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The Bethesda Cult

by cnkguy
The Bethesda Cult

The Bethesda CultReading Time: 8 minutes

There I was, sweating in my uncomfortable seat, surrounded by the sounds of obnoxious unsynchronized clapping. Todd Howard had just made his usual appearance on the annual E3 gaming expo stage. The crowd was anxious, awaiting their anticipated announcements, ready to possibly be disappointed. Myself? I wasn’t at the expo, enduring the claustrophobic mania, for some video games. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good RPG every once in a while, but that wasn’t my intentions on the day in question. I was focused on Howard’s body language, the glare in his eyes, looking for any subtle off-movements, even his choice of dialogue. There’s been something bugging me for some time now that I have a firm and dedicated belief for. Todd and the company of Bethesda are in fact a part of a secret cult. I know how crazy it sounds, but please just hear me out. Allow me to take you back to the traumatizing experience that started all of this.

Orange, red, yellow – the leaves brought an offset of color to an otherwise gloomy autumn day. The season also happened to be the prefix to the disc that was held in my hands; Fallout 4. I was a little late at having my try at the game, as I picked it up around November of last year. Still, I was pretty excited to give it a go. It has gained a lot of popularity, after all.

With the game in my PS4 console, I recall myself sitting on my bed for hours on end. I was fully absorbed into the wasteland-filled virtual environment, forgetting about the spilled cup of cola on the floor next to my feet and the fallen slice of pizza on my bed sheets. The real world around me was ultimately non-existent. It wasn’t until my controller died that reality peeked through again. I, however, only used this moment of clarity to freak out and quickly plug in a charging cable between my system and controller. I had to hurry and jump back into the Fallout universe. This is where I felt like I was worth something. This is where I didn’t feel alone.

Fallout 4 was a game where I could build, fight, and help people in need. The settlement crafting system pulled me in, allowing me to create houses out of resources I worked so hard for. Enemies that got in my way, I would fend off, using practical weapons I made myself. On quests I found mutants and irritated hostiles, the likes of which led me to achievements. These accolades made me feel great and wanted in this made-up reality. Finally, something made life livable that didn’t happen to be prescription or recreational drugs.

My virtual ecstasy, however, came to an abrupt halt. I began noticing some things out of the ordinary, even for a game of fantasy. I’d come up to these electronic terminals in the game and noticed some patterns. Whether I was in a shopping mart, a library, or a museum, the same word would pop up on the terminals, along with the rest of the text. I never really noticed, until I saw it appear even in multiples on some of the screens. The word that struck my attention was “end.” Most wouldn’t bat an eye at this. I mean, the game IS set in a post-apocalyptic world, so the word “end” is rather fitting. For one reason or another, it didn’t feel fitting to me at all. I see this word pop up all the time throughout my life. Everyone has that magic “number” that seems to follow them everywhere they go, whether it’s the lucky number 7 or unlucky 13. Well, mine is the word “end.” I see it inside gas stations, grocery stores, the daily newspaper, even on cereal boxes. This word is constantly being thrown at me.

As soon as I started noticing this, I decided to look at one more terminal in the game. I came across one that was fairly easy to get to – there wasn’t much disturbance, just some destroyed cars, no enemies in sight. This terminal didn’t seem unusual at first, with the same common words lit up on the monitor. Then, something obstructed the screen. The entire thing filled up with my least favorite word, typed over and over. It sped up gradually, eventually to the point that my eyes couldn’t keep up. I was wildly confused, wondering if this was just part of the video game. It was then that I turned off the game, not caring about where I was or when I last saved my progress. I was far too spooked to continue.

Later that evening, I shared the experience with one of my close friends while hanging out at his house. I told him I finally gave the game a shot and mentioned what happened, hoping he wouldn’t judge me and perhaps would know what I was talking about. My questions, to my dismay, were not answered.

“I’ve put hundreds of hours into Fallout 4 and that isn’t anything I’ve witnessed in my playthroughs,” he stated.

This led me to believe that I had simply played the game for so long, that it had taken a toll on my mental state. Somehow, this theory just made me feel worse.

Walking back home that day, my phone kept ringing from all sorts of numbers, all of which I assumed were telemarketers, considering I didn’t recognize the numbers. I ignored them for a while, but there was one I decided to finally answer.

“Hello?” I questioned in a cautious tone.

“Hey, this is GameStop. Your copy of Fallout 4 you ordered, has arrived from the warehouse. You can come by and pick it up anytime. We’re open till 9pm today.”

“Ah thank you…” I responded in a confused fashion.

I started answering more calls, my cellphone being bombarded with one new number after another. Perplexed would be an understatement of which to describe my mind at that point in time. Each phone call was from a different GameStop, at least a dozen or so from across the country, calling to tell me I had a copy of Fallout 4 ready for pick-up. At this point, I was more so frustrated than confused. I assumed my friend was playing some sort of prank at my expense. I eventually began blocking the numbers as they came in.

Despite knowing where the calls were more than likely coming from, something about the ordeal wasn’t sitting well with me. To make matters worse, something far more peculiar happened upon opening the door to my home. I didn’t walk through the doorway, no not in the slightest. As soon as the front door opened, I found myself sitting on my bed, controller in hand, looking directly at my TV screen. It’s tough for me to explain, but it felt as if I never left the house. The game itself was still running, stopped right where I left off, the word “end” plastered across the terminal screen and yet again multiplying rapidly. I shot up from my bed and unplugged both my television and Playstation. I looked up and noticed something – everything in the room was just how I left it, but the walls… they were undoubtedly different. The word “end” surrounded the perimeter of my bedroom, written in all different colors and sizes. At first, I was outraged, wondering who had broken into my home and vandalized my room. I thought it might have been my friend, pulling out all the stops to severely spook me. If so, it was working. This explanation fell flat when I realized that the word painted across my room was written in my own handwriting.

But hold on, how does this make any sense? A harmless glitch, hallucinations, and writing on the walls? What does it all mean? Well, at this point I wasn’t sure, but I knew I had to get to the bottom of it. Without a better plan in mind, I decided to go directly to the source – Todd Howard himself.

And this is what brought me to a room full of boisterous clamor, waiting for the presentation to be over. I grew anxious sitting there, hoping I could speak with Mr. Howard. I didn’t know what he’d say or if he’d even believe me, but I was a slave to my own wishful thinking. Perhaps he could explain all my worries away and put my mind at ease once and for all. Unfortunately for me, my issues couldn’t be fixed with a patch or update.

My heart racing, there finally came a time everyone left their seats. My legs were shaking, but that was mostly from sitting for such a long period of time. Just as I was about to stumble through the exit and head backstage, a man grabbed me by the arm and pulled me aside. It was none other than Todd Howard, an answer to my prayers.

“About time, sir! We’ve been expecting you,” he exclaimed.

“You…have?”

“Of course, I’ve been waiting for you to get the hint. To finally come join us. Just, please don’t tell anybody,” he replied.

“Join you for what?”

“I’m gathering a number of people to help us at Bethesda to start a doomsday plan. I’m not at liberty to say why you or any of the others were chosen, but I can tell you that we are using Fallout as a net, to capture those that can be of use to us. It also foreshadows what the world will look like in the near future. That’s if, of course, you and the others are willing to join us. We can’t do it on our own.”

“What would happen, hypothetically speaking, if I don’t join?”

“Well, you’re free to do whatever you’d like, but the end has already begun. If you don’t help us, someone will take your place, and I just know that you’ll regret it. The clock is ticking.”

Mr. Howard handed me a business card, upon which was the text, “Preregister for your spot on the end list, today.” along with a 1 800 number. I took the card and went back to my hotel room to get some rest and process everything. It’d be a nice way to relax and hopefully cope with the strange events occurring in my life. I would soon find that relaxation was nowhere within reach.

Entering my room, anger and disorientation came over me. The TV in the hotel room was lit up with a copy of Fallout 4 playing. It was stuck on the same screen with the word “end” typed up all over it, just as it was back on that November day. As if this wasn’t enough, my phone rang, though this time a number I recognized.

“Hey Dad, what’s up?” I answered with, as I normally did when my father called.

“Hey, I’m sorry to bother you during your trip, but I have some upsetting news to share with you. Your brother, he just passed away moments ago…”

“Wait, what? How?!” I shouted out of shock and despair.

I was never close to my brother, with him always being away at war and what not. It sounds horrible, but it felt like he was more of a distant relative than a sibling. Even still, my heart sunk.

“The nurses aren’t completely certain, but they claim radiation poisoning was at fault. I find that questionable, because no bombs have been dropped near his location. They’re going to do a further analysis in the coming week to let us know.”

“I’ll be back in town as soon as possible, please keep me updated if any other information comes up. I’m not sure how to handle this, I was just talking to him a couple days ago…” I let out, along with a single tear of pure grief.

“I will, son… this is just as hard for me, and I’ll be devastated for as long as this world lasts. He’ll be looking down on us, smiling. At least he’s in a better place.”

My father said this in a tone of hurt and heartache. He then changed the subject, probably to lighten the mood a bit; something he awkwardly did to avoid dealing with more serious issues.

“Hey, by the way, I have a piece of mail I found stuck in my door tonight, pretty odd for a Sunday. It has my name on it, but I think it’s for you. Says something about a “Fallout 76 Beta invitation” and has the word “end” written all over it. Do you want it?”

I hung up on my own father. I’m not sure why or how I found myself in this ongoing nightmare, but it feels like I’m trapped in my own apocalypse. Take these words however you’d like, believe what you want, but Bethesda is not a game company. Todd Howard is up to something and this is the start of the end.

 

CREDIT: R.T. Maxim

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A Talking Crow Taught Me To Fly

by cnkguy
A Talking Crow Taught Me To Fly

A Talking Crow Taught Me To FlyReading Time: 4 minutes

I used to look out the rusted iron bars of my window and dream about being a bird.

The chain that shackled me to my bed was just long enough to reach the windowsill, and so every night after my father would visit my room I would lie awake and wait for the first rays of light to creep over the horizon, then walk over to my window to listen to the morning’s first few notes of birdsong.

Their melodies were so beautiful, I knew that they must have been singing about places far away and wonderful, about sailing on the wind through endless blue skies, looking down at the treetops that dotted the land below.

Then, one morning as I lay in bed, something impossible happened. I had fallen asleep the night before, and would have missed my morning birdsong but for a tapping on my window. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and sat up to see a crow sitting outside on the sill, tapping my window with his beak.

I crept over to the window and smiled at the bird.

“Hello, Mr. Crow,” I said.

“Hello little girl,” said the crow.

I stood there dumbfounded for a moment, not knowing what to say. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I forced myself to speak.

“You know how to talk?” I said.

“All birds know how to talk,” he replied. “It’s just that not all humans know how to listen.”

I pushed my window open a crack until it hit against the bars. The bird cocked its head in curiosity.

“Why are you in a cage?” it asked.

“I think it’s my destiny,” I said. “It’s always been this way.”

“You look rather thin,” replied the crow. “Would you like something to eat?”

My stomach gave a weak growl.

“Yes,” I said. “That would be wonderful.”

Without another word the crow took flight. A few minutes later he returned with a small branch of figs. The crow watched me as I greedily devoured the fruit. After I had finished he stared at me for a moment before speaking again.

“I didn’t know they put people in cages,” he said. “Do you think they mistook you for a bird?”

“I don’t think so Mr. Crow,” I said.

We whiled away the rest of that day talking. The crow told me all about what it was like to fly, how there was no better feeling in the world. He told me about the far away lands he had visited when he was a young bird and could still make the journey north with the changing of the seasons. Finally, evening came and the crow said that he had to go. The next morning he was back, however, with two more branches of figs.

I thanked him for his generosity, and we talked another day away. That day he even sang me a song. He didn’t have a voice for singing, but I thought his song was beautiful anyway.

We passed the entire fall that way, and the bird’s visits became the only bright spot in my life. He brought me not only figs, but cherries and walnuts too–anything small enough for him to carry.

Soon, however, winter came, and with it the frosts that destroyed the figs and cherries that the crow had used to bring me. His gifts became fewer and fewer, and I could tell from his tired voice that he was flying farther and farther away to get them.

One morning, when the first snows of winter had fallen, the crow asked me a question.

“What would you do to leave this place?” he asked, cocking his head to the side.

I thought for a moment, but I wasn’t sure how to answer. Finally, I told the truth.

“I would do anything to leave this place,” I said. “Anything at all.”

The crow solemnly nodded and said, “The frost isn’t the only thing that winter brings.”

He flapped his wings once and jumped from the windowsill, and I didn’t see him for three days. I began to fall into a deep depression. Every morning I would still listen to the birdsong, but it sounded forlorn and empty without my friend there to listen with me.

The morning after the third day my crow friend returned. It was so beautiful that day; the sun had come out from behind the clouds to melt the snow–one of the last green days before winter came in earnest. As the shadow passed over the valley in which we lived, I first mistook it for a storm cloud, but then I heard the sound. It was loud enough to crack the sky, but it wasn’t thunder–it was birds.

Thousands upon thousands of them descended on our house. A whirling storm of beating wings and shrieking caws, they crashed into the walls and windows, pecking at them with wild ferocity. The house shook under their assault, and their calls were so loud that I didn’t even hear the windows breaking.

They were not so loud, however, that I could not hear my father scream. It was over in a matter of minutes, and the key to my shackles slipped under the door. I rushed over and picked it up with trembling hands, sliding it into the metal cuff around my ankle and turning it.

The cuff came loose with a heavy click, and for the first time I was free.

The key to the door slipped under the jamb as well, and I opened the door to the rest of the house. The place had been all but destroyed. There was splintered wood and broken glass everywhere, and in the center of the living room was what remained of my father–a pile of bloodstained feathers.

The birds had all flown off, but Mr. Crow sat on top of the living room fireplace, regarding me with a curious look.

“Now you can fly free, little girl,” he said. “No more cages for you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Crow,” I said. “Will you come with me?”

Mr. Crow shook his head.

“I am an old bird,” he said. “And my journey is coming to a close. But yours is just beginning.”

Mr. Crow flapped his wings and took flight, and I never saw him again. As I stepped out of the front door my bare feet touched the grass for the very first time, and I could smell the flowers on the breeze as it drifted over me.

At that moment, though my feet were firmly on the ground, my heart was soaring through endless blue sky, far above the world that I had left behind.

I still wake up every morning to hear the birds sing, and when the first few notes break the silence of the early dawn, I think of Mr. Crow and smile.

 

CREDIT: lifeisstrangemetoo

(You must ask permission before narrating this work. Click HERE to do so)

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I Will Never Work for McDonald’s Ever Again

by cnkguy
I Will Never Work for McDonald’s Ever Again

I Will Never Work for McDonald's Ever AgainReading Time: 4 minutes

Just to preface, I have a lot of scars on my arms. Not because I harm myself, but because my father likes to get wasted and beat me. Sometimes with the beer bottles he smashes after he’s done drinking. So yeah, I have scars. Scars from all of the horrible shit I’ve gone through over the years. They go from my wrist up to my elbows, reminding me of all the times I had to protect myself from my father’s drunken rage. Because of this, I wear long sleeves at work, that way nobody will make asshole remarks about them.

Now, I had been at the McDonald’s in my hometown for over two years, mostly working nights. One day when I came in, I noticed a sign taped to the ice cream machine. Broken. Not an uncommon thing to happen, but we had just gotten it fixed the week previous. Whatever, I thought. One less thing for me to clean.

At around midnight, I was washing the windows across from the counter. All of a sudden, I heard a low humming sound. I turned around to see where it was coming from. It was the ice cream machine. This was weird, considering it was supposedly broken, but I had known some of our appliances to spring back to life without warning, so I wasn’t too spooked by it.

I walked over to shut the thing off. At about five feet away from the counter, I felt what seemed like water running down my arms. I thought it might have been a chill, but as I moved closer, the coolness turned to fire. I felt sharp pains wrapping around my arms, then moving up to my shoulders and down my back. I stopped walking and rolled up my left sleeve. At first, everything looked fine. Nothing unusual. I took another step forward before it hit me and then looked back at my arm. My scars… they were gone. I quickly rolled up my other sleeve to check. It was the same, no scars in sight.

I felt another watery sensation on my back, as if a whirlpool had opened up in my skin. I touched at the area under my shirt and felt it. Skin, not properly healed. Was it my scars? Freaked out, I backed up towards the windows. I watched my wounds as they slithered back onto my arms where they had been made. I froze for a moment, then took a few steps forward. My scars moved once again. I moved back and forth, towards and then away from the counter a few times. Every time I stepped forward, my scars squirmed around like worms in the dirt. When I moved away, they went back into place. How was this possible? What was causing my wounds to travel around my body?

Once I got used to my scars’ movement, I decided to search for some answers. I looked behind the counter, near the fryolator, and further back by the grills. Then, I noticed something. The ice cream machine had stopped humming. As I moved toward it, my scars began frantically snaking around my skin. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the damned thing wasn’t even plugged in. I opened up the lid, looked inside, and saw a silver liquid sloshing around where the ice cream normally was. I reached my hand towards it, if only out of curiosity. As my fingertips touched the surface, it stopped moving and my entire hand went numb. I felt a strange feeling come over me in the form of a thought. Was it alive? I put my hand in a little further and felt something within the wet metal. It was rough to the touch, but perfectly round; a metallic sphere of sorts. I tried to pull at it, but when I did, the liquid began crawling up my arm. Frightened, I pulled back, and ran right out of the store. Without even so much as saying anything to my manager, I got in my car and drove home, truly terrified of whatever it was I had felt.

The next morning, I woke up on the floor of my bedroom. A sudden dizziness compelled me to grab my head. It was warm, borderline feverish. Was the night before just a weird nightmare? Or did I smoke too much after getting out of work? Frazzled, I made my way to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I placed my hands on both sides of the sink, staring deeply into my own eyes. I then inhaled, closed my eyes, and lowered my head. When I opened them, I noticed it. They were gone. I raised my arms closer to my face, twisting them side to side to check all around. My hands then darted to my back. They weren’t there either. I quickly shut the door to the bathroom and locked it. I undressed and scanned every inch of my body. My scars had vanished.

Feeling born anew, healed from the troubles of my past, I exited the bathroom with my head held high. I didn’t know how or why, but I was thankful. Completely elated, I decided to go about my day, venturing down to the kitchen for some breakfast. As I rummaged through the fridge, I heard a loud thud come from the direction of my father’s bedroom. I glanced down the hall and noticed that the door was closed. I tiptoed over and cracked it open a bit, careful not to wake the beast. The room was pitch black. He had hung a blanket in front of the window to block out the light, as he often did when hungover. I felt along the wall for the light switch. When I flicked it on, I saw my father, laying on the floor, his face beaten in. On his arms were scars, but not just any scars. They were mine. I would recognize them anywhere. Next to him, was a metallic, silver sphere. I didn’t think, I didn’t scream, I didn’t do anything that I probably should have. I just ran.

 

CREDIT: R.L. Rogers

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An Open Letter To My Daughter’s Killer

by cnkguy
An Open Letter To My Daughter’s Killer

An Open Letter To My Daughter's KillerReading Time: 2 minutes

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.

 

CREDIT: Tobias Wade

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Her World Painted Black

by cnkguy
Her World Painted Black

Her World Painted BlackReading Time: 13 minutes

When Alexis Blakely arrived at the home of Phillip Kramer, the rain was falling in long diagonal slants beyond the windshield of her car and the whole street lay half lost in rainy haze of the cold, gray, and dismal winter afternoon. Mr. Kramer lived in a large three-story house with a double car garage that had fallen into a state of mild disrepair. In the front yard, a disfigured tree that bore the scar of a past lighting strike loomed over an expanse of knee-high grass. A dilapidated shed sat at an uncertain angle a few paces away from the double car garage. One of the two garage doors was open.

Still a little nervous about the arrangement she had made with Mr. Kramer, Lexi pulled into the garage and parked her aging ‘90s model Honda Civic next to a 1934 Rolls-Royce that looked as though it could have only recently come off the assembly line. The Rolls-Royce was a status symbol, something that indeed confirmed Mr. Kramer’s success as an artist, but it also stuck her as a desire to strive for and achieve perfection. Lexi was only twenty-three, and while physical perfect came easy to her in terms of her appearance, she understood the visual aesthetics took numerous shapes and forms and that some of them were more difficult to achieve than others.

Lexi killed the engine, opened the driver-side door, got out of her car, and stood for a moment admiring Mr. Kramer’s Rolls-Royce. Her phone rang in her hand. The caller ID displayed MR KRAMER. She pressed the green ANSWER icon on the screen, lifted it to her ear, and hoped she sounded confident.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hello,” Mr. Kramer said. “Is that you down there, Miss Blakely?”

“Yes.”

“Splendid. Let yourself in. I’ll be right down.”

“Okay.”

Mr. Kramer terminated the call.

Lexi slipped her phone into the back-right pocket of her blue jeans and went through the side door that connected the garage to the kitchen.

Under normal circumstances, she would have told Phillip Kramer to shove his request up his ass, but he had promised to pay her exceptionally well, and he had incredible references from other extremely famous artists, several prestigious galleries that only sold pieces upward of six figures, and models from around the world that made most of the typically Hollywood actresses look like trailer trash.

In the kitchen, Lexi detected nothing unusual for an elderly man of sixty-seven who lived alone. The light was switched off, the dishes needed to be done, and through the pantry door, which he must have left ajar, she spied a stockpile of canned food that didn’t require much chewing to consume. An empty food bowl and water bowl sat on the floor. Lexi wondered where Mr. Kramer’s dog was for a moment, for she heard no barking, and the bowls were far too large to have been meant for a cat, and then it occurred to her that his dog may have been deceased and that he had either left the bowls there in memory of his believed pet or simply forgot to take them up. Both options pulled at her heart strings.

She heard Mr. Kramer hobbling down the stairs a moment later and when he entered the kitchen, Lexi was surprised to discover that he not only walked with a cane but that he was only possessed one full set of fingers. The four digits of his left hand had been detached from the rest of him at the knuckle. His thumb remained.

“. . . been worse,” he said.

“Huh?”

“I said it could’ve been worse.”

Lexi looked up from his hideous hand. She hadn’t meant to stare, and now to her chagrin, she could feel herself beginning to blush. She tried to look him in the eye and managed to with some difficulty. His eyes were blue-gray and faded, like the sky beyond the window. Beyond the kitchen windows, the wind picked up and whipped the rain across the front yard in a cascade of violent swirls. Mr. Kramer had begun to explain.

“Could’ve been my right hand—”

“I’m sorry.”

“—the one I paint with,” he said, ignoring her preemptive apology.

“I didn’t mean to stare.”

“It’s okay, Miss Alexis. It really is. Some people openly deny it.”

“What happened?” she asked before she could stop herself.

Mr. Kramer smiled, thoughtfully. Then he picked up a chewed-up can of potted meat from the counter and turned it over in his hand. It had teeth marks on it. Lexi hadn’t noticed this upon first entering the kitchen, and as she watched Mr. Kramer turn it over in his hand, she found herself unsure if he was examining it for the sake of inspection or if he was examining it to buy himself time to answer he inappropriate question. Beyond the kitchen windows, a bolt of lightning flashed followed immediately by a crack of thunder. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he tossed the can into the trash, and turned his attention back to her.

“It’s an old sexual injury,” he said with a wink.

Lexi blushed deeper, and they shared a good laugh. Then she followed out of the kitchen, into a short hallway, and up a set of narrow stairs, which he climbed enthusiastically in spite of his handicap.

In a narrow hallway at the top of the stairs, Mr. Kramer looked first to the left and then to the right, as though he either wasn’t sure which way he was going or hadn’t decided yet.

“C’mon,” he said, turning to Lexi. “I’d like to show you some the painting in my personal collection before we get started.”

“That would be wonderful. Mr. Kramer.”

“You can call me Phil, Miss. Alexis.”

“Okay. But only if you call me Miss Lexi.”

“Agreed,” he said.

Mr. Kramer led the way down a hall. He did not merely hobble along with the cane, he leaned steeply into it. He stopped in front of a door, unlocked it, opened it for Lexi, and gestured that she should enter first. She did. The light was switched off. But there was enough light slanting through the windows for her to make out the subject of each painting hanging on the walls of the otherwise bare room.

“These are the ones none of the galleries will take for a variety of reasons,” he said, leading her around the room clockwise. “I take great pleasure in showing them off once or twice a year, although the last model I invited vomited and collapsed in a screaming fit on the floor half-way through this little tour. I like to think it was my art that distressed her so strongly, but my lawyer was later able to somehow prove in a court of law through means that remain unknown to me that she was an epileptic.” He paused for a moment before he continued. “You aren’t epileptic, are you?”

“No.”

“Splendid. Let us continue then, shall we?’

She gestured for him to continue.

The paintings on the walls depicted a number of strange scenes, figures, and faces, many of which were painted against either blackness absolute or very dark and depressing backgrounds. The female figures were typically painted either nude or only partially dressed. But a number of the male figures were also depicted in the same way. The painting depicted humans displayed a number of expressions and moods. But there were also painting in which human beings were depicted in death. Evisceration, dismemberment, decapitation, and in mass graves were all present. Half glimpsed demonic creatures—male, female, androgynous, hybrid, monstrous, beastly, and demonic—also prevailed throughout the gallery. There were also hellish landscapes depicting rivers of blood, caves full of body parts, forests with figures hung from the trees, and beaches littered with plastic bottles and bone fragments.

Lexi enjoyed tour, and once Mr. Kramer concluded it, he led her back into the hallway, and locked the door behind them. Then he led her to another room at the other end of the narrow hall, unlocked the door, and gestured for her to enter.

“Welcome to my studio,” he said.

There were photographs, drawings, and paint on the walls. A tall bookshelf overflowing with volumes stood in one corner. A projector stood in another. Pencils, paint, charcoal, notebooks, and canvases lay strewn across the floor. An easel stood in the middle of the room. A paint spattered easy chair and table with a cluster of bottles stood beside it. Some of the bottles contained paint. Others contained brushes. Opposite the easel, there was a couch with a lamp positioned above and slightly off to the side of it. The light in this room was also switched off, and although Mr. Kramer did not switch it on, he did switch on the lamp. Mr. Kramer gestured at the couch.

“You can set your clothes wherever you like, Miss Lexi, and don’t worry, there’s no need to hurry, I still have to paint this canvas black before we can begin.”

Lexi looked around. Almost every surface in the room had painted on it to some degree or another, but she eventually settled on an old end table beside the only window in the room.

“You can leave your socks on,” Mr. Kramer said.

“Okay.”

“I’d actually prefer it if you left your socks on.”

“Okay.”

“I don’t like feet.”

“That’s okay, Phil. I don’t either.”

“Splendid. You wouldn’t believe the trouble feet have caused me over the decades, you really wouldn’t. I’ve had several bizarre encounters with women who were obsessed with their feet. It’s an unhealthy obsession, feet . . .”

Standing in front of the end table, she slipped her phone out the back-right pocket of her jeans and set it on the end table. Then she added her car keys and purse and glanced back at Mr. Kramer. He was hard at work, painting a large canvas black, still talking mostly to himself about how much he despised feet, and didn’t seem interested in watching her undress. Lexi didn’t have a problem with him painting her nude, for he had promised to pay her quite well, which was their arrangement, but looking out the window into the stormy expanse of his back yard, Lexi felt as though she had overlooked something

(sinister or strang)

about Mr. Kramer. Except . . . that wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t Mr. Kramer. It was something else, something about his house, something unseen that didn’t sit quite right in her mind.

But what is it?

Lexi didn’t know.

She stepped out of her shoes and nudged then against the end table with one foot that was still-socked against the end table.

Beyond the window, the rain and the lightening and the thunder were still going strong. The grass, weeds, bushes, and trees capered in the wind, and Lexi thought it was entirely possible that the wind might uproot one of the older, deader trees in the back yard before the sun set that evening.

She took hold of her T-shirt at the bottom, pulled it up over her head, set it on the end table, and ran a hand through her hair, casually readjusting it in the opaque reflection of herself in the window. She undid her belt buckle, the button of her jeans, and the zipper. She pulled her jeans off, sliding one leg out at a time, and set them on the end table on top of her T-shirt.

Still dressed in her bra and panties and socks, Lexi glanced back at Mr. Kramer. He was working on painting his canvas black in a heavily focused sort of concentrated silence.

She reached behind her back, and she was just about to unhook her bra, when she spotted somebody in the backyard and spotted. They were standing in the rain, and their back was turned to her at first, but then they turned, and made eye contact. The rain was still falling too heavy for her to make out the finer details of their face, and although she couldn’t see their eyes, she was certain that they were looking at her dead on. She stepped away from the window, unaware that she had let out a wispy gasp of freight when she had first glimpsed the figure.

“What’s wrong?” Kramer asked without looking up.

“The man . . .”

“What man?”

“There’s a man in your backyard.”

Mr. Kramer grabbed his cane, stood up, and hobbled over to the window, moving quickly with a sense of haste. Lexi stepped out of his way. Mr. Kramer scanned the back yard beyond the window for a brief moment. Then he turned to Lexi with a fiery intensity in his eyes.

“Can you describe him?” he asked.

“What?”

“I asked if you could describe him.”

“There’s a man—”

“If there was, it’s gone now.”

“He’s gone?” It’s . . . ?

“Yes and no. Are you sure you saw a man?”

“Well,” she said. “I’m assuming it was a man.”

“Did you see somebody in the backyard or do you think you saw somebody in the backyard. There is a difference.”

“I don’t know.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, looking wildly around the room. He leaned his cane against the window still, yanked the draw of the nightstand open, and withdrew a large revolver with a long barrel. He flipped the cylinder open, inspected that there were bullets inside, and snapped the cylinder shut with a flick of the wrist.

“Whoa,” Lexi said, holding her hands out in front of her in a gesture that meant: stop, slow down, calm down. “What are you doing?”

“It must have followed me back.”

“It?” And then more shrilly she repeated herself: “It!”

“Most people can’t see them, not even when they want to be seen,” Mr. Kramer said. He pawed at his cane with his useless left hand, realized he wouldn’t be able to carry both the revolver and the cane, turned, and hobbled away from Lexi. As he crossed the room, he mumbled something under his breath about how bad this was, and his dog, and how he should have known something like this could have happened . . .

“You’re gonna tell me what in the name of fuck is going on here!” Lexi shouted, setting out after the crazy old man dressed in her bra and panties and socks.

He had already slipped into the hallway and disappeared, and by the time she made it to the last point she had seen him, he was nowhere to be seen. She listened, heard him on the stairs, and made her way down the hall. She reached the stairs just in time to catch a glimpse of the old man limping briskly around the corner of the door at the bottom.

“C’mon, you dog-killing son-of-a-bitch!” he shouted. “Show yourself!”

Lexi descended the stairs, taking them two at a time.

Mr. Kramer was storming down the hall. He rounded another corner. A sound of breaking glass rang out, a gunshot sounded, and there was a muffled cry. Lexi broke into a run.

A moment later, she rounded the corner at the end of the hall and found herself in a modest dining room. The window was shattered, and she her step became suddenly cautious as she was wearing only socks on her feet. Mr. Kramer was lying face down in a spreading pool of blood on the floor. The revolver lay just beyond his reach. Lexi thought he had been shot in the abdomen at first. Then she turned him over and saw that he had been eviscerated in a manner that did not indicate that he had been shot. His whole midsection had been ripped open, some of his intestines were hanging out, and although his eyes were open, it was evident that he could no longer see anything in the world of the living.

Something moved. Lexi wasn’t sure were the sound had originated, but she didn’t waste any time scooping up the revolver from the floor and pointing it wildly around the room.

“Who’s there?” she said, pointing the revolver back toward the hall from which she had just come.

No answer.

She pointed the revolver at the threshold to living room.

“I’ll shoot.”

No answer.

Lexi backed out of the dining room, retraced her steps, opened the door that she thought would lead back upstairs, and stepped off into darkness. Her feet left the floor, the doorway at the top of the stairs spun like a kaleidoscope, and she tumbled ass-over-teakettle down a ragged set of wooden stair. She landed in a crumpled heap on a cool concrete floor. Only then did she realize that she had opened the door to the basement instead of the upstairs.

Sprawled on her ass in the rectangle of light that feel from the doorway above, she had somehow managed to hold onto the revolver without dropping it or pulling the trigger, but her left forearm was now crooked at an unnatural angle. It didn’t hurt. But the sight of it made her feel nauseous.

Everything remained bathed in unnatural silence for a moment. Then she heard the unmistakable sound of a stair creak underfoot. There was nobody there, but visual confirmation wasn’t enough now, for she no longer trusted her survival entirely to her sight alone. She leveled the revolver at the empty stairs, aiming dead center from where she was seated to the door at the top of the stairs and pulled the trigger. The barrel jumped, the shot resounded in the concrete space, and damn did that feel good. But her euphoria was short lived, for a burst of blood ushered fourth from seemingly out of thin air.

She pulled the trigger again and again and again and again. Blood exploded two out of the four times she pulled the trigger. Her ears were ringing now, and she couldn’t hear the click of the hammer falling upon empty chamber. Her adrenaline was pumping now, and she couldn’t feel the revolver failing to kick back in response to a bullet being projected from the chamber. Someone

(something)

cold and slimy must have fallen down the stairs, for she felt it crash into her and she felt it group her leg. She simultaneously kicked out at it with the heel of her foot and scooted back on her ass. When she found her footing a moment later, she was still pulling the trigger of the empty revolver.

The darkness seemed to be pressing on her on all sides now, thick and heavy, as though it possessed weight. She backed into a shelf and knocked a bunch of cardboard boxes full who knows what. Her breath was coming in short bursts that was hard to control and her heart was pounding in her chest. There was something lying in the rectangle of light at the bottom of the stairs. She thought it was the man she had seen from the second story window only moments before, and as it groaned and pulled itself to its feet, it was. But when its eyes feel upon her, it remained humanoid only shape, for its features, including its eyes, melted away into those of a leathery reptilian creature. Its jaws were full of needle-sharp teeth that gleamed in the low light. She had apparently shot it once in the chest, once in the leg, and once in the head. The former seemed to be causing it the most pain. The latter had merely grazed it. It took a single nightmarish step toward her. Then it stopped, grinned, and flipped on a light switch.

A crack in Lexi’s sanity opened like a chasm at the bottom of an ocean trench. It was so much worse in the light. She threw the revolver at it and backed away from it deeper into the shadows, screaming. It followed.

She tripped over a box, fell on her injured arm, and groaned. Then she spied the door not much further back in the shadows. The reptilian figure was still coming after her, but it was evidently hurt, and the injuries she had inflicted on it slowed and labored its movements.

Lexi moved toward the door, hoping it wasn’t locked. The reptilian figure was closing in on her now. She grabbed the doorknob, wondered if in the event that it was lock if she would be able to physically overpower the reptilian figure, and twisted hard. It was unlocked. She opened the door and fled into a greater darkness than she had ever known.

It was quite some time before she realized she there was no longer a concrete floor beneath her feet, and eventually she felt grass brushing against her legs. Certain she had finally lost the reptilian figure, she plunged into mushy ground, and she soon wading through the waist-deep water of a fetid swamp. A bloody red light began to gather strength in the distance ahead, and as the night began to give way to an ever-reddening sky, Lexi began to wondering in a half-broken sort of way where exactly the door in the dead artist’s basement had taken her.

When she reached solid ground, the redness had fully illuminated the hellscape in which she had fled and she stopped to rest among a copse of limbless, leafless trees. She was standing at the bottom of a steep escarpment, and at the top among the large obsidian rocks, she soon spotted the disfigured silhouettes of horrible creatures.

Humanoid, beastly, demonic, none of them were quite the same in regard to their physical appearance, and although some of them spoke amongst each other in strange guttural tongues, others merely pointed down to where Lexi stood, gesticulating and/or hopping up and down a frenzied manner.

But despite their differences, Lexi soon noticed they all had at least one thing in common and she shuddered with dread.

They had all taken a fierce interest in her arrival.

 

CREDIT : Scott Landon

 

 

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The Sign of Dragados

by cnkguy
The Sign of Dragados

The Sign of DragadosReading Time: 18 minutes

The following narrative was discovered written on the pages of a sodden logbook that had been rolled up and crammed into a plastic bottle. The bottle was found on the shore of Easter Island on November 3, 1999, and its contents have since become the subject of serious interest among a growing number of academics, scientists, and anthropologists. Some claim it’s a hoax. Others claim it can be validated. But nobody really knows exactly what happened to the crew of six fishermen aboard the Miranda when it went missing on October 12, 1989.

The sodden logbook narrative reads as follows:

I first noticed the hideous smell of rotting crab shortly after sunrise on the morning of October 7, 1989, but the crew and I didn’t discover the source of the foetide until nearly dusk. The fog was heavy, the waters were choppy, and for most of the day, St. Mathew’s Island lay to the south of the Miranda. But aside from the godforsaken smell, it was an otherwise typical day of fishing on the icy waters of the Bearing Sea.

The guys on the deck—Harlow, Ethan, Farley, and Smith—had just finished reeling in the last crab pot of the day. Our cargo hold was slam-full of Alaskan king crab, and I would’ve liked to hightail it back to Dutch Harbor, unload our catch for processing and payment, and trekked back out north of Hall Island to catch more crab. But when the drifting ship loomed suddenly out of the orange haze to our starboard bow, it demanded our attention before we could depart, for it was massive, nameless, lightless, and floating aimlessly in the steadily darkening water.
From where I sat in the wheelhouse situated above the deck, I picked up the radio and depressed the PTT button.

“This is Zackary Leon,” I said. “I’m the captain of the America fishing vessel east of your portside bow. I smell trouble. No pun intended. Is everything okay? I’d like to know, over.”

I let off the PTT button, waited. I received no response.

“Please respond, over.”

No response. No nothing.

“I say again, this is Captain Z . . .”

I tried two or three more times. I tried flipping through the bands. But I never received a response. The ship’s navigation computer displayed our latitude and longitude coordinates at 60°37′ 51.9”N, 172°52′ 40.5”W. I jotted them down. Despite the blank spots that are like missing reels in the film of my memory and the lapses I fear have began to occur in my sanity, I believe the location I logged is correct, for the logbook in which I am currently writing this account is the same logbook in which I transcribed these original coordinates.

Once I had done all I could from the wheelhouse, I shrugged into the caribou jacket I kept hanging from the back of the seat and joined the guys on the deck below. The drifting ship smelled worse up close. It was still a little way off to the west. But I could already tell it was at least three to five times larger than the Miranda. I had no idea what it was supposed to be used for at first, either. It wasn’t of naval design, neither American nor Soviet, and it didn’t resemble a cargo or cruise ship.

“Probably it’s a floating factory or an abandoned pirate rig,” Ethan said. The guys nodded in agreement with this suggestion, and although I agreed with him, an abandon ship required an investigation. If we had glimpsed activity aboard it, we couldn’t have legally justified boarding it, but none of us saw even the slightly sign of life aboard it, and the horrible smell of the decaying crab ushering fourth from it indicated that something strange and possibly quiet terrible had befallen its crew.

I returned to the wheelhouse, and once I had brought the Miranda alongside the drifting ship, we tied off, gathered our gear, and boarded it.

Ethan, Farley, and Smith came with me. We carried flashlights, walkie-talkies extra batteries, a bag containing a few simple tools, and a first aid kit. We stuffed out mouths with chopped garlic to combat the smell, and we each carried extra garlic with us in our pockets. I left Harlow in charge of our ship. From the wheelhouse, he would able to both keep in contact with us via walkie-talkie and contact the Coastguard once it came time to notify them of the details concerning the situation we had encountered.

The four of us—Ethan, Farley, Smith, and I—crossed the deck of the other ship without incident and tried the first door we came upon. It was unlocked, we opened it, and the foetide that fell upon us was indescribable. We stuffed more garlic in our mouths. In the beams of our flashlights, the interior corridor before us stretched away into the stygian darkness.

“Is s-somebody in there?” Farley called.

We received no answer, save for the hollow echoes of Farley’s voice resounding back to us: “Is s-somebody in there?”

If there was anybody aboard, I feared they weren’t doing so well.

“. . . body in there, in there, there . . . ?”

I checked in with Harlow via walkie-talkie. Then we ventured into the corridor and made our way deeper into the foul-smelling confines of the ship. We relied on our flashlight to find our way, for there was currently no electrical power aboard the drifting ship.

In the galley, we found plates stacked neatly in the cupboards, a clean sink, and an undisturbed store room heaped with food, all of it a painted a perfect picture of neatness and order. Whatever had happened, it had not interrupted a meal, for even the tables were wiped clean. These details reminded me of the eerie tales and the proposed theories that surrounded the missing crews of ships like the Mary Celeste, the MV Joyita, the Zebrina, the Baychimo, and a British schooner named simply Jenny. I still remember the way Jenny’s captain was allegedly found seventeen years later in a chair with a pen in his hand, dead and frozen, perfectly preserved by the frigid weather of the Antarctic. The final message in his logbook had read: May 4, 1823. No food for 71 days. I am the only one left alive.

It’s the tales of old that haunt sailors and fishermen the most. Storms, monsters, piracy, anything can happen out here in the blue.

We found evidence of sabotage in the engine room. It had been done in a hasty fashion, as though whoever had done it hadn’t care if anybody noticed the damage as long as nobody could fix it. This struck us as extremely odd.

In the crew’s quarters, we found nothing of interest aside from a length of rope tied to a pipe running an inch or two below the ceiling. The rope was about an inch thick and frayed where it had been cut a foot below where it had been tied off. We didn’t know what to make of it at the time. The crew’s personal affects were all in order, the bunks were made tight, and the linen looked like it would smell clean if we weren’t chewing on a mouthful of garlic to combat the hideous smell of rotten crab.

We found the captain seated at his desk in his quarters, facing the wall and turned away from us. His head was lolled to the side, and when we spun the chair he was sitting in around so that he would face us, it became apparent that he had shot himself through the roof of the mouth with the revolver lying on the blood and brain splattered desk in front of him.

I picked up the revolver, wiped it off, and turned it over in my hand. It had a long barrel and a blue steel finish. It was a Colt Single Action Army, also known as the Peacemaker and the gun that won the west. I’d seen this particular make in more than a few Hollywood westerns.

“Do you know a lot about guns?” Smith asked, looking nervously at the weapon in my hand.

“No,” I said, flipping the cylinder open. It was chambered for .357 Magnum cartridges. Two of the chambers had cartridges in them. The other four were empty. I swung it shut with a flick of the wrist and glanced around the room. One spent cartridge lay on the floor beside the captain’s desk. Three others lay in the middle of the room, as though he had fired upon an intruder before retreating to his desk to take his own life. A few questions surfaced in my mind. Why was there no blood by the door? How did the captain miss three times at such close range? Can I be certain he missed? And why weren’t there any indications of the bullets impacting the door or nearby walls of his quarters? We had stumbled into one hell of a mystery.

Ethan had been checking the captain’s pockets for identification but had yet to turn up anything more than the name tag on the captain’s shirt which we could all read plainly for ourselves: Jón Sigurðsson

“This is really weird,” Ethan said.

“Why?” Farley asked.

“The captain’s Icelandic.”

“Why is that strange?”

“Iceland is in the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the North America.”

I thought about this. There were all kinds of explanations. But the most logical one was that Captain Sigurðsson had departed from his country of origin to fish elsewhere.

I set the revolver to dead captain’s head, jokingly.

The dead man didn’t flinch.

“Where’s your log book?” I asked in a demanding tone.

The dead man didn’t say.

“Don’t make me blow your brains out a second time.”

The dead man didn’t seem to care.

I set my thumb on the hammer—

A strange thought ran through my mind: Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it . . .

—and cocked it back, as though I was trying to scare the dead man into thinking I was crazy enough to kill him again.

“Whoa,” Smith said, grabbing my arm, pulling me back.

“Yeah,” Farley said. “Calm down, Captain.

“What are you doing?” Ethan asked.

“Relax guys,” I said. “I was just kiddin around.”

Or was I?

I’m not so sure, not now that I’ve had time to think about it. I might’ve really been dead set on blowing another hole in that dead man’s head for not telling me what I wanted to know, which was funny because he didn’t have the ship’s logbook on him and we never found it. The whole idea had just sort slipped unbidden into my mind before I even knew it was there. In hindsight, Smith looked far more creeped out by this incident than both Ethan and Farley. I think he sensed the latent evil lying in wait quite some time before the rest of us did.

We headed down to the processing floor. Unlike the Miranda, this ship didn’t have to go to port to unload its catch. It was equipped with everything it needed to process and package its crab at sea, which allowed it to waste less time in nautical transit and stay out at sea for up to two months at a time. The processing floor smelled the worst, for it was packed full of hundreds of thousands of dead, dying, and decaying crabs in various stages of decomposition. They smelled stronger up close.

At the other end of the large room, we found a small room heaped to the ceiling with office furniture. The small room led to another larger room devoid of furniture but stacked full of bodies, each man seemingly dead by his own hand.

A blonde-headed woman in a white dress sat among the dead. She didn’t acknowledge our presence, and although she had a pulse and was breathing, her green eyes didn’t blink, dilate, or react to us in any way when we attempted to communicate with her. She could’ve been as young as nineteen or as old as twenty-three, it was hard to tell, for she was covered in bloodsplatter from head to toe. As far we could tell, she hadn’t been physically injured, and we were eventually forced to conclude that she was suffering from some sort of trauma-induced catatonia.

A closer inspection of some of the dead who were dressed in shirts, sweaters, or jackets with name tags on them indicated that the entire crew was of Icelandic descend and that the ship was possibly of the same origin, which both made exactly zero sense. I remember some of their names. But I don’t recall all of them: Ólafur Einarsson, Sævar Jónsson, Jakob Hjálmarsson, Eyþór Helguson, Sigríður Vilhjálmsson, Vilhjálmur Goðrúnarson . . .

We carried the catatonic woman back to our ship, and tried to contact the Coastguard, but ship’s long distance radio was on the fritz. We were unsure about how to go about cleaning the woman up at first, but Smith had done a combat tour in Grenada as a medic before he had joined my crew, and he didn’t feel uncomfortable undressing the woman and scrubbing all the blood off. I was just thankful somebody else had volunteered. I told Farley to set a course for Dutch Harbor and send him to relieve Harlow in the wheelhouse. Then Ethan, Harlow and I went to our bunks and retired for the evening.

I couldn’t sleep at first, for the scene of horrible massacre we had discovered remained fresh in my mind. I wondered if it had been carried out in a ritualistic manner, for what purpose, and what the woman had to do with it, if she had anything at all to do with the events that had transpired on that ship. I thought about many things: ships, seas, crabs, money, faces, men, women, knives, guns, blood, death, legs, thighs . . .

[the rest of this page is sodden and illegible]

When I woke on the morning of October 9, everything was fine. In the nightmare from which I had awakened, something unseen had followed me through the rust-encrusted confines of some great sunken ship. The lighting was dim and the overall ambience caused in me rising sense of impending doom. But by the time I dressed and went up to the deck, the nightmare had already faded too deeply into the background of my thoughts to trouble me. A pink sunrise was spreading across the eastern horizon, the sea had calmed, and we were only thirty-six hours away from Dutch Harbor. Ethan was in the wheelhouse, Farley and Smith were asleep, and Harlow was in the galley with the woman.

She ate if food was placed before her, provided somebody helped her get started, although she had to be coaxed into drinking from her cup periodically and then restarted on her food. She possessed greater competence when it came to using the toilet. Smith had dressed her in one of his T-shirts that was far too big for her, a pair of his briefs (Harlow told me Smith said there wasn’t anything else aboard the ship that would fit her waist and that he would’ve felt weird if he had just left her dressed in a t-shirt, even if it did hang almost to her knees), and a decent pair of warm socks. She didn’t look too bad all cleaned up, save for her constant blank stare.

I spent some time at the sink scrubbing the blood off the clothes that she had been wearing when we found her, and I eventually managed to get the blood off. It wasn’t apparent just how strange these articles were until they were clean. The dress, while it bore a slight resemblance a nightgown, was more form fitting, and laced up like a corset in the back to what I presumed was an exact fit. The clasps were made of some type of pallid god of which I had never seen before. Everything about it—from the stitched patterns of hideous sea creatures and alien-looking fauna that flowed all over it to old-timey yet otherworldly aspects—looked custom, handmade, and expensive. The under garments were just as strange. I wasn’t even sure what to call them, I’m still not, although I will state that they were extremely conservative for the modern era, not bloodied up too badly, and didn’t smell bad for the extent of the time that that woman most likely wore them. I called Harlow over to examine my finding, but he couldn’t offer a plausible explanation to explain the strange clothing the woman had been found wearing. In fact, he pointed out several even stranger things that Smith had found the night before that I hadn’t noticed.

The backside of the woman’s hands and part of her forearms were tattooed with the same designs as the dress, the blue ink clearly done by a talented hand. In addition to the tattoos, she wore two pale gold bracelets, one around each wrist, which appeared to be made of the same type of strange gold-like metal as the clasps on the back of her dress. The two bracelets were form fitting, too tight to remove, and were engraved with the glyphs of a language unknown to me that was too small and complicated for me to decipher, let alone copy. But, according to Harlow, that was not even close to the weirdest thing Smith had discovered the night before, for while the woman was sitting at the table staring mindless at nothing in particular, Harrow gently pulled her chair around so that she was facing us and pulled up the front of her T-shirt so that I could see the hideous scar on her stomach.

It was crescent shaped, like a backwards letter C. It ran from one hip along her pelvis to her other hip before it arched out along her right side and curved again under her ribcage. The scar was raised along the skin, thick, and jagged. Harlow told me that Smith had thought the woman may have undergone some sort of emergency surgery on some under developed island, which I thought made sense, but Harlow also told me that he had once seen a bizarre documentary concerning the mythology of the bygone people of an ancient island.

On this island, the tribal people had built several temples of cyclopean design that modern day engineers could not agree on the techniques used to construct. One of those temples was dedicated to what a linguist in the documentary had translated into: Dragados.

Dragados, according to Harlow’s recollection of the documentary, had been some sort of guardian who sought to prevent the passage of the ancient daemons that lurked in the dark spaces in the walls between the worlds. The people of that ancient island believed that if a woman suffering from daemonic possession should conceive a child, then the daemon would be able to enter our world by latching on and taking over the mind of their offspring. Because of this believe, the islanders removed the reproductive organs of much of their female population, which by extension lead to their demise several thousand years before the birth of Christ. Dragados, Harlow explained, had apparently appeared to an elder member of their tribal population in a dream and taught him just how the procedure should be done. Only a small percent of woman actually survived the procedure, for it was carried out without anesthesia or drugs to prevent infection, but the woman who did survive were often treated with regard to the daemon that was believed to hold sway over them.

Now, while this was both interesting and horrible, it didn’t explain why the woman sitting before me bore the sign of Dragados, for the hideous practice behind the mark in her flesh, if Harlow was correct, should’ve been discontinued over three thousand years ago. She also wasn’t of the correct ethnic descent. She was as pale as they come.

The rest of the morning passed without incident. The crew and I slept and took turns navigating and babysitting the catatonic woman. We didn’t have luck with the radio, though. It was down for the count.

Around noon, I encountered Farley in the short hall outside my bunk room. When I asked him what he was doing, he pointed to the woman. She was ten places ahead of him, sleepwalking. Unlike a normal person, she was more active in her sleep then when she was awake. It was creepy, the way her waking and sleeping states were reversed. Sometimes she mumbled things in her sleep, but the language was guttural and foreign to our ears, and we had no idea what she was talking about.

We were only twenty-four hours from Dutch Harbor when Ethan radioed me in the wheel house from the mechanical room. Smith had hung himself with a length of rope from one of the overhead pipes. His body turned slowly in a semi-circle, from left to right and back from right to left and so forth, the churning sea keeping his suspended body in a state of perpetual motion. We cut him down. Everybody except the woman seemed really shook up about it. It affected her no more than anything else did.

The Miranda’s navigation systems failed two hours later, my compass stopped working, and by the time the sun had set, risen, and set once more, it was apparent that we had missed Dutch Harbor. But if, we kept sailing east, I thought we would eventually find the west coast of the lower forty-eight. But when we were still sailing in the middle of open water three days later, I began to worry. On the morning of October 13, according to the ship’s navigation computer, we were located at the latitude and longitude coordinates 47°08’60.00”S, 26°42’59.99”W.

I didn’t know what was wrong with the navigational computer. It wasn’t possible to travel that far across the northern Pacific Ocean in such a short span of time and end up in the southern Atlantic Ocean. I mean it’s entirely possible to make such a voyage, but it would entail either utilizing the Panama Canal or sailing around the tip of South America, neither of which we could’ve done in such a short span of time. However, there are a number of possible explanations for the Miranda’s drastic change in location. We could be suffering from hallucinations brought on by exposures to some caustic chemicals aboard the drifting ship. Or the Miranda could’ve traveled through a rip, tear, wormhole, cosmic bend, thin spot, rose window, flesh interface, or some other type of currently undiscovered type of non-electric oceanic portal. Or the navigation computer could be malfunctioning. Considering that the radio was still on the fritz, the third one made the most sense, but it was also getting harder to deny the overall sense of wrongness that seemed to be hanging about the ship.

On October 15, two days later, I found Ethan dead in the mechanical room. He had slit his throat with a pocket knife. Harrow, Farley and I stopped talking soon after his death. We no longer trusted each other, or perhaps it was just a ruse, for they may have been conspiring to commit mutiny against my authority. It occurred to me on more than one occasion that I might have to resort to violence to keep my ship in order. It was an interesting thought.

I had another nightmare on the night on October 16, and when I awakened in the morning I felt quite certain that it could’ve actually occurred. In the nightmare: I awakened to a noise in the middle of the night and went up the deck to investigate it. From where I stood on the deck, I could see that something was not quite right in the wheelhouse. The windows were darker than they should’ve been and it appeared that some sort of monstrous figure was moving around on the other side of the glass. I was carrying the dead captain’s revolver and I decided to investigate this horror without fear, for I felt powerful and unafraid of the thing in the wheelhouse. However, upon opening the door to the wheelhouse, I found only Harlow and the woman. They were both asleep. Harlow’s eyes were closed and his body was still.

The woman’s eyes were also closed. She was sitting on his lap at an angle that allowed her to trace the contour of his jaw with one of her fingers. She opened her eyes and almost seemed to look at me and smile, and although I felt suddenly drawn to her by some sort of unseen power, I also felt repulsed, for there was something that struck me as predatory and reptilian about her eyes at the moment.
I thought a lot about what Harlow and I had previously discussed during the day, and found myself wondering several times that if by some circumstance the catatonic woman had been surgically mutilated by some practitioner in the same ancient ways practiced in the Temple of Dragados . . . then what daemon had they believed she harbored?

On October 17, I woke in the middle of night to the woman standing bedside my bed and suffered a bad fright, for before I realized it was only her, I thought I had glimpsed a hideously malformed piebald creature with a set of inhuman eyes peering down at me, crimson and hateful, but it soon dawned on me that it was only the woman, and I got up, lead her to the galley, and made her some oatmeal and bacon. No longer tired, I spent the rest of night trying to avoid Harlow and Farley. I didn t do anything else.

I never saw Harlow again. He may have abandoned ship, somehow. He was quite resourceful like that. However, shortly before dawn on the morning of October 23, I walked in on Farley doing something to the woman that I do not care to describe in graphic detail.

Later, after the sun had risen and set once more and I felt certain Farley was asleep, I crept back to his bunk room with the revolver I had taken from the dead captain of the drifting ship, for Farley had not seen me earlier, and I intended to murder him in his sleep.

But he was already dead when I returned. He had amputated his left hand with a [illegible] knife and bled out. I left disappointed, found the woman in the galley, and helped her into bed. I didn t do anything else.

I woke later that same night, disoriented and frightened, from a horrific nightmare that I could not immediately recall but that I have since suffered through numerous times. I checked on the woman. She was wide awake in her bunk, which had formally belonged to Smith, and she was staring at the ceiling when I entered the tiny room, unmoving and motionless, the contour of her body outlined beneath the sheets. I sat down on the edge of her bed and brushed a strand of blonde hair out of her face. She looked so peaceful and lovely that I just couldn’t resist. I didn t stay long.

[the rest of this page is sodden and illegible]

It’s November 1, 1989. The crabs have started eating each other. They’re dying and rotting now. I don’t care about the lost profit. I don’t care about the smell. I’ve been locked away in the tiny office located behind my bunk room since the night after I found Farley’s body. After I checked on the woman and returned to my bunk room, I felt distressed. I went to my office and I shut the door and I locked it. I’m not going back out there. I’m safer here. The woman has knocked on the door twice in the last hour, but mostly she is just pacing around out there, although sometimes she lapses into screaming fits, and on three occasions I’ve heard her weep and call out in a strange, guttural tongue that seems to be composed almost entirely of vowels. Although it’s foreign to my ear, her inflection strikes me at times as that of a dammed soul begging their creator to release them from their hell even if what follows is some kind of other inescapable hell of an even more permanent nature. She wants me to open the door. I won’t. I wish I still had some garlic, maybe a crucifix, or a shotgun. I would send her on her way if I could. But I can’t. I’m terrified. The thing out there trying to coax me out of here isn’t really a woman at all. I had it right the first time, the night I woke with her standing at my bedside. She’s a daemon wearing a false glamour that she uses to lure weak-minded sailors and fishermen like me. No, I shouldn’t say that, for there’s another—far worse—possibly. The woman might be simply a victim of daemonic possession, like those ancient islanders believed, scarcely aware of her surroundings, save for in the depths of her dreams, and she is probably halfway around the world to insanity by now, incapable of independent existence, even if a proper exorcism was arranged on her behalf. The daemon, the daemon, the daemon is female, for I have known her intimately in my blood-drenched nightmares over the course of the past several nights.

Now, to be honest, I’ve told a few lies in terms of omission over the course of this account, but by coming clean, I hope to convince anybody who happens across this account in the future to understand and believe that I don’t have the same luxury of choice in my nightmares that I have in the waking world, for when she comes to me in the odd hours of the night, she comes to me while I’m sleeping, and I cannot move, and I cannot deny her of what she wants, and then she is on top of me, lowering herself onto me, moving up and down, and her blonde hair bouncing about her bare shoulders, uncovering and recovering her pallid flesh. And then her features begin to melt and change, and she changes from woman to man to beast to abomination to daemon to devil and then to something so strange and ancient that my mind is incapable of comprehending the act of total annihilation that is being wrought upon my sanity. She may have been Adam’s first wife, Lilith, the mother of all vampires, and the first drinker of [illegible]. She drinks the [illegible] of her victims after they kill themselves, but she first devours their souls. She was ancient when this world was still young, and although the ancient islanders prevented her from crossing completely back over into this world, she will live out the eons with great ease, moving from one ship to the next, slipping and sliding—through means unknown—in and out of the beyond that connects the shores of this world to an infinite number of incomprehensible sister worlds. She also wants my [illegible].

I won’t do it again.

I won’t.

I won’t.

I still have the revolver!

[the rest of the page is covered in bloodsplatter]

 

CREDIT : Scott Landon

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