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 don’t know of a VPN out there that works on Netflix? Do you?
Jump scares are certainly overused in many of the horror films being released now but it's fun to see how some filmmakers will subvert these common tropes.
The Community cat jump scares for instance or the Shaun of the Dead use of the bathroom mirror (twice).
Can anyone recommend a really fucked up BUT good movie?
So far I’ve seen; A Serbian film Antichrist Mysterious skin Salo The girl next door Martyrs Cannibal holocaust Irreversible Dogtooth Audition Funny games Requiem for a dream We need to talk about Kevin Oldboy Hard candy I spit on your grave Compliance
The list goes on but those come to mind when I think back to what I’ve seen.
Looking for something more psychologically destroying, not into gore etc
For me it’s keyholes and mirrors. If you look through a keyhole, you’ll probably lose an eye... look in the mirror, there’s someone behind you.
The main human character's always suck ass. Another being that's never been in a Hellraiser movie
Gore, The new actor of Pinhead. Not bad. Also, another Ceno get's some importance.
Your thoughts? (besides the series should die)
Anyone knows movies that center around individuals having to make sadistic choices to save their own lives?
I already watched Saw and the sequels, I like the concept of sadistic choices and all!
So, if you any movie of any language that centers around this concept, please let me know!
I am aware they made be a few that have done it so nake a few if you like or the most that let you down the most
Hey guys and gals, so I'm trying to get a cosplay ready for this horror convention in two weeks and I'm looking at a fedora to buy for the costume buuuuut I noticed that it apparently comes in different styles. So I'm curious, what style of fedora does Freddy Krueger wear? I found a few fedoras on amazon for cheap but they don't look right in terms of what he wears in the movies.
I've seen my fair share of horror movies, and I don't really scare easily or feel much tension when watching them. I think the last really tense movie I saw was L'interiour (Inside) about 8 years ago. So since then, most of the horror I've watched have "merely" been entertaining. It's hard to be scared of things you can't really relate to.
But last night - on the recommendation of this sub-reddit - I watched Backcountry on Netflix. Oooh boy. As an avid hiker and camper, this one actually got to me...especially that one scene. You know which one. Brutal. Sure, everything after that scene was so-so...but man, I haven't been moved like that in a while. One of most brutal kill scenes I've seen on film.
Can't wait to go camping again!
I on the mood to watch some killers rat movies,i already watched Food of gods,of unknow origins and Deadly eyes,i need some more(if was zero on CGI,and italian,japanese or canadian is best)
There's some bands out there such as Black Dahlia Murder, Cradle of Filth, Carach Angren and The Vision Bleak that have most of their discography based on horror themes.
There's also a massive number of bands which have individual songs about horror, such as Nosferatu by Blue Oyster Cult, Thing that Should Not Be by Metallica, Anthrax has a number of songs based on Stephen King novels, ect,, ect.
So, what are some of your favourite songs/albums/bands that revolve around horror?
Hi All, you may be interested in Zapoco, text-based browser game I created. Set in a zombie apocalyptic setting where you can build and upgrade safehouses, train, scavenge, fight other players, trade and do a bunch of other cool stuff.
I built it to be fully browser based lets you play from any device with a web browser for free, no downloads or personal details required!
I've been working incredibly hard over the past few months on this, and am very proud of what I've been able to accomplish with it, and I hope for some of you to be able to play it and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it! I'll also gladly address any comments, questions, criticism, concerns, or anything else you may have (I apologize if this isn't allowed to be posted here, if it's not, feel free to remove it). Thank you.
I recently made a post asking wether you guys would be interested in a monthly movie discussion and a lot of people seem to be excited and interested. This thread is for the movie suggestion for the remainder of this month. Mods please sticky this The rules for the suggestion are •only post the movie title •No comments just the suggestions •do not downvote •check before you suggest as we don't want repetitions •the most upvoted movie wins and we'll have the winner next Sunday and on Wednesday we'll have the discussion.
Summary: A family staying in a secluded mobile home park for the night are visited by three masked psychopaths, to test their every limit.
Director: Johannes Roberts
Writers: Bryan Bertino, Ben Ketai
- Christina Hendricks as Cindy
- Martin Henderson as Mike
- Bailee Madison as Kinsey
- Lewis Pullman as Luke
- Emma Bellomy as Dollface
- Damian Maffei as Man in the Mask
- Lea Enslin as Pin-Up Girl
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
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.
Tuesday March 20, 2018
I apologize for the delay in updating, guys, but I assure you I’m not dead. Not yet, at least. Also, yes, the misspelling of my name on my last post was just a typo, I was very tired. A lot has happened in the past few days. I can’t tell if we are getting closer to answers or farther away, but I know we are heading somewhere.
Mark left bright and early yesterday morning, with the promise of calling me as soon as he got there. By all accounts, I had a pretty uneventful day for the most part. I went to work at the kennel, I went home for a fast shower, I went to the bar for my night shift… and then things got a little weird.
Early on in my shift, a creepy looking man strolled into the bar. I’m always on high alert with customers, especially after some of the horror stories I’ve read about crazy customers attacking their servers in a fit of rage. We were pretty busy with the dinner rush, though, so I lost track of him after the hostess escorted him into the main dinning room. This was probably around 5:30 or so. Around 9, I see the same man come back into the bar, this time sitting up at one of the high top bar tables way back in the corner, all alone. At this point, I again lose track of him as I’m working on liquor restocking which required me to go down to the basement liquor storage multiple times. When I finally finished with all that, I glanced back at his table and see that he is gone, but an empty glass and some money sits on the table, so at least I know I didn’t imagine him being there. Finally, around 11, I go outside to smoke while I wait for the manager to be ready to count my drawer and send me home. I see a lighter spark out of the corner of my eye and turn to find that this same creepy man is lighting a cigar and leaning against a very nice, yet old car parked in the part of the lot that the light posts don’t reach. It looked like a 50’s Cadillac of some sort. I finished my cigarette quickly and hurried back inside. I made one of the bus boys walk me out to my car when I left just to be safe, but the man was gone.
I realized when I got home around midnight that I still had not heard from Mark. I tried calling him and it went straight to voicemail. After making sure the volume was all the way up, in case he called, I went to bed. It was a very restless night. Every time I started to doze off, I would be awoken by strange noises all around the apartment. Tapping at the windows, like pebbles being tossed. What sounded like footsteps, but above me, which would mean someone was on the roof in the middle of the night. An eerie gentle knocking at the front door (of course no one was there when I looked though the peep hole). AROUND the apartment, but never IN the apartment.
Today, I was off from work in the morning, so I slept in as much as I could. When I finally dragged myself out of bed around noon, I still had not heard from Mark. I tried calling again but, again, it went straight to voicemail. I went down to check the mail and I noticed the same car from last night parked a little down the block. I wasn’t sure as I walked to the mailboxes, but after a good long look at the car, the driver’s door opened and man from the bar gracefully stepped out. Did this creep really follow me home last night? Had he been the one making all the noise around my apartment all night? Was THIS the mysterious Detective Smith?? I rushed back inside and locked the door. I called Detective Jones, hysterical, and choked out the story about this man between shaking sobs. He said he would be over as soon as possible and to lock all the doors and windows in the meantime, stay away from the windows so I couldn’t be seen, and that he would call me when he arrived so I knew it safe. When he got there, he informed me that there was an officer searching the area for the car I had described. He asked me a lot about the man. I described him as best as I could, but truth be told I hadn’t gotten a good look at him. All I knew was that he was driving a black Cadillac De Ville Coupe. I’m no car expert, but Mark is, and I got a much better look at the car in the daylight. And that’s a classic. Also one of Mark’s favorites… his dream car.
The officer returned to report that no such car had been found in the immediately surrounding area but that they would be keeping an eye out for it. Jones thanked the officer and sent him on his way. But Jones himself did not leave. He asked me very sincerely if we could talk for a few minutes, off the police-record. I said of course. He told me that, beyond the phone and wallet being found, there have been no new leads turned up on Smith’s disappearance. He said that it appears that they had simply been thrown off the side of the road into the water and carried down stream, and that he is not as optimistic as some about finding a body washed up somewhere farther down stream. Then he asked me the weirdest question: “What do you think is going on Nikki?” I told him the truth: that I had absolutely no idea. I had never heard of Ian Smith a week ago, and now suddenly I’m involved in his disappearance. Or at least I was until his cell phone was recovered. I told him that it was all very confusing and overwhelming. Then he asked me an even harder question: “What do you think this has to do with Mark?” I almost answered with the same “I don’t know” that I have been using for every question this man asks me, but then I thought a little bit harder. I told him that, if I had to hazard a guess, I would have to say that Mark and Ian Smith probably knew each other, or at least had known each other at one point. I told him that, if they had known each other, Mark had never mentioned it, but if Mark had never mentioned him, they must not have been friends, or at least not close. But that still didn’t explain why he was calling me. Detective Jones smiled a strange, sad looking smile, and told me to be careful and to call him if anything else happened.
Mark’s mom called me while I was getting ready for work. Surprisingly, she didn’t ask about Mark. Which was nice, because I don’t know what I would have told her if she asked when I had last heard from him. I wouldn’t have wanted to tell her the truth and worry her, but I couldn’t lie to this woman who has welcomed me into her family like one of her own children. No, she just asked how I was feeling, how work was going, basic small talk. Then right before she hung up she said something that threw me off. She said “you know, its funny Mark went to Chicago for training. That’s where he is originally from!” I knew that Mark had been adopted as a young child, but I had never pried for details. Still I didn’t understand why this was funny, or why she sounded kind of sad about it… So I asked: “Really? That’s interesting. He never mentioned that. Why is that funny, though?” she sighed and paused for a moment before saying “Sometimes, situations like this leave some lasting memories. He wasn’t a baby when we got to him. I don’t know how much he actually remembers, but Chicago was not good to him.” She quickly changed the subject after that and we hung up shortly there after. So strange.
I wish I had more to tell you, but I’m running late to work as is. I’ll let you all know if anything else happens. I just want one calm night to try and get my head on straight.
(Note: because it's the purge, I'll be reposting all parts of my nosleep story, some of which were removed and thus confused people who wanted to read it all. Enjoy!)
shouldn't be writing this, and I'm probably violating patient privacy laws. But I can't get her out of my head.
She collapsed against the ER's main desk. The receptionist said she came in under her own power, but barely. Receptionist asked if she needed help (obvious question, but she was really just checking the girl's ability to respond). Kid didn't answer, but looked toward the sound, before her legs gave out and she started seizing.
Here are the medical findings and other observations collected so far:
Patient's seizures were caused by an electrolyte imbalance resulting from severe dehydration, but no history could be obtained, so it's unclear if patient has history of seizures.
Third and fourth right ribs are recently fractured along with a spiral fracture a few days old to the right arm.
Obvious evidence of a recent serious beating. Worst of damage to upper body, face oddly spared.
Ativan and related anti-seizure drugs do not work in the indicated doses. Patient seems oddly resistant to sedatives and kept fighting to stay awake until dose was increased to maximum safe amount and she lost consciousness.
Patient broke an orderly's nose upon regaining consciousness. The orderly said that she might have had some self-defense training, since she brought the elbow of her unbroken arm up from the gurney to more effectively hit him. I think they tell you in those classes, the elbow is the hardest point in the body?
estimates put her age at around 12, but exams while patient was unconscious found she is actually about 15, despite being just under 5 feet tall and under 100 pounds.
No evidence of sexual assault of any kind, but general pale pallor suggests she has been kept indoors, possibly underground, for months. Despite this and her acute medical problems, she has no vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Well-muscled despite low body weight and small size. Probably healthier than I am.
Patient can hear, but does not communicate, or understand the local language (this is in a German-speaking area of Switzerland). While attempting to perform a post-seizure cognitive test when patient woke up, I tried some other languages. No reaction to French, glanced at me when I tried Russian, stared at me when I switched to English. Will not write, use sign language, or an AAC board. No sound or gesture either way when asked to say who hurt her or to talk to the police, but pulse and respiratory rate jumped dramatically. Later communicated by pointing, more on that further down.
However, patient can speak. While sedated, she screamed incoherently and did say a few words. A nurse wrote them down for me: "No," "headquarters" "svelto-siny" "fourteen"
After treating the seizures and injuries and figuring out what she understood, patient was encouraged to rest while waiting for electrolytes and vital signs to normalize. But she won't. She doesn't sleep, only passes out when given large doses of sedatives. Otherwise, she has been lying there, shaking, flinching when touched, jumping at loud noises, and hardly even blinking. Psych on call tried to get her to draw a picture, or shake or nod, or even blink for yes and no; she won't do any of that.
Patient behaves oddly when offered water, and will not eat, full stop. When given water, she will drink it, but first points at it, then at the person offering it, then at herself, then after several minutes will take a small sip. Several minutes later, she will actually drink it.
Patient has extensive superficial scarring on her non-dominant arm and both thighs, in various stages of healing. Most recent appear to be a few months old.
Unlike with a lot of abuse or criminal cases, no one found this patient, she came in alone, and she won't talk. I initially thought she'd been mugged or raped, then beaten, but then why the dehydration and evidence of captivity? And if she escaped captivity, why is she so healthy despite the acute injuries, and why doesn't she speak German? She can't have gotten very far in her state, so it stands to reason whoever the sick fuck is, he's local.
I had to go with Jeremy. I had to go into the canyon or people were going die. Perhaps, worse than die.
Jeremy saw the emotions cross my face and when he realized I made a decision, he held out his hand to me. I took it and took my first step into the canyon since I had walked out of it over 30 years before.
“Stay with me. Don’t split up. Don’t look. If you see it, Lindsey…don’t look.”
I ran alongside him wondering where we were going. I wasn’t familiar with this part of Window Canyon and I had no idea where the drunk hikers were camping. In the pale, muddy lightening of the morning sky I thought I could see smoke rising from the trees down below. It was at least two miles away, but I knew it could have been worse. Much worse. Window Canyon was sprawling.
We didn’t speak as we ran and I tried to look only at the ground and think about anything other than where I was. But it was all I could think about.
I had spent the longest days of my life in this canyon, wandering aimlessly through the forest trying to find a way out of it; a way back to my family. It was just supposed to have been a day hike. A quick tour of the canyon on a beautiful, fall morning.
I had only left the trail to pee. Everyone stopped for me and waited on the well-worn path as I tried to get far enough away that no one could see me or hear me. I hadn’t gone far, really. But I never found that trail again. They didn’t hear my cries and I didn’t hear theirs. I walked for miles looking a trail – any trail at that point. I spent five cold nights sleeping under trees. I drank from a creek and gave myself diarrhea. I ate leaves. And then one night I laid down under an evergreen and I didn’t get up again.
But I did finally find my way out of the canyon. I even found my way back to our campsite at Christmas Lake. But my family was gone. Everyone was gone. The snowfall had started.
And I did finally see a SAR team looking for me. But they wasn’t a rescue operation. Only “recovery”, I overheard them say. I followed them to the edge of the canyon every time. They never came out with a body. So I never went back in. The worst and last days of my life were spent in that canyon. And somewhere, in here, I still remain. I swallowed the sick in my throat. Don’t think about it. Stop thinking about it, you idiot.
“I see them!” Jeremy yelled, and I looked up from the trail for the first time. “There they are!”
They were all sitting around their campfire. It was still mostly dark out, but thin rays of dawn were starting to peek through the trees as we rolled slowly toward the sun. “Get out!” I started screaming at them, waving my arms in the air. “Get out! Get out of here!”
“Lindsey!” Jeremy yelled at me. “They can’t hear you.”
“What do we do, what do we do?”
I paced around on the edge of their campsite, dry leaves and pine needles crunching under my converse. “They can’t hear us, they can’t see us. We make fires! We can make fires all over and they’ll see them and freak out!”
“I don’t have the matches.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know, I may have dropped them or left them with the packs.”
Suddenly their fire went out. “What the fuck?” asked the kid who was not Mike.
The girl started laughing. “You build the shittiest fires ever Jeff. Maybe we should have stayed at the spirit fire.”
“No, this is…that’s impossible.” Jeff said, truly perplexed.
“Who cares?” The kid named Mike asked. “It’s basically morning anyway.”
“It’s here,” Jeremy said behind me. “It’s coming.”
I turned around and saw that the thing was indeed coming towards us through the trees. Its shadow was becoming hard to see and I wondered if it could be seen at all in the light of day. The canyon around us had gone eerily quiet. I turned to Jeremy to ask him what to do but he was already running toward the phantom and screaming at it.
“Hey! Hey you! What the fuck do you want? Get out of here! They’re just kids!”
No older than us, I thought. I saw the creature lift an arm in the shadows and swing it at Jeremy throwing him 30 yards to his left. “Jeremy!” I screamed and ran after him as the phantom passed me and walked into the campsite.
I found him just as the kids started screaming. Most of their words I couldn’t make out, but some were crystal clear.
“What is that?!”
“What is that? What is that? Mike!”
“Jeremy,” I said when I reached him. “Jeremy, it’s killing them.” I was crying as I bent down to pick him up where he’d been thrown. I knew full well that you could still feel pain when you were dead. One of joys of the afterlife.
“Lindsey.” Jeremy winced as he stumbled to his feet.
“It’s killing them!” I cried. “I can hear it tearing them apart!”
“Shhh,” Jeremy pulled me into him and covered my ears with his palms as if I was a child. I placed my hands over his and squeezed my eyes shut. With the absolute silence that accompanied the phantom everywhere it went, the screams and sounds of death were all that we could hear.
Suddenly Jeremy took his hands off of my face and yanked me around to run behind him. I noticed immediately that we were running behind the girl and the other kid, Jeff, who seemed to have survived. Mike was not with them.
As I ran I could hear the loud crashing and snapping of branches behind me as the great shadow chased us through the woods, hunting the two hikers that had escaped it.
We were running away from our campsite, away from our packs, deeper and deeper into the canyon. There was no way out; not for the kids, not for us, not for me in 1983 when I’d became lost back here. The only way out was back the way we came and there was only death behind us.
I suddenly skidded to halt and pull Jeremy off the trail.
“What are you doing?! We have to help them!”
“We can’t! We can’t! You already proved that!”
“We have to do something, Lindsey!”
“I know! I think we should do your idea.”
“What idea?” He said as he bent down, hands on his knees, panting. “I should not have smoked so much when I was alive.”
“Burn it down. Burn it all down.” I gestured to the woods around us.
“Lindsey, I don’t think that’s possible. The canyon, maybe, it’s really dry down here, surprisingly, but not the forest.”
“If we burn the forest that thing would have no place to hide.” I said.
“But we live here. You said so.”
“We don’t live anywhere, Jeremy,” I sighed. “We’re dead.”
“What about the matches? I don’t have them.”
“I don’t know!” I yelled back, and turned away from him to rub my face. But I did know. Because the matches were mine. I’d had them in death because they had been with me in life. Wrapped in a plastic bag, tugged inside the pocket of my jacket. One lit match in the right pile of leaves could set this entire canyon on fire.
“Come on,” I said. “We’re getting my matches.”
“They’re all the way back by the caverns!”
“Not those matches.” I said darkly.
“Lindsey!” Jeremy stopped and whirled me around to face him. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes I do. Or they are going to die and then more people are going to die.”
“Then let me do it.”
“You don’t know where to go.”
Jeremy searched my face for a moment and then nodded. He took my hand again. “I’m with you all the way.”
We weren’t that far. And I had spent so much time wondering this part of the canyon in the days before my death that I knew the area better than any. We ran less than two miles before we came to a hill and I pointed down into the underbrush beneath the trees.
“It’s there,” I pointed. “Down there. Under all those leaves probably. Maybe even the dirt. Maybe even washed away,” I choked on my last words.
“Let me.” Jeremy said.
“No! No, you don’t know. I have to show you, come on.”
I skidded down the hill and ran into the first tree I could find. Jeremy came up behind me and I pointed to a large pine about ten feet away. There were no leaves there, only dirt and pine needles. But in between it all, buried underneath, I saw my bright green jacket, the very one I was currently wearing, turned brown and gray from age and the elements.
Jeremy took a step toward it and I stopped him. It had to be me. After all this time, it had to be me.
I approached the body and stopped to look up at the trees and sky that had been the last thing I ever saw before I closed my eyes that night. I knelt down and began to brush away the pine needles. The body was just a little bone now, and pieces of my jacket erupting up out of the dirt. I scraped away as much as I could but it was no use. I yanked on the bone as tears rolled down my face willing it to snap, willing to feel something other than horror and heartache. And then Jeremy was there, gently moving my hands away and digging into the dirt with his own. When it was free, he pulled out the jacket, which still held the old, yet undamaged, match book.
I hurried away from the body and Jeremy followed me back up the hill. He opened the matchbook and counted.
“15, but this book is not our never-ending match book.”
“You know more about outdoor survival than me, you decide where to throw the matches.”
“Lindsey. If this is going to work we need to split up. We need to set these fast, and in such a way that the blazed end up colliding and feeding each other.”
“Just tell me what to do.”
As we gained higher and higher ground, Jeremy pointed out seven areas in the canyon that he wanted me to set fire to. I looked down and for the first time since I go lost in the canyon in the days before my death I saw the beauty of it again. Of the river, Pony Rock, the lush, green, forest. It was a pity we were going to burn it all down. But there was something ugly in these woods, something evil. Jeremy kissed me on my head, squeezed my hand, and told me to meet him at Christmas Lake when I was done.
I ran as fast as I could, covering the miles in record speed, setting deliberate but hurried fires in all the places Jeremy had told me with my half of the ripped matchbook. The first three fires blazed huge and hungry but the forth fizzled out to nothing. I used another match and made sure to shove more dead pine needles on the fire this time. Then I grabbed the longest stick I could find, set it on fire, and ran for the fifth location setting alight every bush and tree along the way.
The last two fires caught hungrily and so easily that I didn’t even need the matches. The sky turned dark gray with smoke as I ran for Christmas Lake. The fire seemed to follow me. No matter how far I got the flames were always close behind. I made it to the rim of the canyon and looked down into the fiery pit we had made. The gorge was filling with smoke and the flames were climbing up the sides of the mountains. “Nowhere left to hide, asshole.” I took one last look down into the canyon and bolted toward Christmas Lake.
I had forgotten how easy it was to travel without a pack. I felt unburdened and free, as if I had been carrying my entire life in that stupid pack and now I was relieved of it all. It was a few miles to the lake but they passed quickly. I could see the fire still following me, although it moved slower and spread outward as far as I could see along the horizon. As I was watching the flames lick the sky behind me, I hit a rock with my shoe and went sprawling onto the forest floor. And in that one, still moment I finally heard it – the absolute silence. Oh no.
I rolled over and began searching the forest for movement. I could only assume that the sun was still rising in the sky since the black smoke had covered it as far as the eye could see and the only light was the distant flames that cast an orange glow on the trees around me. The dancing flames upon the bark made any other movement impossible to see.
And then my eyes found it, much closer than I had hoped. The tall outline of the phantom was standing right next to me. And then his arm was reaching out to me, and I was screaming. His long fingers caught me around the middle and they felt like shards of glass slicing me down to my spine. I screamed louder. I tried to struggle against him but his sharp fingers only seemed to dig in tighter. The shadow melted into matter and suddenly I was looking at the great, black, sinewy skin of the giant creature. He moved like he was made of wood and had no features upon his face other than a small, round mouth.
Lost, I was lost. I was about to be worse than dead. There would be no Jeremy where I was going. No trees, no lakes, no hated canyons, just oblivion…or worse. How had it found me? It had been running the other way, why would it turn to follow me? I was the bone in the empty stew pot. Why not follow the meat in the stew? Maybe because it was…fleeing. Maybe it was running away from the fire. Maybe it hated fire. Our fires always went out before it came close. So, maybe it more than hated fire – maybe it feared it.
Such a primal creature must have a primal foe. It only seemed to make sense in that moment, when all else fell away and the only other thing that existed was the crippling pain of the fingers. I found my pocket with a shaking hand and pulled out the matchbook. Please work. The creature squeezed even tighter, if that were possible, and his tiny mouth began to sink in on itself like a collapsing star until it was wide enough to fit my body inside.
I yanked both matches off the strip and, sending up a silent prayer to a god I knew didn’t exist, I struck the matches against the strip and watched as they caught fire, then flung the orange glow into the creature’s chest. It went up like a Christmas tree in March.
The phantom dropped me immediately and disappeared back into the transparent state it adopted
when it was hunting. There were no screams from it, no floundering. It just stood there and burned up like all the trees behind it.
I pulled myself away from it, hand over hand, trying to get as far away as I could. I continued crawling until it was long behind me and the forest fire had caught up to the phantom and consumed whatever was left of it, which I doubted was very much because for a big, scary monster that creature was highly flammable.
Finally, as the pain subsided, I was able to start limping along toward Christmas Lake and that’s how Jeremy found me, mere yards away from the spreading fire which had caught up to me.
“It’s dead,” I told him.
“What?! Are you sure?”
“I killed it myself.” I pulled up my shirt to show him the long, angry tears in my flesh that wrapped around my entire body.
“I’ll tell you about it just as soon as I sit for a while.” I panted.
Since the shores of the crystal blue lake had come into view, I let Jeremy carry me the rest of the way.
“Looks like we succeeded in burning down the forest,” I said as he set me down on the sand.
“Yeah,” Jeremy said scratching his neck. “It’s a lot drier than I thought it would be for the time of the year.”
“You don’t think it’ll all burn down, do you?” I asked him.
“Oh no. I mean it spread a few more miles than I would have ever anticipated but there’s no way, I mean look, you can’t even see it anymore.”
I looked back the way we had come and he was right. The sky was still black with smoke but the red- orange hue of the flames were nowhere to be seen along the horizon.
“Good. I would have felt terrible.”
Jeremy gave me a terribly concerned look. “Tell me what happened.”
By nightfall of the second night I was ready to move again. Jeremy thought we should stay at the lake for a few more days so I could recover but I needed information. How much of the forest had burned? Did firefighters get the blaze under control? Had anyone been hurt? Had anyone died?
We had to hike the entire night by moonlight but we finally made it to what remained of our fire. The canyon had been completed scorched and was even still burning in many places. The fires above the rim had been burned out or been doused by the time we reached the aptly named Burn Rock near the edge of the woods. It was the closest we could get to the road and fire crews to hear their conversations. We sat down on the ground on our side of the road and watched them until dawn crept in and morning gave way to noon.
We learned that the fires were all out or under control and that the two kids who can come screaming out of the woods “like bats outta hell” were both alive and being treated for trauma and exhaustion. We sat there for days - long after the fire were out, and even after the last response team had left our area.
In the days that we spent watching the firefighters from the side of the road, I had leaned on Jeremy’s shoulder and told him everything about me – including the horrible, lonely, terrifying last days of my life. I talked about my eventual acceptance of the inevitability of my death and the entire day I had spent wandering around looking for the perfect place to lay down and die. It was the reason I had known the area where my body rested so well.
I told him about my family. How I believed they didn’t look hard enough. How angry I was when SAR only showed up to recover my body so many days after I was already dead. I told him about the years before I had met him. When I wandered around, convinced that I was still alive, looking for a way out, and refusing to go back into the canyon - the only way I knew for sure had a road. Because if I went that way, I would find my body and then I would know. And I didn’t want to know. But eventually, when no one could see or hear me, and it became obvious I could never leave the woods, I began to realize that I was dead and I was alone.
“And then I found you.” I told Jeremy, giving him a cheeky smirk.
“How lucky for me.” He rolled his eyes but his tone was amused. “Should we go try and find our packs?”
“No,” I said, digging into the dirt with the toe of my shoe. “We don’t really use them anyway.”
“So where do you want to head now?”
I opened my mouth to tell him that I wanted to step out of this forest and walk back to civilization, of course. But it suddenly really wasn’t true anymore. I didn’t want to go back to the city and I didn’t want to go home. Because there was nothing there for me. Everyone was old, everyone had moved on with their lives. And I didn’t have a life, but…I felt a strange pull to move on anyway.
As I played in the dirt with my shoe I wondered about the gravel road that lay in front of me. It was still a road, that was to be sure, but what if it was more than that? What if it wasn’t just a road for the living? What if it was my road, too? I could feel its pull on me, even now.
I stood up and Jeremy looked at me in surprise before climbing to his feet, too.
“Do you know where we’re going?” He asked.
“No,” I said. “But…I think that’s okay.”
Jeremy didn’t say anything to that.
And then I took the first confident step I had taken since I had stepped off the trail away from my family decades before. And then I was in the road. But it wasn’t the dirt and gravel it had been the moment before. It was brighter. And warmer.
I turned to look back at Jeremy with wide eyes but he was already standing beside me.
“For how long?”
“A long time,” he sighed happily and stretched in the warm light.
I let the brilliant, soothing warmth sink into me, all the way down to my bones and for the first time since I could remember, I wasn’t cold or hungry.
“You could have left me at any time.” I said, and it wasn’t a question. It made sense, really. Jeremy didn’t fight against his fate. Jeremy had understood that there was no longer any place for him in the world. He had accepted his death with the grace and dignity that was as ingrained in his soul as his DNA was in his body.
“No way. I needed a plus one for this party,” he teased.
“Is this the ‘other side’?” I asked him, laughing.
“No idea. But it’s bright and warm, and I need a drink.”
“You think there’s alcohol there?” I raised an eyebrow and smiled.
“I can smell the mojitos from here.”
“Hopefully no hangovers, though.”
“Not where we’re going, sweetheart.”
I looked back at the forest that had been our home for so long. It looked so small now. The trees were swaying in the wind as if bidding farewell to their longest residents. I wondered if I would miss them.
“Are you ready?” Jeremy asked as he offered me an outstretched hand. And I was.
I’ve been dead for decades. It took me years to realize it, though. And I didn’t even really accept it until I’d finally found my way out of the woods and realized that I couldn’t step out onto the road. It was almost like coming up against a glass wall. I could see the road, but I couldn’t step onto it. Something was binding me to the miles and miles of trees and mountains.
I didn’t meet Jeremy until the 1990’s, I think. At least, that’s what he told me. There is no real reference for time out here.
Jeremy was older than me by a few years and took far less time in accepting what had happened to him. He told me the story of his death the first night that I met him as we sat around a sad, pale fire that provided only light and no heat. There is no warmth for the dead.
Jeremy had gone hiking with his girlfriend one weekend, planning to propose to her on a mountain top (he told me he had hoped to salvage their heated but struggling relationship).
Unfortunately for Jeremy, his girlfriend had a nasty temper and during an argument on said mountain top, she had pushed him over the side of a cliff in a rage. Jeremy told me that he would never know if she meant to kill him or even if she knew how far down the ground had been behind him.
He had watched her wail on her knees as the rescue crews pulled his mangled body from the gorge. She was very upset that her beloved boyfriend had slipped and fallen to his death, and so soon after giving her such a beautiful diamond ring.
For as anticlimactic as Jeremy’s short life had been, he was still upbeat most days and great company after I had been alone for so long. My favorite way to fall asleep at night was listening to Jeremy’s stories from a world after 1983, the year that I had departed it.
We didn’t need sleep, of course, but it was an effective way to pass the time. And there was so very much of that. Jeremy and I both still had the packs we had died wearing. Our gear never rusted and our clothes never seemed to show any signs of wear. It was as if we were frozen in time but it continued to move all around us.
We saw people, occasionally. Real, living people. I used to come into their camps and scream at them to pay attention to me, to hear me, but now that I wasn’t alone all the time, I preferred to just observe them. Campers were my favorite thing to find.
They would talk about what was going on in the real world, outside of the forest, or they would tell ghost stories. My favorite ghost stories they told were the ones about us. Apparently, everyone knew these woods were haunted, and sometimes, if you were lucky enough, you could even see a “spirit fire”.
They said that if you followed the light and found the fire, you would see no one and nothing else around it. And this was how Jeremy and I realized that we could interact with the outside world in certain ways, the fires being the most effective. The other ways, such as breaking sticks and moving their stuff at night (which didn’t always work), tended to scare people. We never met any other dead people in all the years we had spent in the woods, but we were both just happy to have each other.
It was early spring when we first noticed that something had entered the woods. We’d spent the winter walking along the entire perimeter of the forest, trying again to find a way out of it. Winter was the worst for us because there were hikers, no campers, and no animals. It was just us, all alone in the silence and the cold, with our dismal fires that never stayed lit and our sad, makeshift Christmas.
So we were both happy that spring was finally here. Jeremy had tolerated my desperate search for a way out of the woods for yet another year (he loved the forest), and, more importantly, campers would be arriving any day.
“We’re almost back to Burn Rock,” Jeremy said as he tossed more pine needles on our evening fire.
“I know,” I sighed. “Lindsey…this is the twelfth winter that we’ve done this. I really don’t mind and I hate to bring this up again but maybe we should consider-”
“That there is no way out of the woods for us?”
He gave me a sympathetic yet pitying smile. I hated that smile. Jeremy had accepted his super unfair death and the afterlife without missing a step while I never could quite let it all go. I had been dead longer than he had so it really wasn’t fair.
“This is such bullshit,” I said. “What do you think it’s like for dead people in the city? Do they get to go clubbing? Get drunk? Hang out with each other? Sleep in warm beds?”
“I can’t imagine that they get to do any of those things.” Jeremy laughed.
“And why not?”
“Linds, we light fires. We try to eat sometimes; hell, we’ve even tried drinking leftover whiskey we found at a campsite. Do you ever feel any less cold or hungry or sober than you were when you died?”
I pouted. “No.”
“We’re just…I don’t know. We just have to make the best of it.”
“Forever, Jeremy? Are we going to be out here forever?”
He shrugged. “Maybe. But it won’t be like this for forever.”
“Think about, Linds, in all likeliness more people will die out here eventually which means more company. The city will expand, the government will sell this land to the highest bidding developer, and eventually you’ll get your wish and we’ll be back in the city.”
“Maybe,” I made swirling lines in the dirt with a stick that I had found. “In like a hundred years.”
“We just have to entertain ourselves until then!”
“Doing what? We’ve explored almost every inch of these woods! It’s all the same, over and over and over.”
“Except for Window Canyon.”
“No.” I said fiercely.
“I just don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t, it’s different for you.”
Jeremy sighed, and then sat down and leaned against his pack. “I’m sorry, Linds. You know what might cheer you up? Let’s go down to Red Leaf Road. That’s where the campers usually come in this time of year and we could follow some if you want.”
I smiled as I watched the fire lick at the top of my stick. “That could be fun. I like it when they leave marshmallows. I mean they taste like nothing but it’s still fun to roast them.”
“Atta-girl,” Jeremy laughed as he tousled my hair. “And, hey, maybe someone will even bring their dog.”
“Oh God, I hope so! I love dogs.” Not only that, but dogs could see us. And the friendly ones even played with us.
“Do you remember when-“
Our fire went out. It was nothing that could be explained, even by dead people standards. One minute it was tall and healthy and in the next it was only smoke and embers.
“What the…how did…” I stammered.
Jeremy had shot to his feet. There was starlight but no moon that night so it was hard to see him when he moved.
“Jeremy!” I whispered for no other reason than the moment seemed like a quiet one. “Where are you?”
As my eyes adjusted to the dark, the shadows being cast by the starlight began to bleed into my vision. Jeremy was on the other side of our camp watching something in the distance. Whatever he was looking at must have been moving towards us because every few seconds he would take a step back. And then I saw it too - a shadow that moved between the trees. Slow and steady and confident, it moved like a floating ghost.
“Jeremy,” I whispered to him, and pulled him back down to the ground to sit beside me. He wrapped his arms around me and placed his hand over my mouth.
The thing that had entered the woods brought with it an absolute silence as it passed. No wind, no rustling trees, no birds, no crickets, no crackling fire…
It passed on our right, walking through the edge of our camp. With my eyes well-adjusted now I noticed that all we could see was its shadow. It walked on long legs and its head skimmed the highest branches of the trees around us. It did not pause or slow down.
After it had gone, taking the dead silence with it, Jeremy removed his hand and stood up to relight the fire.
“What was that thing?” I asked him as he pulled out the matchbook that always seemed to have matches no matter how many times we tore them away.
“I don’t know,” he said, and as the fire sparked up and the light reached his face, I could see the fear and worry etched upon it.
“Have you ever seen anything like that before?”
“No. I’ve never seen anything like that. And humans aren’t that tall. That was…something else.”
“Is it dangerous us, do you think?”
Jeremy sat down and propped one elbow on his knee as he chewed on a match between his lips. “No. No way,” he said thoughtfully. “It didn’t even look us, probably didn’t notice us.”
“What is it? What does it want?”
“No idea,” he looked at me and shook his head. “But it didn’t feel particularly…”
“It wasn’t not evil.” I said.
Jeremy laughed nervously and then looked back behind his shoulder where the shadow had gone.
“There was definitely something negative and…wrong about it.”
“Yeah but not…unnatural, you know? It seemed like it almost belonged out here.”
“That’s what worries me.” Jeremy said.
Days later we had made it back to Red Leaf Road. We hadn’t talked about the shadow since the night it had walked through our camp. Even though I was already dead, that thing had instilled in me a primitive, innate terror that had haunted what passed for thin dreams in the post-life state.
Jeremy was the first to see the hikers and I clapped my hands in joy when he yelled back to me that a group was unloading their car in the parking lot. When I caught up to him, Jeremy was leaning against a tree and smiling. We watched the group settle their packs and make last minute map corrections.
“Oh my God, oh my god! I love this time of year,” I clapped again. “Did you catch their names? Or how long they’re going to be out? Or where they’re going?”
“Not yet,” Jeremy laughed. “I’ve been watching the kids.” He pointed out two little boys playing next to a red jeep. My excitement at seeing them soured almost immediately when I realized how old they were. Some kids, usually under five years old, can see and talk to us. These kids both must have been more like nine since they were carrying packs of their own.
“Any dogs?” I asked.
“Sorry,” Jeremy said, and pulled me over to drape an arm around my shoulder.
The adults had a map spread out on the hood of a car and were arguing with each other and pointing to different points on the map.
“I hope they go to Christmas Lake!” I said excitedly. “I love Christmas Lake.”
But as the campers argued two words kept striking out into the cold, morning air like lightning.
Hearing them say it was like taking a bullet. “Please no,” I whispered. “Please no…” But by the time they had packed the map away I knew they had decided that was exactly where they were going.
Jeremy sighed. “We can follow them until-“
“No!” I said quickly. “No. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, you can go with them if you want, Jeremy. I’ll just wait here and-“
“Oh Lindsey, come on. We’ve been together for decades, when have I ever left you?”
We camped right there on the road that night and for four nights after that before another group showed up. But these were not campers - they were cops. Jeremy and I watched as they immediately road blocked the parking lot and began photographing the cars that the Window Canyon group had arrived in.
“What’s…what’s going on?” I asked Jeremy.
“I don’t know. I think something happened to that group of hikers.” It wasn’t long before we got our answer. From what we could peace together from the conversation we could overhear between the cops and search and rescue, the hiker’s camp – tents, packs, food – had been found abandoned when SAR went looking for them. There was no sign of the group and SAR told police that they could keep their helicopters in the air for about a week to aid in the search.
“We can help,” Jeremy said to me.
“We can look for them. They might in our world now…some of them.”
I swallowed. It was bittersweet, wasn’t it? More company for us, but people had died just the same.
“Where do we go?” I asked.
“I saw the trail they took. If they went the route I would have taken, I can find their camp. If not, we just follow the rescue teams.”
It took us only 2 days to find their campsite. They hadn’t gotten far, nine miles maybe, most people with kids take it slower. The camp was occupied by two SAR officers. They stood against a tree talking and strategizing.
The SAR helicopters tore loudly across the sky above us. I hadn’t seen them since Jeremy’s death. We made a base camp that night – near the Window Canyon group’s campsite. We lit no fires, only observed and waited. Surely the dead would come back to their camp. It would be the only thing they could think to do. But we saw no one.
We stayed at camp a few days, watching the search and waiting. But soon hope soured and the rescue mission became a recovery mission. We ventured out from camp then, hoping to find the dead. We looked long after SAR had left and the campsite had been cleared.
“Where are they?” I asked as we lit our first fire in days. We were still close to the missing hikers’ camp, and we hoped they would see our fire – dead or alive.
“I don’t get it,” Jeremy said. “If SAR couldn’t find them, that means we should have been able to but they’re just…gone.”
“Unless…” I sighed.
“Unless they’re in Window Canyon.” He finished for me.
“Maybe you could go in tomorrow and see.”
“I won’t leave you here alone.” His tone left no room for argument but I made some anyway.
“Oh come on, what’s gonna happen to me, Jeremy, I’m already dead.” I laughed nervously. He looked up at me and smirked.
“Alright fine, I will go in at first light on a day hike. I’m not leaving you alone at night. Remember, Linds, that thing…it could still be out here.”
I shivered even though I was always cold. “I won’t argue with that.”
Jeremy left at dawn and was back before twilight, as promised. There was something different about him when he returned. He was more alive, stupid as it sounds, more animated and excitable. I knew that Jeremy had always loved hiking and exploring. Taking Window Canyon away from him had been a dick move on my part. But there was just no way I could go into the canyon.
“There’s no one down there.” He said as he fell down beside the sad, little fire I had made. Jeremy was always better at making them.
“Well, what the hell? Where else could they have gone?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. But I have a bad feeling that that thing had something to do with this.”
“Okay, so say it did, say it killed them. Why can’t we find them?”
“I don’t know.” Jeremy replied.
“Those poor little boys.” I sighed as Jeremy gathered more sticks for my pathetic fire. You’d think I would be better at building them seeing as how we’d built about 7,000 of them over the years.
“At least they’re with their parents,” Jeremy said, “wherever they are.”
“My brother was about that age,” I said idly. “The last time I saw him.”
Jeremy’s ears must have perked up because he dropped the bundle of wood he was holding. “Your brother?”
I never talked about my family. And Jeremy knew damn well why. “He was a cute kid,” was all I said. “His name was Ben.”
Jeremy smiled and picked up his sticks. He threw them over my shitty kindling pile and re-lit the sad, little pyre with the never-ending book of matches.
“You know you can tell me anything, Lindsey.”
“But you don’t have to.”
To ease the moment Jeremy began talking about his brothers and their antics as kids, which apparently annoyed their mother to no end. Even thought I had heard the stories a million times before I found my laughter echoing through the empty woods all the same.
It happened too fast, in only a breath, just like the first time. But this time Jeremy seemed more prepared, almost expectative. The fire went out and in the same moment Jeremy was beside me, holding me still and pressing his lips to my ear. “Shhhh.”
I could see it in the distance. The thing walked towards us through the trees, casting a tall shadow upon the trunks and branches. It seemed to move slower than the last time and the silence that accompanied it lasted longer. When it reached our camp it stopped at the edge. I squeezed Jeremy’s arm as hard as I could without making a sound and he breathed into my ear “Don’t move.”
I hadn’t planned on it. The shadow was dangerous, even to us. I could feel it.
It started moving again, walking around the embers of our fire. It stopped every few seconds as if tasting the air before moving on. When it had walked all the way around the fire it paused, and I knew in that second that it was looking at us. And then suddenly, it was walking again, out of our camp and back into the woods toward Window Canyon.
Jeremy kissed the top of my head and then let me go. I turned to him, panicked and wide eyed. “Jeremy!”
“I know, just breathe.”
“It looked at us! Did you feel that?!”
“What was it doing?!”
“I think it was hunting.”
“For what?” I threw my arms up and shot out of Jeremy’s grasp to pace the camp while he rebuilt the fire for the third time.
“I could tell you my guess but you wouldn’t like it, Linds.”
Jeremy nodded without looking at me.
“But we’re not people, we’re dead, we’re just…” We always hesitated to use the ‘G’ word because it always sounded so…stupid.
“That’s why it looked at us like we were leftover bones in a stewpot.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
I awoke the next morning to the whirling roar of a nearby helicopter. I hated the sound – it always meant bad things out here - but it was even less welcome now. Jeremy was already awake, standing next to the pile of ash that was our fire. He had his hands behind his back and he was looking up at the sky with concern.
“Did they resume the search?” I asked as I sat up.
“This is the 3rd one since dawn. I think they are looking for missing hikers.”
“Our missing hikers?”
Jeremy offered me a hand to stand me up. “My guess is that there are new missing hikers.”
The helicopters seemed to be circling an area known as Mill Motor Caverns. The caves were apparently very beautiful, though I’d never gone down there myself. I didn’t like going underground anymore - it reminded me too much of being buried. Jeremy usually did the cave system about once a year on day hikes while we camped at the entrance.
Jeremy gave me a worried look.
“Should we go over there? See what we can learn? See if we can help?”
He nodded. “Although I don’t know how much help we’ll be.”
“If they died-“
“Lindsey, that thing last night, it came from that direction. It was obviously over by the caverns at some point in the last few days.”
“So you think…I mean you don’t think…”
“I don’t think we’ll find them,” he said grimly. “But we have to try, don’t we?”
The new campsite looked exactly like the one outside of Window Canyon. It was abandoned, as if fled abruptly. There were tents, packs, even food that had clearly been cooking over a fire left behind.
“I didn’t even know there were other people in the woods.” I said.
“We were too busy looking for the Window Canyon group.” Jeremy shook his head. “Fuck, this can’t go on.”
This time SAR looked longer and harder than they had for the Window Canyon group. I could only imagine how badly they needed a win. But there was no sign of the hikers anywhere. Jeremy and I searched for them, shouting all day and making huge fires at night that only confused and frustrated the SAR teams. Eventually they gave up and left. We covered miles around their campsite in the days after but the woods were empty expect for us and the shadow.
At the end of a particularly long day we dropped our packs on the ground and fell into the dirt, disheartened and defeated. We laid in silence for many long minutes.
“Jeremy,” I said finally, desperate to talk about anything other than our failure. “Why do we even wear these packs? We don’t need food, or clothes, or pots and pans.”
Jeremy was still breathing hard. “I wear it for you.”
“For me?” I sat up and gave him a searching look. “Why?”
He propped himself up onto his elbows and wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve. “Because you’re not ready to let them go yet.”
I raised an eyebrow at him and then laid back down. What did that even mean?
“I need a drink,” I sighed.
“You and me both.”
“Lindsey, this isn’t hell.”
“Fine. A martini. I always wanted to try one of those but I was never old enough. They looked so fancy.”
“God, what are we going to do?” I said after a minute of comfortable silence.
“Nothing. There isn’t much else we can do.” He answered.
“People are going to keep coming in here and-“
“No they won’t, thank God. I overheard Search and Rescue saying they were closing the forest lands until further notice.”
“Oh.” I put my hands behind my head and looked up at the stars. Being from the city myself, this was one view I never tired of. “Hey Jeremy.”
“You know what I realized today?”
“I’ve officially been dead longer than I was alive.”
I had meant it as a ‘hey listen to this funny fact’ but as soon as the words were out of my mouth, cold tears were sliding down my stupid face. I tried to hide them but Jeremy knew me too well. He reached out and grabbed my hand and stroked it with his thumb.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay. Hey, at least you weren’t murdered.”
I choked out a surprised laugh at that. Jeremy always knew how to make things better, usually at the expense of himself.
“Look, I’m sure that bitch did time,” I said smiling, as I wiped the tears off my face.
“Oh yeah, I’m sure Miss Oh-Shit-I-Forgot-He-Had-The-Ring-I-Better-Climb-Down-And-Get-It-Before-I- Go-Find-Help did lots of time.”
I sat upright and looked over at him. “She did not!”
He nodded. “She sure did.”
“You never told me that before!”
“I was saving it.”
“Look, I could hardly fault her. That ring could have paid for a very good defense attorney, if she ended up needing one.”
“I wonder what happened to her.” I mused, lying back down.
“She’d be in her 40’s now. Probably married. Kids. Living the life.”
“Does it ever bother you?”
Jeremy was silent for a few moments. “It used to.”
“But not anymore?”
“No, because now I have you,” he smiled at me. “She’ll never have anything like you.” I smiled back.
“Should we build a fire tonight?”
He shrugged. “Sure. If nothing else it’s a good Phantom Warning system.”
“Phantom, huh. I’ve been thinking of it as like a shadow, creature, man…thing.”
“Your name is more eloquent,” he laughed.
We decided to build a huge fire because we were both in good spirits and we hoped to draw any wandering lost souls that may be out there.
“I will be fucking pissed if that soulless, demon, shadow, phantom-“
“-Creature man thing,” Jeremy added.
“Creature man thing puts out this bitchin’ fire tonight.”
“Now say the whole thing.”
“Soulless, demon, phantom-“
“Ugh! Soulless, demon, shadow. creature-“
“Fuck you, then you do it!”
“You forgot ‘Thing’.”
Suddenly we heard voices. They were near our camp – and yelling.
“Don’t get too close!”
“Shut the fuck up, Jeff!”
They were on us before we even realized where they were coming from. Three people suddenly emerged from the woods – two guys and one girl. They all looked to be in their twenties and possibly, very drunk. Jeremy and I were already standing, backing away from them even though we knew they couldn’t see us.
“Holy shit!” One of the guys said. “Look, no fucking gear, no equipment. Spirit fire!”
“Spirit fire!” The girl squealed.
“Ooooh no,” I said. “No, no spirit fire.”
“Do we put it out?” The other guys asked. “Or let it burn?”
I ran at him but Jeremy caught me around the waist before I got very far. “You put my fire out, kid, and I will throw you into the canyon!”
“Relax!” Jeremy said.
“No you don’t put it out, you bush.” The girl chided. “It’s magical.” She sank down next to it and stared, starry eyed and drunk.
“Please tell me these aren’t missing hikers, Jeremy.”
“I think not.”
“We can fix that.” I mumbled as one of the guys in the group started shoveling dirt onto our fire.
“Stupid ghosts!” He yelled. “You’re gonna burn the whole fucking forest down!”
Jeremy narrowed his eyes at him. “Jackass.”
“Mike, stop!” The girl yelled at him. “Why do you always have to be such a twat?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry, I’m really….really drunk.”
“Speaking of,” said the other guy, “we forgot the booze.”
“Ahhhh camp is so far!” The other guy whined.
“It’s not that far,” the girl said.
“Jeremy, why are they out here? I thought you said the woods were closed.”
“They are but look at them,” he gestured. “They’re idiots.”
I rubbed my temples. Why headaches were a thing in the afterlife I would never understand.
Ordinarily I would have been more than a little excited about finding people who wanted to interact with us but there was a wicked sharp knife in my stomach tearing my insides apart in fear for them.
“We have to get them to leave.”
“We can try,” Jeremy said. “But I don’t know that this group is going to be scared by breaking sticks and misplaced packs.”
“Can’t we do more than that?”
He threw up his hands, exasperated. “I can’t! Can you?”
“I can do plenty but I never know what they can see on their end and what is only on ours.” Jeremy sighed in frustration and ran his hands threw his hair. “We can…start a bunch of fires. Spell a word out maybe!”
“Ugh, Jeremy, that would take forever!”
“Fuck. I know.”
“Let’s leave the spirits to their campfire and head back to camp,” the girl said cheerily. I’ve got rum and coke!”
“Well,” said the drunk one. “You’ve got coke at least.”
“Mike, you fucking suck, you drank my rum?!”
“Hey guys,” said the other kid. “Since we sit around campfires and tell ghost stories, do you thing ghosts sit around campfires and tell human stories?”
“Yes.” Jeremy and I both said at the same time.
The rest of their conversation was lost to the trees as they left back towards their camp.
“Huh, I figured they were camping down by the gorge or the caverns but the way they’re heading…”
“They’re going into Window Canyon.” Jeremy finished.
I sighed and buried my head in my hands. “Of course they are.”
“Lindsey…I don’t…I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get them out of the forest without going to their campsite and even if I did go back into the canyon I don’t know what to do once I get there.”
“But that thing is coming for them. There’s no one else in the woods, Jeremy. There’s no one but us.”
“Okay, just...just let me think.”
“It’s the fire, we have to use the fire.” I said. “It’s the best we’ve got.”
“Ok, what- what should we do? Burn down the woods?”
“We live here!” I yelled at him.
“Okay! Okay, alright.”
“Okay, we could…ah…oh! Oh, I know! We could empty out all their alcohol so they get bored and go home!”
“They’re already drunk, Linds.”
“But by the morning they’ll be sober!”
“They may not have until morning,” Jeremy said, narrowing his eyes at something out in the woods.
“Oh no. Please no,” I shook my head. “Not now.” But the fire had already gone out.
I ran to Jeremy where he stood, his eyes glued to the thing walking through the trees. It was slow and cumbersome, as if it was in no hurry. But it made confident, deliberate steps and its trajectory was pointed straight into Window Canyon.
“It’s already hunting them,” Jeremy whispered as it walked by, thirty meters from our camp.
“We have to warn those morons.” I said.
“We will,” Jeremy answered, sliding his eyes away from the phantom to look down at me. “Grab your pack, we’re moving out. We can beat it to their camp if we’re smart.”
You can, I thought. But I can’t go into that canyon.
“No packs,” I said and Jeremy looked at me in surprise and let his bag fall off his shoulder to the ground.
“Are you sure?” He asked.
And I was surprised to find that I really was. “Yes, they’ll just slow us down, now come on!”
We gave the phantom a wide berth and ran like hell for the canyon. Those kids were drunk and stupid and noisy and they would be easy pray for a creature like that.
The sky was fading into the dark purples and grays of dawn we neared the edge of Window Canyon. I didn’t know what I was going to do where we got there, and before I knew it we arrived at the edge.
There was a defined and definite end of the path where the trail started down into the canyon. I was stopped on the other side looking at Jeremy who was already halfway down the trail. He skidded to a stop when he realized I was no longer behind him. He looked back at me but didn’t say a word.
“I don’t think I…”
His face held an expression like he was waiting for an answer to a very important question – and I guess he was. He was barely breathing, eyes wide in anticipation and emotion. I wondered if this was the look that his girlfriend had seen he had proposed to her, minutes before she pushed him to his death. Had she said yes? Or no? I suddenly realized that I had never asked him. Jeremy had offered me every detail of his life, even the most painful ones, for comfort and entertainment. And what had I given him back in all these long decades? My brother’s name?
I knew I couldn’t fail him in this one thing.
First of all, get your mind out of the gutter. “Lollipop” isn’t a euphemism for anything else. This is serious.
It’s been like this since I was a kid. I’d never thought about telling anyone because I worried people would think I was either nuts or gay; where I live, those two labels carry similar stigmas.
To be honest, I’m only mentioning it now because it’s starting to get really weird.
First, let me just give you an example of how this all normally works. I work at a pediatrician’s office, so, of course, there are lots of lollipops to go around. I was finishing up my shift when I felt my blood sugar tanking a bit, so I grabbed a Dum Dums mystery flavor lollipop, unwrapped it, and popped it in my mouth. I love the mystery flavors. They’re just so….mysterious.
Anyway, I absentmindedly sucked it while cleaning up my desk, when, on cue, the sounds started.
“Oh good heavens, don’t stop.”
I’m the only one who can hear this, mind you. Shay was working right next to me and didn’t notice a thing. Regardless, the voice persisted and grew in enthusiasm as I got closer to finishing it. As always, as the last bit of candy dissolved, I heard a grunt and a muffled “thank you.” Then it was gone.
That’s not normal, right?
It’s possible this is all in my head. I’ll freely admit it. Still, there’s just something too tangible about the whole thing to make me truly think I’m hallucinating.
Then there was what happened yesterday.
I was at work and we were leaving early because there was a snowstorm on the way. Shay was calling patients to reschedule their appointments while I billed the insurance companies for the patients we’d had earlier. The weather man, Chuck Gerrard, aka: “Dewey Doppler,” was doing a live broadcast in front of his maps and showing the predicted snow accumulations.
I watched and grabbed a cherry lollipop. I unwrapped it and put it in my mouth. The weather man paused and his eyebrows arched for a second, but then he continued his forecast. I didn’t think much of it.
I manipulated the candy with my lips and tongue and the familiar “mmmmm” filled my skull. Dewey Doppler started to look bewildered and uncomfortable. He was walking strangely but still going on with the broadcast. It was unusual; Dewey Doppler never messed up. He’s a consummate professional. Something had to have been wrong.
I studied Dewey as I sucked the lollipop. His face was getting red and the HD image of his face showed beads of sweat appearing on his brow. A disturbing pang of realization struck me.
With experimental deliberateness, I pulled the lollipop out of my mouth, then licked all around its circumference as I studied the weather man’s face. The moaning in my mind grew fervid and Dewey stumbled as he walked across to the other side of the map. His hand was down by his waist, as if he were covering something. I was fascinated.
“Don’t stop, please.”
The words in my mind were insistent and Dewey Doppler was standing with a slight hunch, but still soldiered on with the forecast.
The doctor burst into the office, startling me out of my concentration. Without thinking, I bit down on the lollipop. A shrill, hysterical screech came from the television. Shay, the doctor, and I all turned toward the sound of pain and saw a wide patch of dark red blooming across the front of the weather man’s pants. He clutched his crotch and screamed again. The video cut to commercial.
“What the hell was that?,” the doctor asked.
“I...I don’t know,” I stammered.
“Wow, that poor man,” Shay sighed, then went back to her phone calls.
The doctor went about his business and Shay went about hers. I sat in my chair and tried to work, but the flavor of cherry in my mouth didn’t taste so sweet anymore. And in my head, I still heard Dewey Doppler screaming.
The alley was dark. There were lights on the street, but down here only shadows. A dog barked. She could smell its primal fear of her, one predator recognizing another. She could also smell the hot meat beneath its fur.
She was so hungry.
The barking turned to a low growl, menace laced with fear. Teeth and claws. Too much risk.
And then, the best sound in the world. A few yards down the alley, a goat bleated nervously. She limped toward it, her heavy belly weighing her down. The time was coming. She had to find a safe place, and soon. But first she had to eat.
She climbed the fence. The dog’s barking grew more frenzied. The goat’s bleating took on a frantic edge. It couldn’t see her in the dark, but it knew she was there.
This wasn’t a safe place. The Man smell was too strong.
She still wasn’t sure how she’d come to be in their concrete lair. She’d thought she’d found somewhere safe and quiet and dark. She’d fallen into an exhausted sleep and when she woke up all the smells of the desert were gone, all the sights and sounds, and instead of soft, warm sand there was hard concrete and the stench of Man and his dangers all around.
If she were home she would’ve avoided this place, but there was no choice. When the hunger came on her, there wasn’t much choice anyway. With a predator’s instinct, she homed in on the goat. She crouched down on all fours like a great cat, preparing herself to pounce.
She leaped and fell on the goat. It gave a startled cry and then she buried her teeth in its neck. Blood rushed into her mouth, rich, warm, and frothy. She couldn't help but moan. She kept a tight grip on it as it struggled, and soon its struggles faltered and stilled. She ate. Pleasure and warmth and life.
Something screamed. She whipped her head up, spraying bloody bits of meat in an arc.
One of their young stood across the yard, staring in horror. The goat slipped from her arms.
She started toward him. She was still so hungry. Goats were the best, but meat was meat.
Another one—smaller—rushed out, startling her. The first one stared at her, frozen, but the small one grabbed the older boy’s hand and pulled him back away from her.
And then, something bad. Very bad.
The small one screamed, “Papi! Papi! Chupacabra!”
Little ones were meat. Bigger ones could be killed—but not if there were many, and not if they had the fire-claw.
Her mother had taught her to fear it. She didn’t know what it was, only that it was loud and belched fire, and then it clawed you. One of the claws had caught her in the hip when she was still young, but it was only a scratch and she hadn’t died. Some of her kind did die, though, when the fire-claw gouged them deep enough. They tried to stay away from Man, but it was getting harder all the time. The situation she found herself in now was her worst nightmare.
The yard was suddenly drowned in glaring light. She threw up her arms to shield her eyes. The Man smell exploded, ripe with fear for the little ones. Three of them—hulking shapes back-lit in the rectangle of light from the door, their shadows cast long across the yard.
She scrambled for the fence, but she was slow because of her belly. She heard that horrible sound: the loud bang of the fire-claw. A long splinter of wood leaped from the fence near her head. She dragged herself up and over. She hit the ground clumsily and her heavy belly slapped against the hard cement. Something burst and she screamed. Another rake of the claw, this one tearing a hole right through the fence, kicking up dust at her feet.
She ran. Clumsy. Hurting. Lights behind her. Shouts. Screams. The Man smell, so thick it made her gag.
Out of the alley, into the lights of the street. Screech of metal. She looked up to see one of their monsters bearing down on her, its eyes flaming. She leaped out of the way just in time and it crashed into the fence behind her, blocking the alley. She heard the fire-claw again but it ricocheted harmlessly off the cement, kicking up sparks of protest at losing its target.
More running. She had to get away. Find someplace dark. Someplace safe. Everywhere she turned there was nothing but this concrete maze. But fear fueled her, and they were held back in the alley by the broken monster. She put them behind her.
There. A patch of earth. The smell of their trash, dog waste, and little dead animals. At the bottom was water, a thin trickle that stank of grease, but it led into a pipe. Good. Dark.
Her belly was full of rocks, a weight so heavy she could hardly pull herself along. She dragged herself into the pipe.
Her legs buckled and she sat down hard. She doubled over as a searing cramp twisted her guts. Without warning she vomited explosively, goat stew spraying from her mouth in thick, ropy strings. It hit the wall beside her so hard it splattered everywhere. Tears streamed from her eyes as she purged herself helplessly. She was beyond the capacity for anything except enduring.
She gasped for breath, spitting to get the taste out of her mouth. Her arms gave out and she collapsed to the ground, not noticing or caring that she was lying in what she’d just cast from her body. This was bad. She’d needed the nourishment for what lay ahead.
Her breathing came in short, shallow gasps. Pain. Fear. This was not right.
She’d been excited. It was her first time. When the change had come upon her, it felt good and natural. Smells were different—sharper and more acute. Food tasted better. She felt more alive, imbued with happiness and a sense of purpose. And then, when her body told her they were coming, she’d been thrilled. She couldn’t wait to meet them.
She’d only wanted a quiet place, safe and dark.
Another cramp. She strained, biting down on her tongue to keep herself from crying out with the pain. They couldn’t find her. Not now. Not like this.
She pushed hard. Agony. Stuck inside her. Push. Push.
The first one came out in a rush of blood and fluid. There was a bit of relief, a slight lessening of pressure. She felt for it. Picked it up. Sniffed at it, wiped the gore from its face. It didn’t move. She licked at it, nuzzled it.
A wave of grief surged through her, but briefly. Another cramp hit her. She set the dead one down and pushed.
This one came quickly, and when it came out she felt it struggling feebly. She held it up to her breast, cradling it against the warmth of her body. It mewed weakly. She licked the blood from its face, letting it feel her touch. A female.
Little one, she thought, and even in the midst of her own grief and fear and pain she was overwhelmed by a feeling of love. The little one nestled against her body, searching for her breast.
She held the female tightly to her as still another cramp hit her. She threw her head back, biting back a scream.
The third one was the hardest. She fought to get it out, trying not to make any sound, holding onto the one that was already with her.
When at last he came, her third little baby, she saw why it had been so hard: he was big. Round and healthy. Her heart swelled. A male and a female.
Her own birth litter had been two, a male and female. She and her brother. When he was grown, her brother had gone off into the desert. Once or twice she’d heard him calling for a mate in the distant hills, and then he’d gone and she’d seen him no more. It was the way of their kind.
She pulled him up onto her breast and let him find her milk. She cradled the two of them, her babies, holding them close to her heart. Exhaustion hit her then, and she sank back into the nest of damp dead leaves.
But she was only allowed to rest for a moment.
Lights washed the little ravine where she’d taken shelter, splashing into the far end of the pipe. She turned her head toward the other end, but there, too, were the smells and sounds of Man.
They knew where she was. They were coming for her. A shiver of terror wracked her, and the babies began to cry.
What could she do?
She would have to fight. She would have to kill them all, no matter how many. Her babies. Her beautiful little ones.
She heard their sounds. Angry and fearful. What did they know of fear? They, who had the fire-claw and the numbers and the ways of their lair.
She took the babies from her breast, her heart breaking at the sound of their cries. She nestled them in the leaves.
The little male kicked his arms and legs. He was such a big boy, already wanting to be strong and fierce. The female reached out and found her brother, her touch soothing him.
My little ones.
She covered them as best she could.
She turned to the opening of the pipe. She could see their shadows on the ground. She could smell their fear and excitement. Adrenaline pumped through her, fueling her for one last fight.
The one closest to the pipe fell, screaming. His throat was sweet in her teeth.
Confusion. Frenzy. So much blood. Her jaws closed on fingers, the bones crunched to kindling. She jerked her head and tore the hand loose, throwing it into the air.
She didn’t feel the first one, or even hear it. The second one, either. But the third one took her in the chest and pierced her lung. Breathing was agony, and then it was impossible. A bang and a flash, and the fourth claw took off her ear.
The fifth found her heart.
Be quiet, babies. Be still, she thought.
She was not quite dead when they rolled her over.
“Dios mío, ¿son esas lágrimas?”
She looked into his eyes. She didn’t understand the words, but she could smell his meaning.
My god, are those tears?
They say writing about your trauma can help the healing process move forward. I sure hope that’s true, because I’ve been hanging on to something that has been tearing me up inside. A few years ago, I lost the love of my life in the most horrific and dehumanizing way imaginable. We were both taken and held captive by a man I’ll refer to as “John.” Though I managed to survive the ordeal, she did not.
We met in an industrial district in Bangladesh. Though walls of sheet metal and soggy streets were far from the romantic scene you’d see in a romantic comedy, we had a real meet cute moment. The instant I laid eyes on her, I knew we were meant to be together. She was perfect: soft as silk, warm, yet surprisingly strong. In a tug-of-war, she could easily have held her own. The best part was that she seemed to love me as much as I loved her. From the get-go, we were an inseparable pair. Our lives were pretty great, and we spent most of our time lounging around and enjoying ourselves. Everything changed one fateful day, when we were given the opportunity to travel overseas. We should have known better: I hate myself for not being more cautious, and for not seeing the signs. A free trip abroad? It was too good to be true. I should have realized we’d just been shipped away and sold like slaves.
We were packed like sardines in a shipping container with hundreds of others who’d been fooled like us. Throughout the trip, we worried about what would become of us. Would we be separated? Would they hurt us? Who was going to buy us? I was absolutely terrified, more for her sake than my own. She didn’t deserve this. She was all that was good in the world, whereas I had always been rough around the edges, and could stretch myself thin. If anyone deserved to be punished, it was me. She and I spent days discussing horrific scenarios, but even in our wildest dreams, we couldn’t anticipate the awful things that would befall us.
After weeks on the open ocean, we arrived at our destination. Still bound together and exhausted from the trip, we were unable to fight back when a group of men strong-armed us out of the shipping container and carried us to him – to John. I remember it so vividly: the perverted smirk on his oily face, his meaty fingers reaching towards my loved one, the lustful way in which he squeezed her body. I knew he wanted her and only her, but we were a package deal. She clung to me so tightly that, even if he wanted to discard of me right then and there, he wouldn’t have been able to. We were practically interwoven. It feels so unreal to think about it now, like I’m seeing it through a third person perspective. He threw us in a large sack and tossed us in the back of his van.
Before long, we were taken to his home, where we were trapped us in cells so tight and airless that they might as well have been coffins. I could hear my other half nearby, begging for me to save her from this nightmare, but I could do nothing to help.
The cell stunk of musk and broken dreams – a scent so pungent that even Death himself dared not come to our rescue. As I crawled a few inches back and forth in the cramped space, the overwhelming taste of salt seemed to seep into the very fabric of my being. I couldn’t help but wonder, as our coffins swayed back and forth, if we’d been thrown out to sea.
John broke us. After stripping away any hope we had, he offered us a small reprieve. Fresh air never smelled as good as when we were removed from the cells. For a brief moment, I embraced my lover while John examined us with disgust. He seemed repulsed by our scent, and hosed us down like animals. We were then separated. He placed us in a larger cell and forced her to lay with another as I watched, powerless. The cycle repeated every week. Some days, he’d take me and put me back into the smaller cell. Other days, he did it to her. I think he wanted to keep us desperate and on-edge so we wouldn’t rebel. About once a week, we were washed. In those few moments, and I’d get to tend to my broken-hearted beloved. Then, he’d give her to another, undoubtedly in exchange for a fair sum of money.
Seeing him breed her with others was bad enough, but the worst was when he did it to her. I could barely watch as it happened. The monster wrapped her form around him, moaning and groaning as he had his way. She hung from him like a broken doll, life draining from her soul as his seed poured into her. I think that’s what finally ruined her tender heart.
My own spirit broke the day John brought a woman home. I thought we’d finally be saved, that she would hear our pleas and rescue us from our hell. Alas, she was as cruel and conniving as he was. She took pleasure in hearing my pained groans as John removed me from my cage and tied me to the doorknob outside his room, forcing me to listen as they partook in their wretched acts of depravity. I’d gone from feeling renewed hope, to sinking into an abyss of depression. I was powerless, and there was no point even trying to resist. John would never let us go.
Over the years, John wore my loved one down until she was just a shell of herself. She was frayed and coarse, where once she’d been gentle and loving. There was no life left in her. Her face sagged and drooped as though she’d aged a hundred years in a fraction of the time. John lost interest in her, and I could tell he wanted a new plaything. This may sound odd, but the thought of him giving up on her was almost as frightening as the thought of him continuing to use her. I knew what it meant. I’d seen what he’d done with the others.
One day, John put a hole through my beloved’s head, and disposed of her as though she were a useless object. He didn’t mourn her, he didn’t give her a proper burial, he didn’t even seem to care. The monster merely replaced her, leaving me crying for days. I didn’t even get a chance to hold my mate one last time before he took her away. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to tell her that we’d see each other again in the afterlife. My heart broke a thousand times with regret, guilt, and heartbreak. Life stopped having meaning when I lost her. She’d been my only light in the darkness. The rare moments we had together were what kept me going.
It wasn’t long before John threw me out like trash, too. I was tossed in an alley, my body laying against the cold cement. For the first time in years, I was able to see the sky, and its beauty blew me away. A knot of guilt brought me back down to reality, and I realized that my lover would never get to see the stars in the sky. I remember thinking I’d let myself perish under the moon that night. We’d be together in the afterlife, right?
Thankfully, a stranger found me and took me under his wing. He gave me renewed hope and purpose in life. Now I live, but my chest feels tangled like a Celtic knot. I live my life for myself, and for my better half. I survived, and I owe it to her to live life to the fullest.
I miss you, you really were my better half.
Things turned sour between my wife and I before we were married. Before our marriage was even recognized by our state, in fact. There was too much mistrust; too many incidents from our respective pasts had bubbled up to commandeer our attention. But we soldiered on. The gesture of our marriage, we agreed, was more important than the fraying of our bond.
As the months dragged on, we worked to rekindle the essential elements of our relationship. For the most part, we were successful. Janelle’s sharp edges, honed by the coarseness of our interactions over our most difficult times, began to dull. Mine, too, softened. For a while, things felt good. Comforting. Familiar.
Familiarity, though, would beget slothfulness. It’s what I’d worried would happen. Every night, when we were curled up together in our bed, Janelle would snore and I’d be plagued by fear. It was the fear of inevitability. No matter how well things were going, once we got our wheels back in the familiar rut of our old routines, I knew our foundation would resume its inexorable deterioration. There was only so much damage it could endure before everything we’d worked to build would topple.
We both felt pangs of stress before either of us articulated our concerns. Janelle started drinking again. She wouldn’t stumble around drunkenly, but not a day went by when I didn’t smell it on her breath. She made no attempt to hide it. I, too, regressed. I was overeating - just like how I’d done before we met, when food was the only way I could escape the reality of my depression. When Janelle and I started our relationship, I was elated. My self-loathing melted away, taking 25lbs with it. But each time our connection felt like it was weakening, the first thing I turned to for comfort was junk food. Now I down a pint of ice cream every night while she polishes off a bottle of wine.
If it wasn’t for our sex life, I think our relationship would have ended after our first fight. But I freely admit - we’re hedonists. We escape reality through physical gratification, whether it’s food for me, alcohol for her, or sex for us both. The pleasure we give one another has always purged the most toxic of the venom from our respective battle wounds. We both knew it was escapism. Neither of us cared. We needed to feel good and we had the ability to provoke that feeling in one another.
This morning, we were sitting at the breakfast table and drinking our coffee. As I’d always expected but never anticipated, Janelle announced her intention to leave me. I didn’t say anything. I just stared into my coffee; the black liquid and the white mug defocusing and hazing as tears filled my eyes. I asked her if she’d finally chosen Alana over me. She nodded and began to sob. We didn’t talk much after that.
A few hours ago, as Janelle was packing, she came over to where I sitting and hugged me. She held me for a long time. I sat, motionless, doing my best not to bawl. But she wouldn’t let go. I hated her. She kissed my cheek. My ear. My jawline. I felt warmth between my thighs. I hated my body. I turned and met her kisses. After less than a minute, we were undressed. Her tongue explored me and I writhed beneath her ministrations, despising her cowardice and antipathy toward our relationship while I clutched her head and ground against her mouth. I shuddered and saw flashes of our earlier life together as I came; my pleasure decaying into oversensitivity as I pulled her by the hair to stop her rough tongue from scraping over any more of me.
Janelle’s face wore a rictus of self-satisfaction and wanton lust. I could smell her arousal and knew it would be my only opportunity to finally give her what she needed. My final opportunity to get what I craved. I wasn’t gentle with her. It was what she’d always asked for but I’d refused to provide. This last time, though, she could have it all. I scratched. Bit. Pulled her hair. She arched her back and mewled in mindless pleasure which only infuriated and further-motivated me. Mewls became moans. Moans became screams. And screams became gasps as her muscles tensed and she collapsed on the sofa, wide-eyed and sweating.
She lay on her back, splayed, dripping, and utterly exposed. I kissed her forehead and watched, transfixed, as warmth drooled from her inviting slit. Throat.
Now, I would just like to point out that I am not much of a conspiracy guy. Ever since I could remember I’ve always been that person who wants to rationalize everything, who needs to rationalize everything in order to move on with my life. A part of me has always been fearful of the unknown or the unexplained, so my way of coping with it is to exhaust every other option before concluding something unorthodox or farfetched. Conspiracies, in my mind, are farfetched and very unorthodox. Although there are some compelling arguments out there, I chose not to believe that the government is working against us. Maybe that’s because I believe in the greater good or maybe it’s because I’m too stubborn and stuck in my own ways. I’m not really sure.
What I do know is that people call about being watched by the government more often than I ever thought imaginable. People are genuinely paranoid that the government is watching their every move. What I’ve learned from these calls is that these people are usually struggling with alcohol/substance abuse or mental illnesses. If not, both. However, this one call has always stood out from the rest, it has always bothered me and has always made me think. Is the government really watching our every move? Can they really make someone disappear?
This call came in early in the morning around 4 am.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“Hello? Can you hear me?” A man was whispering over the line.
“Sir? Yes, I can hear you. What is your emergency?”
“Are they listening to you, are you alone?” His voice was barely audible.
“Listening? Sir, are you alright?” He was calling from a seemingly untraceable phone, a burner of some sort.
“If I talk about them, they’ll know. They hear everything.”
“Sir, are you under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol?” Typically these types of calls were the product of substance abuse.
“No!” His voice bellowed over the phone. “Do you think I would distract myself with those things when I know what’s going on?” He calmed his voice again.
“Okay… Can you tell me what exactly is going on? Is there an emergency?”
“They’re listening to us right now, we can’t talk for long or they’ll find me again.” He was talking low and fast.
“Who will find you?” There was a part of me that felt bad for this man, he was obviously scared and seriously paranoid.
“I can’t – I can’t tell you that. You have to believe me. I’m not safe here and neither are you. No one is.”
“Is there an immediate emergency? Do you want to make a statement to the police?”
“No! No police – if they get involved I’m as good as dead. You aren’t listening to me – This is an emergency. They’re close. I know they are.”
“Can you give me your location? I can send an officer out to help you.”
“You’re not listening to me!” He yelled over the phone again and I flinched. “I’m sending you a warning, you need to start warning people now.”
“I – I understand what you’re telling me but this is an emergency line and unless there is an immediate emergency, I can’t continue this conversation.” I stuttered through my sentence unsure on how to proceed.
“This is an emergency!”
“My system isn’t providing me with an address, are you calling from a disposable phone? I can’t help you unless you’re going to help me. Can I at least get a name?” I was getting somewhat frustrated with the man.
“Marcus, I can’t give you my last name or my address just yet. When they’re here, I’ll let you know. I’m ready for them.”
“Marcus, who is coming after you. I can help you but not if you don’t tell me what’s going on – “ I was cut off by the sound of glass breaking, the noise was so loud through the phone I jumped in my seat. “Marcus, what was that?”
“The light fixtures – I never thought about it until now. They’ve been listening and watching me this whole time. They know.” His voice dropped to a whisper again.
“You need to calm down, okay?” Almost immediately he was silent, I couldn’t even hear the sound of his breathing. After a moment of silence, I spoke again. “Marcus, are you still there?” Again, there was nothing but silence. Just as I was about to speak I heard him come back over the phone.
“Not for long. I’m at (address), you need to come before they hide the evidence. My name is Marcus Frank. You need to tell my wife and kids that I love them, okay? Warn them.” And with that the dial tone went off.
When I first disengaged the call, I sent out the dispatch stating that the man who called seemed to be in a neurotic state of mind and could be potentially dangerous to himself or others. It was about two minutes later after I had already answered another phone call when an elderly woman called in. She sounded worried and proceeded to inform me that she heard yelling and the sound of a gun going off a few houses down from hers - Bare with me, this is where things get weird - I looked over at my screen to send out the dispatch when I recognized the street name. Almost immediately, my brain clicked as this was the very street that Marcus provided an address for. I spat out his address and she quickly responded that she believed that that was, in fact, the address. Something about it felt wrong. The whole situation felt wrong. I dispatched the officers who were already on route and told them about the woman who reported a gun being fired at that same address they were headed to.
After a couple days, I finally had the chance to speak to my friend about what happened after he arrived on scene. He said they were just finishing up a call when they received my dispatch and as they were rushing over they witnessed a man on a bicycle crash into a moving car. They pulled over and aided to them and when they tried to send someone else to go to the house, all other officers were busy on their own calls. After 25 minutes of dealing with the bicycle incident, he and his partner finally arrived on scene 30 minutes after I had dispatched. After knocking with no response, they entered the home. They looked for signs of gunfire as well as any signs of a struggle, and they inevitably found nothing. However, he said that things felt out of place in the house. His exact words were “You know when someone stages a house to make it look lived in, but you can tell no one lives there? That’s what it felt like.”
What do you think?
Look at you people, clicking through pages of stories, hungering for that next fleeting moment of excitement, like heroin addicts itching for your next fix. Just reading away, never looking for something more. I was like you once, coming here to read, get goose bumps, start looking over my shoulder... then I found something better.
It started when I was reading some short, cheap thriller about yet another stalking victim. The creeping feeling started to ebb, too soon! Too soon. Before I realized it, there was a throbbing pain in my arm, and I looked down to see that I had unconsciously started digging my fingernails into my own flesh. It stung, and yet... as I started to ease off, I felt a sudden surge of adrenaline coarse through me. It was so intense I shivered.
As quickly as it came, it faded, and I found myself lining my nails up with the puncture marks in my skin and squeezing my arm again, harder. The pain burned up into my chest, and I hissed at it, but the way it made my heart race, well... it was almost orgasmic.
I started reading the story again, only this time every point where I knew I should be feeling anxious for the narrator, or thrilled, or shocked, I clenched my arm tighter, sending that pleasurable scream of pain through my body. By the time I finished, I couldn't stop trembling. It was absolutely amazing.
Before anybody else noticed, I hurried to the washroom and rinsed off my arm, which had become streaked with blood. The water and soap burned, but it no longer made me wince... it was more of a welcome sensation than anything. I put paper towels over the wounds and went back to my desk, where I pulled on my jacket to cover my arm.
So it began, my descent into the world of feeling the horror once again. When one arm became too sore to claw at, I used the other. When both became too heavily bandaged to use, I would press my fist against my teeth and bite into my knuckles until my mouth filled with the coppery taste of blood. I gnawed at my flesh like a lonely cannibal, savoring the flavor of pain and shuddering through each wicked anecdote.
You don't know what it's like to feel these stories as I have, to have your entire body burn with the torment of another's person's suffering.
But even that ecstasy eventually began to dwindle. After weeks of wearing long sleeves and gloves to hide my self-inflicted love marks, I found that the pain didn't seem to thrill me quite the same anymore. I'd rake my arm with nails I'd let grow long and sharp, peeling my skin like one peels an apple, and the raw red flesh underneath quivered, but it didn't bleed. My heart throbbed in my breast, but it didn't race. I needed more, but I didn't know what! In frustration, I clamped my teeth down on the small finger of my left hand and slowly increased the pressure, screaming silently through clenched jaw as I felt the meat yield, the bones crunch and finally my teeth grind together and my hand become a source of blinding pain.
I had to go to the hospital for that, where they failed to reattach the finger. I explained away the situation as being attacked by a wild dog, but the surgeon saw the scars on my hands and arms, and I could see from his expression that he didn't believe me for a second. Nonetheless, I was discharged minus half a digit.
What to do then? I couldn't start biting off all my parts, eventually I'd run out. The thrill was fading too quickly, I needed something more. I needed another edge to cut myself on, another fix of the excitement and the fear while reading these stories that I once felt.
I found it one night, sitting alone in my car in the company parking lot. I was browsing the stories on my phone, reading by the dim light of the screen and chewing on my knuckled, when I was startled back to reality by a loud rap on my window.
There was a bedraggled man standing by my car, homeless from the looks of him: wrapped in several layers of filthy clothes, with a year's worth of unkempt beard and a thousand yard stare. He gestured at me to roll down my window, which I did without thought or regard. I was in a state of semi-euphoria, and open to almost any suggestion.
"Can I help you?" I asked, expecting him to beg me for a bit of cash.
Instead, he produced a long-bladed knife from the layers of his wardrobe and held it to my throat.
"Get out of the car!" he shouted at me with a voice like gravel.
I felt it again, my friends, that powerful surge of excitement. Here it was, the next step in my evolution of horror. First came the self harm, now I was going to feel it from another. It's like being tickled, you can't do it to yourself because you anticipate it coming. When someone else does it, it's so much more intense.
"Yes!" I lit up. The expression on my face probably confused him. I could see the gears turning in his head for a moment. Just a moment.
But then, wouldn't you know it, I threw open the car door with such giddiness that I knocked the poor fellow over! I guess he wasn't prepared to have such an enthusiastic victim. It didn't help that he was probably half-past drunk o'clock and off balance from missing the bottom of one of his shoes. Anyway, he proceeded to tumble over onto his back and he lost his grip on the knife.
I quickly exited the car to help him up, still trembling with excitement, then realized the knife was at my feet and picked that up instead. The transient lay on the concrete, struggling to roll himself over. He reminded me of a turtle trapped on its back. Those turtles have hard shells, but you know what? Their bellies are nice and soft. So was this man's.
Curious, I knelt down on one of his arms and watched his expression turn angry as he howled with pain and glared at me. He called me all sorts of unsavory names, like bitch, whore, things I won't even bother to write here. I pressed my knee sharply into his side and he slapped feebly at it. The silly, little man tried to claw me with his filthy nails, not realizing he was messing with the queen of scars. Casually, I reached down with my filed, sharp nails and showed him how good I was at the art of peeling. You should have heard him scream! I feel a little tremor in my tummy just remembering it. I must confess, I licked my fingers after, curious if he tasted different, and he did... unpleasantly so.
"You taste like garbage," I told him matter-of-factly. In response, he hurled another tirade of epithets at me.
"You really shouldn't use such nasty language," I teased, and poked him with the tip of his knife.
His eyes got big and wide and scared. He started babbling some incoherent nonsense about a brother in the city, he just wanted money for food, yadda yadda yadda. His breath smelled rancid and punctuated with the tang of liquor. I felt nothing for his pity story. I guess you could say I was desensitized yet again. But here was a new game for me to play, a new, exciting page in my personal evolution.
I got up off his arm and went to my car, giving him just a brief moment of respite. Gotta let them think they're getting away, after all, right? Every good horror story gives the victim that slightest hint of hope before the author strips them bare. Really, I was just going to get my phone. After all, I had a story to read.
He was clutching his arm and rocking back and forth when I returned. His vocabulary had not improved in the interim, and when I dug my knee into his gut the torrent of abuse once again poured from his lips.
"You crazy bitch! I'm going to--"
"You're going to what?" I asked. My body was trembling, and I think he mistook it for fear rather than the excitement that I was brimming with. I held up the phone and enlarged the screen so I could read even as he struggled. "No, go on, what were you going to do?"
The bum couldn't seem to get a clear word out anymore. Maybe I was pressing on his diaphragm or something, I don't know, but he started wheezing a lot and spouting off an occasional syllable or two, often accentuated with a flurry of spittle. It really wasn't doing anything for me, and in frustration, I jabbed him in the ribs with the knife. He had on so many layers of clothes though, and it wasn't the sharpest of blades, dulled by years in his pocket I imagine, so it didn't exactly slice through much. But he felt it, and he strained his neck to see what was digging into him.
"Nononono!" he twisted to try to wrench me off him, but he had no strength and no support to move with. I'm by no means a big person, but I had enough advantage to keep him pinned down, and with all his struggling, he actually managed to work the blade up under his clothing and stab himself with it.
I gasped audibly, and not the least bit concealing my delight at the sensation of sticking him with his own knife. That wonderful shiver rocked up my spine, and I held the phone steady, reading the words of the story aloud to the man. The whole affair seemed to confuse and panic him further, and the silly sod managed to work a good several inches of the blade into himself before he started screaming.
Ohhh, it felt so good. I wanted to bite myself, the pleasure was so intense and all-encompassing. It seeped into my very being. I pulled the knife out, then quickly stabbed him with it again, putting emphasis on the current word of the tale. Again, and again, I gave that greasy piggy a hundred wounds, letting his wailing and screaming become background noise as the story became my world.
When it was over, when his protests drained away and his body gave its last little spasm (and a marked increase in the smell, I must say. Be careful when you try this! Bring some Lysol or something), I wiped the knife off on his crusty beard, rose to my feet, climbed in my car and worked myself to a mind-shattering orgasm. God, I'll never forget that night.
It's been difficult since then, finding the way to satisfy this craving. I'm mindful of the dangers it entails. Some times I drive a good hour or two away to find someone to help me get my fix. Thank goodness these stories come in a podcast now for me to listen to in the car! But still, when I get to the good stuff, I've got to be the one reading your words. It must be my voice sounding out each lovely syllable of terror as I instill it in someone else. To you magical writers, you gave me this, and for that I thank you.
People have yelled on dozens of occasions that my dog is gay as they confront me in the dog park. My Lab is often found straddling the pets of very annoyed dog owners, who seem to have issues regarding their own sexuality. Despite leashing him immediately, I’ve gotten shouted at, degraded and demeaned to the point I wanted to hit these guys. Their threatened machismo always spills out with a stream of insults, homophobic slurs and red-faced rage. I stand there as their furious spit flecks my glasses and I bite my tongue. This is often my life at the dog park, as it was yesterday.
My sweet golden Lab was gallivanting about, playing with then humping on every god fearing man’s dog when he began dominating a Mastiff. They are massive breeds as was this one, with floppy jowls and an intimidating stance not unlike its accompanying human. The owner was a tall, 340 pounds maybe, graying beard and a tattooed trucker’s look. He grabbed my shirt in a balled fist from my chest and breathed the cavity-assisted stench of rotten breath in my face as he declared “Get your faggot dog the fuck away from mine if you want to see tomorrow”.
I hate that word, I’m straight yet oh-so-single that you might think it makes no difference, but something about the hateful, threatening tone of this asshole really set me off. I smiled in his angry face, pulled Tucker by his leash, and retreated with him back to my car to decompress. I saw that asshole bring his massive, scary dog into the over sized gas guzzler and rev his engine like his small dick needed some noise to hide behind. I followed that piece of living shit back to his copy paste, gauche suburban house.
I know, I sound like a creep, a stalker and the likes, and I deserve that. Know, however, my actions were a show. It was just a game I was playing to justify living on this planet with people who act like that. A fantasy before I drove away like the passive man I truly am. It was an act of following, envisioning action and then leaving that I was engaged in until I saw the eyes in the slit of his basement window.
I know that at some point you have felt pure, seething terror. Whether it was a bad trip, a threatening ex or an actual dance with death, you’ve may have felt that raw, unfiltered fear. There is something about the eyes that lets loose in those moments, the mask of civility and humanity dissipates into the ether as it is unleashed. A stallion of seething nightmare pounds into your lizard brain, destroying any chance of composure and creates a wide stare that is unmistakable as they scream out in need of help. That is the look I saw in those eyes.
I waited, parked on his street until he hopped out of his massive truck with his intimidating dog. I waited until he unlocked the front door of his oversized, ticky tacky home. I waited until night fully fell and I fetched a boxcutter from my glovebox and a tire iron from the back of my car and crept around to the back, easily slipping in that bathroom window which was unlocked. I gripped my tire iron tight and solid snaked my way into the porcelain, spotless bathroom. I eased that door open silently and observed the monster watching videos of children on his computer, his back to me. I saw the opening to the stairwell and descended in absolute silence.
I came upon a door which was locked with an absurd series of deadbolts and entered. I saw the child, bound and gagged near the window, the blood on the floor and the tools on the table. Metal, rusty tools, and other items I will not mention. Things that built up a loathing I was previously unable to process. I pressed my finger to my lips and the child understood. I removed my box cutter and severed the rope that was so tightly bound on their bloodied wrist. I led them slowly up the stairs and to the bathroom. It was easy for them to crawl outside to freedom. It wasn’t at all easy for the owner of that home.
That dog did nothing, and I felt bad enough my Tucker had humiliated him at the park. It was him or I, however as he charged into that bathroom after hearing the kid escape, baring those massive teeth. The dog clenched down onto my forearm, the excruciating pain burning before I knocked the drooling hound out with a swing of the tire iron. That hefty man watching children on his computer came next, but but he wasn’t getting off with sleep. He began by screaming insults and hurling fists, but soon he was spraying blood and flinging strips of flesh from his neck and jaw. His eyeball spilled out like a poached egg from a gory hole in his flayed, dripping face as I went to work. He screamed to the point I thought his vocal cords would explode before he finally went silent from the box cutter's scuplting.
I’m not posting any details about the location, the child, or the scum that needed removal for obvious reasons. I will, however post my dog’s details so you can praise him when you see him. According to a few guys at the dog park, my dog is gay, as if that's somehow a negative trait in their shallow minds. His name is Tucker and he’s a sweet Lab that annoys the hell out of dogs and humans all over town. He isn’t the smartest and he shits in the house on occasion but I love him, and last night he saved a child’s life.
An open letter to the killer of Samantha B. If you’re somehow able to read this wherever you are now, know that I will find you.
No father should have to watch their child lowered into the sacred silence of the earth. I don’t know if there is a right age to die, but I do know it isn’t seventeen. Better at birth before eyes had filled with light and I had learned to love so deeply. Better late into old age when life’s fleeting joys had been more than tasted. Better not at all, but a world where prayers are answered is a world where they’re not needed: a world that isn’t ours.
All the hours I spent playing on the floor were wasted. All the faces and bad jokes I made to get a smile, all the music I played to inspire a song or the books I read to inspire a dream: all wasted. I thought that was all it took to make me a good parent, but I was wrong. I invested my entire life into this single purpose, but everything I had to give was not enough. I wasn’t there when I was needed most, and nothing I have ever done or could ever do can change that.
The police found the knife you did it with in the woods where you dropped it. It was a slow death, they told me, but passing out would have avoided most of the pain. I wonder if you regretted it as soon as your blade entered the skin. Did you mean for it to dig so deep? Did you panic when the blood wouldn’t stop? Did you call for help, or struggle in vain to bandage the wound, or were you too ashamed? I wonder if you planned the kill at all, or whether time was flying too fast and your blood pounding too loud and you didn’t know how to make it stop until it was too late.
Were you thinking of anyone but yourself when you did it? I don’t know what private torment brought you to this point, but taking a life will never cease that pain. The pain is passed from one person to the next, enduring past life, past death, past mortal strength to bear. Until the day long after you’re gone when the next victim sees the sun dawn without light or warmth and all sounds and colors bleed into an endless grey. And then that sun too will set, passing on your pain once again.
You must think that I hate you. I don’t think anyone would blame me if I did. I hate that you destroyed my family, but I forgive you for everything. You may not believe me, but I promise it’s true. It’s everything about this world that made you into someone capable of such an act that I will never forgive.
I still don’t know why you killed yourself, Samantha. If you’re somehow able to read this though, know that I will find you. And somehow, someday, we’ll be together again.
/Nosleep's biggest author collaboration ever is complete! Download Alphabet Soup for the Tormented Soul for free here. Full page original horror illustrations included.
Note: I've previously shared this letter with nosleep, but it was removed. Sharing again for the purge because it will always hold a chilling place in my heart.
I’m an actress; or at least, I wanted to be.
I moved out to L.A. about four years ago and luck hasn’t exactly been in my favor. Which is pretty ridiculous considering I was voted “Most Likely to be Famous” in my high school yearbook. My entire hometown was so sure I would be somebody. My parents even threw me a going away party to celebrate my future success. The entire town showed up, showering me with gifts and reassurances that they would see me on the big screen. I had no doubt in my mind that I would prove them right.
I was heading to L.A., the land of dreams, where success isn’t a matter of luck, but a direct result of beauty, dedication and hard work. And trust me, I worked hard.
My parents enrolled me in every acting, dancing, singing and performing class that popped up on any number of colorful flyers around our hometown. Since I was two years old, I was constantly shipped off to class after class. While my classmates played in their little sandboxes or ate another handful of glue, I memorized monologues and learned how to project my voice from across the room. It’s funny, because I never actually decided I wanted to be famous. It was pretty much decided for me. When you have your teachers and parents and everyone else in the whole goddamn town telling you that you were going to be somebody, you listen.
And with a name like Kaitlyn Conway, how could I not be famous? I was born to be star. I even had the looks to go with it. Dark brown hair and light, gorgeous green eyes with a body taken directly out of a magazine. Plus, add the hometown southern charm? Come on, I was made for the spotlight!
I know that sounds pretty conceded, but hey, I’m an actress. What more do you want from me?
Anyways, despite all of my training and the hefty sum of cash my parents left me after graduation, stardom wasn’t coming as easily as I thought it would. Movies always taught me that all you need to become famous was one big break. Maybe a director would see me across a crowded room and know I was destined for something greater. Or maybe I would be called into an audition for a supporting role and the producer would decide I was leading lady quality instead. So, I reasoned, to be famous I just needed to be seen. Well, seen by the right people.
So I made it my goal to be seen. I got an agent. I bought a small apartment in the heart of the city. I went on cold call after cold call. I waited tables at high-end establishments, always making sure my lipstick never smudged just in case a certain producer walked through the door. I hung out at local coffee shops and bars that I heard through an ex boyfriend’s cousin’s friend’s mother-in-law’s petgroomer that casting agents frequented. I took headshot after headshot, went on audition after audition, and flirted with every supposed director in the entire damn city. And still, I was nowhere. I was nobody. And after four years, everyone was beginning to realize that too.
My parents started dropping hints that I should go to college for a theatre degree while they tightened the purse strings week by week. My friends stopped asking about my auditions and instead told me how great it would be if I could come home and work at the local high school as an acting coach. They told me I could teach their little babies because, they revealed in giggles, they were pregnant (BIG surprise). I would always hang up after getting these pestering phone calls. Me, an acting teacher? As. If. Those who can’t act, teach. And I can act, I know I can.
But I was growing desperate.
So one night, after a few hefty glasses of white wine, I pulled an audition flyer out of my mailbox that I had never seen before. It was bright pink and smelled faintly of Iron. In giant, black lettering it read:
“Looking for your BIG BREAK? Submit your headshot, the attached questionnaire and acting portfolio to 666 Horse Pike Drive, L.A. for the ROLE of a LIFETIME! Requirements: Female, young to mid-twenties, attractive, must bleed freely.”
Ok, a bit weird, right? I mean, bleed freely? But I did hear that Tampax was looking to shoot a new commercial in town.....and I was desperate. So I grabbed a few headshots and my resume and sat down to answer the questionnaire that was on the back of the flyer.
It asked things like, “Have you ever killed someone? Do you ever want to? What is your biggest insecurity? Are you good at evil laughter? How do you feel about full frontal nudity? What about dressing in the skin of your victims?”
I mean, the nudity question was pretty standard for the industry. I checked “Not comfortable” and drank the rest of the bottle of wine as I thought about the other questions. Everyone knows that you should save a full frontal nudity scene for a classy production.
The next day I completely forgot about that weird flyer and the application I had submitted in a drunken haze. So I was a bit taken aback when I got a letter in the mail that morning that said I had been accepted for a cold call. They obviously saw my application and loved it. But it was weird that they were so quick to respond.... but again, I was desperate. So I thought what the hell and texted my hometown friends that I had an audition later that week. I spent the rest of the week tanning, grooming and preparing for my “big break.” Who knows, this Tampax commercial could be the real deal!
So as audition day got closer and closer, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. The acceptance letter didn’t say much so I had no idea what I needed to prepare for. All it told me was where to go and what to bring: 666 Horse Pike Drive and a red bikini. We must be doing some sort of pool scene.
Anyways, the building looked pretty much like any other casting office. Dingy, a bit in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by a giant chain-linked fence. It looked like one giant, gray warehouse. But hey, rental space is expensive in L.A. I’m not one to judge. So I sauntered over to the door while straightening my skirt, preparing to give the performance of a lifetime.
There was a black sign with white lettering on the door that read: “Mr. Smiley’s Pleasure Playhouse: Open Auditions for Leading Lady.” Sweet! It was a lead gig!
Proud that I wasn’t going for some extra role, I knocked loudly and was told to enter. The door swung open to a typical waiting room. White walls, white furniture, white fluorescent light and a whole bunch of white women. There were about 7 other girls there, mostly fake blondes and big boobs. Obviously they wouldn’t be “Leading Lady” material. I smirked as I sat down across from one of them, feeling more confident than ever as I sized up my competition. A few of the girls had their heads bent over their phones, vigorously texting away. One girl was meticulously applying lip-gloss as she tapped her foot repeatedly on the white carpet. The girl I was sitting across from appeared to be my biggest threat. She had red hair, blue eyes, and looked somewhat serious about being here. She was writing in a purple notebook, her pen caught between her lips. I would have to watch out for her.
As the minutes ticked by I took my time to look more closely around the room. Like I said, it was pretty normal. But there was one weird thing that caught my eye. There were only two doors: the one I had entered from (it didn’t appear to have a handle), and a bright red door at the back of the room that looked like it was made of smooth, red velvet. I didn’t see any handles or anything else on it either. It looked pretty classy, if I’m being honest.
Finally, after about 20 minutes, that classy red door opened. Everyone looked up, almost taken aback by the man’s sudden appearance. I could see why. Out stepped a devilishly handsome man in a black suit and stark red tie. He had blonde, luscious hair and shining gray eyes. He looked like a goddamn movie star. Honestly, if this audition falls through, I may try to see what’s underneath that suit.
He smiled brightly at the room, making eye contact with each and every one of us before he burst into his well-rehearsed welcome speech.
“Hello, my beautiful ladies. I am Stan Smiley,” He paused, for effect. “You have been asked here today to audition for the role of a lifetime—my leading lady.”
At this he started to walk around the room, making eye contact with us once again. I could see the redhead across from me eyeing him like candy.
“I know that the flyer didn’t say much, if anything at all, about what exactly we are going to do here today,” he chuckled, “and that is because here at Mr. Smiley’s Pleasure Playhouse, discretion...is key. We are looking for only the most talented young lady who can entertain millions of people—“
The lip-gloss blonde shot her hand up, “Millions? So like we are doing a movie?”
Stan frowned slightly, annoyed at being interrupted mid monologue. He turned to the lip-gloss bimbo and bent down so his face was inches from hers. “No, we aren’t doing a movie,” he whispered. Embarrassed, the girl cast her gaze down. He then shot up straight and continued walking down the aisle. “We are doing a...series if you will. A filmed series. One that will be broadcasted each day at 5:35 pm.”
My heart nearly beat out of my chest. This was for a recurring role? I’ve hit the jackpot!
“We film each series right here,” Stan gestured to us, “on location.” He paused now, looking around the room. “We are looking for a girl with that special star quality. A girl who can captivate an audience each day. A girl with beauty, grace and just a hint of charm. And, of course, a girl who isn’t afraid of getting a little dirty.” He winked.
At this point one of the girls was looking visibly disgusted. She grabbed her purse and stood up, eyeing the door. “Listen,” she yelled. “I’m not here to be in some perverted porno. I came to L.A. because I have talent.”
Sure. Right, sweetie. She was wearing short jean shorts and a pink crop top. She just screamed professional.
Stan’s eyes visibly darkened but the smile never left his face. He walked very slowly, very purposely over to the girl until he was looking down over her. She held her purse tightly to her chest.
“Mr. Smiley’s Pleasure Playhouse is. Not. A. Goddamn. Porno,” he spat, spittle flying onto the girl’s face. She flinched. “We are a reputable production agency with millions of viewers who tune in each day.”
I smiled. This girl definitely wasn’t getting the role now. Stan seemed to compose himself as he backed away from the girl. She now numbly sat back down in her seat, her cheeks flaring a bright, hot red.
“Now,” he said as he straightened his tie, “For those of you who wish to continue, you may follow me through the red door.” And with that, he turned sharply on his heel and pushed past us and through the door. We stood for a second, gawking at such an abrupt exit. The redhead was the first to move. She gave me a wink and headed straight for the door. I immediately followed, cursing myself for not being the first to trail Stan. All of the other girls followed us through the red door. Everyone but the blonde who had just been brutally shamed. She looked back towards the door we had entered, gripping her purse tightly.
We shuffled through the door, one by one, into a dark, cold room. From what I could make out of the shadows shifting around the edges of the room, we weren’t alone. I could tell that the ceiling was high and that the floor was made out of something solid, like concrete? But I really couldn’t see much else, not even the girls around me. We kept bumping into one another and cursing under our breaths.
All of a sudden, spotlights blinded us, bathing us in white, hot light. I shrieked as I put my hands up to cover my eyes and a few of the other girls voiced their displeasure. As my eyes started to adjust to the new light, I could see that those shadowy figures in the corner were actually a camera crew. Us girls were in the middle of what appeared to be a rectangular stage. There were about 15 men operating cameras that were pointed at us from every angle. The men seemed normal enough, if you didn’t count the giant guns holstered on their hips. Something about the way they were standing sent a shiver down my spine. Maybe this wasn’t a normal audition after all.
Stan walked towards us again, smiling. “Ladies, ladies, ladies,” he cooed. “Welcome to the set! As you can see,” he said as he gestured around the concrete slab, “it’s pretty barren. That’s because we here at Mr. Smiley’s Pleasure Playhouse believe that the performance itself brings the stage to life.”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a few cameramen exchange looks. Their fingers gently tapped their guns.
“Now, a big component of the Leading Lady role is poise, charm and, of course, beauty,” Stan paused for effect, smiling at us brightly. “That’s why I have asked you all to bring swim suits. I want to see what you ladies look like. The natural body adds a special...glamour to our series. Now,” he said, clapping his hands, “I would like you to all change into your bikinis.”
We looked around briefly, searching for a dressing room in the bright, concrete room. But the only door I could see was the one that we had just entered from.
“Um, excuse me,” one of the blondes said, her hand raising hesitantly in the air. “Where are the changing rooms?”
Stan looked perplexed at the question. “Well,” he said. “They are right here, of course!”
We looked around, puzzled.
“You, you want us to change h-here?” the girl asked. “In front of everyone?”
Stan grinned. “Only if you want the role.” The cameras winked at us, their blinking red light mocking us. A few of the cameramen were unbuckling their belts.
We looked at each other now completely horrified. One of the blondes bolted to the door that we had come from. “I’m really sorry,” she said as she frantically tried to open the door, “but I don’t’ think I want the role anymore.” She started to pound on the door as she realized that she couldn’t open it. The redhead and I exchanged looks, we didn’t want the role that bad either. We started to inch towards the door as well.
Stan frowned, his eyes growing dark. “Well, that’s a real shame to hear,” he murmured. “You seemed to have such potential for my leading lady. But I guess I can cast you as whore10 instead.”
The girl looked up from her pounding for a second, “W-what?” Suddenly her chest exploded in red, thick blood. The blood splattered the door and all of us girl, coating my hair and face. We screamed in shock as the blonde fell to her knees, dead.
Stan pretended to blow smoke from the gun he was holding. “I don’t like quitters,” he said. We froze, afraid to move and unsure of what to do next. “Do you really want to make me repeat myself?” He threatened.
We shook our heads and slowly retreated from the door and the blood pooling around it. Shaking, we began to undress as the cameramen whistled and grabbed at their groins, caressing their growing erections. The cameras recorded on. A few of us, myself included, started to cry as our clothes fell to the floor. Stan walked around us the entire time, whistling, “there’s no business like show business...” in high-pitched glee. Finally, we all stood in our swimsuits, our arms covering our chests.
Stan then had us line up in a straight line with our shoulders pressing against each other. He instructed us to stare straight ahead and to smile “like your life depended on it.” Next he walked by each of us, inspecting our arms, our breasts and our faces. Occasionally he would make a remark like “Not too bad,” or “Has potential.” When he got to me he smiled. He grabbed my chin and brought my face inches from his own, “We can have some fun with you.” I couldn’t help but to shiver.
He released my face and turned to look at us all. Most of us were still sobbing. He chuckled darkly.
“Have any of you heard of the shadow web?” We all shook our heads. Stan smiled. “No, no of course not. You are all good little girls. But we aren’t good little boys,” Stan said as he gestured to the camera crew. They laughed as they continued to glare at us, licking their lips.
“See, we here at Mr. Smiley’s Pleasure Playhouse love the shadow web. We love it so much that we created our own little show. Every day, at 5:35 pm, we broadcast live, from this very room. We have beautiful ladies, much like yourselves,” he winked, “who are brutally and viciously mutilated, tortured, murdered, raped—sometimes in that order—by our male and female leads.” I started to shake violently. I felt like I was going to throw up. Stan continued “All for our loyal audience, of course. They pay to see our show. And they pay big.” He chuckled again as he walked over to the edge of the stage.
Stan began rummaging through a black bag just out of the spotlight. “But see, we had a problem with our leading lady,” he began, his back still turned to us. “She gained a bit of weight to be honest, and our audience wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of a fat actress. So, like any good producer, I had to replace her.”
Suddenly the spotlight shone on a hanging corpse just offstage. Her face was blue and her hands and feet bound together with barbed wire. From the looks of it, she had been dead for a while. A fresh wave of sobs tore through us.
Stan turned back to face us. He held a very large butcher knife, a saw, a steak knife and a very large curved blade. He then tossed them down at our feet with a smirk. They clamored against the concrete floor.
“Pick your weapon ladies, the show starts in 5. The last surviving actress gets to walk away with her life and the coveted title of my leading lady!”
“You can’t be serious,” one of the girls screamed. “There’s no way you can get away with—“ her sentence was cut off by the sound of a bullet piercing her left leg. She shrieked and clutched at her wound. Blood covered her hands.
Stan smiled. “Looks like one of you will now audition at a disadvantage. 4 minutes until show time!”
The red head and I exchanged looks and then turned towards the knives on the floor.
“Breaks over, kiddo,” Stan grunted as he handed me a rather large, rusty machete.
I gripped it tightly in my hands. “If the blood gets on my skirt, I’m asking for worker’s comp.”
Stan chuckled darkly, “Makeup, to the floor.” A wheezy, middle-aged woman came barreling across center stage, her makeup bag in tow. As she piled lip-gloss on my lips, Stan walked over to the camera.
“You know your cue, sweetheart?” I made a kissy face and winked, “Always do.” The makeup artist scurried away, giving me thumbs up as she ran backstage.
“Alright, bring in Whore15,” Stan bellowed as I got into position. “Lights set, cameras rolling.....and action!”
A thin, tall girl was thrown on stage into the spotlight. Her bleach blonde hair was matted to her tear-stricken face. She sobbed as snot and blood pooled down her plastic looking breasts. She was wearing short jean shorts and a crop top. I almost snickered. She probably thought she could have slept with the director to get the role. How unprofessional.
“Please, please let me go,” she sobbed, her voice cracking. Mascara ran down in little rivers, staining her bubble-gum pink top. Cue spotlight on me. Camera cuts to stage left.
“My darling,” I cooed. “Don’t you want to be famous?”
Her eyes locked on mine as recognition flashes across her bloated, child-like face. She was the girl who hadn’t followed us through the red door during the audition a few months back. What a pity.
“W-w-wait. Aren’t you from the audition—“
I bring down the machete in an artful blow, striking her across the throat. Blood spurts and collects on the floor. Camera pans to dying Whore15. Close up to light fading from her eyes.
Spotlight fades. End scene. The audience applauds.
What can I say? I’ve always wanted to be a star.
When I was growing up, I was always the girl everyone said would make a great mom. It made sense; I love being around kids. I was a babysitter for the neighbor’s children when I was ten, and they liked the work I did so much they recommended me to their friends. When I finished high school, I was one of the few people who knew exactly what she wanted to do after college: teach! What better way to enjoy children than being a formative presence in their young lives?
After I got my Masters, I was lucky enough to get a job as a kindergarten teacher in the city. Growing up on a farm in the Midwest was something I’ll always be proud of; great people, strong faith, meat and potatoes meals, and all that, but I really hoped I’d end up in a big city. Lo and behold, my prayers were answered.
I love my teaching job. The kids are absolutely precious and adorable. I do my best to make sure they leave with knowledge and a smile. Some days are sad; a lot of the children are from poorer neighborhoods and have to deal with all the associated baggage that comes with being raised in those conditions. Still, I work hard and I’m pretty proud of the help I’m able to provide.
Being alone in the city can take its toll, though. I get pretty lonely. A lot of my time is spent online talking to other teachers and people with whom I share a faith. Isn’t the Internet great? I was fortunate enough to find a group of people, some of whom are also teachers, and we began to form a relationship. We’re all fans of kids. That almost makes it sound like we’re groupies following a band, doesn’t it? No, we just recognize the great potential the younger generation has. Our future is in their hands. It’s a shame so many grownups don’t see that.
To my surprise, it turned out quite a few of my online friends lived in the same city as me. The next logical step was to meet up with them, so I did, and they were lovely. So impassioned! I was motivated by their protective drive and their strong faith and they readily welcomed me into their flock, so to speak. After some time, I began attending their church instead of my own, which wasn’t a difficult separation since I’d only been in the city for a short period of time. This new one seemed like a much better fit.
The pastor has a strong love for young boys and girls and he mentions the importance of them every Sunday in his sermon. After the service last week, he approached me and asked to meet with him in private. Apparently a couple members of our group had spoken to him about me. Just thinking about it makes me feel warm and accepted. So, we met up and talked for a long time. Most of what he told me was stuff I already knew, but he somehow communicated an urgency that I never saw before. Now I do.
Anyway, this morning I had to call in sick because I have something really important to do. It’s a pretty good drive, about three hours, but I think it’ll be worth it in the end. I’ll get there around 11 a.m. if I leave now, and as long as I can be in and out in a couple minutes I can be home before dinner.
While I get ready, I keep thinking about how my dad used to take me hunting when I was a kid. His friends thought it was weird for a father to take a girl shooting, but our family never had any boys, so he treated me like the son he never had. I appreciate it, though. It’s that experience I’m going to need later this morning when I stop those doctors from murdering any more unborn babies. They have no right to steal those innocent lives from the world.
“Please, Daddy,” Sarah begged through convulsive sobs. “I’ll promise I’ll be good.”
Ben Flannigan’s heart broke. He ceased shoveling and wrapped his arms around his daughter.
“You’re always a good girl, honey,” Ben answered holding her tight. “Robbie is a good boy too. We just don’t have a choice, that’s all.”
“You’re the best children in the world,” Rita Flannigan added. “It’s for your own good.”
Rita kissed Sarah’s forehead and lowered her into the casket. Sarah wiped snot away from her face. Her teeth chattered. She whimpered as Ben closed the lid over her.
“Come on, son,” Ben said to Robbie.
“Yes, sir,” Robbie replied.
Together, the Flannigan family buried Sarah. After thirty minutes, the casket was several feet underground. Ben checked the garden hose to see if it was clear. He didn’t want his daughter to suffocate.
“Can you breathe?” Ben shouted into the hose.
“Yeah,” Sarah’s voice echoed back.
“I’m sorry, honey,” Rita apologized.
Out of the corner of his eye, Ben saw his neighbor, Jeff, watching them over the fence between their yards.
“Howdy, neighbors,” Jeff greeted.
“How’s it hanging?” Ben replied.
“Same shit, different Hallo-fucking-ween,” Jeff answered. “Need help?”
Ben looked at his watch, 11:45 p.m. He frowned acknowledging his neighbor’s hidden meaning.
“Yeah, I could use the help so long as you’re finished,” Ben answered.
“Jake’s been out since ten-ish. Sleeping pills. Got him roped up and in the basement closet. Padlocked and sealed,” Jeff said. “More worried about Robbie, to be honest. No offense, boy.”
“None took, sir,” Robbie answered.
“Twelve years of this shit under his belt, Robbie knows what’s up,” Ben said. “You ready, son?” Robbie took a deep breath and said, “Let’s do this.”
“Attaboy, this last time ain’t nothing,” Jeff said coming into the yard.
“Lay down,” Rita commanded.
Robbie laid across a thick king-sized blanket and crossed his arms over his chest. Jeff and Ben rolled Robbie around in the blanket leaving only his head free. Rita placed another blanket on the ground and did it again for good measure.
“Can you breathe?” Ben asked.
“Good,” Jeff answered and checked his watch. “And not a moment too soon.”
It was 11:59 p.m. Then the clock struck midnight and it was Halloween.
The crickets stopped playing their nocturnal songs. The stillness of the night weighed heavily upon them. They waited, eyes firmly set on the dirt mound where Sarah’s casket had been buried.
“Cum rags! Blumpkin diarrhea!” Robbie hissed in a voice that wasn’t his. His eyes glowed red. Ectoplasm leaked from his nose and mouth. They paid him no mind. At the cusp of manhood, the link was at its weakest. The blankets would suffice.
The dirt over Sarah’s casket heaved upward and down like the ground was trying to breathe. She was lifting the lid of the casket despite the weight of the dirt. Ben cursed himself for not nailing it shut.
He hoped it would hold.
God help them all if it didn’t.
December 10, 2015. My last day on Earth.
From the moment I was capable of proper self-reflection, I knew there was too much of me. I filled more space than any person should. I would study the area around myself and imagine lines drawn between my body and the objects nearby. The lines were too short. Stout, vulgar lines barely spanning the interstices I used to prove I wasn’t sharing mass with the walls and furniture.
A plan bloomed within me and seeded the foundation of my identity. As I was shuffled from foster home to foster home, I began to restrict the amount of food I consumed. The general lack of care for my well being, which I’m certain would have devastated the psyche of other adolescents, was my greatest advantage. With each refused meal, the lines separating me from the mass of the world grew longer. I bathed in the reinforcing glow of success.
As I got older, those around me would pay no attention to the scrapes on my index and middle fingers. They’d pay no attention to my hair, which fell out in clumps of rotting, mousy gossamer. Even if they noticed -- even if they cared -- they’d be disgusted. They weren’t on a level which would allow them understand the purpose of my journey.
Perhaps if they watched as I laid awake and traced the protrusions of my hip bones, ribs, and clavicles; watched, every night, for thousands of nights, as my fingers traced and I fantasized about valleys eroding into canyons and hillocks giving way to crags, they would see a girl who is in control. Through my rituals, they’d learn the very meaning of control. Of sacred, ruthless asceticism. Of metamorphosis.
Tonight, I can stand in the middle of the room and see lines floating through the space between myself and everything around me. They’re longer than they’ve ever been. In moments, lines of space itself will be my corporeal legacy. Imagine a girl who, through abnegation and sacrifice, earned her place in the vast heavens. A girl with a glowing star marking each joint where bone once met bone. Civilizations would look upon her and trace the spaces between her stars with their own perfect lines. And then they would see my shape. No curves. Just angles; only angles.
For the first time in a decade, I’m feeling nostalgia for the days of ignorant joy before I knew my purpose. Days of innocent fantasies and childhood hedonism. Days cut short when I watched my family die; a nine year old girl left to stare at the drunken truck driver who crushed her mother, father, and brother against a wall. A nine year old girl with no control over life and death.
I’ve changed since then. I’m ready to show the full power of my control. I control my hands as they open the bottle of pills. I control my gag reflex as I swallow every last one. I control my throat as it transports white wine down to my stomach to mix with the pills. I control my fingers as I type my last words to be read by a world unable to see the value of sacrifice. It’s time for them to learn.
Watch, tonight, as the icy pitch of space brightens from the introduction of new stars. Watch, together, as the seeds of my effort and patience bear celestial fruit. The line separating life and death has always dictated my body’s geometry. Now I’m crossing that line. My new identity will be points of radiant light with nothing but perfect emptiness in between. But I will be remembered. Anyone who wants to see the girl who dies tonight needs only to connect the dots.
I was born with a gift, which I didn’t realize until I was 7 years old. People call such thing as a “gift”, but I beg to differ. Well… After you know what it was, you wouldn’t think it was a gift either. I didn’t find any advantage for having it, that was why.
I was 7 years old when I realized that I could smell the odor of dying people. I didn’t realize it was an odor of dying people at first until I smelled it on my grandmother one day. Then she died in no more than 24 hours after that.
According to what I saw, everyone with the odor would die in no more than 24 hours after the odor first spread.
The odor itself was varied, depends on how the people would die. From what I could conclude from years of having that gift, there were three different smells of the odor:
They would smell like a soil if they died of natural causes (being old, for example).
They would smell like a medicine if they died of sickness.
They would smell like a burnt rubber if the died of unnatural causes, such as accident, murder, etc.
When the odor first spread from the people, it wasn’t so strong. It even barely smelled, most of the time. However, the closer they were to their death, the odor became stronger.
As I got older, I got used to smelling those odors everywhere I go. It didn’t concern me anymore, not the way I did when I was a kid.
But what I found three days ago concerned me.
How could I not? I had been running around town since morning, from home to my school, to a mall with my friends, and everyone I met had that odor of dying people. Not the smell of soil or medicine. The burnt rubber one. And I smelled it from everyone. My teacher, my classmates, my friends whom I went to the mall with, everyone I met in the mall. Everyone.
They all smelled like a burnt rubber.
Being able to smell the odor of dying people didn’t scare me. Not even when I first realized it when I was a kid. But what happened three days ago, it scared me to hell. I got shivers throughout my trip with my friends. Something was wrong, and I didn’t know what. Not to mention that there was no one that I could have asked about it too. Some of my friends and family know this gift of mine, but none of them understand anything about it.
One thing I could guess about it though, they all smelled like a burnt rubber, which meant, they all would die in an unnatural cause. Murder, or accident. All of them.
The smell was pretty strong that afternoon, so it should mean that it was approximately ten to twelve hours left.
Something would kill all those people almost altogether, but what? What reason would all these people die for?
After I was done playing with my friend, I went home. It was almost six pm. Everyone I passed by on the way home also had that quite strong odor of a burnt rubber. The more people I passed by, the more horrified I feel. I couldn’t lie, it put me in horror. So I sped home, the fastest I could.
As I reached home, I opened the door and directly ran to the dining room, joining my dad, my mom, and my 2 siblings for dinner. I hadn’t yet sat in my chair when I noticed that my family, all 4 of them, were also smelled like a burnt rubber.
The strength of the odor differed on each of them. I somehow sensed that my mom and my 2 siblings had stronger odor compared to my dad.
I was sure that I didn't smell it from them when I left for school in the morning.
They knew about this gift of mine, but I wouldn’t ask them about it. They were as clueless as I was. As the horror consumed me even deeper, a thought came to my mind. The thought didn’t give me a peace of mind. It made everything even worse.
I didn’t try to sniff myself yet, to see if I also had the odor.
I didn't want to tell my family something that would worsen the situation if they asked me why did I sniff myself, so I went to my room, where there was also no other smell that would distract me from what I needed to found out. As I closed my door, I put both of my palms up and sniffed it.
I, too, smelled like a burnt rubber.
Vague, unlike the smell I sensed in my family, but there was an odor. And from its strength, I supposed it would be my mom and my 2 siblings who would die first, then my father, and then me. Saved for the last? Should I be happy or should I be worried?
Ever since I smelled the odor of a burnt rubber on myself, I couldn’t stop myself from shaking. What the hell was going on? Something was about to happen to everyone, to me, but there wasn’t any clue of what it was.
Oh, no. There was a clue.
As I heard my mom and sister screaming from the living room, I immediately ran there. I saw them freaked out in front of the TV. I walked towards them, and I followed them watching the news on TV. The news that put everyone in horror.
There, I heard the horrifying news, reported by a frantic newsreader.
The newsreader reported that A CDC's container that's on the way to the headquarters was hijacked by terrorists wearing gas masks. The container carrying a newly found dangerous virus, which was then released by the terrorists. The frantic newsreader emphasizing the note that whoever infected with the virus will act like a dog with rabies, they will rage and attack everyone in their sight.
The city was also reported to be in quarantine. Nothing and no one could get in or get out until the outbreak was cleaned up.
"For your safety, if you're not yet infected, please stay at home and locked every door and window", said the news reader, before closing her report.
In the footage of the news, I saw people in town attacking, biting, and killing each other like a mad animal. I saw it only on TV, but it scared me to death.
By the time I was done listening to the news, I heard loud noises from the outside of the house, so I went to the balcony to checked on it. There, in my neighborhood, I saw my neighbors running around, attack and kill each other. Exactly like what I saw on the news' footage.
"Mom! Dad! We gotta lock the house now!", I shouted as I turned my head to see them. What I saw then, was the worst nightmare I had ever seen in my life.
I saw both of my siblings lying on the floor, twitching, with blood all over their necks.
When I looked up, I saw my dad, biting my mom on the neck. She was twitching, and I saw a lot of blood dripping from her neck too.
Shocked, I stepped back and my back accidentally hit the steel railing of the balcony. It clanked. My dad heard me.
He opened his mouth, full of blood, and released my mom. He glared at me, with eyes red all over, and my mom and my siblings' blood dripping from his mouth. He groaned like a mad animal.
And he jumped toward me.
I barely able to escape him, but thank God, I did.
I ran out of the room, as fast as I could. I went to the upstairs, aiming for my parents' room, while my dad was tailing right behind me, with blood all over his mouth.
He jumped again, and that second time he caught me. We fell to the floor. Thank God I wasn't far from my dad's closet, so I pulled it open, grabbed his gun that I knew he kept there, aimed it at him and pulled the trigger.
I killed him. I killed my dad. But I had to. If not, I clearly would be the one to be killed.
With no one left in the house but me, a bunch of zombie-like people running and killing each other outside and the fact that government had quarantined the city, I guessed I didn't have any choice but to stay at home.
Until another rage zombie broke in, at least.
It's been three days now, and somewhat the odor of burnt rubber I smelled on myself didn't get stronger the way I thought I would. I still smelled a bit like a burnt odor, and it was getting stronger, but not too much.
I guessed I could avoid being dead, for a while.
Food supplies at home were also about to run out, so, sooner or later, I will be forced to get out of the house.
To make things worse, by the time I wrote this, I heard banging sounds at the front door. And it wasn't only one or two person. It sounded like a group of people trying to break in.
When I finally heard a cracking sound, which I was sure was the sound of the door finally being broken, I suddenly smelled an odor of a burnt rubber coming out of my skin.
Part One: https://redd.it/82qq0b
I’m sorry for the delay in typing this up; it’s been one hell of a workweek. This case has drudged up a lot of old memories for me and my team. It’s the one case we have tried hard to forget but were never given the opportunity to.
The case only got stranger from where we left off. Like I said before, there were only 12 people on that bus: 10 passengers, one victim and one bus driver. And yet the first two people we interviewed swore that there were 13 people on that bus. The missing passenger was described as an older man with spectacles, a three-piece suit, a pocket watch, and a bowler hat. His most distinguishable feature appeared to be a wooden cane with a silver crow perched on top. There was absolutely no evidence of him existing.
I’ve typed up the transcripts from the next few interviews below:
I interviewed Mary Lynn, a stay-at-home mother of two. For obvious reasons, we didn’t separate the family. Instead, we allowed Mary Lynn to stay with her two children throughout the interview process. I really wish we hadn’t.
Kyle, her two year old, sat on her lap with his fingers in his mouth. Her daughter, Lily, was a newborn. She was placed on the table in her car seat, gurgling occasionally every now and then. I hoped they were young enough to escape the confession that haunted me for years.
Detective Cooney: “I’m sorry to keep you three so long, I’m sure you have somewhere to be.”
Mary Lynn: [wresting her hair out of her toddler’s grasp] “Oh, it’s no bother, really.”
Her face was taunt and pale. She had heavy circles under her eyes and I could almost feel the stress radiating off of her stiff shoulders.
DC: “Where were you three heading?”
ML: “My mother’s house. She promised to take the kids for a week so I could have some time off.”
DC: “That’s pretty sweet of her to give you and your husband some alone time together.”
ML: [her smile falters] “Oh no, he, uh, he’s pretty busy so he couldn’t take any time off. He’s a businessman, you know.”
DC: “I see.”
ML: “When we decided to have kids, we decided that I should quit my job and take care of them, like his mother did with him and his brother. A stable family, you know? A traditional family.”
DC: “Some people like that.”
ML: [shifting her son on her lap to a more comfortable position] “Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. But some time off would really help me.”
I noticed that her shirt was stained with baby food. She looked like she hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep in years.
DC: “Of course. So you were on the bus to your mother’s house when it happened?”
ML: [looking down] “Yes, you could say that.”
DC: “Do you mind telling me what happened on that bus? From the beginning?”
Kyle Lynn: [Peeking up from his mother’s lap] “Birdie said hi.”
ML: [patting his head] “Sorry about that, my son Kyle is just learning to talk.”
She was flustered now, bouncing her son up and down on her leg. Her eyes were beginning to water.
DC: [turning towards the child] “What birdie?”
KL: “Birdie on stick.”
My blood ran cold. I turned back to the mother.
DC: “Ma’am, is your son referring to a cane? Perhaps a wooden cane with a silver crow on the top?”
ML: [crying silently] “He told me I was a bad mother.”
DC: “Who told you that?”
ML: [blowing her nose on her son’s shirt] “The man with the cane. He..[sobbing] he said that he knew what I was about to do and I was a bad mother.”
DC: “It’s ok, miss, I’m sure—“
ML: [sobbing turning to hysterical laughing] “He’s right, you know! I’m awful. I fucking, FUCKING hate being a mother.”
She was laughing so hard that the tears never stopped dripping down her face.
ML: [still laughing] “I’m not sure what dim-witted idiot ever came up with the half-cocked idea that motherhood is some sacred art. It’s shit. It’s a piece of shit. Literally. Do you know how much shit I deal with on a daily basis? [gesturing to her newborn]. All they do is eat and shit, eat and shit, and eat shit. Ha! I even fed Lily her own shit yesterday and do you know what she did? That disgusting piece of crap actually ate it. She ate her own crap.”
Mary’s laughing turned back into sobbing. I was horrified.
ML: “I never wanted to be a mother. But Paul wanted me to be. And I loved him so—so—“
DC: “So you became a mother.”
ML: [dabbing her eyes with her son’s shirt] “I became a mother. And I’ve regretted it ever since.”
The room felt heavier now that she admitted it.
DC: “[looking down at notes] “You said the man with the cane knew what you were about to do and called you a bad mother for it. What did you mean by that?”
ML: [fidgeting] “I wasn’t going to come back for them. I was going to leave them with my mother and never come back. Not to Paul, not to anyone. I was just going to run away from it all.”
I had to push down the swell of anger that had arisen in my chest. My daughter died when she was eleven years old. Cancer, they said. It’s what drove my wife into my brother’s arms. But I could never, not for one second, imagine ever leaving my little girl and never coming back.
DC: “So you were going to leave them?”
ML: [nodding, stroking her son's hair]
DC: “And the man with the cane knew this somehow?”
ML: [nodding again, tears dripping down her face]
DC: “Tell me what happened.”
KL: [looking up at his mother] “Birdie said hi.”
ML: [patting Kyle’s head] “The man with the cane, he uh, he was sitting on my left, across the aisle. He told me that he knew what I was going to do. He called me despicable. He said I was a bad mother, a horrible mother. [sobbing softly] He told me I could never be forgiven. Not, not unless I paid penance.”
Lily, the newborn, woke up then, gurgling incoherently. Mary sighed, looking dismayed. She rocked the car seat lightly, lulling her back to sleep as her son clung to her matted hair.
KL: “Birdie hurt bad."
ML: “The man with cane told me that, that if I killed the boy then he would take my children off my hands. No one would ever know, not even my mother. He said he would take care of them, make sure they grew up like him. Make sure they, they were happy.”
DC: “Did the man with the cane tell you to kill this boy?” [gesturing to the photo of the victim]
ML: [nodding] “He said if I killed him, I wouldn’t be a mother anymore.”
DC: “How did you do it?”
ML: “I beat him. I just—I just let all of my anger, my frustration, out on him. He cracked under my fingertips. His bones were so soft, like an infant. Like Lily.”
Lily gurgled in her seat. Mary put her son down on the floor and picked Lily up, cradling her to her chest.
ML: [cooing] “Shhh, shhh don’t cry now. It will all be over soon.”
My next call was to child services.
Mary’s interview shook me more than I cared to admit at the time. But the investigation was only getting more confusing and we had to press on with the interviews.
The next interview was with Meg Stewart. She was a professional, attractive businesswoman in her early forties. This interview was short.
Detective Cooney: “Thank you for your time today, Miss Stewart. Do mind telling me why you were traveling today?”
Meg Stewart: “I was heading back to my office. I just had a client meeting and I was hoping to get back in time to finish my day’s work. [smirking] but it looks like that won’t be the case here.”
DC: “No ma’am, we need to assess everyone on the bus.”
MS: “Well, whatever I can do to make the process quicker, fine by me.”
DC: “That’s great to hear. Where were you sitting?”
MS: “I was at the front of the bus, near your alleged victim. He was sitting behind the driver, if I remember correctly.”
DC: “How many people were on the bus?”
MS: [thinking] “It was 13. 12 passengers, including myself, and one driver. You have all of the photos right there [gesturing towards passengers] except one.”
DC: “Describe this passenger I don’t have a photo of.”
MS: “He was a professional man, real sleek. He had a bowler hat, a very, very nice suit, and he had a cane. A little old fashioned, if you ask me, but I’m assuming he must have been a banker of some sort.”
DC: “Can you describe the victim?”
MS: [scoffs] “He’s one of those lazy kids. Probably a socialist. [thinking] Yes, he must have been a lazy socialist. A fucking Millennial. You know how they are. [laughing]”
DC: “And you know this how?”
MS: “Well, the man with the cane told me he saw the kid begging for money on the street [chuckles] which is ridiculous because he was clearly well cared for. He had an i-Phone, for goodness sake! He was just a lazy drain on society who wanted hard working people like me to pay for him to sit on his lazy ass all day.”
DC: “Did you kill him because of this?”
MS: “No, of course not. I killed him because he stole from me.”
DC: “He stole from you?”
MS: [nodding] “The man with the cane said that he saw the boy stealing my wristwatch. It’s expensive, you know. It cost me $1,440! And here this lazy, no-good boy thought he could steal from me. It’s a shame. He must have had an awful upbringing.”
DC: [pointing to the watch on her wrist] “Ma’am, is that the watch you were referring to?”
MS: [looking down at wrist] “Oh...”
Her face took on a dreamy like expression, her vacant eyes staring off into space.
MS: “No, I’m not wearing a watch....he stole the watch.”
She claimed she wasn’t wearing a watch currently and I must have been seeing things. The rest of the interview was spent with her telling me how she crushed his nuts between her fingertips and choked him with her bare hands.
The next interview was with Patrick Brown. He was a morbidly obese, middle-aged man. He was a phone operator who worked from home.
Detective Cooney: [gesturing to the photographs of the driver, victim and passengers] “Can you tell me if there was anyone else on that bus?”
Patrick Brown: [looking closely at the photos] “Yeah, yeah you are missing one. A man with a bowler hat. He had a cane too, if I remember. Maybe a crow or raven was on it, but I’m not too sure.”
DC: [sighing] “Right, of course.”
PB: [Looking down at wrist watch] “Do you think we can speed this process up a bit? I’ve got to get back home.”
DC: “I’m sorry but we need to get all of our facts straight before we can let anyone leave.”
PB: [looking angry] “Alright, well let’s get on with it.”
DC: “Can you tell me where you were heading today?”
PB: [shifting in his seat] “I just told you, home.”
The seat groaned under his weight.
DC: “Where were you sitting on the bus?”
PB: [opening a bag of chips] “I was sitting near the back of the bus. You don’t mind if I eat do you?” [stuffing his hand in the bag of chips] “Your officers wouldn’t let me eat in that holding cell. Real characters, for sure.”
DC: [frowning] “We have those rules for a reason. But please, go ahead.”
PB: [burping] “I hate going so long without food. It always makes me cranky.”
DC: “Were you cranky on the bus, then? Is that why you killed him?”
PB: [pausing] “No, no not quite. I killed him because he looked tasty.”
I was shocked. I expected denial, a breakdown, remorse. Not this.
DC: “I’m sorry....what?”
PB: [taking another handful of chips] “Well, the man with the cane, the one you don’t have a photo of, well he asked me if I’d ever eaten human flesh.”
DC: [blanching] “Have you??”
PB: [scoffing] “No, of course not! Well not until today [laughs]. But when I told the man that I haven’t eaten human flesh, he told me I should. He said he’s a culinary expert, you know, a real foodie. He told me how human flesh tastes. He told me about the juicy feeling breasts have, the tender muscles athletes build and how creamy the skin of infants are. He described the way the veins pop in your mouth, sending blood dribbling down your chin. Like a medium rare burger, or a nicely cooked steak. Oh man, I love steak. Do you think we could order one now?”
Patrick was looking off into the distance, his fingers still coated in grease from the chips he was consuming. I felt like throwing up.
DC: “Patrick, what did you do?”
PB: [throwing his head back and emptying the chip back into his mouth] “Well the way the man with the cane was describing it, I just couldn’t pass it up. You can’t walk away from an opportunity like that. Especially when you have a culinary master looking over your shoulder! So when the kid went up to go to the bathroom, I took what was mine. I ripped his stomach open and gutted him like a sea bass. Of course, I wish I had some seasoning or a nice sauce to pair with his intestines, but I made due with what I had. See, I always carry a little hot sauce with me in my pocket. He was a bit mild for my tasting, but I would still try it again, hands down. Just wish I could thank the man in the hat for opening my eyes to a whole new world. But he disappeared soon after I took the intestines out. He just told me that he would wait for me once I was done eating. [chuckles]”
I threw up in the wastebasket.
When I checked back in with the coroner, he said that a few pieces of the boy’s intestines had been bitten. Worse still, it appeared that hot sauce had been poured over his open stomach while he was still alive. The kid must have died in agony.
This was a lot for me to post today. I’ll write up the rest of the interviews tomorrow but, quite honestly, I think they are too disturbing. I urge you to think carefully about reading my next update. It won’t be pretty.
There was a canvas-muffled thump as Captain Dobbs knocked on the cubicle wall. “Hey.”
Mackey and I turned around. “Hey, Dobbs.”
“Either of you two know about any new street gangs in the area?”
“New street gangs?” Mackey said. He shot me a look and pursed his lips. “Not really. MS-13, Easies, Devils. Who else we got? Handful of dope-slingin’ ops in the Projects. Same old.’”
Dobbs looked unsatisfied. “Huh. Just we keep hearin’ about some new group on the streets. Ferals, they call ‘em. Hyper violent. Started off near the Heights, weirdly. Now we got reports of attacks comin’ in from all over the Projects. Apparently the Mayor’s asked the Chief to look into it directly.”
“Heard something about it on the news last night,” I said. “Some kind of new gang’s got the other freaks in hiding. New turf war in the works?”
“Not from what we can tell. Bump in homicides, but they don’t seem to be targeting any one group in particular.”
“Serious?” Mackey said. “Bump in homicides with the other gangs on the down low? So this one group’s making up for all the other guys?”
“More than making up for ‘em.”
“And we're sure it’s not one guy?”
“Positive. Killings are happening at the same time, opposite ends of the neighborhood. All similar enough to be connected, but they don’t match the M.O of any known entities. What was the murder you were on yesterday, Ethan?”
“Uh, Vanessa Bell,” I said. “Dancer down at Lucky’s. Found her all fucked up in her kitchen. Had two puncture wounds right here.” I tapped my neck just below the jaw.
“Huh. You clear that one?”
“Nah, still open. Found a text to her from Davon Hall, so last night we paid him a visit and dragged his ass in here.”
“Wasn't him. He was actually surprised to find out she’d died.”
“So what was up with the text?”
“Booty call, wasn’t it?” Mackey said.
“Yeah. Apparently he’d been fucking her and left a few hours before we got the call. Had no idea it’d happened till I showed him the picture, though.”
“How’d he take it?”
“Guy was scared shitless, Cap. Said ‘can’t tell you who did it man. They’ll do it to me.’ Matter of fact when we cuffed him he almost looked relieved it was the PD and not… whoever else.”
“Shit. Who do we got on our hands that could put the fear of the Lord into Davon Hall?” He trailed off for a bit before adding, “Where is he now?”
“Had nothing on him. Donovan picked him up.”
“Dennis Donovan? Guy’s a schmuck. Anyway. You two work on this, will ya? I wanna know who these freaks are. Ask around in the Projects.” He turned to walk off, but he paused then, and turned back around to our cubicle. “And… don’t tell the Chief you’re lookin’ into this.”
I blinked. “I thought Mayor Carver asked him to handle it-?”
Dobbs looked around the rest of the precinct, and then leaned in and whispered, “He did, its just - I overheard it. I wasn’t tasked on this, you know? You know how Seales gets when he finds out we’re ‘wastin’ money on unauthorized investigations,’ blah blah blah.”
Mackey and I looked at each other. Then we turned back to Dobbs, and Mackey said, “Sure, Cap. Keep it on the DL. No problem.”
“Ayy, man!” Hopps said. He stepped up and hugged me.
“Hopps, buddy. How you doin?”
“Same old, man. Same old. Thought you forgot about me.”
“Couldn’t forget about you if I tried. This is Mackey, by the way. My partner.”
“Yo.” Hopps said. He ignored Mack’s outstretched hand and turned back to me. “So you got my loot?”
I handed him his bag. “Black and milds, a forty and a ham and cheese six inch from Sub Shack.” He grabbed it from me and sat down in the grass and unloaded his food. Then I said, “So! You got my loot?”
He unwrapped his sandwich and took a bite. “That’s good shit there, my man,” he said. “Got that double meat too. I’m about that double meat.”
“Come on, Hopps. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Mack and I sat down on either side of the man while he ate. “You heard about any new gangs lately? Any group called ‘Ferals, by any chance?”
Hopps took another bite. “Shit, everyone round here knows about the Ferals. Freaks be poundin’ on Darmarcus Manning’s boys and Davon Hall’s boys. Plus they scared off all them other gangs into hidin.’ Least during the night time that is.”
“Why night time?” Mack said.
“Cause these Ferals only be comin’ out at night. So you still gots them corner niggas sellin’ dope durin’ the day, but at night? Even the hardest of ‘em snuffs the lights and lock the doors.”
“And that’s when these new guys - the ‘Ferals’ - come through?”
“Yeah,” he said. And he took another bite. “And any corner niggas who ain’t be hidin’ usually get they asses killed. An’ you know it was the new boys who do it too - cause when you do find the bodies they’s always got two big ass holes right here,” he said. And he tapped his neck twice below the jaw. I looked at Mackey, and he looked at me, and we shared the same intuition. Vanessa Bell.
“Have the big guys taken their boys off the block?” Mackey said.
“Couldn’t tell you that, man. Alls I know is there be less an’ less niggas sellin’ even durin’ the day. Not worth the risk I guess. Makes it hard for a brother to cop out here in the conditions, you know?”
“Well we can’t help you there, Hopps.”
“I know, I know. I’m just sayin’ on behalf of a friend of mine. Says its tough to score.”
“And these new guys - these Ferals - what’s their deal? Do they sell? Any word on who’s involved, who how you get in the group, or-?”
But Hopps was shaking his head long before I finished. “Nah, you got it all wrong, man,” he said. “These boys ain’t about taggin’ signs or ownin’ corners or gettin’ in on the heroin connect. Y’all probably need a word for ‘em other than ‘gang,’ you know? Cause they just be out for blood. Ain’t nobody knows why, neither. But I seen ‘em in person. Feral dude got these red-ass eyes, man. Big, dumb expression on his face too. Saw a corner nigga try to pop a cap in his head but he missed and that thing just tore into him. I just ran.”
Mackey and I exchanged a worried glance. Then I said, “So nobody knows where they came from? Or what their deal is?”
Hopps lit up a cigarette and puffed on it for a bit, before putting the lighter on the grass. “You ain’t hear this from me, a’ight? But some niggas be sayin’ some rich-ass white boy that just moved into the Heights is behind it all, someway, somehow. And another thing, man - they be sayin’ them Ferals ain’t normal folks at all. They sayin’ they be straight up blood-suckers.”
“Vampires?” Dobbs said. He laughed once, sharply.
“That’s what he said, yes sir.”
“Vampires. Like uh, what was that Hugh Jackman movie. Van Halen?”
“Van Helsing,” Mackey said. “And Hugh Jackman was a vampire hunter.”
Dobbs laughed mightily at the thought. “Well get him down here then!” And he stepped outside his office and shouted into the bullpen, “Hey anyone got Hugh Jackman’s number? Abrams, you got Hugh Jackman’s number?” Abrams showed him the middle finger, and Dobbs laughed even harder. “Vampires, man. That’s good. That’s new.” He sat back down and his monstrous weight pushed the chair to within an inch of the carpet. “So uh… why vampires, exactly?”
Mackey shrugged. “Makes sense if you’re dumb, right? He said the freaks come out at night. Don’t care about drugs or signs or money. They just kill.”
“You know what it probably is?” Dobbs said, through a mouthful of danish. “Same old gangs, worrying the cops are getting too close to the wallet. So they shake it up to distract us. That’s all we got. Ambitious new banger in charge. It was probably Hall all along who killed that Bell chick. Organized a hit when he found out she was sleeping around behind his back.”
“Vanessa Bell wasn’t shot, Cap,” I said back. “That’s the thing. She wasn’t shot or stabbed. She was so fucked up I would’ve guessed someone ran her over in a truck, if we hadn’t found her in her kitchen. And now that I’m thinking about it, she did have those two puncture wounds in her neck. Remember?”
“You were serious about that?” Dobbs said, suddenly having lost his smile. I took out my phone and flipped to the picture of the deceased Miss Bell, and I showed it to Dobbs. “Huh,” he said. And he took another bite of his danish. “So… what are you thinking, then? You guys think we have actual werewolves in town?”
“Vampires,” Mackey said. “And no, we don’t. But we’ve got somethin. Probably just a few eccentrics. You know how kids are, especially when they’re hopped up on whatever new drug’s the rage. But they’re dangerous, Cap.”
The Captain leaned back and drummed a beat on the desktop with his fingers. “And he said this stuff is coming down from the Heights?”
“Yes, sir. Every night. Said something about a guy who just moved into that neighborhood. Might know something.”
“Huh. The hell are those rich bastards up to?” And trailed off for a bit, lost in thought. Then he snapped out of it. “Anyway. That’s for tomorrow, gentlemen. You guys ready?”And he stood up and grabbed his jacket and his keys.
“Benefit tonight. Remember? We sent out the memo a week ago.”
“Didn’t read it.”
“Yeah, well it’s mandatory. Some new guy’s supposedly a big friend of the badge, so the Chief’s throwing some kind of crackers and cheese thing at the Hall.” He paused at the door and said, “Hey, this guy’s new in the Heights. Maybe he’s your Count Dracula.” And he laughed and headed towards the elevator.
“So without further ado,” Chief Seales said, “Let’s give a warm welcome to Mister Winston Harlowe!”
The room broke out into polite applause, and Seales handed the microphone over to a tall and well groomed man in his early to mid sixties. He stepped into the center of the room.
“Thank you!” He said, in a slightly diluted European accent I couldn't quite place. “Its wonderful to be here among the town’s finest in one of the finest towns I’ve yet visited or done business in. The way I see things, if you men and women are putting your lives on the line to keep men like myself safe, then the least I can do is make sure you’ve got the resources you need to do your jobs well.” He looked over the gold-plated Donor’s plaque that’d been handed to him. “It is an honor and a privilege to accept this award and be a part of this community, and I’m very much looking forward to working with law enforcement further. Thank you all very, very much.”
The room applauded again and drank in unison, and the music and the mingling began. When it did, Mack leaned into me and said “Yeah, I don’t trust that dude as far as I can throw ‘em.”
“Hey, Ethan!” Dobbs said. “Roland! Get over here!”
I turned around. The Captain had been chatting up Mr. Harlowe for some time when he called Mack and I over.
“This is Ethan Davis and Roland Mackey - the two guys I put on that new gang case. Hey, hey - tell Mister Harlowe what that guy said earlier. ‘Bout the vampires.” He lightly tapped Harlowe’s arm with the back of his hand. “Gotta hear this.”
“Uh, hi.” I said, and I shook the man’s hand after Mack. “Thank you for all his, sir. The support.”
“Of course, of course. What’s all this about vampres? Sounds quite intriguing.”
“Uh, well. Its an ongoing case, so we probably shouldn’t-”
“Oh, come on!” Dobbs said, but when he realized he wouldn’t get more out of us he added, “Alright, I’ll tell it, then. So these two guys come into my office, right? And say one of their dopehead buddies says there are vampires on the streets. I just got a kick out of that.”
Dobbs started giggling again, but Harlowe just kept his grin and took a sip from his cup. “Perhaps I’ve picked the wrong town after all.” And we shared an uncomfortable laugh.
“And it’s startin’ up in the Heights, ain’t it?” said Dobbs. “Maybe he’s your guy.” And he threw his thumb in the direction of Harlowe and laughed heartily.
Harlowe smiled just a bit wider, but the intent behind it was impossible to read. He simply said, “I’ll let you know what I hear.” And off he went to mingle with the rest of the precinct.
When he was gone I said, “Dobbs, what the hell?”
Mack said, “Why would you let loose about the case like that? You don’t know who that guy is.”
“Fellas, c'mon here. Are we seriously referring to this ‘vampires’ thing as a case? Far as I’m concerned we’re still at square one on that.”
“Dobbs, its just-“
“Hey, Ethan,” White said, having walked up to the three of us from behind. “Roland, Dobbs. You too.”
“Your boy just turned himself in.”
“Davon Hall,” Dobbs said. He shut the door of the interrogation room behind the three of us. “What brings you here tonight? Shouldn’t you be out uh, jackin’ cars, or some shit?”
“What you think this is, fatass? Grand Theft Auto?”
“Easy,” I said. I turned to Dobbs. “Let me and Mack take this. Davon and I have a thing.”
“Alright,” Dobbs said. “Keep me in the loop.” And he shut the door again and left Mackey and I alone with our guest. There were no handcuffs this time.
“So!” Mackey said. “Guy’s a trip but that question was valid, Hall. Why are you here?”
I offered him a cigarette, but he waved me off. “We cleared you in the Bell murder,” I said. “Nothin’ on the books against your name at the moment. And yet here you are.”
“Here I am. With the pig who broke my car windows and a black Uncle Tom motherfucker.”
“Uncle Tom!” Mack said. “Wow. Haven’t been called that since middle school. A point for creativity. Minus ten for being stupid enough to walk your ass in here on your own volition.”
“Stop wasting our time, Hall,” I said. “Why’d you turn yourself in?”
“Cause I did some bad shit. I run a gang, ain’t you heard? Whole package, man. So throw me in the can, nigga. I ain’t goin nowhere.”
“No lawyer this time?”
“Don’t know I’m here.”
“Lets keep it that w-,“ Mackey began, but I cut him off.
“Are you hiding from someone?” I said. And there was a pause. Mackey looked at me, and then at Hall. Hall just looked at his hands.
“Maybe,” he said. “What of it?”
I leaned back and crossed my arms. “So let me get this straight. You’re on the run from someone, and you come here, of all places? Why? To spend a night in the joint? What about your boys?”
“They on the run too, dawg. Ones who are left, anyway.”
“You don’t have a girl you could crash with?” Mackey said.
“Y’all know what happened to Bell.”
“Guy like you only fucks one girl at a time?”
“Man’s gotta have a code.”
Mack scoffed. “And you got no out of town hook ups?”
“Nah, man. Here or the gutter. Just where I’m at right now; brother’s gotta survive someway, somehow.” He looked at both of us in turn. “So? You gonna lock me up or what?”
“Who’re you on the run from, Hall?” I said.
“Man I told you last time I can’t tell you that. You wasn’t listenin?’”
But we didn’t budge. “If you want our services,” Mackey said, “then you better start talking.”
And Hall looked at his hands again and sighed. “A’ight. A’ight, its a guy named Ruth.”
“Ruth?” I asked. “And what’s Ruth’s deal?”
Hall wiped his nose with his hand and said, “Some dude who offered to help me clear the Ferals, man. So he said.”
“You guys been gettin’ hit hard by them? The Ferals, I mean?”
“Hell yeah, man. Them motherfuckers is vicious. First they be attackin’ Damarcus Manning’s boys, cause he owns the corners closest to the Heights where they be comin’ from, right? An’ I’m like, ‘Yo, enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Maybe I can meet these new boys. Strike some kinda deal.”
“But then they started hittin’ your crew.”
Hall shook his head. “Came outta nowhere. man, you feel me? Everything from Charter to Block. Those were my niggas out there. We owned that shit. Then these new freaks shows up. Beatin’ on my boys. Killin’ ‘em.” There was a pause before he added, “An’ they got Bell, man. She didn’t deserve to go like that, you know?”
“So how does Ruth fit in?”
“My boy down at the docks calls me up an’ he’s all, ‘Yo, I’m supposed to set a meet wit’ you an’ this dude Ruth. Wants to get paid to take out the Ferals’ for you. An’ he tells me the where an’ the when, and-”
“Why didn’t you try to handle the Ferals yourself?” I said.
“We tried, man! Went out there to shoot, found some of ‘em - blood all over they mouth, man, snarlin’ an’ hissin’ like they be rabid. Sharp-ass teeth, too, and they just straight-up killed my boy Checkers.”
“Checkers?!” Mackey said, and he laughed. “You ran with a nigga named Checkers? Shit back in my day we had-”
“Ay, fuck you, man!” Hall snapped. “Y’all makin’ light o’ my boy then I ain’t tellin’ y’all a damn thing else. Fuck outta here.”
“Come on, Mack,” I said. “Apologize to the man.”
“Yeah, apologize, *Mack.” Kiss my ass.”
“Alright! Alright. A forty poured out on your boy’s marble. Can we keep this moving?”
“So, Checkers is dead. Ruth says he can handle them. What then? Why are you running from him?”
“Cause, man. I get down to the Dock Irons, right? An’ I meet my boy there an’ he takes me to Ruth. So I talk to him, an’ this Russian dude says he can take out the Ferals for me, an’ lays out his terms.”
“Man ain’t after a paycheck. Dude wants to be paid in ‘favors.’”
“Yeah, man! An’ I’m all yo, what kinda mafia-ass bullshit is this? And I walk.”
“I’m guessing that wasn’t the end of it.”
“Nah, man. First my boy at the Dock Irons be callin’ me like, ‘yo, you need to work things out with Ruth or our whole deal is dead, you know?’ And when I ignored his ass that’s when Ruth started comin’ after me. An’ this dude, man - I saw him just destroy my boy Flitch like it weren’t nothin.’”
Under his breath Mackey snorted and said, ”Flitch. Gotta be kiddin’ me.” But Hall either ignored him or didn’t hear.
“An’ like, I didn’t know how to fix it, you know? So I ran, and -”
“And now you’re here,” I said.
“Yeah. Now I’m here. And that’s what I know, too. So y’all gonna hook a brother up with a cot? Or what?”
Mackey and I looked at each other. Then we turned back to Hall. “Not yet,” Mackey said.
“Your boy at the Dock Irons,” I said. “Tell us about him.”
“You have the right to remain silent,” Officer White said, as Bill Vietch was led out of the Union House in bracelets. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
Veech didn’t speak at first, so I did. “I’ll be honest, Veech. We’re here as part of a bigger investigation. Anything you’ve got that can help us out will go a long way to getting these sentences reduced.”
There was a tear that rolled down his cheek. “I’m not givin’ up no Union guys,” he said. “So don’t ask.”
“We’re not after your Union, Veech,” Mack said, as the man was dipped into the cruiser, and as the cruiser peeled off for the station. Dobbs - who’d parked his ride only moments earlier - walked up to us and threw his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the warehouse that’d been freshly raided for heroin. A handful of other longshoremen were being Mirandized themselves over by the piles of it.
“Never thought I’d see the day,” he said. “Bill “the Veech” Veitch goes down in flames. It must be Christmas.”
“Yeah, you can thank one mister Davon Hall for that,” Mack said. “Man sang like a canary.”
“Yessir. Came in looking for witness protection, and agreed to testify against his supplier.”
“Veech was his guy? No shit.”
“Not exactly,” I said. “Apparently Hall’s got a connect out of town, but Veech moves in the product through the docks in exchange for a cut.”
“This is huge, guys,” Dobbs said, biting a cigar. He lit it and puffed and pocketed his lighter. “I mean this is huge. You guys gunnin’ for my job, or something?” We shared a laugh. “Seriously, though. Damn fine Police work. Chief just might warm up to the case if we hand him this.”
“Well we’re not done yet.”
“William Milhouse Veitch,” Barbara said. The attorney took her seat between myself and Mackey, and pulled out a file. “Let’s run through the charges delivered to the D.A.’s office. Money laundering. Smuggling. Drug trafficking. Racketeering. Extortion. The list goes o-”
“Let’s discuss the deal, first, shall we?” Dennis Donovan said, from the other side of the table. “My client has agreed to cooperate fully with the prosecutor in exchange for a reduction of charges and the immunity of other members of his crew. Do all parties agree to the current arrangement?”
“We’re on the same page,” Barbara said. “But the number of years we can shave off his sentence will reflect the extent of his cooperation. What he knows. What he’s willing to trade. As it stands he’s looking at twenty years, minimum.”
Veech shut his eyes and lowered his head. After a minute, he nodded.
“So!” Barbara said. “Way we understand it, Mr. Veitch here has spent the better part of the last decade smuggling heroin for one Mr. Davon Anderson Hall, a local dealer, in exchange for a cut of, what was it, Veich? Ten percent of the profits?”
“Twelve and a half.”
“Twelve five. And earlier this evening we managed to uncover an extensive amount of illegal narcotics from the Dock Irons warehouse. Ten other longshoremen have been indicted. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were also found in a safe deposit box in the back of the building.”
“Let ‘em go,” Veech said. “Please, just let those guys go. This is on me.”
“They were involved too,” Mackey said. “Shouldn’t they see their day in court?”
“They were desperate!” Veech said. “Burtowski, Adams, Freamon - all those guys. A list ones were workin’ maybe a week a month ever since the canal opened and cut around us. Lower level men? They were getting called up less than half that amount of time.”
“And that’s supposed to excuse the extensive smuggling of schedule one narcotics into the city?” Barbara said. “If they-”
“Well you try makin’ it on three days a month!” He cut her off. “Less than two hundred for an honest fuckin’ day’s work! These guys got kids! They got wives! They got mortgages, and loan payments! They come to me every day and they say, ‘Veech, we’re dying out here. My car’s dead in the shop. I gotta make my cousin’s bail. My kid needs a doctor. Please, Veech. You gotta do somethin!’ The hell was I supposed to do? This precious fuckin’ town of ours left these men out to rot. They had no one to turn to when the ships stopped coming.’”
“My client,” Donovan said, “is obviously emotional after today’s unfortunate events. He’s clearly not trying to justify the presence of those warehouse drugs.”
“So who approached who?” I asked. “Did Hall come to you? Did you go to Hall?”
“I don’t remember all the details. It was years ago and its been a quiet arrangement ever since.”
“And a lucrative one,” Mack said, off-handedly.
“Listen, it was a mutual arrangement. I don’t remember who approached who, but we both shook hands on it so who gives a fuck?”
“And who ships the drugs in?” Mack asked. “We know you unload it. We know Hall sells it and I’m guessing you take your twelve and a half out of whatever else he gives you that you send back to the connect. Who would that be?”
“I don’t know the name of the guy,” Veech said. “And that’s the truth. I deal with a guy who deals with a guy, if you know what I mean. Handles things real close to the chest.”
“Do you at least have documents of the transactions?” I said.
“Fuck no. But I can give you the address I last sent the cash to. Some place in Hungary, or some shit.”
“Is it different from where payments normally went?”
“Changed every time.”
“How often did these transactions take place?”
“Varied. Hall would tell my guys when he needed a re-up. They’d tell me. I’d have my guy call whatever burner number I’d gotten along with the new mailbox, and tell ‘em what we needed and how much, and they’d hang up. Never once heard anyone on the other line. Then - a few weeks later, we’d get a ship in, unload the cans like normal, and whatever inside guy they had on deck would speak to me on the DL under the guise of me signing for the cargo, and he’d give me a new address to remit payment to and a new number to call for re-ups. And so it went, for years.”
I looked at Mackey. “We get that address, you think it’d take us to the ringleader?”
He shook his head and pursed his lips. “Probably not. Saw a case like this back in ‘07. We traced the money. Places were dead drops. Some guy picks it up there, sends it somewhere else, they do the same. On and on. Probably three or four stops minimum before it lands in whatever offshore account is running the show. And like he said, they change it up every time.”
“And when he was testifying himself,” I said, turning back to Veech, “Davon Hall mentioned that ‘his guy at the Docks’ - you, I’m guessing - had arranged a meet with someone he claimed was possibly affiliated with organized crime in Eastern Europe. Claimed you’d approached him with the deal in which that contact - thus far unidentified - had arranged to clear what are being called ‘Ferals’ from the streets of the Projects here in town, in exchange for favors.”
“You guys talked to Hall?”
“Says so in your warrant. Is his recalling of events accurate?”
“Far as I know. I had nothin’ to do with whatever deal they’d set up. I just set the meet. And I heard about these Ferals, too. Nasty fuckers, wreaking havoc all around town. Figured the guy who wanted to meet Hall - some feller named Ruth, if I remember - was workin’ with Hall’s connect across the pond and was inquiring about the dip in sales as a result of those Feral things. But I didn’t get involved further than that.”
“And did you know anything about the murder of Vanessa Bell?” I asked.
“Heard about it. Hall’s chick, right?”
“Yeah, doesn’t surprise me. That Russian guy and his buddies - whoever they are - man, they’re vicious. Not sure if this’ll help me at all, but about two years ago I wanted out. I’d made my money. My guys had made their money. So after a close call with the Feds I call Hall and the burner contact and tell ‘em to find another way to get drugs back and forth. And I hang up. Hall calls me up all day long. I ignore his calls, so he sent one of his fuckin’ crackhead bangers down to the docks to intimidate me. Doesn’t. I tell him to fuck off. Had my boys get up in his face. Guy pissed his pants and ran.”
“And yet the deal remained in place for two more years.”
“Yeah. That Ruth guy showed up. In my house, later that night. Made it real clear I was either playing his game or I was a loose end.” He paused for a bit and looked at his feet. Then he said, “Can’t really explain it. But he just got in my head, you know? Normally I’d knock that fucker out but I just… couldn’t. I was too scared. Like, paralyzed scared. So I just nodded and yessir’d and no sir’d him until he left. Never thought twice about backin’ out of the deal since then. So when he showed up in my house again lookin’ for Hall the other day, I didn’t ask why. I set the meet.”
“And all he wanted was to facilitate the drug trade in a mid-sized town? Seems like a huge amount of effort to go through for what can’t possibly be much in the way of profits.”
“Yeah,” Veech said. “Listen. They may have had us smuggle somethin’ other than dope, you know?” Mack and I and Barbara exchanged glances and leaned in. Even Donovan stopped rubbing his forehead and looked at his client. “Few months back. We got a crate, right? And its movin.’ Like there’s an animal inside there. An’ no matter how scared I am of Ruth there ain’t no way I’m moving any living shit other than plants. Normally I operate under a policy called ‘I don’t fucking wanna know.’ But I draw the line at human trafficking. Anyway. We bust the thing open. There was another crate inside, and a man inside that, thrashing around. Snapping and hissing. Literally chewing on the wood of the thing, I kid you not. Just gnawing on it.”
“A Feral,” I said. “What did you do?”
“Boxed it back up and moved it along, sad to say. Thing scared the shit out of me, though. Eyes red as blood.”
“Hey, Hopps!” I said. I dangled a bag of fast food from the window, and the man made his way down from his stoop to the car after sloppily stashing away his pipe.
“Ethan, my man! What you got for me today?”
“Two burgers, fries, and a slice of that turtle pie. Fork’s in the bag with a can of diet. All yours if you help us find a guy by the name of Ruth.”
Hopps stopped in his tracks, and his grin vanished. “Yo, what you doin’ droppin’ that name out in the open, man? Gonna get a brother killed just for hearin’ it.”
“Well there’s nobody around, Hopps. You’re safe.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about that. That boy’s network runnin’ real deep and tight in the Projects. Like I said before, man, you ain’t any street wiser than a rock.”
“Well you’ll have to teach me your wisdom at a later date.”
“You might be beyond my expertise, know what I’m sayin? Besides, dirt on a man like that’s worth a whole lot more than a cheeseburger.”
“Well how about a cheeseburger and we don’t haul your ass downtown for possession?” Mack said. I shot him a look and smacked him in the shoulder with the back of my hand. He shrugged.
“Well the way these streets be at night with them Ferals I’d actually prefer that, man, you know? Besides, word is Davon Hall hisself came to ya’ll for protection and he be alive in some safehouse somewhere when his boys is anything but. That’s what he got for his knowledge. I just got a fuckin’ burger?”
“Easy, both of you. Okay?” I fished out a $50 from my wallet and handed it to Hopps. “Here. Burger and a $50. I’ll see if we can’t work in some kind of protection deal too, if you think you need it. So what do you say? Can you help me out?”
“Alright, man.” He stashed the bill in his pocket. “Alright. For you. Not for that Uncle Tom lookin’ motherfucker.”
“Again with this Uncle Tom line?” Mack said. “Am I the only black cop in America now? Damn.”
“I’ll make sure Mackey behaves himself.” I smiled at him and he gave me the finger. Then I turned back to Hopps. “So what do you got for me? Anything helps.”
“Word is that Ruth guy be runnin’ the show now that the gangs be out the way,” he said.
“Yeah, we might’ve heard something about him bringing a Feral into town through the Docks. But we don’t know if there was any more than the one.”
“Only need one, man,” Hopps said. “Ferals make Ferals. Assumin’ they leave somethin’ behind to rise up and be one of them.”
“Yeah, man. When Ferals kill a brother the brother turns into one. Then you got two Ferals. Seen it happen with my own eyes. Shit was terrifyin.’”
“You saw him literally rise up from the grave?”
“Nah, man. But I saw him gettin’ feasted on by one of them things, and I ran. Two nights later I saw him as one of them things. Know what I mean? That’s how they be spreadin.’”
“And have you seen him since?”
“Nah. Thank God, too, know what I mean? But word is these new boys is clearin’ ‘em. Probably workin’ for Ruth, or Harlowe, or somethin.’”
“Wait… Harlowe?” Mack said. He shot me a look and then leaned closer towards my window. “Winston Harlowe?”
“Yeah. That’s who they say Ruth is workin’ for, anyhow. They say he’s like Count Dracula, or somethin,’ like Chief bloodsucker behind all this mess. But its all he-said-she-said rumor at this stage, far as I know. And even if its true, though, you know, a rich ass white boy like that? Ya’ll ain’t never gonna catch in the same room as his own shit.”
“You wanted to see us, sir?”
“Vampires?” Chief Seales said from his desk. He found much less humor in the idea than Dobbs.
Mackey and I stepped in and shut the door behind us. Then I said, “Yes, sir. We’d been investigating a new gang on assignment from Captain Dobbs, sir. Rumors of these ‘Feral’ people running around, causing extreme violence. Vanessa Bell was killed in this manner, as was John Paul Young. As was Felicity Allen and David-“
“Yeah, yeah, I know the names. I know the names. Gang murders, all of them. And to my knowledge that’s what you two were supposed to be investigating, was it not? Then you - what, exactly? Got an assignment from the fuckin’ Vatican?” He stormed over to the door and leaned out and said, “Dobbs! Get your ass in here!!”
“Sir,” Mackey said, as the Chief returned to his desk. “We don’t believe we have actual vampires in the streets either. But the fact remains that these Ferals are out there, right in the Projects.”
“And have you seen any of these so-called ‘Ferals?’” Seales said.
“Not - not directly, no, sir. But the Easies have gone into hiding. Same with MS-13. Same with the Devils. Same with Davon Hall’s men and Damarcus Manning’s sellers. We need to find out why.”
“So our corners are clean for the first time since the dawn of man, and this is a bad thing? You been raiding the evidence stash, Roland? If this new gang is doing our job for us then I’ll just hire their asses and kick you two morons to the curb!”
“The corners are clean of the known entities, sir, but these new things need to be dealt with,” I said. “I have a man on the street who says Winston Harlowe might be involved in the violence, so we-“
“Winston Harlowe?!” He cut me off.
“Yes, sir,” Mack said. “We don’t know anything yet. We just need you to clear us for surveillance, and-“
“You wanted to see me, sir?” Dobbs said. I turned around to see the Captain hanging cautiously behind the wall, barely peeking in so as to avoid the crossfire.
“I said get your ass in here, Dobbs, not stick your neck in.” When Dobbs had shut the door behind him Seales continued. “So, Captain. Today I come into my office and I have two detective of yours who tell that while Nichols and Abrams and White and Short and Payton and McDonald are all out solving murders and burglaries and drug deals, you’ve got these two running hunting vampires. Can you believe that? And earlier today I get that Dennis Donovan asshole pestering me about some plea deal crap with Davon Hall, because lord knows we could all use a nice fucking lawsuit for the holidays!”
“Oh! Oh, and get this - now they’re telling me that some streetside dope fiend has implicated one Mister Winston Harlowe in the tragic, tragic gang violence that’s terrorizing our poor citizens.” He put a sarcastic hand to his heart.
“Sir, all we said was want to talk to the man,” Mackey said. “We just-“
But Seales cut him off. “This recent surge in crime has driven off guess what percentage of our middle class citizens to the suburbs in the last five years? Huh?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Five percent? Eight percent? Ten? Anybody?” He searched around the room for an answer that didn’t come. Then he leaned down on his desk. “The answer, gentlemen, is fifteen. Fifteen percent. Add to that an additional eight from the Heights and the resulting commercial decline and you’ve got a mayor who’s missing so much of his tax base that the city’s finest is begging for scraps and being screamed at to do a damn thing about it.”
“But then along comes Winston Harlowe!” He said, cutting Mack off this time and walking slow laps around his office. “A man with deep pockets and a love of justice. And he offers to bankroll the force. So now the government can funnel what it needs into schools and roads and whatever else and we still get paid.” He’d returned to his desk now and leaned on his knuckles while standing. “You like getting paid, Captain Dobbs?”
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“You like getting paid, Detective Mackey?”
“You like getting paid, Detective Davis?”
“Good! Cause I like getting paid too. And in fact I like getting paid so much that Mister Winston Harlowe would have to have quite the fucking rap sheet for me to go barking up that tree. We lose Harlowe and the only three officers the precinct can afford to have on the force will be rounding up gangbangers on fucking horseback!!” He breathed then, and stood up tall and straightened his tie. “Now. The streets are clean,” he said. “If the people come back home to roost as a result and the city’s coffers lose their cobwebs, then we can go where the facts may lead us. But until we no longer need Winston Harlowe I don’t want to hear another word about him, and I don’t want to hear another word about werewolves and boogeymen or anything else that will embarrass my ass with the mayor’s office or knock our clearance rate into the dirt. Is that clear?”
“The budget for the Harlowe case just hit zero, gentlemen. Get back to work.” The Chief put his reading glasses on and went back to his files, and we left the office in a line. Dobbs stormed off immediately, and once the door was shut and we were in the clear Mack leaned in and he said, under his breath, “We’re not done, are we?”
“No. But we need proof.”
Please don't make me read anymore. I don't like it. It scares me and I'm so alone. It's so dark here and sometimes I think I can hear something moving in the darkness, coming toward me.
Please, stop making me read these stories. I don't want to be alone anymore.
Help me. Please. Please. Help me. Help me. I'm so alone. Please. Please help me.
PLEASE DO NOT UP VOTE
DO NOT COMMENT
DO NOT CALL ATTENTION TO YOURSELF UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES
My name is Tamera Clarence.
I am thirty-four years old the day I am abducted.
It is important that you remember that.
I am Tamera Clarence.
I am thirty-four years old.
I am not a doll.
I am not a fucking object.
I have a name.
I am Tamera Clarence.
I am thirty-four years old.
I remember the world before I woke up here.
I remember heaven before hell.
I remember the man in the red coat.
Above all else I remember the man in the red coat, my stalker, I remember confronting him on the road, punching him, blood gushing from his nose, the way he squealed as he sat on the pavement and held his hands to his face, and I reached out to him, concerned for him, for myself, convinced I’d dealt him a litigious injury, and at that precise moment my guard was wide open. My former boxing instructor would have smacked me across the back of the head for a mistake like that.
In one blind, stupid moment I’d forgotten everything he taught me.
Never let your guard down.
The man in red uncoiled from the ground, something silver and wicked glinting in his hand, an instant later there is a searing pain in the side of my neck, and then a sense of falling into cold canyons and everlasting darkness and a voice calling out to me from the far end of a rapidly expanding tunnel.
Ain’t payback a bitch!
After that - darkness.
And then I wake up here.
The first thing I become aware of is the sound of women singing, of hands massaging my flesh, dozens of hands, turning me over and over, and I’m helpless as an infant; I can’t move, I can’t cry out, I am made of elastic and rubber tubing, my limbs flopping, my head lolling, and from my throat this low pitched moan that goes on and on.
Voices whisper in my ear: t ‘You are safe,’
‘You are home,’
I open my eyes with a tremendous effort and squint up into a circle of faces, but no features, not enough light, shadow faces, people gathered around me, singing softly, rubbing my body with hands that feel blind and unsavory.
‘What’s going on here?’ I groan. ‘Who the fuck are you…Where am I?’
I try to sit up but I’m too weak, my limbs flop, my head rolls.
‘Rest,’ one of the shadow people tells me, ‘your strength will return.’
‘I can’t see,’ I tell her.
‘Bring light!’ Another shadow yells, ‘let the newborn look upon her sisters.’
‘I’m Rag Doll?’ The first shadow begins to stroke my hair. ‘You don’t have a name yet, so we’ll call you New Doll, everyone is called New Doll in the beginning, before Monarch gives them a name.’
I summon enough strength to push her hand away. ‘I’m not a fucking doll,’ I hiss, ‘my name is Tamera Clarence and trust me, hon, I’m one person you don’t want to cross….’
Someone brings light and I flinch from it, my eyes are weak, my hand instinctively rising to ward off the glare. It takes a few seconds to grow accustomed to the light, to realize it is feeble, no more than a small flame dancing on the end of a wooden faggot, but enough to see the faces of the people gathered around me. I reel back.
I’m surrounded by some kind of freak show, emaciated women dressed in the ragged remains of party dresses and bridal gowns and maternity frocks, their faces pale and ghost-like and horribly disfigured, their flesh eaten away by acid or bacteria, jagged wounds inexpertly stitched together, bruises and infection, and every one of them has the eyes of a raving lunatic.
They look like a gallery of monsters.
I start screaming mindlessly, I can’t help myself, and the freaks all cover their ears and start screaming as well which only serves to further fuel my panic. I leap to my feet and flee into the dark, tripping and stumbling over barely seen obstacles, tumbling down sudden drop-offs, and it soon becomes apparent I’m trapped in a rat’s maze, surrounded by a frozen tidal wave of junk; bureaus and wardrobes and ancient refrigerators and washing machines and sofas and pitted TV sets and the skeletal remains of prams.
It is a graveyard of obsolete things.
‘Do not flee from us, child,’ one of the freaks calls after me. ‘All is well - all is as it should be.’
‘Let me out of here!’ I shriek, ‘let me the fuck out of here.’
I am naked and covered in some kind of viscous fluid, lost in a maze of old junk and half mad with terror, and the dark appears to be populated by refugees from a Hieronymous Bosch painting. Everything starts spinning.
‘Do not fear us, my dear,’ the freak’s voice echoes all around me. ‘We are all sisters down here…in the dark.’
‘Get me out of here,’ I collapse sobbing to the ground, and naked as an earthworm I crawl through the muck: ‘I’m rich,’ I wail, ‘I’ve got money, I’ll pay anything, just let me go….’ I’m hysterical, barely coherent, scarcely aware of what I’m saying, and then my mind implodes, my thoughts snuffed out, and I curl into a dark niche and cover my head, whispering the words, ‘help me, please,’ like an SOS on an endless loop.
‘I am Yellow Doll, yellow, like a fading memory.’
Opening my eyes I see an old crone of a woman squatting in front of me with matchstick arms folded over the hard bones of her knees. She is filthy and disheveled and dressed in rags, but unlike the other freaks she bears no discernible disfigurations.
She crouches in the glow of a nearby barrel fire and when she smiles at me the dirt that cakes her face cracks into a thousand ancient river beds.
I sit up.
Several women have gathered around the barrel fire, staring blankly at me as they warm their hands.
Beyond the women, beyond the fire, there is only shadow and cavernous ruin and what looks like the crumbling artifacts of a thousand and one attics and basements, and beyond these I hear the echo of water spilling from dozens of pipes, so much water I imagine it must be raining somewhere far above me.
The air is filled with the stench of rot and mildew.
I turn back to the old woman: ‘Where am I?’ I demand.
‘In the Doll Pit,’ the old woman says.
I try to stand up but my legs are too weak and buckle beneath me and I sit down hard.
I glare at the old woman.
She continues to watch me intently.
‘You’re holding me against my will,’ I tell her.
She glances up at the shadows above us. ‘He only wants what’s best for you,’ she says.
I follow the direction of her gaze and lower my voice. ‘Who only wants what’s best for me?’
The old woman chews on her lips for a moment and then she says, ‘the one who brought you here; the one who brought all of us here.’’
‘What is this place?’
She nods as though she’d been expecting this question. ‘The place he keeps his dolls,’ she says with deliberate emphasis on the possessive pronoun.
I try to understand this, to make sense of her words. ‘Are you a doll?’ I ask. ‘Is that what you think you are?’
‘I am his doll.’ Again she uses that strange emphasis, as though referring to some kind of personal deity.
‘How long have you been here?’
She shrugs. ‘Years perhaps, I don’t know, I don’t care, my life is now, my world is here.’
I stare into the shadows above me: ‘Are we underground?’
Do you know how far underground?
‘We are very far underground, child, further than you can imagine.’
As I stare at her a cold shiver runs through me. In the low light she looks like a child’s discarded doll, something you’d find on a rubbish tip or in someone’s backyard. Maybe once upon a time she had been beautiful. Maybe once upon a time someone had treasured her. But that time was long ago and far away.
‘Who runs this place?’ I demand, ‘who’s in charge, you keep saying He, does He control this place?’
‘He means you no harm.’
‘Is that what he promised the others?’
‘Whoever disfigured them, is that what he promised them, that he wasn’t going to harm them?’
‘Monarch remade us in his image.’
‘Who the fuck is Monarch?’
Again her eyes flicker upwards. ‘He is the Illuminated One, Lord of the Atom.’
‘He’s the psycho who kidnapped me?’
As I ask this I recall the man in the red coat, sitting on the ground, squealing as blood gushed from his nose in ruby red ribbons. He looked like a clown sneezing handkerchiefs through his nostrils. At the time he didn’t strike me as particularly illuminated.
‘He did not kidnap you, child,’ the old woman says, ‘he liberated you.’
‘First of all don’t call me “child”, its patronizing, and secondly, this isn’t liberation, I know what liberation looks like and this isn’t it.’
‘The world you lived in was the cage; the role you played was a lie….’
‘You don’t know anything about me.’
‘You are daughter of Monarch, just as I am daughter of Monarch, he is the father and we the offspring, and he is harsh but fair, like any good father.’
‘How do we get out of here?’
Yellow Doll laughs. ‘There is no way out of here.’
‘There’s always a way out.’
The old woman stares at me and then she nods. ‘You think you might kill yourself, you imagine you are free to take your own life, you are tempted by such an idea.’
‘If it’s the last resort.’
‘He won’t let you die.’
The dolls are insane.
I’m down here in the dollhouse and the dolls are fucking insane.
This isn’t real. This is a Freudian nightmare. This is a horror movie on steroids.
We are being held in some kind of underground storage facility, it’s about half the size of a football pitch, maybe it’s only a fraction of that size but in the dark there’s no way to be sure. The walls are made of thick industrial steel, soot blackened and webbed with pipes and cables that snake in and out of the shadows, and filthy fans turn behind huge ventilation grilles set into the high ceiling. The whole place looks as though a thousand generations of shit has been flushed down into it, mementos of a vanquished civilization, creating a molding forest of junk that spreads in every direction.
A single set of steel stairs emerges from this sea of decomposition and leads up to a heavy, reinforced door. Blue light crawls around the edges of the door. The dolls tell me that Monarch comes when the blue light turns red, they tell me this with alarming regularity, as though the knowledge is encoded in their DNA, and the way they say his name, Monarch, as though pronouncing the secret name of God.
In my despair I try to get out.
It is my first all-consuming thought.
I pound on that door and scream until my throat is bloody and raw.
Below me the dolls laugh and clap.
I threaten and cajole and curse and plead, but all to no effect, the door remains closed, the blue light does not turn red.
The dolls weep.
I’m not meant to be here.
The dolls, the other girls, are nature’s fodder, victims from the day they were born, but I am the predator, the wolf bitch; I am not meant to be caged, how dare I be caged?
More evolved than I’d given him credit for, this whole set-up took time and infinite dedication, he never faltered, never relented, not in all the years he’s being carrying this on, snatching girl after girl off the streets, he’s never slipped up, never, not in all that time. I am at the mercy of far more than a simple stalker.
This one is a super predator.
This one is top of the food chain.
‘You can’t get out of here,’ says the girl who earlier stroked my hair.
I look up from the ground and flinch when I see her features. Half the girl’s face is a mask of melted flesh, her hair plastered to her irradiated scalp in small clusters of grey, and the sign of a cross has been carved into her chest by a sharp jagged object, the wound ghastly and cruel despite the fact it has healed over time. ‘Have you tried to get out of here?’ I demand, my voice hoarse with emotion.
The girl squats beside me. ‘In the beginning,’ she says, ‘when I was like you, but then Monarch taught me to accept my fate.’
‘Well my fate is getting out of here,’ I tell her savagely.
She smiles: ‘My name is Rag Doll.’
‘I bet it is.’
‘It’s not so bad down here once you get used to it, the trick is to try not to remember stuff from the Over World, try to forget the Over World ever existed.’
‘Listen to me, you’re a prisoner, you’ve been kidnapped, all of you, if we work together we can outwit this son of a bitch, he’s only one man.’
‘He is more than a man.’
‘But less than a god, we can still beat him, but we have to work together, all of us.’
‘You are scared, and disorientated, we all were when we first came here, we held on to our memories of that other place, and we tried to get out, oh, we tried, we grasped at every straw and we left no possibility unturned, but there was no way out, and in the end we realized that our memories were false, there never had been another place, we’d always lived here, we just imagined that once upon a time we lived somewhere else.’
‘Do you remember your parents?’ I ask her, ‘do you remember your brothers, sisters, boyfriend, neighbors, do you remember your boss at work, your co-workers, any of your friends, or relatives…?’
She makes a fluttering gesture with her fingers, ‘they were all dreams, all fading,’ she says softly, ‘soon be gone, soon gone, all gone….’
‘Go away,’ I mutter. Suddenly I feel extremely tired.
She reaches out and strokes my shoulder and I recoil instinctively from her touch. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ she says.
‘Get the fuck away from me,’ I hiss.
As she walks away Rag Doll sings in a falsetto voice, ‘Monarch is the rising of the sun and the coming of the night.’
In the darkness of the pit the other dolls repeat this phrase until it becomes a monotonous chant.
‘Monarch is the rising of the sun and the coming of the night.’
‘Go away,’ I whisper, ‘all of you, you’re all fucking dead!’ And burying my face in my hands I begin to weep.
Stay tuned for the update
Here you go! If they have an asterisk next to them, that means they're a favorite of mine.
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A twist of fate leaves the name of an innocent into the hands of another. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/5mrwi7/two_facts_you_should_probably_know/
- "I Caught My Grandfather Talking to an Air Vent" by kmcooney
A story to make you sad more than scared, but amazing nonetheless. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/714rl6/i_caught_my_grandfather_talking_to_an_air_vent/
- "The Price of Sugar" * by Cymoril_Melnibone
An artist makes some...unconventional friends. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/54crn6/the_price_of_sugar/
- "I'm a Search and Rescue Officer for the US Forest Service, I have some stories to tell" *** by searchandrescuewoods
Finally learn where the "upside-down stairs" jokes come from. (Note: there are more parts to this series!) Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3iex1h/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/
- "I was almost involved in a school shooting" by D0nutblink
The title says it all. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/626fyc/i_was_almost_involved_in_a_school_shooting/
- "Notes to the girl whose house I live in" by JJX2525
- "I was a part of Queen's Guard in England - One of the rare jobs where you aren't allowed to move, no matter what stands in front of you." by inaaace
Probably one of the best stories written on here in terms of detail and "creepiness". Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/27el9i/i_was_a_part_of_queens_guard_in_england_one_of/
- "How to successfully ransom a child" * by EZmisery
Creepy, disgusting, and a favorite of mine. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/70b3tv/how_to_successfully_ransom_a_child/
- "Fuck oranges" * by M59Gar
Long and detailed, absolutely creepy and beautiful. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/76v7gr/fuck_oranges/
- "The Little Melting Girl" by CynicHappy
A girl burnt from an accident makes a new friend. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/7edvpx/the_little_melting_girl/
- "I was born on a child farm" by IAmHowardMoxley
Fucking beautiful. Just absolutely a great story about a man born on a child farm, seeking escape. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/5dzvmt/i_was_born_on_a_child_farm/
- "I've had my dog since the day I was born - all 31 years. Yeah I know it sounds impossible to you. Last night he passed away, and 4 hours later, a group of people showed up in my yard." by inaaace
A story of the love between a man and his dog, and what happens when the dog dies. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3v0y70/ive_had_my_dog_since_the_day_i_was_born_all_31/
- "Third Parent" * by Elias_Witherow
Tommy Taffy, the origin story. You need to read this. Now. (Note: this is a series!) Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/51bnu3/third_parent/
- "Stuck" by M59Gar
Another beauty by M59Gar. Honestly, this story is amazing. A man goes out for his newspaper, disrupting his and his neighbor's lives. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/6zjne8/stuck/
- "most amazing weight loss treatment EVER!!!" ** by missmia33
I'm not revealing anything about this. The ending was the best I've ever read in a while. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/31i7k0/most_amazing_weight_loss_treatment_ever/
- "My Perfect Family" by TheJimmerRange
A man struggles with his wife and son. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/60tkiq/my_perfect_family/
- "My Flight Got Rescheduled Today" by nevent3
A woman's life is saved - but at what price? Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/64v4qp/my_flight_got_rescheduled_today/
- "My Best Friend Died in a School Shooting" by ChaosPrimed
A school shooting. A death. An unlikely shooter. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/775l0q/my_best_friend_died_in_a_school_shooting/
- "How to survive in Hell" by Ratrotted
The title says it all. Horrifying and yet amazing. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/63ubzl/how_to_survive_in_hell/
And finally, 28. My favorite story of them all. It only has 722 upvotes, far less than any story above this, but it is absolutely amazing. You can still upvote it for 2 months! Please do! It's creepy.
"The Snowman Ritual" by madethisfortaleden
How to summon peace and prosperity into your home. Please read this at night, with the lights off. Slowly. I read it at about 2am, and actually felt pretty scared, even for me. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/7e12af/the_snowman_ritual/
That's all! Of course, there are SO MANY other stories like these out there that are amazing, but I can't fit them all on here or else my fingers will give out. Haha
Here is a list of people to look out for - they're known for amazing stories and ways of scaring you that will make you beg for more.
EZMisery M59Gar Pippinacious A10A10A10 The_Dalek_Emperor inaaace 1000vultures RedGrin iia sleepyhollow_101 Hayong
I am entirely sure that there are more than these! But these are my personal favorites. Thanks for reading!
I’ll just start by saying I didn’t have health insurance. Couldn’t afford it.
Anyway, when I started dating Marie, I was worried our age difference would be a problem. So, before our third date, when I figured things might get physical, I asked my buddy if he’d let me have one of his Viagra pills. He obliged.
The date went wonderfully. The time in my apartment afterward went even better. I’ll keep it classy and just say she was impressed by more than just my huge aquarium. That’s not a euphemism, by the way; I have a really cool aquarium. Of course, if I’d gotten rid of it after Mom died, I probably could’ve afforded health insurance. But I’m getting off topic.
As the night came to a close and Marie was saying goodbye because she had to work early, I realized I was still, well, aroused. For lack of a better term, my cock was harder than trying to put a dry sock on a wet foot. Marie, to her credit, took it as a compliment. She left, and I was alone. Alone with it.
I did what I could to bring it down, and yes, that means what you think it does. A half hour and 300 porn clips later, there was another successful firing. I cleaned up and went to make something to eat.
The image of a 44 year-old man sporting a turgid erection as he makes a sandwich is not one I’d like you to hold on to, but for the purposes of this story, it’s kinda important. So I’m sorry about that. But as the sandwich was built, I became increasingly aware that I might be having a legitimate medical issue. I stood in the kitchen, trying to eat, but I had a hard time focusing on the the pastrami. A different meat was on my mind.
With a growing sense of concern, I waddled back to my computer desk. Here’s a tip: if you ever want to feel disgusted, do a search for “priapism.” Even better, do a search for “untreated priapism.” You’ll be regaled with images of poor guys who, for whatever reason, had erections that wouldn’t go down. Over time, the blood trapped in there went bad, and the organ began to rot. It turns purple, then black. The sufferer not only can lose his dick, but could die of blood poisoning if all that nasty stuff goes into his bloodstream.
I didn’t want to lose my dick. I didn’t want to die. But I also didn’t want to have to declare bankruptcy. As much as I was terrified of my condition, I simply couldn’t afford to go to the ER. So, after more Googling, I realized what I had to do.
Mom died in 2014. She was diabetic. I’d gotten rid of most of her medical stuff, but I still had some. Of those “some,” one thing was relevant to this particular story. A needle. Yes. And again, I’m sorry.
I sterilized the head of my penis with some rubbing alcohol, and before I could lose my nerve, I stuck it in and pulled on the plunger. Having my hog sucked had never been so painful.
The hypodermic needle filled with dick blood. When it was full, it was obvious the head gotten smaller. I squirted the blood down the sink, then did it twice more. When all was said and done, my soggy, Swiss-cheesed glans sat at the end of my shaft like a beanie on the tip of a pool cue.
The shaft was a major problem. Besides the pain in my glans from the needle marks, the shaft itself ached terribly. I’d been about seven hours since Marie and I had started fooling around. Everything I read online said eight hours was the absolute limit before irreversible damage would occur. I had to hurry.
Try as I might, I couldn’t get the needle to work properly in the shaft. Part of it was the pain, which was a thousand times worse than it’d been on the tip, but the other part was how the biology of that area is. It’s not just a basic tube that can be emptied and filled. It’s more like a sponge with many chambers which fill with blood, then clamp shut. I could empty a chamber or two with the needle, but I’d have to stick myself hundreds of times to get it done. I simply didn’t have the time. Plus, I was terrified of further injuring myself if I pushed the needle too deep.
I started to panic and I felt myself getting dizzy. Some of it was from the pain, certainly, but to this day I’d swear I’d already started to get poisoned. That freaked me out even more. Short of stabbing my cock over and over and over with the needle and probably destroying the organ in the process, another part of me worried that, in my panic, I’d break the needle off inside. It wasn’t going to happen. I’d rather die.
Panic mixed with despair as I knew I’d probably have to call 911. I cradled my face in my hands and cried for a minute, then got up and headed toward the phone. As I passed the aquarium, I stopped. The exotic fish stared, no doubt judging me. I didn’t care. I’d figured something out. Something that, in my haze of fear and panic, seemed reasonable. Now, a year later, I can barely comprehend how I took the next step.
The biggest fish in my tank, the red-ear sunfish, has a special diet. Regular fish food won’t do it. No, the red-ear sunfish needs to eat leeches. And in the small refrigerator next to the aquarium, I had a box of them.
My dizziness had grown severe and I dropped to my knees and opened the little fridge, pulled out the box, stuffed my hand in, and pushed a handful of the writhing, black leeches against my awful, blood-filled dick. The last sight I had before passing out was the biggest of the leeches pushing its mouth against my shaft.
I was out for hours. When I woke up, it was morning. For a brief moment, I was confused. I couldn’t remember why I was on the floor. To my credit, it all came flooding back pretty quickly. I gasped and jumped to my feet. Here’s another tip: if you’ve had leeches sucking your dick for a few hours, don’t jump to your feet.
I felt terrible pain as the engorged leeches, unable to support their own weight, were ripped off my body. All but one, which had attached itself to my pubic area and could rest its weight on the base of my penis, dropped onto the hardwood floor. Two of them burst like blood-filled water balloons while the other three just writhed pathetically. I shrieked and slapped at the one connected to me. It flew off, hit the side of the aquarium, and splattered.
As disgusted as I was, I felt intense and overwhelming relief. My stupid, tiny, flaccid dick hung from me like a newborn doorstop. I poked it a couple times, amazed that it still had feeling. Its color looked decent enough. Somehow, despite doing everything wrong and doing things out of panic that I would’ve never considered otherwise, my dick had survived. And so had I.
So that’s about it. Later that night, I gave the thing a test firing. It worked. Then, as I waited with bated breath, it returned to its normal, pathetic size. No harm, no foul. I have to admit, though, I still have a hard time receiving oral sex without thinking of those leeches. And I guess maybe now you will, too.
My body is an icon of loathsomeness and sin. Ever since our pastor found out and mentioned me by name in front of the whole congregation, what was once our family’s secret became a big problem for me. Practically the next day, I was shipped off to a facility owned by a group of the churches in our area.
The purpose of the facility was conversion. They believed, with the help of God and the power of their therapy and drug intervention, I’d be able to “pray away” the “perversions” which had infected me. They made it sound like I had a disease. I have to admit - I was terrified of what was going to happen.
Growing up, I knew I was different. During high school, when everyone was interested in girls and their boobs and all that, I didn’t take part. It’s not that I didn’t want to, either. I couldn’t, no matter what I did, force myself to be attracted to them. There was no way I could tell my friends how I actually felt. We all attended the same church and heard the same sermons. People like me were hellbound aberrations. Can you imagine how that makes a person feel? To be told he’s going to hell simply because of who he loves? It’s devastating.
Time went by and I sank into depression. Late in high school, the few times I attempted to form a real, romantic connection with someone to whom I felt genuine attraction, I was shut down pretty quickly. I was lucky they didn’t say anything to their friends or parents; I think, maybe, they took pity on me. Knowing I was an object of pity was something almost worse than knowing I was damned. I was being tortured in life even before I could be tortured after death.
My parents found out about my inclinations because of my own idiotic laziness. I didn’t clear my browser history on the family’s computer. I knew how they felt about pornography, but I just couldn’t control my desire and curiosity. When I got home from school one afternoon, I was oblivious to the fact they’d discovered what I’d been up to. Upon walking into the house, my father just started hitting me. Over and over and over his fists pummelled my ribs and legs and crotch, making sure not to hit anywhere that would be noticed by the school officials. Since that day almost a year ago, my father has refused to say a word to me. Instead of making him proud, something I’d always hoped to do, I’d made him despise me.
Mom eventually came to terms with my differences, but she’d been irreparably damaged. We talk, but it’s almost like she’s speaking to a stranger. I could tell the stress was eating her alive. She’s an incredibly pious woman. Something like this is against everything she believes. I didn’t know how long she’d be able to keep a secret of that magnitude, and not long after, I heard my name being spat from the pastor’s mouth as he gave his Sunday sermon. She later told me she mentioned it at confession and the pastor urged her to let him tell the congregation. “For their safety,” he told her. I hated myself.
At conversion therapy, I was beaten, injected with unknown drugs, bound, and forced to watch pornographic films of all sorts. Before every film that wasn’t a depiction of a heterosexual couple, I was forced to swallow ipecac syrup which produced the most hideous, nauseating sensation I’d ever known. Each day, many times a day, I vomited with such force I felt my stomach would rip in half. I was so dreadfully sick throughout the majority of the films they showed me. The purpose, they claimed, was to “set me straight.” They wanted my body to become so conditioned to being sick during the “abhorrent” types of pornography that I’d have no choice but to become aroused by the approved variety. When I wasn’t puking and watching movies, I was kept awake for countless nights and forced to recite prayer after prayer under hideously bright industrial lamps. I wanted to die.
I was released a month later. As far as my sexuality, I felt no different. What had changed, though, was my day-to-day interaction. The abuse had made me terribly skittish and unwilling to engage with people. No one, even the friends who’d stuck with me through the whole ordeal, could bring me even a modicum of comfort. I cried at the drop of a hat and held myself as I shook with terrible, wracking sobs that would appear out of nowhere, even when I was in public.
That public, the majority of whom were in the congregation, loathed me. At school, I was terrorized by both students and faculty. The kids would hit me, the adults would verbally abuse me. As I’d walk down the hallway with a bloody nose or a black eye, teachers and even the vice principal would hurl muttered insults at me as I walked by. “Freak.” “Heathen.” “Faggot.” I understood and even agreed with all of them. All except the last one. That confused me. They knew I’d never been attracted to other men or boys. Just little girls.
I want to thank everybody here for being such a wonderful and supportive community. I've never felt as at home as I do here, and I love how we build eachother up instead of breaking eachother down.
To the authors, you're talented as hell and thank you for taking the time and effort you pour into the sub.
To the commenters, thank you for all of the great suggestions and hope for the OP.
To the mods, you guys do a great job and this whole thing is proof. Thank you for taking your time to make this an immersive and welcoming sub.
Side note: I had to ditch my old account due to some issues with someone previously in my life but I can say that I was helped immensely by members here and you guys make my days a little easier and brighter.
Commencing at the siren, any and all stories will be legal for 72 continuous hours.
Moderator services will be unavailable until Thursday morning at 12:00 a.m., when the purge concludes.
Anything and everything vampire-related, from the classics to modern-day!
I know you can go and pretend to be one of those weird vampires who drink pig blood and wear contacts, but ugh. I had a dream last night that I was a vampire. I could run super fast, I was super strong, everything was so sharp, I could hear anything and everything, and I could only go out in the night. It doesn't sound as magical as it felt, but ugh, does anyone else wish that they could be a real vampire like the ones in hollywood movies?
Just passing on the word. They were bought recently and are celebrating their 25th anniversary with a big sale.
Hopefully I’m not opening a can of worms/pack of spoiled blood.
But is there such a thing as a human who is an ally to vampires, but hunts vampires that feed more than they need to/cause other trouble?
Yup, sounded like an idiot.
Toxic people, who just won't leave you alone.
Parasitic... stalkers, leeches, sicko's, FREAKS and the lot etc etc.
Qualified by their attachment to hook onto-you
Anybody like a Bot-fly.
Cretins.... I could go on but you get what meaning it is
The term kys was made just for them IMO.
What species of bats do vampires turn into? Asking for a friend.
We're talking a 20x102mm round fired from an Anzio 20mm Bolt-Action, boasting a muzzle velocity of 3,300 feet per second(1,100 yards per second). To put it in perspective: A) That is the distance length of 100 yard football fields, linked together at length end-to-end totaling 1,100 yards, in ONE SECOND B) The speed of sound, is measured roughly at an estimated 1125.33 FEET PER SECOND.
Any insight/help would be appreciated, as this is for, ya' know, science and stuff.
A discussion at work somehow turned into a debate on which songs are the best vampire songs.
Outside of the Soundtrack of Interview with a vampire 2, i honestly couldn't think of a single song that really brings vampires to mind (MAYBE the old toadies song possum kingdom, but thats a stretch)
Do you guys have any songs that you hear and immediately think its about vampires. Not because it was featured in a vampire movie per se, but the lyrics are highly suggestive of vampires.
I had to add the last part because the work discussion couldn't get past the Lost Boys soundtrack issue lol.
So what do you guys think?
I wasn't able to find a Discord server for fans of vampire-related fiction, so I created one myself. Still pretty empty for the moment, but if you're interested in joining and telling me about your favorite vampire stories/characters I'd love to have you!
overview for Kylix_
A lot of people don’t realize this, but anytime you see those posts like “who would protect you during a zombie attack?” or “which celebrities would you be stuck in an elevator with?” or “what would your punk band name be?” etc. The answers are always based on your birth month, day, last 4 digits of your phone number, etc. When you fill those out to play along, you’re actually volunteering private information about yourself to the public, often without realizing it. People collect that data.
Watch out for those posts and you’ll start to see just how many people don’t catch what information they’re actually giving away.
DBZ had a short run of fully colorized manga from the studio and it was so pleasant on the eyes that it really ruined black and white manga for me after that.
I still read b/w, but knowing I could be seeing it in color, and the clarity that comes along with that, just makes me a little sad.
I wish manga would go the way of graphic novels and charge a little extra for full color prints. It would revolutionize the manga industry.
Aww, he left out my favorite one 🙁
Even though this post is about the series finale, I feel like I should still say that this comment will contain mega spoilers, so if you haven't finished the show, stop reading now.
I'm not really unhappy with how the series ended, I see what they were going for, but I am surprised at how abrupt and rushed everything felt. I mean, we went on this incredibly long, elaborate journey with these characters, their stories and their growth, only to have a gigantic bomb dropped and the rug completely pulled out from underneath us within 2 or 3 episodes and then suddenly it was all over. I felt robbed almost.
I think one more, full season would have given them just the right amount of time to tell the story that was begging to be told within those last few episodes.
Season 10 could have included a more fleshed out falling out between Barney and Robin, it could have shown more about him and his daughter to really wrap up Barney's character, then they could have went more in-depth with how the mother got sick and her eventual passing (not to mention another season with her in it would always be welcomed because she was so amazing), and finally, they could have wrapped it all up and put a nice bow on it with Ted finally getting to be with the random girl he saw across a crowded room all those years ago...
I just think it would have been nice to get one more full season to really close up the story and tidy up all those sudden, life changing, character defining events. I would liked to have seen a more complete send off for such a great and complex show. Plus, 9 seasons of anything is just not okay on my very OCD media shelf.
What really makes me sad is that she thinks because her phone was "on silent" while she was texting during a movie, that she's somehow not being rude. She doesn't acknowledge the fact that everyone around her can see the beacon of light radiating from the phone screen, even on the lowest brightness, which is a huge distraction.
I worked at a movie theater for 3 years and we also kicked out anyone using their phones during a movie if they didn't have the common decency to just walk out to the hallway. It was zero tolerance rule where we warned you during the ticket purchase, while we tore your tickets, at the concession stand if you stopped by and right before the movie started. Our customers really appreciated knowing that their movie experienced would not be ruined by a jerk and we would come in and do the heavy lifting if we needed to. They complimented us routinely for the efforts.
It seems like he almost resents How I Met Your Mother in some way.
His tweet concerning the series finale says
grateful to have been a part of a show that's meant so much to people
but not that it meant anything to him.
His twitter profile also brings his two movies and music to light, but not a single mention of the show. He also seems to have a negative connotation to any comments about him being in the show or playing Ted.
But people will still come up to me and say, 'I just watched the series for the eighth time, all the way through.' And I’m like, That’s too much. You’ve gotta move on.
Old Spice played this ad during an Overwatch Contenders match and it was glorious.
Let's not forget that her healing potential is greatly determined by how grouped up the team stays during the match. Most "DPS Moiras" are forced into that role when their team won't stay together and her healing output is completely negated by everyone being spread out. At that point, damage becomes the priority because its effectiveness outweighs the time you would spend healing only 1 person.
But yes, if you have a good, organized team, throwing out damage orbs should be a rarity.
If the problem still persists after that, you may be looking at an actual hardware issue, unfortunately. The only way to troubleshoot that would be to pick up a new GPU (maybe something simple) and pop it in to see if the problem still exists, then return it once you're done.
We just need to isolate all the possibilities.
Hmm, you may want to try using a software called DDU (display driver uninstaller). It's for a complete removal of GPU drivers. It doesn't leave anything behind like removing from "programs and features" does.
I would run DDU and then do a true complete reinstall of the drivers using the manufacturer's website, rather than GeForce and see if that helps, now that you have found the Windows update issue. DDU can be a lifesaver sometimes for strange issues like this.
Did you ever get it sorted out? If you had no issues with another device attached to the monitor, then it most certainly is a GPU issue.
This part of your post, specifically, is a huge red flag
when trying to access the nvidia control panel, I’m told “You are not currently using a display attached to an Nvidia GPU.”
You asked if you're somehow using the on-board video, rather than your card. The only way that would be possible is if you're video cable is plugged into the on-board GPU and not the Nvidia GPU. There should be two separate outputs, one for integrated GPU and one for the Nvidia card.
Your Nvidia should have a few HDMI/Display outputs, where an on-board GPU typically only has a single HDMI and maybe a VGA/DVI. If you don't have another set of outputs, then your motherboard likely didn't come with any integrated GPU and you are in fact using the Nvidia.
That being said, it sounds like your Nvidia GPU might be faulty, from what the image shows and the fact that the monitor is fine with another device plugged in. So, how old is that card? Do you ever run any temperature checks on it to make sure it's not over heating?
Need a little more info:
Are you using wifi or ethernet cable?
Have you tried to run a speed test online yet? If you get good results from a few different speed tests, then the issue is with the CSGO server and not your PC.
Have you tried playing any other online games from your PC to see if the issue persists?
What's your internet speed from your provider? (up and down)
Did this issue just start happening, or has it always been like this? (aka, did it ever work correctly?)
Are there any settings in CSGO itself for networking? Can you tell the game to find better servers for you, or only games with low ping, etc?
That info can give us a more clear picture of what might be going on.
Exactly. How damaging is it to someone's career when a company like Blizzard, Dallas Fuel and the Overwatch League come out and (incorrectly) publicly state that a player was acting in a "racially disparaging" way, making xQc out to be a some kind of racist, when he clearly isn't. Then they drop him from the team, rather than lifting his suspension, fine and apologizing, despite the massive truck loads of proof that he wasn't doing anything racially disparaging at all.
I think I'm done with OWL now.
All part of his plan to become a full time streamer, let's be real. Aimbotcalvin 2.0
Have you tried plugging anything else into the monitor to see if the issues persist? Like a console, or a bluray player? That would tell you right away if it's the screen or the GPU.
The house itself was built last year, but I think I have an idea of what might be causing the seemingly "random" outages.
This house is two stories, so they designed it with two separate heating/cooling units that are side by side in the attic. One for upstairs air control, and one for downstairs.
I think when I have all of my tech running while I'm streaming, and then the upstairs AC unit turns on to heat or cool the floor, it sometimes causes the lights to dim (or flicker, you know what I mean?) and that might be "the straw that broke the camel's back" and actually trips the breaker for the room I'm in.
I've started streaming with the AC units both turned off and haven't had any issues with power, but it gets so absurdly hot in here now, that I think that's what caused my video issues with the GPU.
It's just stressing me out that I can't find a solution.
Just give her piercing bullets that also create an AOE heal/dmg splash on any player she hits.
Her healing and damage output would go up to Moira levels, while still requiring skill shots and good positioning.
Blizzard could balance the stats properly, but that's my idea. Say the initial hit does regular healing, while anyone near that player gets 50% or 25% of that heal. Like a splash. Same with damage.
EDIT: Even without piercing shots, splash healing/damage would still be a huge buff for Ana that would also fall inline with her kit's theme, like the nade.
It looks like my headphones anytime I pull them out of anywhere.
I have an off topic question about the players chatting in OP's clip. Does Blizzard consider it okay for people to ask other players to report someone? If not, can we report them for that? It seems like they're abusing the report system by trying to convince other players to send in more reports for something that may or may not have happened, or asking players to be offended by something they were offended by.
ex. in clip: Report [player] for saying, "noob dps give me dps"
I'm using the lamps from this green screen kit. 150watt bulbs I think. 2 of them.
I'll try your suggestion. It's hard for me to move any connections though. I've been here for over a year now and everything is either wall mounted, stapled to the wall or zip tied somehow. No other rooms are nearby either, so I'd have to run long extensions or something.
Any reason why it wouldn't happen consistently, even though I use the same setup pretty much all the time? Sometimes my streaming lasts as long as 9 hours with no issues at all, but then sometimes the power will go out after only 1 hour of streaming.
Hey everyone! I'm having two separate issues, that could be related.
- Random power outages in my room, possibly from too much tech.
- GPU stopped putting out video to my 3 monitors, but all audio still worked.
I'm a gamer/streamer, so I often stream the games I play from my room, which has a ton of tech in it. About 95% of the time, I don't have any problems, but when something does happen, it's always catastrophic, so I need some guidance on how to solve these issues.
When I stream, I have two medium sized lighting lamps (for my green screen), my desktop PC, 3 monitors, a secondary laptop running, a good quality mixer/microphone, consoles and a bunch of other random things using power in my room. (Like a wall mounted TV and soundbar (almost always in stand-by, not used for streaming), a modem, router, mini fridge, small fan, other small lamps (turned off), ceiling light, etc.)
Two times now, over the span of a month or two, I'll be streaming for a few hours like normal, when suddenly, the power to my room (only) will go out! Everything in my room turns off. I have to go to the breaker box in our house and reset it for my room and then I can continue on like normal. Sometimes I'm able to stream for 8+ hours using the same setup and nothing like that happens, but then sometimes the power goes out after only 1 hour, so I'm not sure what triggers it.
2nd issue. Another weird thing happened yesterday. I was streaming a game (probably about 2 hours in at this point) and suddenly, the video on all 3 of my monitors went out and showed "no signal" yet I could still hear the game audio. My team mates were saying things like "Crap he disconnected" etc, but I couldn't get the signal to come back until I hard reset my PC with the power button. Even stranger, I watched the VOD from my stream to see what happened when the monitors turned off, and it seems that the stream stopped broadcasting about 30s-1min before anything happened on my end. So maybe that's GPU related?
All of my things are plugged into "nice" surge protectors that are fairly new, so I don't think anything is damaged from the random power outages, but I've also had the GPU for about 4 years, so it could be going bad.
Possibly unrelated, but I use OBS as my broadcasting software and I recently told it to start using more of my CPU power to make the stream look nicer. I never had any video issues until I made that change in the settings, but I'm not sure that's causing the issue. OBS still says I'm only using about 40% of my CPU while streaming a game. (720p output at 30fps, nothing major.)
Anyone have any ideas as to what may be causing the random power outages or the video from my GPU to stop working randomly? Are they connected or just coincidence?
I'm afraid to keep streaming with issues like this happening. It's very embarrassing for a new streamer to suddenly have their stream end because of issues like this.
Or if their is a better sub to post this in, please let me know! Thanks!
Even so, after analyzing the clip, it's still pretty fair to say the Mercy could have used [shift] to fly to the D.Va as she was moving ahead, leaving the Sym alone and largely separated from her team.
If you're using Safari, try to clear the cookies and see if that fixes the issue.
Settings > Safari > Clear history and website data
You may have to log into some websites again, but it should wipe out anything malicious that may have gotten stored.
I have to do this from time to time on my phone.