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The Summer I was Eighteen and Saved

by cnkguy
The Summer I was Eighteen and Saved

The Summer I was Eighteen and SavedReading Time: 6 minutes

The summer that I was eighteen, I was trying to find something bigger than myself. I was a dumb kid, but dumb in the sense that I didn’t understand when I was in too deep. Ask me anything about literary devices in storytelling, and I could write you a thesis paper. I whacked at the course selection pinata until it broke, and I swept away as many college credits as I could.

I lived in a town full of potheads and low income housing. My parents made 20k a year combined, and we were the richest people in the village. I spent most of my time in the theater program and playing Dungeons and Dragons in the cafeteria until the janitors kicked us out.

But the summer that I was eighteen, I was a month away from being a counselor at a camp, two months away from attending college seven states away from all I’d ever known.

And so, the summer I was eighteen, we were kicking stones behind a building that had seen three restaurants in my brief lifespan, none of which were very successful. The last one, we had been fifteen and it tried to market itself as an organic farm-to-table kitchen. But considering the average lunch of most people in my town was PBJ on bread from the Food Pantry, it didn’t last much more than six months.

Someone broke a window about a week after it closed. Maggie tried to crawl through said window to take a photo for her “abandoned chic” Instagram one time. She sliced her leg open and we had to call an ambulance. The photo was a pretty nice aesthetic though, half-erased curling chalk font advertising blueberry pancakes. Even the paramedic agreed, though she advised us not to trespass again.

No, we weren’t bad kids. But nevertheless, we found ourselves behind this building time and time again, glancing in to see the dried blood smear inside that still testified of Maggie’s art.

I think Grayson was smoking, something that I hated. But of course, it was perfectly legal now, and at least he put his cigarette out before he sat with us on that park bench.

But it was Grayson that brought up Rachel. We hadn’t seen her much, since we walked out of that high school auditorium with papers in our hands. We’d spent that night together, still being Good Kids but celebrating our graduation with orange crush and a bonfire. Grayson and Dean had some weed, I think, but the rest of us just threw sticks into the fire and talked.

Rachel was quiet that night, just sitting on the canvas chair and scrolling through her phone. She kept waving us away when we asked if she was ok.

When the sun really went down though, it got way too cold for the girls who wore skirts (and Dean, who wore shorts to graduation like some sort of scumbag) so I ducked into the house to grab some extra sweatpants to distribute. I was determined to make Dean wear my fluffy pyjama bottoms with the sheep.
Rachel came with me, and I remember she just broke down. I didn’t know what to do, I mean, I was just a dumb kid with an armful of fuzzy pyjama bottoms and when she started crying I just dropped them. I put an arm around her shoulder and she sat on my bed and just… we stayed there for too long. She sobbed into my favorite Star Wars hoodie and I rubbed her back. She didn’t speak, just cried for the longest time.

And when she finally spoke, it was apologetic. “I’m sorry. Next month I leave this all behind, I’ll be better.”

“What happens next month? College?”

“No.” she shook her head, the curls from graduation already starting to fall out from their pinned prisons. “I’m not doing college anymore. I’m getting help.”

And I just didn’t know what to say. I had been the last one to “get help,” I’d been stuck in such a rut the last half of Junior year, and finally I let loose to a school counselor. I’d been writing in a journal and generally had my depression pretty much under control since then, except for every few months.

We stayed there for longer, quiet except for the muffled sound of music we didn’t really listen to coming from Ronnie’s speaker.

She left the party after that.

“I don’t know where Rachel is.” Grayson had said.

The fact that Grayson had brought up Rachel meant he had something new, or at least that’s what I hoped. She changed her number sometime during the summer, my messages had stopped being delivered.

The way he phrased it, it should have clued me in, but my brain was still clogged with memories of muffled bass and bitter tears.

“Isn’t she in the hospital?”
“She’s not, though.”
“Well, did you call her parents?” Amber asked then, her hand curled in Muhammed’s.
“Her parents are dead, Amber.”

We all half-laughed then, because that couldn’t be possible, we all knew her parents, and Grayson was probably high or something, but then he pulled out his phone.

“No one’s at their house, no one’s answering the phone, and look. I took a walk through the cemetery down on Main Street.”
Margaret and Peter Stephenson. Death dates three months ago.

“That’s not funny, Grayson.” Maggie said then, “Did you find some tombstone generator online?”

“I wouldn’t make this up. Look, it’ll take us fifteen minutes to get there if you don’t believe me.”

And he was right, because of course he was. It was almost dark out, but by the light of Ronnie’s cell phone light we could make out the words. Black marble and carved crosses, just like the photo.

And in the light, we spotted her.

Rachel.

“Thanks for bringing them, Grayson.”

And we all looked to him, and Ronnie swung his phone light around and he looked like he wanted to run, like he was fighting back an urge to vomit.

And when he turned the light back to Rachel, there were others. Hooded figures in burgundy, there must have been thirty or fourty of them, and they didn’t make a sound – they just stood there, waiting.

“Who the hell are you?” Amber shouted. “What the hell do you want?”

“My friends,” Rachel said then, in a voice that wasn’t her own. And then I caught it, the posture, the way she moved. It was like she was broken. Like a puppet that was being held together by strings.

Maggie swore behind me as she approached, lifting a hand to Grayson. Silently, we shuffled away from him.

“I’m sorry I had to do this to you.” Grayson apologized, and it took me a minute to realize he was even talking to us, because he kept his face pointed towards Rachel and the strange burgundy robes.

“What did you do?” Dean demanded.

“We keep things right in this town. We keep the evil from entering it. We keep the souls from leaving it, the souls we want to save.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Saved, they make us forget.” Grayson’s voice had picked up to a frenzied half-scream. “But the Saved protect us too, from what is out there. We need to become them, so we can know. And to become them, they must feed.”

We didn’t have much time to consider that, or whether Grayson had meant to say more. Rachel, this thing that was not Rachel, that was broken and put together at the wrong angles, it unhinged it’s jaw like a snake, the joints popping and straining. And then it bit down on Grayson’s neck.

Hoods were lowered and then there were many. Many Rachels, many others who we recognized from graduating years past, who had never come back to the town, but we figured that they had settled out west or stayed at school and we never thought of them and

I booked it, that night. I ran like hell, I pushed past Maggie, I grabbed that awful lanyard she wore around her neck with her car keys and her cards, the one that so proudly proclaimed she would attend Cornell in the fall. I thought she would follow, I guess, but she fell and in that moment, my survival was more important.

I stole her keys. I stole her car. I drove it to the bus stop, I used her credit card because her PIN was the same as her lockscreen. And I got out of there.

My parents are still looking for me, I guess. But I know the police are looking for me too. Because they’re pretty convinced I killed my friends.

The summer that I was seventeen, my friend Kris bought two hedgehogs. And I know what you’re thinking, that this couldn’t possibly be the point of this story, but just – hear me out. Kris couldn’t keep the hedgehogs until he moved into his apartment, but he bought the hedgehogs a month before that, so I watched them for that month.

Anyway, the female hedgehog, it turns out was pregnant. Apparently the past owner had kept her with a male hedgehog. She gave birth to three little squeaky babies that looked like raw chicken with grains of rice for spikes. I covered her cage and refilled her water and researched how best to care for these little nuggets.

That evening, she was hissing and spitting as she ate them whole.

CREDIT : MontyBeth

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A Monochrome’s Melancholy

by cnkguy
A Monochrome’s Melancholy

A Monochrome's MelancholyReading Time: 40 minutes

mavis

 

It’s was a chilly but sunny day in the middle of October. A little five-year old girl with short black hair while wearing her white Sunday dress was walking hand in hand with her mother. The woman’s name was Julie Fairbanks, and her little cheerful cherub daughter was a girl by the name of Mavis. It was a family of two, who always held smiles wherever they went and brought cheer to whomever they met.

Julie was a woman of radiance, tall and slender with subtle curves that gave her delicate frame a feminine elegance. She had long and silky black hair with the most beautiful green eyes that anyone had ever seen, with perfect porcelain skin. She was a performer. A singer if you may, who loved music and the sound it brought.

Her daughter, Mavis, had very fair skin that looked as pure as snow, with rosy cheeks and inherited her mother’s beautiful piercing green eyes. However, there was one small problem with Mavis. She had a rare defect when she was born, that only showed around the age of two. Her vocal cords were impaired and thus limited her vocal abilities, almost rendering her completely mute. So whenever she talked, she sounds like she’s whispering and if anything, she could only speak a limited amount in a normally low voice without wearing down her vocal cords any further.

But that didn’t stop her from enjoying the little things that life brings, nor did it keep her from her dreams of wanting to become a singer like her lovely mother. It was a hopeless dream, but dream with all her little heart she did.

Mavis didn’t have many friends, either. Other children didn’t understand her condition and would only tease her. The only ones who she called her friends were the dolls and stuffed animals that she had in her bedroom, which were the only ones who listened to her aside from her mother.

It was after attending church that they walked their way back home, with Julie leaving Mavis in the enclosed safety of their small front yard, guarded by a white picket fence. “Now wait here for a minute, Mavis. I’ll be back in a short while. I just need to get a few things and I’ll be back so we can go to the park.” With that said, Julie quickly made a beeline through the front door and into the bedroom. She made her way to the dresser and opened the top drawer, pulling out a polished black box that resembled a tiny treasure chest, embroidered with small white diamonds. Opening it, she pulled out its contents, which consisted of a simple but gorgeous necklace with a heart-shaped pendant, with half of it embellished in white diamonds and the other half in black diamonds.

It was a gift that she had gotten so long ago from her husband, long before Mavis was born. She smiled as she placed it on and looked in the mirror. “One day, I’ll give this to Mavis. Just as I’m sure he would have wanted.”

The father was nowhere to found. He was around up to the time that Mavis had only turned a few months old, then he mysteriously vanished without a word. Julie couldn’t understand how or why her beloved husband disappeared, and she never heard from him since. He was a man of little words and often came off as rude to others, but she didn’t see him that way and understood him better than most. She had loved him dearly, as he had loved her. She barely had any pictures of him around the house either, which made it even more difficult for Mavis to know that he was there or what he may have looked like. Now it was just her and Mavis.

Speaking of the devil, she remembered that she left her baby outside! Turning heal from the mirror, Julie ran down the hall and out to the front door, finding Mavis safe and, to her curious delight, singing a song. It was light, almost like a bird cooing.

“Mavie, what are you doing sweetheart?” Mavis turned to her mother and smiled brightly. “I’m singing, mama.” Julie smiled at her cherub. “Mavis, you must be careful not to strain your voice. Now let’s go to the park, okay?” Mavis nodded, still smiling ever so cheerfully.

On their way, Mavis asked her mother in a small voice, though it was still clear as day to Julie’s ears. “Mama, when do you think papa will come home?” Julie couldn’t help but stiffen at the question. That was something she didn’t have the answer to. She didn’t know when he would come back, nor if he was still alive. She looked down at Mavis with a small and sad smile. “I don’t know, sweetheart.” Mavis looked at her mother inquisitively before glancing down at the pretty necklace around her mother’s neck. “So pretty…” Julie noticed that she was referring to the necklace that her husband had given her and knelt down, showing it to Mavis up close. “Yes, it is beautiful, isn’t it? It was a gift from your daddy. And guess what?” Mavis looked back up at her mother with curious eyes. “Huh?”

Julie smiled warmly. “Someday, when you’re old enough, this necklace will belong to you. Just like your daddy asked me.” Mavis’ eyes widened that it looked comically adorable. A huge grin spread across her innocent face and she lightly squealed. She then calmed down and asked another question.

“Mama, does daddy love me?” Julie felt sad by this, knowing that her daughter will most likely never know her father, nor of the love he had for the child. “Yes sweetie, he did. He loved you as much as mommy loves you.”

Mavis then stayed quiet for another moment longer before popping the next, most unexpected question. “Will daddy be able to hear me if I call for him?” That stunned Julie. She didn’t want to break her child’s heart, so she went along with her daughter. “I’m very sure he will, baby. Now, why don’t we go into the park and you can play for a while?

Nodding, the little girl grasped her mother’s hand once more and made their way to the park, which was just right around the corner.

Upon arriving, Julie decided to sit with Mavis on a grassy area and pretend that they were having tea time. Mavis insisted on using imaginary cups and teapot, the two of them enjoying a nice cup of tea. The vendor just across the playground of the park was selling some ice cream and Julie smiled with a bright smile. “Wait here, Mavis. Mommy’s going to get us some ice cream, okay?” With a happy nod, the girl watched as her mother got up and headed off to the vendor. As Julie got to the vendor and asked for two cones of delicious sweet ice cream, she looked to the side and saw her daughter mouthing the words of song. She smiled, knowing her daughter dreams of becoming a singer like her. Sadly, she knew those dreams will eventually settle upon the little girl as an impossible reality when she gets older. Speaking of aging, she remembered that her daughter’s birthday was coming up in three days and had to think of something to make her little girl’s day. She remembered seeing a small piano the other day she was at the music center and how much Mavis was going crazy about it. Julie smiled secretly, knowing what to give her little girl.

While waiting for her mother’s return, Mavis got bored with her “tea party” and decided to sing. Her throat started to hurt a bit, so she mouthed the words rather than voicing them. She ‘sung’ “Mary had a Little Lamb” and was lost in her little world, until she felt the presence of someone standing next to her. She glanced up and saw a tall lean man, dressed in a white business shirt with a black vest and black slacks, with white socks and black dress shoes. He wore white gloves and had a rather pale complexion, with sleeked-back black hair with a prominent widow’s peak and dark eyes, bordered with black eye makeup and black paint on his lips. He wore a black top hat, which slightly hid his dark eyes so well and tipped it off to her in a silent and gentlemanly greeting. He smiled a friendly smile to the young child, flashing perfectly white teeth.

He knelt down and placed his hand to his chest, acting as though he was clearing his throat. He mouthed the rest of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, which she left off at the lines of “fleece as white as snow”. Mavis was intrigued as he ‘sung’ with her and joined him in mouthing the words. After they finished, he clapped his hands but no sound came from them. Then, to her surprise, he picked up the imaginary teapot and poured them both some tea. Mavis smiled as this stranger before her came to join her for some tea. He motioned the invisible teacup to his lips, sipping inaudibly. She mimicked his movements, picking up her teacup and sipping from it.

Only to her surprise, she actually tasted the tea! It was lemony sweet, making her taste buds dance. Her eyes widened at the invisible drink before her before looking back up at the mime before her. He shook slightly in an act of chuckling, though as she listened carefully, she swore she could slightly hear the low hum of his voice as he chuckled at her expression in amusement. Placing down the cup, he stood up and tipped off his hat as he was ready to depart. But the girl panicked slightly, silently asking if she’ll see him again.

Though she only mouthed the words since her voice still hurt, it was as if he heard her as he turned to face her. He bent down on one of his knees and with a flick of his wrist, pulled out something unseen from his chest pocket and handing it over to her. Looking at his hand with curiosity, she carefully took the invisible item from his hand and held it in her fingers. It felt like a stem and as she moved one of her fingers up the stem, she pricked her finger on something sharp. She winced in pain, and closed her eyes briefly in pain. When she opened them she was surprised, for in her hand the invisible object he gave her was a beautiful white rose. She looked again at the mime, who was smiling warmly at her. His eyes, however, looked somewhat sad. He then gently took one of her hands and placed a soft kiss on it.

Mavis was captivated by it all. She was intrigued by the lovely white rose in her tiny hand, to the silent monochrome man who treated her like a precious princess. She snapped out of her reverie to notice that the mime was now gone.

Suddenly, she heard a voice. A male’s voice. It sounded like it was from far away, an echo bouncing from it. She couldn’t really make out the words, but to her, they felt rather comforting. One of her fingers absent-mindedly trailed up the rose and felt something rough among the soft petals. She looked down and saw a small piece of paper sticking out among the rose petals and pulled it out. Unfolding it, she saw in black writing the words in beautiful calligraphy “Happy Birthday”.

A light gasp fell from her lips. Her birthday was only a few days away, on the thirteenth to be precise. Just who was that man?

Little did she notice her mother returning back from getting ice cream, smiling brightly at her daughter. “Mavie! I’m back with some ice cream! I got your favorite, cookies n’ cream!” She then stopped as she noticed the way her daughter’s hand was propped. “Mavis, what are you holding?” The little girl glanced up at her mother innocently. “A white rose. A nice mime gave it to me. He wished me ‘Happy Birthday’.”

Julie looked at the invisible white flower, a bit stunned. She was only at the vendor for a few minutes, so there was no way someone could have gotten near her daughter. She let out an anxious breath, thinking that her daughters’ imagination was in play again. She left things be and they both ate ice cream together happily.

After leaving the park and arriving home, they spent the rest of the evening watching some movies and read Mavis a bedtime story before tucking the child to sleep. Julie sat at her vanity, looking down at her pendant one more time before putting it away in the black polished jewelry box. The thought of a mime giving a flower to her daughter was absurd. Comical, but absurd. They were like clowns but are always quiet, and they always do things or use things that were never there. She supposed that it was harmless though. She shrugged it off and placed her necklace back into the box before switching off the light and turning in for the night.

Meanwhile back in the bedroom, Mavis had placed her “imaginary” white rose in a vase with some cold
water on her night table, fascinated by her encounter with the strange black and white man. It was odd, yes, but she was entranced by his odd charm. As she scurried her way to her bed, a thought struck her. She pulled out the small wad of paper that had “Happy Birthday” scribbled on it and smiled. She might get to see him again next year for her birthday again! Taking out a small wooden box that had “Mavis’ Special Box” painted on it in silver paint, she placed the tiny message in there. She closed it and placed it under her bed, already giddy for the following time that she meets her mysterious stranger again.

About one year later, around the same time of the middle of October, Mavis insisted to go to the park.
However, it was gloomy and rainy that particular day and her mother didn’t want to risk her catching a cold. So she sat in her room, utterly bored and disappointed. Her mother told her that she was going to go to the supermarket real quick to get a couple of groceries for the week and left in a hurry, dressed in a raincoat and umbrella in tow.

Mavis was all alone in the bedroom, so she decided to play a small game of go-fish with her ‘friends’. The game was short-lived, for she then heard a small knock on her windowpane. It was light and barely made much noise against that pattering rain, but she heard it loud and clear. She got up and opened her curtains, shocked at the sight. A small checkered Dixie cup with two white roses sat on the edge of the windowsill. She carefully and quickly opened up the window and retrieved the cup holding the two roses.

Attached to the small arrangement she found another note, this time folded in the form of an extra rose bud. On it, in the same elegant black calligraphy was written “Happy Birthday”. This made the girl giddy with joy. He came back to her!

Like before, she ran to the small vase she kept by her night table and placed the rose in it, and like before, she took her little box and placed the small paper in it. Upon hearing her mother return, she ran to go tell her the news or her friend’s return. Julie listened to her daughter’s excited whispers about her returning mime friend, a little shocked to hear the tale. She saw the joy it brought her beloved child and felt some guilt over it. This mime friend of hers must have been some coping mechanism for not having her father around. She placed a hand on the pendant around her neck, the slight feeling of resentment towards her missing husband filling her.

Later that night, Julie tucked Mavis and bid her goodnight, while also taking a glance at the supposedly empty vase on Mavis’ night table. She clenched her fist tightly for a brief second before letting it fall loosely to her side. She hoped that Mavis would someday come to terms that her father wasn’t coming back to them. At least, that was what she hoped. Julie left to her room and sat on her bed, staring at the black polished jewelry box. She felt as though her heart was breaking, staring at the box with the small piece of jewelry safely tucked away inside. Life was certainly cruel.

She knew that unfortunately someday, one way or another, Mavis will have to see things for what they are in black and white, and face the world and its cruel ways. And that, Julie feared more than anything.

But that day came rather quick, and it was about to change everything for them both, especially for Mavis.
About a decade had passed since the incident with the monochrome man at the park and every year after that around the time of her birthday, Mavis kept receiving her white roses from the mysterious mime. After
Julie had bought Mavis a new electric keyboard to replace her old childhood piano, Mavis focused more on creating music, this time for her friend, who in turn for her outstanding performances, would leave small written messages for her with a rose accompanying it. Her mother would often hear the vigorous and lively music when she played throughout the house, her daughter’s vibrant energy and happiness coloring the small familiar home. Although she never questioned her daughter’s continuous connection with her secret friend that brought happiness to her, Julie grew more concerned for Mavis’s attempts to sing, fearing that she would stress and permanently damage her vocal cords.
It seemed that Mavis still had the hope that she would one day recover miraculously from her impairment, and sing to her heart’s content.

Although Mavis’s monthly routine of checking up with her doctor about her condition showed no improvements, it didn’t change the pretty teen’s colorful outlook on life.

But little did she know that the colorful world that she lived in was all about to shatter.

Not long after Mavis had started high school that Julie had met another man. They met when Mavis was around fifteen, and to Mavis’s displeasure, had eventually married after she just turned sixteen.

Despite Julie’s attempts to convince her daughter that this would be a good change in their life, Mavis refused to accept him as her new father. This caused great amounts of tension in the home, as well as starting to create a strain between mother and daughter.

This feeling between the young girl and the man, however, was mutual.

Stuart, or ‘Stu’ the man was called, was an audiophile. He specializes in music and sound quality, using studio-grade equipment. After Mavis’ mother started going into recording for her music once again, she met the man and snaked his way into charming her. In his home, which Mavis and her mother moved into right after the marriage was finalized, he used one of the lower level rooms for his equipment to listen to music, and since it was completely sound proof, it was all the more useful since he needed to hear every little aspect of music. If he felt like the confines of his home weren’t suitable enough for him to do his work, then he would leave late at night, barely mentioning a word to Julie about it, and many times, coming back home very late to almost early morning smelling of liquor and cheap perfume. This bothered Mavis a great deal, for she knew that her mother did develop some feelings towards the man, possibly seeing him almost the same as she saw her father. This, however, didn’t change the girl’s viewpoint towards the sloppy man. She figured him as selfish, seeing that he wasn’t willing to hear anyone’s work other than his own. Mavis also saw his careless and crude ways as the main source of fighting in the home, bringing more darkness into her life.

He took great pride in his work and was a very greedy and old fashioned man. He was also very old fashioned in a way where he took great displeasure in Mavis’s childish behavior and bright personality. But what distasted him the most, was every attempt that Mavis made to become like her mother in singing and even any noise made by her. In his point of view, she found her rather pathetic and an obstacle.

When Mavis had her small performances in her new room, she would gather her stuffed animals as her audience. The mime, who had somehow followed them to the new home, would manage to climb up to the second floor using a stepladder that he would conjure up just to be a part of the audience and hear her play and sing. Her mother, from time to time, would hear her play a tune, and go up to see her play. In fact, he had been making more and more frequent visits to her ever since the move, just after she had turned sixteen.

Ironically, it’s during those times that her wonderful mime friend would disappear for a brief time, only to reappear with his head poking through the window or somehow wind up in her closet, hiding until Julie leaves the room.

Mavis was curious as to why he would be gone when her mother was around, but had been embarrassed to raise the question to him. But he would more especially be gone when Stu would go upstairs ordering Mavis to keep it down, complaining that she was making such a huge ruckus that the whole world could hear her. Mavis would laugh bitterly at the notion of it. Her, making too much noise? Not even the neighbors could hear her or the kids down the street.

There were often times that he would grab her harshly by her wrists to get her to stop playing her piano, or even clamp his large hand over her mouth forcefully, almost bruising her but not quite just to get his message across. This scared the girl a great deal and when she tried to muffle out a sound for help, he would threaten her. On some occasions had the threats escalated, especially when her mother wasn’t home. She would try to call out to the neighbors or some passerby, only her cries wouldn’t reach them and when they would almost see her waving to get their attention, Stu would somehow be right there and pull her roughly aside, slamming the window shut and curse her out. He threatened that if she tried anything funny, that she would be sorry for it later and to make his promise clear, he went out of the way of confiscating her electric keyboard and ruined her stuffed animals by tearing their bellies open and removing all the stuffing from them. And sadly, Mavis had no choice but to believe him, feeling trapped by this monster.

She had thought about calling the police, but there would be no evidence to procure to say that this man was who he truly is. And the last thing she wanted, more than anything, was to have her mother involved, fearing that he would do something far worse if she went that far. There were times that she cursed how life had been to her, unfair to take away most of her voice and leaving her like a mouse.

It was almost quite crude of a thought. Her mime friend would drop by after he left, giving a rather distasteful look towards the door. This made the young teenage girl chuckle, for she wasn’t the only one who couldn’t stand her stepfather. To poke even more fun, the mime would start walking in a certain manner that imitates almost like how Stu walks and make gestures that reflect very much like how Stu is. Mavis would then laugh until she was hugging her sides. It was all fun and games as she and her beloved friend would keep silently mocking the man, until one particular cloudy day.

It was in the very late afternoon, bordering close to sundown. Mavis had just come back from private study with her tutor that her mother had hired after they moved in place of her old one from their old hometown. On any other day she would be wearing one of the classy outfits her mother would give her in hopes of keeping Stu from calling her “wayward” in style. Today, however, she wore one of the more stylish outfits that her mother had given her as a present for her seventeenth birthday, which was also ironically today. It consisted of a bright yellow oversized hoodie with what almost looked like folded cat ears on the creasing sides of the top of the hood, a vanilla colored crop top with a bold red heart pattern on the center, dark denim jeans with the new ripped hole style on the thigh part of the pant legs and white high tops with red stars on the sides of them. Her nails were painted a nice candy red, which was also a gift from her mother. These gifts had made her smile even more, bringing a little bit of light to her gloom.

However, not all was entirely bright in her kingdom.

What caught on to her as strange, was the fact that her mime friend failed to give her a rose like he traditionally does, as well as no ‘Happy Birthday’ note attached. In fact, she noticed that he had been absent for the last couple days, as though his visitations had come to a stop for the time.

Mavis was quite upset and hurt by this, worried as to where her friend had run off to. She tried calling out to him, but he hadn’t responded. She thought about her friend, deep down pleading as to where he could have gone and longed for him to come back. Approaching the front door, she sighed sadly. The sky must have heard her, for it started to pour heavy pellets of rain, the humidity of the rainfall along with the mix of the cool October air making her short, frayed hair stand out on ends. Just great.

Shaking off the slight feel of goosebumps, she smiled a sad smile. After all these years, aside from her mother, the mime was the only one who ever made her day, no matter how gloomy it became. He was her best friend and confidant. The one who truly filled the empty void of her heart in which her father left absent all this time. Now she wondered if he had left her, too. Deep down, she could feel her heart break. She closed her eyes, whispering to herself about how she wished that he would never leave her and stay with her, no matter what. As if expecting for him to appear, she opened her eyes. Nothing. Shaking her head sadly, she turned towards the door and entered the home, closing it securely behind her.
Upon approaching the stairs, she heard her mother and stepfather apparently arguing in the kitchen, which was just a little further down from the base of the stairs.

She could barely make the words, but it sounded like her mother scolding him for his obnoxious behavior and accusing him of his late-night escapades only to come back home wasted and reeking of another woman’s musk. She could also hear the sharpness in his voice as well, calling her mother a liar and criticizing her of acting like a bitch for such ridiculous insinuations.

She then heard Julie raise her voice even further, her hurt and anger evident. “You’re the ridiculous one, Stu! Coming back home nearly at the brink of dawn just for your work?! I’m not stupid and don’t you dare make me think that you are too! I know you’ve been out ‘working’ your way through nothing but cheap bottles of alcohol and whores from the street!”

“Shut up, you stupid bitch! You have absolutely no idea what you’re even talking about! You’re just a batshit little jezebel with a lousy, handicapped wretch of a girl who’s a mute!”

Julie felt hot tears burning at the ends of her eyes. “Don’t you DARE bring Mavis into this! She has nothing to do with YOUR irresponsible and disgusting behavior, you uncultured swine!”

SMACK!

Mavis gasped as she peaked in and just saw her mother get backhanded by the volatile male. Some blood trickled down Julie’s nose, a huge red mark now slowly forming into a bruise on the side of her face. But that wasn’t it. To Mavis’ further horror, Stu pinned the woman who was still on the floor and began landing blows on her, fists colliding against her beautiful and delicate skin.

Grabbing a nearby bottle by the edge of the table, Mavis quickly acted and bashed the man on top of the head, knocking him over. Hurriedly, Mavis pulled her mother onto her feet. The young girl could only choke back a sob; her mother’s face was now a bruised and bloody mess. Her right eye swelling into a black bruise and her face a blend of blues, purples and greens, and her bottom lip split wide open.

She took a hold of her mother’s hand and pulled her out of the kitchen. Just as they reached the base of the stairs, they were tackled on by none other than Stu, blood running down from his messy brown hair.
His blue eyes were red with rage, which frightened Mavis greatly.

He grabbed Julie and punched her hard on the chest, knocking the wind right out of her and sending her flying towards the wall adjacent to the stairs, near the sofa.

Mavis wasted no time and lunged at the man, trying her best to hold him back. He was a guy of a tall stature with an average build, and Mavis was average in height with a slender build, making it very difficult for her to restrain him as well as dangerous.

With one quick move, Stu slung the girl over and threw her down harshly on the floor, her lithe body landing with a loud thud. She cried out in pain, her back feeling sore. However, before she could make any movement to get up, the brazen brute pinned her down with the weight of his body. He gripped her wrists tightly and placed his legs in between hers to prevent her from kicking any weak points.

As she adjusted her gaze up at the man, Mavis was petrified with fear. He leered down at her lecherously, a twisted and sadistic grin marking his features. “You little shit! You think you know me, huh? Heheh. I heard it’s your birthday today. Seventeen, right? Well, let’s just see how much you have grown up!” He then took both her wrists up with one large left hand and pinned them above her head, while his right one creeped up her pale flat stomach and under her crop top.

Mavis let out a screaming sob, her vocal cords straining ever so with every sound she could make as she cried for help. “N-No! Stop!”

Thankfully, the gruff man’s groping had ceased as Julie bashed him in the face with a stool that she nabbed from the edge of the kitchen doorway upon hearing her child’s screams for help.
He flew backwards, his nose completely broken and bloodied and two of his front teeth knocked out from the gums with blood oozing from his mouth as well.

Stu roared in pain, screaming obscenities as he clutched his broken face. Julie quickly pulled her frightened daughter up and started bolting up the stairs. Stu struggled to get up and as he staggered after them, he fell again. He felt a sharp pain, realizing that he sprained his ankle. He growled in anger. “YOU BITCHES ARE GOING TO BE SORRY!” He hollered from the bottom of the stairs.

Upon arriving upstairs, Julie and Mavis ran into Mavis’ room. Knowing it wouldn’t be long until Stu reaches the top, Julie concocted a plan. A risky one, but they had to take the chance if they wanted to get out of this alive. Who knows what that madman was capable of?

Julie took a hold of her daughter’s hand and placed the necklace she wore in it. Mavis looked down at her hand then looked back at her mother. She tried to speak up, but her throat ached with a stabbing soreness. Julie shook her head. “No, Mavis. Don’t speak. Listen to me carefully. He’ll be up here shortly. I need you to hide in the closet and wait until I give you the signal. When I tell you to go, you must run downstairs and call the police. You must try to tell them what happened and have them come here. I’ll stay and hold him off long enough for you to go make the call. If for some reason something happens and he comes after you, you must run out of the house and promise me not to look back. Understand?”
Mavis’ shook her tear-stained face, but her mother gripped her tightly. “Please, Mavis! It’s our only chance!”

Hearing her stepfather fumbling loudly up the stairs, Mavis nodded and hugged her mother, gripping the necklace tightly in her pale hand. She quickly rushed into the closet and waited, peering through the thin opening of the closet door.

Just as they heard the footsteps coming closer, Julie glanced at her daughter, mouthing an apology to her for all this mess.

The door burst open, Stu looking like a bloodied mess and fuming at his wife. “You… You are so done…” He threatened. As he slowly approached her, Julie gathered her willpower and lunged at him, clawing her nails at his face. “NOW! GO!”

Mavis bolted out the closet door, and sprinted down the stairs, not daring to stop. Once she reached downstairs, she turned the corner and picked up the phone. Her trembling fingers dialed 911 and anxiously waited for someone to pick up.

She could hear screaming from upstairs, her nerves wracking her body. How could no one hear them?!
Finally, someone picked up. “This is 911. What’s your emergency?”

Mavis gathered as much strength in her voice, speaking as clear and loudly as she could. “H-Help! M-My mom… H-He’s going to kill u-us!” There was a brief pause before the person on the other line answered. “Hello? Ma’am? Are you there?” Mavis screeched, her throat feeling like it was ripping open. “CAN YOU HEAR ME?!”

A sudden high pitched scream scared her followed by the sounds of a body falling down the stairs, the sounds of bones cracking before a loud crunch indicated that it landed on the floor base of the stairs.
Mavis peered around the corner, her breath caught and her eyes wide. There at the bottom, lay her mother’s broken and battered body. Her left arm positioned ever so that you could see it twisted out of place and her legs crumpled against the wall. Julie’s head was turned in a way that was beyond natural placement of a human head, a pool of blood flowing around her silently on the marble floor. Her eyes were wide, the look of horror frozen on her broken and dead face.

It’s like time had stopped all at once around her, all noise slowly fading away into the background. She dropped the phone, not hearing the crashing sound as it hit the table with a ‘clank!’. She couldn’t hear the faint sound of the operator on the other line relaying a reply that units are being sent on the way right now, now apparent that the scream was heard from the other end. Her body shook as she continued to stare at the sight of her beloved mother’s mangled corpse, her grip on the necklace ever so deathly. The dull echoes of Stu’s panicked footsteps seemed so far as he arrived to the bottom of the stairs, looking down at the dead body of his wife before looking at Mavis.

Mavis slowly moved her attention to the bulky man before her, her empty stare registering him before trying to make a mad dash towards the door. Her attempt of escaping was in vain, as the man grabbed her hood roughly and yanked her back. She tried to scream, kicking and bashing her arms at him with all her might. But no sound came out of her mouth. Her voice had finally gone from her attempted cries for help.

Stu struggled to keep a grip on the girl, unable to avoid her hits as her arms smacked him through her struggle. He made his way back down the hall, dragging the girl with him. He opened the door that lead to the small, soundproof room that he used for his work, which was under renovations since a week ago and remains now as a soundproof black room with a small white light lingering above and grey looking furniture that consisted of a metal fold up chair and a plain metal table.

Her nails managed to scratch one of his eyes that he jerked back with a howl. As he briefly let her loose, he violently shoved her into the room. Mavis’ body landed hard on the cold concrete floor of the room, the only form of visibility was the single white light fixture on the ceiling above her and the light of the illuminated hallway where her stepfather still stood in. “You little brat. Now see what you’ve gone and done?! Cops are sure gonna come here, now. You will stay here and STAY QUIET!” With that final remark, he slammed the door, locking it.

She got up and ran towards the door in a desperate try to get it open. She opened her mouth and tried to scream as much as she could. Despite her futile efforts to scream at him and scream for help, it was no use, as no one would hear her through the room and no one would hear her as her voice was now long gone. After what seemed like hours to her of jamming the door and shouting through her mute mouth, she felt her willpower die down. The warm tears no longer flowing from her eyes and the vibrant life that once filled them were now but a dull shade of bottle green.

She slowly walked to the back of the dimly lit room and sunk by the wall surface, hugging her knees. Why? Why would no one hear her? Why couldn’t they hear her? She screamed. She shouted. She made all the noise she possibly could, but it was all for naught.

The only one to have heard her was that bastard of a stepfather and her now dead mother… And him.

Her cold pale fingers clenched tightly into a fist, nails digging into the skin and drawing small drops of blood.

Why? After all this time, he never came back. Had he never left, none of this would have happened. What kind of man would leave his wife and child behind without notice? She looked down at the necklace in her bleeding hand and threw it across from her, landing perfectly in the middle of the light.

She hated him! She wished that he was dead and that the other man would die! That they would ALL die! How dare they go on about their lives and not suffer! Why does she have to be the one to go through all this?! She thought with bitter resentment and hatred as her face remained stone cold. Why should they be heard when they refused to hear her???

Just as though all seemed lost as she thought away the hatred that she bore, the sound of footsteps could be heard in the room with her. Her gaze settled in front of her, as in the shadows of the dark, came out a familiar figure.

A tall lean man, dressed in a white business shirt with a black vest and black slacks, with white socks and black dress shoes, and on his hands he wore white gloves and with skin so very ash pale. He wore a black top hat, which hid his features so well. The only visible feature that she could see was his black painted lips, which formed into a smirk.

He bent down and picked up the necklace that lay abandoned in the middle of the dimly lit floor and closely inspected it before looking down at Mavis.

After a few moments he opened his mouth, and for the very first time, he spoke. Mavis felt her hairs stand on end, as the voice sounded very close to the one she heard years ago when she was very young, only it had a deep eerie echo to it.

“So now what, Mavis? Are you just going to wait here and have the whole world become your folly? Are you willing to just let him get away with it and have him kill you as well?”

She opened her mouth, but as she then remembered she couldn’t speak, she closed it back again.
He stepped closer to her, the sounds of his footsteps echoing throughout the entire room. “Come now, silly girl. Are you?”

She silently shook her head, her eyes cold and resilient. He hummed as he continued to smile. “Good girl. That’s what I like to hear. Despite your silence, I can hear you clear as day. I heard it all; your happiness, your anguish, your misery, your sorrow… your HATE. But tell me, how DO you plan on carrying out such thoughts, Mavis?”

The young woman stayed quiet, her mind reeling about all the possible ways that she would kill the bastard that was now frantic about the police and the whole situation. How she would torture him in ways that he would have tortured her, and worse.

The Mime’s smirk formed into a wide grin, bursting into a cackle that echoed hauntingly throughout the soundproof room as he heard her silent thoughts. “My, my. You certainly have quite the imagination, dear! It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about you. It’s what I’ve always wanted to GROW. Now…”

He bent down, being in close proximity of the girl with his grin receding back into a smirk. “I have a proposition for you, my dear. You see, I am the only one who can leave this tiny prison anytime I so desire. You, on other hand, are trapped like a rat and will remain so until the pusillanimous, pettifogging moron of a stepfather comes back and kills you… or leaves you here without anyone’s knowledge of you ever existing.” His eyes were still hidden in the shadows beneath the brim of his top hat. But Mavis had a feeling that they were glinting with his monochromatic mischief.

“My offer to you is this: I am your only salvation out of this mess and only I can help you escape… But it isn’t for free… You see, one must give, Mavis… In order to receive.”
Mavis looked up at him with that same childish curiosity that attracted him all these years ago. He grinned a little wider, a low chuckle rumbling from his being. As though hearing her asking what she must give.

“I just so happened to have heard your little birthday wish earlier, and so my question to you is this: Do you wish to join me and be with me for all eternity, forever as one entity? Or remain in this shoddy little shithole and die from brutal murder or die slowly and silently, forever alone?”

He offered her his hand to the girl, his smile not once faltering. “So… Which will it be?”

Mavis looked at him, his upper half of his face still blurred in darkness, but his mischievously wicked smirk remained transfixed in front of her. Not wasting time to even bother thinking about it, she made her choice. She took a hold of his slender gloved hand, which in return, firmly and possessively took a hold of hers. From the fingertips of the glove, protruded black razor-sharp nails.

The Mime let out a ghoulishly howl of a laugh, his closed-lip smirk now an earsplitting, razor-toothed grin. His once perfectly white teeth now looked like an alignment of pointy and jagged blades of a shark’s mouth, oozing with a black liquid substance from his black gum line. Mavis’s glance switched from their connected hands to his face. Her eyes widened, still enraptured in the same childlike innocence that he so craved after all these years. His pale face was now ghastly and haunting, the hollows of his cheekbones ever so prominent and his nose was pressed in to resemble that of a snake’s snout. The black around his eyes looked like deep hollow holes, with silvery white eyes floating in the center or them, gaping wickedly and sinisterly back into Mavis’s.

His voice has now become distorted, almost like a shrieking banshee and his deep garbled voice mixed together at once. “Good! Now the price I request from you… Your pure innocence.”

SHINK! … Drip… Drip, drip…

Mavis suddenly felt her remaining body heat leaving her and a sharp pain in her chest. She looked down and saw that his free hand had shot through her chest, exactly right through her heart, through the heart imprint of her crop top. Her eyes remained transfixed as she still somehow felt her heart still beating, the pulsating rhythm of the pumping organ resonating through her ears. Her stoic face still hadn’t changed form as she also started to see the color of her clothes and skin fading… into black and white. The red heart was now a pitch ink black, with blood still dripping freely from the printed design. The blood had also turned black, resembling to look a lot like ink. The color continued to fade, and at the same time, so did the Mime. His let out a final eerie titter, almost high in pitch as he faded into Mavis.

Her body began to shake violently, her hands now ash white and her once red long nails now black razor-sharp claws gripping her chest. After a few minutes of what seemed like a severe seizure, she stilled. The silence settled in once more… followed by a faint, sinister giggle.

Stu was in a panic. He had just finished locking the girl in the only room he could think of where she won’t cause any commotion, but now his only remaining problem was the dead body of his wife. A loud knock could be heard from the front door.

It was the cops, and he knew that there was no way out of this one. Preparing for the worst, Stu approached the door and opened it. The rest, as you know, was practically history. The officers and commanding chief took one glimpse of the home and saw the mangled corpse and within seconds, had handcuffed Stu.

The Chief then ordered the officers to scatter and search the home clean. Two officers went upstairs to investigate and looked in the rooms, finding signs of struggle in one of the rooms, presumably the daughters. As they further investigated the bedroom, one of the officers felt their foot kick something beneath the bed. The officer bent down and saw a box. Pulling out the box, they blew off the dust and opened it. There were pieces of paper all tucked away in it, and upon pulling out the first slip and reading it, the officer’s eyes widened.

As two officers held on to a cuffed Stu, the Chief looked on the wall and saw some pictures hanging on it. One of a family portrait and two others. One of the deceased wife, and the other of a smiling and happy looking girl. The Chief took down the photo of the girl and glanced at Stu with a look that could kill. “This is the girl who made the call. Where is she?” Stu knew it wouldn’t be long since they were searching the place and motioned his head towards the hallway past the stairs. “She’s in the last room at the end of the hall. It’s locked from the outside.” The Chief grimaced at the man before ordering one of the four officers that were with them one the first floor to come with him.

As they turned around the corner of the hall, they saw the door that the gruff man spoke of… unlocked and ajar.

The Chief and the officer glanced at one another with alarmed looks on their countenances and nodded in silent understanding. Armed at the ready, they carefully approached the door and opened it. The officer and the Chief flashed their lights around the small room, only to find that it was absolutely vacant.

The girl was nowhere to be seen. The Chief called in the restraining officers to bring in Stu. Upon arriving to the room, Stu was in complete disarray and shock. How could she be gone? The only way the lock can be undone is from the outside!

Despite trying to explain to the Chief, nothing but sputters came out. More footsteps were heard from the front of the home, indicating that the search unit finished scouring the upstairs. They walked back to the front, where the officer holding the box looked at the Chief grimly before handing the contents carefully to him. The officers shot glares at Stu, who shrunk back at the sudden reaction. The Chief took the box and saw the name of the girl painted in silver paint on it. “Mavis”. He sounded sad upon speaking her name aloud. He opened it and saw the scraps of paper. But once he read one of the sheets, his face contorted into that of disgust and anger. On the sheets were scribbled in frantic writing small-handed phrases like “molester” and “abusive”.

He turned to the other officers and barked. “Get this lowlife into a car! I want him booked! Now!” Stu was even more shocked, finally able to speak out some sense of words. “W-What?! Hold on! What’s in that box?! What am I charged for?!”

The Chief merely looked at him dead in the eye, intimidating the beat-up man. “What do you think, tough guy? Child molestation? Abuse and battery? Not to mention murder? You’re looking at a pretty demanding sentence once you’re settled in court. Now you better pray that we find that girl, buddy. Otherwise, there’s going to be hell waiting for you.”

Closing him in a squad car, the units sped off to the station. After booking him for prints, identification, changing him into an orange jumper and interrogating him with a series of questions, they took him to one of the holding cells in their detainment building.

The Forensics team had arrived shortly after they took Stu to the station. The body was bagged and brought back to the station morgue, where autopsy was preparing to clean and dissect the body in search for cause of death.
After a few short hours, just after Stu was placed in his cell, the autopsy of Julie’s deceased body was now complete and the cause of death was identified. She had multiple fractures, a couple broken ribs, her face was left with a broken jaw and multiple bruising all over her face and body. Her left arm was entirely broken and displaced, as well as both her legs. Her neck was also completely broken, the final blow being the top of her spinal cord snapping. As they were about to leave out of the autopsy room to give the chief the file, a shadow silently approached the body. A small clattering noise made the mortician turn around, gaping in shock. The vault where the body was resting was left open, with the body pulled out. Slowly approaching the resting corpse, he was even more bewildered to what he saw. Placed on top of the body where the chest plate rested, was a simple white rose.

Back at the detainment room, Stu and the guarding officer that kept watch were in silence. The cell was a little spacious, with a cot laid out for him for the night. The rain was still falling hard outside in torrents, making pelleting noises on the ceiling above. The detainment officer merely glanced at the clock every once in a while from reading his latest digest of Playboy, as well as making sure that Stu didn’t try anything. Not like he could do anything to begin with.

Just a little bit into the night to about near midnight, the guard yawned and placed his magazine down. He got up, stretched a bit and briefly turned to face Stu. “I’m going to the restroom, so you just sit tight and be a good boy, ya hear?” Within a few moments, the guard left the room and closed the door, leaving Stu all alone. He glanced up at the security cameras that were facing him, his eyes heavy with guilt and shame.

He sighed and muttered to himself. “Well, at least it can’t get any worse than this right now.”

As if on cue, the lights started to flicker slightly. Stu glanced up and noticed something. He looked at the clock and heard that the ticking was sounding slower and further away. Then the sound faded into nothing.

He heard nothing, not even a pin drop. He felt a bit uneasy, but figured that it was just nerves from all that’s happened that night. He got up and called for the guard to tell him that the clock might be broken.
Only to his surprise, no sound came out of his mouth. He tried to shout, but nothing again. He then started to panic and shouted again. Nothing. Stu was left completely bewildered. He couldn’t even hear the rain pounding from outside.

Then he noticed something else. Something that he didn’t expect at all. The entire detainment room was starting to fade of all color. It was slowly going all black and white, with some shades of grey. The yellow walls of the holding cell, the light fixtures, and even the damn Playboy magazine was turning monochrome.

A cold sweat ran down Stu’s body. He could feel his heart racing as the panic began to surge through his whole being. He looked up at the security camera and screamed, hoping to get someone’s attention. Again, he was mute, proving his efforts to be fruitless. Then the room slowly started to vibrate around him. It was like a heartbeat, pulsating through the walls, floors, and ceiling. Stu’s eyes widened in fright, as the pulsations started going faster and faster, before slowly coming to a resting halt.

He waited a few moments, waiting to see what would happen next. At that instant, the only door in and out of the room slowly opened, not making a sound. What he saw next made his blood run cold and thin like ice.

Stepping into the room, footsteps echoing throughout the room, was his stepdaughter. Mavis walked in, only the sight was beyond his expectations. Her skin was ash white and at the tips of her fingers were razor sharp black claws. Her once yellow hoodie was now a pure snow white, with black in the interior and bottom border of the oversized hoodie, with black stitching embroidered on the rim of the hood. Her white high tops had black stars in place of her red ones and her deep blue denim jeans now a pitch black. Her crop top was also white like the rest of her, and dead center where the heart pattern was, pumped a pulsing but dull beat with black thick liquid oozing through the design and dripping off the edge of the bottom of the shirt. He slowly glanced up, his breath caught in his throat as a horrified scream threatened to break through. Her hair no longer the glossy feathery black it was, but now charcoal and frayed on the ends as if defying gravity itself and black shadows surrounding the hollows of her eyes. Her eyes themselves, a silvery white like that of a risen ghoul, staring right back at him.

Shortly of making direct eye contact with her, she let out a whisper. It was a shrill whisper that almost sounded like a banshee’s shriek. “Can you hear me now, Stu?”

Just as he was trying to step back, within seconds she was in his cell. Facing him directly. Without so much as touching him he fell back onto something hard. He then felt his limbs being tied back, as if on a propped-up gurney for insane asylum patients. He tried to speak, but his voice was nowhere to be found.

Mavis smiled a small cynical smile. “Good. So you can hear me now.” He was mortified. This girl who could barely utter so much as a sound and seemingly lost her voice, was now speaking at an entirely normal range. Well, close to normal if it weren’t for the phantom-like echo in her voice that bounced off the room. “So tell me, Stu. How does it feel? To be hopeless… scared… voiceless?” She said the last one with a venomous tone. “Well, now you know. Feels terrible, doesn’t it? To be trapped in a world where you can scream as much as you can, to shout out in hopes of maybe someone hearing you, only to find… that you’re unable to be heard. Like a mime, right?” She let out a soft chuckle. He opened his mouth to scream as much as he could.
“Oh, don’t you fret. Your voice is intact, at least to my ears they are.”
He stopped, his eyes gaping at her in horror. She continued to look at him with her dead eyes. “That’s right. No one can hear you except me, and the only one, the only thing that you’ll be able to hear… is me.”

She circled around him, quietly in thought. After making a full circle around him, she stopped. “I got it! Why don’t we play an imaginary game? You know, like how real mimes do! And I have just the perfect game in mind… Let’s play a pretend game of doctor.”

He felt a sudden jolt as the invisible mechanism lowered him backwards laid him floating in the air in front of her at waist level. His silent screams of protest fell on deaf ears, except for hers that is.

“Now, now. That’s no way of being a good patient, Stu. You’re forty, right? No longer a child. Time to see how much of a grown man you are…”

She lifted her hand and posed it as if she were holding a scalpel. With a swift swish of her sharp nails, she cut open the front of his orange jumper. Stu was mortally scared out of his wits now, sweating bullets and mouthing out screams of anguish. He could feel something sharp poking the top of his skin looking down at the invisible object that she was holding. He was beyond paralyzed with fear once the invisible blade was smoothly gliding down, cutting his flesh wide open.

Stu continued staring at the atrocity, as she slid a clawed hand into the open orifice and feeling around his internal organs. “Hmm… Now how am I supposed to know what I’m touching if I can’t see through the cut clearly? My, my. This is troublesome. Well, I guess I’ll just have to make a change of plans. Time to play a game of Forensics.”

His eyes snapped right towards her, vigorously shaking his head while weeping tears and begging for her to stop. Mavis glanced at her handiwork and took the scalpel once more, only this time she started to peel away the edges of his entire epidermis and muscle tissue.

Stu screamed in pain, hot tears flooding down the sides of his face. She took some invisible pins and pinned his extra skin to the sides, but still felt unsatisfied with her work. “No, like this won’t do. Wait, remember how you tore my stuffed animals and ripped their bellies wide open?” Stu was mutely screeching this time, his body shaking uncontrollably. Mavis’s stoic face remained stony, though her voice was sharp like the blade that she cut him open with. “Ah, music to my ears. I guess this is what it’s like to be able to listen to every sound in that small little soundproof room, right?”

Stu continued to sob and scream mutely, his pathetic efforts only giving Mavis a sick sense of satisfaction. However, his constant trembling was now annoying her. “You better stop shaking or I will make you….” He stopped screaming, only to have his body wracking with sobs. “Very well. Let’s do this my way.” She took an invisible syringe and with a sharp pinch, Stu had slowly stopped moving, his body no longer shaking. “Good. Now, on with the program. Let me see if this works.” She took the scalpel and sliced off the extra skin clean off, making Stu howl and sob in undeniable and excruciating pain. Although he can no longer move, his body was still responsive to the stinging of his sliced body. His broken nose was now oozing out blood and mucus from the sinus build-up of his crying.

“Hmm, I supposed this will do… Oh, stop with that infernal sniffing, will you? It’s so annoying.” Seeing that Stu wasn’t stopping his sobs and sniffles anytime soon, Mavis let out a sigh. “Guess I’ll have to take care of that too. Hold on…” She motioned to pick up another object, which by the way she was holding it looked like a giant pair of sheers. Stu’s eyes were downright wide and red, sputtering silent nonsense only for his ridiculous pleas to be ignored.

CHOP.

One cut was all it took, and his nose was sliced clean off his face. Stu couldn’t bring himself to scream anymore, feeling his throat becoming painstakingly sore. This didn’t sit well with Mavis at all.

“What? Giving up already? You’re no fun being quiet, Stu. Unlike you, I rather like your screams. It’s music to my ears.” Stu merely glanced at her, mouthing the words “Fuck you, sick bitch”. Mavis nodded.
“Right. Okay then.” She grabbed another tool from her small invisible worktable, this time what may resemble to be pliers. “Time for a small break of a game of dentist. Let’s see if you have any nasty cavities.” She took a hold of one of the incisors and with one tug, ripped the tooth right out from the very root. Stu screamed as he felt the warm blood flooding through his mouth. However, Mavis didn’t stop there. She continued to move on to each and every one of his teeth, ripping one after the other until they were all gone. Stu merely moaned now, his head becoming light and drowsy from the useless screams and blood loss.

“Hmm, guess your mouth was all messed up anyways. But your lips don’t look so hot, either. Let me fix that.” She took the invisible scissors and sliced off the lower and upper lips, a huge bloody black hole left as his mouth.

Mavis paused for a minute. “You know, you’re not looking so good, Stu. Are you anemic? Because you’re pale as a sheet. Come to think of it, you almost look like a mime! But there’s one problem… you’re eyes. They need to be black, too.” Stu’s eyes widened one last time, before that last thing he saw was a hammer like object bludgeoning both of his eyes into jelly mush. His body was now completely black and white, as well as his once orange jumper now monochrome as the rest of him.

The young girl felt proud of her work. She could hear his heart rate starting to slow. It was still not finished yet. He was still making noise by breathing and his heart was still pumping life.

Her eerie voice dropped down near his ears, which were still left intact. “You see, Stu? How much you screamed, how much you wanted to cry out for help, for anyone to hear you and yet, you’re completely ignored? Insufferable. Now imagine that for years. Years of not being heard, to be ignored right when you know there are those who can definitely hear you when they are right there just as you are. The only one who listened, who was there for me… was my mother… and you took her away. So now, I will be the one to do the taking. I took away what you relied on the very most… your senses. Your sight and what you see, will deceive you. Your hearing will all be but for naught, and your voice… is gone from the world. But not all is lost. No… I left you with one sense, at my generosity. And that is your sense of feeling. To feel the pain, to feel powerless, to feel fear… and I can hear it gloriously.” The man didn’t reply, as though he even could, but he heard her every word and finally couldn’t voice his agony anymore.

Mavis looked up at the clock, seeing that it was getting close to midnight. The dark blood now gone and clean from her hands, she straightened up to face his mangled body entirely. “Looks like our time of bonding is up, Stu. Wish we could pretend more, but I have other things to do. You see, you’re not the only one who wouldn’t hear me. You know how that saying goes that you said to me before… The whole world can hear you..?”

She stepped back, looking down at the open cavity where all of his organs still lay. “Oh well. Guess this is good bye. But before I go…”

She abruptly shot the invisible mechanism upright, his organs flying out of the opening of his abdomen. The lungs and heart were still clinging, though entirely in shades of black and grey. She could hear his wheezing, as his lungs and heart continued pumping whatever life they could left into him. Her gaze rested on his ribs, the remaining obstacle. “So annoying.” With a firm grip of both her hands, she ripped his ribcage clean out, heart and lungs ripped out with it. He stopped breathing entirely and was quietly still.

She glanced down at his still pumping heart in her hand, before that too, died down. She dropped it carelessly on the floor and glanced towards the door before looking back at the lifeless monochromatic corpse. “Even in death, Stu… Can you still hear me now?” Walking right behind him, she dipped a finger in the black blood pooled on the floor and began to write on the cot. Once finished, she let the body fall onto the cot as well without a sound. Allowing the color to return back into the room and noise to slowly warp back, the sound of footsteps echoing through the hall indicating that the guard was coming back from his restroom break. By then, Mavis was long gone.

As Mavis disappeared into the darkness, she could hear the guard’s screams of terror of finding the body. She smiled a small smile, holding the black and white diamond heart shaped pendant in her hand before tucking it away into her pocket. She looked up at the darkness and grey clouds above her one more time, then was gone like a whisper in the wind.

Back in the cell, officials were already examining the corpse. The Chief had just received the news from autopsy, only to have rushed back into the cell where the accused was being held at. He was grossly mortified at the sight of the place, seeing black entrails all over the floor and the body looking very much like a mime. What stumped and irked him the most, was the message that was left behind next to the body on the cot. Unidentifiable as to what the liquid was (he could gruesomely guess, however), read the words in a messy effort of fancy calligraphy: “Happy Birthday”.

CREDIT : InsanityManagerie

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How It Began

by cnkguy
How It Began

how it beganReading Time: 14 minutes

The wind was blistering cold, the kind of wind that would pierce any clothing you happen to be wearing no matter how thick. Something about cold air makes sound travel further, especially high-pitched screaming. Even today, with our substantial medical advances, giving birth can be quite a trial. A couple of centuries ago, however, giving birth was nothing short of agony, if not torment. Surviving the ordeal was essentially flipping a coin. The women of the village were of course quite experienced with this particular problem. With a village this small almost every woman there was a midwife. They know the pain, they know the screams, this was different.
The usual screams were screams of pain, screams of longing for the peril to be over, screams of effort and stress. This was different. These screams were desperate, urgent. These screams weren’t ones of longing but of craving for death. Screams that meant death is far more preferable than one more moment of this. The village women were pale, stealing glances at each other hoping for some reassurance that this is normal, none found it. The soon to be mother was writhing on the ground, kicking away any soil underneath her feet. The sweat dripped off her, mixing with her tears. Her teeth were all but eroded from the grinding. She was surrounded by women standing a few feet away out of, equally, respect and fear.
Finally, it was born.
The village woman standing nearest ended up with it in her arms. A short scream escaped her lips but got stuck in her throat as her she froze. Another village woman knelt down beside the new mother. She brushed the hair out of the new mother’s face. The new mother was no longer screaming. She was no longer writhing. She was no longer breathing. The stark silence that replaced the desperate screaming set in immediately; everyone was scared to breathe. The woman kneeling next to the new mother realised the silence and looked up to find that all the other women in the room were staring, horror struck, at the new born. The woman holding her was locked into her gaze, trapped in it. In the sudden quiet any sound was audible, so when the woman whispered ‘Julia’, the sound travelled far. To the unknowing, it might seem as if the woman just gave the new born girl a name. The villagers in the room knew, however, that Julia was the name of the woman holding the child. She just whispered her name to it as if…answering a question.
The other women all stared at her, unsure of what to do. Julia was staring at it, barely breathing, not moving. The women all simultaneously became aware that Julia’s arms were becoming blue. The child was cold, ice cold. That wasn’t the only thing that made the women terrified to approach. They’ve seen many children being born, and all of them cried. All of them were confused. All of them had their eyes barely open and were flailing their legs and arms that they haven’t learned how to use yet. This child, this thing, was quiet, calm. Her eyes were locked into Julia’s. Her tiny chest was rising and falling slowly. Her body was still, her legs straight and her arms by her side. While Julia was gazing deep into her eyes, the other women were actively avoiding them. You don’t have to take a glance for longer than a second to see what they were. Pitch black. Two black glassy eyes were now staring at Julia. It won’t be hard to get lost in them. They seemed to be an endless pit, an abyss, in which Julia’s mind now wandered.
‘Julia. Julia snap out of it! Julia!’ A shove to the shoulder and Julia’s head snapped upward. She stared into her sister’s eyes and didn’t recognize her for a second. Realisation slowly flowed into her face and she looked at the room and the women around her, as if she had forgotten where she was. ‘Julia.’ Her sister, Mary, said again and Julia looked at her, now fully awake. ‘You take it. You take it into the forest, and you leave it there. You come back without it, you hear?’
Julia nodded.
‘Julia, do you understand?’
‘Yes.’ Julia whispered.
‘Julia, do not look into her eyes. Whatever you do, do not look into her eyes again. Do you understand?’
‘Yes.’ Julia whispered and nodded. The other women regarded her, holding their breath at her every answer. They were all thinking the same thing. They don’t think Julia could be trusted to do it, but each of them would rather be found dead than do it themselves. They put their faith in Julia, and prayed to God they won’t regret it. Mary took her by the arm and lead her outside of the tiny hovel now belonging to a dead woman. She nudged Julia toward the forest.
‘Go.’ She said and Julia listened. She walked, carrying a block of ice in her arms, and didn’t look back. Most importantly, she didn’t look down. She knew it was still staring at her, the new born from hell. She could feel its eyes boring into her. The thing about completely black eyes is that you can’t be sure where they’re looking, so it feels like they’re always watching. Julia entered the forest. The baby seemed to grow heavier, the urge to look into its eyes seemed to grow stronger. It still did not cry, and the quiet around Julia was eerie, like the entire forest was holding its breath. Thin puffs of vapor erupted from Julia’s lips when she breathed. That would explain the quiet, no animal would come out in this cold. The wind brushed past her, but in comparison to the new born in her arms anything felt warm. The tall trees around her creaked as they swayed in the wind. To Julia it felt like even the trees was trying to get away from her.
She was now deep in the forest. She didn’t want to leave it near the village where the folk might hear it cry. Although hearing it cry would almost be a relief. The calm, the silence was gnawing away at Julia’s sanity. In front of her she saw a stump, and thought it would be an apt resting place for a demon spawn. She walked forward and laid the new born on it. The moment her skin wasn’t touching it warmth flooded, as if the blood dared to circulate again. She felt immense relief. It was heavy. It didn’t weigh on her arms, it weighed on her entire body. She almost quivered and realized how tired she was, as if all the energy was drained from her. She took a deep breath and relaxed. This was when she let her guard down. Her eyes reopened and, unfortunately, was facing in the direction of the new born. Her eyes flicked toward the two black holes in her vision, and there they stayed. Julia’s body went stiff and she continued staring.
‘Yes.’ She whispered suddenly, her thin wavering voice echoing through the silence.
‘I don’t know.’ She whispered again after a few seconds of silence.
‘I will.’ She replied and stepped forward. The child parted its lips to reveal two short fangs. Julia reach forward, placed her index finger on one of the fangs, and applied pressure. A tiny trickle of blood erupted from Julia’s finger. Julia did not wince, she did not even register the pain. Julia retracted her arm, and her body relaxed as if released. Her eyes finally blinked and darted around, because they were allowed. She spun on her heel, and ran.
The women of the village awaited her return with worried faces. A sigh of relief swept over them as Julia emerged from the forest trees. A greater sigh came when they could clearly see there was no child with her. When Julia came near her sister spoke.
‘Is it done?’ She asked. Julia nodded, but said nothing. She was not in the mood for talking. In fact, all of them wanted to put this day behind them and erase it from their minds. The sun was kissing the horizon and in their minds, all of them decided to crawl in bed early.
In the dead of night, Julia awoke with a start. She shot upright, her body was drenched in sweat. She felt as if something was slipping away. She kept dreaming that she was holding on the herself, a mirror image of her, that was drifting away. She tried her best to grip, to hold on as tightly as possible, but her image was being pulled away by a force much greater than her. How frightening, she thought, losing yourself…losing what you are. Something is happening to me and I don’t know what. In her mind she knew she should be frightened, terrified even, but in her heart she wasn’t. She was feeling…numb. Her quick breathing shortly went away, as if a vestige of a former self. She laid down again, calm as ever, and started dreaming of much less frightening things.

It was Thursday, the men would be gathering in the old cottage for a game of Panquist and mead. Mary’s husband kissed her on the cheek and set off to the edge of the village. She thought she might visit Julia and leave the laundry for tomorrow. Julia, who is yet to marry, is still living in her parent’s home. She stayed there after they perished to the bloody flux. She didn’t want to talk about the previous day, she didn’t want to think about it. They told the men nothing and they wistfully went about their lives. The women had a burden to bear, and Mary did not want to bear it alone. Perhaps she and Julia could have some mead themselves to calm the nerves.
She placed the unwashed laundry back in her home and headed toward Julia’s home. She expected Julia outside, tending to the vegetables or doing some laundry of her own. There is always laundry to be done, especially when you always have to wear five layers. However, when she drew near she noticed the door was closed and the windows shut with the curtains drawn. The whole world grew a blue tinge as the sun finally dipped behind the trees. She walked to the door and banged on it with her fist.
‘Julia? Are you home?’ She called but got no reply. She kept banging until she heard the door being unlocked. The door slowly creaked open and she made her way inside. ‘It’s so dark in here.’ She said as her eyes struggled to focus on the silhouette of Julia.
‘I like it dark.’ Julia replied in a slow whisper.
‘Julia, are you ill? What is the matter?’ She asked cautiously.
‘Thirsty.’ Came Julia’s reply.
What an odd way Julia was acting. Her eyes finally adjusted and she stared at Julia, who was staring back at her with dull eyes. ‘Was your hair always black?’ She whispered and stepped toward Julia, who’s hair was obstructing her face. She didn’t leave her home today, she was still in her nightgown. Mary reached to brush the hair out of her eyes when Julia’s head snapped forward. She bared her teeth and tried biting her sister’s fingers. Mary withdrew her hand with a short yelp and took several steps backward. ‘Julia! What in the devil’s name…’
‘Come.’ Julia said. Her eyes were no longer dull, but glowed like fire. She bared her teeth and that’s when her sister saw it, fangs. Julia hid fangs beneath her lips. She turned and ran. She shot through the door and into the sudden dark night toward the old cottage where she knew her husband was. She felt Julia gaining on her. She expected at any moment to feel Julia’s hand wrap around her throat, to feel her fangs dig into her. She risked a look backward, and saw nothing. Julia wasn’t right behind her. Julia was nowhere she could see. She kept on running and threw open the door of the old cottage. The four men sitting around the table started at the sound.
‘She’s coming! She’s coming and she’s going to kill me!’
‘Mary? What’s going on? Who’s coming?’ replied her husband.
‘It’s Julia! She’s gone mad! She’s not Julia anymore, she wants to kill me, she’ll kill us all!’ She screamed. She didn’t know how she knew, but she saw more than a person in Julia’s eyes. She saw a world. A world filled with fire. A world drenched in blood. Through Julia’s eyes she saw a terrible future and a will stronger than any to make it come to pass. In that moment she understood that her sister was lost. Only the fire remained.
The men didn’t know why, but they believed her. Her fear radiated throughout the room and they felt it. Ominousness filled the air; everyone’s hair stood on end. She closed the door behind her and ran to the arms of her husband. The men had stood up from their game and stared at the door expectantly. It has been long speculated that every living being has a sense of doom. Some part of them knows that they are going to die. It’s an easy enough feeling to shake off, telling yourself you’re just being silly or superstitious usually does the trick. Couple this feeling with overwhelming fear however, and it is undeniable. They could feel their last seconds ticking away. They could feel the last of the grains starting to fall. All of them knew they were about to die.
The door burst open. The hinges snapped like hair and the heavy wooden door crashed to the ground. A startled cry escaped from everyone in the room. Nothing stood behind the door. They kept staring at the empty space of the doorframe and the night beyond, as if willing something to appear. Did she come in? Is she still outside? They couldn’t tell. The men opted to arm themselves with whatever they could find. One grabbed a candlestick, another a sword that hung from the wall. One found a blunt axe standing in the corner. All the last man could grab in his panic was a butter knife that lay on the dining table. They huddled together and stared at the door, awaiting some terror to step through. None of them noticed the window opening behind them.
Cold hands closed over the mouth of the axe-wielding man. The others felt a gush of wind. They turned around to find an empty spot where their friend once stood. A shrill cry came from Mary before her hands could catch her mouth. The silence after the cry made it easier to hear a dripping sound. They all turned to the door once again to see a pool of blood gathering on the floor. Ripples travelled through the puddle as blood dripped from above. All their eyes drifted upwards in unison until they saw her sitting on one of the beams above.
Her eyes were closed. Her nails dug into the side and shoulder of the missing man. Her teeth were sunk into his neck. Blood flowed over his chest and down his arm. All of them could hear her rhythmic swallowing and her soft moans of satisfaction. She pulled his body closer, pushing it into herself as she relieved him of his blood. After a few seconds she opened up her eyes and stared directly at the three men, and a woman that used to be her sister. She released the man and he fell to the floor. A loud thud and the crack of a neck rang through the room as he hit the ground. His eyes were open wide and glazed over. An expression of terror was now permanently etched onto his face. A symphony of gasps and cries erupted as the body came to rest before them. Julia swung her feet down. She hung from the beam by the tips of her fingers before gracefully dropping to the floor.
None of them were sure they heard the faintest sound as she came down. Her movements were fluid, smooth as silk. Her every action was certain and precise. If their hearts could chill any further, it would’ve. Whatever she was, they knew she wasn’t human, not anymore. The way she moved, the way she stared at them, it screamed abnormal. Even her eyes, they never saw it dart around, they just realized that it wasn’t staring at the same place as before. The man with the sword stood in front, a wordless decision by the others that he didn’t agree with. When confronted with horror you only have two options, fight or flight. When said horror is standing between you and the door, those options are significantly reduced. His sweaty hands gripped the sword and he charged.
He swung the sword from high, then from the side, then back again. Julia watched the sword coming and stepped out of the way long before it even reached her. Her eyes followed the sword effortlessly as it was swung wildly at her. Her feet stepped slowly around the man who was desperately trying to slice her, but he was woefully outmatched. The man gripped tight once more and swung for her neck. To his surprise she didn’t move out of the way. When the sword came to a sudden stop near her neck he thought he had lodged the sword into her throat, but his joy was short-lived. His eyes just weren’t fast enough to see her arm move. Once his eyes had time to focus he could see that she held the tip of the sword between two fingers. She caught it, like an insignificant bug.
While it looked like she enjoyed the dance for a few seconds, as if testing her newfound abilities, she was done with this. Her free arm shot out and three fingers crashed into his chest and pierced his heart. He tried to scream in pain but his lungs filled with blood, so it came out as gurgled gasping. He collapsed to the ground, leaving only the butter knife wielding gentleman and her once sister. She fixated on Mary, recognition in her eyes. The remaining man charged at her. She didn’t even blink as she swatted him aside, her eyes never leaving her sister. He crashed through a table and hit the far wall.
Mary stumbled back, fell over her feet, and pressed her back against the wall. Her feet and hands scraped over the dusty floor as she tried to get as far away from what used to be her sister as possible. Julia walked toward her, slowly, deliberately. She knelt down before Mary and pried her hands from her face.
‘Who are you?’ Julia asked. Mary’s face was cascading with tears, but she could still see the shock in her eyes. It was Julia’s voice, but it was calmer and deeper than she’d ever heard it. She just killed men without blinking, and she was more composed than she’d ever been.
‘It’s me. Mary. I’m your sister.’ She whispered, trying her best to keep her teeth from clattering.
‘No. Not anymore.’ Julia replied after a few seconds. She clasped one hand around the side of her Mary’s neck. Mary went stiff and closed her eyes, bracing for the worst. Julia slowly stood up, bringing her sister with her. Mary held her breath. The pain from being lifter by her neck distracted from the fact that her feet were now dangling in the air. Julia, carrying her sister with one hand, brought her to her lips. She sunk her fangs into her neck. Blood erupted from Mary and filled Julia’s mouth. She waited until her mouth was full before swallowing, feeling the warmth run down her throat and fill her belly. She drained her sister, rhythmically filling her mouth with blood before swallowing. Her eyes were closed, and her skin changed from a pale white to a healthy pink with every swallow. She was so locked into the moment she did not notice the man getting to his feet near the side wall.
The man slowly got up and tried to stand on shaky legs. He knelt down to pick up his trusty butter knife. He slowly started walking toward Julia, his legs getting more solid with every step. Julia finally dropped what used to be her sister. Mary came to rest on the ground, cold, stiff, eyes glazed over. Julia turned to the man and watched him approach. He had no other recourse, so he just kept going. Julia did not move. She still wanted to test out some of her new abilities. The man lunged forward and stabbed the butter knife into her chest. She stood and took it. The man stumbled back and stared at this thing with a knife protruding out of the centre of her chest, smiling at him.
An innocuous tool, a butter knife. Although it should be noted that this was back in the time when silverware was actually made out of silver. Julia took a confident step forward, a ravenous smile on her blood-soaked lips. Her next step was not so confident. Her step wavered. Her smile dropped. She glanced down at the butter knife still nestling in her chest. A sizzling sound was getting louder by the second. A thin trail of smoke rose from the wound. Ash replaced her flesh and poured out of her. Her knees buckled and she stumbled. Her face was twisting in shock and agony. The stab felt like a pinch, this felt like torture. An orange glow came from within her as the sizzling grew louder and the smoke got thicker. She desperately yanked the butter knife out of herself, but it was too late. The orange glow grew more intense. Her chest was slowly becoming an ash-filled crater. As the pain reached its peak she let out a deep roar filled with ash and smoke. Julia fell forward and her body scattered as she hit the ground. Her torso dissolved into a mountain of ash as the glow spread to the rest of her body. In a matter of seconds there was nothing of Julia left.
The man stared in awe. Something he didn’t understand happened to something he couldn’t comprehend and he didn’t know what to make of it. Regardless, he felt relieved. The monster, that bore a striking resemblance to a woman called Julia, was now dead. He saw his friends get slaughtered right in front of his eyes. Even now his shoes were drenched in their blood pooling on the floor. He felt traumatized, yet relieved. At least it’s over now; the monster is dead. After a few minutes of staring around the room, trying to come to grips with his surroundings, he headed for the door. He didn’t know what he would tell the town’s folk. There would be no way he could tell the story truthfully. There would be no way he could make them understand the horrors he witnessed, but they would never have to face the horrors themselves, and of that he felt proud.
A hand clasped around his ankle.
He yelled before he could stop himself and looked down. Dull eyes were looking back up at him. A man, his friend, the first one to be taken. He was staring up at him, his hand holding on to the man’s ankle with an iron grip. No matter how much he shook and twisted his leg, he could not get him to release. His body was writhing, as if settling into itself. His arm, which bent to the side and had bone sticking out of the skin, unbent itself and healed. The man could hear his broken jaw snap back into place. Finally the man could speak.
“Thirsty.” Was all he said before his mouth shot open and bit into the man’s calf.
From outside a scream could be heard. A scream that was stopped short by a loud crack. The village could hear none of this though. The last scream of the man who almost stopped it, but could not.
The rise had begun.

CREDIT : Hugo

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Subject Eighty-One

by cnkguy
Subject Eighty-One

Subject Eighty-OneReading Time: 5 minutes

Light! Searing, brutal light awakens you, pulling you from the dark oblivion you didn’t even know you were in. Screams echo around you, long and pained, and it’s only after a few moments that you realize one is coming from your lips as well. You ache all over, your very nerve endings alight with agonizing energy that just begs to be released, a kind of pent up reserve that is burning you from the inside out. Lashing out with your arms, the jangle of chains and new pain in your limbs reveals that you’re bound to a table set at an angle. Only now do you even consider looking around you.

To your left and right are similar tables, each bearing a naked man bearing course stitching in intricate webs over the exposed flesh, most of which is mismatched and oddly shaped when compared to the rest of their various frames. You look down at yourself, still screaming as you see two small arms protruding from your stomach, manacled together at the wrists. Most of your body is an off-white grey color, with black veins sitting below the taut flesh, though several patches of your torso are an ashen color reminiscent of coal. Closing your mouth, you blink your eyes, fighting back the tears as your eyelids scrape over itchy orbs.

“Ah, the miracle of life!” A man hollers over the cacophony of screams, a faint buzzing you hadn’t even noticed going silent moments later. The other men notice him and stop screaming, looking over at him from the stairwell where he stands. He looks unassuming, short and pudgy with slightly Asian features, thinning hair atop his head, a clipboard in hand. “Good! You all heard me. That makes you a rousing success over the last batch I cooked up.”

Cooked up? You think, not trusting your mouth to work right. Your tongue feels swollen and dry, rubbing against jagged, broken teeth in your misshapen maw. You lower jaw seems too large for your head, and you can feel in your gums places where foreign objects have been inserted. What does he mean by that?

Stepping down the stairs, a hand trailing lightly on the guard rail, the man walks on the smooth concrete floor in the bright room, his white coat a glaring eyesore to even gaze upon. At least the walls have the decency to be made of grey bricks and mortar!

He stops in front of you, peering up at you as he fishes out a pair of glasses from his breast pocket, slipping them on his thin nose. “Subject Eighty-One,” he says, his dark eyes boring a hole into your pain-wracked soul, “you have been earmarked as the most likely to be sentient amongst your new brethren. Can you understand me?”

You stare at him for a moment before nodding jerkily. It seems your body’s muscles twitch and pulse, daring to break free and stretch. Your skin feels tight over your mass, like the skin of an overstuffed sausage.

“Can you speak?” He asks, pulling up his clipboard and clicking a small pen. “Try and say your name.”

“Eye donn… ‘ave neame… kaant reem’ber!” You grit out around the sharpened points in your mouth, your jaw sliding and touching your neck as you speak, your chin virtually at a ninety degree angle from where it normally sits.

“Well you can sort of talk, I suppose that’s something… and you have no memory of your name. Obviously language has survived in that procured brain of yours, how about memory? Tell me something you remember.”

You lower your head, amazed at how your neck can stretch. Staring at the small man, you feel almost overwhelmed with the desire to hurt him. He hurt me! He killed me! You suddenly think, causing your head to roll up at the vicious thought. You growl, a loud audible grumbling.

“Murr’drer!”

“Ah, you retained those memories. How unfortunate…” The man scribbles down a few notes before looking back up at you. “Yes, I had you euthanized. Along with the eight other men that you are composed of. Do you remember what dying felt like?”

You moan out pitifully at the question. The memory is all too fresh now that he’s asked! You remember sitting in a room with dozens of other men, all naked. The room was stark white, with one entrance and four vents; no other decorations. Suddenly orange clouds billowed out from the vents, gas which caused the men around you to scream. And bleed. Wherever the mist touched, sores opened and skin peeled away. You remember how the other men had clawed at you, climbing over you in an attempt to escape. You remember falling to the ground, one of your legs broken, and that mist rolling over you.

Now, in retrospect, you realize it took you over three minutes to die. Three horrible minutes.

“I’ll take your groaning as a yes. Well, that will never do… if you remember how you died you’ll inevitably come after me.”

“Yesh! Ketch ‘uo, kill ‘uo!” You growl, a wide grin spreading over your face as several other men strapped down repeat your last statement; it would appear that they remember as well. The little man doesn’t look like he likes this at all! You can smell the sweat trickling down his neck.

“No, I’m afraid that won’t be happening…” The little man says, scribbling down a final few notes as he turns. “The next batch will just have to be clocked back a bit, perhaps inserting a pump with a muscle relaxer or pain killer in it…”

He continues to mutter as he walks back to the stairs, slowly turning on the stone and walking back up. You roar bestially, pulling against the manacles holding down your sizable arms. Several other men join you, the clattering of chains becoming a strained symphony in the enclosed space. The little man stops and looks out over you and the others, his face blank. He pulls a small black box, thin and light, from his coat and points it towards the ceiling. You hear a whirring coming from the light positioned over you.

It only makes you roar louder, fight against the restraints harder. “Eye kill ‘ou! Kill ou deed!” You bellow, spittle flying from your fang-filled maw.

He shakes his head slowly, staring at you with those soulless eyes. He says something… what it is, you can’t hear him over the den of chaos coming from your brothers, and that incessant whirring noise, what in the world is that? Turning to look up into the light, you squint to make out a thin pipe extending down from the light, which is actually five lights clustered together. Looking around, you see pipes coming from each cluster of lights, stopping about a foot from your brother’s faces.

And then it happens: the orange mist squirts out from the pipe, dousing the roaring men in a dense fog of death, their roars of anger turning to cries of anguish as their skulls begin to hemorrhage, their eyes melting from their sockets as their tongues swell and burst. Looking quickly at your own pipe, you watch it shiver almost in excitement before it sprays your.

And then you slip once again into oblivion… you wonder, how many times will this happen to you before you can finally rest?

CREDIT : Nicholas Paschall

 

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Chamber 23

by cnkguy
Chamber 23

chamber 23Reading Time: 17 minutes

When the popular social media platform, Facebook, first became available to the general public in 2006, its original intent was to connect people all around the world—this world. Its unsurpassable success only fueled the company’s need to innovate and come up with new features and revenue streams. Facebook had to learn quickly how to provide best-in-class services to their nearly 2 billion users—some for fun, and others out of necessity.

In 2015, Facebook released a feature allowing users to appoint a Legal Contact that would be designated to manage the account after a user’s death. While the Legal Contact would not have access to the former user’s private messages and other sensitive information, they would be able to manage new incoming friend requests, outgoing messages, and other post-mortem activities on behalf of the deceased user.

With ironic coincidence, in 2016 the company introduced Facebook Live to its users, giving them the ability to connect globally in real-time via live video broadcast directly from their smartphones. This is where my story begins.

I went to graduate school at Syracuse University in New York back in 2002. There, I met a life-long friend named Jimmy Banks. We studied Advertising Design and worked on several non-profit projects together until graduation two years later. Jimmy was from Boston and I lived in Los Angeles.

As the years passed, we went from planning trips together with our families each year to an occasional text message or quick phone call. We had grown apart.

One morning in the Summer of 2017, I was stuck in heavy traffic on the 405 Freeway on my way to work in Santa Monica. As I sat listening to “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead, my phone buzzed. It wasn’t a call, but a Facebook Live alert from someone named “MadameMermaid94.” The connection was really bad, but, as far as I could make out, it was a male voice.

After about a minute of static and noise, I thought I heard the voice say “This is Jimmy.” Then, the call dropped. I tried reconnecting several times without success.

I was curious as to why I had been alerted to this live broadcast. I looked up MadameMermaid94’s profile and, like hundreds of other random “friends” I’d connected with, sure enough, I was connected to her, assuming she was female. But, I had no idea who she was, other than that she was the owner of a group I had joined a while back dedicated to horror movies. I figured I’d been included in the feed as a member of the group. But, the feed was very strange. There was nothing but static and darkness. And, why did I think I’d heard Jimmy’s name? I arrived at my office an hour later.

In the early afternoon, I had a few extra minutes available and decided to look up Jimmy on Facebook. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read the headline on his account: “Remembering Jimmy Banks.” When Facebook includes the word “Remembering” next to a user’s name, it means the person has passed away and evidence of their passing has been provided by their next-of-kin or Legal Contact. I was at such a loss for words and so utterly confused that I had to take the rest of the day off to digest this.

After sitting in my car for nearly an hour in the parking lot of a nearby Starbucks, I called my wife, Rachel. “I’m on my way home early today, Honey,” I said. She sensed I was upset. “What’s wrong?” “You remember Jimmy Banks?” I said softly. “He’s dead.” “What! How do you know?” she asked. “I went to his Facebook account today and saw.”

I hadn’t talked to Jimmy in 10 years and had just realized that I didn’t know how long it had been since he’d passed away. “Have you talked to Jenny lately, Honey?” I asked my wife. Jenny was Jimmy’s wife. She and Rachel had become close friends and seemed to stay in touch more frequently than Jimmy and I.

“No. I haven’t spoken to her for a few years. But, I saw she posted an old wedding picture of her and Jimmy a few days ago,” Rachel said. “I don’t have her number. Can you share her contact info with me and I’ll give her a call?” I said frantically. “Yes, I’ll send it right now. Call me when you find anything out!”

Stuck again on the 405 headed home, I mustered up enough strength to call Jenny. The phone rang for what seemed like forever. “Hi. This is Jenny Banks. I’m not able to talk right now, but please leave me a message,” played from her answering machine. “Hi, Jenny. This is Tyler Lee. Look, I’m sorry we haven’t been in touch with you guys in awhile,” I said beginning to lose my composure. “I came across Jimmy’s Facebook page today and…” I paused in silence. “Well, I just wanted to talk to you when you have a minute. Call me back, okay?”

I still had a Grateful Dead album playing randomly in the background, but, I wasn’t in the mood to hear “Cumberland Blues,” which had just started. I hit the Next button and “Black Muddy River” began to play, which seemed to fit the mood better. As I listened to Jerry Garcia sadly sing the chorus, “I will walk alone by the Black Muddy River. Sing me a song of my own,” I couldn’t help but picture Jimmy walking sadly alongside a dark river in a dark, unknown world.

My phone rang, interrupting the song through my car radio. “Jen-Jen” appeared as the Caller ID, and I mustered a frail smile. Jenny was originally from Japan. Jimmy had met her while shooting a documentary film there in the Nineties. They had two twin daughters, Rachel and Akira, who were just babies when we last saw them. They named Rachel after my wife, who Jenny adores. Akira called her mom “Jen-Jen” when she was a toddler, so Jimmy followed suit and called her the same, as did Jenny’s friends.

“Hello?” I answered awkwardly. “Hello…Tyler?” said the quiet voice on the other end. “Yes. Jenny, how are you? You got my message?” “Yes. I’m sorry we haven’t called either, Tyler.” “It’s okay. Life gets crazy,” I said, trying to break the ice a bit. “Listen, Jenny, the reason I’m calling is…” I hesitated. “Well, how is…I mean…where is Jimmy?” I could hear Jenny begin to cry on the other end. It seemed as though she hadn’t stopped crying in a long time.

“He’s gone, Tyler. He died two days ago,” she sobbed. “What happened, Jen?” I pressed. “He just didn’t wake up. You know he had that sleep apnea thing, right?” Jimmy had severe sleep apnea and used a CPAP mask to sleep at night. We roomed together at Syracuse and he would snore horrendously whenever he didn’t wear it, which he absolutely hated to do. It’s estimated that about 22 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, yet it’s believed that as many as 80% remain undiagnosed. Fortunately, Jimmy had received treatment for his condition, which, if left untreated, could cause several significant health issues including death!

Recently, he had grown tired of wearing his mask and had not worn it for nearly two years. Jimmy’s health had been suffering so badly that, two days prior, he stopped breathing in the middle of the night due to lack of oxygen, and died quietly.

Jenny had only learned that her husband was dead after she tried to wake him before leaving for work. When he didn’t respond, she called 9-1-1 and paramedics declared him deceased at 8:43 am EST Monday, August 6, 2017.

Jenny was suddenly alone now raising her twin daughters, who were now 14-years-old. As we talked, it was painfully apparent that she was struggling to deal with everything related to Jimmy’s sudden death and desperately needed help, but was afraid to ask.

“Look, Jenny, Rachel and I would like to come out and help. Would you let us do that?” I asked. There was silence for a moment on the other end. “I can’t ask you to do that, Tyler. We’ll be okay. The funeral is Friday,” she said quietly.

“We want to help, Jenny. We can get the girls to school, take care of you and the house…” I pleaded, “Plus, we’re coming out for the funeral anyway.” “Yes, yes, okay. I would be very grateful,” she confessed. “Good. We will fly out tonight and arrive by morning,” I told her.

As soon as I got off the phone, I dialed Rachel to give her an update. As the phone started to ring, the Facebook Live alert came up again, from the same user, MadameMermaid94. I hadn’t told my wife or Jenny about how I’d received or almost received, this odd feed earlier that morning. But, this time the connection came through slightly more clearly.

“Is anyone…is…is anyone…there?” the voice said statically through a live video image that was completely black with colored lines of static breaking up the choppy signal.

“Who is this!” I messaged back through the inline text feed. No one replied. I watched the dark signal in dismay for what seemed liked minutes, wondering who was on the other end.

The voice came through again, and even clearer: “Jenny?” followed by a long pause. “Anyone?” I heard what sounded like a loud knocking noise—thump, thump, then a pause. Then, another frantic THUMP, THUMP THUMP. After the second round of knocking, the connection abruptly dropped.

By this time, I had pulled off the freeway and stopped at a gas station off of Sepulveda Boulevard near the Getty Center. “What is going on?” I yelled out loud to myself. I rested my head in my hands on the steering wheel of my car for a few minutes thinking of how to make sense of all of this. I tried messaging MadameMermaid94 directly several times but I received no response. I looked at the posts in her feed and by now several other users had posted things like “Who is this?,” “WTF!!,” and “PLEASE STOP!” It was clear that I wasn’t the only one receiving the bizarre feeds. I was now certain that the voice distinctly asked for “Jenny,” and that I had to have heard the name “Jimmy” earlier as well. Puzzled, I went to the store to get something to drink and try to re-immerse myself into reality.

After I got back on the freeway, I called Rachel and updated her on my conversation with Jenny and the strange live feeds I’d received earlier.

“How is that even possible?” Rachel protested. “They can’t be related. You just think you heard ‘Jenny’ and ‘Jimmy’ because they’re on your mind” she reasoned. “Perhaps, but, don’t you think it’s odd that this would happen only a few days after Jimmy died?” I said. “Did you ask Jenny about it?” Rachel asked. “No. I didn’t want to upset her with that. Plus, she sounded really bad. She’s not doing well and we need to get out there tonight!” I insisted.

After I returned home, we each packed a carry-on and made arrangements for our oldest son to watch our younger kids overnight until Rachel’s parents would arrive on Sunday. Then, we flew out of Burbank on a 10 pm flight to Boston.

When we arrived at Jenny’s house Thursday morning, our hearts sank as we hugged her and the girls. Jenny looked like she had not slept all week, and the girls were still in their pajamas at 12:30 pm on a school day. Rachel followed Jenny into the bedroom and insisted that she sleep while we took the girls to school and made preparations for the coming days. “We don’t want you to worry about anything, Jen,” said Rachel. “You just get the sleep you need and we’ll take care of everything else.” “Thank you,” said Jenny quietly with tears rolling down her eyes.

Rachel and I thought that Jenny would sleep for several hours, then wake up and want to talk. But, we picked the girls up from school at 3:30 pm, took them to eat at their favorite restaurant and returned home at about 9 pm, and she was still asleep. Rachel sat in the girl’s room with them talking about old memories until nearly midnight when the girls fell asleep.

Rachel is an outdoorsy-type and had coaxed me into becoming the same over the last 20 years we’d been married. We traveled to far away places with our kids on a shoestring budget and with very limited supplies. So, we were used to sleeping on couches, floors, concrete, dirt or anything semi-flat with only a light blanket. We curled up together on the living room floor and went to sleep.

At about 2 am I was awakened by a vibrating sensation near my head. I had placed my phone in a small travel bag that doubled as a pillow and it was ringing.

I scrambled to find my glasses and looked at the screen. “MadameMermaid94 would like to connect with you on Facebook Live,” read a message on the phone. “What the hell?” I said turning to wake Rachel. “Honey. Honey, wake up. It’s the live feed again!” Rachel turned over confused. “What?” “It’s the Facebook Live thing again!” I almost shouted. I held my phone up as we both watched the screen from the floor.

“Hello?” said the dark screen. “Does that even sound like Jimmy?” I asked hypothetically. “Well, it’s definitely a male voice,” said Rachel, “but, I can’t tell. Of course, I haven’t talked to him in a decade or more.” “Should we let Jenny know?” I asked, knowing the answer. “Not right now, Honey—it’ll just upset her more,” replied Rachel.

Ten minutes had gone by now and we hadn’t heard anything but a faint “Hello?” followed by a few minutes of noisy static and occasional knocks on what sounded like metal.

“What are you watching?” asked a voice at daytime volume from the hallway. It was Jenny. She’d awaken in the middle of the night famished and was looking for something to eat. “It’s nothing! I said startled, “Just a video I was showing Rachel.”

Jenny walked over putting her glasses on to get a better look as I struggled to shut down the Facebook app on my phone without looking. “What is it? Let me see” begged Jenny. “Oh, it’s nothing really—just something someone sent me,” I said sheepishly. “Someone sent you something this early in the morning?” asked Jenny. Rachel and I glanced at each other agreeing non-verbally that we had to tell her something.

“Um, Jenny, I have to ask you something that’s going to sound very strange” I started, “Can you sit down?” Jenny sat on the couch as Rachel joined her in a warm embrace. “ What’s going on?” Jenny sensed something wasn’t right. “You contacted Facebook to give them information to confirm Jimmy had died, right?” I asked hopefully. “Are you serious?” Jenny said. “I don’t use that stuff! It’s a waste of time. I didn’t think Jimmy did either?” she proclaimed. “Why?”

Rachel and I looked at each other confused. “Wait, you mean, you didn’t change his Facebook account to a Memorial account?” Rachel asked. “No, absolutely not! Is that bad? What’s going on?” Jenny grabbed the phone from my hand. I had pulled up Jimmy’s account and Jenny read out loud: “Remembering Jimmy Zello: 1976-2018.” There was a long pause as Jenny digested the implication. “Wait! How does Facebook know that my husband died?” Jenny cried. “That’s a good question, Jen,” I said, “Technically, they can’t do this without a death certificate.” “I don’t even have that yet. I should get it from the Funeral Director later today” Jenny said.

“Jenny, there’s something else,” said Rachel as she grabbed my phone from Jenny and navigated to the recorded Facebook Live feeds and played them for her.

“When did you get these?” she asked panicked. “Tyler got the first one the morning he spoke to you on the phone from L.A. And, we got the last one about ten minutes ago!” “WHAT!” Jenny shouted, starting to cry. “Who sent them? Who’s doing this?” she screamed. “Who is this ‘MadameMermaid94?’” No one had to say what we were all thinking.

“No, no! Don’t go there! Jimmy wouldn’t do that!” I insisted. Jenny turned around grabbing a small, framed photo of the two of them from a bookshelf. “We weren’t the same couple you knew ten years ago” explained Jenny. “We had drifted apart. Jimmy had severe Depression and lost interest in almost everything.” Rachel put her arm around her friend. “I’m so sorry, Jenny,” she said. “Do you think he was seeing this MadameMermaid94 and that she changed his account?”

Suddenly, another alert message appeared on the screen. It was Jimmy’s voice again. We all gathered closely on the wood floor of the living room listening and watching in darkness. “Jenny? Jenny, are you there?” said the voice. “Yes! Yes, I’m here, Jimmy! Can you hear me?” Jenny screamed. “He can’t hear us, Jenny. The broadcast can only send out a signal, but we can send him a text message,” I explained.

“YES! I AM HERE!” texted Jenny from my phone. “THIS IS JEN. WHERE ARE YOU?” The audio went fuzzy again for nearly five minutes. Then, a strange text message came through cryptically: “):’p!Lobtry!” On a smartphone displaying a QWERTY keyboard, the characters “):’p!Lobtry!” are very close to the characters that would spell “Help! Low Battery!” if a person were trying to type blindly. We never received another feed or message again.

“He’s alive! He’s got to be alive!” Jenny declared as she grabbed her coat and shoes and put them on over her nightgown. “We’ve got to find him right now!” I calmly stopped Jenny and held her closely looking her in the eyes: “But, Jen, Jimmy was cremated. He can’t be alive. Someone’s playing a sick game.”

Jenny ran to the kitchen, grabbed a Post-It note from the counter and her keys, and ran out the door. Rachel stayed with the girls as I followed Jenny to her car in my sweats, t-shirt and barefoot.

“I’ll drive!” I said as I took the keys and ran around to the driver’s side. Jenny frantically dialed the phone number written on the Post-It note. It was the County Coroner’s office. “Hello, this is Jenny Banks. My husband was pronounced dead on Monday and I need to speak to the Coroner as soon as possible. It’s an emergency! I’m headed to the cemetery as I speak! Please call me as soon as you get this!”

We drove towards the cemetery where Jimmy’s funeral would be held later that day. We pulled up near the edge of an open stone mausoleum where a pedestal holding flowers stood near a large framed picture of Jimmy. Red velvet ropes restricted access to a large marble box that held the remains of Jenny’s deceased husband. Jenny fell to her knees holding the marble slab engraved with Jimmy’s name and wept.

The silence was interrupted by the sound of a white official-looking van pulling up. It was the Coroner. He parked and rushed over to meet us. “I got your message, Jenny. I’m sorry I didn’t call back. You sounded very upset so I just rushed over as quickly as I could. What’s wrong?”

I proceeded to explain to the Coroner, named Ross, what had transpired over the last few days regarding the strange Facebook Live feeds. Ross’s facial expressions conveyed his dismay as he clutched his keys and asked us to get into his van. “Wait! Where are we going, he’s been cremated hasn’t he?” I protested. Ross’s silent response seemed to tell a different story.

We jumped into the van as Ross rushed towards the county morgue. “He hasn’t been cremated yet, as far as I know. We’ve had an unusually high volume of cremations to perform over the last few days and yours was rescheduled for early this morning, in time for the funeral this afternoon” Ross explained. “So, he’s still in the morgue?” asked Jenny confused. “Yes,” answered Ross, “but, there’s no way he can be alive. I signed the exam report.”

“Why did you do an autopsy if you already knew the cause of death?” I asked angrily. “I didn’t actually do it, but it’s standard procedure, and required by the Health Department. When we know the cause of death and there’s no sign of foul play, we refer to it as a ‘post-mortem examination,’ which is what my Tech performed. There are no incisions made, nor any damage to the subject” Ross explained.

We arrived at a non-descript looking building in a remote part of the county. Ross flipped on the greenish blue fluorescent lights as we ran down the whitewashed hallways into the crematorium. Two men and a woman were dressed in white scrubs hard at work preparing lifeless corpses for cremation. Ross logged into a workstation and asked one of the Techs to retrieve the body from Chamber 23.

The woman disappeared quickly into tall rows of cold chambers, stacked two-high. The bodies of the deceased were stored in these chambers in a positive temperature setting of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, sometimes for up to several weeks. From a distance, we heard a sudden scream from the woman and raced over to see what was the matter. Sitting up before us on the black sterile pad of Chamber 23 was Jimmy Banks, very much alive!

He was famished, weak and dehydrated. His arms and legs were severely bruised from kicking the walls of the metal chamber. His hands were also bleeding from scraping, pushing and pulling with his fingers anywhere he could get a grip. The lack of oxygen to Jimmy’s brain earlier that Monday night had caused him to fall into a deep coma.

Jenny wrapped her arms around her husband as the other Techs placed emergency blankets around him and called 9-1-1.

“What is going on here!” yelled Ross, half angry and half terrified. “What did your examination entail, Amber?” he asked in frustration turning to his Technician. “You saw the report, Ross. You signed it!” she deflected.

Amber Martin was a 24-year-old millennial who had recently graduated from the local City College with a degree in Mortuary Science. This was her first job out of college and she had worked at the morgue for nearly a year now. Amber was what some might consider a Goth. She was an oddly attractive girl of medium height and build, dark black hair and a pale complexion. She wore dark eyeshadow and had several piercings and tattoos—two of which were behind each of her ears designed in a sort of a webbed pattern, like the gills on the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

“I performed an external-only examination, tested all vital, documented identifying marks and scars,” Amber explained, scaling down her earlier aggressive tone. “He had no pulse or heartbeat. His body had undergone algor mortis and had reached room temperature. He was dead!” she said disrespectfully to Ross. We observed the exchange, alarmed at how the girl was still employed. But, Ross seemed to be a patient man.

“Had the body reached the rigor mortis stage?” Ross asked Amber. Rigor mortis is the post-mortem stage, usually between 2 to 6 hours after death, in which the body begins to stiffen from a lack of blood circulation. The blood begins to pool and settle. Amber looked away as if embarrassed. “Well, no. Not exactly. I conducted the examination at about noon on Monday which was about 4 hours after he was pronounced dead. It can take up to 6 hours for it to set in” she argued. “But, you didn’t confirm?” yelled Ross.

Amber removed her white lab coat and threw it on the back of a work stool. “It’s getting hot in here” she joked. No one laughed. “Dammit, Amber! You’ve created a shit show here. I’ve never had this happen on my watch!” Ross yelled unfiltered.

Beneath her lab coat, Amber was wearing a vintage black Fangoria Magazine tank top. My heart skipped a beat as Rachel stealthily stepped on my bare foot and discreetly pointed to the girl’s right shoulder. There was a fading tattoo that read: “MadameMermaid94!”

“Ross, can I talk to you privately?” I asked as I guided the Coroner into a small side office. “We’ve got a problem here, Sir.” “What is it, Tyler?” “It’s your Tech. We just noticed Amber has a tattoo on her shoulder that identifies her as the Facebook user from which Jimmy’s live feeds were coming from” I explained. “I don’t understand,” said the Coroner. I held up my phone and showed him the feeds that he’d glanced at earlier. “These recordings came from this Facebook account from user MadameMermaid96. Take a look at Amber’s right shoulder.” Ross peered out the office door and looked at Amber’s shoulder and held his hand over his mouth. He grabbed his phone and walked quickly down the hall as he made a call.

By now, the ambulance had arrived and had taken Jimmy on a stretcher en route to the nearest hospital. Jenny accompanied him while Ross, Rachel and I stood in silent disbelief as Ross angrily typed a report into the computer. Amber and the two other Techs cautiously reviewed the reports for the remaining corpses.

Just then, a phone began to vibrate. We all checked to see if it was our own. It wasn’t. The buzz was coming from Chamber 23.

“My phone!” yelled Amber scouring the chamber underlayment until she found the phone. “I’ve been looking for this for the last few days!” she said ecstatically. Ross stopped typing and slowly removed his glasses as if he were thinking “how on earth could this debacle get any worse!” Amber ran over to her small workspace and plugged the phone in.

“Why the hell was your phone laying in a subject’s chamber?” demanded Ross. “And, please don’t tell me you forgot it there!” “Okay, I screwed up, Ross! Is that what you want to hear?” cried Amber. “That’s the understatement of the year,” said Ross under his breath. “What the hell were you doing on your phone in the first place when you should have been 100% focused on the examination? Do you know how this looks!”

The two continued to argue for a few minutes as Rachel and I stood uncomfortably nearby witnessing what may become the worst post-mortem blunder ever committed.

Amber’s phone lit up as it restarted after a few minutes in the charger. Amber typed in her password and navigated frantically to the Facebook app. “Give me that!” demanded Ross. “No! I’m not giving you anything!” said Amber twisting her body away from Ross. The Coroner—a seemingly mild-mannered man in his early sixties—grabbed her wrist and took the phone.

After clicking a few buttons, a video began to play. It was a live stream Amber had recorded Monday as she performed the post-mortem examination on Jimmy. She had streamed it live to her Facebook group of horror movie fans! We all looked at her in shock. “Is this what Entertainment has come to?” Ross asked sarcastically. “Amber, you’d better sit down.”

By now, the girl was beginning to realize what trouble she was in. “Amber, you’re not only officially fired, and will likely never work in this industry again. But, you’ve committed a crime which will likely result in an unprecedented privacy and wrong-doing lawsuit against the County, not to mention a media firestorm.”

Two police officers knocked on the door outside. Ross walked over calmly and spoke with them outside for several minutes.

Rachel called Jenny at the hospital and explained what had happened. While Jenny was livid, she was more grateful that her husband was still alive.

Over the next several months, a major lawsuit ensued. It was discovered that this was not the first time that Amber Martin had secretly streamed live examinations and autopsies to her followers. In fact, prior to this ordeal, I had just recently turned on my Facebook notification that alerted me when groups I had followed had posted anything or were broadcasting live. I enabled this setting on Tuesday and had not received the alert about the live stream she was doing with Jimmy as her subject.

As I searched through the group feed, there were several questionable recordings that had been streamed without the consent of the subjects. She had also taken it upon herself to impersonate the next-of-kin of several deceased subjects and had submitted death certificates for these subjects to several social media companies, including Facebook. She had done this with Jimmy’s account, and, like several others, had near complete control of their accounts going forward.

Nearly a year later, Amber Belinda Martin was convicted of 17 counts of Criminal Impersonation and Invasion of Privacy. She was also convicted of 2 counts of first-degree murder, as it was discovered that she had actually staged the murder of an elderly couple so that she could broadcast the autopsies that ensued as part of the investigation. She would serve a life sentence in the Massachusetts State Penitentiary, which no possibility of parole.

Jimmy, Jenny, and the girls sold their home and moved to Los Angeles. Jimmy and I quit our jobs at large advertising agencies and started a studio of our own creating opening and closing movie title sequences in Studio City. Today, we consider the Banks part of our extended family. I hope to never lose touch with them again.

 

CREDIT : Tyler King Lee

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The Spider in the Bed

by cnkguy
The Spider in the Bed

The Spider in the BedReading Time: 12 minutes

The Spider in the Bed

D. Fulkerson

 

“I don’t want to talk. Really. I just want to go to bed,” she said, taking out her earrings. She hustled by him without making eye contact, tossed the mail on the dresser, and lightly brushed him away. He reflexively glanced at the scattered envelopes. Bills. What’s that one from Venezuela? All bills.
He remembered loving her. She was beautiful in youth. She was tall, lithe, and had an angular face with gorgeously high cheekbones. He wasn’t sure why she began to date him. He had a good job back then, yes, but clearly she could have found someone better, taller, richer. Maybe she underestimated her drawing power. Maybe she needed stability. She was still tall and thin, but age (and botox) had pulled her skin porcelain tight and sharp. She looked like a big-haired skeleton.
She vigorously rubbed the make-up off her face, changed into her nightgown, and again rushed by him on the way to bed. “Just, just no . I’m going to read a little, but don’t talk to me.”
He dropped his head, did his nightly routine, climbed under the cold covers, and rolled away from her. He tried to close his eyes. He could hear her breathing – a loud staccato suck followed by a drawn exhale. Each turn of the page seemed like a Velcro rip. How did it come to this?
He’d been having trouble sleeping lately. He’d even resorted to self-prescribing a sleeping pill. That stuff knocked him out so hard that would sleepwalk through the next day. That’s all I need, he thought, to test positive for benzos on the job. Or alcohol. No, I can’t take anything stronger than warm milk. Hell, they could take away his medical license. He gritted his teeth, cringed at every sound from her side of the bed, and waited for the sweet succor of the light switch.
She was staying up later and later. She must have known how much this irritated him. He hated his life, his job, and now even his bed. Somewhere in the midst of thinking her book would never end, his lids grew heavy, and darkness took him.
He rushed to the classroom. I thought I dropped this class? I thought I was clear? Did I not? I didn’t even read the text? This will ruin my grades! I’m applying for medical school – how… how… I swear I dropped this class!
A thump on his foot snapped his eyes awake. He was in a fog, sweating, and feeling like he’d finished a sprint. His eyes tried to focus. Dream. Something had fallen on the bed. It was a dream. He had a lot of those dreams. In his dreams, he was always running, always behind, always forgetting something important. Was he awake now? He couldn’t move. What just shook the bed? Must have been the cat.
Dammit, I need to get some sleep. He rolled over, and noted his wife’s shape next to him. He couldn’t hear her breathing. He could hear his own breathing and somehow it sounded too loud. Go to sleep. His feet were too hot. They were always too hot. He jumbled with the covers to let his foot dangle loose. He was tangled briefly, and he couldn’t quite kick away the damn throw pillow at his foot. He rolled over again to get a visual cue, and his foot finally found the night air.
His eyes tried in vain to fixate on a reference. Occasionally, a car would drive by and the moving light would cross the heavy dark room. His eyes settled on the pillow near his foot.
Pillow?
Its shape was just, well, odd. He didn’t remember a pillow when he went to bed. Did the cat jump on the bed? He’d put the cat out. Or did he? Actually, he didn’t remember putting out the cat. Is it the cat? Am I even awake?
The shape seemed even blacker than the dark. He closed his eyes. Go to sleep. He tried in vain, but the harder he concentrated on sleep, the more he felt awake. He slowly opened his eyes again and fixated on the shape. It clearly had weight. He could feel a gradual slope of the mattress with his covered leg. He felt a rising sense of dread as he noted how near it was to his exposed foot. Why did I do that? This is stupid. Just kick the damn thing off the bed! Just kick with your other leg. Just –
He didn’t move. Now fully awake, he mentally berated himself from being fixated on a pillow. He stared at the shape and somehow he felt that the shape was staring back. He felt his pulse in his neck and in his head. He felt clammy. Was he going to throw up? Shit. Just kick it!
He gradually moved his covered leg gently toward the shape. Nothing. He was close. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. OK, one more push. His foot got just under the shape. It definitely had a weight, and it definitely felt heavier than a throw pillow. The clamminess turned to confusion. What the heck is —
It moved! He shook with a small spasm that volted up his spine. Holy shit! It moved. Didn’t it? I swear it moved. Didn’t it? I felt it push back. God, my foot is right there! Is it the cat? Just turn on a light. His mouth was dry. Yes, it was definitely closer to his exposed foot. Definitely closer. I’m dreaming. Is this a dream?
He began to withdraw his foot, feeling like it needed to get safe under the blanket. He did this slowly at first, but then – there, it moved! I definitely saw it move! He quickly pulled his foot back up when the shape brushed his ankle. He felt an insistent stubbled finger that filled him with a shudder. Another car was approaching, he saw the light start on the ceiling and knew it would sweep just over the foot of the bed.
The light moved quickly and as it did, it glistened off eight black staring eyes, and tracked over a sickeningly fat, soft body surrounded by eight crouching legs.
“SHIT!” he screamed, springing from the bed and fumbling for the light. He ran to the switch, hopping his bare feet off the carpet lest he step on something horrible. He bolted to the hall, turned on the light, and stood still, hyperventilating and shivering.
“What the hell!” She started from the bed, her angular face twisted in fury. “What are you doing?!” She covered her eyes and blinked hard from the light. “What is going on?” She drew her nightgown and charged at him.
“What?”
“A spider. I saw a spider.”
Her eyebrows peaked. “You saw a spider. And?”
“It was huge. Like a foot or two across. I thought it was the cat. It was huge.”
She shook her head and tried to process what he was saying. “Like a tarantula or something?”
“Yes, only bigger.” His body involuntarily cringed. “It was huge. It was just sitting on the bed.”
“You saw a tarantula. On our bed. This is what you woke me up for? Dammit!”
“I swear.”
“Well, go kill it!”
He stared back at her helplessly.
“Oh geez ,” she rolled her eyes and clucked her tongue. “Well, let’s take a look.” She went back into the bedroom. He shivered in the hall. “Is there a giant spider in here? Oh, a scary spider! Where are you?” He heard her clomp around.
She poked her head out the bedroom door. “No spider. God, you’re such a pussy. Now go back to sleep.”
He was now fully awake, mortified, and still nauseous. The lights were all safely on and he could see the bedroom clearly. He riffled through the covers. Nothing. No throw pillow. No spider. Nothing. It was a dream.
“I’ve got a big presentation tomorrow. I guess today, technically,” she said, scanning the clock. “Go to sleep. Don’t let the spiders bite!” She giggled to herself. “Seriously, we’ve got to get you medicated.”
He crawled back into bed, pulse still racing, skin still clammy. She’s right, he thought. A giant spider? That’s just stupid. There’s the occasional Black Widow around here, but those red-bellied things are small and smooth. Daddy-long-legs? There’s nothing like that. I just had a nightmare, nothing more.
She shut off the light and he was again surrounded by shadows.
Just a nightmare. She became a motionless lump next to him. For as much as her noisy awake breathing and reading annoyed him, he found her silent sleep breathing even more unsettling. He kept his feet tucked firmly under the covers. How stupid. This is just stupid. I’ve got to get some sleep.
He tried to calm his mind, but his heart was still racing. He screwed his eyes tightly closed, but he couldn’t help scanning the room every time a car passed. He tried to count. He tried a few relaxation techniques that he taught his patients. He fought to fall asleep, but the more he concentrated, the more awake he felt. His mind continued to race. He thought about spiders, about how tired he was going to be the next day, spiders, his wife’s cold hatred…
There is no spider! I’m not getting to sleep. I’ll just stay awake until it gets light. I’ll just nap at lunch. What is that?
Sick dread swept over him as he noticed a shadow tucked between the wall and the ceiling. You’re just too tired. There’s no spider. God, I can’t wake her up again. That’s nothing, just a shadow. It’s not moving. It’s waiting.
He couldn’t avert his gaze. He was afraid to blink, for fear the shadow would instantly dash away and he’d lose sight of it. I’ll just stare at it until the morning comes. It won’t move if I stare at it. He played different scenarios in his head. He’d like to turn on the lights, find a shoe and just kill it. Then he pictured himself missing it with the shoe and it attacking and running after him and —
He shuddered again. Oh no, he thought. I have to pee. Maybe if I turn on the light, all the shadows will disappear. It will be gone! But she will wake up. Which is worse? He always had to go to the bathroom at night; he would stumble blindly around the room until he found the door. Now, the thought of reaching out with his hands and feeling the unseen walls made him feel sick. What if he felt a hairy, moving, crawling, mass? What if he disturbed some hideous arachnid that would then leap onto him? A swift shudder shot through him.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. Maybe I could just wet the bed? She’d definitely kill him then. The unwavering feeling in his bladder momentarily distracted him from the shadow. It’s gone! Shit. He didn’t know if he should feel better or worse. He stared at the corner. There it is. No, no it’s gone. Where? He scanned the room hesitantly.
Another car drove by.
The lights traced the room. SHIT! The spider was crouching on the dresser legs drawn beneath it. When the light hit it, it shook briefly, then scuttled behind the furniture. He reached over to his nightstand and flipped on the light. He sat in the bed, sweating and shivering. It was just a shadow. There’s no spider! He glanced over at his wife, who, mercifully, seemed asleep.
The room was now filled with delicious light. He looked around for a weapon of some sort and decided on grabbing a small electric fan that was perched on his nightstand. He’d throw it at it. At what? There’s nothing. I’ll throw it at it and run away! My God, he thought, I’m delirious. He pulled his legs out of the bed, and, fan in hand, approached the dresser. Nothing.
“What are you doing?”
“Just going to the bathroom.”
“Turn out the light.”
He shuffled to the bathroom. He glanced nervously at the dresser and found the courage to peek behind it. Nothing. He felt numb from exhaustion. Maybe I should just go into the office. At 2:30 in the morning. Stupid.
He crawled back into bed and pulled the covers completely over his head, leaving just his nose and mouth exposed. How horrible would it be for something to crawl across his head? The very thought was sickening. He’d just stay safely tucked in, because a blanket is adequate protection against a giant nightmare spider. He was angry and disappointed with himself. I’m not a child. I’m not afraid of the dark. Still, the blankets made him feel better and soon his eyes grew heavy.
It was just too hot. He couldn’t stay totally covered. He tried, but he just couldn’t do it. He slowly pulled the blanket down. He paused at each inch, waiting for something he knew was impossible, but filled him with dread anyway. Nothing. He slowly exposed his face. Fine, he thought. I’m about to fall asleep. Soon this will all be over.
He rolled over to face his nightstand. There, inches from his face, was the spider, easily able to stretch its legs around his face, reaching out to him. The spider’s lidless eyes met his and it’s fangs twitched.
“SHIT!” He screamed and sprinted out of the room, not daring to look where his feet were hitting, not stopping at the hall, but racing to the kitchen. A knife! He needed a knife!
“What in the hell is going on! Dammit!” She sprinted after him. He turned on every light.
“It’s on the nightstand!”
“There’s something seriously wrong with you.”
“I saw the spider sitting on the nightstand. It was right in front of my face. It covered the whole top of the nightstand. I know it sounds crazy.” His words were dripping now with anger. Anger replaced fear.
“And you’re going to stab it?” she said, noticing the knife. “Alright, let’s just take a step back. Let’s go look through the room together. O.K.? Look together?”
He nodded.
They walked back to the bedroom. He clutched the knife. What good was a knife? I guess it was better than a fan. She turned on the lights. There was nothing on the nightstand.
“OK, lets start with the bed.” She took off all the blankets, shook them out, and tossed them on the floor. “Want to check under the bed?”
A wave of panic hit him.
“You pansy.” She bent down. “Can’t see.” She went over to her nightstand, opened a drawer, and pulled out a flashlight. She bent down again and waved the light around. “Come here, you’ve got to see this.”
“Do you see it?” He bent down, now hoping for validation.
“Nothing. I see nothing. Look for yourself.” She wanded the flashlight into each corner. Aside from a few cat toys and dust balls, there was nothing.
She could tell by his face that he still wasn’t satisfied. “You check those drawers, I’ll check these.”
They began to search the two dressers, looking in each drawer. He hesitated before opening each drawer, half wanting to find it, half cringing in horror at the possibility of it waiting for him. He checked behind and under the furniture. He checked her nightstand.
“Wait –“
He opened the drawer and they both saw half a pack of cigarettes. Neither of them smoked. Both of them stood there, stunned. Thoughts of a giant spider completely left him.
“Honey -”
She cut him off. “I’m not doing this now. Not a 3 o’clock in the damn morning. I’m just not doing this now.” She walked back to the kitchen.
He followed her. She fumbled in the cabinet and the refrigerator. She pulled out a pill casing. “We go back to sleep, and we’ll talk in the morning.”
“Who is he?”
“I said I’m not doing this now. I want you to take this.” She handed him a sleeping pill.
“This will knock me out,” he said.
“Yes, exactly. We both need some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.” She handed him the pill. She didn’t let him see that she had crushed four more pills in the cup of milk she now put in the microwave.
He looked at her, head swimming in a nightmare of anger, sickness, and hurt. He knew this was going on. He knew for weeks. Maybe that’s why his nightmares had gotten so vivid. He was a psychiatrist; he knew the subconscious manifestations of stress. Yes, he was having nightmares about loss, neglect, and somehow this made him hallucinate a giant spider.
The microwave dinged and she handed him the cup. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
He drank the warm, poisoned milk.
She grabbed a few quilts and put them on the couch. “You stay here.”
She stomped back to the bedroom and slammed the door.
He was stunned and numb. He absent-mindedly flipped on the television. He flipped between on-line shopping shows, re-runs, and bad television edited horror. Wasn’t I just afraid? Now I feel nothing. He watched one show for a few minutes, and then switched to another. He’d give her the divorce. No, wait. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Maybe the spider would eat her. He leaked a morbid smile.
Where was that damn cat? He looked over at the cat’s food dish. It was full. So was the water. A large yawn involuntarily took him. He stood up and instantly regretted it. He felt dizzy and disoriented. He stumbled off the couch, knowing he’d soon be completely enveloped by the medicinal haze. He didn’t know why, but he wanted find that cat. He looked at the cat’s bed and found nothing. He stumbled toward the laundry room, knowing the cat sometimes hid in clean clothes. He saw nothing at first.
The sleeping pills began to take over his body. Each movement required maximal effort. His legs were heavy. He knew he only had a few minutes to get back to the couch. His eyes blurred and he couldn’t find a way to keep them in focus. Just behind the dryer, he saw a small, black lump that had to be the cat. He braced himself on the washer, then stumbled toward the drier.
“Buttons, where are you?”
He looked over the hood of the dryer and his heart stopped in a flood of nauseous dread. There was a thicket of web, extending as high as the appliance. A half-eaten cat was enveloped, as was what looked like a bird and a mouse. He felt his stomach rise and felt a wretch heave out of this mouth.
He stumbled out of the room, trying to scream for his wife, but finding no sound. His legs were no longer bound into the servitude of his brain, and he fell into the hall. His arms felt stuck to the carpet and he didn’t find the strength to roll over. His eyes blinked slowly. Sleep was defeating terror. Yet, the terror was with him, just trapped in the darkness behind his eyelids.
He saw the bedroom door open and then he saw the bony feet of his wife.
He blinked heavily again. He struggled – struggled – to open his eyes. When he did, he saw the spider, crouched, in full light, just in front of her legs. The spider drew its legs closer, as if coiling a spring. Then, it sprinted toward him sickeningly quickly. He couldn’t find the strength to move or scream. He prayed the medicine would take him before he felt its bite.

CREDIT : D. Fulkerson

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