lot, and a new suitor every week. My family’s status had been fortunate (perhaps unfortunately) enough to merit undue attention from men older, and far more mature then me- an impressionable child.
“Not at all. Romantic relationships are never worth it.” I said, trying to keep my tone light. Lila looked relieved, she confessed she didn’t share the shallow attractions her friends obsessed over.
I was relieved too, and it flooded my body like an ocean of reassurance. I feared the corrupting influence of teenage boys. Perhaps I was overprotective, but they disgusted me, and I had my own reasons.
It had been my own heart that had brought devastation to my family. Bored with my life, and my duties as an heiress I’d allowed myself to be charmed by the first man to show me sustained attention and had abandoned my family to be his wife. My father had died soon after- and I hadn’t even made it to his deathbed. Our marriage hadn’t been happy- and we’d both grown idle- as the obscenely rich did.
Affair after affair had followed, and I- for all of my ambition was nothing but eye candy. In the world of socialites and business magistrates my job was to look pretty. I had stood calmly by, smiling graciously as he charmed a steady stream of women- a thick coat of makeup covering the regular bruises that had painted my throat black.
When he’d died, I had been relieved beyond words but hideously angry, with only my sisters left as family. Eventually I had abandoned them too- and wandered, lost, until I’d found Lila- or the woman carrying her.
Family. I rarely thought of it now; therapy sessions with the most qualified professionals I could find would do that- but Lila’s words had reminded me of the past I tried so hard to forget. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant I could keep her.
Boys brought my daughter more trouble, and one day I left a conference abruptly to join her principal, an ugly teenage boy and his insufferable parents in a school office.
“Lila bit Bennett’s hand.” The principal’s voice was long suffering, and he gestured to the boy who was cradling a hand wrapped in white gauze.
I raised an eyebrow at my daughter, who was glaring at the boy, her wide blue eyes awash with fury. I could feel the tension in the room, in the harsh anger emanating from my daughter and the duplicitous pain the boy was trying to project.
“Why?” I asked, and I could hear the fury in my voice. The boys parents looked smug, they though I was angry with my daughter. Lila, however, was vindicated- I was her cavalry- and I could never be mad with her.
“She claims he touched her breast.” The principal said, in his stupid, long-suffering voice, as if he dealt with claims of sexual assault daily. Lila met my eyes, and the anger simmering below the surface erupted into a point of white-hot fury. I hummed under my breath, a low sonorous note to try and calm myself. It didn’t work.
I was reserved, but terrifying in my defence of my child, and the boy’s parent’s cried. The boy’s name was Bennett; it was a stupid name that his idiot parents modeled in their equally idiot behaviour. The father told me, “Wait now a minute,” and the mother covered her mouth and wiped at her eyes. Lila didn’t cry, because I’d raised her to be strong.
The principal apologized to me personally, I wouldn’t sue the school, and Lila’s tuition would be free this year- as if the money was ever an issue. The boy changed schools and Lila took a long, long shower to wash off the feeling of his hand on her.
After, I taught her to fight, and we practiced the movements under the big window of the living room. She was a natural, years of dance brought the movements effortlessly to her, and she was sinuously graceful where I could only ever be harsh and brutal. Our legs made susurrus sounds as we sparred, and I taught her what to do if a man ever laid an unwanted hand on her again.
Lila’s classmates enjoyed social media, and she did too. She had always been popular, because she was beautiful, and because some twisted property of society made that a desirable trait.
She threw a party for her sixteenth birthday, and we strung fairy lights around the yard, and waterproof lights inside of the pool so that it glowed at night. It was a rather unearthly blue colour and Lila loved it; it reminded me of her eyes. I taught her the melodies of my favourite songs as we prepared, and she picked up the notes with ease.
They took lots of pictures at her party, these groups of giggling, tittering teenagers. Lila had never looked so separate from them- they were still insecure and they preened like a flock of birds. My daughter was effortlessly confident, poised and lovely. She spent most of her time in the water, whirling in circles and laughing as she splashed her friends. I remember teaching her to swim, just days after she was born.
I didn’t like Lila’s friends, they reminded me too much of the women I’d known growing up. Superficial, vain, and outer beauty only barely concealing horrific nasty streaks- women could be unassumingly dangerous, the undertow beneath a calm surface.
Later, as Lila and I looked at the photos her friends posted online, she confessed she only threw a party for their enjoyment. She would have preferred doing something with me- I promised her we’d go cliff climbing or swimming together as a treat later. She smiled hugely. Altruism, I suppose was a fine quality.
Lila’s biological mother finds us a month later; I should have been more vigilant with the online posts. It never occurred to me that she would survive the birth.
Her eyes are sunken and hollow, she’s disgustingly thin and I make a conscious note to clean the carpets she stands on. Or to have them cleaned, I don’t want to touch them.
“I want my baby back.” The woman says, coughing weakly into her sweatshirt.
Lila stays behind me, this woman means nothing to both of us.
“That’s my Abigail!” The woman insists, stumbling forwards. She’s bleeding from both arms from where she climbed through a hole she’d smashed in our window. Her arms are bruised from decades of drug abuse, and I am reminded of Lila’s first days of life, and the pain my daughter had endured. I meet Lila’s eyes for reassurance, and I am furious as well, I will protect my daughter to whatever end.
“You promised me a better life!” Spit sprays from her mouth, and the drugs in her system egg her on, making her feral. “My life is shit, I deserve my baby back! GIVE ME MY BABY!” She screeches, and makes a grab for my daughter.
I force the woman, screaming, from my house, and the police are called to remove her. It doesn’t take much from them to believe my story.
Legally, Lila is my biological daughter, and this woman is a crazy drug addict who vandalized my property. The mother is also unconscious now, which probably lends a significant amount of credibility to my story. That and Lila is almost my spitting image. Her father is out of the picture too, which helps. I’d found his records years ago; he’d stumbled in front of a truck with a blood alcohol level high enough to kill him anyway. Good riddance.
Despite the damage to my property, I don’t regret a second of Lila’s adoption. I couldn’t have gotten pregnant if I’d tried, and I couldn’t have endured it anyways. I was an undocumented citizen- or at least a falsely documented one.
Lila’s biological mother had been younger then Lila was now when she’d fallen pregnant with my child. It was an unorthodox exchange, but with my funds, it was entirely convenient. It was also the best choice I’d ever made, even if accepting a street girl’s proposition of money for a child had been legally grey.
Besides, Lila had always been special.
Lila’s graduation marks the end of our need for this country. She has learned all of the math and science I couldn’t teach her, and I feel obligated to leave.
For the first time my daughter disagrees with me, she wants to stay and learn more about the world, about the laws that govern the universe. I think a portion of her insatiable quest for knowledge stems from her inability to understand herself.
Still, I suppose knowledge is as worthy a pursuit as any, so I agree easily and fund the tuition for whatever university she wants to study within. I listen eagerly as she tells me about everything she’s learning, although most of it escapes me.
Her biological mother contacts me again, this time through mail following an incessant stream of online attempts. She wants more money. I ignore the messages.
Lila finishes university with honours, I have never been prouder. She also finishes university without a romantic attachment; something which pleases me too.
She is away from me more, and I’ve been having nightmares. It’s been many years, but I fear for Lila’s safety. I sing to her every night, although she’s old enough now to sing for herself.
I think she intends to learn even more, to absorb every ounce of knowledge available before we leave. It seems foolish to me, but she is resolute. She needs to know enough to continue her studies in another country.
I acquiesce, of course, and I pay for her courses. We still have as much time as she wants, and I can hardly blame her for being anxious about leaving what she knows.
My sister visits me while Lila is away; she wants me to come back home- to bring Lila with me. I disagree, it is still unsafe for her, and for me- my family will not be so quick to forgive me. My sister tells me they already have.
The second time the biological mother finds us, Lila is grown herself - and we are planning on leaving for my home country soon, leaving the bleak grey of this city for sunny Mediterranean seas and salty ocean breezes.
The mother is stronger now too, and I can tell the drugs are free from her veins. Still, she is mad. Mad perhaps with the dreams I’d sang to her still carving a path through her skull. Mad because the paradises I’d promised her in return for her complacency would never come to fruition, and because she had no other option save for this frenzied pilgrimage. I pitied her.
“I only want my baby!” She shrieks at me, she had climbed the backyard fence and she stood across from us on the pool deck.
I could see the insanity within her eyes, dark, hollow pits consumed by the glimpses of heaven I’d afforded her. I imagine she saw my daughter as a way to go back to the girl she was, before she had seen exactly how much she was missing, and how much she could never have. False promises were an exquisite torture. I hummed beneath my breath, but the woman was screaming so loudly I doubted she could hear it. Lila hid behind me, terrified.
“I want my fucking baby back! Give me my life back!” The mother shrieks again, deranged, tears brimming in her eyes. “You did this to me! You took my life away from me!”
She gasps, spine jerking, and eyes roving madly. She fixes her gaze on something I can’t see and laughs- a chilling sound, although I am unmoved. “All I see is perfection.” She laughs again, and then screams at me, “It’s not real! NONE OF IT IS REAL.”
I tune her out.
“I need money- I have to,” I turn to face her as she claws at her forehead- I notice streaks of blood covering it. “Please,” her voice is low now, groveling, “You have to help me.”
I turn to face her. “You’ve wasted your life of your own volition.”
“Bitch!” She howls, furious again, “You promised you could make my life better!”
I won’t make any more false promises, “I can’t help you.”
“NO!” The woman cries out, she is beyond reason. I edge towards the door and keep an eye on her out of my peripheral vision, she can hardly stand upright- perhaps the drugs really did help her.
The mother speaks up, this time softly, “So you wont help me.”
“No.” I tell her.
And then something changes, and the mother- biological mother- because the only right she has to my child is a packet of donated genes- shifts. Like a switch has snapped, and I see with horrifying clarity what she was hiding behind her back. It’s too late now for me to convince her otherwise- and I can only accept whatever the fates may bring. Adrenaline courses through me, and I feel the song build up within me- ready.
A few things happen at once, and a bullet tears it’s way towards us, towards my daughter. I fling myself in its path. Lila cries out as the bullet tears through my chest and out my back. I feel it in an odd detached pain; I am consumed with protecting Lila, I barely notice- all I can feel is relief that she is okay.
Lila became my life after I left my sisters and mother behind. She is the heir I raised in my place once we return, destined to take my place as queen. Now, I am furious, my anger is hell-hot and a raging, blistering fire at the though of my daughter being taken from me.
My voice is powerful; it protected my daughter from the pain she might have faced, chased the drugs from her veins, and helped shape her into her truest self, but this time it doesn’t nurture.
I shatter the mother’s bones with my song, I sing her skin to putty and I snap her spine-it makes a hollow sound. My song is beautiful- hauntingly ethereal, and I sing dozens of notes at a time in an unearthly concert. Energy crackles around me, and the stone under my feet turns black and cracks. The water in the pool bubbles and steams, and I can feel the strength of my voice reverberating away from me.
The song pours effortlessly from me, my throat contracts around it but the melodies form of their own volition now. Long, bloody ropes of flesh peel from the mother’s arms and legs and her hair snakes across the concrete as I split her skull open with a sickeningly satisfying crack. My song pounds into her like shrapnel and the blood that spurts from her abdomen is vaporized almost instantly. Her screams are piercing, shrill, and they remind me of when I cut my daughter free from her womb after I’d sang the control of her body away from her. I didn’t want to give her the honour of birthing my child.
My song is as brutal and as carnal as I can make it, a stunning cacophony of melody, I will make the mother’s final moments my first slice of retribution for daring to hurt my child. I suppose I am still furious at the pain she’d caused Lila, even if it had allowed me to claim her. I had known my daughter from the second I’d sensed her in this woman’s belly. The mother was only ever the container- although I had underestimated the lengths she would go to see the empty promises I’d bestowed upon her played out. The only thing I regretted about the adoption now, was not seeing her dead.
I rip her limbs brutally from her body, the bone within them leaks out of the end and steams out of the pores- and the appendages incinerate to ash before they touch the ground. Poofs of the dust blow over the mother’s face and paint her black. Blood pools below her and the mother’s strident screaming fades to a harrowing keening and then strangely funny gurgling as I turn her lungs to mush.
Unlike the other’s I’d killed for Lila; various men lured into my house for dinner or convinced to donate blood to suckle my infant daughter, I relish the mother’s pain- even though her death is costing me my life. I would gladly die to protect my child.
With a tremendous force, I sing her soul from her body, and slam it down into the deepest reaches of Hades- now she will enjoy an eternity of torment and pain.
I am a Siren, Lila is the ascendant queen of my people and there is no rival to my song on earth. I could sing armies of men to do my bidding, command an entire nation to sacrifice themselves at my feet- but it is hardly worth it, Siren women have no reason to desire more then they have been given.
A siren woman is a dead woman, usually one drowned- choking on the salt of the sea spray before her vocal chords harden- and before she is sung from the ocean to become a sister.
Lila was different, drowned in her mother’s womb as a defenceless child- but still I could sense her potential. The mother just wanted money at first, only later had she required coercion. She hadn’t known the fetus she protected was a corpse, and she hadn’t cared after she’d heard my song.
Sirensong was a funny thing, and there was a reason those who heard it usually jumped to their deaths. My song had warped the young woman’s mind, possessed her until she was consumed by it. A fatal mistake, as it turned out.
Besides me Lila, my daughter, my Scylla, sings too, but she doesn’t cry because I’ve taught her mastery over water. Her eyes are brilliant, blue and she raises her arms to the sky and the water of the pool rises with her, surrounding her in a glorious whirlpool. I’ve taught her how to fight, and she is practiced as she controls the waves, as she rises up, black hair whipping around her.
I know where she will go, to the our home just as we’d always planned, and I know she will be able to control my sisters just as easily as she controls the water.
I’m proud of my daughter, of my only light in the world, she is monstrous and she is powerful, named for the cliff monster of old that I’d hoped she would take after. She is even more fearsome, and I know she will be safe. She will be Queen as well; her voice will bring a new generation of men to their knees at her feet. She will always have enough to eat.
She is everything I have ever wanted. My life has been long, but I have only been alive for as long as Scylla has. I met death the first time with fear, but this time I can smile as the world around me blurs at the edges- there is nothing else I could ever want. I suppose that I too have been consumed by Sirensong.
I meet Scylla’s eyes, her beautiful blue eyes- just like my own- and she fixes me with her gaze, and I am transfixed just as I was when she was a baby. Her eyes are full of understanding, and this time; trust in all I’ve taught her. She knows she will be okay. Scylla, my daughter blinks and my head clears.
I look at her one last time,
I let go.
…………………….It’s 1925, and my husband stands besides me- or perhaps a little behind me. The ocean is blue, an unearthly colour and I love it.
The musicians are playing, some jazzy upbeat tune- but I let the roar of the waves tune it out and concentrate on the faint strains of music flowing over the water.
“Darling,” My husband says with what I think must be his most charming smile, “you don’t look well.”
His voice breaks my concentration- and already the images flowing through my mind have passed. I can’t look at him anymore- so I look out at the jagged cliffs that line the edge of the island chain we are sailing by.
“Though you always look a vision.”
My husband reaches out to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, and involuntarily I flinch away. Something cold and sinister flashes beneath his vision- betraying the good-natured half smile he always has playing around his lips.
I look at him through my lashes, and brace my hands against the balcony. He nods as though he approves and takes a deep breath to steady himself. His breath blows hot over my face, and it reeks of alcohol. Illegal- but easily bought, especially for the rich.
Below us, I feel the hum of the ship’s engine as we change course- imperceptibly, but I know we’re headed for the islands. We can’t hear their song over the loud music- but the captain can.
“I was going to take a boat out with the boys and head back the way we came- try and catch a few fish.”
I look at the jagged rocks and to the shore below littered with the wrecks of other ships- although from this far away they look like black smudges.
“No,” I smile up at him, and meet his eyes. I reach a hand to my back and undo the zipper that holds my dress up, and I take in the way his eyes widen as my dress falls softly to the floor around me, with satisfaction. I curl my hand around his cheek and lock the other around his wrist. “Stay.”
He doesn’t need any more convincing. And I smile against his lips as I wrap my body around his- I’ve seen everything I could ever want in the world, a curse and a blessing because I know it will cost my life, and I would rather die then fight it. I resolve to write all I’ve seen down in my room later- so I don’t forget.
Behind us, the rocks inch ever closer and I know that when I drown my husband will drown with me- but only one of us will rise again.
Lila, I’m coming.
I am posting this today, three months after purchasing a house here- in the city, three months and twenty-seven days after leaving my sisters. Today has been an uneventful day- uneventful aside from your biological mother camped out beside the subway station.
I write this, because the Sirensong that drives me is relaxing now- I met you today, and already I am forgetting all that I have seen. I have posted this on hundreds of forums, written notes to you, secured papers in safe deposit boxes. This is a redundancy.
When you find this I imagine I will already be gone from this realm- and I imagine you will be a Queen. Know that I am proud of you, and that Sirensong was not the only thing that drove me to die for you. Rule well, my love.
I thought we’ve escaped, and left that life behind.
I thought wrong. Humans, for all their flaws….they never give up.
For less than half a year, I worked at a 24-hour petrol station serving one of the main roads leading to the city centre. I put in 12 hour shifts every night. Sounds really tough, but activity always died down towards the middle of the shift. This lull period then became my downtime, when I relax and unwind on videos and phone games.
After my shift, I then return home to sleep. I don’t really venture out during the day, unless I have to run some errands, like buy groceries, pay bills, and the like. I don’t really like humans; my job involves short-lived interactions, so that was alright, but walking in a crowd, in close contact with people - it was unnerving, to be with too many of them. It brings back unpleasant memories. Really unpleasant memories. I was also afraid of what my body could do to them - that would definitely blow my cover.
Besides, I have to take care of those at home.
It was a safe and predictable life. The life that I’ve always wanted. The life that we’ve always wanted.
I didn’t know that they would track me down so easily.
I kinda liked my new coworker, Yong Han. He kept to himself, but was always kind and welcoming to customers. He always helped me whenever I requested for assistance. And he was always waiting dutifully outside to attend to customers, even during the lull period. A much better replacement for the lazy cunt that worked here before.
I decided to make friends with him. I guess I was a little human after all, having the same thirst for companionship. Also, making some connections could be useful for long-term survival/blending into society. After two months of observing him, I didn’t detect anything that could be harmful to me, so….
So my attempt at fitting in was interrupted when they drove in on that fateful night. The moment they stepped out into the sweltering heat in thick black jackets and black balaclavas, I knew at once that they were up to no good. I initially thought that I was about to experience my very first robbery - and I didn’t know what to do. But as they approached me, I could see it in their eyes - the cold cruelty, the wild fanaticism that only they have. They were here for a much more sinister purpose.
But I will never submit to the Draconi ever again. I won’t go back to being used like a tool.
I originally intended to deal with them in their car, away from Yong Han. But when they wanted to silence him, I knew that couldn’t be done.
They’ve been harming innocents for long enough. I won’t let them harm another right in front of me.
The first two shots sent my ears ringing. I knew it was gonna be loud, but I had forgotten how deafening it could get.
The next thing that hit me was the alien, yet familiar feeling of missing a body part. That sensation of emptiness emanated from the void where my left hand used to be. It was ghastly to look at; a forearm that ended halfway in a gory stump. Not just any neat stump either - the bone had twisted away from the blast and the strings of muscle hanging loosely, swaying slightly from the impact.
I didn’t feel much pain. That came later.
I made short work of the first two. They were newbies, sent to test the waters, to see if I had grown aggressive or stronger. The squad leader put up a much tougher fight though; he took off my remaining healthy arm. He was much more trigger-happy, repeatedly taking shots at me, opening holes in my stomach and my leg.
But he soon succumbed after I launched myself on him. I used the same tactic that I always used….just get something in their eyes. Honestly, they should have prepared goggles whenever they tried to capture beings like me. In his case, I spat in his eyes, which of course got him to scream and rub them. In doing so, he spread my corrosive secretions all over his face, and soon every movement of his hands disfigured his face just like how a knife scrapes over a tub of butter. It didn’t take long for his mask and jacket to rip, allowing his body to be bathed in the blood dripping from my wounds.
With the current problem resolved, I slumped down on the dissolving corpse, utterly drained from physical exertion. I had never fought so many people before, let alone lose so much. I used to think I was immortal, but after losing so many body parts….I felt as brittle as the skin of the corpses, which by then were disintegrating into little flakes, and sizzling in my blood.
And pain. I felt pain. Excruciating pain.
The stumps on my forearms stung as the shredded muscles pulled on the shattered bones with every minor movement I made. The blood dripping down my skin gave me a sickly, warm feeling. The worst part was my leg - he shot it last, and the wound still burned from the explosion. I could feel the grainy remnants of gunpowder and pellets in the jagged slivers of muscles, wriggling deeper into tiny nooks and crannies.
Then I saw Yong Han screaming in horror at his melting finger.
It took all the strength I had to get up and crawl to him. I gritted my teeth as the sides of my stomach hole rubbed against each other, squeezing blood and foul-smelling digestive juices out onto the floor. My bones left bloody fragments behind as I made my agonising approach.
I knew I looked terrifying, and I knew whatever just happened probably frightened the hell out of Yong Han.
But most importantly, he stayed alive, after washing my blood off his fingers.
He did pretty well for his first time. Sure, he did argue, but finally we were on our way out of the crime scene, which I was sure would be swarming with Agents in less than an hour.
“Take a left.”
He made a left turn, then drove slowly up the slope.
Things weren’t so well-maintained in this part of town. The flickering street lamps were placed at irregular intervals, there were numerous potholes on the road, and the vegetation at the roadside was sorely in need of trimming.
This was why I made my home here. Quiet and secluded. Remote and undeveloped. Full of narrow roads and small alleyways for me to disappear in the event of an emergency.
Despite the empty streets, Yong Han drove slowly, constantly scanning the area. I guess he was looking out for any suspicious people. That was understandable; after all, we almost got killed.
Or rather, he came pretty close to being murdered. As for me....I don’t even know if I could die.
I propped myself against the back of the front passenger seat after sliding down for the umpteenth time. Yong Han had forced me to go in the back; he didn’t want to risk losing another finger, or any other part of his body for that matter.
I caught sight of myself in the rearview mirror. I looked pathetic. My normally straight hair was hanging in wet clumps held together by clotting blood. My face was streaked in blood, and I needed new clothes.
I realised he was looking at me. His brow furrowed in apprehension of the unknown - of me. He opened his mouth, then closed it. I could read the questions on his face: What are you, and what are you gonna do to me?
“I’m not gonna hurt you.” I wasn’t sure how to answer the former, so I replied the latter instead. “Take a right….yeah, and stop by the flickering light.”
The van squeaked to a stop. Right next to a dilapidated apartment building.
We sat in silence for a while, because he was probably thinking of what to do next, and because I needed him to open the doors for me, but wasn’t really in a position to make demands of him.
“What are you?” He finally mustered the courage to ask.
“The Agency calls me an ‘Illoid’. I have no idea why they called me that, but I think that has to do with my body causing ‘ills’ to humans.” I paused. I didn’t exactly prepare a script to explain myself for such situations. I hadn’t expected to be faced with such a situation. “I don’t think I’m human. I’m not sure whether I’m immortal - I will recover, that’s for sure. That’s about all I know, though. Do you mind helping me get home?”
“How are you gonna get up there?” He faced the block.
“By crawling to the elevator?” But what do I do about him? I can’t just leave him like that. Either the Agents or the Draconi will find him, and he’ll be helpless as he knew nothing about what was going on. “I think you’d better follow me. I can provide you some answers, and...let’s just say it’s not really safe for you out there.”
I moved along the corridor, the wheels making rhythmic clacking noises as they rolled across the grooves on the floor. Thank goodness for the trolley on the first floor, otherwise I would be in much more pain.
“Leave the talking to me, and make sure that trashbag covers your exposed skin.” I knocked on the door, which opened almost instantly.
“Mama!! You back early!!” I winced, not expecting her to exclaim so loudly at such an unearthly hour. There weren’t many residents, but still…. “What happened, Mama? Why you missing….stuff?”
“Hush, dear, let us enter.” I reached out with the remainder of my arm, which she gingerly grabbed and PULLED….OH FUCK THAT HURT but I was finally inside.
“Who’s this?” She looked up and saw Yong Han standing timidly by the wall. She started advancing towards him menacingly, her fists shaking. “You do this to my Mama?”
“Sally, he didn’t. He’s a friend. Why don’t you give him a bottle of water, and bring me to the bathroom to clean up a little?” Sally nodded, and proceeded to the kitchen. I turned to Yong Han. “Sit right there, I’ll be right back.”
“Don’t worry, they’ll grow back. Although it’ll probably take….2 weeks?” I caught Yong Han staring at my missing limbs. I was now clad in cleaner clothes, and the long sleeves hung loosely by my side.
“Sally, go to sleep now, alright?” She nodded and trudged to her bedroom.
“She’s your child?” Yong Han asked incredulously once he was satisfied she was out of earshot.
“She’s older than me by at least three years, but she’s a little….slow. She thinks I’m her mother.” I glanced at her closed door again. “She’s an ‘illoid’ like me too - she’s basically all I have now. What she lacks in intelligence, she makes up in potency - she can dissolve humans twice as fast as me, and she’s far, far more violent than me. Which is why she got abused by the Draconi - Simple Sally, they called her.”
There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. “Well, do you mind enlightening me on what’s happening here?”
“I’m not exactly an expert, but I’ll try. I don’t even know what I was - I found out after eavesdropping on the Agents. I think the Agency is an arm of the government that specialises in containing….special creatures? Like me and her. And I remembered seeing a few others too when I was inside….stuff like this guy who could turn into a wolf-like creature, and some guy that feasted on blood or something like that.”
“Werewolves and vampires? They exist? You gotta be shitting me.”
“I wouldn’t call them that though. The wolf guy turned into a really small and weak wolf, and as for the other guy - he liked to drink sweat as well, which was pretty disgusting. But then again, so am I.”
“So….how did you….what happened….” He had too many questions to ask.
“I was put in after some….disturbing accidents in school. Got caught by them. Being contained was okay at first, but as I got older….they started doing stuff, experiments and shit, which hurt, not only physically, but psychologically as well, like you’re treated like a test subject instead of a person. Not to mention the loss of freedom - some of those inside had been there ever since they were born, but I had a taste of the life outside….it just was too restrictive, too….just a sense of despondency, to know that life outside was moving on and you’re not part of it.”
“Ah yes, and the Draconi. They attacked the Agency facility and took us, saying they were breaking us free. We were all thrilled, but….I was made to do stuff I didn’t want to do. Some of the others liked it - but I just couldn’t bear making people who didn’t hurt me suffer.”
“Those that I killed earlier….you could see that the Draconi see us as subjects, as tools to forward their agenda, which I don’t really know what it is, but I always assumed to be: hurt others and take what they have. And I hated that.”
“Both of them will be after us soon. They’ll check our employee records, and they’ll find our addresses.”
“WHAT?!” Yong Han jumped up in shock.
“Shhhh, she’s sleeping!!” I shushed him. He sat down again, albeit with a bit more worry in his eyes. “What else did you expect?”
“I have a family back home. Parents! My pet fish! Schoolwork! My video games! My web history! My social media accounts!” He put his head in his hands, then glared at me. “They’re all in danger. All because of what you did, you monster. Illoid or whatever lame name you have, you’re a monster.”
“Calm down. I could have left you behind to die.” I adopted a firmer tone. “We can work this out….starting by calling your parents? Let them evacuate first?”
His anger faded a little, and he stared at me, his face unreadable.
“We’re not the monsters, Yong Han. We just seek normal lives, but we’re locked away from the world we want to live in.” I stared unblinkingly into his eyes, causing him to look away. “Who do you think are the monsters?”
He opened his mouth to say something, but the faint wailing of sirens sounded from far away. He ran to the windows.
“Well?” I asked.
"Abi?! Dinner's ready! Come downstairs now!"
I was seven years of age. I remember the worn out red, black and white floral carpet that covered the stairs. I'd tug on the loose strands and think they were lucky. The two stair banisters that were completely different from eachother. On the left, a smooth white bar that rounded off both it's ends, and on the right was a brown wooden bar, that looked like the ends had been sliced at a diagonal angle. Sliding my hands down the bars as I went, I ran down the stairs, excited to get my day's fill of food; hoping it wouldn't be the same old "cooked-down chicken", my mom would call it. I just called it bland.
Running down the narrow corridor, I burst open the white door that lead to the living room, kitchen, downstairs toilet (that always smelled of cigarettes) and then the back garden on the left of the toilet. I ran into the kitchen and saw my mom holding my small plate of food. I didn't even need to ask what was for dinner, it was obviously the bland chicken, that would dry out quickly if you chewed it long enough. I was happy about the mashed potato, but it always never had enough butter. Carrots and sweetcorn were my worst nightmare. My mom put my plate of food down infront of me while I was distracted fiddling with the cloth that was way too big for the table.
"Come on. Stop messing around and eat up before your food gets cold."
Me being the most fussy eater at the time, (although, I still have some of those traits) looked at the food and asked, "Do I have to eat all of it? There's something pink on the chicken..."
"Oh don't be silly." My mom replied, with an irritated tone, "Just eat what you can."
So I sat, and I ate. The dry texture of the (sometimes) slimy chicken would always force me into finishing my drink before anything else. An hour passed, bits of cold mash, sweetcorn and chicken remained on my plate. My mom was furious.
"What's taking you so long just to eat a small plate of food?! You need to eat or you'll be hungry."
At this point, I was scared. I didn't want it to happen. Not again.
"At least I ate the carrots..." I mumbled quietly, trying to defend myself, as I nervously swung my legs back and forth in the over-sized chair I was seated in.
"Right. That's it."
My mom snatched my plate away and shoved it violently in the microwave. Her eye-popping glare towards me intimidated me to the very bone.
"C-can I go to bed?-"
"NO." My mom interrupted with a harsh yell, "You are NOT going to bed until you finish this food! Otherwise it's a waste."
As the microwave beeped, my mom stormed over to me with a clothes peg and my (now) hot plate of food. She sat beside me and clamped my nose shut with the peg, forcing me to inhale through my mouth. She then held my head back with her hand, causing my neck to ache against the chair. I looked like a fool. Pushing the fork through the steaming food, my mom brought the fork to my trembling lips.
I refused by shaking my head and closing my lips tight. I began to cry in fear.
"I said... open. Wide."
Her tone was firm now. I slowly opened my mouth, flinching as the fork touched the back of my mouth. The food was burning my tounge.
I did what I was told and chewed.
"M-mommy-" I stuttered and struggled to finish, my breaths were now rapid, "I-it's too hot..."
"If you ate it quicker, I wouldn't have had to warm it up." She snapped back in responce, pulling my head back tighter against the chair, causing my neck to ache more from the constant strain. The combination of coughing, chewing and the salty taste of my tears made me feel sick. She taunted me. "Here comes the aeroplane." "Good girl." It made my blood boil. My cries and wails filled the house, but my family didn't seem to care. I cried out in pain as my mom pinched my leg tightly to gain my attention.
"Wipe your eyes and shut up. Grandad is coming."
I quickly wiped away my tears as I heard the slow stroll of my grandad's feet walking through the narrow corridor. He slowly pushed the door open and had a coarse, unhealthy sounding hum every time he exhaled. I sat in fear, still chewing my food. My grandad asked if I was alright and patted my head. The pat was unexpected, so it caused me to flinch. He was mostly deaf, so I nodded silently; I had to lie - I had no choice. My mom's face had suddenly changed from Satan to innocent sweet daughter. As my grandad left to smoke outside in the back garden, the torture continued.
After a while, it was too much to bare.
"M-mommy!! I can't- breathe! I-I don't w-want anymore!" I yelled desperately, before pushing my plate of food away from me and pulling the blue peg off my nose, before flinging it down under the table in distress. The peg snapped in two. That was the worst thing I could've done. My mom pinned both my arms down to the side of the chair (easily with her weight) with her left leg and crushed my nose shut once again, with her the hand that was previously tugging my head back. This made it more difficult to breathe than before. I kicked my legs violently against the table, hurting myself in the process, desperate to be set free from the crushing lock I was forced into.
"KEEP STILL." My mom scowled into my ear. After using all my strength, trying to fight, my body grew weak. I took another heavy rapid inhale through my mouth and calmed down a little.
"Mommy... I'm s-sorry mommy..." I whimpered, as more tears streamed down my cheeks, some entering my mouth as spoke.
"See? You're almost done now." My mom said innocently, as if nothing happened, pointing at my plate. All that remained were a few bits of sweetcorn and a small heaping of mashed potato. Finally, after another long struggle, the plate was clean. I was sent to bed and told to forget about this in the morning. This was the norm to me. It happened every night, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it. And just like every other night... I cried myself to sleep.
20 years on from those days... I'm 27 now. I have a good job, an amazing husband and a child of my own. Since I have free time, I'm visiting my mom today. She now lives in a nursing home and she's heavily reliant on her medication. Serves her right. I grabbed her medication from the Pharmacy (as well as the medicine I ordered specially) that she asked for and left out. I hadn't visited my mom in years, but you understand why. When I entered her room, she was somewhat happy to see me. I was surprised to see her in a wheelchair. I saw this as an advantage.
"Oh my goodness! Baba, it's so good to see you!"
My mom would always call me 'Baba' when she wanted to butter me up. I wasn't falling for it like I used to, so she got straight to the point.
"Make me a cup of tea please. I need a hot drink."
Great idea. I walked into the kitchen, told my mom to relax and turned on the TV for her to watch. I poured in the hot water and watched the sleeping pills dissolve before adding the tea bag and everything else. In no more than 5 minutes, my mom was in a deep sleep. This was my chance.
After a few hours of waiting, my mom finally woke from her slumber. It didn't take her long to notice that there was a peg clamping her nose shut. She looked at my blank, straight face in fear and tried to escape from her wheelchair that I tied her tightly to. Her lips started to tremble. I poured the melted mercury out of the medicine bottle I ordered and poured it on a spoon. I brought the spoon slowly to her lips, and with a smirk, I said...
College student here. About a month ago, the internet in my dorms went down for the better half of a day and I had to research and study some stuff I won’t bother you with. The easy solution would be to find some coffee shop with free Wi-Fi and spend the whole afternoon cramming there, but for some reason I felt like trying out the library, something I had never done before.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but the library really is a “what you see is what you get” type of place, or so I thought.
The subjects I had to research were poorly detailed in the articles I could find online, and since I was at the library and all, I thought “why not pick up a book?” and so I did. As I walked along the aisles I noticed a weird smell. It was oddly enticing, but it got stronger the more I inhaled it. I had never smelled anything like it, and it kind of made my head go light, like the early buzz you get as you start getting drunk. As if moving on its own, my body followed the odor to try and find its source, and it was at its strongest in the biology isle.
Two books on mating rituals were upside-down and slightly protruding from the shelf, which caught my attention. Between the books I found a note; it was written in a normal piece of paper, slightly crumpled but stainless.
Random scribbles covered the note save for one legible sentence: “Hi there.” I was sure the paper was the source of the unexplainable smell, and I could now tell the underlying aroma was sweet. Feminine, if you will. I felt that the coincidence of finding a random note on a place I had never been before could be some sort of sign from destiny. Perhaps this would turn into a cliché meeting between boy and girl that most of us pretend to find cheesy but would still like for it to happen to us.
“Hello”, I wrote back.
The following day I went back to the library to check on the paper. It was still in the same place, and the books to its sides were again upside-down and protruding.
“OMG…. I actually got a reply. My friend made me write this for fun, but I guess I actually met someone. What’s your name?” she wrote, followed by a carefully drawn smiley face.
Over the next two weeks we wrote to each other every day. The following is the content of the replies as I remember them:
“I'm Geoff, and you?”
“Rachel. So… do you come to the library often?”
“Not really… the day I found this note was literally the first day I had ever been to one.”
“Wow… so this is kind of like destiny. Hey I'm sorry if I'm being weird, but do you mind describing yourself? Physically, I mean. Please don’t think I'm weird…”
I described myself, and she described herself back. She painted a picture of a long-haired brunette with large-framed glasses and shy demeanor – exactly my type.
Before stepping foot into the biology isle, every day I told myself this was all just a prank. It was probably some dude playing a fast one on me and laughing his ass off as he saw me write back from a distance. But as soon as that smell seeped into my nostrils again, I threw caution to the wind and replied the best I could.
I told my roommate about it, and although he was kind of skeptical he encouraged me to try and meet her face-to-face. Following his advice, I wrote to her, asking to meet up in a popular bar near the campus that was the go-to place for all students. She apologized and declined, stating that she was just too shy. But as proof that she was real and didn’t want our pen-pal relationship to end, she would go to the bar and buy me a drink, instructing the bartender that a guy named Geoff would show up and ask for a drink that Rachel had bought him.
I accepted, and on a mundane Friday night I went into the bar. I expected a full house like all other Fridays, but the only person in the entire bar was the bartender. It was kind of creepy seeing such a popular establishment empty and silent, only the sound of the TV in the background and the bartender cleaning shot glasses reached my ears. Before I reached the counter I already knew she had been there, as the intoxicating smell from the library filled the air. It made me light-headed yet again. Kind of embarrassed and hoping not to make a fool out of myself, I told the bartender I was Geoff and a girl named Rachel had been there earlier and had bought me a drink. He smiled and acknowledged that she had been there. He then proceeded to pour me a shot of vodka. I felt ecstatic in knowing she was real.
“What was she like? This was kind of supposed to be a blind date but some stuff happened.” I lied in hopes of getting some info on her.
“She was… the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life.” He said smiling and staring into his hand. I followed his gaze, and saw two larvae sliding across his arm. One of them crawled up his fingers and landed inside my drink. I was grossed out so I declined the drink and went back to the dorm. As I opened the bar door I noticed that larvae were hiding in every corner of the empty bar, some of them so thick it made my stomach churn.
The next day I wrote back to her in the library note, confirming that I had been to the bar and got the drink. I then begged for us to meet up in person, as she was the only thing I could think of. The following day I went to the library anxiously awaiting a positive response, but the note was gone. Depressed, I went back to the dorm, and found my roommate sitting in the couch, staring into oblivion. He noticed me coming in and locked eyes with me.
“Listen man… I gotta tell you something,” He began.
“If it’s something shitty I don’t want to hear it.” I replied in a bad mood, seeing how the note was gone.
“So uh… I went into the library, to the aisle you told me, and found the note. She replied with her address and I kind of… went and met her.”
I was so pissed off. I started screaming at him and throwing things around in a fit of anger. He just sat there and looked at me expressionless. Eventually I calmed down and asked:
“So…. What was she like?”
“She was… the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” He said, as a larva crawled out from his mouth.
I pointed at it, holding back vomit, and as he rolled his eyes down to look at it, another larva popped out from the back of his eye. And then another, and then another, and eventually larvae were seeping from every hole in his face. He began screaming in pain, and blood began flowing from the inside of his mouth. The larvae were eating his flesh, in hundreds of little bites. I panicked and left the room, to go and get help. I knocked on the door across from ours and began screaming for someone to come out and help. After three minutes or so, someone in the hall heard me and came to my rescue. I couldn’t explain what was going on so I grabbed him by the hand and dragged him into our room.
As I entered, I saw a sea of hundreds, if not thousands of larvae of different sizes and thicknesses crawling and squirming asynchronously on the floors, wall, ceiling and all furniture. My roommate was nowhere to be found, except bits of his ripped clothes on the couch.
We called pest control and the police, who obviously didn’t believe me. My roommate was filed as a missing person and they’re still looking for him. This was all about a month ago.
Yesterday I took a deep breath and went back to the library, to see if the note was there. I already knew it was, since I could smell the unique aroma that had driven me crazy so many times.
Once again, between two books on mating rituals, a piece of paper had been placed, with nothing but scribbles except for one legible sentence.
I wanna start this off by saying: I know this is weird. That’s part of the reason I’m writing it down, because writing it somehow feels more normal than saying it. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I live in Salem. Yeah, that Salem. The Salem where hundreds of years of history butts heads with tourist traps in this weird anachronistic kind of way. I think it depends on a lot on your perception whether they blend well together or not. Some people like how kitschy it is and think it makes the history more approachable and interesting – but I don’t know about all that. Maybe it’s because I’m originally from a bit more superstitious part of the country, which, I know, is hard to say with all things considered, but it feels disrespectful to me. Feels wrong, somehow – like selling tickets to an execution.
I suppose I really can’t say all that much, though, since I contribute in a way to it.
See, I work in the Salem Witch Museum. Beggars can’t be choosers unless they wanna stay beggars, and when I started there, I really really needed the money. A history degree wasn’t really conducive to not starving to death.
It’s not that bad, though. I get to interact with people all day and, since I lead the tours through the museum, I get to sort of use my degree I guess.
The museum isn’t really a museum in the way I would normally imagine a museum, though. When I think of museums, I think of artifacts behind glass cases and soft lighting with a sort of somber, historic feel to it. I guess we’re sort of more like a wax museum. It’s set up like a walkthrough with different scenes from the trials recreated using mannequins in period clothing and historically questionable scenery, all separated by a series of open doors and hallways. Some of the scenes move when we touch a button and lights come on, there’s a little narration about the scene and about the events that took place, and I fill in the gaps and answer any questions people have. The whole walkthrough usually takes maybe thirty minutes and bada-bing, bada-boom, we’re back in the gift-shop so people can buy mortars and pestles and tarot cards and bushels of sage to burn around their house and stuff.
It was a pretty normal day to start out with. It’s been nice and cool here without turning cold yet so we had the doors open all day for people to wander in from outside. It was dark and threatened to rain all day, but it kept holding off. Around lunch, I got a sandwich from Red’s around the corner and sat outside and enjoyed the day until I had to go back. I always hated dark days at home, but Salem just feels like the place for it. The brick buildings and the autumn leaves, just cool enough to warrant wearing pants and a flannel. It’s really great. It just feels like the way October should be, ya know?
When I got back from my break, though, my coworker, Anna, was freaking out – and that’s where this all started.
“My sister just went into labor,” she said as soon as I walked behind the counter.
“That’s great!” I said.
“No no no. She just called me and she’s going into labor now,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s great,” I said, not quite getting what she was actually trying to tell me.
“No, Craig, she wasn’t due for another two weeks. Jack isn’t back from his conference down in Florida yet and Mom and Dad are picking up my brother from Maine. I really need to go to the hospital,” she said, picking the orange fingernail polish off of one of her nails nervously.
“Oh!” I said, finally getting it. “Yeah, go on. I’ll be fine here.”
“Thanks!” she said, hugging me and grabbing her purse before practically sprinting out the open door onto the dark, brick street.
“CALL ME IF YOU NEED ANYTHING!” I shouted after her, but she was already gone.
So, after that, I settled into a long day of manning the counter, selling those kitschy little knick-nacks I mentioned earlier to tourists and a few women who took the whole witch stuff way too seriously.
I shut the tours down and told everyone that, unfortunately, due to an emergency with one of our staff, we had to close the tours for the day but I offered them vouchers for the next day, which shut most of them up. The only one it didn’t quite appease was some old crone with white hair and an extremely ornate lace shawl that spit on the ground when I told her I couldn’t do tours – then tore up the voucher I gave her and threw it back at me before stomping off, her black heels clacking on the brick street as she stomped away.
At 5:30, the dark clouds overhead finally opened up and let loose a steady, pulsing rain that drove everyone inside apart from a few dedicated tourists with rain coats and people who had important shit to do. Nobody carried an umbrella if they were smart. The wind made sure of that. I closed the doors and settled in for the last hour.
At 6:30, I flipped the sign over to the closed side and started the fun task of cleaning up. The bundles of sage and incense gave the shop a sort of sickly-sweet smell that I tried my best to counteract by cleaning everything I could with bleach. It never really seemed to work, though. I dusted the more expensive stuff that nobody ever looked at and vacuumed the purple carpet.
The last thing on the cleaning list was the basement, where the actual museum part was and where the tours took place. Each night we had to go through the entire exhibit and make sure no one was left inside, pick up any trash we found, and just generally make sure it was presentable the next day. We also were supposed to check all of the exhibits to make sure they were working.
So I took the little miniature broom and dustpan down the steps and into the exhibit, along with the big mag-lite we kept just inside the door. The first exhibit was a long line of fake trees with fake shrubs and undergrowth with a little path winding through it to a clearing where three girls danced around a little light-up fire. I hit the button and recited the information right alongside the voice emanating from the hidden speakers.
“In the Spring of 1692, a group of local girls in Salem, Massachussetts would begin one of the most infamous events in the colony’s short history and an event that is even today remembered as one of the most tragic miscarriages of justice ever perpetrated in the name of, and with the help of, the law. These young women and the events they inspired would go on to contribute not only to the works of Hawthorne, but many famous artists throughout New England.”
I swept up a Hershey’s wrapper that some asshole had just decided to drop on the ground, but apart from that, it seemed to be fairly clean. The speakers played a few sounds of owls hooting and the sound of a crackling fire as a light flickered on and off in the plastic fireplace.
The next exhibit featured the same three girls gathered around the shriveled old black mannequin that represented the slave woman Tituba, who sat in a rocking chair holding a large black book in what was supposed to be a 17th century-century kitchen. The girls all wore smiling faces and were positioned as if they were all trying to read the book over Tituba’s shoulder, while Tituba herself wore a motherly smile. I reached under the countertop and pressed the button to let the exhibit play.
“The girls would often find themselves entertained by the old slave woman Tituba, who would regale them with tales of the Haitian practice of Voodoo, often incorporating practices such as suspending an egg white in water and asking the girls –“
As I was reciting it and sweeping up a balled-up napkin, the speakers erupted with an ear-splitting static that nearly caused me to fall over in an attempt pull away from the source of the noise. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was so loud and I had been so close to one of the speakers that I had to lay for a moment on the ground to let the dizziness clear and the ringing to die down to a manageable level.
I made a mental note to call Tom, the owner, and tell him the speakers were breaking – again, when I noticed the mannequins. While Tituba was still staring down at the book in her hands with the motherly smile on her face, the three girls were now all facing me, their mouths drawn down into frowns and their lifeless eyes somehow holding an intensity no mannequin should be able to express.
I sucked in my breath so rapidly, I thought I may choke on it. They didn’t move or anything, though I watched them for what felt like hours. They never moved and, when I moved, they didn’t follow me.
I backed out of the exhibit as slowly as I could and into the one with the fire. I was hesitant to turn my back on the door containing the exhibit with Tituba, but I was also scared that, if these had moved, maybe the others had as well. When I turned to look – I realized those fears were justified.
The three mannequins representing the girls, who had been positioned around the fire as if they were dancing, now were in – uhm, well, not those positions. Two were positioned beside the fire with their period dresses hiked up, wrapped in a lover’s embrace and kissing – but still frozen. The third was faced away from the doorway I stood in, her silhouette illuminated by the small little plastic fire that flickered as the light inside it went on and off again. Her legs were spread wide – as if she was “touching” herself while she watched the other two girls.
Her head, though – her head was turned to face me. Her entire body was facing away from me but her head was facing me like someone had cut it off and just turned it 180 degrees. Her mouth, too, was pulled down into a frown so intense that it looked as if it had been pulled from a cartoon.
Once again, though, they never moved. It was like some maniac had slipped in and repositioned them into such a grotesque state – but even if that were the case, he couldn’t have changed their faces into different shapes. The faces were static, and painted on for the most part.
There was something I forgot to mention. The entrance door to the exhibit locks behind us as we come in. It’s that way because when the museum was first started, there was a serious problem with people sneaking into the exhibit in-between tours, so Tom added it so that if someone went into the exhibit, they had to exit through the official exit door, which was situated right beside the check-out counter. That way, he could tell them off or know who went in and if something was wrong, make sure they paid for it.
I forgot that fact as well until I was standing there staring at the mannequin with her head turned all the way around. Then I was so aware of it, I thought it might make me sick. Actually, no, not sick. It wasn’t like I was going to throw up – it was worse than that. It wasn’t nausea, it was that strange stomach pain that comes with sheer, unbridled dread, like you swallowed a twenty pound stone.
I didn’t know whether to turn my back on the mannequin in front of me or leave my back turned on the ones behind me, so I quickly backed into the doorway I had just come from and into the exhibit with Tituba and her little fiends.
They – for some reason hadn’t moved. They were staring at the space I had been in when they had moved originally. I grabbed the heavy mag-lite and pressed the button, giving a bright fluorescent glow that chased away the soft yellow mood lighting that normally lit the exhibit. It made the frowning faces of the girls seem paler and more menacing, though, deepening the shadows on their faces and making their already exaggerated frowns look even more grotesque.
I took a deep breath and tried to steel myself. I knew I had to keep going. I knew it – but I didn’t like it.
I considered running, but something – something told me if I did, they may actually chase me, so I bit the inside of my cheek and tried to continue on as confidently as possible. I left the broom and dustpan where it was, happy to let the mannequins have it.
The next exhibit was a hallway with a series of windows that looked in on a courtroom scene that was supposed to depict Tituba confessing and naming other witches while judge John Hathorne and the men of the community looked on. I say supposed to because – rather than depicting anything of the sort, the windows were filled entirely with the shape of the mannequins that were supposed to depict the men.
They were frozen in a state of what looked to be terror, grasping at the bars and reaching out into the hallway for some non-existent help, their faces twisted into expressions I can hardly describe other than horrifying. I walked down the line, looking at each of them, wondering if maybe whatever was happening wasn’t meant for me, but I was just seeing it. As I shined the light on each of their faces, I managed to get a glimpse over one of their shoulders at the courtroom scene behind them. There, the mannequin of John Hathorne hung from a water pipe overhead, swinging gently without any wind.
Once again, the figure of Tituba was in her normal position, holding a figure of a small little doll as she tried to buy her life with the names of others, but now, with everything shifted around her, she now looked as if she was offering the tiny doll to the hanging figure of John Hathorne.
I pressed the button above one of the windows, but all that erupted was the sound of straining rope, so I continued on.
When I rounded the corner, the scene that was supposed to feature the hanging of a convicted witch was entirely without light, even the soft yellow glow normally used to light the exhibits. Being underground, that meant the darkness was utter and complete.
Despite all I had seen already – that scared me the most, the complete darkness, and I hesitated on the edge of the light from the courtroom exhibit for longer than I should have. Finally, my racing heart got the best of me and I walked slowly into the darkness. I kept the flashlight pointed at the ground just barely in front of my feet, not daring to move it to look around me – knowing I wouldn’t find anything that I had any desire to see. I walked slowly, too, afraid to fall, and afraid to show weakness to whatever was doing this.
The twenty or so feet that contained the exhibit crossed slower than I could have imagined as I shuffled, step by step, keeping my eyes on the faux gravel path that crunched and shifted with every step I took.
At the end of the exhibit, I took a step forward and my flashlight fell on a pair of black puritan shoes not more than a foot in front of me that moved up and down like someone tapping out a timeless rhythm or a child waiting impatiently. I stopped immediately and started to pull the flashlight up to see what the shoes and socks were attached to but thought better of it. I instead inched around them, making a sort of crescent moon around the pair of shoes to get behind them without having to get any closer than absolutely necessary.
When I got to the door leading to the next exhibit, I discovered my heart was pounding so rapidly I could feel each beat in a vein in my forehead. I let out the breath I hadn’t known I was holding and the moment I did, the hand holding the flashlight began to violently shake. I tried to take a deep breath but even that shook and I doubled over to try and brace myself against my shaking knees.
“Two more. Just two more. Just two more. You can do this.”
It was at this point I started to laugh almost hysterically. I don’t know why – probably the stress of it all, but I did. I started to laugh almost hysterically while I tried to keep myself from throwing up and crying at the same time and even the laughter that bubbled out of me shook and vibrated with dread.
It was that laughter that somehow gave me the ability to move again. It unfroze me and, after a moment the shaking stopped and I managed to stand upright again. Down the short hallway, a sharp right turn led to another exhibit and soft yellow light crept hesitantly around.
This exhibit was meant to illustrate what happened to the bodies of the Salem witches. It depicted two gravediggers shoveling dirt into the pit that the accused witches would be put in after their hanging. Since witches weren’t allowed Christian burials, the pits were often crowded with more than one body and very shallow and the bones sticking out of the ground beneath the gravediggers’ feet were meant to illustrate just that. This was also one of the only exhibits that actually moved, with the two men crudely animated to make shoveling motions through some animatronics inside them.
When I turned the corner, the animatronic mannequins were already moving, despite the button never having been pressed to activate the exhibit. They were making shoveling motions like they were filling up the pit, except they didn’t have their heads. Their heads were severed somewhere below their shirt collars and were lying inside the pit, staring emptily upward while the headless bodies continued shoveling in cheap, jerky motions.
Behind them was the door to the final exhibit, and I stepped around them as gingerly as I could, trying not to touch the bodies as they swiveled and twisted.
The last exhibit is actually a painting of the town of Salem with many of the famous townspeople standing on a hill above a cemetery filled with the graves of those who died during the Trials and a plaque underneath reciting the aftermath and how all the victims were commemorated in a memorial dedicated in 1992.
The painting is meant to end the tour on a good note after so many morbid sights, but the painting had been changed just like everything else. It showed a grisly scene of the townsfolk slaughtered almost down to a man, decapitated or maimed, while a preacher hung from a tree. Their faces were depicted as screams and many of them didn’t have eyes for some reason. At the top of the hill, Tituba stood, staring straight forward out of the painting with a strange smile on her face that wasn’t quite a smirk, but wasn’t quite anything else either.
I looked at it just long enough to see what it was and finally pushed my way up the stairs and out of the door back into the gift shop. Outside, the rain still beat down in sheets whipped by the rain and a peal of thunder occasionally erupted, but now it was entirely dark outside apart from the street lamps. I air was cold and still smelled like bleach from my cleaning, but after the hot, stifled air in the basement, I didn’t care.
I grabbed my coat and my keys and nearly ran out of the door. I went so quickly, I got close to a hundred feet down the road before I realized that I hadn’t locked the door. I ran back, hoping to lock it and just run as far away from the shop as possible, but when I got close enough to look inside the shop, I saw one of the mannequins of Tituba standing in front of the glass doorway, wearing the same half-smirk she had in the painting and staring directly at me. I stopped short and, as I watched, the mannequin raised her arm and slowly opened and closed her black hand a few times, waving at me where I stood in that cold New-England rain.
I never got the text the next morning. I expected it – but I never got it. The only text I got was from Anna thanking me so much for being understanding and letting her go. Never one from the owner about why the doors weren’t locked. Never anything about why the mannequins were moved or anything, and when I went in for my shift at noon, nothing – and I mean nothing was different.
There was only one tour that night, a full group almost entirely composed of the people I had given vouchers to the day before, and when I walked with them down into the exhibits, the mannequins were all where they should be. All where they should be, like nothing had happened.
The only time I noticed anything out of the ordinary was in the second exhibit, where the girls were gathered around Tituba. While I was explaining something to the tour, and they were all facing me, I looked over their shoulder and made direct eye contact with the mannequin of Tituba in her chair. Just for a second, her eyes flickered up from the book and met mine – and then I never saw them move again.
First off, I'm not a writer so I apologise for any grammar mistakes or poor writing and secondly I created a throwaway account because things have got a little weird and I don't want anything linking back to myself.
So it all started about 3 weeks ago, driving to work and I drove past a pretty normal looking house on Carshalton Road. Normally I wouldn't notice any specific house but as I was driving a lady in a skirt suit was knocking on the door. Sounds pretty normal but when the door opened I am almost certain I saw her being dragged inside. Now I couldn't be sure and by midday I had forgotten about it.
The next day driving to work once again, the same house but this time two men in suits were standing outside looking panicked. They seemed to be looking up the road but I couldn't tell if they were looking for something or waiting, either way they wouldn't leave the drive.
A week passed and there wasn't much activity to make me notice but Saturday came and I decided to take a walk to the park with my 2 year old. Now I knew I would be passing Carshalton Road and I have to say I was a little excited to have a closer look at the house. I kept looking out for for sale signs incase that would explain the suits but nothing.
Now to be very honest, by the time we got to the house I had forgotten about everything and was distracted by my newly potty trained son and his urge to pee. However, as we were walking I heard a knocking on a window, assuming it wasn't for me I ignored it but my forever curious boy started pointing up at a house saying "There's a lady!"
I looked up and saw a lady, probably late 20's dressed in a casual clothes (tshirt and jeans) standing in front of a full length window waving at me. With a big smile on her face she was waving and gesturing to come in. I looked around to see if anyone else was around because it was so casual, like she knew me. No one was there. So now I'm fucking spooked, I grabbed little mans hand and hurried my journey to the park but I couldn't get it out of my head. Only then did it clicked that it was the house with the suits.
Days went by and I drove passed the house whenever I could but with no activity. Now just to make things clear, apart from a few chavs and troublemakers nothing interesting happens round here. By this point I'm just thinking I'm being paranoid.
That was until last week when once again on my drive to work, there was roadworks at the bottom on Carshalton Road and traffic was a bitch, I found myself crawling down the road fixated on the house. Every window is open, which is just strange because it's bloody October and it's pissing it down outside. Stranger yet no cars are on the drive, but then again, there could be 100 different explanations. That's when I saw it, one of the netted curtain made its way outside the window due to the heavy winds and lining the bottom was what looked like blood. It was so heavy it appeared it had been dipped in a pot of red paint just seconds before.
My heart pounding I look around to see if anyone else is seeing it but everyone just seems engrossed in the slowly moving traffic. I pick up my phone and dial 999, from then, my life has never been the same.
After explaining what I saw and getting them to text me a reference number I tried to carry on as normal. I carried on my normal routine work, my son and housework. Two days ago I glimpsed at my phone to see a friend request on Facebook. I recognise the face but cannot pinpoint from where. I ignore it and carry on with my day until I receive a call from an unrecognised number, I leave it to go the voicemail only remembering later that night to listen. I sit on the sofa, call my voicemail to hear a gentleman tell me he is from the local police station and to ring me urgently.
I try the number but it's too late and wait until the next morning. Ringing the number once again I get through to PC Taylor, he tells me they need to speak to me urgently and to come in as soon as possible. I tell him my address and he tells me to stay inside, lock the doors and windows and he will be round soon.
Like he promised, he was here within 20 minutes as I anxiously played with my son trying to distract myself from what was happening. He tells me to sit down and he has some troubling news about a recent report I made.
Two officers were scheduled to check out the house a couple hours after my report. When they arrived there was no answer but due to the nature of the report they were given the all clear to enter through one of the open windows. Once in, it was quite apparent they were entering a murder scene. How many and the nature of this he was unable to confirm until a public conference was held.
No arrests had been made and the investigators were still working on any leads as the owners of the house now resided in France and the tenants were renting on an off the books basis so that was a dead end. I asked why this would mean I needed to lock my windows and doors, to which he answered "I'm afraid that during the search of the house, a laptop was found which included a file, withing the file were multiple pictures of various different people, one of which was you".
I froze, I have never felt fear like it, my coping mechanism of finding logical explanations wasn't working anymore. I couldn't find words even though I had a thousand questions in my head. The only of which I was able to get out being "Why?". "We don't know, but try not to worry too much, there were many other pictures of people, you were one of many, these people may have just been taking random pictures out the window". Now I wouldn't say I was relieved, but a rice sized amount of fear was released. But more questions arise, people? There was more than one person involved? Again he refused to disclose.
I ask how if I can ring 101 with my reference number to get get updates. He looked a little confused and told me that due to the severity of the situation, it's probably best I call him directly and gave me a card. It was blank, with just a number and a embossed circle with a square tilted to a diamond in the middle.
Well what now? Nothing apparently, I just need to sit tight and wait for this to go public. Carry on with life as best as possible, like nothing has fucking happened. I'm scared, so scared, I guess the point of writing this is to get my story out incase anything happens. Hoping for some support for anyone that could have possibly gone through the same thing.
I'm so paranoid at the moment I cannot leave my house, even thinking this random add on Facebook looks like the women who was at the window. My minds playing tricks on me. I hear things at night, my son keeps talking about the lady upstairs, telling me she's crying, maybe my thoughts are rubbing off on him.
Anyways I best go, will post updates if anything happens, I can see a police car driving in my close so may be sooner than later.
The thing’s open maw lay inches from my face, and a mixture of blood and saliva dripped from its mouth and into mine, which lay open in shock. I tried to spit it out, but the heavy flow kept it coming, pouring over my face. I gagged, vomiting to the side as I struggled to push the thing off of me. I had hit it three times; once through the cheek, once near the eye, and once in the forehead. The bullet in its forehead was stuck, halfway embedded in the bone underneath. My guess that a direct hit might not kill it appeared to be correct. Thick as a grizzly skull.
I felt what I thought was the monster’s body move, and panic set it. I pushed and shoved with all of my not inconsiderable strength, but it was no use. The thing must have weighed a quarter ton, and that much dead weight was almost impossible to move by yourself. When it moved again, I wondered just how dead that weight was…
Instead, its body twisted and contorted in a post-death dance, changing into something altogether different. I could hear bones cracking and tendons popping as the beast’s face shortened and the long tufts of hair retracted into the body. The weight atop me lessened in a way that defies physics. One second I was staring into the face of a nightmare, and the next I was looking into an open crater in the face of what I presumed was a man. The bullet in its forehead dropped away, smacking my nose on its way down to the floor, where it clattered to a stop. This all must have happened in the span of mere seconds.
“NO!” the man yelled. I could hear sirens in the distance, which meant the police and first responders were close.
Focusing what energy I had left, I shoved the now more manageable body off of me and looked toward the door where the man was standing. In the streetlight that passed through the window I could see his body quivering with what I presumed (incorrectly) was rage. I searched for my .45, but I couldn’t see it anywhere. I dared to glance at Jake, who was frozen with fear, his eyes open and affixed upon the man standing by the door that, the man who resembled a person less and less by the second. The man-thing locked eyes with me, and even in the darkness, I could see the color of those eyes changing, from dark, to yellow, and then to red. Fuck.
I instinctively took a step back and tripped over something on the floor. The ground rushed up to greet my backside and I felt, as much as heard, a crunch somewhere deep inside my back. The pain only lasted for a second as I realized that I had landed on one of Jake’s dumbbells. He was always leaving them on the floor in his living room. I went to stand up, but my legs weren’t responding, and I couldn’t feel a thing below my waist. Terror coalesced with panic as I realized what must have happened. I reached around for anything I could use to defend myself. It took a second, but my fingers closed around the cold, metal grip of a curl bar. I felt along the bar, which was tipped with threaded metal for screwing on weight locks. It wasn’t sharp, nor particularly heavy, but anything was better than nothing.
A snarl erupted less than fifteen feet from where I sat, and I stared in horror as the dark shape charged toward me. It leapt into the air and I brought up one end of the curl bar, bracing the other against the wooden floor. I held tight to the grip and, at the last second, thrusted my body flat against the floor. An ungodly force slammed into me and knocked me unconscious.
I woke up a few days later in the hospital, hooked up to a number of machines. The doctor told me that he was fairly certain that the damage to my spine was permanent and that he was doubtful I would ever walk again. I also had a broken leg (not that I could feel it), three broken rips, a punctured lung, and I stopped listening at that point. I was going to be in the hospital for a while, followed by years of physical therapy, and God knows what else.
The detective investigating the ‘incident’ told me that Jake had a concussion and had been released from the hospital already, and that he was going to be fine. He let it slip that Jake didn’t remember a thing. To err on the side of caution, I told the detective that I didn’t remember anything from that night either, and after what I had been through, he believed it. They had enough evidence at the scene to put together a story of two maniacs attacking Jake and myself, as well as killing and mutilating a cop. It didn’t hurt that they found bits of the officer in the digestive system of John Doe 1. They never managed to identify our assailant, or his accomplice. They also never managed to locate the curl bar at the scene.
Anna actually stopped by in the hospital to visit, letting me know that the results had come back from the University. It was classified as an ‘Unidentifiable specimen.’ She said they told her that the hair likely belonged to some species of canid, but no one was exactly sure. They were asking her a ton of questions, like where she had found it, but she was deflecting them for now. I had suggested she just tell them the truth, but we both knew that wasn’t going to happen. Not with her career on the line. We agreed to forget it for now, and I secretly hoped it was all behind us.
I was released from the hospital a few weeks later and ordered to begin physical therapy. It must have been the second or third night being back in my house when it happened. I went to sleep in my bed, just like any other night, and I woke up at dawn in a copse of trees near my home. If you’ve ever woken up drunk on someone’s couch not knowing where you are, take that feeling and multiply it by ten. I was freezing all over, especially in my fingers and toes.
At first, I thought it was a phantom sensation. When you lose feeling in a part of your body, your mind sometimes tricks you into thinking you can feel it. But when I tried to wiggle my toes and move my legs, and they actually did, I’m not going to lie, I broke down.
My muscles had atrophied some from lack of use, but I managed to stagger my naked body back toward my house. On my way back, I noticed the shredded remnants of my leg cast in the yard. I had forgotten about my broken leg, but it was managing my weight without any pain whatsoever.
Ten yards away from that I saw the body of a small deer, gutted and partially eaten. It was only then that I actually noticed the dried blood that covered my chest and stomach. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen it before; I just hadn’t realized what it was. The epiphany of what must have happened slammed into me full force. Sure, I was healed, but at what costs?
The hunter, once made the hunted, was now again the hunter. I knew what I had to do to protect my family and friends. I couldn’t just wait around for those things to find me again; I had to find them and kill them, and I had to do it by myself. Until I figured this out, I couldn’t trust myself around Jake, Anna, or anyone else I cared about.
I spent the next two years hunting for the others, those like me, but with no success. Either they had moved on to another area, or they had gone into hiding. I would like to think the former, but deep down, in my gut, I know they are still around. I’m not sure if they are afraid of me, or if they are just biding their time to kill me when I least expect it. The only problem is, now I always expect it, so I’m always prepared.
I have tried to learn as much as I can about my condition, and I have learned a lot over the last two years. It’s hard to put into words, but the easiest way I can explain it is that the conscious me and the other part of me have come to an understanding.
Jake never did remember what happened that night, and at my insistence, he agreed to hold onto the property for a little longer. I told him I would make the tax payments on it, in exchange for exclusive hunting rights. It took some convincing, and I did have to play the whole ‘saving his life’ card, but he ultimately agreed. So this week, I am heading back out there to go hunting. But we both know I’m not going to hunt deer.
I’ll update you when I return, assuming I do. Until then, stay vigilant. Because we really don’t know what is in the woods.
Growing up, my dad would tell me scary stories, ones he claimed he experienced during his childhood. His stories would both fascinate and terrify me. As I grew older, the stories he would share became less frequent until they eventually came to an end. Maybe because I stopped believing. I had come to the conclusion, that in a fun-twisted way, he was just finding enjoyment by filling my young imagination with haunted visions.
However, after a recent trip home, my mind has been changed. I believe him, and think his childhood stories are more a reality than I would like to admit.
Earlier this month, I returned home from college for a quick weekend visit with the family. I was sitting on the living room couch, and my dad in his cozy recliner. We were flipping channels when we stopped on one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. That's when I asked him if he remembered the scary stories he would tell me as a kid. I was expecting a smiled response, but to my surprise he seemed oddly serious. I chuckled out loud at his reaction, but with a straight face, my dad looked directly at me and said everything he once told me was the truth.
We continued to talk, and he reminded me that his family had moved to a small town in Mississippi when he was about 8 years old. The house across the street was vacant, boarded up, and he would quickly come to discover it was haunted. It was two stories and sat tilted like it could collapse at any moment. His parents would warn him to stay away, but that did not stop his curiosity.
It was not until several years later that the house was demolished, mysteriously leaving behind only the front wooden staircase and a stone covered well on the now eerie open field property. He thought that once the house was gone, things might be normal. He had experienced enough strange encounters, first hand, and also through stories his group of young friends would share amongst each other. But he said it wasn't just the house, nor the oddities that took place in his neighborhood, but the entire town he grew up in was far from ordinary.
The more I listened to him talk, the more I started to believe again.
I asked him to tell me one of his many Halloween stories. He obliged, asking if I remembered the one about the disappearance of his best friend Jake, an event that still haunts him to this day.
My parents would never let me go out trick or treating alone, even in high school, and I remember this caused me quite some embarrassment with my friends. I joked with him, saying all he did was shelter me from having adolescent Halloween fun!
"You can blame my Apocolocyposis," he responded.
I had never heard that word before, so I asked him what it meant...sounded like something he made up.
"Google it," he said. "Believe it or not, there's a phobia for everything. Even for your most obscure fears."
My dad continued, saying he just wanted to be a good parent. He was only trying to protect me, to ensure I returned home safe and was in bed by night's end. He has never forgotten about his friend Jake and the Halloween they spent out in the park, waiting for the O-Lantern Man.
Jake was my dad's first friend when he moved to the small river town. They met at school, and would spend most their free time hanging out around the neighborhood. Jake conveniently lived just a couple streets away.
As they grew older, Jake quickly garnered the reputation of being the "bad boy." He was always up to trouble and began spending more time in detention than in class. There are some stories my dad rather not share with me, mostly because he was a bit ashamed of his behavior, but Jake's antics would occasionally influence his decisions for the worse.
One day, Jake vanished.
He stopped showing up for class freshman year of high school and the rumors circulating around town were that he was sent to boarding school. His house was deserted and soon had a for sale sign out in the front yard.
Roughly a year or so passed, and a lot of my dad's questions about what had happened to Jake went unanswered...that is until Halloween night when Jake made a sudden re-appearance.
My dad had been left home alone as his parents attended an adults only Halloween party. He promised them he would stay inside the house and hand out candy to the trick or treaters.
Only moments after his parents departed, there was a knock at the door. Expecting a group of kids in costumes, my dad was in shock and disbelief to see Jake standing on the porch. He was chomping down on a piece of candy, dressed in dark clothing with ripped jeans and sported a backwards hat. It had been about year, but my dad said Jake looked exactly the same. Jake wanted nothing to do with answering questions about his whereabouts. Instead, he pushed, teased, and under relentless peer pressure convinced my dad to accept a dare to play a Halloween variation of the game "chicken." The rules were simple, see who could stay out the latest on Halloween night without running home scared.
Jake was acting very strange that night. The two weren't speaking much, so to kill some time they ended up strolling around the neighborhood, searching for houses with candy bowls left outside.
Their final stop that Halloween was at the local park a few blocks down. It was located on the darkened outskirts of the neighborhood, tucked away from the houses. My dad and Jake would frequent this spot growing up. It had a little league baseball field and during the summers the two would spend hours playing home run derby and hanging out in the dugout.
My dad remembers it being a brisk October night. As they walked through the park, all he could hear was silence and the sounds of chirping crickets that echoed in the surrounding fields. There were no lights, and other than the glow of the nearly full moon above, the park was an eerie pitch black.
My dad kept wondering how the night would end. He tried thinking up several ways to scare Jake, determined to bring an end to the stupid game of "Halloween Chicken," but nothing clever came to mind. It was going to take more than jumping out from behind a corner to send Jake running in fear.
The two arrived at the baseball field, only spending a few minutes sitting on the steel dugout bench before Jake stood up and began pacing back and forth. Something visibly had him on edge. My dad continued to press Jake for an explanation, to answer why they were sitting out in the cold, why Jake had come back so suddenly, on Halloween of all nights...
When Jake noticed my dad was wearing a wrist watch, he became obsessed with asking for updates regarding the time.
He first asked around 11:00pm, followed by the same question almost every five minutes there after.
Finally, my dad said enough was enough. Jake was driving him insane.
He grabbed Jake by the shirt collar and pressed him up against the dugout fence. One last time, my dad demanded answers, but Jake remained silent. That's when my dad finally gave up and decided it was time to go home. To this day, he is still haunted by some of Jake's final words.
As he took his first step outside the dugout, he heard Jake begin to softly speak.
"Be home by midnight on Halloween night, or the O-Lantern Man will sense your fright.
For all bad souls who are not in bed, O-Lantern Man will snatch your head.
And with your head, he will cast a spell. A Pumpkin you shall be, from now until next Hollow's Eve."
"He's real!" Jake shouted. "He's not some stupid folk lore-Halloween tale to scare us. The warnings are true. I have seen him with my own two eyes. I swear to god O-Lantern Man is real!"
My dad admits his emotions caught up to him, he was freaked out, by Jake's odd behavior and his urban legend warning. He did not know what to believe, and it was late. He knew he should be home, not out alone in the park.
Rather than encourage Jake's bizarre behavior, my dad decided to say good night and continued on his way. Jake yelled out, requesting one final update for the time. My dad glanced at his watch, it was midnight, but this time he decided not to answer.
He was only a short way up the gravel path, when Jake let out a horrified gasp. My dad turned around and could see Jake pointing out in the direction of the outfield grass.
"Do you see it?" Jake whispered out loud.
My dad peered out into the surrounding darkness and in the distance could see a faint, flickering light. He stood still, watching, as the mysterious glow moved closer.
Attempting to get Jake's attention, my dad shouted out several times that it was time to leave. But Jake was stuck in a trance, continuing to mumble the warning out loud...
"Be home by midnight on Halloween night, or the O-Lantern Man will sense your fright...
For all bad souls who are not in bed, O-Lantern Man will snatch your head..."
The light shined brighter, moving closer with each passing second. My dad was frozen in fear, blinded by the orange blaze. It was now just outside the dugout, directly in front of Jake. A loud and high pitched crackling laugh echoed through the park. In a sudden moment of awareness, Jake began to run for his life.
My dad says it was hard to see who or what was hiding behind the light, but he caught a glimpse of what looked like a fire lit jack-o-lantern, carved out with an evil, sinister face.
The two friends ran together side by side as fast as they could, away from the park and back into the neighborhood. My dad, who was quicker than Jake, continued speeding ahead.
As my dad approached the porch of his house, he could hear Jake screaming in the distance. But in the moment, he could only think for his own safety and barreled his way into the house, locking the door behind him. He called out for his parents, but they were still gone, he was alone.
He debated calling the police but before he could make any rational decisions, there was a loud thud at the door.
He could hear Jake screaming for help. My dad raced down the stairs, towards the front door, but the loud cries quickly became a disturbing silence. Nervous to unlock the door, he shouted out several times for Jake to respond, but there was no answer.
Mustering up the courage to slowly crack the door open, my dad peeked outside. He glanced around, and was suddenly shaken by yet another mysterious discovery. On the porch, piled on top the welcome mat was a dark shirt, ripped blue jeans, a pair of empty shoes, and a baseball hat. He recognized them as Jake's belongings, the same exact items he was wearing that Halloween night, and hidden underneath the clothes was a giant orange pumpkin.
To this day, my dad is still unsure if it was a well thought out prank, or if he and Jake had indeed encountered some kind of evil entity that Halloween. But one thing my dad does know for certain...he never saw Jake again.
I jokingly teased my dad about the O-Lantern Man story and I tried to get him to admit the absurdity of the urban legend, but he held on to his truth. He insisted that the more he thought about it, the more he believed Jake was genuinely scared that night, that something terrible had happened to him, something unexplainable.
I asked him about the pumpkin, the one he found on his porch hidden beneath Jake's stuff. What happened to it? If he believed the urban legend to be true, did he save the pumpkin thinking it could be...Jake?
My dad said he left everything outside that night, he was so scared, he locked the door and ran straight to his room to hide in his bed. In the morning, his parents asked him what happened to the front porch. They seemed upset, and my dad played dumb, hoping that maybe it was all just a nightmare. His parents told him to go take a look, and he remembers nervously trembling as he approached the door. When he stepped outside, he saw that Jake's belongings were still there, but scattered across the entry way, and the pumpkin...it had been completely smashed.
Teenage Halloween vandals? Possibly, he thinks. Or if you choose to believe the urban legend, maybe the O-Lantern Man returned to ensure that a bad soul like Jake would never be coming back to celebrate Halloween ever again. Because for Jake, Halloween was never about trick or treating, carving pumpkins, dressing up in costumes, or watching scary movies. His idea of Halloween fun was giving in to the impulses of mischief, causing trouble, disobeying his parents, and staying out past midnight.
For those who choose to celebrate the Halloween spirit for the wrong and evil reasons, let it be known that there are consequences...the O-Lantern Man will get you.
"Apocolocynposis," my dad says again. Only this time he tells me what is means.
"It's the fear of turning into a pumpkin, it's a real phobia, and because it exists, that means I'm not the only one who has it."
I must admit, after hearing my dad recount his Halloween tale and telling it to me today with the same truthful seriousness, I can feel my childhood excitement for horror returning. Once my dad was done, I only had one last question for him.
"Can you tell me another scary story?"
The following is a log of emails and calls between two employees of the conglomerate organisation ******* (the name of the organisation has been edited out for your safety. The employees will be named Guy1 and Guy2). They were in the Sales Department, though Guy1 was slightly more senior. I was able to create copies of this exchange while I was working in the Quality Assurance department 3 months ago.
Monday 17 July 2017 – 11:45 a.m.
Subject: That thing in the break room
I was getting coffee this morning and I saw this really weird looking box in the break room. Is it for donations, or something? Get back to me. My curiosity has peaked.
Re: Subject: That thing in the break room
I’ve just investigated the box and, although I agree it is strange, management has informed me to leave the box alone. I did enquire as to what it was there for, and was told that it was a matter for the executives and had to be treated with discretion.
I advise compliance and to just forget about it.
Re:Re:Subject: That thing in the break room
Wow, very cryptic. I wonder if it’s the ark of the covenant or something. They could be using it to boost profits.
Them telling us not to snoop makes me want to do it all the more!
Re:Re:Re:Subject: That thing in the break room
I can’t obviously tell you what to do, but management was adamant that the box should be left untouched. If you wish to discuss it further, I’d advise you to talk to management.
Please try to forget about it.
Re:Re:Re:Re:Subject: That thing in the break room
I’ve decided to check it out after work tonight. I need to stay late and finish paperwork, anyway.
Would you like to help me?
Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Subject: That thing in the break room
Look, I’m really trying, here. We shouldn’t discuss something so sensitive via the company’s server. We can discuss this during our lunch hour.
Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Subject: That thing in the break room
Great! Let’s go to the pizza place down the street.
See you in 15.
The next log is from a phone call made by Guy1 to Guy2 that evening.
Monday 17th July 2017 – 6:47 p.m.
Guy1: Hey. It’s Guy1.
Guy2: Oh. Hi. [There’s a long pause] So, why are you calling? Did you decide to leave it alone, like we agreed?
Guy1: Well, I was going to. But I had to get coffee and it was just sitting there. I swear, it was calling out to me, Guy2.
Guy2: Guy1, you didn’t?!
Guy1: Yup. I opened it.
[Another long pause]
Guy2: And? What was in it?
Guy1: You have to come and see it. I can’t describe it!
Guy2: Fine. I’ll take a look tomorrow. I’ve got to go.
The call ends, here. I found one more phone call between them the next night.
Tuesday 18th July 2017 – 9:33 p.m.
Guy2: Guy1. What did you make me do?
Guy1: What do you mean?
Guy2: I looked in the box. God, help me, I looked in the box and now they’re following me.
Guy1: Wait, who’s following you?
Guy2: Some guy in a black suit. I’m scared, man. This prank is not funny.
Guy1: But, Guy2, it’s not a prank. I didn’t even have to do anything.
Guy2: But they [the line goes quiet for a moment] Wait. Did you set me up?
Guy1: Well, not exactly. All I had to do was pique your interest. The rest you did yourself.
Guy2: But, the box…
Guy1: Yes, now you’ve seen what’s in it, you have to replace it. Luckily, it’s only once every three months so nobody should get too suspicious. They’ve consumed the contents by now, so ******* should be with you soon for your contribution.
Guy2: But Guy1-
Guy1: Thank you so much for your service to ******* over the years. We certainly appreciate the sacrifices you have made for us. We will send your final salary to your wife. Goodbye.
This was the last log I could find of any type of communication between the two employees. I checked the records and Guy2 was officially terminated by the company on Tuesday 18th July 2017. The paperwork was filed, however, on Wednesday 19th July 2017. After checking with outside sources, I found Guy2’s Death Certificate. He died on Tuesday 18th July 2017.
Guy1 is now a part of the Executive Team. He was promoted on Wednesday 19th July 2017, at the same time as Guy2’s termination paperwork was officially filed.
I’m releasing this information for a reason. I decided to remove specific information for the protection of others, as to make sure no one tries to find it. You see, I went back to work with them again, doing some more freelance QA (and to see if anyone else was ‘sacrificed’). I saw it. The box in the break room.
I opened it. What I saw inside, I cannot unsee. A beating heart sat in there. It must have been animatronics for a Halloween prank, or something. I’m sure of it. The thing is it’s been 3 months since I was last there. This guy in a black suit has been following me.
Oh God, I just remembered what Guy2 died from. His heart was removed from his chest.
I couldn’t remember. The sound of the kitchen clock mounted on the wall next to me ticked away the time - mocking me, emphasizing the missing hours that I could not account for. I heard distant sirens piercing the still evening air through the open window, coming closer as I sat there, confused and shaking at my kitchen table.
48 hours ago, at around 9 pm on Tuesday, I decided to take a walk down the country road, like Maggie and I used to do. Of course I was alone this time, but I felt a sudden urge to get out and stretch my legs.
Except for the sound of crickets chirping, it’s mostly quiet at night out here in the country - rarely does a car even pass by. The road is bordered by fields and the occasional house on one side, a dried up creek and a tangle of trees on the other. Walking at night had been a frequent activity for Maggie and I. We had moved out here for the quiet, open spaces. We savored our rural life, and there was no better time to appreciate our surroundings than at night, strolling hand in hand under a canopy of stars.
Since Maggie’s death, I hadn’t been out walking. I rarely left the house. But that night I figured it would help me quiet my mind, and give me a short reprieve from the constant reminders of her that are scattered everwhere throughout our home - items that painfully remind me every day that she’s gone...the mug that she used to drink her coffee from each morning, waiting in vain on the cupboard shelf for her sleepy touch; the thickly knit throw on the sofa that she used to wrap herself in like a caterpillar in a cocoon, and which still vaguely smells of her perfume; the photo taken last year on her birthday, her smiling face gazing out at me every time I walk down the hallway where it’s hung - a cruel illusion that all is well. It hasn’t been well since she died.
Whenever I walk at night,I wear a headlight, fastened to my forehead so I can see the potholed road in front of me. When I headed out two days ago, the air was thick with fog, and my light cut dully through the white mist like a lighthouse beacon. The night was quiet other than the sound of my shoes on the pavement and my own steady breathing.
I was fast approaching my turn-around point about a mile from my house, where an old tractor, long abandoned - sits rusting in high, untended grass about 10 yards from the road. It belongs to Bill Perkins, who apparently gave up farming his acreage years ago. I could see his decrepit farmhouse and barn hunched in the shadows less just a few yards further up the road.
That’s when I felt it. The uneasy sensation of being watched. I stopped, and did a 360 in the middle of the road, instinctively reaching for my jack knife, a gift from Maggie. There had been a couple of cougar sightings in recent weeks, and I had placed the 7 inch blade in my sweatshirt pocket on the way out, just in case. Not that it would have done much good. Cougars are silent stalkers, and I was pretty sure if an attack happened, my throat would be ripped out before I could get the dagger out and raised to defend myself.
I couldn’t make out anything unusual, but my visibility was next to nothing that night. Being a little spooked - and since I was just about where I would usually turned around anyways, I decided to head back home But as soon as I started walking back in that direction, I heard a loud crack, like a branch being broken off. I spun my head in the direction of the sound, the light bouncing off a grove of trees that stood alongside the narrow creek bed. And that’s when I saw it.
A figure stood deep in the shadows, barely illuminated by the headlight, which was diffused and weakened by the layers of fog that hung like gauze in the night air. From a distance, it looked like a woman. I could make out long strands of hair hanging from her head, a head which sat strangely askew, not quite right. The face was hidden, but she appeared to be wearing a dress, ripped and much too thin for the weather that night.
“Hello?” I called out, the sound of my own voice in the darkness startling me. “Are...are you okay?” Silence greeted me, the figure unmoving but looking straight at me. Wondering if it was a shadow’s trick, and not trusting my own eyes, I took a couple of steps toward the person. “Hello?” I said again, feeling the hairs rise on the back of my neck, my unease growing. Still no answer.
I took another step, then another, squinting in that direction, the flat of my hand over my brow - as if that would help me to see any better that murky night. And then I stopped. My knees were suddenly weak, the blood between my ears loud and rushing along with the pounding of my heart.
“Mm...mm...Maggie?” I could feel my sense of sanity snap just like that branch. It wasn’t possible, but it was her...Maggie - or some life-sized rag doll that resembled Maggie. Her shoulders were hunched up around her neck, appearing to be pulled up by hidden strings. The rest of her body was standing, but appeared limp and lifeless. And her face - which I could finally make out, although barely - was a mask of the Maggie I knew. Her but not her.
Although I have tried to forget it, I still remember all too well the way she had looked when I came across her car on that fateful July night. It was late - and I was just returning from a conference in Cleveland. I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend with my wife - one filled with the never ending yet oddly comforting chores of country life, a creaky porch swing, a good book, and a few cold beers.
On Wednesday morning, I had driven myself to the small, local airport 20 miles away, and I was coming back on a Friday night. I knew Maggie was expecting me, though we hadn’t spoken. Cell service had always been sketchy out where we lived, and it was not unusual for me to travel for work. Maggie and I had gotten into a rhythm since we had moved out of the city and into our old farmhouse. When I was gone, Maggie - an artist - would spend solitary days in her studio out back, swearing that she did her best work when she had only her own company to keep.
I had expected her to be home, probably snuggled in bed with the New York Times crossword puzzle and her mug of Earl Grey tea, as was her nightly ritual. So when I saw what looked like her car in my headlights off to the side of the road about a quarter mile off the highway turnoff, I was caught off guard. What was she doing out? Then I saw that the front of the car was like a metal accordion, smashed against a large tree standing next to a sharp curve in the road. I could see that one of its lower branches had skewered the front windshield.
Thinking back, that was the exact moment that my life changed forever. Up until that point, I had been lucky - having largely escaped life’s tragedies that - sooner or later - inevitably befall us all. The only hardships that I had experienced thus far in my first 32 years on the planet had consisted of a broken collarbone due to a bike accident when I was 16 and a failed business in my early twenties. My parents were still alive and healthy. Maggie and I had no kids by choice, but we had a close knit family of friends, jobs that paid the bills and then some, and a marriage that was not perfect, but certainly better than most.
That all ended as my car screeched to a halt and I jumped out and ran toward the car, - its headlights still on, illuminating the brush beyond the tree, a clicking sound and angry steam rising from the twisted wreckage. Like something played back in slow motion, I remember yanking the drivers side door open while yelling her name, and then trying to pull her out. She wasn’t budging - and then I realized why. The branch had impaled her against the back of the seat, and she sat there perfectly erect - her eyes staring out blankly, splattered with blood and tissue, her mouth open, frozen in an unfinished scream of terror.
There had been no doubt that she was dead. No time for desperate arguments against a harsh, unrelenting reality, no opportunity for my mind to toe-test grief before taking a headlong plunge into its deep end. Death came calling quite unexpectedly that day, and drove me to my knees as I emitted an animal-like howl of pure anguish.
Is was that face - the same face that I had seen that awful day - staring back at me two nights ago, standing a short distance away on the side of the road. Eyes vacant, mouth agape, vivid red splatters glistening in the light and dripping wetly from the hair that hung around her shoulders. I stood paralyzed for a moment, and then I rushed toward her. My wife. My Maggie. My logical brain halted, as I laughed and cried like a crazy person.
She was icy cold when I touched her, and remained stiff and unmoving as I pulled her to my chest. Her dress still had leaves and twigs poking through the thin cotton fabric. The scene of the accident was about two miles up the road. The tree was just a stump now - I took a chainsaw to it shortly after her death. I hadn’t been able to look at it whenever I drove past. I hated that tree.
I remember looking down, seeing the gaping hole in her chest. And there was blood. So much blood. I stood their clutching her, overcome with a tidal wave of emotions. Fear, relief, happiness, sadness, disbelief - all of these feelings assailed me as I tried to reconcile what I was seeing with the laws of the universe that I had heretofore believed to be true. After a moment, with what appeared to be a great deal of effort, Maggie’s turned her head toward me and in a thin, raspy voice, whispered something in my ear.
But now, sitting here in my kitchen, I couldn’t remember what she had said or anything that happened afterwards.
Knocking the side of my head with the palm of my hand, as if I could somehow dislodge the mystery trapped inside it - I couldn’t grasp a single tendril of memory that could account for the past two days. Like a ring of exhaled cigarette smoke that briefly hangs in the air before dissipating - a smoker’s trick - a brief glimpse of that lost time managed to slip elusively out of my grasp whenever I tried to reach out for it.
I looked at the date on my phone again. 48 hours after I had set out on my walk. 48 hours of...nothing. Somehow I had gotten back to the house, but I didn’t remember how or when. I merely woke from whatever fugue-like state I had been in, and discovered myself sitting there at my kitchen table.
The sirens were getting louder . Strangely panicked - I wondered...were they coming for me? I rose on unsteady legs and walked over to the window that was above the kitchen sink and looked out over my front yard. And then I saw it. My jack knife. It was laying in the sink, covered in blood. Blood ran in streaks from its silver blade and made bright red rivulets toward the drain. I could see bloody handprints on its carved ivory handle. I picked it up, my hands shaking violently as I stared down in disbelief.
With growing horror, I noticed something else. My hands were also covered in blood, peeking out from under my nails and smeared dryly around my knuckles. Looking down at my sweatshirt - the same light blue hoodie I had been wearing on my walk - I could see that it was covered in dark stains. A sudden wave of nausea hit me, and I leaned over, retching bile from my empty stomach into the sink.
The sirens had wailed to a stop somewhere nearby and I noticed the sight and smell of a grey geyser of smoke billowing into a now cloudless indigo sky. But I was far too upset to worry about what that meant. I turned on the faucet and watched the water flow into the sink, washing the blood away as it streamed pinkly down the drain. The water warmed up and I put both hands underneath its flow. I squirted soap on my palms and rubbed them together to remove the blood, but also because it stopped them from shaking uncontrollably. I could hear my breath coming in short, ragged hitches as hot tears stung my eyes.
Something terrible had happened. But I wasn’t sure what.
After I had thoroughly cleaned everything off, I went outside and dropped my knife into the well, hearing the soft “plunk” as it hit the shallow water pooled several feet down at the bottom. I went back inside and peeled off my sweatshirt and jeans and threw them in the fireplace. Grabbing some kindling and a couple of logs that sat in a basket by the hearth, I lit a fire and watched it grow, using a poker to encourage the flames as they turned my clothes first bright orange, and then black.
I stood in front of the fireplace, shivering, but not from the cold, as I watched the fire consume...consume what? The evidence? Evidence of what? What had I done? I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t remember, no matter how desperately I tried. How had blood gotten everywhere? I checked my body for injuries - and without relief - determined the blood definitely wasn’t mine. I tried to keep calm despite the heavy weight of panic in my chest and the sudden urge to dry heave again
After I finished burning my clothing, I took a shower. It was scalding, and I stood for a half-hour under the hot spray, scrubbing every inch of my skin mercilessly until it was red and raw from both heat and friction. I kept seeing the bloody vision of my dead wife standing in the woods. I couldn’t get the image out of my head, but I also couldn’t reach beyond it.
I reluctantly got out of the shower, and put on an old t-shirt and boxers. Suddenly I felt more tired than I had ever felt in my life. Had I been awake for the last 2 days? Why can’t I remember?
It was as if I was watching a movie and the cable suddenly cut out right after the opening scene set up. I had no idea what happened after I saw Maggie, after she had whispered something in my ear. I couldn’t even remember what she had said, although I had some vague sense that it had filled me with horror. Horror and something else...but what?
Despite my exhaustion, I slept fitfully. Shadowy images flashed in nightmares that began to dissipate the second I was startled awake by sheer terror... a barn door... something that looked like a gurney... a lantern flickering in a dark corner. Just whisps, nothing I could latch onto. I didn’t even know if the dreams were memories, fantasy, or a combination of both. I just knew that my subconscious had led me down a dark path that my waking brain had no intention of following.
When the cold light of dawn began peeking through my blinds, I got up and made myself a pot of coffee. Nothing seemed amiss, the fire was long cold, the sink now white and innocent of any color other than a couple of dark scrapes where the porcelain had been chipped by a carelessly tossed skillet. As I sipped the caffeine, and my mind began to fully awaken, I started wondering if the night before was just a bad dream. But then what had happened to the previous two days? I still had no answer.
I did know one thing though. I was starving and there was very little in the fridge to eat. I got dressed, and then headed into town. I needed to eat something, but I wanted to escape the house for other reasons too. I needed fresh air. Needed the reassurance of watching other human beings going about their day.
As I rumbled down the road in my old pickup truck, I grew increasingly unsettled, as I approached the spot where I had seen Maggie. When I got to where she'd been standing in the grove of trees, there was nothing out of the ordinary. Just trees. No ghost. I saw a firetruck and a couple of cop cars parked just a little up the way in Bill’s driveway. I had forgotten about the smoke and sirens I had heard last night. I slowed to a stop and rolled down my window.
"Everything okay?" I asked the two officers that were standing next to one of the patrol cars.
One of them shook his head morosely. “Guys’ barn caught fire last night. Looks like he was inside when it happened. Went up like a torch. Poor bastard.”
I sat there stunned for a moment, the engine idling. I stared out past the house and there, just to the east, was what was left of the barn. It had been reduced to a couple of heavily charred support beams surrounding some old metal equipment, now covered in a blanket of ash. I mumbled some kind of numb condolence although none of us really knew the guy.
Bill was a recluse ever since Maggie and I had moved to the quiet of rural Mason County a little over a year ago. As a matter of fact, I could only remember seeing him twice, both times when he was out getting his mail at the top of his driveway as we drove past. Both times, Maggie and I had smiled and waved at him, as people out in the country were wont to do. Both times he had merely scowled back at us. He was a big, ugly guy in dirty overalls with thinning hair that was long and unkempt. He looked to be in his fifties, but I know people who have lived hard lives and it ages them prematurely, so I was just guessing.
Even though the name Perkins was written on the mailbox, we thereafter simply referred to him as Banjo Bill. A couple of our friends who had lived in the county their whole lives had had brief run-ins with Bill Perkins, and they said the encounters were far from pleasant. Supposedly Banjo Bill’s body odor and temperament were as unfortunate as his looks. On the apparently rare occasions that he did venture into town, people went out of their way to avoid him.
I drove on, averting my eyes as usual as I passed the place where Maggie had died, and then turned onto the highway toward town.
The barn fire was nearly two months ago. I put my house up for sale a week after the fire. It hasn’t sold yet and I’m not sure if it ever will now. I’m moving anyway.
I look around the living room, surveying the boxes that surround me as I wait for the moving van to arrive. I’m not really sure what good moving will do. Thoughts of Maggie’s death will still torment me, I’m sure. But I am hoping distance and a new beginning will make them haunt my dreams a little less as time goes by.
I leased an apartment in Chicago. I need to be surrounded by people, noise, highrises. The quiet of the country that I once craved is like torture now, leaving me alone with my dark thoughts
It has been reported in the paper that Banjo Bill was much more than just an unfriendly recluse. The headlines have been dominated for weeks with the story of the “Madman of Mason County.” Picking through the rubble of his burned out barn, officials had discovered signs of a torture chamber of sorts. There was a metal bed salvaged from an abandoned asylum that had had thick leather straps to hold a person down. They discovered what had been an entire wall for his sickening devices of torture - clamps, horse sized syringes, sharp blades, hammers, a propane torch - all of which had remained attached to their hooks after the fire - still hanging there - damning testaments to Perkin's evil.
The paper reported that the fire had probably started when Perkins accidentally knocked over a gas lantern, which ignited a box where Banjo Bill kept detailed journals of all of his activities in the barn. He had titled these “kill journals” with the first name of each of his victims. Only a few of the journals were intact enough after the fire to read some of the carefully transcribed and detailed accounts of what he’d done, but it was rumored that there was enough there to make the hardened police detective that stumbled across them physically ill. Maggie and I had been one of his closest neighbors - but apparently no one was close enough to hear the screams of his victims.
The remains of a dozen victims had already been unearthed on his property and the police department had indicated that they would likely find more.
After the night of the fire, I continued to have nightmares, but my nightmares became clearer and more focused with each passing night. It seemed that the further I got away from those missing 48 hours, the more in-focus my memory of them had became.
I remember most of those two days now. More than I would ever want to remember. The amnesia that had so mercifully protected me those first few nights eventually gave way to a grim and horrifying reality. The reality of what had actually happened to Maggie while I was away at that conference, and the reality of what I had done when I finally learned the truth. The truth that she had whispered in my ear on that fateful night when I saw her standing in the woods.
Now I know that on that night, I crept up Bill Perkin’s driveway. Finding an overgrown hedge to take cover behind, I located two large rocks, and promptly threw one through the windshield of the car parked outside the front door. It was an old car, so no alarm went off, but the sound of glass shattering was loud enough for Banjo Bill to hear it from inside the house. The front screen door slammed open and he came outside, letting loose a stream of obscenities as he went.
He didn’t have a working porch light, and it was dark outside. I knew his eyes would take a few seconds to adjust, and I didn’t wait for that to happen. Leaping out from behind the bushes, I ran toward him and with both hands brought the rock up high and then sent it crashing down upon his head, sending him crumpling to the ground, out for the count.
When he came to, about an hour later, he was strapped to the gurney inside his barn. I could see the confusion in his eyes as it slowly dawned on him where he was, realized that he was couldn’t move, and then saw me sitting nearby, his latest journal opened on my lap, patiently waiting for him to wake up so that I could begin. “Maggie was my wife,” was all I said as I stared at him. His look of confusion turned into one of abject terror.
It was all there in the journal that he had labeled simply Maggie. Exactly what he had done to her. Along with his self-satisfied smugness that he had gotten away with it. Maggie was a bit trickier than his usual prey, which tended toward prostitutes and transient women passing through town, escaping from whatever demons lurked in their past. The type of women no one would miss. The type of women no nosy cops would come around asking questions about.
But Maggie...well - according to Banjo Bill - she might as well have presented herself on a silver platter. It was the first night I was in Chicago, and Maggie had headed out after dinner for the two mile walk, alone like she was on many other nights when I was away for work. It was supposed to be safe out there in the country. Not like the urban jungles we had lived in before.
Except that night, Bill the recluse was outside. He was checking the traps he’d set in his overgrown field, where he often found rats that he’d later cook up and eat for dinner. He spotted her walking down the road toward him in the dark. She hadn’t seen him standing there.
By the time she did see him, it was too late. He was on her. Maggie was tough and strong, but at 5’2” and barely over 100 pounds, she was no match for him. With one large hand clamped over her mouth and the other hand gripping her tightly around the waist, he dragged her kicking and screaming toward the barn. Her muffled screams most likely wouldn’t have been heard by anyone. Even if they had been, a person hearing those cries probably would have convinced themselves it was just an animal - a wild pig being taken down by a pack of coyotes, or a horse that had been spooked by something in the dark.
I wish I didn’t know what happened to Maggie over the course of the next 2 days. I don’t know all of the awful details, but I read enough to ensure that I will never be able to get the thought of how she spent the last two days of her life out of my mind. How scared she must have been. How much he had made her suffer before he finally plunged that fatal knife into her heart, and how at the end she had begged for him to do it, begged for him to end her suffering.
Of course, he couldn’t bury her in the yard like the others. Maggie was different. She was someone who’d be missed. He had looked at her driver’s license and knew where she lived. He drove her lifeless body back to our house, where he grabbed our car keys and drove to where the large oak tree stood at a bend in the road. He propped her up behind the wheel and gunned the engine. He bragged in his journal about how perfectly it all turned out. The tree branch and the force of the impact obliterated the proof of the horrors he had inflicted upon her. She had become the victim of an unfortunate car accident, something that happened to thousands of people every year. Tragic, yes. Unusual, no.
Banjo Bill was already back at home watching television when I turned off the highway and discovered her shattered body just a few minutes later.
But now it was his turn to suffer. And I was going to take my sweet time about it. Just as he had with her. And yes - he did scream and cry like a little baby. And yes, at the end, he also begged me to take his life, just as she had.
But in the end, I didn’t plunge my knife in where I knew it would be immediately fatal. Instead, I pulled out my jackknife - the one Maggie had given me as a gift years ago - with it's beautiful hand-carved handle and long silver blade - and I cut deep into his lower groin, disemboweling him as he cried out in agony. His body shook uncontrollably, and blood - mixed with his own waste - spread darkly over the front of what was left of his overalls. I calmly unstrapped him then, and rolled him over, watching as his body landed on the dirt floor with a heavy thud.
He curled up in a fetal position, desperately grasping the intestines that were now spilling out around him on the floor, as if he could somehow put them back in. He was already weakened by blood loss from the various tools I had taken off the wall to use on him one by one. I had experimented with each before returning them to their proper place, and I had done so with the clinical detachment of a scientist in a lab - recreating as best as I could the descriptions of how he’d used those tools on Maggie.
Stepping over his writhing body, I walked over to the lantern, which had been burning nearby, and where I had placed it so he could see exactly what was going to happen to him each step of the way. I dumped out the box of his carefully stored kill journals - there had to have been at least 50 of them and I could see some of their names on top of the sickening pile...Lisa, Barbara, Trena, Jackie, Maggie. Taking a can of kerosene that was sitting on one of the barn shelves, I splashed it all over the pile.
I watched him looking toward me wild eyed, his horrified expression looked like a parent who was about to watch their child be murdered before their eyes. He was babbling incoherently by that point, but it was clear he wanted to stop me from doing what I did next, which was pull a match from my back pocket, unceremoniously light it, and drop it in the center of the pile. The journals caught fire, their dry pages curling and blackening as he cried out in rage and anguish. The old splintered wood of the barn didn’t take long to catch fire as well, and the flames were soon crawling up the side of the wall and toward the rafters above.
I walked outside, but I didn’t leave right away. I waited until I could hear the screams of agony from within those wooden walls as the fire consumed him, finishing the job that I had started two days before. Then I turned and walked slowly toward home.
Once the police started discovering what had been going on in Banjo Bill’s barn, they didn’t seem too interested in finding out exactly what caused the fire. An officer, who was speaking with all the neighbors, stopped by to talk to me a few days afterward, but seemed to lose interest when I told him I usually fell asleep in front of the TV before 9 pm. He had heard that my wife had died in a accident a few months back, and obviously felt sorry for me, and my lonely widow’s existence.
Now I watched as the moving van pulled into my driveway and two beefy guys got out. They looked like they would get this move done in no time. I took one last look at the photo of Maggie that sat on top of the last open box. Reaching down, I slowly brought it up to my lips and kissed it. Thank you for telling me, I said to the smiling face staring back at me. Thank you for being so brave, and saving others from the same horrible fate. Then I placed the frame gently back in the box before closing the flaps and sealing them with strapping tape.
I headed outside to meet the men now walking up toward the front door. It was time for me to move on. Time for me to finally say goodbye to Maggie.
When I was a kid, my dad told me to stay away from the old well on top of Cherry Hill. He always said the place was bad news, something sinister in the guise of comfort.
“There's something bad about that well...about that whole place; has the stink of evil about it.” he'd say, in between huffs of his illegally imported Cubans. Dad had a seller in town, and the seller usually bought their stuff from the police department. People had a habit of overlooking that kind of thing in our cozy little town, how the law enforcement was pretty lax once you delved deep enough. This was why Cherry Hill was still open despite being officially closed to the public after a young girl vanished.
The place has legend around it, myth and folklore created by a populace capitalizing on the one bit of wonder and mystery that could be found in their town. Cherry Hill was once a recreational spot, a park on a hill sort of thing. Families would picnic under the trees, kids would chase each other, dogs would chase the kids, it was a pretty relaxing place to be. That is until the night of October 13th, 1993, when horror struck our town.
I was 12 years old at the time and hanging out with my friends in front of an abandoned apartment complex. The place was recently vacated because the owner was hauled in by the police after they found out he was using minors as courriers to transport drug packets to buyers. The place never had any tenants, and the sheriff had long suspected the owner was dealing in narcotics, but they left him alone until little Jimmy's father saw three packets of cocaine slip out of his backpack when he came home from school one day. It didn't take much pressure before Jimmy completely spilled the beans.
The place was still in great condition, and we'd even found a way to wedge one of the doors open and slip inside to occasionally explore. The place had been ransacked by the cops, so there was nothing really left to get into, but it was still a nice place to fool around and play games. The place was pretty close to Cherry Hill, so we'd often just take a detour inside before heading off to hang by the old well. The hike up to the top was pretty exhausting, so we'd always pig out on junk food and soda before our trek.
My friend Danny had snuck some Playboys from his dad's collection, and we were all gathered around, admiring the gorgeous women and chewing gum. Things were going smoothly that night, we hadn't run into Aron's little gang and the moon was full, painting the surroundings in an almost entrancing light. Life had been pretty good to us, and we were in no hurry to grow up.
A horrific, blood-curdling scream echoed from atop the hill, and we all turned our heads in fear and alarm. The scream had definitely come from a girl, but it sounded agonized, like a person in an unbearable amount of pain. We waited, expecting to see someone come running down the trail that connected to Willobee Street. Not a soul was to be seen, and an eery silence descended upon us.
None of us wanted to say the words, but it was Garret who spoke up, he was always the bravest and most adventurous of us, like he had something to prove. I guess growing up without your dad might make you a bit hardened or eager to make something of yourself.
He said that maybe we should go check it out, that it sounded like someone needed help. None of us could deny that it sounded like bad news, but we weren't exactly eager to go jumping into the fire so to speak. I voiced my dissent, as did Danny and Gary, but the other four, Greg, Jonathan, Garret, and Will were in favor of setting out. It was a fair democratic process, whatever decision had the most votes we would go with. Despite the majority being in favor, I could tell they were nervous. No other sound came from atop the hill, and you'd think that if someone screamed that loud then they might call for help after. I didn't like the silence, it seemed unnatural to me.
We ditched our candy and magazines in a hidden cache close by, hefting our backpacks and starting off towards the path that led up the hill. The walk was fun with friends around, but something about tonight just felt wrong to me. Its that feeling that you get when you just know something is gonna go wrong, that primal sensation that causes the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end. We were about halfway up when a terrible aroma hit us, like the smell of a sewer or piles of rotting meat; it was bad enough to make Garret retch on the spot, he never did have a strong stomach.
After stopping and having another vote to make sure we really wanted to do this, we continued to the top of the hill in short order. We approached a gate with a large wooden sign above that read “Cherry Hill”, marking our point of return should we need to make a quick getaway. The gate was slightly ajar, the metal bars showing their age with large discolored patches of rust. I'd read something in a newspaper about the mayor possibly ordering renovations and sprucing the place up again, but that was some time ago and had likely fallen through.
Will held the gate open as the rest of us passed through, the terrible stench getting stronger the further we progressed; there was another smell now, more overpowering than the first, leaving a coppery aftertaste in my mouth. The well was a small walk inwards, through overgrown flora and tightly packed Prairifire Crabapple trees. They were the reason this place was named Cherry Hill, as their leaves so closely resembled those of Cherry Blossom trees. When they were in bloom, it was quite a sight to behold, and their beauty was the only thing our town was known for.
Gary and I were the first two to notice the ripped and flattened plants; a path had been formed quite forcefully through the brush, leaving flowers and twigs strewn about. Curiously, it seemed to lead directly to the well, and we were thankful for the clear shot. There was a tiled path, but it had been seized upon by overgrown and unkempt plant life, hidden completely from view now. This was as clear of a trail as we were going to get.
The closer we got to the well, the worse the stench became; this is when we noticed the blood. There was...a lot of it. The red stuff was splattered all around on the trees and grass, coating the stone base and opening of the well itself. All of us stopped at once, staring at the carnage that we had missed. A few of us were trembling with fear, I just felt numb. I don't think any of us had ever seen this much blood before, and we had no idea what could have spilled so much of it.
The gore-stained dress is what I noticed next, laying in several pieces, the largest draped over the mouth of the well. From the patch that wasn't stained, I could tell it had been white, and there was only one girl who had worn that kind of dress to school today. Rebecca, or Becky, as most called her, was a rather shy 10-year old girl who was one grade below me. Not much was really known about her and her family, they mainly kept to themselves, but it was rumored that her dad was an ex-Marine who had been dishonorably discharged for disobeying some kind of order when he was deployed.
As we gawped at the scene, I could only hope and pray that the dress didn't belong to her. She was always nice to me when I managed to get a few words out of her, and I didn't want anything bad happening to her. Whatever the case, it was clear that someone had been hurt bad, or possibly worse.
Jonathan was the first to panic, saying that we shouldn't be here. None of us could argue with him, but Danny and Garret started bickering over what to do next. Should we look around to see if the person needed help? The sheer amount of blood made it clear that was not a wise option. Whoever, or whatever did this was probably still around, and none of us were particularly thrilled about getting sliced up. I hated the idea of being a coward and taking flight, but I also hated the idea of not being alive even more.
I told them that we were at risk just being around here, that whatever was out there could possibly be watching us now. We might be safe in a group, but just how long would that last? All that arguing was brought to a close when we heard a loud scraping sound coming from the well. It was getting closer to the top, and increasing in speed.
We broke into a sprint towards the park entrance, all pretenses of a coherent plan lost in translation as our fight-or-flight instincts took over. I turned around briefly, catching a glimpse of something peaking out of the well's rim. At the time, my mind was racing and I didn't have enough time to process what I had seen. Now though, I still have nightmares about what I saw that night.
As we reached the entrance, we looked back, still ready to bolt at the slightest provocation. Nothing had followed us, but we heard an eery hum in the air, like a deep rumbling that swept over us. It made my teeth chatter, and I could see a few of the guys were visibly shaken. I looked at Will, who was already staring at me; his eyes were wide, like they were staring straight through me. He had seen it too, maybe even gotten a better look than I. I didn't want to pry though, he looked like he wasn't far off from a total breakdown.
We all decided it would be best if we told someone about this, that getting adults involved would be for the best at this point. This was too big to just ignore, Becky might need their help. We all took one last look past the gate, staring in silence as the trees slowly swayed in the evening wind; we all expected something to come charging out at us, but all we heard was that creepy rumbling sound again.
We jogged to the bottom of the hill, instead of sprinting, that first bout had taken a lot out of us. It was fair to say that we had been thoroughly frightened by what had happened, even if we still had no idea exactly what occurred atop Cherry Hill. We ran straight to the police station, causing quite a scene as we rushed through the double-doors.
A couple of the deputies questioned us and brought some snacks, leading us to a waiting room where we could have some privacy and calm down. I noticed that Will was visibly shaking, prompting Danny to pat him on the shoulder. Most of the others were arguing about what the hell we'd gotten involved with, Garret even going so far as to flat-out say Becky was dead.
I've never wanted to punch someone more than I wanted to in that moment, even more than Aron when he tried to bully me. I clenched my fist as hard as I could, but kept myself restrained enough to just curse at him instead. It didn't feel as good, but it got my point across. There was no use in assuming the worst before you had all your facts laid out. Garrett waved his hands apologetically, quickly realizing he'd let his emotions get the best of him. My anger subsided, but a part of me regrettably agreed with him. I had never seen that much blood before, but that other thing I saw, when I looked back...
The sheriff came in to see us, saying that he'd heard us saying some pretty wild, scary things. He was every bit the image of a stereotypical small-town sheriff: Overweight, red-faced, goofy, keeping all kinds of secrets to keep our town going. He was not a serious guy in any respect, but in that moment he couldn't have been more serious. He panned his gaze over each of us, asking which one wanted to go first. When no one wanted to be the first to speak, I stepped up to the plate.
I started by telling him where we were hanging out that night, but not what we were actually doing there. You know, just some friends, hanging out and playing cards. Not sure if he bought that, but he nodded his head, he was a kid once too, after all. He narrowed his eyes at me when I told him about the loud scream coming from atop Cherry Hill.
The next thing he did was ask if we had gone to investigate, which most of us nodded to. He sighed and shook his head, chastising us for being so reckless and possibly putting ourselves in harm's way. He then asked the deputies to leave the room, so he could have a word with us in private.
After the door closed he turned back towards us and asked us to describe exactly what we'd seen. We all recounted the same experience, detailing the blood-splattered scene, and the shredded dress. We didn't leave out the part of the scratching noise we heard coming up the well, no matter how unbelievable it sounded. With some embarrassment, we told him about how we fled almost immediately, expecting him to laugh at our shared cowardice. Instead, he just stared, seemingly lost in thought as he focused on us. We finished by telling him that we had come here immediately after. I did not tell him about what I saw when we bolted, neither did Will, who remained silent and glassy-eyed.
To his credit, the sheriff simply nodded and opened up the drawer to his desk, pulling out a tall bottle of what looked like old whiskey. He asked us if we knew what it was, I certainly did. My dad liked a good drink from time to time, and kept his liquor cabinet well-stocked. Hell, he'd even let me have a few sips of the hard stuff from time to time. The sheriff pulled out a few glasses, asking who wanted a little taste; some of us grabbed the glasses, including me, while the rest declined. He poured only a little bit into each glass, just enough to take the edge off. The other guys probably didn't know much about whiskey, and they quickly downed their samples; I sipped mine slowly, savoring the sharp kick, followed by the warm sensation in my throat after. Everyone who gulped theirs down had their faces contorted in sheer revulsion, and a few of us, including the sheriff, couldn't help but snicker at their reactions.
Afterwards, he took written statements from us before we were allowed to go home, and he made us swear on the Bible that we wouldn't tell a soul what we had witnessed. He had to open up an investigation, and expected a missing-persons report to be filed the next day. Tomorrow, everyone would know who was no longer in our town.
The rest of that night passed by like a blur: We went our separate ways without much being said, I went home and tried to appear normal to my parents, holed myself up in my room and tried to cloud my mind with comics and TV, and got very little sleep that evening. I dreaded that next day, learning about who it was that got hurt. I prayed that whoever it was, that they were okay now, at the hospital being treated for minor injuries and whatnot. Such is the wishes of a kid, I guess, hoping for the best from a world that will subject you to every manner of cruelty.
I kept having a nightmare whenever I would fall asleep, recalling what I had seen emerging from the well. It was so horrific, but I couldn't remember specific details when I'd wake up. Dreams and nightmares are funny like that, I guess.
Begrudgingly, I readied myself for school and went downstairs, where both my parents were waiting for me with a knowing stare. Dad had his arms crossed, and mom had one hand on his shoulder; they looked the perfect part of concerned parents. Mom told me to sit down, and said I could have whatever I wanted for breakfast. I told her I wanted blueberry poptarts covered in vanilla icecream, and she set off preparing it without another word. My dad sat down and laid out the newspaper he had been holding. The biggest title was exactly what I had feared most: “Remains of young girl found on Cherry Hill”. I wanted to tear my eyes away, but I read on, knowing the name I would see only a few words in.
The victim, in fact, was Rebecca. Her parents were too shocked to add a blurb or comment to the article, so the writer was going by official police reports of what transpired last night. It said that the police had responded to an incident following an anonymous tip about an occurrence on Cherry Hill. The scene it described was exactly what we had come across: Blood everywhere, a single scrap of a dress, and bits of flesh. Thankfully, none of us were named, but the sheriff must have called my parents either late last night or this morning and told them our story.
My dad pulled the paper away, folded it, and tossed it onto the kitchen counter. What followed was some of the most uncomfortable moments in my life, just sitting there in silence expecting my parents to say something. Perhaps they just didn't know what to say at the time; how could you know what to tell your child who saw the remains of a gruesome murder?
My dad eventually told me it was okay, and that if I needed to talk about it with someone, he and mom would listen. I just nodded and stared blankly at them, I didn't know how to feel at that moment. Maybe this is what going through loss does. Becky wasn't very close to me, but imagining her not at school anymore, even never seeing her again, somehow made me feel numb inside.
The bus ride to school was uncomfortable to say the least; my friends and I sat in the back quietly, while other kids stared back at us. We heard many of them whispering, but couldn't make out the words, we even caught a few glances from the bus driver. News travels fast through a small town, it doesn't take long for everyone to hear about something happening.
About halfway to school, Will turned to me and said he didn't sleep well last night. This didn't surprise me, as I think most of us likely only managed to get a few hours if we were lucky. Then he said he had a series of nightmares. I felt my stomach knot up when he told me that, like the damn thing had been turned upside down. I told him he was just overreacting, that he'd be fine in a few days.
“I remember the face...” he muttered under his breath, the statement causing my skin to crawl. I wanted to be as far away from him as possible at that moment, even if he was my friend. I just wanted life to return to normal, for the status quo to be restored. I didn't want to be involved in this anymore, I wanted to just forget; you can't forget stuff like this, the things that stick with you, waiting at the edge of your thoughts. The other guys were lucky, they weren't dumb enough to turn around. Only Will and I had seen something peaking out of the well that night.
We were all the outcasts at school for a while, but not for the wrong reasons. People only knew that we had seen something horrible, its only natural they wanted to leave us be. Parents didn't want us telling their kids gruesome stories that would give them nightmares, so they told them to keep their distance. The teachers treated us a little differently too, though in a nicer way. A few of them even brought us treats and took a little extra time to help us out with our work if we needed it.
The community was healing, and things were slowly going back to normal. Becky's murder was never solved, and her parents moved away, rather than deal with the grief of living in the town where their daughter was murdered. There were multiple investigations that went nowhere, inquiries into neighboring towns where the killer could have gone. Everything turned up cold, as if whatever happened that night couldn't be traced back to any tangible evidence.
Will and I knew though, it took me time to come to grips with it but…I know what I saw that night. It still haunts me, prowling through my nightmares. Sometimes I see after-images of it when I wake up, receding into the shadows of my room.
It has been years since that night, that night that a little girl was butchered and our town was thrown into chaos. I realize that I didn't explain what happened after, but its not necessary. There is no reason for me to expand on all the misery our group went through, how we eventually all moved on with our lives. Most of the guys moved out of town, going out into the world. I was one of them. My parents weren't thrilled, but they understood my need to leave.
I really thought things would get better after that. That having a job and going to school would fix my problems. I learned that no amount of distractions can completely heal the mental scarring that I went through. Its still there, at the edge of my thoughts in every waking moment, still staring right at me with those blackened orbs.
I cannot unsee all the blood, the tattered scraps of cloth that were the only thing left of Becky, the horror that rose up from the well that night and robbing two parents of their little girl.
Therapy had limited success, staying in touch with some of the guys helped a little bit more. It never seemed to be enough though, no matter how many bandages I put on that old wound. I noticed how well-adjusted and happy they were compared to me, and it made me jealous. I also pitied them, in a way. They were completely oblivious to the terrible things this world harbored, to the thing that resided within the well on Cherry Hill.
You know, you'd think that opening up about this would have helped me recuperate, and you'd be right, for a time at least. I told other people about my experience online, in forums designed for people like me, who have seen things they can't explain. It felt good being surrounded by those who understood what it felt like to be swallowed by this world.
One guy got a lot of attention on the forums when he posted his experience about a beach-combing incident gone wrong; something about a monster rising out of the sea and chasing he and his friends through a cave. Everyone loves a good sea monster encounter, no matter if its true or a fabricated story.
I wish mine was just a story, some wild flight of fantasy and inventive imagination. I wish all those sleepless or nightmare infested nights were just a detail I added to garner sympathy from my readers. I wish Becky was just a character I created to add drama and suspense to a frightening murder/mystery narrative. Everything I've written and said is true, like some sick cosmic joke being played on me. A horror story come to life, destroying lives in its wake.
I still think of Becky's parents sometimes, if they were ever able to find closure and move on. How could they have closure? There wasn't enough left of their daughter to fill a cup. How do you go on after that? I won't lie, I've thought about going out early, ending things on my own terms. I guess I'm just too scared to do something like that. I hate to say it, but I definitely expected Will to go out that way. He was never the same after that night, so many years ago. I tried to stay in contact with him, even tried meeting up time to time when I went back to visit my parents. Its like he just dropped off the face of the Earth.
A few days ago, I received a couple of letters in the mail; I expected them to be junk but noticed that the letters were marked one and two. I popped open the first letter, pulling out a bunch of crumpled newspaper clippings. I carefully laid out each one, my eyes scanning from headline to headline, absorbing the information presented to me.
The clippings were taken from newspapers in my town, and each one seemed to be about mysterious sightings or pets going missing. Photos under the headlines showed bloodstains on fencing, doors, and other objects. To say I was disturbed would be putting it lightly, and I contemplated shelving the other letter for some other time. Ultimately, my curiosity got the best of me and I pushed the clippings to the side of the table, opening the second letter. Within were several photos, varying in their level of wear; curiously, the top of each photo was marked numerically, one through four. Whoever had sent the letters and taken the photos had been very precise in what order they should be viewed in.
The first photo was of...something. The surrounding environment was a home with the lens pointed at someone's roof. There seemed to be an outline of a figure against the moonlit sky, perched up there. No real details were visible, just a long shape. The next photo was of some tracks in a muddy trail, I had to do a quick double-take before passing it off. The tracks looked strange, I'd never seen anything quite like them; the sole was large but narrowed toward the toes, which seemed to be unnaturally elongated. Something about it made me feel uneasy, and I pushed the photo away.
Photo number three was a grisly sight; I turned the photo around to contemplate what I had just seen. When I flicked it around, I was no more prepared for the grim sight. It looked to be the remains of a large animal, likely a cow by the general shape, but utterly mutilated and torn to pieces. Organs and meat were scattered all around the ground, with shattered bones sticking out of the corpse. It looked like the poor thing had been run through a meat grinder. What little hide wasn't shredded was marked by deep lacerations that had gouged out large chunks of flesh and muscle. This animal had been butchered, and I wasn't keen on looking at it any longer.
Nothing could have prepared me for the fourth picture. I slid it out, looking at the scene presented before me. The flash of the camera had illuminated a dark, grimy tunnel. Viscous slime clung to the walls, glistening from the harsh light of the flash. Various bits of debris and refuse were scattered around, though nothing seemed out of place. Then I noticed something...familiar. I dropped the picture and recoiled in horror, backing up from the table.
There, at the very end of the tunnel, were two huge, black eyes. A cold sweat overcame me, and my heart-rate shot up. I tried to implement my steps from therapy: Breathing in and out, clearing my mind, changing my focus, but none of it mattered. The eyes were all I could see now, the same eyes from my nightmares, the same eyes from that night on Cherry Hill. They were filled with an insatiable hunger, set in the head of something primal and terrible. They were portals to a history of incalculable suffering and misery, a roving abomination that destroyed lives and flayed dreams. I could swear the eyes in the picture were staring at me, promising that one day I'd be another victim!
Seeing the photo made me remember the final details missing from my memory of that night...those stygian, jet-black orbs, a cavernous, fetid maw, and a little girl's arm, hanging limply from it. I couldn't hold back the tears any longer, and I broke down right there. I kicked the table hard, hoping it would scatter the photos into some dark corner where I'd never find them. The final picture floated to the floor in front of me, face down. There was something written on the back, and I couldn't help but lean down to read it; to this day I wish I hadn't.
“It's back.- W”
I’d been in love with Mara since birth. Children have always been the highlight of my life. I know that’s strange to say out loud. You probably think I’m crazy or something. I assure you, I’m not. I knew she was mine since the day she was born. It’s not gross or weird to know who you love and want them to love you back. I’d never been ashamed. Mara was small and soft with tussles of blonde hair and big expressive blue eyes. I fell in love with her at first sight, as I held her in my arms.
Mara’s parents were never nice to her. As she grew, so did her love for toys and candy. Her Mother was strict. She wouldn’t let Mara have any sweets or pretty dolls. I showered my love with gifts. I’d leave them on the porch for her to discover. She’d squeal with delight. I always left a note for her not to tell her parents. She never did. She was my good girl.
I spoke her to sometimes. She’d tell me about her day and what she learned in school. She was a smart girl. As she got older, her thirst for knowledge became bigger and bigger. She was such a bright child. I was so proud of her. She knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to save lives. This was noble and gracious. I knew she’d do amazing things.
When she turned 13, Mara stopped speaking to me. She had outgrown our visits. I would still leave her candy and pretty clothing, but it seemed now she was more confused and scared of my presents than happy to see them. That’s when she told her parents. She had promised not to. As the police came and began to snoop around, I knew it was time for me to take her away from all of this. She was too beautiful and pure for any of this. The police were so rude to her. They called her a liar. I knew she cried about it in her room. I watched her and wished to make it better.
“A stalker? How scary!” She had come to me with the news. Her eyes were puffy and red with tears. Her shiny blue eyes were dull and her blonde hair had been neglected. She looked horrible. I gently stroked her back and held her close as she sobbed.
“It’s okay, Mara. I won’t let anyone hurt you anymore.” Her eyes then grew wide and afraid as I placed the chloroformed rag on her lips. She screamed and fought, but of course she lost when her body fell to unconsciousness.
As I placed her in her new room in my basement, I looked over my handiwork. Pretty pink and floral bedsheets and a closet filled with beautiful sparkly dresses lay before her. I knew she’d be so happy when she woke up. She didn’t have to deal with her nagging Mother or the thought of stalkers ever again. It was just like she’d always wanted. I gently kissed her cheek and let her rest. We’d be together for a long time now, anyways.
I knew she was mine from the moment she was born. I knew because I was there. I had been the doctor who delivered her.
He looked exactly like he did then, but a bit taller. The soft face with small eyes and thin lips that always made him look younger than he actually was. Just a little bit of 5 o'clock shadow that made him more grown up. Grinning, he dropped his duffel bag and opened his arms wide.
"Richie! How are you man!" Darren, his gritty voice so familiar, asked. I must of looked stoned because I just could not believe what I was seeing. I squeaked out a hello and I was quickly pulled into a hug. It's weird to think but he even SMELLED the same as he did back then - weed and pepperoni pizza. Darren being Darren he rambled along about how long it's been and how much I've changed and I couldn't help but think, You died four years ago.
Myself, Darren and two friends would always go into a nearby forest for 'camping trips' between the ages of 12-15. They were just chances to get away from our parents, smoke weed and eat a bunch of shit without adults telling us off. None of us had much money, so our 'camping equipment' was two kiddie tents (stolen from siblings or neighbour yards) and a box of matches that we would use to make our own fire pit. We weren't totally stupid, we knew not to stray from paths and we never went much more than a mile into the forest. There was a 1 mile marker and before that, which ever way you wandered you came out to a main road. Past that marker it was thick, unforgiving woodlands that was almost impossible to find your way out of. Further than that was a disgusting swampland that stunk like rotten farts.
Guess what we'd do? We'd be cocky assholes and dare each other to walk into the woodlands. 5 minutes, then 10, then 30. The triumphant would come swaggering out all 'That wasn't scary', 'only idiots could get lost'. You can probably guess, we were idiots.
Due to a peculiar week of warm weather in mid-November, we decided it would be fun to go 'camping'. Covered in winter coats and snow boots and thick thermo-socks, we got to the 1 mile marker and before setting up, one friend - Jimmy - said,
"Let's go deeper. I heard rangers were going around rounding up people. I ain't going home cos of some bitch forest security guard."
Agreeing, we went past that 1 mile marker. I can't be sure but I'd say we were 3 miles deep past the marker. The woodlands was incredibly crowded. We had to climb over a lot of huge ground-broken roots to finally find a flat clearing for out tents. It really wasn't too scary, just darker than the other area. We set up, lit some blunts, and chowed down on a bunch of chips and 2 day old pizza. Nothing happened until late in the night.
The tents were small but we could fit two people in each. Jimmy and Marcus went in one, Darren and I in the other. We soon fell asleep, probably about 11pm. My phone buzzed at about 1am, which woke me up as it was under my face, with a message from my dad (drunk texting to see if I'm alright). Delirious from sleep I just touch it to turn the harsh screen light off. Just before the light went off I noticed the silhouette on the tent. It went off to fast to see what it was properly, and with my brain still in nightmode, I touched the found to get light again. The silhouette didn't shift but I saw it properly then. It crouched down (I guess it noticed the light coming through the tent) and I saw how long it's legs were. Like 5 foot long sticks. It's arms were similar, swinging as it crouched. It pressed it's long finger onto the tent and it made that horrid scraping noise.
I kept as quiet as I could. If it was a ranger they would have started banging on the tents and announcing themselves. I turned the light off again and turned to face Darren. Outside the tent came the sound of leaves and sticks crush underfoot. The person was sneaking around, the sound was so careful and quiet. They didn't want to be heard. I began to get those shakes you get when you're really cold or really anxious. I tried to whisper to Darren to wake up. Pretty sure he had a pocket knife on his body somewhere, I thought it would come in handy with this freak checking our tents out. I whisper through my teeth Darren, wake up but the guy was a heavy sleeper.
I almost pissed myself when I heard the zipper of the tent begin to pull. The person was trying to open it. Carefully, though. They were trying hard to stay quiet. They were gently tugging the zip but they wouldn't figure out which way it went (it went top to bottom to open). Finally the zip comes down and I kept my eyes closed tight but I was shaking like a leaf. I opened my eyes a slit to see what was there. A hand, black and thin, crept in. Extremely slowly this hand did not twitch but hoovered further into the tent, over the feet of Darren's sleeping bag. Before I could nudge Darren to wake him up, this hand clenched hold of Darren's ankle and pulled him out the tent.
Darren instantly began screaming, and so did I. I tried to grab hold of Darren before he disappeared through the tent's opening. He was pulled out so fast. The tent rolled over but I finally managed to get out to see Darren getting dragged into the woodlands beside the clearing. He was covering his face from the twigs and shrubs he was pulled into, screaming and crying to help him. Jimmy and Marcus' faces appeared from their tent with worried looks. I yelled at them that something had taken Darren and they looked at one another with hesitant faces. They thought it was a joke.
I grabbed my boots - forgetting my coat - and ran in the direction Darren was dragged. Jumping over a small tree trunk and losing balance, I got hit in the face with a branch. I panicked as a liquid sprayed on me from the leaves of the branch. It stunk of copper, but I just rubbed my face and continued in a straight line. I could hear Jimmy and Marcus following me, asking me to stop and that it wasn't funny. I sprinted as fast as I could, taking a beating from the branches and roots that got thicker and thicker the further I went. I was shouting Darren's name, and soon Jimmy and Marcus did the same, but we got no reply.
5 minutes of running through thick nature brought me to another clearing. Bigger than were our tents were, with a large tree in the centre. There was a little bit of moonlight to see it was a clearing but nothing else was clear. Jimmy luckily grabbed his flashlight before he began following me. When he put the light on me he and Marcus jumped, as the light showed the splashed of blood all over me. My face, clothes, everything was covered in splatters. That's what was on the branches. I began to cry as I tried to rub the blood off me. Jimmy took the light off me and with a worried look followed something on the ground.
"What is it?" Marcus asked. Jimmy pointed to the ground. A trail of blood ran from the woodlands through the clearing and up the large tree in the centre. We all followed the light as Jimmy moved it along the trail. It covered most of the bark and curled around the trunk. We peaked around the tree and the blood stopped on the trunk. Marcus looked further around the trunk when a droplet of blood fell onto his forehead. And then another. And another. He looked up and began screaming.
Darren's body, his eyes still open but blank, was slung over a thick branch. I told Jimmy to keep the light on us as I tried to get him down. I pulled his arm and his body came down, like a sack of bricks. I think we all knew he was dead there and then but we just didn't want it to be true. Darren landed on his belly, and we saw that his back had been ripped to shreds. There was no flesh there, his shirt had been ripped of clean. All his muscles and organs were all mushed around. His spine was severed too. We all just cried. There wasn't much else we could do. After a long time sitting next to his body, the sun was beginning to rise. We didn't say much but we agreed we'd have to get back to the tents and call someone. Our parents, the rangers, Darren's parents.
I pet Darren's hair before I stood up. He was my best friend and I had to leave him there. If I had just shook him awake when that thing was outside the tent he probably would still be alive. As we began to leave the clearing the sound a squelching came from behind. We all spun around and saw that thing, holding Darren's body. It was tall - maybe 7 foot - and thin, and all black. It's eyes were wide and sunken. I can't remember much else as it quickly ran into the woodlands with Darren's body. Jimmy and Marcus had to restrain me from running after it. They basically dragged me, kicking and screaming, back to the tents. When we got there two rangers were there checking the tents out, and their faces switched from annoyed to shocked when they saw us, covered in blood and crying.
Darren's body was never found, his parents were distraught. He had a younger brother and that kid was never the same. Went from fun and bouncy to just, there. He just drifted day-to-day. Two years after his death, Darren's family moved down south and we never heard from them again. The rangers and police believed we didn't do anything but they didn't believe our 'monster story'.
"Most likely a wolf. Shock can make you think crazy things, it's not their fault" One officer said behind our backs. Jimmy, Marcus and I stayed friends but basically ended contact when we finished High School. We never spoke about Darren again.
But now, in the flesh, Darren was chatting away to me in the doorway of my dorm. I asked him into my room. My roommate hadn't arrived yet so I thought we could get some privacy to talk. The way he spoke and acted... He was so comfortable around me, like the last time I saw him was yesterday. He sat down on the bed opposite mine and continued talking. I don't know what he was talking about but I stopped him and took some time to come up with what I wanted to ask him.
"Darren... How are you here?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" He laughed. "I did good in high school, dumbass, just like you."
I shook my head, "No, Darren... Do you remember four years ago?"
Darren was smiling, but his eyes went blank. "... Yes. We were in Freshman year."
"Do you remember our camping trips?" I said. His smiled faded as he looked around the room, as if trying to find an answer.
"Yeah. We'd smoke. And eat junk."
"Darren..." I trailed off. What was I suppose to say? Oh dude you died lol don't you remember? Man what fun times.
"On one of those trips you were... Attacked, and your body was never found."
Darren gave me a totally blank look and grinned. The grin was a genuinely happy smile. In a flash the grin dropped and he looked sullen.
"I moved away that summer. Never went on any camping trips." He wouldn't looked at me now.
We sat in silence for some time before he stood up and grabbed his bag. He was breathing really quickly, his chest going up and down fast.
"Dude are you alright-"
"I have to go." Darren muttered, looking at his feet. I stood but he quickly shuffled to the door and left. The door swung shut behind him and by the time I opened it and looked up and down the dorm's halls, he was nowhere to be seen. people were still moving in in the dorms.
"Hey did any of youse see the guy that just left?" I asked the small crowd. A few stopped and shook their heads at me. I feel like I've gone crazy. I have no explanation to what just happened.
Yesterday morning, I would have been horrified at watching a woman named “Caitlyn” die on a video that just popped up on my computer screen, but that’s the past now. I relished every second of the video, as the lady that stood behind Caitlyn slowly sawed off her neck with an old steak knife.
Let me start at the beginning. At 10 yesterday morning, I woke up and saw that I had a random friend request on Facebook. Like everyone else, I did a little bit of profile lurking. After ten minutes of looking around, I saw that she was in her mid 30’s, didn’t really have a lot of friends, but oddly attractive like the third-grade teacher you had a shameful crush on. Plain looking, but hell, not a lot of girls ever added me. Without giving it much further thought, I added her and sent her a message asking who she was.
A little about myself. I am a 34-year-old widower. I don’t have any kids, but I do have a cat I love named Chadwick. My wife was the perfect woman, and I loved her to death. Six months ago, I came home to see my wife’s body lying on our front yard mutilated to the point to where I could barely recognize her corpse.
”You and Caitlyn are going to play a little game with me. You have twenty-four hours to decide if she gets to keep living her miserable life or face a long and painful death. The decision can be made as soon as the game reaches the six-hour mark, but to make this a bit more fun, I decided to give you a fun fact about her once an hour. The longer you wait, the more you will learn about her, however, if you don’t make a decision before the twenty-four hour period, you will be the next one.”
I’m not stupid, I tried calling the cops, but as soon as I dialed 911, my phone froze up and I received a new message.
”Did you really think that would work? For the duration of this game, I will control your phone as well as what you do. Let me lay out some ground rules since you seem like you don’t have much common sense. You cannot leave your house. All outgoing calls from your phone will be blocked. Any incoming calls will be left unanswered. You can still eat and watch tv, but if you try to reach out to anyone, you are just ending your life just like Caitlyn. Give a nod in front of your phone camera if you understand the rules.
Feeling absolutely helpless, I nodded my head and my phone shut off by itself. I grabbed my phone, walked over to the couch in my living room, sat down, and stayed that way the entire day. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else. I felt sick to my stomach, and for the first time, I really felt like I was completely useless. I don’t really want to talk about how I pathetically sat around while reading the messages that came once every hour, so I’ll just tell you guys what it said.
”Caitlyn had her 14-year-old daughter taken away from her four years ago because she just couldn’t kick her heroin addiction.”
”Instead of trying to become a better person after that, she started to break into people’s houses. One of the houses she stole from belonged to her own aunt. She knew where her aunt kept her money and she took every cent. When her aunt died six months later, Caitlyn didn’t even have the decency to show up at the funeral.”
”Two years ago, Caitlyn managed to find a man crazy enough to date her. He was a junkie just like her. Within three months of dating, they got into an argument that led to the death of her boyfriend. His fragile body was soon covered with dozens of cuts made from her kitchen knife. Luckily for her, he didn’t really have any ties with anyone. No family. Friends all ditched him after realizing he would never quit the drugs that changed him into a shitty person. He didn’t even have a job. Over the next couple of days, she cut his body into small pieces and fed them to her dog.”
”Last year, she went down to Florida to her mother’s house and tried to convince her to let her stay. Her mother accepted her in with open arms but tried to throw her out four days later when she saw Caitlyn passed out on the living room couch with a needle in her arm. Caitlyn didn’t take that too well. No one could find any evidence that she did it, but her innocent mother died that night from a heroin overdose.”
”Her favorite color is red! She told me that this morning before spitting at my face. What a fucking bitch.”
”Caitlyn developed a little crush on you. You didn’t know her, but she certainly did. She was the one you would give some spare change to. She liked sitting outside of the Taco Bell you like going to. I could tell you always felt a little bad for her. Caitlyn does look a little different on her Facebook, doesn’t she? It’s funny how you didn’t even recognize her. Well, I don’t blame you. She was cleaning herself up to “meet” you for the first time. She thought your wife was the only obstacle that kept her from you. So, while you were at work, Caitlyn did what she thought she had to do. You’re lucky I have her now.”
I’ll admit it. I acted out of anger. It was finally six hours and rage filled my entire body. I sent back one message.
I sat on the sofa in silence for the next couple of hours. I was waiting for some sort of notice that it was all over. I finally got what I was looking for around eight. My phone buzzed and I looked down and saw I had a message.
”Turn on your laptop. Once she’s dead, you’re free to do whatever you want.”
Like I said, I watched the killer of my wife get beheaded and I fucking loved it. Every cut the lady made with her knife was accompanied by another stream of blood and a pathetic plea from Caitlyn. Even when I think about it this morning, I don’t have any regrets. I’m writing to you guys to tell you if you have ever been greatly wronged in your life, there are people out there who will help you get your revenge. Including their own.
It took 7 minutes for Caitlyn to die.
Before the video cut off, the lady put the knife in her pocket and said, ”Thank you for allowing Caitlyn to receive the death she deserved. It only makes it sweeter that it was taken from her daughter.”
This is… embarrassing. To be honest, I don’t know how else to explain my situation to you all without giving you the long version. This is not a tale for those who have a weak stomach or the easily offended.
I was a sex addict. If I wasn’t engaged with another, I was usually taking care of myself at home. If I were to die, I could only hope that no one ever sees my web-browser history, or else it would be one hell of a funeral. Suddenly, I started having a very hard time finishing the job. At first, I thought it was due to the heavy alcohol consumption. I quit drinking. It became embarrassing for me to interact with others in a sexual manner, that resulted in tripling the amount of at-home masturbation.
I started to lose feeling downstairs. I struggled to maintain an erection, even during my first whack of the day. I became depressed and soon resorted to eventually visits with a sex-addict help group. The meetings were full of horny women who would practically undress me with their eyes. Healthy me would eat that shit up, but that wasn’t the case. Until I met her…
Her name was Natalie. A cute, mousey girl with short blonde hair cropped just above her shoulders. She had huge, piercing blue eyes that seemed to stare right through me. I was instantly attracted to her so I introduced myself and we hit it off right away. We eventually tried to get it on, but my little buddy failed to stand at attention. That didn’t stop me from helping her out, and I did for about an hour until she was having convulsions on top of my bed with my face stuffed between her legs. She was patient with me; we’d watch porn together all the time, and the moment I’d feel even a slight tingling down there, she’d be on top of that shit in a heartbeat.
After about our 100th attempt she said, “You know, a guy in group was talking about some pills he got from a website. Enhancement pills not too long ago.”
“Really? That shit works?” I asked, hoping to get a positive response.
“Fuck. I don’t remember. My guess was that he didn’t because we fucked and he wasn’t very enhanced”
We both laughed.
The next day I was going about my usual attempt to rub one out routine when I came across a few of those sketchy ads on the sidebar of the website. Below was an advertisement for amputee porn, above was a link to some midget porn, but in between was an image that really caught my eye…
Limp dick? Cum too quick? Doctors hate us for giving away a cure for it all for just $80! Satisfaction or your money back! Get back to fucking like a pro in no time!
Normally I’d call bullshit, but I was a desperate man and these were desperate times. I clicked the shit and threw my money at them. After about a week, the package arrived and I popped one of the tiny red pills in my mouth and swallowed it dry. It tasted like what I could only imagine horse piss would taste like. I nearly puked the little fucker right back up the second I swallowed it.
“Hope this shit fucking works,” I said while examining the packaging.
It looked like something out of a joke shop. It came sealed in a black plastic (discreet shipping) that I was very grateful for since the box had a picture of a giant dick on the outside. I couldn’t help but laugh when I realized the words ’Inflato-Dick’ was written in a font that resembled splattered semen. Seriously, a fucking teenage boy must’ve designed the packaging.
To my surprise, the shit worked, and fast. Natalie showed up only a few hours later and my dick was as hard as a fucking rock. We went at it 3 times, back-to-back-to-back, got some food, then went at it again.
“Holy fuck, Adam, what the hell happened?” She asked, rubbing her fingers along my inner thigh.
“Those pills you mentioned. Did you ever get the name of them from the guy?” I replied.
“No, Steve stopped coming in soon after. Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen him since then.” Natalie turned over on her side and smiled at me, “Hey, wanna go again?!”
As much as I wish I could, my shit was raw. There wasn’t any amount of lube in the world that could’ve kept me going. It also felt like all the blood in my entire body had been forced into my dick. I was beat.
“Natalie, you’re a fucking animal. I need to take a break for the night. It’s been a while so I need to get back in the groove. Come over tomorrow?”
“Can’t tomorrow, gotta swing by my parent’s after work for a family dinner. I’ll come by Sunday?”
Natalie got dressed and limped over toward the door. She turned around to look at me, but we didn’t meet eye to eye; she was staring straight at my crotch for about 10 seconds before exiting the room.
I went to the bathroom to wash up when I realized my dick slightly bigger - I was pleased. When I grabbed it, I could seriously feel my heartbeat in my flaccid cock. After the shower, I practically passed out from exhaustion.
I woke the next morning soaking wet. At first, I thought I had pissed myself. No, fuck no, it wasn’t piss. I’d be lucky if it was piss. Hell, I’d be happy if it was shit, but it wasn’t. It was FUCKING JIZZ! Sperm, semen, cum, whatever the fuck you want to call it, was everywhere. I was sitting in a puddle of trillions of little Adams on my bed.
At that point, I should’ve called 911. I know, I was fucking stupid, but how the hell was I going to explain that to the EMTs?! I gathered my bedding and laundry and tossed them into the hamper. Then I looked down… my dick, my dick was nearly 12 inches long! I didn’t know what to think, I didn’t know how to react. This was another sure sign to dial 911, but no, because I’M A FUCKING IDIOT!
I went about doing my household chores and then wasted away my Saturday smoking weed binge-watching a cartoon about a crazy, drunk, narcissistic scientist who gets into all sorts of fucked up shit with an idiot child who must’ve had some sort of anxiety disorder. I ended up passed out on the couch in a pile of chip crumbs and ash.
It was a very pleasant way to wake up; Natalie had snuck in and straddled me as I had been sprawled out on the couch butt-ass naked. I slowly opened my eyes and was surprised to see a belly button ring instead of a pair of perfect tits in front of me. That’s when I looked down.
There was about a 6-inch gap between Natalie’s pelvis and my own. Natalie was pogo-sticking on the new appendage that extended from my groin. She howled and moaned in an almost animalistic way as she bounced up and down on the monstrosity. I would’ve jumped back and lost my shit right then and there if it didn’t feel so fucking good. Eventually, I gave in and we fucked for about 12 hours straight with my new weapon.
We both passed out on the bed once we had finished. I tried to roll over but was startled by something that brushed against my foot. I flipped up the covers to see what it was…
It was my fucking penis! It grew at least 5 times the length it had the day before! That was probably the 2nd most terrifying moment of my life. It stretched to the foot of the bed where it coiled around itself like a rolled-up fire hose. What happened next was the #1 most terrifying experience in my entire life.
Natalie came through the door holding something behind her back.
“Natalie! Call 911 right now! Something is seriously fucking wrong!” I cried. Sweat poured down my face which mixed in with tears of panic.
Natalie gave me a puzzled look, “Uhh… why? Look at what you have there! It’s amazing! It’s like you’re a living piece of sexual art, Adam.”
I felt like I was going to explode, “WHAT?! YOU THINK THIS SHIT IS NORMAL?! WHERE IS MY PHONE?!” I roared. I could’ve sworn I felt the building’s foundation shake with the intensity of my voice.
“You’re not calling anyone,” Natalie said, putting on a thin smile.
I started to rise from the bed, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY YOU CRAZY FUCKING BITCH! I’LL KI-“ the barrel of a revolver being shoved into my mouth instantly silenced me.
I slowly put my hands up and leaned back onto the bed.
“Don’t you fucking move. How dare you be selfish enough to take this away from me. Also, I have a few of my girlfriends coming by and it would be embarrassing if they showed up all excited to see you, only to find out that you left without giving them a try.”
This is when I knew I was royally fucked. Natalie grabbed my phone off the nightstand and opened the drawer to retrieve a set of handcuffs that we’ve used on each other countless times. My dad used to be a cop so I thought it would be cool if I used the real deal with girls instead of those fake, plastic pieces of shit. Who’d have thought that they’d be used against me in a way that I wouldn’t approve of?
Natalie hooked my right hand to the bedpost and edged her way towards the door, “Don’t you fucking move, Adam, or I swear I won’t hesitate to blow your god damn brains out.”
She stepped out into the hall and shut the door behind her. I’m glad that she never knew where I kept my laptop. I was always paranoid she’d be weirded out by what kind of fucked up porn she might find on it if I kept it in plain sight. I awkwardly reached over with my free hand and stuck it between the mattress and pulled out my computer.
She has been gone for about 30 minutes and I’m terrified of what will happen when she returns. I’m trying to set up a google phone account so I can call the police. I still have no clue what I’m going to tell them.
The only points of advice I can give are:
- Don’t buy mysterious drugs online.
- Never stick your dick in crazy.
Wish me luck. I’m going to need all that I can get.
First: Case File One
Previous: Case File Thirty Three
Case File: 054-002
Case File Date: 05/15/1985
The following consists of various accounts and documents dealing with a type of entity we have dubbed “Hitchhikers”. We believe that there are at least several of these beings wandering the world as opposed to one moving around by itself, although we have little proof beyond some speculations and charts of Hitchhiker encounters to go off of.
Our first account comes from a police detective looking into the various people going missing on a stretch of highway located in his jurisdiction.
Detective Marley’s notes as spoken into his tape recorder.
I’ve had the unfortunate “pleasure” of being assigned the “Route 41 Abductions” case. Jack Fleming, the previous detective on the case is now missing. This case is a bit much for a relatively new detective but I’m the only one without family. I guess that means the top brass thinks the abductor took Fleming for knowing too much. I feel like I should be pissed that I’m being offered up to the chopping block just because I haven’t had the chance to settle down yet. Fuck them. I’ll either solve this thing and rake in the benefits that come with that or I’ll go missing too. I feel that’s pretty cut and dry.
So the first thing I did was go through a bunch of Fleming’s old notes. There wasn’t much here that I wasn’t privy too: interviews with family members and friends of the missing persons, theories on it being a human trafficking operation, and notes on where the empty cars were located. The interviews were not fruitful at all. Most of them said the same spiel that their loved one had no enemies, was loved by all, yada-yada. There really was no connection between the taken persons but I feel that’s to be expected given empty car positions.
I actually thought there was some heft to the human trafficking theory at first. But the more I look into the people missing the more I see that these abductions seem to be entirely random. Rich people, poor people, any race, any age. Doesn’t matter, they simply go missing. You’d think that we’d catch wind of at least one of them popping back up but nah. Makes you wonder where they wound up.
The last bit of his notes that I was already familiar with was the locations of all the cars we’ve found. Whoever is behind this hasn’t been too smart with their abductions. As far as I can see they’re exclusively targeting Route 41, started somewhere in Illinois and have slowly been working their way down to here: Florida. I would imagine they might have strayed off of 41 a few times to snag a person or two but I have absolutely no proof of that right now. This is such a brazen approach to abduction though. They’ve made absolutely no attempt to conceal their movements. And yet, we haven’t caught them yet. In fact, no one really knows who to put the blame on.
That’s all the initial information I pulled from Fleming’s reports. There’s a lot here to sift through though so I’m hoping there’s a clue to tip me off. I just hope I can find it and figure this thing out before someone else ends up looking through my notes.
A later recording from Detective Marley.
So I do believe I’ve found something. It looks like Fleming found someone who got away from one of the abductions. Well, temporarily at least. They later wound up missing, but because no one but Fleming knew they were connected to the 41 Abductions it seems to not have picked up much steam. This does at least prove that the abductors are willing to stray from Route 41 to snag people.
It’s not all-good news though. The lady that he talked to wasn’t altogether there. Fleming’s interview with her mainly consists of her talking about a large man she saw walking along the side of the road. Her exact words were that she “saw him shambling in the dark. I thought he might have been injured so I pulled over and walked back towards him.” She the goes on to talk about the man being a monster or some shit. She claims that she saw “the eyes of a god.” She ended up fleeing back to her car and managed to get home and make a call to the local sheriff. Somehow Fleming caught wind of the girl. My guess is that the abductors were using this guy to draw people off to the side of the road. Maybe he acts injured and stumbles around until someone pulls over and then a bunch of them pull someone off the side.
Fleming didn’t really seem to buy this girl’s story either, that is until she went missing. He went back to her house looking for clues after the sheriff gave him a call. Sheriff told him that a neighbor had noticed that her front door had been open for a few days straight so he went over to look for her. There were no signs of a struggle but they did find a notebook that had the sentence “His eyes were a window into God’s realm.” scrawled over repeatedly. I’ve looked at the book myself and sure enough the girl managed to fill every page. That’s some dedication. Fleming noted that there was one page that had something slightly different on it though. I flipped through and didn’t see it but apparently he found a page that had a number on it, which that crazy bastard took to be a mile marker. Unfortunately, that mile marker is where we later found his empty car.
The final recording from Detective Marley.
I was stuck with no leads to follow for a few days after discovering some of Fleming’s findings. Eventually another empty car turned up, the first since I was assigned the case. While inspecting the car I found a number scratched into the bumper. If it’s a mile marker like what happened with Fleming I might find myself walking into a trap. But, why would the abductors know that I would find a small number scratched into a car? How do they know that I know what Fleming knew? Fuck, I’m getting a headache thinking about all that.
Doesn’t matter. I’m here now. I wanted to make a move so I’ve been staking out this little patch of highway. The tape recorder is taped under the dash and I’m hoping to record everything that happens. I’ve got this weird drive to figure this all out. Hell, I shouldn’t have come here and I know that. But I just get this weird compulsion to look into things a bit further.
I’ve been here for several hours today and haven’t seen anyone but a few passersby. People really are starting to avoid 41 these days, not that I can blame them.
A strange mechanical humming appears faintly in the recording.
Huh? What’s that? Wait! I see him. It’s just like that girl said. Jesus, that’s a mountain of a man. He’s huge. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Come on Mar, man the fuck up. You’re a cop for Christ sake.
Sounds of a car door opening, humming continues.
Sir? Sir! Please stop! I am armed, sir!
The humming transforms into something akin to a screech, although very inhuman in nature.
Oh God. Oh God!
Detective Marley can be heard firing his gun several times until everything goes silent barring the low humming. After a few moments pass heavy footsteps walking through gravel can be heard passing the car until both they and the humming fade off together.
Detective Marley was the last person declared missing under the Route 41 Abductions, his empty car being found just outside of Miami. Several months pass by with no further abductions taking place on Route 41 or other neighboring routes. The police decide that the culprits must have absconded to a foreign country after meeting their quota, fully buying into the human trafficking theory. They quickly wrap up the case and try to move on, with the Route 41 Abductions eventually fading from memory for most people.
The next portion of the File comes from an interview with Travis Benton. Travis is a young boy who apparently had interactions with a Hitchhiker on the road that borders his family’s ranch.
Police Officer: Now Travis, we’ve found a lot of strange stuff in your room. All of these cards are called driver’s licenses. How did you get all of them?
Travis: Ummm, Mister Walker gave them to me!
PO: Mister Walker? Who is Mister Walker, Travis?
T: He’s this big man that walks along the edge of our ranch sometimes! I like to sit on the rocks and watch him walk. Sometimes he leaves those cards behind for me!
PO: Travis, did you know that the people on these cards have all disappeared? Have you seen any of these people?
T: I’m sorry Mister, my Pa might have told you but I don’t see too well. Pa says that I see things all blurry. I didn’t even know these cards had people on them. I just liked how shiny they were!
PO: So you weren’t the one who carved out the eyes and mouth of each picture?
T: Nuh uh. That must’ve been Mister Walker!
PO: I see. So if I asked you to describe this “Mister Walker” you couldn’t tell me what he looked like?
T: Oh I can tell you about Mister Walker! He looks all, um, I don’t know exactly how to say it but he’s really easy to look at. I don’t have to squint as much. And he usually wears a big blue jacket!
PO: And what about his face? Anything you can tell us?
T: No sir, I’ve never seen his face. I don’t think he has one…
Travis was eventually allowed to go home and things passed with little incident. When the police visited the ranch several days later they found the whole place abandoned. Travis and his family were gone. The only clue the officer’s had to go by were the words “Through God’s eyes he takes us to the Quiet Place” carved into the kitchen table. No one else went missing along the edge of that ranch after that so the police cooked up a wild theory that the Travis’ family may have been behind it all and then they proceeded to close the investigation.
The final confirmed Hitchhiker case from 1985 is from a video camera found in a sports car belonging to one Todd Richtner. Mr. Richtner was a sleazy pornography director who produced works under different names due to the taboo nature of this subject matter. He was driving down to Austin for a shoot and happened to have a video camera on him recording bits of him doing dialogue and shots of the road. Interviews with people who knew him seem to indicate he was trying to break out of pornography and wanted to do full length motion pictures. He runs across a strange man and the results are recorded as follow.
As previously stated the footage begins with Mr. Richtner trying out various accents and impressions while speeding down the highway. Eventually he takes several stylistic shots of the sun as it sets before continuing his attempts at acting. This carries on till dusk before Mr. Richtner shouts out an expletive and slams on his breaks, sending the camera to the car floor.
The fuck was the guy doing? I almost hit him! Fucker…
Mr. Richtner picks up the camera and places it back on the dashboard so that we can now see out of the rear window. A large silhouette of a man can be seen slowly walking towards the car, with only the red tail lights illuminating him. Mr. Richtner angrily gets out of the car and begins to walk towards the man. Much like with the tape recorder a low humming noise can be heard the closer Mr. Richtner gets to the tall figure. It reaches a high-pitched whine as Mr. Richtner finally confronts the man, however he quickly backs up from the large man. The man finally stops walking towards Mr. Richtner who now looks like he might be trying to turn away from the man but can’t seem to. The whine in the audio transitions into the scream as the camera is overcome with static, the last image it records are two large circles appearing over the “face” of the man and somehow the word WHERE’S GOD “etched” into the static. This visual anomaly continues until the tape runs out. That was the last time Mr. Richtner was ever seen.
It is quite clear to us that the man in the footage is a Hitchhiker after review. From what our researchers can gather we believe the Hitchhiker’s are looking for something and/or someone. We’ve also deduced that Hitchhikers are naturally hard to see for most people and that they do not seem to “attack” anyone until they are noticed. What happens to these people is still wholly unknown to us. If given a chance we will investigate these Hitchhikers at a later date, but they are to be put on hold unless their threat increases.
Case File: Closed.
Hello NoSleep, it is your beloved Tattle. I am here to give you news, both good and bad.
It appears that someone has gone through the trouble to break our little Secrets. Tsk. Tsk.
I'm afraid I have been very preoccupied as of late and left Secrets' safety in the hands of a few subordinates, this was clearly a mistake on my part as Secrets was deliberately put into the crosshairs of an Onryo, a rather nasty one at that. When I arrived to his residence she had already done a number to his psyche and was apparently preparing to feed on him.
But fear not curious reader, he's safely in the infirmary down the hall from me as we speak. Well, safe is sort of...a tricky word in this case.
The Onryo had Secrets marked. No matter where I would've hidden him she would have locked on to his being eventually and attacked so I did the only thing I knew, I infused his body with particles from a much stronger entity. The Onryo would not dare fuck with him now as I have essentially covered him in the spectral piss of a larger predator. There is a drawback to this however, if the stronger entity that I've chosen ever escapes captivity (which it has before) there is every chance that it'll choose to hunt down Secrets: a calculated and forced risk on my part.
There is one more drawback to this procedure. It happens to be identical to the one used for mind scrubbing and altering memories, or rather is a procedure that can be interchangeably used to either effect. The long and short of it is that our dear Secrets will be out with memory loss for an undetermined amount of time. Worst case is forever, best is a few months. In the meantime I'll be picking up slack on the Files.
I've also been looking into this Onryo and the Japanese text being inserted into the Files and I've come to a conclusion. The conclusion is that someone else was pretending to be the Onryo typing on this account while exposing Secrets to the Onryo's stream. I would imagine this to be the same person or groups of people that attacked him early on in the Case File's life. It is very childish of them to pretend they were a spooky specter however, and if I find them...well.
To address another thing, Secrets' migraines were not caused by the Onryo haunting him. Those are a separate matter altogether. You see, the Files are booby trapped by a sort of "visual virus" derived from the 2K Virus. It will kill most people that look through these Files without proper protection. And so it is now that I will reveal that this is not the first time Secrets' has visited my facility. I abducted him shortly before he "stumbled" across the Files to imprint a sort of biological cypher onto him. All it really does is keep the virus from killing him, but it can lose effectiveness over time and need a fresh application. Secrets' ailments stem from the virus attempting to make attacks on him and the cypher's incomplete protection. This has also been remedied.
It's lovely to be back with all of you. Let's be sure to have some fun this time. Or else.
No, I didn’t go back into the house. Thankfully, I still had my car keys in my pocket, so I wasted no time hustling over to my vehicle. Gordon had vanished from the window, and I didn’t want to find out if he was coming to greet me in the yard. I peeled out of the driveway, quickly calling my parents. I needed somewhere to stay, at least for the night. I realized that I had gotten myself into some deep shit.
Once I got to my parents’ place, I told them that I was having my house bombed for insects and rodents. They agreed to let me stay for however long I needed to. I had peace in knowing that Gordon had no idea where my parents lived, and I got a good night of sleep. The following day, however, I woke to find texts from Serena on my phone. She was upset that I had actually gone to the police about her brother. I apologized, but told her that I felt there was nothing else I could do. That was when she invited me over to her hotel room, so that we could get to the bottom of this. I told her that I was fucking serious-Gordon could not be there. Period. If he showed up, I would shoot him. She didn’t like hearing that, but it was enough for her to assure me that Gordon would not be there. Being a man of my word, I snuck my father’s pistol out of his nightstand.
Serena was staying in a regular hotel; Nothing fancy. When she opened the door, my eyes nearly popped out of my head.
Though it was well into the afternoon, she was still in her purple nightgown, a pink bathrobe thrown carelessly over it.
“Come in,” she said, her gray eyes innocent. Did she not know the effect she was having on me right now? I was at a loss for words. She closed the door behind me, and I sat on the chair beside the bed, looking around. She had a half-eaten pizza on the table, as well as a couple of unopened beers. I was liking this girl more and more.
“Can you get into a little more detail about what you saw in the basement?” she asked, her eyes boring into mine.
“I will, but do you mind? A beer would be nice.”
She glanced over at the beers, then smiled. “Forgive my manners. I hope you like Shiner,” she said, as she turned away from me to pop the beers open.
“It’s my favorite, actually. Serena, I-“
I jumped as glass showered down all around me. It took me a second before I realized that someone had just thrown a rock through the window. I turned to Serena, who was staring in apprehension at the broken window. I reached for the pistol in my pocket but, before I could pull it out, I felt a sharp pain. I fell to the floor, blood running down my forehead. Another rock had just been thrown.
“Oh my God!” Serena cried, spilling the beer on the floor.
Stunned, I pushed myself to my feet, knowing the blaring alarm would attract the police. “Serena, I don’t have a license to carry. I have to get out of here. We will talk soon, I promise.”
“Wait!” she yelled, but I had already jumped up and darted out of the room. I ran down the stairs three at a time and hopped into my car, not even noticing that the door was not locked. I had only a second to register the fact that Gordon was sitting in my passenger seat. The last thing I saw was his arm swinging forward, a baseball bat in his hand.
I felt the pain before I opened my eyes again. Surely my head had been split open it hurt so much. As I came to, I looked slowly all around me. I was under the Ruby Bridge, water rushing along behind me. My hands were bound behind my back, and I couldn’t feel my pistol in my pocket anymore. Crouched in front of me like an absurd, weird ass monkey was Gordon, his big, gray eyes unblinking, his chin resting on his hands resting on his knees. I knew that this was the end. He had me, and there was nowhere else to go. Nowhere but…the bayou. I wanted to scream, but I knew that Gordon had chosen this spot for a reason; Ruby Bridge was surely the least used bridge in America. Dried blood on my face and my head aching, I stared defiantly at Gordon. “Go ahead and do it.”
He tilted his head. “Do what?”
“Don’t play with me, you bug-eyed bastard. I know why you brought me here. Do it! Kill me! Kill me like you killed your mom!”
Gordon’s stoic expression did not change. “You are gravely mistaken, Desmond. I’m not a murderer.”
“Oh yeah? We both know what I saw, Gordon, the corpse! The fucking corpse that was in our basement? What about that, huh?”
Gordon’s eyes finally lowered from my face. Was he…sad?
“She was my mother. But I did not kill her. She didn’t die from a stroke, either.”
“Then how did she die?” I demanded. Gordon looked at me again.
“My sister did it.”
For a minute, he and I stared at each other. Then I muttered, “You really are crazy. You one of those fuckers who can’t attribute their own crimes to themselves?”
“Listen to me, damn it. I could have let her kill you, but you, Desmond, are the only friend I’ve ever had. Mom liked me too much…she even gave the vast majority of her fortune, which she herself inherited from my grandparents, to me. That was why Serena took her from me, right here, by this bayou. She's the most dangerous kind of jealous you can imagine. She’s been taking things from me ever since we were children. It started with teddy bears and candy, and now it’s become actual living, breathing people. Mom wasn’t the only one. She took dad before she snapped mom’s neck.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What the hell was Gordon getting at? He actually sounded like he believed what he was saying, but I myself still had no idea what to believe.
“Serena…she said your mother had a stroke.”
“Our mother’s death has never been solved. Look up Katrina Vincent and you’ll see that she went missing several years ago.”
“She isn’t missing, she was in our basement!”
“Yes, because…because I couldn’t leave her. I couldn’t leave her in the water, like Serena wanted to…”
I realized with a jolt that Gordon was crying. “Serena has threatened to frame or kill me if I ever tell anyone the truth. She has killed before and she will kill again. She was going to kill you, too, before I threw the rocks through the window. I figured she would try and meet with you again, so I waited outside her hotel to make sure you were safe.”
“Gordon…if all of this is true…why didn’t you tell me yesterday? Before you put the doll in the basement?”
Gordon’s wet eyes flashed up to mine. “Because I had to hide my mother. If the police found her…well, I would either be in jail or dead. I knew you wouldn’t believe me after what you’d just seen. Serena hates me, Desmond. She hates me and she wants to take anything that is mine. The only reason she doesn’t want the house is because it scares her, I think. Mom scares her…”
“Gordon...we have to go to the police. They may arrest you as well for conspiracy, but at least your parents will have justice once Serena is imprisoned.”
Gordon shook his head. “I will leave that to you. I don’t want to die, and I can’t go to jail. Do you know what they do to people like me?”
Gordon stood up now, walked over to me, and used a knife to free me from my restraints. He then pulled my father’s pistol out of his pocket. “My mother is in my room. As well as my will. I am leaving the house to you. When they bury her, make sure I am buried alongside her.”
Gordon pulled the trigger. Blood splattered all across my face and clothes as his body fell into the bayou.
That was a few days ago. A few things have happened since. Serena has gone missing; Once I told the police Gordon’s story, they set out looking for her. Gordon had told me the truth; The corpse was in his bedroom, and it didn’t take long for it to be identified as Katrina Vincent. I made sure that she and Gordon were buried right next to each other. I now have the house all to myself, as spooky as it is. I haven’t cleaned anything out of it; No, I feel as though it would be an insult to Gordon’s memory if I did so. I don’t know if they will ever catch Serena, but I will never have peace until they do.
I feel like I should get this out of the way at the start: I’m not writing this because I just discovered I’m living in a simulated town. In fact, I’ve known since I was about 12 years old.
A bit of backstory before I get into my problem: My town is named Truman (yes, exactly like the movie, I’ll get into that later) and, well, the whole place is fake. Pretty sure it’s all computer generated, so wherever my brain really is, it’s probably jacked into an environmental simulator sophisticated enough to trick my senses. Everything looks and sounds real, even compared to actual cities which I’ve only recently been able to research on the Internet. Food tastes real, I think; I’ve never been anywhere outside of Truman so I have no frame of reference, but it certainly looks like pictures and videos of real food that I’ve seen. The town itself is about 20 km from one end to the other and everything is built on what a circular island surrounded by endless oceans. No airport, no ships ever coming or going, so basically no way to leave the island. Standard fake town stuff, I think.
As I said, I didn’t realize how weird all this was until I was 12. I was on my computer late one night, doing some research on the “Internet,” which was pretty much a joke. You know North Korea? Imagine their Internet access with about 50% fewer pages. Yeah, not a great amount of detail about the outside world. But then that night, I remember my computer monitor flickering violently, the system powered down for short time, and when it came back on, bam! Real internet access. Real news from the real planet Earth. It took a long night of clicking around and reading articles for me to put the pieces together and finally come to the obvious conclusion: There is no town called Truman (I mean, there are a bunch of them, but not mine).
And you know what? I honestly didn’t care. It was a shock at first, no question, and it took a while to really come to grips with my situation, but in the end it didn’t bother me at all. I spent a long time researching other cities and found they also had pizza restaurants and movie theaters and stuff, and really that’s all my twelve year old self cared about. I wasn’t missing anything. But a lot of those cities also had violent crime, poverty, drugs, and a ton of other bad things that really freaked me out as a kid. Truman didn’t have any of that, so I just kinda kept it to myself.
The thing is, I’m pretty sure it was supposed to bother me. I mean, I think the whole point of why I’m here was so that I would eventually figure it out and react in some way. The next morning, my parents asked me if I had finished all my homework, and I just said, “Yup!” and showed them the report I had written about tigers or whatever. They both stopped and stared at me, like they were taken aback. My dad said, “Yeah? You didn’t...find anything else? You were on the computer all night.” My mom said, “Yeah, you didn’t find anything unusual? Something you want to talk about?” I said, “Nah, just tiger stuff. What’s for breakfast?” and after a few seconds of silence, they both went back to normal and made me some pancakes. It never came up again.
On top of all that, and I don’t know if I’ve made this clear yet, but this town is a really crappy virtual environment. If the goal was to have me believe it was a real place for a long time, someone seriously dropped the ball. I recently discovered “Rick and Morty,” and you know that episode where the alien scammers put Rick into the simulation? I’m talking that level of incompetence. To start with, they named the town Truman, for Christ's sake. Go on Google and type in “Truman fake town” and literally the first result is the movie about Jim Carrey living in a fake town.
And as if that wasn’t obvious enough, there’s the whole “endless ocean” nonsense. I’ve mentioned before that, unlike “The Truman Show,” this town isn’t a set. The people in it aren’t actors pretending to be ordinary citizens living here. This whole place is computer generated, which means they could easily have just simulated a planet with no easily perceivable boundary. They would just have to render new environments as I walk through them, which would be much harder to detect. Instead: endless oceans!
So I think the whole “Internet glitch thing” was supposed to be my big tip-off that things weren’t right, and that was supposed to spark me into some kind of, I don’t know, freakout? Anger? Terror? Insanity? I don’t know what the goal was but I’m fairly sure they (whoever they are) didn’t expect me to just say, “Meh, whatever,” and roll with it for this long. They’ve tried to get to me a lot throughout my childhood, but I just kept refusing to engage. I was walking along the coastline at the edge of town one time, and a mysterious-looking man approached me and said, “Did you ever notice how no boats or planes ever leave from here?” and I just said, “Nope!” and kept going. I’ve received dozens of cryptic emails, all along the same vein: “Something’s not right in Truman,” “We are all in terrible danger,” “This is all a lie,” “WAKE UP! YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP!” and I ignored them all. Things always went back to normal after a while anyway. I started dating a girl when I was 16 (she was also fake, as is everyone else here, but I didn’t care because, well, I was 16) and one night she called me around 1 a.m., saying, “Nathan, they’re coming! Oh my god, they’re coming for you! You have to get out of Truman! GET OUT-” and then the line went dead. She was gone for a couple months and then just showed up back at school. We went out a few more times after that.
These prompts stopped around the time I turned 18. For a few years after that, things were more or less normal. I’m a pretty simple person, I guess, and I never had any reason to rock the boat. I had my fake family, my fake friends, lots of fake fun stuff to do and, since they never bothered to program a fake college into Truman, I no longer had to go to school. For a while I tried to get a fake job, but that didn’t pan out. Every manager at every store gave me the same response when I asked: a few seconds of dead silence, followed by, “I’m sorry, but that is unavailable at this time.” It didn’t matter though, because my parents continued giving me money every week and never asked me to move out. In short, I was content.
So here’s why I’m finally talking about this after all this time: I really don’t think the simulation was intended to run this long. In fact, I’m not sure anyone is even still monitoring what’s going on in here. A few weeks after I turned 22, I noticed the first glitch at a park near my house. A few men were playing a game of checkers on a table near a tree, but one of them didn’t have a chair. He was sitting, but there was nothing underneath him but air. I blinked a few times at this and then the chair was there. I was so used to my virtual environment by this time that I didn’t think, “Weird, must be a trick of the light.” I thought, “Ha! A glitch. Boy this place sucks.”
The glitches were actually pretty amusing at first. There would be people at cafes drinking hot cups of coffee but there would be no cup, just a sloshing pile of coffee in their bare hands. Sometimes I’d go into rooms and it would take a few seconds for the colour and texture of the walls to appear. Or a delivery person would come to the house, hand an invisible package to my mom or dad, and they would proceed into the living room and unwrap what looked like thin air for a minute. Other times random objects would appear in places they shouldn’t be. People would stomp around in boxes instead of shoes. I saw a guy writing notes in a journal, but he was using what looked like a narrow tube of toothpaste. I saw a teenaged girl take what I think was supposed to be a phone out of her purse, but instead it was just a very large human tongue which she put up to her ear and began talking into. As the glitches began to increase in frequency, it became more and more difficult to interact with my environment. Once, I was stung five times by bees I couldn’t see because apparently I had walked through a flower patch that I also couldn’t see.
When people started glitching as well, I became a little more concerned. I went out for a walk one afternoon and noticed there was a person walking about twenty meters ahead of me, but no matter what I did, he was always at the same distance. He never changed his walking pace, even when I ran as fast as I could or stood completely still. He still appeared to be walking at the same rate, but always at exactly the same 20 meter distance. I would turn a corner, and there he was, 20 meters away. Every now and then I would see people driving past in a car and none of them will have faces, just blank spaces above their necks. Sometimes people would arrive at a building, but instead of going inside, they would just walk straight up the side of the building towards the roof. When they reached the top, they would keep walking directly up into the sky until they were no longer visible. Or you know that white-noise buzz of many people talking in a crowd? That disappeared a while ago. Now they all just chant the same thing at the same time: “CHAT LOG UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME. CHAT LOG UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME.” Over and over again.
Over time, I stopped being able to interact with anybody. When I talked to people, their responses were either unintelligible sounds or there would be no sound at all. I tried to get a coffee the other day and the barista looked at me for a moment and then began laughing. Really loud, hysterical laughing, all while looking me directly in the eyes, until eventually I just left. Getting something as simple as food has become a major challenge. Things are so buggy that most of the time I either don’t know what I’m getting or can’t find someone who will sell it to me. I’ve tried to eat more than a few totally ordinary objects because I was sure they were supposed to be food.
Finally, I caved. I went to talk to my parents one morning to finally tell them I just noticed something unusual was happening in Truman. Dad was sunk up to his waist in the floor and was saying, “Hi there, how are you?” over and over again to the closed front door. I went to find mom instead. She was sitting on the couch reading a book with blank pages but otherwise looked normal.
“Mom? Can I talk to you for a second?” She turned her head almost 180 degrees around to look at me without moving her body. “I, uh...I was looking on the Internet last night, and...I think something’s wrong.” Her expression didn’t change. She said nothing. “I mean, I...I think Truman might not be a real town. I think this town is fake.” She stared. “So...I mean, I’m pretty freaked out about this, so...what do you think I should do?” She stared. She opened her mouth to say something, seemed to change her mind, and swiveled her head back to continue “reading.” Nothing changed.
I need to get of here. I’ve tried talking to other people, and exactly the same thing happens. I’ve been all over town, trying to find some other way to trigger whatever is supposed to end this simulation, but the prompts stopped so long ago that I’m worried it might be too late. Meanwhile, this town is continuing to fall apart at an alarming rate. The endless ocean is now just an untextured white void at the edge of town. Many buildings have turned into large rectangular boxes with no features. The sun doesn’t even move anymore, it just hangs directly above the town, and the air is starting to get uncomfortably hot. I don't know if I have a body somewhere out there in the world but if I do, I don't know how much more time it has or what will happen if it dies.
I’m running out of options here. Please, if you have any ideas, please help me.
My husband and I always wanted our son to be adventurous. We wanted to watch him grow up asking questions about everything, seeking out answers, and looking for adventure. It seems like whenever parents have a deep desire for how they want their children to be, their children instinctively know and go the complete opposite direction.
As Sam grew up, he became very introverted and would actively ask when it was time for bed. He loved to sleep, and our doctor gave a lot of explanations. All the illnesses had been checked and crossed out before he said "I think he just likes to get away from reality. He likes his dreams more than he enjoys life." This was at the age of eight.
This actually depressed us as parents. What could be so wrong, so uninteresting about his life that he would come home and just sleep?
The doctor recommended that we plan family activities that were geared towards him as a way to engage him in life. "Give him something to be excited about after school."
So, for our very first trip, we decided we would go on a hike. The mountains were about an hour away, and we considered this a mild introduction to our new family habit. When we told Sam where we were going, he was ecstatic. We knew then that hiking had been the right activity.
On Saturday, we threw together some backpacks, lunch, water, and even a magnifying glass so Sam could inspect everything closely. He was so excited the entire way there. We were all thrilled.
When we parked at the trailhead, Sam leapt out of the car and almost ran up the trail without us. I had to call him back so we could keep an eye on him.
The hike was short, maybe half a mile, but Sam tried to run it like a marathon. We kept calling for him to come back and check out this bird, or this butterfly, or the log that looked like a grandpa's face. He would come and look to humor us, but then run ahead.
Eventually, we gave up trying to point things out and let him just run through the woods. We were pleased that he had taken so well to the trip. For once, Charlie and I felt like we knew what we were doing as parents. Anyone who's a parent knows how that feels.
We got to the end of the trail and ate our lunch. We were at a ledge along the mountain that was more like a hill. The sun was high overhead and we could see over the trees for miles. Sam quickly downed his lunch and we let him run off into the trees.
"Not too far," I warned him. He obeyed, and we could always see him. From the rock where we sat, I watched Sam while Charlie went to the bathroom. I watched Sam pick up sticks, swing them at bushes and tree trunks until the stick broke, then pick up another one. He picked one up that was too short to be swung, but he smiled wide at it and ran around with it in front of him, using both hands.
Finally, he ran over to me and said "Mom! Feel this stick! It feels so cool!"
"Oh yeah?" I grinned, taking the stick from him. It was in the shape of a Y, and when I grabbed one of the sides of the Y, it was perfectly smooth. It looked like someone had taken a knife and whittled a bigger branch down into this smooth, sling-shot shaped stick. The two sides of the Y were curved, almost like bicycle handlebars.
"That's very smooth!" I said to encourage him. He looked at me funny, then ran back into the woods to keep playing.
We packed up lunch, stuffed everything back in the backpacks, and announced that we were ready to hike back. Sam came back without a fuss, and we began walking down the trail.
Instead of running ahead, Sam lagged behind, still clutching the Y stick. He held it in front of him with both hands as before, and was swinging it around slowly, as if it were a magnifying glass and he were searching for something.
"Come on, Sam," Charlie encouraged gently when he stood in one place for too long. We both had to stop because he had fallen so far behind. He was pointing his stick into the trees, arms outstretched. He kept looking from the stick to the trees, as if trying to line something up.
We both waited patiently for a few seconds, but the heat was getting to us and we were ready for an air-conditioned car.
"Sam, honey, let's go," I called.
"Okay," he called back, but didn't move.
Charlie sighed and walked back to him. He put his hands on both of Sam's shoulders and guided him down the trail. The whole time, Sam kept both hands firmly on the stick and tried his best to point it back towards the trees where he'd been looking. He didn't point it towards where he had been standing, I noticed later, but at a spot past the trail and into the trees. Always at one position.
Charlie finally got him to where I was, and we kept walking. Sam eventually stopped pointing his stick, and instead kept it down in front of him, both hands still being used to hold either side of the Y.
We drove home, pleased that Sam was taking home a souvenir. Our day trip had worked. He was getting involved with life. We were one step closer to our adventurous son.
Over the next couple of days, lots of things started happening. They all seemed disjointed and not connected in the moment. Later, memory would connect them for me.
Sam went back to his sleeping routine. He would come home from school, go into his room, and play for a bit by himself while dinner was being made. I got him to work on homework, then served dinner when Charlie got home. After that, he went straight to bed by his own choice.
This wasn't abnormal for him, so I wasn't any more concerned than usual.
A few nights after we got home, I noticed that Sam's bedroom light was on even though he'd gone to bed hours ago. His door was closed, so I went to go and turn off his light for him. I figured he might have left it on when he fell asleep or something.
The second I opened the door, Sam leapt off the floor and jumped into bed, like he knew he was in trouble. It was only 7 in the evening, I wasn't about to yell at him for not going to bed when he said he was.
His rapid jump into bed had me worried though.
"Sam? What's up?"
"Nothing," he said in that kiddush tone that screams I didn't do anything!
I looked around the room and saw what I always saw: his toys were out and lined up in some game he must've been playing. Nothing was out of place or irregular.
"You jumped up as soon as I came in, anything wrong?"
"Okay," I said slowly, unsure of what else to say.
He looked at me with untold terror in his eyes.
"Are you sure nothing is wrong?" I pressed. "I can hang out with you for a bit, if you want."
He stared right through me, his eyes wide. It took him a few seconds to reply.
"No, mother, I'm going to bed now. C-can you turn out the light?"
I blinked. He's never called me "mother" in his life. I should have pushed myself in and sat on his bed and talked until he admitted what was wrong. But I didn't. Charlie called my name, and it distracted me. I wished him a good night, turned off the light, and shut the door.
Talking later on with Charlie about it, Charlie thought that maybe he had somehow discovered masturbation, even at his young age. "When you rub around on the floor the right way, it just happens," Charlie told me. Apparently, that was how he had discovered it.
So, I chalked the situation up to that.
Sam also kept carrying that Y stick around everywhere. He always kept it within reach. During dinner, he kept it on the table. When I told him that sticks don't belong on the dining room table, he kept it on his chair next to him. He took it to bed and kept it next to his head. He even took it to school.
I tried fighting him on it once, but he claimed he was taking it to show and tell. I was about to insist that he leave it home, but he looked like he might cry if I came down firm. So, I let him on the condition that if his teacher mentioned it to me that I'd make him leave it home. He agreed.
One day, Charlie was taking out the garbage and the bag caught on the door jam. The contents of the bag spilled all over the floor, and he quietly cursed and went to get another bag. That was when he found about 20 of Sam's toys in the trash. They varied from stuffed animals to action figures.
Confused, Charlie asked me if I had thrown them away, or was punishing Sam for something. I told him no, and was equally puzzled.
Sam, for some unknown reason, had been throwing his own toys away.
Together, after dinner, we sat down with Sam at the table to ask about the toys. We saw it as a cry for help.
"They were selected," he said in response. "They weren't doing a good enough job, so they were fired. Their time was up."
Charlie told Sam that we don't throw toys away because they cost money and we don't waste things. Sam nodded, but I saw his hands clutch the sides of the Y stick tightly under the table. He was stressing. Something was going on.
We ended the conversation on a light note, and Sam understood why we were upset. He promised not to throw away any more toys, then ran off to bed.
I just remember thinking how strange the sentence was "their time was up." That was an adult's line: not something you hear from kids.
Sam's school sent an email to all the parents, about two weeks after our hiking trip. The principal pleaded with parents to not let their children come to school if their child was sick, as there was a very serious flu going around the school. He even admitted that five teachers and thirty students had been sick over the last week alone.
I showed it to Charlie, but he didn't find it as weird as I did.
"Hand sanitizer breeds super bugs," he shrugged. "Just tell Sam to wash his hands more often."
The final straw for me came a few nights later. It was a Wednesday night when I woke up for no reason. Charlie was snoring next to me, but in a lull between snores, I heard a whisper. Fear seized my throat, and I lifted my head off the pillow slowly to peer at the bedroom door. Someone moved in the dark, stumbling along. Someone small and short. Sam.
Irritated, I got up and walked to the door. I saw Sam skip away, as if he were crossing a field of spiders and was desperate not to get any on his shoes.
"Sam," I whispered, walking out after him. I turned the corner into the family room, but he wasn't there. I heard bare feet race across the kitchen floor, and that made me angry. The little shit was hiding from me.
I walked through the family room, and noticed that the clock on the wall was way louder than usual. Or maybe I was hypersensitive because I was exhausted. When I entered the kitchen, Sam was facing me. He stood next to the fridge, and the small LED's on it lit up his expression. He was terrified, and his little Y stick was pointed right at me.
"Sam," I hissed in annoyance. "It's late. Go back to bed."
"I... need water," he said, still looking at me with wide eyes. It was an obvious lie, but one not abnormal for kids caught up past their bedtime.
"Okay, then get some water," I sighed.
"Can you get it?" He asked, still clutching the stick and pointing it my way.
He must've seen my "mom" look, because he reemphasized. "Please."
I walked forward, and that's when I noticed that he pointed the stick around me. He was pointing at something behind me. I whirled around really fast and stared into the... empty darkness of the family room.
The clock was still noticeably loud. It sounded like a person saying the actual words.
I looked around the room for a full thirty seconds. Nothing moved.
"What are you doing up, Sam?" I asked, turning back to face him. He looked at me with real, true terror in his eyes. The stick was shaking in his hand.
"Sam," I hissed, snapping a little bit.
"It's not time yet," he stuttered, barely glancing at me. His gaze was transfixed beyond me. "I'm not ready yet."
For half a second, I wondered if he was pretending to sleep walk. Then I wondered if he actually was sleep walking. Then my tiredness washed over me and I got irritable again.
"It's time for bed," I insisted, walking towards him. Still, he kept his eyes behind me, and the stick pointed into the family room.
"Okay, okay," he said, defeated as I approached. He took slow, unwilling steps towards the family room. I stood behind him, watching to make sure he went to bed. I saw his head look back and forth, scanning the room as he entered. He was looking for something. He looked back at me with uncertainty.
Suddenly, he screamed.
"MOM! WATCH OUT!"
I instinctively whirled around, hands up and ready to attack whatever was there.
Nothing. Nothing but darkness and the far kitchen wall.
I ground my teeth and glared down at him. He was still shaking, pointing his stick into the empty kitchen. I was beyond annoyed now. This stick had been out of control for weeks.
"I think you need a break from this," I said, snatching the stick from his hand.
"No! NO!" He screeched. Sam practically leapt at me, but I jumped out of the way. This was the only way, I assured myself. This stick wasn't healthy after all.
"Don't! DON'T!" He cried and yelled, following me through the family room and into the hall. All the attention that he'd pointed into the kitchen was now directed at me.
He tried to jump and grab at the stick, but I held it above my head. I felt like a teenage older sibling, teasing my younger brother. But this was necessary.
I regretted waking Charlie up, but I pushed my way into my room, tossed the stick onto the floor, and turned back to get Sam out.
"Give it to me, give it to me, GIVE IT TO ME!" He demanded without taking a breath. I pushed him out and shut the bedroom door. I flipped the lock on the handle and sighed.
"Wuz goin on?" Charlie mumbled.
"I took the stick away. He was playing with it all night," I sighed, coming back to bed. Sam was pounding on the door. I convinced Charlie that we should ignore him, let him tire himself out, and tomorrow we would lecture him. He verbally agreed, though I could sense that he didn't agree inside.
It took an hour, but Sam gave up, and we went to sleep.
The next morning, my throat felt like I had swallowed sandpaper. The flu. Of course. My stomach rumbled and rousted me out of bed. I found myself starting to run to the master bathroom after my stomach turned nauseous. I puked up spaghetti from dinner the night before.
Stumbling out of the bathroom, I had to move aside for Charlie, who couldn't make it to the toilet and threw up into the sink.
"Not you too," I sighed sympathetically.
"I haven't been this sick since I was a kid," he moaned, rinsing his mouth out.
I rubbed my eyes, still tired from Sam's ordeal last night, and got in the shower with the lights off, hoping it would help my light sensitivity.
Charlie decided to call in sick and rest for the day. I got ready for the day so I wouldn't lounge around in my pajamas all day, feeling even more sick. When I was completely ready, I unlocked the bedroom door and stepped out. Sam was nowhere in sight, which meant he had gone back to bed. Good.
"Sam, I hope you're getting ready for school," I said loudly. No reply. I went to his room, and found the door shut as usual. I twisted the handle and pushed, but the door was stuck.
"The hell..." I muttered quietly. Using my shoulder, I shoved hard against the door. I heard a clatter, then the door opened. As I entered, I saw three things right away.
One, a chair had been placed under the door handle, preventing it from opening easily. Two, the window was wide open, with the screen missing. And three, Sam wasn't in his room.
We called the police immediately after searching the house from top to bottom. If we hadn't called them, I have no idea where we would have started. Should we have driven around, looking for him? Called his friend's houses to see if they knew where he was?
The police were helpful, and I spent a miserable half-day sitting by the phone, puking my guts out and worrying about Sam. The police were out driving around, searching for Sam with his picture taped to their dashboards.
Charlie was dead asleep when I wandered into the bedroom, debating lying down. But I couldn't sleep while Sam was missing. The sickness would let me, of course, but the guilt of falling asleep while this was going on was too much.
I saw the stick, which had landed partially under the bed when I threw it last night.
All this because of a stick?
Maybe the doctor was wrong. Maybe he did have something wrong with him, but it was mental. Psychological. Maybe instead of a doctor, we should take him to a psychologist.
In an attempt to stay awake, I decided to search the house for the fifteenth time. This time, I carried the stick with me.
"Sam," I said, loud enough to be heard while I walked through the family room, kitchen, and to the stairs. Maybe he was hiding in the storage room downstairs. Maybe behind a few boxes.
"Sam!" I said again. "I have your stick! I'm sorry I took it! Please come out, mommy is really worried! You aren't in trouble!"
I descended the stairs, and halfway down, I thought I heard him reply. It was faint, far away. The words were impossible to make out.
"Sam!" I cried desperately, spinning around on the stairs to try and figure out if he was upstairs or downstairs.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a leg dart around the corner at the bottom of the stairs, towards the storage room.
My hunch was correct.
I sped down the stairs and turned the corner. The door was closed. I tried to twist the handle, but he had locked it.
"Sam, honey, open the door please," I pleaded while reaching for the key at the top of the door frame. When he didn't unlock the door, I stuck the key in and twisted. The door popped open to reveal our pitch black storage room.
The room was in the middle of the house and had no windows. It contained our water heater and the control system for the heat and AC. The room was so large, though, that Charlie had built shelves for us to keep our seasonal decorations, our camping supplies, and extra food and water.
"Sam," I said more quietly, feeling uneasy. Something about the room was getting to me.
"How does the clock tick, mother?" Sam said from somewhere in the room.
I froze. The word mother made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Something's not right. Something's not right.
"S-Sam, c-come on out now," I stuttered. Light spilled in from the doorway, but it didn't illuminate enough of the room for me to search. I slowly stepped toward the center of the room where a string hung down from a single bulb in the ceiling.
With one hand, I kept ahold of the stick. With the other, I reached out to search for the string. I couldn't see it, but I knew it was there somewhere.
Suddenly, the door slammed shut, and at that exact instant, my hand brushed against hair. Long, greasy hair at my shoulder height. Sam wasn't that tall. The hair was tangled, and long.
I yelped and jumped back, startled by the door and the hair simultaneously.
"Do you know how the clock ticks?"
It came from my left, along the wall. The hair had been to my right.
What else was in here with us?
I was paralyzed. I couldn't see a damn thing. My phone was upstairs, so I couldn't use that as a flashlight. The ceiling light was somewhere in front of me, and the door was somewhere behind me.
Every time I started to reach out, I remembered touching the greasy hair, and recoiled.
"CHARLIE!" I called upward, hoping he could hear me. Hoping he was awake.
"Tick tock, tick tock," Sam said again. My brain instantly remembered the sound the clock had made the night before. It was the same voice. Faintly a voice, and faintly background noise at the same time.
"Sam," my voice hoarsely whispered. I had to throw up again. I swallowed bile and felt one more time for the string. It brushed my hand, and I jumped back before realizing that I was feeling string, not greasy hair.
Resolutely, I launched my hand out and grabbed at the string. It swung into my hand, and I yanked on it, hard.
The single bulb buzzed to life, and something moved to my right. I screamed at the top of my lungs when I saw white and black. It's taken me a long time to place the shape, but now I'm certain. A deer's skull partially covered by stringy hair darted away from the light, circling behind me.
In absolute terror, I squeezed my eyes shut and didn't dare open them. In the battle for fight or flight, I turned into the ostrich: burying my head and hoping it didn't see me.
I started sobbing, and wanted to run for the door, but I was too scared to open my eyes.
"Mommy?" Sam called from my left.
I didn't respond, I was sobbing too hard.
"Mommy, help, I'm stuck."
Very, very slowly, I moved one finger and looked to the side. Sam was huddled up on the top shelf. I couldn't see his face, but I saw jeans and his favorite shirt.
"C-come down and let's go," I whispered.
"I can't, it's going to get me," Sam whimpered.
I tried hard not to sob again.
"Come and get me, please," he begged.
I fought through the terror and stepped toward the shelf, still covering my face and using a small gap in my fingers to navigate. When I reached the shelf, I closed my eyes and held my arms up.
"Climb into my arms, Sam. I'll get you down and we'll go get your dad," my voice broke at the end.
"I'm stuck. My shirt is caught," he cried.
"Okay, okay," I said, trying to be brave for him. "Guide my hand to where it is and I'll get you loose."
He paused. "It's... at the back of the shelf. You can't reach."
I bit my lip to stop its trembling. With both eyes still closed, I placed my hands on the top shelf, and my foot on the bottom shelf. The stick was placed on the shelf so I could use both my hands. I hoisted myself up so I could reach, and balanced precariously.
"Where is it, honey?" I asked, refusing to open my eyes.
"Reach here," he said, and I could feel him rotate so I could reach over him.
I did, and my hand ran straight into a mess of tangled, greasy hair. My eyes opened in shock. It stared back at me for only a millisecond. In that millisecond, it spoke. Not with words. But in my head.
Do you know how the clock ticks? It is fed by death.
The shelf under my feet collapsed, and as I fell, my hands pulled the shelf until it toppled over, coming down on top of me.
I woke up in the hospital, much to Charlie and Sam's relief. It was a tumult of information and questions. They asked why I was down there, and instead of sounding insane, I said that I'd been searching for Sam again just in case.
Sam had been found walking on the road in the general direction of the hiking spot. He wasn't very far, thankfully, and was unharmed. When Charlie practically yelled, asking why the hell he had left in the middle of the night alone, Sam said he needed to find another stick to stop the monsters.
The police were, of course, recommending that he talk to a psychologist. They'd overheard the conversation.
Charlie didn't wake up until the police were at our door with Sam in hand. That was about an hour after the shelf had collapsed on me. Sam and Charlie had gone looking for me in the house, and found me under the collapsed shelving. The police had been right there, thankfully, and I was rushed off to the hospital.
Some of my ribs were broken and so was my left leg. The shelf that had collapsed on me had held our camping tent, the fake Christmas tree, and a few other half-empty boxes. I was lucky that it wasn't the food storage shelving.
The door was locked when they got to it, and the key wasn't in the lock, so they had to break it down. The second Sam saw the scene, he apparently stood over me in a protective stance, looking all around. Charlie left to get the police before they left upstairs.
A couple of days after I got released from the hospital, and after Charlie had recovered from a flu that knocked him off his feet, I got to talk to Sam.
I asked him outright what had been going on. It took a few minutes of him denying that anything was wrong.
"I saw the... monster," I admitted, which a parent really shouldn't do to their child.
"You did?" He asked incredulously. I nodded.
"You and dad never saw them before. When did you see them?"
"Them?" I asked nervously.
Sam told me what had been happening for the last few weeks.
He had stumbled upon the stick by literally tripping over it. It had "spoken to him" and he took it to play with it. Whenever he had the stick, he could "see the monsters."
"They were scary, but they stayed away when I pointed the stick at them," he said.
A few of them had followed us home, walking alongside us on the trail. They came into the house at night and snuck around. They came into Sam's room, our room, everywhere.
"They told me that someone had to die. They told me that you had to die."
So, he offered the monsters toy sacrifices to satiate their hunger. But, they were unsatisfied.
"Whenever I didn't have the stick, I could feel them try to grab me. But they stayed away whenever I had the stick. They kept telling me that your time was up."
They sat with him at night and changed "tick tock" at him. They tried to convince him to put the stick down. They offered him candy that the "big, blurry man" pulled out of thin air. At school, they followed him and said they would hurt people until he put away the stick. Five teachers and thirty students got the flu while they threatened that.
He held on to the stick as often as he could and patrolled the house at night to keep them out of my room.
That was until I took the stick.
Apparently, he had grabbed the stick from a skeleton in the woods. It looked like an animal's skeleton. He had seen another one just like it when he got the first one, so he was going to go back and get the second one so the monsters would "stop smiling."
One had followed him on the streets, he said.
But now, they were all gone. And after looking through the mess of the collapsed shelving, so was the stick.
Sam told his psychologist about our conversation. His psychologist told me very angrily that I should not have admitted anything like that because it fed into his delusions. He was being looked at for possible schizophrenia. I'm thinking I should be tested too.
How else do I explain everything that happened?
One detail stands out that I can't explain. I had unlocked the door to the storage room and left the key in the handle.
So why was the key found dangling from the light bulb string?
Anything and everything vampire-related, from the classics to modern-day!
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Hey, just wanting to share a pretty cool candle I came across called "Dracula's Blood" it's a Candied Apple Fragrance which makes it better. If anyone's interested the link is https://www.csbcandles.com/collections/classic-monster-line/products/draculas-blood Just wanted to let others know about it as well, and all the candles are 100% soy wax.
I’m gonna keep this short and sweet.
The BLOODBANE court of Baltimore is recruiting council members. We know you’re out there, so show yourselves. If you or anyone you know is interested, send me a private message and Queen of Court Aurelia will get to you soon for an interview.
Simply put is lestat or louis the better vampire and why? Long running discussion here so i thought id ask the reddit. Thanks
overview for Kylix_
If so, it likely chewed a hole through the bag, made it's way out of the bin and is now plotting OP's inevitable demise.
Likes: All kinds of meat
Dislikes: Non-meat products
Quote: I like bacon and oooo the world is shakin'
I mean, they already have to review every stupid report that people send in every time they think they get scammed or upset by a PKer.
It wouldn't be much extra effort to review reports like this, especially considering the circumstances and how rare they are.
If you have a mode like this in your game, you should be willing to stand behind it and support players when they die for something out of their hands, streamer or not.
Thinking a bit more about it, they could even setup parameters for which players would be able to qualify for appeals when they die.
Say, players who have 99 in at least one stat (or all?). Players who have spent more than 500 hours on that character? Players who have accumulated a certain amount of quest points, skill points, etc?
There are lots of filters they could create for a player to qualify for an appeal when they die, which would minimize the overall number of reports. This would make the effort on Jagex's end minimal.
They could simply review the time stamp of death and see if the server that player was on was experiencing issues during that time. If Jagex's determines, "Yes. Your death was due to a technical issue on our end, unrelated to the intended gameplay." your character is reinstated.
A simple formula once they get the details worked out, no?
At least there is video evidence proving it wasn't his fault. Maybe they'll reinstate his character?
You don't have to tab into OBS for Windows to dedicate more resources to it. You just need to leave the game. That tells Windows you're not using that program at that time, so it shifts RAM and CPU usage around until you go back into it.
My only suggestion is to turn on Vsync in-game and that might trick Windows into keeping them both at 60fps.
Windows 10 update now gives priority to primary windows. So when you tab out of the game, it gets less resources and OBS gets more.
Was hoping for a bit more info, but at least they are aware.
This is the answer I agree with most. I'm in the same situation as OP and I've realized that solo queuing is literally just a 50/50 chance of winning or losing, but it seems to favor the loss for me.
I also seem to lose more SR from losses than I gain from winning which makes it really hard to climb the ladder. I get discouraged and then I end up quitting the season.
It's so strange because my placements put me in high gold, but my QM pairs me with high plats and diamonds. So I know my skill level is there, but I can never reach it in comp.
I would kill for one or two partners who don't get tilted and toxic right away to play with regularly.
Would love to know the results. If you can get OBS working at full potential along side the games, many of us would be forever grateful.
And also that when we're winning it's all because of me, but when we're losing, it's because everyone else on the team sucks.
Be careful and don't forget to make backups!
Well, it fixed it for me?
Step 1: Look your target straight in the username and say, "Fuck you."
Step 2: Mean it.
(See example below)
Go into your game and turn vsync on. This will fix your issue.
Yeah, no kidding. I messed around with it for about 30 minutes before getting too frustrated.
Barbara: I wasn't invited to this event... and for that reason, I'm out.
I will farm anything, anywhere. Rhubarb, Cauliflower, Starfruit, doesn't matter. I just love farmin'.
This girl is amazing. No wonder your comment is sticky~
Back in 1998?