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What Lies Below

by cnkguy
What Lies Below

I worked in the dredging industry for quite some time now. For those of you unaware of what dredging is, it’s a sector of marine construction that involves excavating the bottom of a body of water, and relocating the material elsewhere. If you’ve ever been to a beach on the East Coast of the U.S., there’s a pretty fair chance that we were the ones who put that sand under your feet. Coastal restoration was our most lucrative and commonplace type of contract, but, over the years, our tasks have ranged to most everything imaginable. We’ve had military contracts where we’ve removed UXO’s from the ocean; we’ve had marsh jobs, cleaning decades of silt (and what was buried within it) from waterways. The variety in the work we’ve done is innumerable… and, might I add, not limited to the U.S.A. So, to keep it brief, dredging is simply digging up the bottom of a body of water… and water is very good at hiding its inhabitants. This will be a collection of the “unexplainable” or “extraordinary” things I’ve seen over the years. Please keep in mind that these instances are quite uncommon, and had given an opportunity to investigate further, would most likely be revealed mundane. But under the shadows of night, fog, grove, and depth, these specters make good stories.

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I feel it appropriate to begin with my personal, “first”, unexplainable encounter in the dredging world. I was relatively new to the industry, since most of the men who work in dredging are lifers, or retired Navy. Still a virgin to the ocean’s wonders…and horrors, I was working on a clamshell dredge. Quickly, a clamshell dredge is a barge with a massive crane on it that operates a bucket (shaped like a clam) and dips underwater, clamps the material from the bottom, and swings it over to a holding barge on either side of the dredge; I highly recommend a quick Google search for visualization. Thus, everything that is pulled from the ocean ends up in the holding barge, also known as a scow, and can be seen from any elevated vantage point from on board the dredge. Nearly 100% of the time, the scow is filled with mud, water, logs, and other combinations of detritus tailored specific to the type of job we’re on. But on those rare good days, we’ll fish up an anchor, a table or chairs, even a cannon one time, or other interesting relics damned to the deep until our hallowed vessel raised them from their aquatic perdition; this was one of the “best” days. A deckhand performing a routine scow inspection notified the crew that there was a “treasure chest” partially buried in the mud of the scow. We were digging off the coast of Louisiana at the time, and skepticism that it was actually a treasure chest was high… and rightfully so. Since no one is actually allowed down into the scow for safety reasons, the operator picked the section of mud that the chest was in up with the crane, raised it to deck level with the scow, and two crewmembers retrieved it from there. Given that two men hoisted it out with certain ease, any lingering hopes of it being filled with gold were instantly silenced. Interest noticeably lower amongst the crew, a few guys stuck around to offer their passive gaze; me, just barely graduated from my green hard hat, was all but ogling the chest. After busting the lock off with a sledge, my eyes widened with the chest’s maw; when we could finally see what was inside, they might have just widened all 180 degrees with it. Inside, were ingredients- ritualistic ingredients. Strange religious icons, what looked like fat pitchforks with spiral insignias on them, filled the chest nearly to the brim. Interwoven amongst them were other totems: small animal remains, bones all but picked clean by shrimp or minnows compact enough to infiltrate the chest’s tight breaches. Odd jewelry, seemingly fashioned from rodent skulls and rocks bound together with hair, was snagged between the other inhabitants. Maybe a book had been in there; we found what looked like the remains of a leather bound spine, the rest of the pages long dispersed amidst the Gulf. And, second most creepy of all, was a human skull. It was small, about the size of a 3 or 4 year old maybe, and while the other “goodies” were partially buried under the pitchforks, the skull was perfectly atop them. But, there were no other human sized limbs in the chest. Even after we pulled out a crowbar, no one dared actually touch the box of Satan’s groceries, we did a little sifting; we found no other bones sized even close to that of a child. It was just his or her head. Now you’re probably thinking: what could be in a voodoo style ritual chest that’s creepier than a kid’s head? Well, the scratch marks. Scratch marks, varying in streaks of three, four, or five, covered the entire inside of the chest’s lid. There just, weren’t any bones that could have made them… or any way that they could have gotten out. We re-locked it with a padlock, and tossed it overboard.

This next one is pretty unbelievable. I actually had trouble going into the ocean after this. The job was off of the coast in the middle of nowhere outback, Australia. There was a refinery out there, and we were to pull mud and sand from the Indian Ocean and create a bank against a cliff face to help stop erosion for another 100 years or whatever. The point is, we were using what was called a cutter dredge. Once again, quickly, this dredge grinds up material and suctions it up via a massive drill at the working bow of the barge; if you didn’t Google the other dredge, please do yourself a favor and look up this one; it’s badass. Then, using hundreds of feet of steel pipeline that we set up, the mud and sand is pumped all the way to the shore. One day, the barge started heeling starboard side. Most dredges are set up on spuds, giant pillars that actually work as feet. Thus, the dredge was standing 40 feet below on the bottom of the ocean instead of floating. Dredges tip like this all the time, because the spuds can be staggered at different heights to change the angle at which the cutter can operate. So, the crew only became unnerved when the operator announced on the radio that he was not shifting the spuds. A 250 foot barge was being pulled over. At this point, the shore crew radioed us from land, and asked if we had stopped digging because the material had ceased. Noticeably panicked, I remember the Captain laughing through his answer in utter disbelief: “Yeah, we stopped. I think something is trying to pull us under”. Now, this isn’t as dramatic as I’m accidentally making it sound. Sure, it would take something the size of a sperm whale to shift us on our spuds, but the dredge was only dispositional by a few degrees. On board, the angle was barely noticeable; my office chair would sluggishly roll, and only when I took my hands off of my desk. What is dramatic is what the dive crew found the next day. The four foot in diameter steel piping had been parted and collapsed on one end. Steel piping had been torn through and bent closed. There are things in the ocean that can bend steel piping. The creepiest part, I quivered when I saw the divers’ pictures, was that the end of the piping was pulled out away from shore, down towards a drop off on the ocean floor. The darkness swirled around the edge of the piping. Shortly past that was the ocean’s invisible frontier. From the camera’s point of view, we looked like we were tethered straight to hell.

This next story takes place back on the cutter dredge; so, I can skip the sleep inducing yet largely necessary introduction. Our job was to grind up large rocks and debris on the ocean floor, off the east coast of Florida, so that a different dredge can raise the material up more efficiently. While cutting dense rock, you can feel the impact from topside of the dredge. After hours of being constantly jostled, your mind will just begin to ignore the repeated stimuli. It’s similar to how when you step into a room for the first time, you can smell its distinct odor. But after you’ve been in there for a few minutes, the room’s odor neutralizes. When the dredge suddenly stopped jostling, without the operator having stopped us to move forward, we all noticed the change in our bodies’ equilibrium. We also all noticed the plume of red water dyeing the ocean’s surface around us. I didn’t see the eruption myself, but the operator of the drill said that the blood just exploded from the deep- the bright red a stark contrast from the light tinted royal blue royal blue. Now, for perspective, we’ve never drilled anything that produced visible blood before. First off, we send out periodic electric shocks in the water to keep all fish, of all sizes, away from the drilling area. Second, the dredge was surrounded by blood. Picture a rubber duck in a bathtub. Our 250 foot craft was the rubber duck, and the deep red water was the surface size of the tub. At first we didn’t even think it was blood because it was so plentiful. But, we had absolutely no other explanation for what it could’ve been. The 4 sharks that showed up a few minutes later stopped us from racking our brains any further. Typically, divers aren’t used to survey the seafloor, only to inspect equipment. But, we had an ecologist on board to watch for sea turtles approaching the drill area. It’s required by law for certain jobs, in spite of our own aforementioned precautions. She insisted that we dive to investigate… and I’m kind of glad she did. The divers came out the following day. It’s typically a day or two of bureaucracy before we can get unscheduled divers out, so the blood was gone by this time. All that was found was a graveyard of one. Bone fragments were strewn about the seafloor, but no parts of flesh had survived a whole day’s onslaught of ravenous sea scavengers. Also, there was no identifiable body. Whatever was struck by our drill could not have survived. The blood was too prolific. But, the bones were “too badly damaged” to point towards any definitive skeleton. The fragments were surfaced and taken by the state for analysis; I never saw a Yahoo article claiming we had killed a sea monster, so I’m not sure what their findings were.

These final stories all take place on a crew boat. A crew boat is a smaller vessel, typically 30-40 feet, taken out from shore to the larger vessels in the fleet. That is to say, you are more vulnerable on crew boats than dredges.


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This first ride is from off the coast of Brazil. The run took around 45 minutes to reach the dredge; but, since I was on night shift, the run took around an hour due to lower visibility. This was a clear night with very calm waves. When the waves are gentle, the crew boat barely sways. It feels like mother-nature herself is actually rocking you to sleep. These are the best naps I’ve taken in my entire life. Anyway, about 30 minutes into our ride out, a thick fog just appeared around our boat. It was almost like a magician snapping his fingers and smoke engulfing him for his getaway… but less dramatic and more unnerving. This isn’t supernatural, though. Flash fog is pretty common, and it does just phase in and out in seemingly no time at all. Still, no matter how ordinary it is, being suddenly suffocated out of nowhere puts any man on edge. Needless to say, the crew boat had to slow its pace further due to critically low visibility. This is when we noticed something that did seem unnatural. With our speed cut to a slow trawl, the waves began to catch our attention. They were much higher now, maybe a foot to a foot and a half high, and there was no wind. It was still a calm night, just as it had always been, but now the waves were rough. In order to combat seasickness, or even just discomfort when subject to bouncing waves, you’re supposed to look out over the water. Do not close your eyes or follow the horizon; you want your eyes to agree with the fluid in your ears that registers the imbalances around you. So, as I scanned the water, I saw it through the fog. It was only about 20 yards from the boat, at the very edge of our visibility through the unrevealing air. It looked like a whale’s blowhole, but it protruded from the back rather than situated at surface level; it was more like a blow spout. It would expand and contract in slow, rhythmic beats. And from this spout, the thickest of the fog would rise. I could see just passed it on either side, but just above it was an impregnable opaque. I tried to follow the spout to the water’s surface with my eyes, but the fog cut me off. With my view censored, I continued squinting at the odd appendage. This is when I realized that it wasn’t moving. Or rather, it wasn’t moving laterally. As the crew boat continued forward, the spout was becoming less and less visible. But, it was rotating in a manner such that I always saw the same side of it. As if, it was tracing our boat with a hidden sense that required a rigid line of reference. This whole time, I hadn’t said a word to the other men. I was entranced by wonderment and intrigue. These emotions changed when the spout fell behind a thick patch of fog, and my gaze trailed down to the wake outside of our boat. A dark mass could be seen just a few feet from the hull of our ship. A few feet wide, this shadow trailed off under the fog, spanning at least 30 feet in length. If (something that I began to speculate later) it was the same mass connected to the fog spout, it must have been at least 60 feet long. I remember shuddering, and reeling my attention back into what the spout could have been. There are shadows lurking under the surface all of the time, and they are never as mysterious or terrifying as the beast your mind fabricates for them. This time may be an exception to that rule. After our boat pulled out of the fog and arrived at the dredge later on, it occurred to me that the shadow was also listing to face us. Whatever it was, it was eyeing us… and was at least twice as large as our vessel.

In my entire dredging career, I’ve only seen one man die on the job. This is a surprisingly gracious record, given the mortality rate for this profession. How this man died was not entirely “unexplainable”, but it was ghastly none the less.

In the northern states, on days of considerable cold, the waves that splash up onto the deck of the crew boat will actually freeze over. The crew will be riding in the cab, but when we step out onto the deck to transfer, there will be visible ice glossed over the outside. One time, a deckhand opened the hatch of the cab and went out onto the deck. He was going to put down some rock salt to help with our transfer, as we were slowly nearing the dredge. Then, we all heard him yell “What the fuh…!” and a splash soon to follow. He never surfaced. The sub-zero waters and no way to dry off would’ve killed any man out here in a matter of minutes. State divers arrived within the hour, and they found his body almost immediately. He was just floating at about 6 feet, frozen solid. The rescue personnel couldn’t even lower his arms to secure him to the stretcher… nor could they pry his fingers open to remove the knife. No marks were found on his body, and the report read that he had accidentally slipped overboard. The thing is, the deck has a railing on both sides. All transfers from the crew boat happen at the stern, where there’s an opening in this railing. But… the bag and salt lines never made it past mid-ship.

This next instance, we were dredging down in the Keys; this was on the Gulf side, so, sadly, I have nothing to testify for the Bermuda Triangle in my repertoire. During another heavenly long cruise in the morning (about an hour and a half in permissible weather), the unknown was in front of us rather than below. Listing into our path was a shrimping vessel. The two outrigger booms were a dead give-away to its identity. As our craft approached, we noticed that it wasn’t trawling. None of its balloon nets were cast, and it wasn’t running. It was just drifting: no anchor, no engine. Unless you see someone rod fishing or breaking into a beer on board, a drifting vessel is almost always a negative sign. The crew boat captain radioed the vessel’s call sign on channel 13, the Coast Guard required monitor frequency, but there was no answer. Now, this was back in the ‘90s where safety red tape was less adhesive and more of a guideline. So, we did what any self-respecting sailor would do, and boarded the trawler. We moored Stern to Stern with the derelict craft, and me and two other guys jumped on board. As expected, we almost caught ourselves in the balloon nets that were scattered on deck. After untangling our boots, the deckhand and I went to see if there was any owner identification or, god forbid, bodies in the cabin; it’s not too often that a boat is intentionally left unattended. We didn’t have too much luck, but we had enough. The walls were stained a reddish yellow from rising algae or such, and the cabin reeked of iron and guano and was in utter disarray; most of the furnishings were eviscerated and their contents scattered afoot. Also, since the cabin door was left open, any of the surviving documents were ruined by infiltrating rain or tide. However, given the call sign on the bow (which will remain unnamed) and a few accompanying certificates of inspection framed on the walls barely safe above the invading waters, we managed to ID the ship. Successful, and with the captain radioing the Coast Guard with the ship’s coordinates, me and the deckhand started back to our crew boat. This is where the third man comes into play. The mate, who took a rather long time joining us inside the cabin, was still on deck carefully palming through the nets. “Looking for shrimp?” I remember the deckhand jesting. It was pretty good, so I let out a ‘nice’. I couldn’t tell if the mate was less amused, or even registered what he had said. Because, the next thing he did, was hold the net up to our faces. Tangled within the woven nylon beyond any means of escape, was a human hand. Its fingers curled around the net as if for dear life, the bones still barely held together by its few most robust tendons… The Coast Guard arrived in about 2 hours, and make of it what you will, informed us that the fishing boat had only just left for a registered, commercial run 18 hours prior. The ship looked like it had been wayward for weeks, enduring everything offered by inclimate weather and carrion feeding cycles. But, the facts just stated otherwise. Its dilapidated state was simply unjustifiable. We left the rest up to the Coast Guard, and resumed our trek out to the dredge. Along the way, we chatted and japed, happy with only a half days left of work ahead of us… except the mate; he wasn’t too jolly. I wouldn’t call his demeanor frightened or shaken. It was more concerned and quizzical. He let us know, eventually, what was on his mind: the net he was inspecting had a large hole thrashed in it. And, apparently, we idiots didn’t notice that the cabin door wasn’t ‘open’, it was gone. “The hinges were splayed, the door was ripped off, and your heads were so far up each other’s asses that you stumbled into that cabin anyway”, were his exactly words I believe. Perhaps the Coast Guard figured out what had happened on that trawler, but we sure as hell couldn’t come up with anything close.

And that’s it. An entire lifetime at sea, and these are what I have to show for it: no monsters, no demons, only stories- stories that the ocean told to me. The darkest shadows, the ones cast below the surface of the water, are what spun these yarns. No one truly knows what we’ve seen, staring from our manmade craft into the primordial abyss. But, what I do know for certain, is that the ocean is a mysterious place. So mysterious, that an entire life spent buys naught but hints and more questions. Perhaps, the sea is hiding creatures more fearsome than the abyssal nightmare that can only be created in our own mind’s eye. Or, it hides nothing; the ocean may just be a talented pretender, tricking anyone too willing to believe. So, the choice is yours: do you see shadows or do you see monsters?

Credit: Joongus


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Haunted House and Night time Visitor

by cnkguy
Haunted House and Night time Visitor

iwishyouweremyshadow submitted:

When I was four years old, my parents and I were living in a rather large house in Northern New Jersey. From the very beginning, the house did not feel right to me. Before my mom became pregnant with my sister, I would always be playing by myself on the ground floor, in the living room. No matter if I was playing with dolls or dressing up, I would always have this eerie, hollow feeling like someone was watching me. Whenever I got this feeling, I would walk over to the staircase and peer up, expecting to find the source of the feeling, but nothing was ever there. Aside from a few creepy instances of toys turning on by themselves, seeing things from the corners of our eyes, and mysterious noises, we remained in the house. One night, I was lying in bed with my parents in their room, in the attic. They were on either side of me, and we were watching a movie. I dozed off. When I woke up, my parents were sleeping, the TV was turned off, and a small lamp was on in the corner. I lay in bed for a few minutes, and I heard shuffling coming from the second floor; either my room or the bathroom. I lay super still in  bed. just listening. After a minute or two, I heard heavy footsteps  ascending the stairs to my parents room. I froze, not believing what I was hearing; I knew we were alone in the house. I pulled the blanket up to my chin and listened. The footsteps began to come around the corner, and finally, moving slowly, the footsteps stopped in the doorway. In the doorway, I saw a figure. Well, not quite a figure; it didn’t have a definite shape, but it was so tall, it took up the entire doorway. It was a mix between static and mist, it was grey, and it was just standing there. After I stared at it for a few seconds, it started slowly into the room. At this point, I was so scared that I threw the blanket completely over my head. I held my breath and squeezed my eyes shut. I heard the footsteps coming toward the bed. They stopped for a moment, and then, I felt the thing slowly get on the bed, right near our feet. It started to crawl over my dad as he slept on my right side. My dad began to stir, and suddenly, the weight was gone. He asked ME if I was crawling on top of him. He actually FELT it. When I told him what really happened, we didn’t stay for too much longer.

Fuck Yeah Nightmares Mod James: 7/10 Ooh boy, that’s sounds like a really interesting looking spectre.  Thanks for sharing the scares!

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Heaven’s Herb – Part One

by cnkguy
Heaven’s Herb – Part One

(Editor’s Note: Due to both the length and the unique nature of this story, it will be offered in several parts.)


In the wake of the 2016 American election, several changes occurred in the country. One of the more highly publicized and celebrated of these developments was California’s legalization of marijuana for recreational use. While the objective impact has thus far been quite subtle, a small number of people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area have credited it as being responsible for the rise of a curious urban legend. The details of this story often shift depending who is offering it (or when it is being told), but one element remains unchanged throughout each telling.

They call it “Heaven’s Herb.”

You may have already heard this tale. If you haven’t, it’s simple enough to follow: A grower from Mendocino County had supposedly been trying to breed a new strain of cannabis, and had inadvertently unlocked a dormant piece of genetic code. Accounts vary on how this occurred – some claim that it was a freak mutation, while others offer laughable descriptions of dark magic – but in any case, the end result was allegedly a fragile-yet-fast-growing plant, said to foster a state of blissful euphoria in anyone who consumed it. This effect was claimed to be so profound that people would quite literally forget their troubles, emerging from their intoxication with a new, often completely serene outlook on life.

Of course, no such narrative would be complete without an unlikely twist toward the macabre, and this one is no different. It was eventually revealed – although by whom, nobody ever seems to know – that the sickly nature of this botanical anomaly was such that it required fresh blood for nourishment. Seeing the growing demand, its creator took to slaughtering immigrants and drifters, using their still-warm corpses as wellsprings for the crop. (The question of why this farmer immediately resorted to human sacrifices has not been answered, and tends to draw irritated glares from storytellers.) It took the disappearance of a wealthy college student before law enforcement got involved, after which the plot was exposed, the murderer was jailed, and the remnants of the harvest were burned… although rumors still persist that a few seeds survived, having mysteriously vanished during the investigation.

Very little about the story stands up to any sort of scrutiny, and yet it always seems to arise during those moments when smoke-induced paranoia levels are at their highest. I have personally heard versions in which ground-up bones were used as fertilizer, and one particularly embellished rendition included a decapitated head being employed as a makeshift flowerpot. The reactions people have to each retelling are entirely predictable, too, usually ranging from affected fear and sarcastic eye-rolls to exaggerated amusement that’s meant to disguise genuine unease. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I encountered a response which at all surprised me, and the speaker’s single sentence was the catalyst for what would become an utterly horrifying ordeal:

“Heaven’s Herb isn’t weed.”

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I had been spending the evening at my friend Robert’s house, drinking away the tension of a simultaneously stressful and monotonously dull work week. There were five of us seated in the living room that night, those being myself, Robert, his roommate Andre, our mutual friend Jeff, and a young woman named Ann. Ann was something of a stranger to us at the time, having recently met Robert via some dating site or another… and although the utter lack of chemistry between them had stopped any thoughts of romance in their tracks, she had enjoyed the group’s company enough to continue attending our get-togethers. It was she who had offered the statement in question, after the presence and subsequent lighting of a glass pipe had prompted yet another recital of the urban legend.

Jeff, who had been offering the tale, stopped as soon as he was interrupted. “What do you mean?”

“Heaven’s Herb isn’t weed,” Ann said again. “It’s a real thing, but it’s not marijuana.”

“Whoa, whoa, wait… hang on.” Andre rose from his relaxed position on the couch, focusing his eyes on the girl. “What do you mean, ‘it’s a real thing?’ It’s not a real thing.”

“It’s rare,” Ann replied, “but it’s real. My ex-boyfriend’s brother tried it once.”

Muted scoffs and knowing smirks were tossed around the room, with each of us muttering variations of the same thought. Modern myths are often prefaced by a person claiming to have a personal connection to them, albeit via some link which can neither be challenged nor confirmed. Although none of us knew Ann particularly well, she had already developed a reputation for being a witty prankster of sorts, and we all assumed that she was adding her own twist to the tale.

“Alright, let’s hear it, then!” Robert said. “What’s it like? Does it really erase your memory?”

Ann shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. It’s supposed to be like ketamine, I guess. It’s a disassociative high.” The blank looks on our faces must have said more than our words, because she sighed and continued. “Okay, have you guys ever tried salvia?”

“I have.” Jeff held up his hand, looking rather like an overgrown elementary school student. “It was alright. I kind of lost track of… everything.” He shrugged and grinned, prompting barely stifled giggles from the rest of us.

“Yeah, well, it’s supposed to be like that. Almost… almost an out-of-body experience, except that your body is the whole world.” Several seconds passed in silence as Ann seemed to consider her next thought. “I could probably get us some, if you wanted.”

“What?” asked Andre. “Salvia? Ketamine?”

“Heaven’s Herb.”

“Sure, sure,” Robert replied. “We’ll all meet up in El Dorado and smoke it in the Fountain of Youth.”

Jeff held up his hand again. “Uh, the Fountain of Youth was supposed to be in Florida.”

“Bimini,” corrected Andre. “Florida has too many old people.”

Laughter filled the air, and when it finally died down, Ann spoke again. “Really, though,” she said, “I still have his number. If you want to try Heaven’s Herb, just give me a few days.”

That was the point when we started to consider the possibility that Ann wasn’t joking. For me, at least, the prospect of the plant being real was simultaneously frightening and alluring. The various chemicals addling my mind may have been partially responsible, and the young woman’s beauty (which was quite profound) almost certainly played a role in this perspective, but the more I thought about it, the more I caught myself hoping that the offer was a legitimate one. I’ve never been one to experiment with too many substances, but the chance to try something with such a fantastic reputation was oddly enticing.

It turned out that I wasn’t alone in my opinion, either: One by one, my friends all voiced their interest, with Andre offering the caveat that he was still skeptical. Ann promised to let us know when she had acquired some of the mysterious herb, and the conversation turned to different topics shortly thereafter.

Several days would pass before I thought about any of that again, and when I was finally reminded of it, a new detail came to light: Robert told me (via text message) that Ann had made good on her word, and had secured a source of Heaven’s Herb. If we wanted to try some, however, we would have to do so in the presence of the person who cultivated it, as the preparation was reportedly too complex and the window for use too brief for an amateur to attempt. I was less than thrilled by the plan, but echoes of the anticipation I’d felt during our previous time together coaxed me into agreeing.

Directions were provided to a place on the outskirts of a town called Kenwood, located about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Jeff and I drove together – with Robert, Andre, and Ann traveling in a second car – and we arrived just as the sun was starting to set. The location was one of the eeriest I had ever seen: Chest-level wooden poles dotted an overgrown field surrounded by trees, and although my rational side knew that I was looking out over the remnants of a vineyard, I would have easily believed a person who told me that it was a long-abandoned cemetery. A large, circular hut stood at the end of a short dirt road, with the only sign of life being a rusty pickup truck parked near its front door.

“So, this is creepy,” Robert said, stepping out of his vehicle. Ann and Andre followed him, and the five of us peered around. “Are we sure this is the right place?”

As if in answer, the hut’s door opened. A harsh yellow glow shone out from behind a tall silhouette, which began to stalk toward us with slow, measured steps. Someone behind me – I didn’t turn to see who – quickly stumbled backward, putting Robert’s car between them and the approaching figure. Eventually, as the light of dusk filled in the contours of his face, the shadow was revealed to be an olive-skinned man with an unkempt beard. I could feel him appraising each of our group as he drew closer, and when finally spoke, it was to the newest member.

“You Ann?” the man asked. “You Erik’s friend?” His voice was colored by an accent that I didn’t immediately recognize, but which I assumed to be Mediterranean in origin.

Ann nodded. “You’re Yannis?”


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For a few tense moments, there was no reply. “You said four.”

“Four plus me,” Ann answered. “We have the money.” She reached into her purse and produced a short stack of bills. I’d been told nothing about what I needed to pay, so I assumed that I would be expected to reimburse the young woman later. In truth, the thought was a welcome return to normalcy, as I had been growing more uncomfortable with the situation by the second.

The man – Yannis – took another step forward, practically snatching the cash from Ann. He counted through it with practiced motions, then visibly relaxed.

“Okay. Come inside.”

Without waiting for any of us to respond, our host turned and strutted back toward his dwelling, pausing at the door to allow my friends and me to enter before him. The interior was strangely decorated, but not unwelcoming: A half-dozen enormous cushions formed a ring around a low table at the center of the single room, the walls of which were lined by plastic-covered planters. Each box had a bright lamp shining into it – the source of the light that I’d seen – and narrow, spindly leaves were just barely visible through the dew that clung to the transparent sheets. The aroma of moist soil reached my nostrils, as did the earthy stench of compost, but I dismissed them as Yannis gestured for us to sit down. He did not join us, instead walking over to a miniature refrigerator near the one section of wall not occupied by his farm.

“You want drinks?” he asked. “No caffeine.” When nobody answered, he just shrugged and returned to the group, then lowered himself onto the one cushion that had been left vacant. “Okay. You know the story?”

Andre let loose a derisive snort. “About watering the marijuana with blood? Yeah, we know it.”

“Not that bullshit,” Yannis replied. His face contorted into an expression of distaste. “This is not marijuana. This is amrita.”

At the mention of the word, Robert seemed to perk up. “What, like, ambrosia? The food of the gods?”

“Yes!” For the first time since our arrival, our host smiled. “Your friend is smart. The gods would feast on ambrosia, and be given eternal life. Just a myth, but with some truth inside. You drink a tea made from amrita, you feel like a new person. All your aches? Gone. Your sadness? Gone.”

“Sounds like Percocet,” muttered Andre. “I didn’t come all this way for some prescription painkillers.”

If Yannis heard the grievance, he ignored it. “Bees would make honey from the flower of amrita. Ambrosia. Ancient Greeks would make mead from the honey. Nectar.”

“Isn’t…” Jeff began, only to cut himself off. Yannis turned to stare at him. “Sorry, I just thought mead was a Norse thing.”

“Mead came before wine in Greece,” the man replied. “Honey can heal and cleanse. Amrita honey can do more. The tea, it does most of all. Once you drink, you are different; you are cured.”

There is scientific evidence for many of the claims made about various narcotics. Marijuana is said to slow the growth of cancer, for instance, and psilocybin (the active chemical in hallucinogenic mushrooms) has shown promise in fighting depression. Even so, the idea that a tincture made from a mystical leaf could somehow offset every ailment struck me as being absurd. I began to suspect that Andre was right; that we were about to imbibe a beverage which mimicked a refined opiate.

Ann shifted on her cushion. “So, how is this going to work? You make the tea, then we all drink it?”

“No.” Yannis’s single, flat syllable called my attention back to him. “I will not drink. You will be asleep. I will wait for you to wake.”

“Hey, no, hang on!” Andre moved as though readying himself to stand. “We’re not going to pass out while you hang around and… whatever!”

“Calm down,” Jeff murmured.

“What, you’re okay with this?” The young man folded his arms. “How do we even know what’s in this stuff? If we’re drinking, he’s drinking.”

Yannis shook his head. “Amrita requires a chaperone.”

“Yeah?” Defiant though he sounded, there was a tremor of fear in Andre’s voice. “Well, maybe I’ll be the chaperone, then, if it’s so damned important.”

Robert shot a glare across at his roommate. “You’re being a dick, dude.”

“No, you know what? Screw this!” Andre pulled himself to his feet. “This is sketchy as hell. Let’s get out of here.” He waited for a moment, but none of us moved to join him. “Fine. Have fun getting robbed. I’m taking a Lyft back.”

Nobody answered, and following a pointed slam of the hut’s door, our number was one fewer.

“Sorry about him,” said Robert. “He didn’t mean…”

Yannis held up a dismissive hand. “Just as well. Resisting amrita can be dangerous. You must be willing to let it take you.” He stood up then, and moved across to one of the nearby planters. A faint scent filled the air as the plastic was pulled aside, its sharpness reminding me of basil… although the leaves that Yannis retrieved bore no resemblance to the herb: They were very long and equally as thin, with slightly serrated edges and a waxy sheen to their surface. Although a verdant green at first glance, hints of violet – subtle enough that they might almost have been a trick of the light – were visible beneath the surface.

The cuttings were placed on the table, and were soon joined by a hot plate, a frying pan, a wooden board, and a scalpel. Four ceramic mugs were added to the collection next, each of them having been filled from an electric kettle. Yannis spoke in low tones as he made his preparations, and we all watched with interest as his hypnotic voice filled the silence.

“The origin of amrita has been lost to time. It appears in many legends. Homer wrote of it as being made into wine with the color of a rose. The Rigveda mentions it as soma.” Yannis placed the frying pan atop the hot plate, the dial of which he turned to the highest setting. “It was grown by the Greeks, Indians, and Egyptians. Never in great quantities. Never more than was needed.” He took the scalpel between his thumb and forefinger, and after laying out the leaves on the wooden board, made a single, perfectly straight incision down the center of each one. The bitter scent grew in strength, making my eyes water and the skin of my face start to tingle. “Seeds traveled with healers and prophets. They were brought to the Israelites. They were brought to the Druids. They arrived in South America with the Olmecs. Every culture has tasted ambrosia. Few remember it, but legends of its power remain.”

As the air started to warp and dance above the frying pan, Yannis slid the leaves onto its surface. Their color began to fade almost immediately, shifting from green to brown. “The gods were said to have ichor in their veins, created and nourished by amrita. Drinking the nectar would change mortals inside. Some achieved enlightenment. Others found a connection with each other. In all cases, the ecstasy was unmatched.” The leaves continued to change in hue, becoming a deep, ruby red. At the same time, beads of crimson sap began to bubble up from the cuts, leading me to wonder if they had been the source of the blood mentioned in the Heaven’s Herb legend. “Now, you will know it.”

With fast, deliberate motions, Yannis plucked the leaves from the frying pan, depositing one into each of the mugs. Tendrils of pink swirled out into the water, grasping like ghostly fingers at something unseen. For a moment, I imagined hearing whispers, beckoning me from almost beyond the reach of my perception.

“Drink.”

Ann wasted no time in downing the concoction, and the rest of us quickly followed suit. The water’s heat threatened to scald my throat as I swallowed, and it masked any flavor that might have been present. A mild wave of nausea came over me, but passed as soon as I noticed it. Beyond that, I felt nothing out of the ordinary.

After a few minutes, Jeff peered down at the remnants of his drink. “Are you getting anything yet?”

“Nope,” answered Robert. He glanced over at Yannis. “How long is it supposed to take?”

The man spread his palms and shrugged. “It will happen when you are ready. Relax.”

Whether as the result of impatience, anticipation, or the fear of what might be ahead, I felt myself growing anxious. I shifted on my cushion, adjusting my legs from one position to another and back again, my motions prompted by nervousness rather than any search for comfort. The others seemed more bored than restless, and I realized that my behavior must have been unnerving. I forced myself to keep still, and I leaned forward to put my mug down before I dropped it.

In that moment, something was different.

Although it was right in front of me – and although I could see my myself reaching out – the table was impossibly far away. Even as I watched, everything around me grew both larger and more distant, though the endless changes seemed like they had always been. Images and echoes came from seconds in the past, then minutes, with each one lengthening and blending into a single enduring eternity. I was a drop of water in an infinite ocean. The clatter of ceramic on wood reached my ears, only to be drowned in a deep, booming pulse that I could feel throughout my entire body. My enormous hands turned in front of me, their presence little more than two shapes on the horizon… and as I struggled to understand, I fell backward into darkness.

The world was gone.


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(Part Two of “Heaven’s Herb” will be posted on Friday, May 5th.)

The post Heaven’s Herb – Part One appeared first on Creepypasta.

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