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Living in a Haunted Sorority

by cnkguy
Living in a Haunted Sorority

Living in a Haunted SororityReading Time: 15 minutes

I never understood why ghosts are always depicted as creepy little girls in Victorian dresses. Real ghosts are never like that…. Or at least, my ghost isn’t.

My ghost killed herself in my sorority house in the eighties, so it would be weird if she was wearing a Victorian dress. I only ever saw her once, sitting on the edge of my bed in the reflection of my mirror. Her hair was black and curly, it looked as though it had been teased to hell before deflating into limp, knotty locks of badly permed hair. She was wearing an over sized collared shirt tucked into mom jeans, and from the mascara streaming down her face I could tell she had been crying.

She didn’t look like a ghost; at least not what ghosts are supposed to look like. I turned away from the mirror, thinking a drunk friend of one of my sisters had snuck in after a theme party, but when I laid my eyes on the corner she had been sitting on, she was gone.

I’m getting ahead of myself. I had never actually seen her until my Junior year. In fact, she didn’t even seem to exist the whole first semester of my freshman year, although that could have been because my sisters didn’t want to scare me away from my newly joined sorority, Tri Delta. The first time she was mentioned to me I was hanging out with some other sorority sisters in my friend Summer’s room at the house. She was older, a senior, and her roommate was hardly ever home because she always stayed over with her boyfriend.

“There was a ghost in my room last night.” Summer told us in a hushed tone.

“Bullshit.” My friend Amy laughed, throwing a pillow at her.

“No, really! Ok, well, not a ghost, but maybe one of those orb things, you know? Like the kind they see in those ghost hunter shows?”

“I think you’ve been watching those shows too much.” I scoffed. I didn’t believe in ghosts then, let alone those dumbass orbs. Besides, Summer was one of those air brained hippy types, this hallucination was easy to write off as some sort of side effect from her last acid trip.

“I woke up in the dead of the middle of the night for literally no reason,” she told us, completely ignoring our skepticism. “I was completely paralyzed, like I couldn’t move at all. And it was pitch dark too, right? And I just see this orb of light moving back and forth, like a pendulum.” She traced the orb’s supposed motion in the air with an outstretched finger, eyes focused above our heads.

“Sounds like sleep paralysis.” Amy shrugged, hopping off of Summer’s bed, “Paralysis, hallucinations… yep, definitely not a ghost.”

Summer’s nose crinkled up, and her expression twisted, “Wait, do you smell that?” Amy and I both inhaled through our noses, and sure enough a distinct, fiery smell had inexplicably filled her room.

“Ok, why the fuck does it smell like fire?” Amy asked, her face turning white.

We all had a mini freak out until we exited the room in a panic only to be informed by a sister that the fraternity next door’s dumpster had caught on fire and everyone was going to the balcony to watch the firemen.

I was happy to put the embarrassing incident out of my mind until a few months later, when Summer brought the ghost up again, “This time I could see her, like, all of her, and I could feel her too. Not just the weight on my bed but the sadness. She was really sad. I think she was crying. And she looked way different from a normal ghost, like, I’ve never seen a modern ghost before, you know?”

This time, Amy was gone and I decided to play along for shits and giggles. “Well is there any record of a death in here? Maybe we can go to the library and look at old newspapers with one of those machine thingies.”

“How the hell would I know how to use one of those? We should just ask the house mom.”

“Ooh! Let’s find her in the composite pictures!” I jumped up excitedly, Summer following me to the back hallway. Each year, every year that Tri Delta had been on campus, everyone in the sorority would go out front and get their photos taken by the old oak tree to be put in a giant frame that showed all of the members. The composite would be displayed in our living room that year until it was replaced with the new one and shuffled off to the back hallway. A long, narrow hallway lined up with giant frames filled with hundreds of tiny sorority girl faces smiling manically at you got pretty creepy at night, but it was always fun to look at decades past and make fun of the various phases of hair do’s.

Summer and I found the section of composites from the eighties and began scanning the different faces for our ghost. Having never seen the ghost, my only two descriptors were black permed hair and sad, which didn’t leave me much to go off of so I would just jokingly point at every girl with black curly hair to the annoyance of Summer. I bored pretty quickly of this game, though Summer was staring at each and every face with a sort of intensity I had never seen in her.

I was about to give up when I pointed at the last picture, half a smirk on my face as I looked towards Summer, then towards the picture. The moment I saw her eyes I froze. I knew in my head that if I wanted to, I could move, but somehow, I wasn’t willing to. She was smiling, just like everyone else in the frame, but her eyes… they made me sad.

“Do you smell that?” Summer asked, breaking me out of my trance and sending me jumping two feet in the air. I knew what the smell was before I could even inhale—fire.

“That’s not another dumpster fire.” I whispered.

Completely freaked out, we decided to pay our house mom a visit to do some investigating. Our house mom, a fat, balding woman named Pam, was on the verge of quitting her job with summer quickly approaching, and it showed in her I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude.

“Hey Pam?” We called into her empty living quarters, poking our heads through the open door.

Pam came trundling out, flopping down into an office chair and looking at us with raised eyebrows, “Yeah?” She nodded slightly, motioning for us to come in.

“So, like, this house isn’t uuuuuuuh. Haunted. Is it?” I asked, my face probably still pale as the smell of fire lingered in my nostrils.

“Oh yeah,” she grunted nonchalantly, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms, “Whenever you girls go home over the break there’s always noises upstairs.”

“You mean like the walls settling, right? Because that happens like every thirty seconds.” Summer asked, a look of pure excitement on her face.

“No, no. I know the creaks of this old house like the back of my hand, I’ve lived here for ten years. These sounds are unmistakable. Footsteps. Drawers opening and closing. A couple times I heard someone crying, I even went upstairs to see if someone had somehow snuck in while the house was closed, but no she’s real. I think the old house mom said something about a girl offing herself in the late eighties but that was ten years ago and I was barely paying attention anyway.”

The old woman shrugged, leaning further back in her chair before catching a glimpse of our terrified faces and bursting out laughing, “You girls don’t have any reason to be scared, it’s not like a ghost can do much else than knock your coffee cup over, although that will not be an acceptable excuse when you get fined for staining the carpet.”

Pam seemed right, at least for the following few weeks that led to summer break without much incident. Summer moved out, got her diploma, and moved to Seattle for graduate school, and it was finally my turn to move into the house, into a big, four-person room with a window right above the front door that we would shout at our friends through as they walked to class. My roommates Amy, Carry, and Marley all got along well, even if Amy was a slob and Marley never turned off her closet light.

There were a few times when I would get spooked by the sound of the air vents creaking, or some paper falling off of my desk, but for the most part I was perfectly happy to repress any notion that I was living with a ghost.

That is, until Marley started talking to it.

A few months into our Sophomore year Marley was diagnosed with epilepsy after a scary seizure episode, and she was put on a medication called Carbamazepine, an anticonvulsant. The medicine stopped the seizures well enough, but it also caused Marley terrible insomnia which often left her sitting in our room all night staring blankly ahead, unable to think or eat because of how tired she was. Marley later told me it was during this time that she first caught a glimpse of the ghost in the mirrors.

Barely able to function and failing out of her program in Special Education, Marley’s doctors finally put her on sleeping pills. This should have solved the problem, but the pills had a really strange effect on her. It started out with her occasionally taking the pill too early and being suddenly hit with exhaustion while downstairs or in the bathroom, so that we practically had to carry her to bed. Once she finally figured out the timing with the pills, she would wake up having put herself under the bed sometime during the night, or we would find her walking out of the room dead asleep.

The problem was, while the pills were able to put Marley’s mind to sleep, her body remained awake. It was easy enough to handle, if we locked the door and guided a sleepwalking Marley back to her bed on occasion everything would be fine, and we all loved Marley so much that we didn’t mind a few minutes of lost sleep.

Usually these episodes were pretty noisy and active, with Marley shuffling things around our room or noisily trying to unlock our bedroom door, but one night I woke up to find Marley standing completely still, staring at something in the mirror.

“You ok, Mar?” I asked drowsily, hanging my hand over the top bunk railing to wave at her and see if she was asleep.

“She wants to talk to me.” Marley said, her voice completely devoid of any emotion and eerily lacking her typical strong southern accent.

“What?” I asked, pulling my hand back and sitting myself up, my stomach flopping.

“She wants to talk to me, but she doesn’t know how.” Marley repeated.

At this point, Marley’s voice had woken up Carry, who was already getting out of bed, “What the fuck, dude, just put her to bed.” She muttered, pulling Marley away from the mirror and tucking her in.

This didn’t happen again for another few weeks, until I woke up to find Marley standing in front of the mirror again using her hands to speak sign language. I knew Marley was learning sign language as a part of her program, but what shocked me was how flawlessly she seemed to be signing into the mirror, especially after having spent hours a day in front of the mirror practicing and worrying about passing tests. I assumed that what she was signing wasn’t actually real, just some version she had made up in her sleep state, so I began shimmying down my bunkbed ladder to guide her back to bed, “Marley, it’s too late for practicing right now, ok?”

Marley stopped signing abruptly, “But I found a way to talk to her.” She said in the same emotionless voice, sending a shiver up my spine.

“You’re having some weird dreams, aren’t you bud?” I shook my head, trying to shake the gut wrenching fear.

“She wants to talk to you too, but you can’t see her. She’s very sad.”

The smell of fire filled the room.

Alarms were going off in my head, my heart beating and head spinning, and I yanked Marley away from the mirror, terrified of my own reflection and shoved her into bed forcefully before scrambling up to my bed and hiding frozen beneath the covers.

The next day I called a roommate meeting while Marley was off at class to tell Carry and Amy what had happened, “I don’t know, I’m probably getting freaked out for no reason, but you guys were dead asleep and after the whole ghost thing with Summer I just get freaked out really easily–”

“No, dude, that happened to me too.” Carry interrupted me, her eyes wide. “Just the other night. Scared the shit out of me but I didn’t know about all that other stuff with Summer.”

“What the fuck.” Amy said into her hands as she rubbed her forehead. I thought she would have a similar reaction as she had had with Summer, but instead she just cupped her face in her hands and mumbled, “It happened to me too.”

“Shit.” I sighed, “So this is fucking real… What do we do?”

The three of us devised a plan, making sure that in no way Marley would find out what was happening. She was pretty religious, and a scaredy cat at that, and with all of her different health issues we weren’t wanting to add bad mental health to the pile. As badly as I wanted to cover the mirrors, or smash them or whatever, that would be a bit too obvious, so we decided that any time one of us was woken up we’d wake up the other two and get Marley away from the mirror as quickly as possible. Carry snuck into the student church next door and stole some holy water with her hydro flask to sprinkle around the room and throw at the mirror. Amy bought a bucket of crystals and dream catchers. Marley already had plenty of jewelry with crosses on them, so we figured we were good on that front.

Things only got worse, and the three of us lost a lot of sleep. I became so terrified that if I was sleep deprived enough I would begin seeing the ghost like Marley, which ironically worsened my sleep at night. It got to the point that she was up signing nearly every night, at which point we figured it couldn’t get any worse until I walked into the bathroom to find her signing into the mirror in a trancelike state in the middle of the day. The house being a sorority, there were mirrors in every corner, plenty of opportunity to pull Marley in.

It seemed to begin taking a toll on Marley, too. She began complaining of headaches and skipping class, losing interest in the program she was once so passionate about. Her temper worsened too, throwing her into a rage at little things such as a full trashcan, or water accidentally spilled on the floor. When she began sleeping around with guys like it was nothing, which was completely out of character, we finally made the decision to tell her what had been going on with her.

At first, she was unable to believe us, laughing and thinking it was a joke. Then, with her new temper, she was angry at us for making up a cruel story to try and scare her. Carry began crying, which none of us had ever seen before, and Marley became very quiet. Acceptance. She knew something was wrong with her, that she had become a person she couldn’t recognize, but because of a ghost?

She never outwardly admitted to accepting that this crazy, terrifying thing was happening to her, but a week later she had dropped out of school, and another week after that she was on a flight home to South Carolina without so much of a goodbye.

As heartbroken as we were, we were also relieved. With Marley gone, the ghost was gone too, and the entire next semester of my Sophomore year went by without incident. Part of me worried that somehow, since the ghost had disappeared, Marley had taken it with her. A selfish, horrible part of me wished this was the case. But slowly, Marley got better, and she often sent us letters in the mail or facetimed us from her new dorm. With the trauma seemingly behind us, we began to get braver and braver in telling the stories of those horrifying nights, suddenly relishing in the fearful reactions of our sisters. Any time something went wrong, it was now common to blame it on the “trid ghost,” and we even went so far as to nickname her Gertrude.

As junior year came around I moved back into the house, into a two-person room this time, and Amy and Carry moved far away into their own apartment, calling me crazy for voluntarily continuing to live in a haunted house. I liked living there with all my friends, it was on campus and hey, the rent was cheap. Some girls would occasionally claim that they had caught a glimpse of the trid ghost in a mirror late at night, but things were so quiet that I hardly cared to believe them.

Unfortunately, this was also the semester that we found out our chapter would be suspending operations at the end of the year. Without getting into the depressing details, our sorority wasn’t the most popular on campus and we no longer had enough members to pay for the cost of the house or its staff, let alone the social events that are a core part of sorority life. If you look up Tri Delta Phi Beta the second result is a link leading to the official announcement.

As you can imagine, this got us all to feeling pretty sad and sorry for ourselves, and the mood was pretty heavy in the house for a few weeks. Maybe it was the negative atmosphere that caused the ghost to come back. I think she came back because she was angry. See, we’ll probably be renting our house out to a fraternity while our sorority suspends operations, and I imagine any heartbroken ghost would be pretty mad about that.

Other than the mirror sightings of the ghost, which I refused to believe, the first sign that the ghost was back, and more malicious than before, happened one night as I was coming home from the bars, feeling drunk and ready to throw off my heels. I was half way up the back stairway when a bloodcurdling scream stopped me dead in my tracks and sent me running to the room Summer lived in when I was a freshman. My good friend Baily now lived in the room, and I recognized the scream as hers as I came bursting into a pitch-black room, turning the light on to reveal—nothing. Just a terrified Baily, her face white as chalk and her hands shaking profusely. Apparently, her roommate was up pulling an all nighter in the library, leaving Baily alone to sleep.

Once Baily was calmed down enough, she told me in a shaking voice, “I could see her as clear as day, even though it was pitch black in here. She was sitting on the edge of the bed and… and…”

“Crying.” I finished the sentence for her, remembering Summer’s story.

“No.” Baily said, surprising me as she shook her head, “She was smiling.”

Even our house chef, a tirelessly cheery guy named Antonio, would tell us about the strange things that happened in his kitchen. He’d tell us about how one morning as he was preparing lunch, a microwave would start up out of nowhere, or how a cup of water sitting on a completely flat table would tip over abruptly. Of course, each tale was delivered to us in a half joking way, as if he himself couldn’t believe these strange things.

One evening as I came home from class I found the house with all of its doors and windows propped open, the whole house smelling as if the girls had been smoking packs of cigarettes. “Why are all of the doors opened? I asked as I flopped down on a living room couch, “And who was smoking?”

“Antonio did a whole sage cleanse before heading home,” one girl told me casually, “Apparently he saw something that really spooked him.”

“Please,” another girl scoffed, “Ghosts aren’t real, and that shit seriously smells.”

The next morning, I went straight to the kitchens to grill Antonio what had happened, only to come upon his assistant chef, cooking some eggs for another girl. Alma was super sweet and loved to chat, even though her English wasn’t amazing. I exchanged my usual pleasantries with her while buttering up a bagel, hoping to catch Antonio in the back, when I noticed a huge bandage on her hand.

“Woah, what happened to you? Get a little clumsy with the frying pan?”

Alma’s smile disappeared from her face immediately, and she went to move her hand into one of her apron pockets, “Nothing. An accident.”

I had to laugh at her, looking all ashamed like a puppy in trouble, “Oh come on, that’s nothing! I used to cut myself all the time when I had to cook for myself. Or was it something more embarrassing? Like one time my friend was making a sugar scrub and she completely melted off her hand with boiling sugar.”

The more I spoke, the more Alma seemed to be receding from me, so I stopped talking with an awkward laugh and a shrug and finished buttering my bagel. Just as I was about to leave, Alma caught my eye and whispered, “Fue un espíritu.”

I knew enough Spanish from high school to know what she was saying—A spirit. So, what, the ghost was getting violent now? The thought sent a shiver down my spine. At that moment Antonio walked in from the back door, and Alma and I both turned away from each other, as if we had never had the conversation.

And so, the pattern continued—small, harmless yet unexplainable things would occur around the house building up until BAM. Another accident, leaving the girl it had happened to terrified. The severity of the attacks seemed to escalate as well, starting with the cut, leading to someone’s shirt being pulling from behind them so hard it nearly choked them before ripping, then a girl waking up with some unexplained nasty bruises, then a week later another girl falling down the stairs and breaking her collar bone.

Annie was the one who “fell” down the stairs, and for a week she refused to talk about it at all. If questioned about it she’d simply reply that she was sleep deprived and tripped and that she was tired of explaining what happened over and over again. To be honest, I was really hoping that this was the truth. I had taken notice of the pattern of violence and I was terrified. The end of the year was approaching, and so was the closure of our sorority. How desperate and angry could the ghost get?

Unfortunately, Annie would soon reveal to me that this was in fact not the truth. During a night out at the bars together she drunkenly pulled me to the side, looked me in the eyes, and told me, “I didn’t fall, you know. I was pushed.”

“What?” I answered, hoping I had heard her wrong over the music.

“I saw her. Like really saw her. And once you see her you’re marked.” She slurred, leaning on me for support. As drunk as I was, I had to believe her.

That night, my roommate fell out of her bed. She woke up on the floor, a little groggy and out of it, and not realizing she had broken her head open and was bleeding everywhere with a concussion, she crawled back into bed and fell asleep. When I got home I was horrified to find the floor covered in blood, my roommate still as a statue in the top bunk. I really feared the worst. I really thought she was dead.

She survived, just barely. If I hadn’t found her in bed it’s very likely the concussion would have stopped her from waking up, ever. After three days in the hospital she moved out of the sorority back home half an hour away, leaving me to sleep in my room alone. When I asked her if she had seen the ghost, she couldn’t remember.

As I write this, I am taking yet another break from studying for finals, which are a week away. One more week until we could all be free from this nightmare. It had been a few weeks since my roommate’s accident, and I was really beginning to have hope that her’s would be the last incident.

But you’ve already read the beginning of the story, so you already know. While I was taking a study break, I looked into the mirror and I saw her. As I write this, I can smell it, just as clearly as the first time. Fire.

 

CREDIT : adventurousemma

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Sacrifice to Malachy Locke

by cnkguy
Sacrifice to Malachy Locke

Sacrifice to Malachy LockeReading Time: 7 minutes

If you are reading this, then it means Malachy Locke has chosen you. I write this so that when the time comes for you to make your decision, you will be fully informed. I wish you all the best, my dear. I know you will choose right.

Malachy will come for you when you are not expecting it, when you have just begun to accept the mediocrity of life and your place in it. You will likely be young. He tends to choose his lovers young, for which you should be grateful. In fact, I guarantee that no matter what age you are when he takes you away, you will wish he had come sooner. If you are eighteen, as I was, you will wish you had been sixteen. Sixteen, and you will wish fourteen. The life you had before meeting him will seem so worthless, so contemptible to you that you will despise every year you spent away from him.

But that, I am happy to say, will be the only regret you ever have. Life with him will be a waking dream. He will take you anywhere in the world that you ask him, to places you have only ever imagined. He’ll give you anything you want, although you will only want him. You will live with him, eat with him, sleep with him, and wake every morning to find him still there, still loving you faithfully.

And he will need only one thing in return from you. Like a gentleman, Malachy will not bring it up at first. But as the days go by, you will see him begin to change. When you met him, he looked twenty-five, thirty, perhaps, but now he will look older. Silver threads will shimmer in his hair. Lines will cross his face. His skin will thin, bones and tendons emerge, and you will worry. He is aging before your eyes, and you will fear losing him. So, of course, you’ll do anything he asks to make him well again.

All I would advise, for the first time, is just to relax. Let his fingers trace your throat, perhaps turn your head to the side so he can press his lips to your neck. It will not be with his teeth. They’re sharp, can crush bone, and he doesn’t want to hurt you. It will be a tiny blade, one he’ll keep on the table beside your bed, and you won’t even feel the incision. A little cut, not a quarter-inch across, and then he will just be kissing you.

Turn on the bedside light. Look how beautiful he is, with your blood glistening on his lips. Watch as his body, illuminated by the yellow lamplight, becomes younger in a matter of moments. His skin will soften, his face become smooth, his hair darken until it is as thick and black and healthy as a bull’s.

And he will look twenty-one.

You will soon become used to this routine. In fact, you will come to enjoy it. It is something you can give back to him, to repay him for the love he shows you. And he needs so little, a few tablespoons-worth of blood at a time, that you will barely notice it. Weeks will go by, and you will find yourself desperate for him to take more, as much as you can give him. For him to drink your blood by the gallon-full, to devour you completely.

Malachy will oblige, within reason, of course. More blood, but not enough to hurt you, certainly not enough to kill you. He needs you, wants you to live a long time with him.

Use scarves and high-collared clothes to hide the scars that decorate your throat, the cuts that dance around your neck. Realise though that even if you keep the scars hidden from view, people will notice the change in you. Not physically. But they will notice how you act around them, how you are aching whenever you are away from Malachy. You will turn every conversation to him, this mysterious lover and the life you share together.

If you try to introduce him to friends and family to quell their concerns, they will only grow more afraid. Although they can’t put it into words, something about him makes them uneasy. A certain fire in his eyes, a fierceness in his laugh, something they feel is off. They will question you constantly about him, beg you to leave him and come back home.

Sever all contact with them. Malachy is the only family you need, the only friend you could ever want. Your lives are entwined, irreversibly. And you will be glad of it. Life will suddenly seem simpler, everything thrown into perfect clarity.

He will hide his failing health from you at first. Please forgive him that. It was only when I noticed the first grey hair return to his head that he told me the truth, that he couldn’t live on blood alone, not forever, no matter how much I poured out for him. It would be like trying to survive on only water. He was going to keep aging, grow weaker. He would live another three months, perhaps four.

That’s when you will have to make your decision. How much do you love Malachy Locke? What would you sacrifice to be with him? He will not die if you refuse him, you understand. He’ll simply find another woman, one who will give him what he needs.

But you want his love for yourself. So you will do what it takes to keep him.

I remember how scared I was, the night he planned the first excision. We made love first, and then he took a wooden box from the bedside cabinet. Inside were gleaming silver scalpels, scissors, curettes and clamps, forceps, retractors, bone chisels and needles. A bottle of pills, a bottle of alcohol.

And a metal dish, ready to collect my flesh.

Where he cuts will be up to you. It can be a lump of tissue from your belly or breast, or one of your fingers or toes. There are lots of different options, and he will explain them all to you so that you can decide for yourself.

Try not to worry. He will not need to take much. Human flesh, like blood, goes a long way. That first time, he assured me that an ounce, even a half-ounce, would be plenty, enough to restore him to health for months more.

He put two pills into the palm of my hand and I swallowed them down with some of the alcohol, willing them to work fast. As my senses dulled, I heard him ask me if I had made my decision about where to cut.

I closed my eyes and pinched an inch of belly fat between my fingertips. Malachy murmured his approval. That was a good place, he said. No one would see the scar under my clothes, and there was plenty of loose skin to stitch me back together.

No need to be concerned, he whispered, as he rubbed alcohol onto the area. This operation was so simple, he could do it in his sleep. He pressed a kiss to my cheeks, to my eyelids, and then brought the blade down on my skin.

The scalpel cut into my belly and the pain shot through me, bright and clear despite the drugs. Like a coward, I cried out, begged him to stop. Such a coward. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d carried on cutting, held me down on the bed if I tried to fight him. Cut out my heart then and there, the weak, treacherous heart that didn’t love him enough to bear the pain.

But Malachy stopped straight away, mid-incision. He is, as I said, a true gentleman, and he will take nothing from you that you do not freely give him.

The metal dish remained empty.

He stitched me up again, soothing me with his kisses. He licked the wound, lapped up the blood that had pooled in my belly-button. He told me not to feel guilty, that he still had plenty of time. Plenty of time for us to try again. And he reminded me of my options, where the cuts could be made, the flesh taken.

Again, I remind you of the decision you will soon have to make. How much do you love Malachy Locke? What price are you willing to pay? What would you sacrifice?

The choice I made was the same as any lover would have done. He was growing so sick as the weeks passed by, a dying flame. He slept most of the day, trembled at night in my arms. I held him close, fed him my blood, stroked his greying hair.

We tried again eight weeks later. Again, I downed the pills, drank straight vodka. The cut on my belly had healed a deep-pink. I closed my eyes, ready for him to make a different incision.

The metal dish was soon full.

Not quite an ounce of flesh, Malachy said, but it was enough. He ate it raw, while I lay there and watched the strength return to him. He was so very grateful. I would have plenty of time to heal, he assured me, before the next operation. Another seven or eight months before he’d need to feed again.

And that is how it went, my dear. Eight months later, he made another excision, and ate six ounces of flesh. Then ten. Then a full pound. A couple of times we tried for more, once a whole three pounds at once. But it was more difficult, took longer to heal, so Malachy decided a pound would be the limit. A pound is what we aimed for after that. You’ll find that, as with the blood, you want to give him more than simply what he needs. More than the bare minimum. There’s a certain pleasure in giving him as much as you possibly can.

But now I’m too old. It was thirty years ago that he chose me. He hasn’t aged, but I have, and now people who see us in the street mistake him for my son, or even my grandson. Malachy laughs, but I can see the pain in his eyes. He knows that our time together is nearly at an end.

So, when I am dead, he will choose another lover. And if you’re reading this, then it means he’s chosen you.

Malachy offered to cut piece by piece, as he tried to do the first time, so I can stay with him a few years more. But I’ve asked him to just take my heart and get it over with. To be cut up like that terrifies me.

And besides, he doesn’t deserve to be stuck with me any longer, nearly fifty years old and looking older every day. He deserves someone young, beautiful. That’s why he chose you.

So tomorrow it will be over. Tomorrow he will devour my heart and then go to find you.

I have given him so much flesh. And bones, and organs, too. And hearts. But now I am too old to make him any more hearts.

My heart will be the last I give to him, and the largest.

CREDIT : synthetic_child

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A Collector of Sorrows

by cnkguy
A Collector of Sorrows

sorrowsReading Time: 16 minutes

I call myself a collector of sorrows. As a teen, I felt alone and ignored. My classmates bullied me, and my parents spent most of their time at work. They didn’t have the time or care to hear how Brett pushed me on the playground or how Tommy joked about my big nose. After a while, I decided no one could help me, but I didn’t want anyone else to feel neglected. So I started to collect obituaries, missing child ads, and tragic stories in the paper. While I pored over grisly murders and tragic accidents, I copied the victims’ names and faces to my memory. Others would forget about them, but I would remember. If just one person remembered, then they could find the peace I could not.

Needless to say, my hobby didn’t gain me many friends. On a couple of occasions, the other students found my stash of tragedies. When they did, they tore it apart or burned it. Then they’d beat me up for the fun of it.

But eventually the bullies forgot about me. By the time I graduated, there was no one left to judge me. Even afterwards, I avoided people and people avoided me. I took a boring desk job at an accounting firm, where each of us enjoyed the privacy of a small cubicle. The only time I ever talked to someone was when I refilled my bottle at the water cooler. From time to time, I consulted with my boss Julie. She was tolerable.

When I took the accounting job, I moved to an isolated home in a rural town called Harriston. Like many country homes, mine sat on acres and acres of land. My closest neighbor, if you could call him that, lived five miles down the road. Most of my property sat wrapped in a vast pine forest. Old trails snaked throughout the woodlands. Many of them lead to small lakes and ponds while others circled back around on themselves. Even recluses need fresh air, so I walked them whenever I could.

Having grown up in an urban neighborhood outside of Chicago, I was accustomed to reading about car crashes, drug overdoses, and gang violence from time to time. When I moved to the country, I expected a new set of tragedies. But I found something different altogether.

Over the years, I recorded many instances of missing children. Most had wandered into the woods, lost their way, and never made it out. When they were found, if they were found, their corpses were days old. The forest critters had picked apart their bodies almost beyond recognition. In one graphic photo released by the police, a girl’s throat was ripped out and her head was turned completely around. Probably the work of a local grizzly bear.

Foul play was almost never expected. If any of the children had been murdered, the police had no suspects. After all, family was everything in Harriston. Since neighbors were few and far, the townsfolk spent their time almost exclusively with family. To murder a family member was unnatural and unthinkable.

In my first four years in Harriston, there were just two confirmed murders. On September 22, 2012, a man shot his brother after several beers and a heated discussion about who contributed more work on the farm. On January 7, 2016, a man broke his sister’s neck to take her share of their father’s inheritance. The man denied everything. Evidence was scant, but the jury convicted him anyways. He spent the rest of his life in a state prison.

My most interesting report came in the summer of 2016. This time a grown woman, Angela Witten went missing. Her husband said she went for a morning run in the forest and never came out. As with the missing children, everyone assumed Witten had simply lost her way. But the husband claimed she ran the forest trails every morning. She could not have gotten lost. She knew those trails by heart.

Three days later Angela Witten appeared at the start of the trail. An unflattering black and white photo showed her with deep rings under her eyes and a cut across her cheek. According to Witten, when she entered the woods that morning, the trails changed. After a few minutes, she turned back. But even after ten more minutes of running, she was no closer to home. In time, the trail led her to a clearing. She described the air as thick and unnaturally quiet. The clearing, Witten said, was a perfect circle of dead, brown grass. At the center of the circle, stood a stone pedestal. She approached the pedestal and found a glass orb. Out of curiosity, she touched the orb. She found nothing strange about the orb itself, but wondered who had placed it there and why.

Angela Witten then tried to exit the clearing, but she fainted before she could reach the tree line. At that point, the woman’s recount became harder to follow. She spoke of laughing shadows and eyes on her back. The only thing she could clearly communicate was that something was following her. Even after leaving the forest, she said she still heard it and felt it. And it was getting closer.

Witten’s story took up only a short column on the fourth page of the newspaper. Just a day after her story was published, Witten died. Her five-year-old son found her collapsed on the kitchen floor with her neck snapped. Authorities concluded she must have slipped and fallen against the counter. Witten made primetime on the local news station.

With my interest piqued, I searched through the library’s archives. Death by snapped neck was fairly common in Harriston. It affected children on the playground, elders in their homes, and loners and lovers alike. There were upwards of a hundred cases in the past decade. With that said, I found nothing noteworthy about these deaths. Most deaths could be attributed to everyday clumsiness and run-of-the-mill accidents. And in the few suspicious cases, there was never any mention of forests, stalkers, or paranoias. My gut said there was a common thread running through the sorrows of Harriston, but I found nothing. I gave up the search.

Not two days after I gave up, I flipped through my own collection of Harriston sorrows. To my surprise, I noticed Angela Witten’s paranoia wasn’t the first. Eric Garland, age seven, was one of the many missing children. Before his disappearance on August 12, 2015, Eric suffered a week of night terrors during which a disfigured man followed him through the woods. At first, the man lurked in the shadows, but as the nights progressed, he came closer. Once within earshot, the man introduced himself as the Death Stalker. One day before his disappearance, Eric said the Death Stalker stopped following him in his dreams. Now he followed him in waking reality. The Garlands thought nothing of it until their son ran into the forest never to be found again.

Although I didn’t wish harm on anyone, I watched and waited eagerly for the next tragedy to strike my small country town. A voracious, black cloud hung over Harriston, swallowing him and her without warning. I yearned to figure out why. For that, someone else needed to die.

But the days were quiet and the obituaries short. I checked the news at all hours of the day, even during work at the firm. My boss noticed a decline in my work. After calling me into her office, Julie told me I was on probation. Reluctantly, I put my research aside.

Another few months passed. I read the papers in the morning, but nothing of interest ever came up. I forgot about snapped necks and Death Stalkers. Just run-of-the-mill deaths by disease and car crash. That is until one summer evening when I headed to the forest for a leisurely stroll.

The sun’s toes dangled over the horizon, and the trees were abuzz with the chatter of birds and cicadas. As I stepped into the forest, a warm gust of air sighed through the branches. Hands in my pockets, I headed left down the fork in the dirt trail. After another left turn, the path would curve around to the other side of my property. All in all, it was a fifteen minute walk, just long enough to clear my head.

I watched the pine needles tumble down from the tree tops as I continued onward. All around me, crows cawed from the canopy. Though I searched for them, I could not see a single feather.

Having given up the search, I took my final left turn. At once, the crows quieted. I heard neither their shrill squawks nor the flutter of their black wings. The gentle wind had died. The entire forest sank into a heavy silence like that of a storm cloud waiting to burst open.

Ahead of me, the familiar pinewood grew increasingly unfamiliar. Twisted, knotted branches blotted out the sun. Twilight lay across my path. I turned back. Perhaps I had taken the wrong fork in the road. But there was no fork in the road. I jogged several paces, but I found no sign of it. I had no choice but to follow the path where it lead me. I laughed a short, uneasy laugh. “It’s a joke,” I told myself. “It’s all a joke.” But who, or what, was playing it on me?

Without sun, time became impossible to tell. For all I knew, time hadn’t moved at all. Regardless of how many steps I took, the trees all looked alike. And yet, at some point cobwebs descended over the pine trees. They sucked the trees dry until their needles browned and dropped to the floor.

Not knowing why, I hurried down the path, faster and faster. Soon a cool sweat spread over my body. Just as I began to pant, I ran face-first into a spider web. I stopped to rub the sticky thread out of my eyes and spit out a strand that slipped into my mouth.

When I opened my eyes, the forest had fallen away. The tree line broke and the grass died. Before me lay a perfect circle devoid of all life. At the center stood a stone pedestal, and on it, a black ball carved from glass. I could not believe my eyes. I snapped a picture with my phone just to be sure. But the photo showed me the exact same clearing. “Maybe Angela Witten wasn’t crazy,” I thought.

My legs pulled me forward as if of their own accord. The closer I approached the pedestal, the greater my curiosity grew. I ached to touch the orb, though I could not say why. Before I could stop myself, the orb filled my hands. I brought it to my face until I could see my pale face on its polished surface. Yet, as I stared deeper into the glass, I became aware of something else: a dark figure with great saucer eyes. Just as I noticed it, the figure smiled a sharp, crooked smile.

At once, I dropped the orb. It made no sound as it hit the ground, and when I blinked, the sphere reappeared atop the pedestal. My heart leapt into my chest. Once again I ran. All around me the trees snickered and the sky darkened. I looked up in search of the sun. To my surprise, it sat on the horizon just as when I entered the forest. The sky had not darkened at all. But my vision had. I sprinted towards the trees while the sinister cackle echoed around me. A dark veil smothered my sight. I fell.

Cold, hungry, and scared, I woke up at the start of the trail. Dusk was slowly sinking into night. I brushed the dirt from my shoulders and inspected a long gash along my right shin. I can’t recall how I got it. I glanced down the forest path. The wind roared through the trees. Far back, on the edge of my vision, a silhouette swayed behind a thin cedar. I blinked and then it was gone.

“A figment of my imagination,” I said. But I didn’t stick around to find out. I scurried home and locked the door. Without hesitation, I ran into the shower to drown my thoughts. I thought the shower would calm my nerves. Instead I felt weak and vulnerable. As the water cascaded over my head, I didn’t dare open my eyes. And no matter how hot I turned up the water, a cold shiver still ached in my bones.

When I finished showering, I dried myself off and retreated to bed. I pulled the covers tight over my body as the wind picked up outside. Tree branches scraped against the window, and the floors creaked. On top of that, my heart pounded in my ear. Sleep did not come easy, but it did come.

Before long, the dark night passed on to a dark, cloudy day. The memory of the forest clearing echoed in my drowsy, morning thoughts. But I dismissed it as a dream and carried on. Then I made my breakfast, got dressed for work, and headed for the door. But just as I grabbed the door knob, I had a thought. I took out my phone and opened up my photos.

It was there. I hadn’t imagined it: the desolate clearing with the stone column and glass orb. I zoomed in on the column. Although I hadn’t noticed it earlier, there were runes carved into its surface. I couldn’t guess their origin. They looked ancient and inhuman.

As I inspected the runes, I spotted a shape crouched behind the withered trees. Shriveled and slate grey, the shape stretched a long claw from out of the brush. A thin slit of a mouth stretched all the way across its scarred face. And its eyes were hollow and hungry.

A door slammed deep within the house. “Hello?” I called. A low grumble resonated down the hall. Before the noise could draw any closer, I sprinted out the door, got in my car, and drove away as fast as I could. Although a braver man would’ve investigated the noise, I didn’t even want to think about it. As it was I could barely keep the creature’s marred complexion out of my thoughts. And it’s ravenous eyes. No matter where I went, I could feel their gaze wash over my skin.

I sped down the twisted country roads until the dense forest gave way to rolling pastures gated in by short, wooden fences. On most days, farmers tilled the land. But the sky was swollen with billowing, black clouds, and the wind raged through the tall grass. Rain threatened to fall at any moment. The fields were empty. The roads were as well.

Thunder crackled in the clouds. I glanced up as lightning sparked across the sky. I followed its path over the field. It disappeared, but as soon as it did, another rushed to take its place. All the world lit in a flash of white. All but a single black shape that stood far off in my periphery. At first, the shape didn’t register. I drove another few seconds before I realized what I’d seen. When I glanced over, the Death Stalker stood at the fence grinning wildly. It’s head cocked to an impossible angle and its mouth spread wide to reveal a razor-sharp smile.

The tires squealed and spit dirt as I floored it. The figure followed me just beyond the border of my sight. I could feel him like a scar seared into my every waking moment. Somehow I sensed him closer to me as if he were running beside the car.

For the remainder of my drive, I looked ahead and nowhere else. Whatever lurked in the periphery, I would not look. People, cars, or creatures. It didn’t matter. I barreled forward. Horns blared. Men swore. I didn’t care. I pulled into the office parking lot. Eyes down, I scrambled out of my car and high-tailed it to the door.

My hand was already on the handle when I heard someone call for me. “Wait!” they said. “Hold the door please.” Naturally, I turned. A rotund man stumbled forward with a stack of boxes in his arms. His face was red from exertion, and a shadow loomed over his head and shoulders. But the shadow was not a shadow. It was the dark body of the Death Stalker. No less than ten feet tall, the beast towered over the man. Its head snapped between severe angles and a hot screech emanated from its throat. The creature cackled as I disappeared past the door.

No doubt, I caught several suspicious eyes as I ran into my cubicle. I heard the clack of heels behind me. “Are you alright?” someone asked. I did not turn to look, but I recognized her voice. It was Julie.

“I’m fine,” I said in short, sour words.

“You scared some of the others by running in here like that.”

“I’m fine,” I repeated.

“Really? Because if I’m being honest, you don’t look fine.” She circled around me. But I still would not look up. “Your eyes look hollow.”

“Julie, I’m fine,” I said. “I just want to work. I’m having…I’m fine.” Without another word, Julie and her heels clacked back down the hall.

True to my word, I wanted to work and nothing else. In fact, that’s all I did. I didn’t take a break for food or water or even to walk around. Absorbed in my work, I completely forgot about the events of the morning. When the day was done, I stood up on shaky legs and walked to the door without a worry. Rain had finally begun to fall. It poured down in a constant onslaught of cool, heavy rain.

Since I didn’t think to bring an umbrella, I stopped just before the door. Although the sun would not set for a few hours, the sky was cloaked in dusk. I stared into the stormy sky and sighed. Only a few paces behind me, a deep sigh echoed my own. “Hello?” I said.

Silence.

But I knew what followed me. The creature’s patient watch burrowed deep into the nape of my neck. I scratched the path of skin, but it only worsened the discomfort. I itched to turn around. When I did not, there came a sharp click click click. The noise drew closer and closer until curiosity finally overcame me.

Hanging from the ceiling tiles, the Death Stalker crawled towards me ever so slowly. The creature stopped and reached out with one spidery arm. Its disfigured head spun around until it sat upright. The Death Stalker bared its crooked teeth. A demonic laugh rumbled in its throat.

I bolted out the door. The rain beat down. In the five seconds it took me to get in my car, water had seeped through my shirt and my shoes. With shaky hands, I guided the key into the ignition and started the car. But the engine sputtered. The car was only a year old. Not once had it ever failed to start. “Come on. Come on. Come on,” I said, trying the engine again. This time it worked.

Lightning split the sky in two as thunder rolled over the earth. And the wind shrieked as I drove my car down the slick streets. Inky clouds stretched from horizon to horizon. There was no way to tell where I was in the tempest. But the farther I drove, the more the darkness gathered. I was driving straight into the storm’s heart.

Again I sensed an icy tingle across my neck. The wind quieted to a hush. My headlights flickered. “Look at me,” I heard in a raspy voice. “Look at me…”

“No! Leave me alone!” I screamed. The Death Stalker laughed. My headlights flickered once more and then gave out. But I charged forward blindly. One way or another, I would make it home. The car shook as another clap of thunder spread over Harriston.

I squinted into the dogged blackness. At once, the headlights flashed back to life. The light shone on the hulking figure of the Death Stalker. Arms spread, legs steady, he stared down my car. I clenched my eyes shut and prepared for the collision, but there was nothing. When I opened my eyes, there was only open air.

By the time I reached home, the storm had subsided. Silence lay over the house. It comforted me and frightened me all at the same time. A twitch ran up my spine. “You just need sleep,” I said as I entered my bedroom and closed the door behind me. “Sleep. Just sleep. That’s all you need. Just need some sleep.” I kicked off my shoes and pulled back the covers.

Just then the door creaked open and slammed shut. I froze in place. The floorboards groaned from the thud of heavy feet. When the footsteps stopped, a wash of hot breath spread over my shoulders. It reeked of curdled milk and meat left to rot in the summer sun. Two grey limbs surrounded me on both sides of my periphery.

“Look at me,” the Death Stalker said. “Look at me.” It repeated that same phrase for over a minute. At any second, I expected its claws to wrap around my neck. But it only told me to look at it. When I did not obey, the creature gave up. Once again, an eerie quiet lingered through the house. For another minute, I stood still as stone. Nothing happened. I was safe at last.

Out of habit, I turned to close the door for the night. The Death Stalker grabbed my head in its claws and pulled me towards its ashen face. Its eyes bored into mine. It loosed a blood-curdling scream that knocked me unconscious.

Much to my surprise, I woke up. My back ached from a night on the floor, but my neck was in perfect condition. That was more than most could say after meeting the Death Stalker. But I did not consider myself lucky. If the Death Stalker left me live, there was a reason. The only explanation I could think of was that the creature was toying with me.

Even though I had woken up, I would not open my eyes. If I did, I knew what I would see. Springs groaned as the bed rocked. But I was not on the bed. Something had jumped on top. The sheets rustled as it crawled towards me. When the rustling stopped, there came a hoarse sigh. My hair danced as a puff of rancid air flowed down upon my head.

“Look at me,” a gravelly voice said. It was so close. I could almost taste the creature’s words on my lips. “Look at me.”

“No,” I said. The more I looked, the closer the Death Stalker came. If I looked this time, I would not survive. But my eyelids fluttered with anxious desire, my spine shuddered, and my blood itched. The Death Stalker must’ve sensed my pain. It snickered to itself and scraped its claws against each other. The screeched with the sound of steel on steel.

“Look at me,” it said again. I clenched my eyes shut and curled into a fetal position.

“No,” I said, squeezing myself tighter and tighter. “No,” I said, again and again until tears dripped down my cheeks. Now the Death Stalker’s laughter echoed all around me. It rang in my ears and trembled in my bones. Somehow I knew the only way to end it was to open my eyes.

However, in the end, my judgment suppressed my curiosity. I locked my head between my knees and never once opened my eyes. The Death Stalker called to me for hours. Its massive feet thud around me as it paced to and fro. When I did not answer, it grumbled and snorted. After two hours, the room fell dead quiet, and the stench of the creature’s rotten breath dissipated. No longer did I feel a rattle in my bones or a fever in my veins.

Even so, I would not relax. Just because a little tension had evaporated from the room didn’t mean I was safe. It was another ploy for the Death Stalker to get its hands around my neck. So the entire day I spent wrapped around my knees. I did not move, not for food or even the bathroom. The phone rang, presumably from work. After a neurotic day at work, I had disappeared. Julie would want answers, but she could wait.

The day dragged on. Minutes passed аs hours, and hours as decades. At some point, I passed out from exhaustion. Once again I woke up on the floor. My back throbbed and my neck was stiff, but thankfully still intact.

Dawn streamed through the windows, and the morning doves cooed. I rose to stretch my limbs, wash my face, and change my clothes. I made it halfway to the bathroom before I realized my eyes were open. My heart throbbed for a moment, and then slid back into a peaceful rhythm. Despite the horrible days prior, I did not fear my sight. I heard nothing, saw nothing, felt nothing. I was free. I knew it.

Sun shone upon the winding country roads. I enjoyed the leisurely drive to work. I smiled at the the swaying forest trees and at the workers in the fields. When I got to work, I greeted my coworkers happily. Even on a normal day, this was strange behavior for me. Oddly I could not find Julie to explain why I never showed up to work the day before.

I sat down at my desk and got to work. Yesterday’s work still sat on my desk, but I completed it without delay. Before I moved on to the current day’s work, I went to the water cooler to refill my water bottle. That’s when I saw Julie scamper in. “Julie,” I said. She jumped as I said her name, but came over regardless. “I apologize for yesterday. I was bed-ridden. It was terrible. I…Julie?”

Her hair stuck in clumps, dark rings circled her eyes, and her blouse was a wrinkled mess. “It’s fine,” she said. She forced a weary smile. “I understand.”

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“I…I had a rough night.” She looked past me and nowhere else.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Her brow furrowed in an expression of deep distress. “I had a dream of this…glade in the woods. It wasn’t a memory. I have never been there, but I could feel the withered grass on my feet. It was as real as anything. As real as you standing in front of me.” She still would not look at me. “At the center of the glade, there was a stone column with a black ball on top. I touched it, and then I started running for some reason. I kept running and running as if something was chasing me. Now I’m awake, but I still feel like I’m running.”

If Julie looked at me then, she would’ve seen the color drain from my face and the light vanish from my eyes. “That must be terrible,” I said. She laughed a nervous laugh.

“I think I’m seeing things,” she said. Before I could say anything, she shook her head. “No. I’m fine. I’m fine,” she said. I knew otherwise.

Two days later, Julie was found dead in the stairwell of her apartment. Neck snapped. She fell down the stairs, or so they said. Family members called it a freak accident and a terrible tragedy. Her brother wrote the obituary himself. He spoke of childhood memories on the farm, summers on the lake, and Christmas in the Florida Keys. His words were tender, wistful, and utterly heart-wrenching. They made a lovely addition to my collection of sorrows.

 

 

CREDIT : Andrew Layden

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Permian Killer

by cnkguy
Permian Killer

Permian KillerReading Time: 8 minutes

Ever wanted to meet an extinct animal? Once you’ve heard my story, you might want to think twice about that.

Ever since my childhood I had a huge affinity with dinosaurs and other extinct animals. Whenever a movie or documentary about the subject was to be aired or announced, I quickly looked it up and watched it.

Series like Jurassica on the Discovery Channel, Walking with Dinosaurs and it’s spin-offs Walking with Beasts and Walking with Monsters on BBC and Prehistoric Park and Primeval on ITV. Movies like Jurassic Park, Dinosaur and even Land before Time. I watched them all or at least as many of them as possible.

But I digress…

This facination for these ancient creatures inspired me to study paleontology. After years of studying and researching, I achieved my dream and got a job at the natural history museum where I did my internship as head paleontologist.

At one point, I lead a fossil hunting expedition in South Africa after the museum got a message from a befriended farmer who stumbled on a fossil-rich sedement layer full of beautifully preserved skeletons of late Permian megafauna upon his land. In case you’re not familiar with Permian megafauna, at this point in Earth’s history, life on Earth was at the edge of the greatest mass-extinction event the planet has ever known. Around twohundered and fifty million years ago, over ninety percent of all life on Earth was wiped out, causing the planet to nearly be devoid of all life. The dominant life forms were a wide variety of strange reptiles, some of them paving the way to the rise of mammals in the late Triassic period, about forty million years after the Permian-Triassic mass-extinction.

The idea of having an exhibition on life in the late Permian sounded tempting and not many museums have exhibitions like that so after months of preparations, we arrived at the quarry.

Some of our finds included a group of five Scutosaurus’s, an Estemnosuchid, several Dicynodonts and a beautifully preserved skeleton of a large Gorgonopsid. The twenty foot long predator only missed a few teeth, some metatarsals, ribs and vertebrea and a part of the lower jaw, but otherwise as good as complete.

I was really excited to find all these extraordinairy creatures in such a well preserved state. These specimens could tell us a lot about a flourishing world before it plunged into an apocalyptic disaster of biblical proportions.

After excavating the fossils for nearly a month, they were ready to be wrapped in a cast and to be shipped off to the museum. But before we could leave, an old skinny black man appeared. He looked like he could be the village fool. In a heavy South African accent he said “Please…I beg you…Leave these fossils where you found them. You’ll disturb their spirits. If their remains are to be removed, their restless souls will haunt you”

As you could guess, I’m not a very spiritual or religious person. I’m a scientist who wants to learn more about long lost ancient worlds and the amazing creatures that inhabited them. I shrugged off the crazy man’s warnings and went back to the museum.

Months go by and during that time, the fossils we dug up in South Africa were unpacked and cleaned up from the rocks they have rested in for the past twohundered and fifty million years and a new wing was built on to the museum to make room for our new Permian exhibit.

After fifteen months, the new exhibition room was ready to be opened to the public. It was a huge succes. That day, the museum was visited by over five hundred people from not just our own home town, but from across the world. Even the befriended farmer on who’s land we found the fossils was invited to see the results of our hard work.

As you go into the exhibit , you’ll first encounter five Scutosaurus skeletons, looking like they were searching for new feeding and breeding grounds, followed by an impressive Estemnosuchid skeleton posed like it was a roaring hippopotamus.

The Dicynodonts were posed like modern day prairie dogs, making them especially popular with the kids.

And in the middle of the exhibition was the pride of the museum; the majestic skeleton of the Gorgonopsid. The missing parts were reconstructed from clay and were painted in the same deep brownish colors as the origina fossil bones so they wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

I was having a blast to see all those excited faces, but that quickly dessipated into nothingness when I saw a familiar face in the crowd. It was the old man who approached me back in South Africa when we were about to leave for home, only he looked older, angrier and more upset.

“I told you to leave the fossils where you found them” the old man said to me in an upset tone. “You’re putting yourself and everybody here into grave danger” Before I could walk towards the old man, he set his hands on one of the Dicynodont skeletons and tore it off the stand, scaring some of the kids and making them cry. He runs off with the severely damaged skeleton when I started to chase him. “COME BACK WITH THAT FOSSIL! IT’S VERY FRAGILE! PLEASE! GIVE THAT BACK!” I yelled, hoping someone could help me to stop the thief

My pleading cries were heard by Matt, an old friend of mine who also worked at the museum, but as a museum guard. Matt manages to cut off the old man’s path and stops him before he could reach the museum’s exit. I managed to take back the severely damaged skeleton while Matt handcuffs the old man.

“You’re making a huge mistake! Please! Return the fossils to their graves before it’s too late” The old man pleaded with thick tears on his face when the police carried him away from the museum. I went back to the exhibition room to appologize to the crowd for the events that just transpired. I brought the scared kids and their parents to the museum’s giftshop where the kids could take home one of the miniature toy versions of our new Permian beasts for free.

What should have been a day of celebrations, it became a day of frights and dissapointments. The Dicynodont skeleton was so severely damaged, it took weeks to be repared and presentable again. Despite what happened, the new exhibition remains a succes for years to come and in that time we didn’t hear anything from the crazy old man who had so rudely interupted our opening day.

One evening however, some of my fellow co-workers and I worked until late to study some of the fossils that didn’t make it to the exhibition because they consisted of just a handful of bones or too imbedded into the rock it wasn’t save enough to remove it without damaging the fossil.

I was examining a Platyhystrix fossil, a strange sail-backed amphibean from the same time as the animals in our new exhibition when I heard the pitter patter of tiny feet. At first I thought we had rats so I went to inspect it.

Armed with nothing more than a flashlight, I searched the halls for the little furry intruders. When I arrived at the Permian exhibition hall I started to notice something odd. I found some strange bloody footprints. At first I thought the rats had injured themselves while trying to intrude the place so I followed the prints, expecting to find some injured rats.

But as I followed the footprints, I noticed that they also left behind claw marks. These couldn’t be left behind by a rat. These were more like a monitor lizard’s clawmarks. I kept following the claw marks untill I found a large hole in the wall which looked like it was gnawed on by some rodent like a rat or a gopher.

I started to get confused. No animal alive today had a combination of a monitor lizard’s gate and being able to gnaw like a rodent. When taking a peak in the hole, I noticed something moving, but because it was so dark, I couldn’t make out what it was.

I grabbed the flashlight I had on my belt to have a proper look, but it spooked whatever was hiding in the hole. Before I knew, the mystery creature bit my hand, leaving a large gash. When I had a clear sight of the culprit, I was surprised to see it looked like a pudgy lizard with tusks and a beaked mouth. It was a Dicynodont. A living…breathing Dicynodont. Soon more Dicynodonts came running out of the hole after hearing the distress call of the one who bit me. One of them had some walking difficulties, as if it recently got…..injured when it was roughly handled. That reminded me of the incident with the crazy old man who tried to steal one of the Dicynodont skeletons on the opening day of the Permian Exhibition.

When I realized that detail, I rushed to the Permian exhibit and to my shock, the Dicynodont display was empty. Did the fossils come back to life? No…it couldn’t be. What was going on? Was that old man right about disturbing the spirits while we excavated those fossils. That’s when I heard a loud window crash and walls being torn appart. When I turned around, I noticed something else missing. The herd of Scutosaurus’s was also missing. They too mysteriously turned back to life. I was both spooked and fascinated when I saw the lumbering armored behemoths graze on the fern garden just outside of the museum.

This was my chance to study the feeding habbits of a creature which has been extinct for over twohundered and fifty million years. Fortunately the Scutosaurus’s were very docile creatures. One of them even approached me out of sheer curiousity and wrubbed it’s head very gently across mine like a cat who wanted some attention.

But as I was about to pet the curious Scutosaurus, I heard a loud scream and a viscious roar which even spooked the Scutosaurus’s which I just managed to dodge while they were stampeding out of sheer fright.

When I hurried back inside, to my horror, another fossil was missing. The highlight of the exhibition, the giant Gorgonopsid, which we nicknamed “Hades”, after the greek god of the underworld, came back to life. I heard another scream which I recognized as that of my friend Matt.

That huge predator was chasing Matt. I hurried as fast as my legs could carry me, but I realized I was too late when I heard my friend’s blood gurgling cry. When I finally found the beast, it had already torn off Matt’s head and crushed his ribcage, showing the ribs sticking out and the organs spilling all over the floor.

Hades stood about five feet at the shoulder and was twenty feet long. His skin was covered in both scales and short fur. His blood covered saber teeth were over ten inches long. The ancient beast soon realized that Matt’s dismembered remains weren’t enough to satisfy his monsterous appetite and quickly turned his gaze towards me. As soon as Hades started to run towards me, I ran as fast as I could in an attempt to outrun the giant mammal-like reptile.

While running, I came across a small stool which I managed to lift up and as soon as Hades came too close, I managed to hit the beast in the face with the small stool. Even though it wasn’t enough to knock out the beast, it was enough to distract it long enough for me to have a head start and find a new hiding spot so I could think of a way to take care of the Gorgonopsid.

But before I knew it, Hades found me again. He must have smelled the blood from the wound I got when I was bitten by one of the Dicynodonts earlier tonight. Again, I ran as fast as I could.

Being chased by Hades was like being chased by a grizzly bear that had the agility and stamina of a Siberian tiger. No matter how much I liked prehistoric animals, I refused to end up as a midnight snack for the apex predator of the late Permian.

When I finally reached the museum’s exit, I tripped over my own shoe laces, fell and badly hurt my arms. Before I could get back up, Hades had already placed his right front paw on my chest and slowly scraped his claws across it, leaving severly bleeding and painful scratch marks. The beast then proceeded to play with me like a cat does to a mouse before delivering the fatal blow.

I saw a chance to escape again when Hades didn’t pay attention to me. But before I could get back up again, Hades pinned me to the ground and crushed my spine in the process.

The last thing I saw was the gigantic head of the predator, staring at me with a furious look on it’s face when suddenly his mouth made…speaking motions. “You should have left us in the rocks when you had the chance, but you just had to dig us up” Hades spoke in a clear and terrifying South African accent before making a final roar and tear me to shreds.

The museum was closed for good after that horrendous night and the remaining objects were moved to other institutions across the country.

The Dicynodonts, the Scutosaurs and Hades dissapeared without a trace but if you listen real carefully at night, you might hear the beast roar, searching for it’s next meal.

 

CREDIT : Michiel Gilissen

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Nightmare

by cnkguy
Nightmare

NightmareReading Time: 70 minutes

I grew up in a small town in the mid-west. While there is a great variety of outdoor hobbies to immerse oneself in, little happens around here and life can quickly start to feel mundane. Lets just say that the local university is what keeps us on the map. Regardless, it is a place filled with many fond memories of my childhood, carrying throughout my adolescence and early adulthood. I liked it so much that I decided to stick around after graduating high school to further my education. While most of the friends I grew up with wanted to get as far away as possible, I held a very strong attachment to where I came from. I just felt like it would always be my home.
Growing up I had some abandonment and trust issues. My mother died in the process of giving birth to me and my father never was able to overcome the grief brought upon by the tragedy. Deep down I felt a horrible guilt that I took her away from this world and my father. I felt like my old man looked at me with feelings of resentment that constantly battled the natural love felt for his own child. All of this proved too much for him and he left when I was barely a teenager. I remember coming home after school one day to an empty house and sitting around waiting in vain- waking up the next day and not having a ride to school. I don’t know where he went or what became of him but I was lucky enough to have some caring grandparents who took me in and helped support me through all of it. They raised me up through high school and were even kind enough to pay for higher education as they were close to retirement with a lot of money saved up. Despite all of their help, my early college years were spent dealing with some serious issues pertaining to substance abuse- primarily alcohol. While a lot of kids drink in college, sometimes excessively, it was a growing problem that sat festering in the deepest part of my brain that I was too afraid to face. I hated myself for tearing apart what would have been my family. It was very difficult to get by in my day to day activities without pumping my body full of substance. At the time It was the only thing I knew was capable of easing my restless, skeptical mind. My grades would slip as I embarked on week long drinking binges, all the while neglecting to go to class. I would barely pull through by the skin of my teeth after digging myself into a hole- I don’t know how I passed any classes to be honest. Every night was spent draining bottles while I stewed in the corner of my room, convincing myself that my life was somehow worse than it really was and that I was justified in my own self-destruction. For a while the only thing that brought me joy was watching myself suffer to ensure that my masicist-driven desires were completely satisfied. Needless to say, it was a very rough and confusing part of my life.
While attending one of my classes, I met the woman who would help me stray away from my disgusting addictions. I still remember walking into the lecture hall and seeing her sitting by herself, enjoying whatever song was playing in her headphones. I chuckled to myself as she did not care who saw her dance in her silly way. After a few months into the semester, I finally worked up the courage to approach her and I’ll never forget her looking up at me saying “well look who decided to show up?” a clever smirk shining on her face. I was surprised and flattered that she had noticed me at all. I had been absent for around a week and after my teacher threatening to fail me, I was able to drag myself there. Her long, dark hair swam down her shoulders and back and her soft brown eyes flushed optimism through me. She reached out her hand, “i’m Mary” she said to me, confidence exuding from her. A hangover pounding in my head, I reached out my hand and was instantly hooked once our hands clasped. I got to talking to her and she was the sweetest, most delightful human being I had ever met. Her bright, inviting personality diffused any cynicism that I ever attempted to let out. I wont bore you with all the details of our relationship but over our last few years of college we grew very close and I was certain that she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I proposed to her during our senior year, not wanting to waste any time in locking her down. Though some times were worse than others, finding Mary is what really helped me pull myself out of that darkness. While others had judged and looked down on me for my reprehensible behavior, Mary never saw them as opportunities to exude her own moral superiority on me. Rather, she just saw someone struggling to cope with their demons and provided nothing but kindness and understanding as she helped me through some of the worst times. She eventually helped me stop drinking all together which led to me having an easy ride through the rest of college. My grades improved, I had more energy, and I was so grateful to be able to find joy in life that wasn’t garnered from the handle of a bottle or the chamber of a pipe. She was the ying to my yang and effortlessly helped me see the joy in the life while kindly attempting to shift my irrational, negative views of the world. She truly helped me become a better person and I was the luckiest guy in the world to have found her when I did.
After graduation finally came and went, I was able to land a job with the local university in the marketing division. Mary graduated with me and she was adamant towards moving past this town and setting up somewhere else, but I resisted. I guess I just didn’t want to leave. I was able to convince her that we should just find a cheap rental and save up some money before we decided to move on. While this really wasn’t a bad reason for sticking around, my ulterior motive remained as staying put. Again, I just felt as though this would always be my home.
As we coasted through the beginning of our summer, life appeared to be nothing but a breeze. I had a great woman on my side, a decent paying job where I would be starting soon and I did it all in the town I grew up in. All of my friends had moved away and while some were struggling and some weren’t, I did not envy their insatiable need to travel and explore- I had everything I could ever need right here.
In early June my grandparents retired and were in the process of moving to a quiet lake house a few hours away. Due to this I had the choice between moving with them for a while or starting my own life with the woman I loved. I had made it through all of this and I had great confidence in myself that I was ready to brave the world. Mary had found an ad in the newspaper disclosing a rental home out in the country for a price that I thought seemed way too good to be true. Three bedrooms, two full baths, and a screened in back porch that overlooked a large amount of land for just $600 a month seemed ridiculous. While I was skeptical at first, I thought we should at least give it a look. An offer like this was worth at least giving a chance. After all, we were both pretty eager to move into our first home together so we promptly called the number listed to set up a meeting the following day at the house.
A few days later it was time for our meeting and I quickly realized that this place was very out of the way- about thirty minutes outside of town. “Alright” I thought, as I drove further into the boonies, the forest enveloping me as I went on. “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad”, I thought, considering the monthly fee that Mary had previously told me, so I tried to remain optimistic. However, that optimism was all but gone when I pulled into a disheveled driveway leading to a house that could stage as your stereotypical drug den from the movies. The house stood alone, surrounded by a plethora of trees with a few houses scattered just barely in view where the neighbors must have resided. I wouldn’t have believed it was the right address had it not been for the sight of Mary’s Pontiac Sunfire in the driveway as I pulled in. I let out an apprehensive sigh as I turned off my car and made my way to the front door of the house. While I approached it, I realized it was even worse than my first impression served. Two by fours were nailed into the walls to cover holes in the houses exterior and it sat within a yard so overgrown and neglected that I wouldn’t have believed anyone had lived there for years. “Great” I thought.
Before I could enter the house I was greeted by Mary swinging open the front door to pull me inside with excitement. While the outside appeared to be in shambles, the interior wasn’t so bad in contrast. New furniture laid throughout the rooms with pristine walls and polished floors. It even had a washer, dryer and dishwasher- a few things you really miss while in college. I was a little thrown off by this, wondering if I had entered the same house I was just looking at but I figured it wasn’t worth overthinking. Plus I guess for the crazy low price I couldn’t really complain too much. If anything it would give me some outdoor projects to work on for the rest of the summer. Mary led me into the kitchen that sat just before the large screened porch that the ad disclosed. I opened the sliding door leading to it and the landlord sat there waiting. He was a middle-aged man, probably around forty-five or so with short gray hair and a weathered face. He quickly stood up and I was taken back by his imposing height, standing at least six foot eight with a lanky, wiry build. He reached out a hand and introduced himself as Derek. He had an erratic, almost paranoid aura about him as his eyes darted warily around the house while he spoke to me. He rushed us through a tour of the entire house, barely giving us any chances to see inside the rooms as he made trivial small talk with us. The tour ended as quickly as it began. I felt like I barely got a look into any of the rooms. I could barely get out a question before he would shoot across the room to the next, disregarding my inquiries.”You guys can stick around and check it out for a bit while you decide. You can give me a call once you have a decision. Also there’s a spare key underneath the doormat, just lock up once you leave”. He said to us before he seemed to rush out of the house. I thought it was pretty strange that he would be so trusting as to just leave us there alone while revealing the location of the spare key. We sat there a little perplexed by the guy’s behavior but he seemed like a nice enough guy and this place was a steal. We sat on the back porch and after some discussion we decided that having privacy like this, for such a low price, would be worth it despite the commute and the exterior being in less than stellar condition. We called Derek the next day and locked it down.
Fast forward a week and we had begun the arduous process of moving into a new house. I really didn’t have much baggage aside from my clothes, TV, x box and Wii. Mary, being the collector she was, carried the majority of our luggage as we made several trips to and from town to bring everything in. If the house hadn’t been so far away and if we had more than a relatives truck to haul everything, it would have gone a lot smoother, but in the end we got it all there no problem.
We unpacked our stuff as quickly as possible and spent the rest of the day decorating and rearranging the house. I helped out by dragging the heavier furniture across the house as Mary laid out her stuff in her preferred order. The house was really coming together and our excitement slowly grew as our new home was taking shape piece by piece. We were finally settled in and I was in such a state of content. As Mary was wrapping up her unpacking adventure, I decided to zone out in some video-games in the living room that sat on the opposite end of the house to our bedroom. Mary had to be up at the crack of dawn for her current job as a server at a local coffee shop and me being a bit of a night owl, didn’t want to disturb her rest. I sat up late in the living room playing one of my favorite games, resident evil 4 on my dusty old Wii. Hours went by and 2:00 AM came but I felt restless so I decided to switch on some Netflix and maybe fade to sleep on the couch.
I awoke with a sudden sense of urgency. Being in a new place for the first time I was a little disoriented by my surroundings but laughed it off as I came to. I checked my phone and saw that it was a little past 5:30 AM and reluctantly pulled myself off of the couch. I stretched but was startled as a large moth flew just in front of my face. I swiped my hands aggressively as I was starting to fully awaken. “What the hell is that doing in here?” I asked myself as I flipped on the lights. When I did though I saw dozens of various insects fluttering throughout the living room. “What the heck?” I muttered to myself. My senses rebooting, I heard the loud hum of frogs accompanied by the distinct chirping of crickets and birds coming from behind me. I turned towards the origin of the sounds as I made my way out of the living room to see the sliding glass door to our porch wide open. “Had I left that open by accident?” I thought if I had even went on to the porch that day as I trudged my way towards it. As I approached the doorway, I was met with the unmistakable smell of burning tobacco. I stopped for a moment just a few feet in front of the open door in confusion as Mary didn’t smoke, at least to my knowledge. I took a few steps onward before that large moth flew just past my head, its leathery wings grazing the back of my neck as it broke free into the open. I stared out into the darkness that swarmed around the porch and could see the flickering, orange glow of a cigarette cherry displaying itself with certainty in the pitch black. “Mary?” I called out. No response. “Mary!” I repeated with a bit more assertiveness. Again, silence. I was starting to feel uneasy when I wondered if I might be dreaming. I heard a light exhale as thick smoke was illuminated around the small amount of light that the burning ember provided. The smell was too real and the sounds of the outside were too detailed for this to be a dream. “Mary?” I called out once more into the darkness to only be met with silence once again. It was at this point that all of the sounds of birds, crickets and frogs ceased. A wave of fear swept over me as the silence became a presence of its own. Backing up, I quickly slid the door shut and locked it. “What are you doing?” I nearly had a heart attack as I heard Mary’s voice come from the doorway of our bedroom in a groggy tone. My eyes shot back through the glass door but the light of the cherry was no longer there. I didn’t know what to say so I just told her I was getting some fresh air. My heart jumped again as the sound of Mary’s alarm blared into the quiet morning. “Well go to sleep dummy its way too late and early for you to be up right now.” My gaze was still mostly focused outside. “I have to get ready so why don’t you just go lay down you freak.” I laughed and gave her a kiss before making my way to the bed, still a little uneasy over what just happened. I thought how sometimes people just have waking nightmares and the fact that I was barely awake, reassured me of this and I was able to force myself to sleep.
When I woke up the next day I immediately made my way towards the porch for any sign of an unwanted visitor. I slid the door open and paced my way around, searching for a cigarette butt or anything of the sort to show myself that I wasn’t crazy. I practically turned the whole area upside down but it was showing to be a fruitless effort as all I found was an empty porch. But as I stood outside, something hit me. I had just woken up on the couch again, not my bed. Dread washed over my body as I rushed to our bedroom to find a note on the bed from Mary. ” Tried to say bye to you this morning but you never came to bed! I couldn’t get you to wake up after I found you on the couch, you were really knocked out. Don’t stay up so late playing those video games okay? I’ll see you later today so have a nice morning!” I sat there in the bedroom, dumbfounded. “So was it really just a dream?” I thought to myself- I was so confused. I let the weight of my body collapse onto the bed and I fished out a book of poetry that Mary had given to me a year ago or so. i’m not a poet or anything, but some nights when I felt particularly depressed or anxious, Mary would read various poems while comforting me. I know this sounds cheesy, but having someone read me stories had a very soothing quality to it- Like a caring mother reading stories to her child before bed. I will always pull out this book when i’m feeling myself slipping as it reminds me of the love that she had provided for me as the words were permanently associated with comfort and bliss. I flipped to one of my favorites, written by Breanna Stockham- one that is my consistent go-to when I start feeling down.
“Where’d you go, self?
Where are you?
Are you hiding away,
or too afraid to shine through?
Why don’t you come
around anymore?
Did you get swept
up in the world?
Did-”
My reading was halted as Mary came through the front door, her face lighting up the room as she hopped onto the bed next to me to plant a kiss in the middle of my face. I laughed as she jumped on top of me and started to tickle and pinch my sides. Even though she was up at dawn and likely had to deal with ungrateful customers at her workplace, she was still able to come through the door with no thought but making me happy. We laid on the bed and talked for a few minutes before I got up to make her some lunch. After I brought her her food and set up her favorite tv show, I decided that it was a good time to head outside to change the view of our house into something presentable.
I went out to the yard a few minutes later, quickly starting to bake in the scorching hot sun, mowing the yard and removing the comical amount of overgrowth surrounding the base of the house. After trimming some bushes down and ripping out some old dead ones, I suddenly felt the distinct feeling of being watched. I don’t know how to describe how it came about but my eyes proceeded to sweep over the surrounding area. I expected to maybe see a person nearby, watching their new neighbor and waiting for an opportunity to approach, giving me a welcome to the neighborhood. However, I was surprised when my eyes fell near the adjacent treeline to see.. a dog, standing roughly seventy yards away at the edge of the nearby forest. “Aw just a dog!” the animal lover in me thought as I realized who was looking at me from a distance. I called out and whistled for it to come over but it didn’t so much as flinch. “Oh well” I thought, not really thinking much of it and turned back to my yard work, hoping to make the most of my weekend by being as productive as possible to restore my crack-house of a home. I worked for a few more hours, trimming the remaining brush that infested the perimeter of the house until the sun made its way back down to the horizon. As I called it a day and fanned the front of my shirt to cool off, I glanced to the edge of the forest where I had originally seen my furry admirer and I was overcome with a sense of dread.. There it was. This dog hadn’t seemed to have moved a muscle since I last looked its way. It was just standing there, calm and stoic, looking right at me. An uneasy feeling gripped me but curiosity trumped my instincts and I started to make my way towards the cusp of the forest, hoping to instill some sort of reaction. As I got closer, I started to realize how intimidating this dog was. It was quite large, not massive or a circus attraction or anything but probably around one hundred pounds more or less with long sturdy legs and scruffy, jet black hair hanging off of an athletic frame. It almost looked like a wolf but just not quite enough to distinguish it as such. The best way I can describe it is if you mixed an Irish wolfhound and a full blooded wolf that came out all black. I got to within fifty feet of it when I started to feel that sense of dread intensify. I didn’t know why I felt this at the time but as the details of its appearance became more clear I saw that it was dirty- its hair appearing scraggly and unkempt. While it was already a big dog, it seemed to carry a presence that was larger than life. It sat there, not phased by my advances, sitting so still that it seemed to be made of stone. The sun was all but completely set by this point and it was almost as if some outside force stopped me dead in my tracks. I stared at it and it stared right back at me- its eyes were unlike anything I had ever seen. They glowed an electric, vibrant yellow and I could feel them cut deep – I was frozen. I continued to stare into its eyes, filling me with feelings of misery and hatred. I don’t know how else to describe it. All I could think was that there was an intelligence that it possessed that was far outside of the norm. It looked at me as if it knew who I was- like it knew all of my deepest dreams and fears and proceeded to cast a cloud of resentment over them. As it stood there, rigid and unblinking I noticed that the sun was fully set and night had arrived. Breaking the trance I was in, I began to back away. I kept my eyes locked on it as I did so in case it decided to go on the offensive, being that I may have been encroaching on its territory. Once I got some good distance on it and approached the house, I turned around and made my way to the front door. I looked back before grabbing the doorknob but at this point it was too dark to make out its figure. “Must have went back to its lair” I said to myself with a chuckle, trying to laugh off my creepy little experience.
Walking back into the house I was immediately greeted by Mary with a great deal of worry in her face and tone. “Where have you been? I was really starting to get worried.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “I was just out doing some work in the yard.” She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. “How could you have been doing that? Please just tell me whats up.” I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I pulled out my phone only to be dumbstruck that the time read 11:35 pm. “How is that possible?” I muttered under my breath. The sun had only just went down before I made my way back to the house. Just then the sight of that dog’s gaze flashed in my mind and I felt my body twinge with discomfort. “I don’t know what you were doing or if something is wrong, but please be honest with me if there is something on your mind,” Mary said to me while placing a soft hand on the back of my neck. “i’m okay” I told her, placing my hand on hers. “Just went on a little stroll to check out the area and clear my head.” I felt awful telling a lie right to Mary’s face like this, but I seriously didn’t know what else to tell her. I was as worried as she was but I didn’t want her to think I was crazy. We quickly moved on and proceeded to take advantage of our weekend. Not having anything to do the next day, we stayed up late watching Studio Ghibli movies and drinking wine together. Once 3:00 AM rolled around, we decided it was time to turn in, not wanting our sleep schedule to get too out of whack.
That night I recall feeling very restless; despite the generous amount of wine I had engorged myself with I tossed around in bed for what felt like forever. When I finally managed to fall asleep, I experienced a dream that was uncomfortably vivid. It started with me struggling to pick myself up off the ground to see I was on a painfully long and dark stretch of road. I know this sounds weird, but I remember feeling extremely cold- I could see my breath and feel the ends of my fingers numbing quickly. Putting my hands to my mouth to breathe in warmth, my eyes ran along the center of the road ahead of me. There weren’t any houses nearby to discern that I was in a residential area, nor any visible trees that may have indicated that I was along a back road highway. However, what I did see were two faint lights off in the distance- so far out that I almost had mistaken them as fireflies. If the road had not been so barren and the surrounding area seeming nonexistent, there is no way I would have even noticed them. I rubbed my hands together, letting the friction ease my freezing palms and I stared at the distant glow. I tried to make something out of them but it was too difficult to tell exactly how far away they were since I had nothing to scale it with. They could have been a few hundred feet away or even a few miles for all I could tell. I didn’t know what all of this meant or what was going on but I felt a deep longing to reach these lights; whether to find my way out of this dense shadow or maybe to find that it was a warm house in which I could shelter myself from the elements. I took my first step and I stopped. Once my foot planted, I felt a deep, raspy growl emanate from the darkness that laid behind me. I snapped my head back with the instinct exuded by an unlucky prey, and I felt the temperature drop even further. I focused my vision with great effort but I couldn’t seem to see anything behind me from which this growl may have come from. Nothing but shifting, oily blackness sat behind me, dancing and contorting as it mocked my efforts to discover what it held. I wanted to speak but all I could do was let my mouth fall open to let a meek whimper slide out. This was a sound I didn’t recognize at first but it was one that must have been pulled out of me by whatever presence was lingering in the dark. I stood there for what felt like hours, stuck in place while the frigid air crushed my body. The suspense was beginning to gnaw at me as I internally begged for something to happen as the cold air all but pulverized me to a speck of dust. I sat there waiting.. Suddenly, I felt an abrupt shift and heard the accelerating mass of a large animal begin crashing its way towards me. I immediately turned back towards the two lights in the distance, now offering themselves as my only sanctuary, and I ran. I ran faster and harder than I ever had, feeling my ankles and knees absorb each smack of my feet hitting the dense concrete below me. This wasn’t the stereotypical dream where no matter how fast you ran, you couldn’t move more than the speed of a slug. No, I could run well, exceptionally well actually. I felt myself flying through the air with a speed I didn’t know I possessed but those lights never seemed to get any closer. I was certain that at any moment I was going to be a meal for whatever trailed me. Every time I looked back, I saw nothing but darkness keeping its pace with me. I thought that surely I would eventually reach my safe haven that sat ahead but it felt as if I was running into oblivion. Minutes dragged on and on as I made my seemingly futile dash but I dared not stop in fear of what would present itself if I did. I had probably ran for miles but somehow I never grew tired, my pace never slowed and my pursuer never seemed to stray. I almost wanted to just stop and put an end to this horror but the lights ahead were the only thing keeping me from giving up. But as minutes seemed to turn into hours, I looked closely at these lights and noticed they seemed to be further away from where they started. I didn’t want to see it but their glow was slowly fading. Even though at this point I was certain I was dreaming, I panicked as the snapping and snarling coming from behind me was beginning to close the distance between us. I could hear the excitement in this beasts panting as it inched closer and closer and I felt the primal growls reverberate inside of my body. No matter how much I ran, those lights just would not find me. As the last flicker in view went out, I felt myself collapse mid-stride, but not hitting the ground. It felt as though I had fallen through a hole in the earth- like I had run straight off a cliff and I fell through what appeared to be the ceiling of my bedroom. I felt my feet break through the roof and I crashed onto my bed to be brought awake at last.
I sat up sharply in bed, being met with an intense chill, despite being in a house with no a/c in the middle of the summer. Laying back down I played that dream over again in my mind. I had never felt such fear in a dream. Even stranger was I don’t ever recall feeling any sort of physical sensation in any dream before, let alone having the temperature of one carry on into my conscious state. As my body woke up a little more and my mind came to, I was greeted with the smell of bacon and pancakes filling the house which calmed me down a bit at first. But as I stood up my legs buckled and I nearly fell back onto my bed. This dream had felt real but there is no way my legs could be worn out from it. “Maybe they’re just sore from working outside all day,” I reassured myself. I picked myself back up and staggered into the kitchen to find Mary happily making breakfast while playing some relaxing music. This put a smile on my face and I temporarily pushed that late night run out of my mind. After finishing up breakfast and laying around on a lazy Sunday, the dream was forcing its way back into my head. I couldn’t seem to shake it out and it was really starting to bother me so I told Mary about it. I told her about the strange nightmare I had as well as the creepy monster dog that had stared at me for hours. I asked her if she had noticed it hanging around the property or anything unusual of the sort but she hadn’t. “Don’t go crazy on me now!” Mary said, teasing me. I chuckled as she wrapped my head in her arms. “Why don’t we order some takeout and watch some movies you weirdo” she said to me as she released my head. I was more than happy to do so as I just wanted to forget about that strange dog. After ordering the food I exited the house but something immediately caught my eye. I don’t know why they stuck out so blatantly but where the grass met the sultry mud adjacent to the driveway, was a set of huge, canine tracks leading up to my bedroom window. They pressed deep into the soil as if it had crushed its feet into the earth with such malice that it gave way to it without a fight. I stared in the direction the trail of tracks originated from towards the edge of the woods- intersecting with the exact spot that I had encountered that dog the day before.
The next few weeks quickly passed by and just about every night I experienced this same dream. It was always the same for the most part: I would pick myself up on a dark road and on cue I would always start running to those lights, just trying to escape from that hunger that pined for me. Sometimes I would just run endlessly but as the nights went on it started to catch me on a semi-regular basis. I could feel every sensation as it would rip into my flesh- almost like I was being torn apart by a pack of starving wolves. The same nefarious scenario plagued my mind each night, each time being filled with more anxiety and torment than the last. I always tried reminding myself it was all a dream, but I felt the pain no less by thinking it was not real. My sleep was starting to suffer- I never felt like I slept for more than an hour and incidentally, my body ached all over. I was very unsettled by the fact that my body was constantly sore after my dreams and that I could experience such excruciating pain in them. While there were a few variations to these dreams, the outcome was always the same- I ran and ran but never reached those lights. As weeks dragged on, I started to grow paranoid- I would rush to the window with every shuffle I heard outside of the house and I started to give up on going to sleep, staying up until exhaustion got the better of me.
A few more weeks passed and I was settling in to my new job. Even though that dream was popping up in my head every night, things were about as good as they could be. I got along with everyone at work and was happy to be making a decent paycheck. Mary and I were basking in the glory of living in our first home and all of the privacy it brought with. The only thing that made sense was to write all of this off as nothing more than crazy nightmares brought upon by the stress of starting a new job and moving into a new house. However, every morning walking out to my car, I felt that same sensation of being watched and would scan the area out of routine to see if I would catch that dog nearby, glaring at me with those piercing eyes. But alas, I could never seem to catch him- even though in the back of my mind I somehow knew it was there. These weeks quickly turned into months as I constantly felt the nagging feeling of something just over my shoulder. Mary was visibly annoyed by my constant chatter of the mystical dog that I had encountered that summer night and we had even endured a few shouting matches over it, me wanting to show that I wasn’t crazy and her showing her concern wearing thin as my fruitless accusations began to pile up. The guilt of worrying Mary was weighing heavy on my shoulders. My sleep continued to suffer as I would jump with every bump in the night and rush to the window in hopes to uncover definitive proof of the source of my paranoia. But every time I would see nothing out that window but blackness. I’m ashamed to say that due to these unforeseen circumstances, I began to indulge myself in alcohol once again. It was the only thing that helped ease my mind and if I had enough, it would knock me out until the following morning.
My few remaining friends had heard of the struggles that Mary was enduring and wanted to help. My frequent patrols through the night that consisted of me staring out the window and talking to myself was keeping her awake and trying her patience. It got so bad that they felt they needed to stage an intervention, telling me to get some help and to just try and relax. That I was letting something that wasn’t real take hold of my life, causing me to miss what was going on right in front of me. I glanced at Mary, with tears swelling up in her eyes, I could see the genuine concern in her face as I began to question my own sanity. “Was all of this really just in my head?”, I thought. “Had I let this control my life so much that I had begun losing touch?” Looking at the calendar on my phone reminded me that it was well into the month of October and a tidal wave of depression swept over me. I apologized to all of my friends, not knowing what was going on; If it was really just all in my own head. It seemed easier to believe that at the time than to question it. How could I have let so much time slip by as I obsessed over something as ridiculous as this. I was consumed by it.
I felt as though I was reintegrating myself into society after my awakening from the deep delusion I had seemed to have succumbed to. I urged Mary to accompany me on a hike through a trail near our home. Readying myself for the chilly, fall weather I slid my boots on and threw on a coat while waiting for Mary to finish up her own preparations. Once we made our way out the door and down the road I felt the surging feeling of relief swim through me . I noticed every passing animal, every sound and every detail of color detailing the beautiful, decaying brush as we were carried through our trek. Making our way towards the entrance of the aforementioned trail, I turned to Mary with a smile and embraced her without words. In this moment I had truly experienced the present and all of the happiness it had to offer me. I wish I could live in these moments forever.
Making our way towards the end of the trail we came across a small pond. I had never been all the way through this trail to see what the end held but it was a very peaceful and satisfying end to a comfortably ordinary day spent. Standing at the edge of the pond, I looked down, gathering up a few stones and began skipping them across the still water. Mary, being her usual self, was capturing the scenery on her phone to assure we could later revisit it in all of its glory. “You’re going to miss your real life stuck in that phone babe!” I yelled at her in a joking tone. She waved me off, sticking out her tongue and kept on with her photo-shoot.
As I skipped one of the last rocks and watched it spin across the otherwise undisturbed surface, I noticed a woman standing at the opposite end of the pond. She was maybe fifty or sixty yards away but I could make out that she had long blonde hair, wearing a blue flannel shirt and jeans to match. “That’s odd” I thought. I hadn’t noticed her at all before but being as out in the open as she was, I figured I would have spotted her immediately. I don’t know how she could have just appeared there in the few seconds that I looked down. As far as I knew, there wasn’t any sort of trail that lead to that side of the pond since there was nothing but thick orange and red behind her. Additionally, the perimeter of the shore was far too dense with trees and shrubs for anyone to make their way through unscathed but she looked relatively untouched from what I could see. I turned back to see Mary taking pictures of the entirety of the pond and pocketing her phone at last. “Alright I’m finished are you happy?” She said with a smirk and bumped her hip into mine. I looked back to the opposite edge, but whoever may have been across from us was nowhere to be seen. “Yeah dummy!” I yelled back at her, burying my unease and wrapped my arm around her as we made our way down the trail and back home.
As we exited the mouth of the trail back towards the house, my curiosity was beginning to nag me and I asked Mary if I could see some of the pictures she had taken. She pulled up her phone, opening the recent photos taken and I scrolled through them revealing an impressive array of scenery that the autumn forest provided. Originally distracting me from the main reason I wanted to examine them, I quickly reminded myself to look out for anything unusual. I couldn’t seem to find anything out of the ordinary. I even got to the last pictures taken of the pond, trying to pin-point that exact spot where I had seen the woman. I know she had taken at least a few pictures while I had seen her- I was certain of it. But as I reached the end of the compilation and the end of the screen reared back to the right, I was almost disappointed. I had expected to see something that I could show Mary to let her see that maybe, just maybe that there was something otherworldly going on out here. But the picture revealed nothing. Nothing but an empty portrait facing us where I had seen this woman looking across at us. “What? You don’t think they’re good?” She asked, probably noticing my disheartened expression. “No! I think they’re great!” I strained. its just- “What?” she asked. “I know you are all worried about me but.. there was a woman across the pond and was looking right at us”, I said. “Oh” she responded in a deflated tone. “Look I know you must think i’m crazy but I swear there was someone there!” I said, pleading for her in frustration to believe me. “You know I really want to believe you, but I want you to stop seeing these things even more. I wish we could just enjoy our time without you getting lost in your own head.” I let my head collapse into my hands, “I just wish you guys would believe me, I swear there is something going on” I said to her. “There is something going on. We are lucky enough to have a place together and you are missing it. That is what’s going on” she responded. I just sat there without a response as she picked herself up and left the room.
I laid there in bed for hours in confusion over what I had seen and anger that it had swooped back into my life right as everything was looking up. That night I knew the moment when I had fallen asleep- It was like I has closed my eyes and opened them up to a new world. I had fallen into this dream already running, memories flooding me of the horrific nightmares I had endured many times before. Only this time there wasn’t a long road, but a battered trail winding through a dense forest, overseeing me as I planted my foot hard into the soil with each turn. However, one similarity showed itself – two lights showing themselves through the sparse openings that the dense leaves provided. I locked on to my old safeguard and found a second wind as I made my way towards it. Swaying my way through the trees, I stumbled on unforgiving roots and felt the sting of frigid branches slap against my skin. My chest grew heavy as I started to hear that unwelcome sound of ravenous panting keeping its pace with me- I was certain of what was behind me. Hearing the muzzle of my pursuer lap up excess saliva that attempted to escape its mouth propelled me forward faster and faster, fighting my way through the vegetation until I literally fell into a clearing. I glanced up frantically then behind me, bracing for a mouth of teeth to rip into my flesh, but the thundering gallops of what was behind had ceased. I looked forward to see a familiar sight.
The pond that I had visited just hours ago sat in front of me. Standing up I noticed another familiar sight.. a woman. The same woman I thought I had seen earlier that day was standing at the opposite edge of the pond. I recognized that long blonde hair that nearly fell to her waist but she was different. She looked rigid, her body contorted in an unnatural way. Her shoulders were uneven, her neck bent at a frightening angle and her skin appeared almost rotten. While she looked to be wearing the same flannel shirt and blue jeans as before, they were filthy and torn. I felt my heart jump up into my throat as she let out this disheartening groan that slithered up my spine. I sat there still as that noise seemed to echo endlessly. I stared at her, fear and anxiety circulating through me- I wanted to wake up. I needed to get out of this as to avoid any further psychological torment but it seemed as if the rest of this world lowered itself down to a mute. She curled her neck in a vomit inducing twist, the grinding of her bones making me cringe. She stared at me for a few moments before she began to make her way towards me. The body of water laying in front of her failed to deter her motivation to advance her creaking, mangled figure. The sight of her movements caused my body to tremble. She looked as if she were a marionette being guided from above as her limbs struggled to take any steps that resembled a human. Ill never forget the way she moved. I could hear her bones writhe and snap as she came at me in this animated fashion. I wanted to just break down and cry right there- I would rather die than endure this hell any longer. With every step her bones continued to bend and fracture in a louder, more grotesque way than the last. She slowly waded through the water, never rising anywhere past waist deep, failing to free me from the horror that was amplifying with each passing second. As her face began to take shape, I could see a look of despair, of pure heartbreak that was caked on her face- perhaps in agony over her broken bones dragging her step by step through the freezing waters. I could see her mouthing something to me. I looked closer but I couldn’t seem to understand what she was trying to say. Her face stressed and was just desperate for me to hear her but the terror coursing through me was reaching a tipping point. I could no longer bare to look at this monstrosity bearing little resemblance of anything close to a person. I turned to try and make my way back down the trail but was promptly frozen in my tracks. There it was: that same beast, monster or demon stood at the entrance of the clearing I had stumbled my way through. It sat there, staring through my being with those horrible, yellow eyes, a hunger swirling inside of them the likes of which I had never seen. I took one step backwards and felt my sinking heart stop as a cold, lifeless hand placed itself on my shoulder followed by an unnerving, inhuman voice in my ear “Please don’t go.”
I sat up sharply in bed screaming to feel Mary with her hands on my shoulders, frantically pleading for me to calm down. Tears beginning to form in her eyes, I struggled to find my voice as I sat there stammering “I-I-I.” Bless Mary’s heart, she laid in bed with me and comforted me as I tried to articulate what had just happened. Again, I felt conflicted because I desperately wanted her to believe me but at the same time I could feel her growing frustration and her patience wearing ever so thin. “They’re just dreams”, I scolded myself. I didn’t want to lose her. She had been a bright spot amidst all of this chaos going on but what can I do when the truth just exacerbates those struggles. As I sat there, relaxing in the comfort of Mary’s hands rubbing my shoulders, I felt anxiety slowly dissipate before Mary’s hands grew icy cold and I felt her breath whisper into my ear “Wake up.”
My vision went black for just a moment. I felt as though my eyes were slowly pried open but my vision was distorted and grainy. Like I was staring up into a bleak overcast, buzzing in a disorganized static. I came to and found myself watching Mary a short ways from me taking pictures with her phone. In a haze I slowly turned my head to see the pond sitting in front of us. My head pounded without mercy as my eyes darted around trying to figure out why I was here or what day it even was. That same question repeated itself, “Am I dreaming?” Mary approached me and bumped her hip into mine once more, “alright i’m finished! You happy?” I sat there in an unnerving state of dejavu as I tried to appear as calm as possible. “Yeah.. do you want to get back to the house?” I responded in a lifeless tone.
We made our way back towards the house and I felt like a zombie shambling my way down the trail. I could see Mary taking concerned glances at me as we progressed our way towards our home. “Everything alright?” she spoke out to me, breaking the silence in my head. “Yeah.. sorry i’m just really tired.” I wasn’t lying however- my body was aching and I felt as if I hadn’t slept in a week. Mary clasped my hand, intertwining her fingers with mine and rested her head on my shoulders the rest of the way back.
We entered the house in an uneasy silence and I made my way to my bed. I laid my body down hard, slightly bouncing as the springs recoiled under my weight. Mary, knowing something was wrong, set her stuff down. “i’m going to get some dinner started okay? You just rest you seem out of it.” Thanks Mary i’m sorry i’m just.. I don’t know i’m just feeling really exhausted. Ill be okay.” She beamed a smile at me and left the room towards the kitchen. I felt a little relaxation sweep over me as I heard the sound of running water from the faucet wash around the sink. From underneath my pillow, I fished out that thin paperback that I turned to so many times. I flipped it to my go to and read it over a few times as I needed to feel like myself again- I needed to ground myself back into the real world and escape these tricks my mind had been playing on me.
“Did you change who you are?
Did you buy a disguise?
Are you the one hiding,
or did I close my eyes?
“Do you just have
too much to do?
Or am I the one
who’s too busy for you?”
Just then, mid sentence into my tenth time reading it through, it hit me. I wasn’t going to let myself fall prey to this cruel force. I wasn’t going to let it drag me back into the darkness and away from this life I had built- I had to fight back. But my lack of sleep was starting to take its toll. My energy was reaching an all time low and it was clear at this point that I could never be so sure of if I was awake or asleep. But I had an idea. If I couldn’t figure out what state of consciousness I was in, I had to leave something for myself to show that I was awake. It could toy with my sense of time and reality, but I had to see if it was capable of replicating the tiniest of details. I had to do something to push back before it took complete control. I grabbed a nearby pen and at the bottom of the poem, I wrote out three words that I could use as a reference, “You are awake.” While its nothing fancy or an elaborate Scooby Doo ghost trap, I figured this would give me a chance to fight back.
The next several weeks were rough. As winter started to tighten its grip on our town and with our house being less than accommodated to handle any conditions of weather, things only got worse. I sat up late shaking in the freezing cold that penetrated our house. Every night for a few weeks I had that same dream of sprinting down that road with that monster trailing behind me. While it sometimes caught me, I could never fully escape to the lights that seemed warmer and more inviting each time around. Most nights I woke up panting in a cold sweat. Even though I knew every time I was just in a dream, the fear was always all too real.
Mary was distraught after helplessly watching me sink into an insomnia fueled depression. Alcoholism had returned with a vengeance as it tempted me with the sweet, short-term relief it provided. I cant help but feel that she holds some resentment towards me, but I guess I cant blame her. Her sunny disposition was replaced by a cloudy aura as she tried her best to believe my ridiculous stories. She really was a saint for sticking around with me. She comforted me every night, would make me tea and rub my neck until I fell asleep. I tried telling her daily how much I appreciate her and how much she meant to me but I felt as though it was putting her on a roller-coaster, having her hear those words only to be woken up by my constant night terrors. I still feel guilty to this day about inadvertently dragging her into my situation. I had never felt so helpless in my life.
With winter being in full swing and having a few weeks off work, I found myself alone in our house very often. With me usually being busy enough to be out of the house for most of the day, I had never really been by myself for long periods of time at home. Mary had recently been promoted to manager at the restaurant she worked at and had to work very long hours while I did everything I could to keep my mind occupied. But throughout this time alone I would hear frequent movement throughout the house. Id try to occupy my time with reading or maybe playing some video games but several times a day I would hear movement in the vacant rooms. Sometimes in my peripherals I thought I would see a flash of blonde hair sliding just out of my vision. I would always feel relief seeing Mary pulling into the driveway after her long shifts knowing that at least I wouldn’t be alone for a period of time.
A few days passed and one day, while Mary was away at work, I decided I needed to try and get out of the house but Mary had borrowed my car after hers had broke down. I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. I sluggishly pulled myself out of my bed after laying there for the better part of the morning. I was apprehensive at first, being that I may have an unwanted encounter, but sitting inside my house had become too stressful- it seemed as though something had moved in. As I was about to leave my room and exit the house, I stopped. I quickly grabbed my book while walking towards the front door to read, “You are awake.” I let out a relieved sigh. Grabbing the doorknob and exiting my house, I made my way down the road, hoping to find any kind of peace. It was a cold, gray afternoon and my walk was surrounded by a swath of desolate trees, the empty oak and maple branches formed a portrait resembling a mountain range of needles. I scanned every which way, hoping my gaze didn’t meet that resentful pair of eyes, yet hoping on some level that I may.
I wandered along back-roads for a few hours drinking in the day. It felt good to get some endorphins flowing and to do something aside from sit on my butt. My coat wrapped tightly around my body which provided a sense of security that I desperately needed. I reached a dead end on a road maybe a few miles away from my home and decided it was a good sign to return.
I turned around and started my way back to my home, trying to shake off harsh gales of frigid wind blowing through me. I made turn after turn while scrolling through my phone and playing music but when I looked up I noticed something. My surroundings weren’t the same as before. While the basic scenery seemed similar enough, the minute details were lacking. The houses of my sparsely placed neighbors were nowhere in sight and the roads had lost the rising and falling hills that it rolled over. The fear gripped me and I just tried to calmly make my way home. I didn’t know if I had just taken a wrong turn and had gotten myself lost but I seemed to take the same turns over and over again just trying to find the right way. Each road seemed longer and more ominous than the last. I tried pulling out my phone in order to pinpoint my location but I was irritated to see that I was apparently just down the road from my house. I headed towards where my phone was telling me I needed to go but nothing seemed to come of it. There was nothing but endless trees and a fading road ahead of me. I searched and searched, feeling tears rolling down my face as the frustration concerning my crumbling life was boiling over yet again. I couldn’t have been dreaming but the same futile chase that haunted my dreams had found its way into my consciousness. I began to run out of sheer desperation, punching my legs and biting my hands in intervals just hoping I might wake up to Mary beside me, comforting me once again.
Finding my way around a bend, tears choking my throat, I saw my home just at the end of the road. I let out a sigh of elation as my tears of sadness quickly switched to those of happiness. My head tilted down in relief and I laughed at myself for freaking out over getting myself lost. “i’m just a melodramatic idiot” I thought, a smile plastered on my face. I made my way down the driveway but the consistent crunch of gravel beneath my steps was interrupted by a harsh crack. I stepped back and looked down to see the carcass of a small rabbit. The overwhelming stench of rot flooded my nostrils as I covered my nose with my hands to see I had stepped on the protruding rib-cage of the poor animal. its body was torn to shreds, an expression of terror and desperation still lingering in its lifeless eyes. Looking up from it I saw a myriad of animals strewn about the yard- dozens and dozens of them. So many birds, raccoons, squirrels and rabbits laid on the cold ground, emitting a staggering stench of decay. The odor was so great that I turned and vomited. Hands clenched on my face, I sprinted past the carnage, through my front door and frantically scrambled to turn the locks and bolted it shut. But I ran into my room to see hundreds of paw prints painted along the floors, coated in a disgusting, brownish red paste that extended onto my bedspread and my dressers accompanied by deep claw marks running down the walls. I scrambled to find my book, my one answer to where I really was right now. I yanked out dressers, tossing clothing carelessly across the floor. I ripped the blankets and sheets off my bed. “Where is it?!” I screamed. I started to hear aggressive clawing on the front door and an ungodly sound that was a mix of whimpering, snarling, desperate crying, and screaming. I frantically tore through my possessions as the sound increased to a deafening wail that was nearly bursting my ear drums. I fell to my knees, pulling on my hair and began to pray for this unholy spawn to leave me be. I pleaded and I pleaded, rocking back and forth on the floor, begging to be set free.
Shortly after my plea ended, I shot up in bed, trying to slow my hyperventilating breaths. Sweat drained down my neck and back as I looked around in confusion. “Was I just dreaming?” I thought to myself. “When did I fall asleep? How?” It was then that I heard an abrupt knock on the door accompanied with Mary’s voice yelling “Hey! can you let me inside?” I shot up, so happy to finally see her. I unbolted the door and opened it to see her carrying a large bag of food and sporting her usual, room brightening smile and I gave her a kiss on the cheek. I turned back into the house to let her enter and asked her how her shift was as I started to light a candle in the living room, eager to spend the rest of my evening with some good company. However, I was greeted with silence- an unwelcome, haunting silence that I knew was the harbinger to exactly what I didn’t want to see. I reluctantly turned to see that horrible monstrosity standing in the doorway to my house, its menacing figure seeming to tower over my existence. I immediately covered my face and screamed for it to leave. I sat there sobbing in my palms and during frequent breaks of choked cries, I could hear its slow, forced breaths and could feel those all too familiar eyes slicing through me. “Please just go!” I screamed in desperation, too terrified to look at it a second time. “Please! I don’t know what you want, just please leave me be”, I begged.
We both sat there, cradled in moments of tense agony as I stared into the darkness that my hands had shrouded over my eyes. Time seemed to stand still and my heart sank as I heard the sweet sound of Mary’s voice. “Sweetie, its okay.” Deep sadness and anger flushed through me. “No!” I yelled back in hysteria, wanting so much to believe it was her standing across the room from me. “Please.. you’re worrying me.. let me help you.” I sat there, still as a statue, refusing to meet its gaze. “Go away,” I sternly growled at it. Silence. “Just get out. Just get out now!” “Everything is going to be okay” it spoke out. Every inflection, every mannerism within her speech was perfectly replicated. “You’re not real. You’re not real. You are not real”, I repeated to myself in desperation. I couldn’t even convince myself of this though. I stepped back, hands still covering my face, slowly backing my way towards the nearest wall. When my back met its surface, I let myself slide onto the floor, sitting there as Mary’s words continued to echo in my head. “Sweetie, its okay, please just get up and come lie down with me.. I’ve had a very long day.” It wanted me to give in. “Get out of here and don’t ever come back”, I spat. I tried to stand my ground- I tried everything to try and show it that I was not going to be beaten by it. But it already knew me- It knew what strings to pull and what buttons to push. I then heard the haunting sound of Mary crying. “Please i’m trying so hard to help you but I don’t know what else I can do for you. Please just come back to me.” I broke down- knowing how much strife I had thrown Mary into and It continued, “Please.. I love you so much and all I want is for you to get better.” “Please stop!” I exclaimed as I tried to stop the choking misery from pouring out of me. The crying continued and I tried to sit there and push through it, but the sobbing of the woman I loved was crushing what was left of my spirit. I couldn’t bare it any longer. I slid my hands down from my eyes and readied myself to meet my tormentor face to face again. But as I did, something caught the corner of my eye. Sitting on the living room table, was a torn up piece of paper. I reached down and held it up close to my eyes as to not see the terror in front of me. It was a torn out excerpt of the poem I had read through so many time over the last few days.
“Are you too ashamed
to show your face?
Why are you running?
Unlike others, I’ll chase.”
“Just let go, and everything will be okay”, Mary’s voice said softly, almost as though she had said it right into my ear.
I released the shredded paper and looked up to see a dark blur reach me in the blink of an eye. It hit me with the force of a freight train, spearheaded by a mouthful of teeth. It latched onto my upper thigh, lacerating my muscles and tendons as it grunted with excitement. Its strength was unreal but I tried to punch its skull and rib-cage as it tore into my flesh. The pain was excruciating: I could hear the sickening crunches of its mouth effortlessly fracturing my bones as I felt warm blood seep down my leg and onto the floor as I writhed in a pool of dark-red. The blood pouring out of me was soaking into my clothes and all the while I could hear the sweet voice of Mary in my ear saying “Everything will be okay.. just let go.” Those words repeated themselves on an endless loop as it tore at me like a rag-doll while I gave everything I had to try and fight it off of me. My attempts to free myself rapidly weakened as I felt the life drain from my body. My vision started to fade and I felt it release its vice-grip on me and I looked up. It stood over me, my blood coating its mouth as it stared coldly into my eyes without any shred of remorse. That same hunger and malice flooded its eyes as it gazed down at me while I trembled in horrible pain on the floor. I pressed my hands along the many deep wounds on my leg just trying to stop myself from bleeding out. All the while it just sat there, so still and domineering. I started to crawl away, my nails digging into the wooden floor, peeling back and breaking as I tried to find safety. I didn’t know where I was trying to go or how I could even escape but I refused to just lay there and let myself die without a fight. My body felt as though it carried the weight of a dying star as I strained to pull myself away. All of my energy reserves being depleted, I turned and stared right at it. “You’re not real. You are nothing”, I hissed and spat right at its face in a dying rage as my head fell onto the hard wood. It snarled menacingly, revealing a mouth of enormous, jagged teeth and lunged at me once more, clamping its jaws deep into my throat. Blood filled my windpipe and flowed down into my lungs and I gurgled in anguish before hearing one last horrid crunch. “Everything is okay”, I heard Mary’s voice say one more time, and everything faded to black.
A ray of sunlight breaking through a window caused my eyes to slowly open as the heat warmed my face. I rubbed my eyes- so drained and perplexed from reality and dreams transcending each other through these violent acrobatics. I didn’t know if I was actually awake and frankly, I was so weathered that I didn’t even really care to check. I fully came to to feel my hand clenched on the doorknob, my book sitting where I had last sat it down. My phone buzzed in my pocket and I checked the time- 3:10 pm. A message from Mary read, “Work is crazy.. someone didn’t show up and i’m covering all of their tables. Can’t wait to just get out of here and come home.” She had barely been gone an hour.. I dreaded the fact that I had to wait another six hours of being alone in that god forsaken house- if I was actually awake that is. I picked the book back up and opened up the marked page. “You are awake.”
I sat around for the remainder of the day watching movies on my laptop just trying to distract myself. I dared not leave the house- I knew it was out there just outside my door, waiting for me. Hours dragged on and every sound outside caused me to jump. I probably spent half the time peeling back the curtain and looking outside. A few times I could have sworn I could see this thing standing at the edge of the adjacent forest where I first saw it but I would quickly shut the curtain before I could discern what it may have been. I was losing my mind- I never wanted to see it but on another level, I couldn’t help myself. Maybe I was hoping that it would just bust down my door and end all of this. As the sun went down, I flicked all the lights on in my house for some comfort.
Laying in my bed and continuing to watch movies, I kept seeing flashes of blue and blonde standing just outside of my door frame. I tried to ignore it, but every time my focus returned to my laptop for an extended time, I would see that same array of color darting just behind the door frame. I began to feel frustration prod at me. I couldn’t leave the house at risk of running into that evil but staying in the house, it would relentlessly toy with me. I couldn’t even go to sleep to try and erase the time I had to wait through as it had all but taken over my life outside of consciousness. Every time I would catch that put of the corner of my eyes, I would fling my book open, “You are awake” it read time after time. I tried switching to watching something more cheerful and turned on The Office. I hoped that seeing my favorite Scranton residents would bring a little joy to my day as I waited endlessly for Mary to come home.
As an episode ended and I got up to make myself some food, I heard the shower turn on over on the other side of the house. The initial sound made me jump as I was already tightly wound. I slowly made my way across the house towards the bathroom. The lights inside were off but I could hear the water roaring down. As I reached for the doorknob I could hear the chilling sound of a woman starting to cry. I froze, not sure if I wanted to see what was on the other side but I couldn’t just sit there and let the water blast full force without shutting it off. The crying continued.. it was an awful sound. I sat there with my hand on the knob trying to force myself to open the door but I was just stuck in place. I started to turn away after letting go of the knob but a familiar voice sent chills down my back. “Please don’t go”, I heard from the other side of the door. I froze, goosebumps forming on my arms, and just stared at the door- the consistent sound of running water still flooding into my ears. “Who are you?” I meekly spoke out. Silence.. “Who are you?” I repeated with more authority at the closed door. Suddenly, the water shut off and I sat there paralyzed as the doorknob slowly clicked and the door creaked open just a crack. Even in the dark room I could make out that unmistakable blonde hair shining in the small aperture that the open door provided. “Do you know whats happening to me?” I asked. Again, silence. “Please.. just tell me.. why are you here?” My ears were ruptured by an inhuman sobbing that followed my question and the repeating phrase, “Please don’t go! Please don’t go! Please don’t go!” I stepped back, completely terrified. The door slowly pulled open just a bit more and the face of a beautiful woman revealed itself: tears rolling down her face, her lips quivering. Shaken, I was able to force out another “Why are you here?” She brushed the hair away from her face and looked right at me with bright, turquoise eyes. “Please..” I uttered. She looked down to the floor and continued to sob uncontrollably. “What were you doing at the pond?” She continued to cry. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say” I said to whoever or whatever was standing just in front of me. Her neck snapped up to show that horrific rotted face I had seen at the pond. Her eyes glowed a bright yellow and she screamed in an ungodly voice “Don’t go!” and the door slammed shut with such great force that it shook the whole house and caused nearby hanging pictures to fall down.
I sat there on the floor, bewildered as minutes passed by and I just stared at the bathroom door. I picked myself up and was able to force myself forward and slowly turn the handle to push open the door. Everything inside appeared normal as if none of it even happened. I could hear intermittent droplets of water splash onto the shower floor and I pulled back the curtains- nothing was there. “Is this my life now?” I thought to myself as I stood in the empty room gazing into the shower. I felt numb- the frequent paranormal outbursts beginning to become a part of my daily routine. Reality was now a cruel obstacle I had to hurdle with every other step.
At last those headlights showed themselves and I heard the car pull in door shut, followed shortly after by Mary knocking on the door. “Hey! can you let me inside?” I heard from the other side of the door. I sat there on the opposite side just staring at the knob. “its just Mary, you can open the door”, I told myself but my inhibitions prevented me from doing so. “Hello? Can you please let me in?” I heard the door rattle as Mary was showing me that it was bolted and could not access it with the key. “Is it you?” I called out. “What do you mean? Of course its me just open the door I’m freezing!” she responded. “I don’t believe you”, I responded with hate in my tone. “What? Please stop messing around and let me in!” I reluctantly unbolted the door and pulled it open just enough for her to push it open. She walked in giving me that concerned look. “Please don’t hurt me”, I weakly mumbled to her as I turned to collapse on the bed.
Mary didn’t say anything. She sat on the edge of the bed next to me and stroked my back. “I don’t know whats happening to you, but you need to get yourself help.. otherwise, I don’t know if I can do this..” “Leave then”, I hissed. “You don’t believe me. you just think I’m crazy.” “I think you seriously need help sweetheart” she said, attempting to console me while getting her point across. I rolled over, burying my head in the pillow and swept the blankets over my head. Mary sat next to me, reading for an hour or so, occasionally reaching over to stroke my back and head. I eventually reached up and grasped her hand tightly. She rubbed her thumb along the back of my hand and I felt myself drift into sleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night. I glanced over to see Mary fast asleep and I turned over to look across the room- waiting to see if a nightmare would begin to unfold itself. I sat there in the deep silence for a few minutes, waiting for something but it appeared as if I was in the clear for the night. As my eyes began to grow heavy and I felt sleep coming back to me, I heard something in the kitchen just outside of our room. It was a light, scraping sound. I waited for a minute to see if anything followed but every time I nearly fell back asleep, I could hear that scraping. It eventually hit me.. It was the distinct sound of a dogs claws walking across a linoleum floor. That light thud immediately followed by the scratching of claws across the surface of the floor. I heard it take scattered steps to be followed by a minute or two of silence. It would cut off after a few steps and seem to turn back around the other way as if it were pacing around the kitchen. I pulled out my book and read, “you are awake.” Against my better judgment, I pulled myself out of the bed and pressed my ear to the bedroom door. The steps continued, joined by the sound of a dog’s muzzle eagerly sniffing the surroundings of a newly discovered area. I opened the door and slowly trudged out towards the kitchen. I should have just stayed in bed but frustration fueled me to just get these incidents over with. My eyes still adjusting to the pitch black house, I looked over the room in front of me. After about thirty seconds or so I could see the glow of yellow eyes staring at me from the other side of the kitchen. I sat there, staring into them for a few moments, almost daring it to come for me but it just laid still. I closed my eyes, shutting them tightly for a few seconds and took some deep breaths. When I opened them, the eyes were gone. I repeated that action a few more times in order to assure that it wasn’t there. I turned and made my way back to my room but I collided with something heavy and limp in the doorway, causing me to lose balance and fall backwards onto the ground. I heard the creaking of old wood above me and I looked up to see a horrific sight. Dangling in the doorway was a body, hanging from a noose attached to a rafter on the ceiling. I screamed and covered my head, curling up into the fetal position as I laid on the kitchen floor.
I heard Mary wake up and rush out of bed to my side as I sat there, inconsolable. She didn’t speak, she just sat there with me and held me as I cried. I kept pointing to the doorway as gibberish poured out of my mouth, begging Mary to believe me. For the remainder of the night I laid awake, the sounds of that thing circling the outside of the house held me hostage. Every minute or so I would hear it make its way around to my side of the house, slowing its gait a bit and seeming to stop at my window for a few moments each go around. I kept glancing over to Mary as she was fast asleep, hoping she would maybe hear something, proving me right once and for all. But she never did and I dared not wake her up knowing she had already gotten up once tonight to humor my stories. I stared at her and anger began to curdle inside of me- resentful towards her for not believing me and infuriated at the beast that was unfolding my sanity. Every time it made its way to my window it would stop and I could feel it staring me down, longing to be let inside. After this went on for an hour or so, those outside sounds were joined by light scratching running slowly along the sides of the house. I could hear very faint mumbling just barely penetrating the walls but I could not make out any words. I would attentively raise my head up every time the mumbling made its way by the window and I could see the foggy silhouette of a person sliding through the moonlight. My eyes switched from the window to Mary’s sealed eyelids, eager to see if she would come to and my temptation to shake her awake increased. They continued for hours eventually melding into a somewhat soothing cadence of sound that somehow lulled me to sleep. Perhaps so it could see me in my dreams.
The circling continued for several nights in a row. The nightmares would shoot me awake like a farmer prodding his cattle. I would sit there in deafening silence, listening intently for anything only to sit in suspense as nothing made itself heard. The air was heavy and I was sick with apprehension as this thing chipped me away bit by little bit. One night however, after waking up and sitting in the dark by routine, a barely audible noise made itself known. At first I couldn’t quite make it out but it sounded like strained wheezing. The sound was quiet at first, but over several minutes it was ringing in my head. It was the only sound coming from the night, no crickets, not even wind blowing. I tried covering my ears and throwing the pillow over my head but the sound was blaring in my ears at this point. It got to the point that it was deafening as I could feel my heartbeat pulse loudly in my temples, the room around me caving in so tight that it was crushing me. I tried to shut it out but no matter what I did I just couldn’t get it to stop. The intolerable sound of breaths forcing their way into my ears began to slowly die down before cutting off completely. I rose up once again to my window but was unable to see anything in the thick blackness. I made my way to each window of the house, peering out closely at the yard before moving on to the next. The last window remaining was the one just next to the front door. The wheezing resumed accompanied by the sounds of running water and light footsteps. I slowly made my way to the window, my index finger lightly resting on the switch controlling the porch light. I inhaled slowly and flipped it on, keeping my eyes closed for a few seconds to brace myself for anything awful that I might see.
The lights flooded the once pitch black yard with a glow that strained my vision at first. I looked out the window and I saw it. The woman, sitting there in a limp, lifeless pile as the monster held her neck within its jaws tightly. It stared right through the window to me, its eyes pulsing with excitement and satisfaction while the woman’s cold, dead eyes sank deep into my heart. “I’m completely insane” I thought- I no longer believed what my eyes were presenting to me. The woman’s mouth fell open and I could see her mouthing to me once again, but this time I could make out the words. “Help”, her lips showed. “Help.” I stared with blankness back into them, almost in solidarity as I felt completely trapped as her neck was clenched within its maw. I just looked at it for a little while, almost.. bored. I turned off the light and just stood there, numb, for a minute or so before I made my back to bed and went to sleep.
Weeks went on and I slipped into a gray. I no longer cared for anything, including myself. I stopped showing up for work and I remained distant to Mary, spending my days shut in behind closed blinds, drowning myself in alcohol. Dreams and reality had melded into one and it seemed like I was either asleep or swimming my way to an empty bottle. That first dream that started it all was finding me every night but I no longer cared to run as I didn’t care for life anymore. I would just stand up, turn around and scowl at the dark until I was consumed alive, every morsel of pain erupting through my cells. Sometimes I would be greeted by Mary staring down at me as I laid in bed in a drunken stupor. Every time she would pull out part of the little reserves she had to make me feel better as I aggressively shrugged off her patrony to try and find sleep once more. But no matter what world I fell into, sleeping or conscious, there was no exit. There was no exit.
Mary had had enough. She sat on the end of the bed as I downed the remainder of my comfort. She gave me the usual speech about how I had a lot of problems that I needed to sort out and that she no longer could be the one to try and fix them. I polished off my bottle as she finished her speech and I don’t remember exactly what she had said, but I do remember saying, “well what are you waiting for?” with a cold grin. I wish I hadn’t sent her off that way. Mary.. She was the sweetest soul I had ever came across but I allowed the darkness forcing its way into me to flow outward to her and I bullied her away. As she briskly walked to her car with a box of her possessions, I trailed her and laughed out my misery. She slammed the car door and I threw my empty bottle on the gravel, glass disintegrating into my shins and ankles as I walked to her car window screaming “Leave then!” She floored it in reverse and sped away. God I wish that wasn’t the last I had seen of her.. I miss her so much.
The night after Mary left and I drank myself into unconsciousness, I found myself picking myself up on that same road to journey into the same dream. I looked up and the lights seemed closer than they ever had. I stood up but felt no fear- no presence laying behind me or overwhelming fear boiling over. I walked towards them with ease as they sat there, dangling their open arms. I needed the comfort and warmth more than ever. My walk transitioned into a slow, awkward jog as they moved closer while I did as well. Jogging turned into a sprint as I raised my hand up, hoping it would maybe reach out and pull me into bliss. I got closer and closer, certain that I would finally find out what was just ahead of me all of this time. I was nearly there, arms stretched out to let sweet relief in but as my fingertips were inches away, I felt the rip of unforgiving teeth sink into my leg, followed by a violent force dragging me back down the road I had run down so many times. Gravel buried into my skin and painful scrapes screamed as I flew backwards. I felt my body form into thousands of shapes and unfold as I tumbled along the road, jaws clenched tightly on me. I flew back into the darkness and those lights dimmed and dimmed and dimmed until they were but a spec of light poking through a hole in my curtains as morning carried me back into the world.
Even though Mary was gone, I did not find myself without company. Shuffling noises throughout the house and images of blonde hair flying by my peripherals kept me from complete loneliness. Not to mention I had a dog just outside my home to greet me whenever I desired- truly the american dream. Spending my days in a haze I neglected to clean up any of my messes or even pay any of my bills. My water and electricity were cut off and I spent some time sitting in a dark, unventilated house as I was buried in my own filth. I had to watch myself suffer to fill myself with a jaded sense of justice. After a few weeks my landlord came by. I was greeted by furious pounding on the door and I opened it up. He stood there, his angry expression quickly turning to one of worry. “I haven’t gotten your check for the rent last month and the most recent payment is also due” he said to me. “i’m sorry sir”, I said in an empty tone and invited him inside. He followed me in and I could feel his eyes sweeping over the heaps of garbage kept there by my neglect. I brushed off some trash and found my checkbook, promptly writing him out a check for the last few months with a little extra for his trouble. “Is everything okay?” he asked me, his genuine concern showing. “Everything is great”, I spat back. He looked into my eyes with familiarity and it looked like he wanted to say something to me but he turned and quickly made his way out. I slammed the door behind him and bolted it shut.
My heart jumped after I slammed the door shut when I heard a voice from the kitchen, “Who was that?” I sat there staring towards the other end of the house, wondering if I had just hallucinated that. Silence began to grow in volume as I just sat still for long minutes. I gathered up the courage to patrol the house to maybe get something to show itself. I checked the spare bedrooms, bathroom and every closet possible just to see if anything would happen. I made my way to the door leading to the back porch and as I slid it open I heard Mary’s voice just behind me, “what are you doing?” I nearly jumped out of my skin but tried to maintain an appearance of composure. “Is that you?” I quietly responded. At first nothing answered back but several seconds later, a monotone, layered version of Mary’s voice crawled into my ears, “its me.” Tears started to roll down my face as I could feel the crushing presence of it standing just inches behind me. “I miss you so much”, I sobbed out. “I am always here” the lifeless tone spoke to me. I turned around to see an empty house.
The sweet voice of my old companion rang through the house, unrelenting for several days. They always brought me to a place of serenity before slamming me back on to the hard floor to look up to an empty home. Her voice was music to my ears even though I knew none of it was real- at least real outside of my own head. If I couldn’t feel her touch then maybe I could take advantage of not being able to tell my own state of consciousness. I needed her and it knew this. It took her away.
I had enough and couldn’t stand the constant pricks and prods at my insecurities. I left my house early the next morning, heading to the nearest gun shop to find something that could provide some comfort- whether it serve as protection or as an exit. After a brief conversation with the store tenant, I paid and went home. I waited the time needed before being able to receive my goods. After bringing it home I just sat it on my nightstand and just looked at it for a while- the bright silver color sticking out in my dark room like a sore thumb. I reached for it a few times but would pull back as the small part of me that held self preservation screamed at me. As I held the box of bullets in my hand, turning them over procrastinating and I heard a sudden knock at the door. Startled, I sat up and opened up the door to see the landlord standing there. Not sure what he was doing on my porch I blurted out “did my check not go through?” “No it went through just fine”, he responded, motioning for me to let him inside and I obliged. He walked in, taking in the disarray that the house had fallen in to.
He sat at my kitchen table, seeming to go over what to say in his head. Things were starting to feel tense as he sat at the kitchen table, tapping his fingers nervously on the surface. “You know I used to live in this house”, his voice breaking the heavy silence. His frankness caught me a bit off guard. He looked at me but I could not seem to formulate an appropriate response. “About ten years ago, me and my wife bought this house.” he paused as if to collect himself-looking out the window with a look of reflection on his face. I sat there waiting to hear the rest of what he had to say but he just turned and looked at me. His eyes shot down quickly and he rubbed his hand down his face as he let out a deep, raspy exhale. I didn’t know if I should say anything but he wasn’t really giving me much to go off of. He sat there looking down, his eyes occasionally darting around the house. His eyes stopped on the doorway to my room and stuck there for what felt like minutes. Right as I was about to speak up to break the silence, he finally continued. “We moved in here shortly after marrying. Lucille was an amazing woman. She was about the only bright spot in my life”, he said as his closing words were choking up. “Was?” I asked, not really knowing where this was going. His mouth opened like he was going to say something but he just sat there, not able to pull out any words. I stared at him as he stared into nothingness. A long silence ensued and I felt a deep sadness overtake the air. I stood there uncomfortable, watching this grown man seeming to hold back tears as I noticed his gaze had shifted back to my bedroom doorway. “If you don’t mind.. could I see your bedroom?” he inquired. Normally I would treat this as an imposition or at least an invasion of my privacy but I really wanted to escape this awkward scene. “Um.. sure”, I said with a bit of uncertainty in my voice. He picked himself up and walked by me. He reached for the door, turned it, and watched it slowly open. I looked at him as he stood in the doorway, his height nearly reaching the bottom of the frame. He reached his hand out and ran it down the rugged wood. I sat there for several minutes as my landlord laid still, swimming in what I assumed to be old memories of when he lived here. “What happened to Lucille?” I blurted out without thinking, regretting it immediately as it was clear that something tragic had occurred. He turned back and made eye contact, “She died” he said without hesitation. I was about to apologize before he said “thank you” and briskly walked out of the house. I watched from my bedroom window as Derek entered his truck, started it, and floored out of the driveway in one fluid motion. I looked back at my only companions as they glowed in the unlit room and proceeded to slither my way under the dirty sheets.
I didn’t really know what to think at first of this visit. It was obvious that there was something I wasn’t being told. I sat around the house for a few days in the cold emptiness just mulling over all of the possibilities- the uncertainty beginning to nag at me. “What could he have wanted?” I thought to myself for a few days. I sat alone in the darkness, wallowing in my depression, all the while I heard Mary’s voice echoing throughout the house. It was toying with me once more but I was so numbed to it that I barely even dignified any of it with a response. I had truly grown to hate this thing that had corrupted every fiber of my being.
I no longer found joy in anything. The last of my optimism had been thoroughly snuffed out and I was waking up angry that I was still alive. Desperate for some kind of answer, I decided to make my way to my landlord’s house. I pulled into his driveway right behind his blue, Ford pick-up and made my way up his driveway. I knocked on his door and stepped back, waiting. No answer as minutes passed. I knocked again and called out “hey! is anyone home?”- no response. I was confused as I looked back to be reminded that his car was in the driveway. I sat there waiting for a little bit but still nothing. I sat on the porch steps and looked out at the woods but unfortunately, there was something in them. Even though it was the middle of the day, I could see that bright glow of eyes staring at me from the treeline. Those eyes that I had come to loathe- the harbingers of misery looked directly at me. I shot up and pounded on the door. “Hello? please is there anyone home?” I yelled out with urgency in my voice. I turned back and saw it standing at the end of the driveway, just behind my car. Ready to bust down the door I grabbed the knob and turned with great force, to be surprised that it was unlocked as I nearly fell through the doorway and into the house. Getting my bearings as I picked myself up I stared into house. It was eerily silent- every step I took seemed to echo a thousand times over as I planted each step into the creaking, wooden floor. “Hello?” I repeated once more. I looked around and I noticed that pair of boots that he was always wearing, standing by the door, along with his large set of keys sitting on a nearby coffee table. The silence in the house was absolutely suffocating. The persistent ringing in my ears that you get in a deep quiet was becoming insufferable and I found myself feeling drawn to one of the bedroom doors on the other side of the kitchen. I slowly made my way towards it, my footsteps so loud that I felt as though the wooden floors would crack under me any second. I reached the doorway and pushed it open. I sat there just outside the doorway with apprehension. Something was telling me not to go in to this room but I had come this far and I wasn’t going to just turn back now. I begrudgingly stepped through the entrance.. and there he was.
There was my landlord, sprawled across his bed, dried blood coated his arms and neck. He had slit his wrists and throat- a horrible look of sadness covered his face, his eyes still red from tears. I fell back against the wall behind me, the smell of decay only just now hitting me as if it was waiting for my presence. I covered my mouth and gagged as I went over what I should do in my head. I reached for my phone to call the police only to be reminded that it hadn’t been charged in days due to my electricity being shut off. I groaned in frustration as I struggled to take my eyes off of the lifeless body in front of me. But that is when I noticed the piece of paper sitting just next to my landlord on the nightstand. Still covering my mouth I made my way over and snatched it up. “I miss you so much and I can never forgive myself for leaving you when you needed me the most. I love you so much and I hate myself for knowing you aren’t around to forgive me. I cant live knowing how I left you, thinking about how much you just needed someone there. I can’t go on in this life without you and the chance that I might see you after this is what brought me to this. Please be there. I’ll never leave your side again” the note read. I read it over a few times and assumed this was concerning his former wife. “So how did she die?” I said to myself as the whisper evaporated into the room. I pulled the paper down and rested it back down on the table and what I saw made me flinch. Sitting on his bedside table in a picture frame was a photograph of a woman. My mouth fell open and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was that same woman- that woman who I had seen at the edge of the pond and who had been patrolling through the darkness of my house all day and night. Those bright, turquoise eyes struck me with such distinction-there was no mistaking. I turned and sprinted out of the house, so terrified that I had all but disregarded the corpse that had laid in front of me moments ago. I ran out the front door and down the driveway and in the corner of my eye I could see that monster standing just behind my car. I tried to ignore it and jumped into my car and floored it into reverse, hoping I would maybe run over that thing standing just behind it but I was let down to feel my car fly backwards unhindered. I threw the gear into drive and slammed my foot on the gas pedal, looking into the rear-view mirror I saw those horrible, horrible eyes staring at me from behind the car. I flew down unpaved back-roads with no regard for my own safety, filled with dread knowing that the home I was returning to was inhabited by cruelty. I barely hit the brakes in time as I sped into the driveway, just sparing the side of my house from the front of my car. I ran out of the car but there in the window just beside the front door, stood the woman. her blonde hair was draped over her face as she stood motionless. “Lucille?” I muttered, and the figure quickly turned and shifted out of view. I stood there for a moment before hearing the crunch of gravel behind me. I didn’t turn around at first, I knew what was behind me.. I heard a few more slow steps and I turned around. It stood there, not even ten feet from me. There I was again- stuck between a rock and a hard place. Right then, I heard the front door open and it creaked as if it were releasing decades of neglect. The beast stared while taking slow, deliberate steps towards me as I matched them with my own steps backwards. I turned and sprinted through the open door and slammed it shut behind me. I looked out the window to see that it was gone. But right then I felt that familiar cold hand rest on my shoulder, only sharp nails dug deep into me, puncturing my skin.
Terror and exhaustion overtook me and I lost consciousness. Those same nightmares infested my dreams and I woke up every hour, more tired than the last time I had fallen asleep. I was eventually able to force myself off of the hard floor and into my bed, though it would do little to help my sleep. Dreams of the pond and of that road presented themselves every time I fell back into a slumber. But the more I ran to the lights in my dreams, the more I felt myself straying away from reality as I stewed in a puddle of my own delusion when I woke. My new friend laying on the nightstand was tempting me with more comfort as the time passed and I had to pull my hand back several times from reaching for its help. I poured my way through another bottle as I laid in the accumulated filth I had neglected to discard. As I felt the last of my reserves swirl in my mouth and down my throat, I heard another knock at the door. In a haze, I stood up from my pile and made my way towards the door, but as I approached it, I stopped. “Hey its me! Can you let me inside?” I heard from just outside the front door. I just stood there. The same phrase repeated itself but followed by “its freezing out here, can you open the door?” Of course I recognized that voice- I’d recognize that sweet voice anywhere. “Leave” I hissed. The voice repeated itself again.. and again.. and again. “Leave!” I repeatedly shouted at a door over and over. Every now and then it would change it up a bit with a “please?” and I would change things up with a “Fuck off.” I grew tired of this and just went back to laying in bed, covering my ears with my dirty pillows but the knocking persisted, occasionally growing louder and more urgent over a few hours. After it appeared to finally give up for a few minutes I was sitting in a comfortable silence for once before I heard my sweet Mary’s voice from the door whimper out “don’t you love me?” I had enough- I grabbed the revolver from my nightstand and fired off all six shots right at the door in quick succession.
I laid there as hot smoke billowed in front of my face and felt instant regret. I had shot holes clear through my front door at some imaginary force. I paced around my living room with my hands on my head, still wrapped around the handle of the magnum. “Fuck!” I screamed out as if I had finally woken up to all of the insanity I had conjured. My ears were still ringing and I made my way to the front door to see the damage. I didn’t really know what I was expecting since I had shot a full clip of my gun through it but there was definitely some serious damage. I slammed my hand on the door, still clenching the gun and let my head rest against the wood. Light poured through the newly made openings and my eye happened to catch something out of place through the nearest hole. I stared through and tried to discern the palate of colors meshed into a distorted cluster. I swung the door open and the sunlight all but disintegrated my eyes. As they adjusted I glanced down and everything in my world crashed. Mary laid there, riddled with bullet holes as she wheezed and gurgled on the front porch. “Mary!” I exclaimed, tears already pouring down my face. She reached up and caressed my face and smiled. “its okay” she said. “No Mary.. No please do not leave like this.. I am so sorry. Please we can fix this please don’t go! Please don’t go!” I yelled. “Everything will be okay” she repeated to me. “Don’t go!” I screamed again. I sat there and cried on her just holding her and praying to God that she wasn’t about to die right here in front of me like this-Not like this. I held Mary, rocking back and forth on the porch just trying to comfort her like she had for me so many times before. She laid there in my arms, slowly slipping away from me as I pleaded for her to stay with me. “I cant lose you!” I screamed as I bawled my eyes out. She looked at me with those deep, compassionate eyes that had grounded me time and time again. Tears rolled down her face as the brightness in her eyes started to dim. “Mary? Mary? Please stay with me!” It was too late- I felt the last of her life slip out of her and she slumped in my arms. I just sat there holding her for a while and pressed my head onto hers, inconsolable. I carried her inside and laid her onto our bed and I loaded one shell into the revolver. I laid next to Mary’s lifeless body and kissed her once on the forehead before sticking the gun into my mouth and pulling the trigger.
Everything went black and I waited to see what the beyond held for me. It felt as though I was awake but I just couldn’t open my eyes. But then I saw exactly what I didn’t want to see. Two lights materialized in front of me. And a road formed beneath my feet. “No..” I said to myself. “No!” If I had been sent to hell for taking my own life, was this going to be it? Was I going to be chasing these lights for all eternity? I fell onto the road, defeated- I couldn’t go on like this anymore but I guess there really was no exit. I waited to hear it begin its chase behind me, precursing my subsequent chase to safety. But I didn’t hear anything. I stood up and looked back but like always there was nothing but darkness behind me. I just stood still as long minutes droned on but I didn’t hear anything. I actually started to feel relieved, almost happy actually. “Maybe I finally escaped it” I had thought. Almost needing to hold back a grin from bearing on my face, I began to walk towards those two lights. As I made my way I could hear Mary’s voice “Sweetie where are you?” and “I’m over here! Come see me already I’ve been waiting!” I couldn’t help but smile, so sure I was just steps away from eternal happiness. I made my way towards those lights, at last I was going to reach them I just knew it. I couldn’t wait- those warm inviting glows that had seemed so elusive for so long were all but hanging right in front of me, so close that I felt I could pluck them from the ether and hold it in front of my eyes. I was approaching them, closer than I had ever been, they were climbing higher and higher as I advanced and I started to feel as though they were out of reach yet again. I was right in front of them and they stood above me, so close but still somehow unattainable. I reached up to them, almost as a plea for the other side to take me beyond. I swayed my hand back and forth in the air for a little while, unsure of what I was supposed to do. However I felt my hand run across something broad and rugged. I was surprised and took a step back but only to be greeted by a sudden rush of air. I stared up at the lights inquisitively and I heard a deep exhale as I felt another rush of air blow through me. I turned around, heartbroken to see if it was behind me yet again but there was nothing. Again I felt that rush of air, accompanied by another deep exhale. Then it hit me. it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t want to recognize it but I turned back to where the wind originated from and I looked up to those glows. My heart sunk.. all the hope that had built up after pulling the trigger was pulled out from under me. Those two lights hanging above me were now glowing that putrid shade of yellow. That unrelenting hunger that preyed upon my mind for months towered above me, mocking me. I saw a colossal mouth bear enormous, disgusting teeth each one as big as me while the enormity of the beast imposed itself onto my soul.. I swear it was smiling at me. The mouth shot towards me and crushed every bone in my body, my blood exploding into a fine mist in every direction before it swung me around and threw me onto the road- my body bloody and broken and mind weathered down to grains of sand. All I could think of was Mary- how much love she had given me and how she was the greatest thing that had ever happened. I felt as though hell had found me. It lowered its open mouth back down and scooped me up with ease and my body rolled and turned, bouncing off its rancid gums and rotting teeth as it pulverized every last bit of me until I felt myself slide down into the darkness.
The darkness slowly deteriorated away as I began to slip back into consciousness. I stood there in my room, gun clenched in one hand with the other on the doorknob. No more holes in the door, Mary no longer laying lifeless in my bed. I grabbed my book and flipped to the page I left my clue on, “You are awake.” With that, I hastily stuffed my clothes into trash-bags, along with the other essentials and I made my way to the door to hopefully just leave this misery behind me. An ear splitting voice screaming “Don’t go!” repeated itself from behind me, nearly shaking the house with the immense volume. I fumbled for the doorknob, dropping my trash-bags in the process and swung the door open. All of this time I could still hear that voice screaming in my head now. But when I exited the house, that nightmare was sitting just beyond the porch staring at me. I pulled out the gun from the depths of my bags, flipped the safety off and fired that one bullet that it had left in it- trying to take the life that had all but taken mine. It connected, hitting it almost right between the eyes and I heard it whimper for a second before slumping to the ground. I didn’t trust that it was really gone though so I sprinted to the car, not wanting to fall for its tricks. When I got into my car and drove off, those words continued to bellow in my head. “Don’t go! Don’t go!” I sped down the road, unable to resist seeing what I was leaving behind, I glanced into the rear-view mirror and there it stood in the middle of the road. Still as a statue as always, hulking and intimidating. I pressed my foot harder on the gas and kept on. I didn’t know where I was going but as long as it was away from that god forsaken place, it didn’t matter. Every so often I would glance back in the rear-view mirror, just to see it standing in the road behind me as my car flew by at dangerous speeds.
I made my way through several states, staying at various motels as I spent most of the night cracking blinds in apprehension of what may come. A week went by before I decided to dial my grandparents to let them know I was alone and just needed somewhere to be for a little while as I got my life back together. They were understanding as always and wanted me there as soon as possible. I made my way to them in a few days and all the while I seemed to be free. I slept soundly for the first time in months and I was feeling great. My energy was back to a normal level, I was sleeping and I hadn’t had a drink in almost two weeks. Despite this, paranoia was still lingering in my mind as I was always waking up by shooting out of bed trying to catch my breath. A smile would form on my face as I was grateful to have made it out alive. But the one big thing that bothered me was that in reality, it had won- it got me to pull the trigger.
I had stayed at my grandparents house for nearly a month, feeling myself gain back my sanity. I felt great and it was good to spend some time with my family after not seeing them for all these months. It also felt good to finally leave behind my persistent attachments that were so deeply rooted. I even started talking to Mary again and while she was wary at first, I was able to slowly earn back her trust. I was feeling like my old self again and I was just lucky that she was such a forgiving soul to give me another chance. I was sitting in my grandparents living room watching some TV when I heard a faint knock at the front door. I muted the TV, not sure if I had actually heard it. I waited a second and again, a very faint knock emanated from the opposite side of the door. “Must be one of their neighbors” I thought as it may have been an older woman weakly tapping her knuckles on the door. I opened the door but only to see nothing in front of me. I poked my head out and looked around to see if there was anyone nearby but nothing showed itself. I slowly closed the door and made my way back to the couch to continue watching TV. After I watching for several minutes I heard a similar, light knocking on the door. This time I quickly picked myself up to swing the door open. At first I saw nothing, just my grandparents’ front yard but as I swept my eyes over the area, I saw someone at the end of the long driveway that connected to the walkway. It was a woman- long dark hair blanketing her face as she stood painfully still facing me. I knew the second I looked at her- it was Mary.
I slowly made my way towards her. “Mary?” I called out- her body slightly twitched with my words. Feeling a little uneasy I stopped about twenty feet from her, her face focused downward as her hair dangled over. “Mary what are you doing here?” I pressed. “I came to see you” her voice rang out, music to my ears to hear that sweet sound once again. I advanced towards her but as I did her appearance started to deteriorate. With each step, her face weathered and her hair grayed. I gazed upon her and her clothes were now tattered and ripped apart, mud and blood caked across her skin. She looked up at me with familiar despair in her eyes- claw marks and blood strewn all around her lovely figure. “Mary?” Her eyes slowly turned from the soft brown to an electric yellow- that same yellow that I had come to despise. “I am always here” a layered voice spoke out. I closed my eyes, hoping that this wasn’t real. “Look at me!” a distorted voice spat. I opened my eyes and Mary was gone but in her place stood that monster I thought I would never see again. Hatred and misery burned brightly in its eyes as it stood there, rigid as a block of wood. I recognized the underlying feelings in its eyes-abandonment. The same look I would see in the mirror when I was young and filled with hate. It shot towards me and I turned and sprinted back into the house, stumbling over my own steps as I desperately scrambled to locate the book that signaled my state of consciousness. I hadn’t needed to open it in weeks and couldn’t remember where I left it. As desperate clawing and growling came from the other side of my bedroom door I finally found it blending in with the shelf. I furiously turned the pages over and over to gain clarity of where I was. Every bit of my soul withered away when I found the poem and read the bottom of the page.. “Wake up.”

 

CREDIT : NamesJames

 

 

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Caterpillar

by cnkguy
Caterpillar

CaterpillarReading Time: 19 minutes

Caterpillar creepypasta

 

I was playing with my hospital badge as I stood in line ‘Jonathan Villanueva’ Johnny V that’s me. I had just finished my shift as an emergency room nurse. Not my usual spot, but it was the Fourth of July, they were understaffed. So after ten-hour overnight shift of attending to drunks and people with firecracker injuries, it was eight in the morning and I was ready for a nap and a beer. But the line at Walmart was ungodly slow. And of course, there was only one register open.

I watched as other customers were being led the self-checkout lanes. But unfortunately, beer was one of many things that could not be self-checked. So after a few minutes, I was next in line with a clear view of the individual causing the wait.

The little girl looked around twelve or so, old enough to be shopping on her own but young enough to be having a panic attack over being nearly ten dollars short. “This can’t be happening,” she cried. She tugged on her long black ponytail as she tried to count her money again. A worker had been tasked with bringing her cheaper versions of the items she was attempting to buy but it was still not going to be enough.

I looked in her cart. It was filled with repair items; tape, cords, various containers, and well as grocery items like canned goods and bottled water. “How much do you need?”

She turned to me, wiping tears from her eyes. “What?”

I directed my question to the cashier. “How much does she need?”

“9.74,” the elderly woman replied. “You really don’t have to do this.”

I handed her a ten. “I’m sure her parents are wondering what’s taking her so long.”

The little girl looked at me with a forced smile. “Thank you, sir.” She finished her transaction and began to push her heavy cart.

I didn’t ask if she needed help, that would have come off as a little creepy. So I paid for my six-pack, some bread and few bags of M&Ms. On my way out I saw the girl loading her cart into a smaller, much dirtier cart, which looked like something out of a coal mine. I didn’t need to wonder why she didn’t shop with her cart; she probably didn’t want to be stared at any more than she already was.

She caught my glance and smiled, this time a genuinely sweet smile. “Thanks again,” she pointed to my name badge. “Jonathan?”

“Just Johnny,” I said. I tossed her a bag of M&Ms, the candy fell at her feet.

She was blushing as she picked up the bag and quickly pocketed it. “I’m L.”

“Ellie?”

“No L, like the letter. I don’t like people knowing my full name.”

“Of course, your parents taught you well.”

“No, not for safety, I just have a really stupid name,” she giggled. “I’ll see you around.”

“See ya.” I went home and went straight to bed. Today was my day off so I planned on sleeping for a good ten maybe even twelve hours but that was not the case. I awoke at noon to a call from my sister Olivia.

“Johnny, I need you to babysit dad.”

“I just got home.”

“Not right now, idiot, come over at six. And make it sound like it was your idea.”

“Let me guess, you’re going to a party?” I groaned. One of the worst parts of living in southern Wisconsin: there was not much to do other than party, especially for Olivia. She was a full-time college student.

“I have been watching Dad all week; I deserve to go have some fun.”

Our father was dying of late-stage leukemia. The infection had spread to his brain and he had very little time left. He wanted to be able to leave me and Olivia something other than medical debt so he opted to stay home rather than in hospice care. Since it was summer, and Olivia didn’t have a job she took care of him the majority of the time. But once the fall semester started up those roles would be reversed, and I would care for him (while working nightshifts, and living on coffee and energy drinks.)

I reluctantly agreed to help her out. I set my alarm for five pm so I would have time to shower and pick up something to eat. I managed to arrive at 5:47, letting myself in with my key. I could hear groaning coming from my father’s room. “Dad!” My father had fallen out of bed. He laid in the fetal position, shivering badly.

He was 6’2” but when how frail he was, I could lift him without assistance. I put him back into bed and locked the guard rails into place, just as Olivia entered the room.

“Johnny! I knew I could count on you.” She held her arms open for a hug.

“What the hell, Liv? You left the bed rail down!”

“Sorry,” she muttered. Suddenly a man entered the room.

He had long blonde hair like a stereotypical surfer, high cheekbones, and piercing blue eyes. “I’m Tommy.” He held out his hand. His smile was like that of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland; wide with bright white teeth. But the more I looked at him the more I began to see something else: a shark. The guy smiled like a great white shark.

“I’m Johnny,” I said shaking his hand. I glanced at his bare arms, I could see bruises and needle marks. I also noticed an unusual tattoo. “Is that a harp?”

He chuckled. “The letter V.”

“V?” I asked curiously. I had a similar tattoo on my hand, but mine stood for my last name. And mine was intentionally made to look like a harp, in tribute to my mother.

Tommy ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s my street name.”

“White boy has a street name?” I chuckled to myself.

Olivia nudged my arm. “Johnny, stop harassing my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” I groaned. More like a fuck toy. Olivia had a new boyfriend every other week. I watched as Tommy stuck out his forked tongue and licked his upper lip.

Olivia smiled. “We have to get going. See you later, Johnny.” She kissed my cheek looking as beautiful and sweet as our late mother.

“You two have fun. I have everything covered.” I wanted them to leave. As soon as they did I want straight to the bathroom.

I threw open the medicine cabinet and shook bottle after bottle. Olivia and her fucked up friends were stealing my father’s pain pills. Luckily it was not quite as easy to shoot up or sell the medication that came in IV bags, so I was able to give my father something to help him sleep.

I stayed at the house all night, but Olivia and Tommy never came home. I left message after message with no reply. I was considering calling the police when my Dad finally woke up.

“Livvy? Where are you Livvy?”

“Olivia’s not home,” I said.

“Johnny?” My father was reaching out his hand. “They took her.”

“Who?”

“The demons.” He swallowed hard. “Your mother came to me in a dream. She told me where they took Olivia.”

I didn’t know what to think. My mother died when Olivia was born. I barely had any memories of her. But my father never remarried. He always acted like she was still a part of his life. I knew my father had tumors in his brain, to the point where he was nearly blind in both eyes. Maybe his mind was gone, or maybe he already had one foot on the other side, with my mother.

“I’m going to call the police. I can’t exactly go out looking for her. I have to get to work. I have to …” My father grabbed my hand. Instinctively, I closed my eyes. I could see tunnels, possibly a sewer. “I-I…”

“I will guide you there.” With his trembling hands, too weak to even feed himself, my father removed his wedding ring and handed it to me. As I put the band on my finger I could see a map; a series of glowing red lines, like a GPS in the back of my eyes. I knew exactly where I needed to go: the movie theatre.

The town’s only movie theatre sat in the middle of a field, across from the highway. Growing up in my small town I always found it odd that while the rest of the land surrounding the highway had been turned into truck stop hotels, fast food restaurants and of course the Walmart, the area around the movie theatre remained the same mass of tall weeds.

Wearing my father’s ring I walked through the denser patches. The golden grass stood well over six feet in height. I had no idea what I was even looking for but, for my father, I had to try. I started to feel cold, a strange feeling in the sweltering heat of July. I kept walking, further towards the center of the field, when suddenly I came face to face with a door.

A wooden door painted yellow, the color of the surrounding weeds was standing on its own, in the dirt. Walking around it, the door did not appear to be attached to anything other than the ground. I chuckled as I touched the handle. This was not happening: I was dreaming. I would wake up in my bed, none of this was real. “Ow!” The handle was white hot, but only for a few seconds. I could see specks of my blood on the rusted metal. The door opened to a long corridor. This was too freaky. I had seen enough movies to know when to run in the opposite direction. Then I heard a voice.

“He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” The voice echoed down the mysterious hall. It sounded sweet and innocent like a child.

I clenched my father’s ring praying that its power would protect me or at least light my way. I stepped through the doorway. The yellow door slammed shut behind me, leaving me in total darkness. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket. As I expected I had no signal but the full battery could serve as a light source.

In the distance I could see other lights, they were faint, like candles or maybe torches. As I came closer they looked more like Christmas lights, glowing bulbs embedded in the dirt walls. And now there were three paths. I raised my light to the first tunnel and immediately regretted it.

Screams of terror filled the corridor. And I could hear metal; prisoners banging on bars and rattling chains, crying out for my help.

Someone grabbed my hand. “This way,” said the same child-like voice from earlier. The small hand pulled me to the third tunnel. “Here,” the creature handed me what appeared to be a rubber clown mask. “Put it on!” the creature grabbed my phone, pointing the light at its face to reveal a rubber clown mask that covered its’ entire head.

“Does everyone wear a mask here?”

“The workers, those without sin,” the creature replied. “But you seek a sinner.”

I quickly put on the mask. “My sister, I-” I was about to unlock my phone when the creature grabbed my hand.

“Sh…” the creature led me to a wall of what appeared to be college IDs. “Name?”

“Olivia Villanueva,” I said, my voice trembling. There had to be hundreds of card stuck to this wall. Were these all of the people screaming in the first hallway?

“Oh…” the creature said sadly.

“What? Do you know where she is?”

“She’s already been recycled.”

“Recycled.”

“Into the chimera.”

“The chimera?” this was not happening. I was going to wake up on my Dad’s sofa and Olivia is going to come out of her bedroom and tell me I need to leave for work.

“I can help you, find her.”

“Why are you helping me?”

“Because you don’t belong here.”

I was now certain the creature was a girl. Her voice was innocent and sweet. I knew in my heart that if I stuck by her I might have a chance at survival. “Lead the way.”

I followed her down a corridor to a lower level. From the top of the stairs, I could see what appeared to be a caterpillar-shaped mass. I had seen the movie, Human Centipede, where bodies were sewn together in a daisy chain. That was not what I was looking at. This looked like one of those hairy caterpillars a long mass with many little hairs jetting out. Except these weren’t hairs, they were human limbs each one of them independently moving.

“Is she inside that?” I asked. Suddenly someone pushed past us.

“Move it Ze!” he shouted at my guide.

“Screw you, Vega!” Ze shouted back. She turned to me. “He’s such an asshole. They all are.”

“What did you say to me?” The man’s voice was deep, demonic. He raised his arm and smacked Ze in the head knocking her down.

“Hey!” I shouted, grabbing him by the arm. What I saw nearly caused me to scream. It was Tommy’s ‘V’ Tattoo. Instinct took over, and I grabbed his mask.

His long blonde hair tumbled down his back. Tommy turned and smiled. “So which one are you?” He took a step closer. “The husband? The brother? The father?”

“What?”

“Who are you looking to avenge? Kristen, Julia, Maria, Katie-” He blinked his eyes causing them to turn from human blue to a snake-like gold. “Olivia, she was a tasty one.” He raised his hand, his nails long and black.

I took a step back in case his next move was to try and rip off my mask.

“Ugh!” Vega fell to his knees.

Ze grabbed my hand. “Run!” She tossed a large rock as we ran towards the stairs.

“Did you hit him?” I asked.

“He had it coming,” she muttered as we made our way down the stairs, closer and closer to the fleshy caterpillar. “That ass-hat preys on “bad girls”; cheaters, whores, sluts- his words not mine.”

“What do you do here?” I asked.

“Not that,” she quickly replied.

“Why are you here, how did you get here?”

“I was born here,” she said a calm tone, laced with hints of sadness.

We approached the caterpillar. It stood to tell over six feet tall and possibly miles long. The mass of arms and legs were flailing in every direction. I could hear screams, like the sound of someone bound and gagged. But I saw no faces.

Ze walked to the caterpillar. As she approached, the mass of body parts became calm. “Hi, Mom.” She reached her hand into the mass, allowing the sea of limbs to swallow her up to her shoulder.

For the first time, I felt like I was going to panic. I reached for Ze but she raised her free hand. “It’s ok. Me and this thing, we go way back.”

A woman’s face emerged. Her eyes were sunken in, her skin rotten and decayed. But yet I could still make out her beauty; her bone structure, her long black hair.

“Mom, I need you to find someone,” Ze said. Her voice still sounded so sweet, like Olivia when she was a little girl.

The dead face nodded.

Ze turned to me. “Say the name.”

I swallowed hard. “Olivia Villanueva.”

The dead woman’s mouth opened as if to take a breath. “Livy…”

The mass of limbs formed a dark hole, from inside something was spit out. It looked like a mannequin that had been run over by a truck. But it was Olivia. She was face down. I expected her to start crawling like one of those Japanese ghosts, but she only groaned.

“Grab her!” Ze whispered. Her head was turning, looking around.

I hadn’t seen anyone else in the tunnels, but that was before we started messing with the chimera. Out of the corner of my vision, I could see figures emerging from the upper levels. I ran to my sister scooping her body up into my arms. I knew the less attention I paid to her current state the better.

“This way!” Ze shouted. She ran straight towards the caterpillar. The long creature extended down a pathway. “Stay close to me!” Ze shouted as she ran along the side of the caterpillar.

I could hear people chasing us, but I concentrated on Ze. As we passed the disembodied hands and feet I could hear slapping. I dared not turn around. I only hoped my instinct was correct: the caterpillar was protecting Ze and, by association, myself as well.

Ze made a sharp turn and I followed. She was squatting in a dark corner, gasping for breath. “Sorry I can’t run for very long. This has always been my resting spot.”

“You do this a lot?”

“Whenever I want to get away from Vega, or Tommy as I know he calls himself.”

“Does he hurt you?” I asked.

“No, but my mother was one of Tommy’s first victims.” Ze stood up. “We need to keep going.” I looked down at Olivia, but immediately Ze grabbed my hand. “She’s alive, that’s what matters, right?”

The tunnels were dark. I was so tempted to turn on my phone just grab a peek at my sister. I could already feel she was missing part of her right arm and her entire left leg. The entire place smelled like meat. Not death, like a hospital or morgue, it smelled like a butcher shop; a place where meat is cleaned and made presentable. That was what the chimera was: an elaborate display of meat held together by some kind of unholy magic.

“Do you know why everyone wears clown masks?” Ze asked as we walked. “It’s not because we’re scary.” She grabbed my phone from my pocket and took off her mask. Ze’s long black hair was pulled in to a ponytail, her blue eyes sparkled in the dim light of my phone.

“I know you. You’re L, the girl from Walmart.”

“My real name is Eliza.”

“That’s pretty.”

“Not really. Vega named me that as a joke.”

I looked at her confused.

“Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady? You know: the story of a low-class girl who gets taken in by some rich guy. He teaches her how to walk, talk, how to be his vision of proper lady. Have you never seen the movie?”

I had heard of it, but the movie was before my time. And Tommy, or Vega, didn’t seem like the kind of person who would be a fan of classic films. “Is that what he is to you? He’s your mentor?”

“Not exactly.” She rammed her shoulder into a seemingly random spot on the wall.

“What is he?”

“That demon is my father!” She rammed it again, revealing wood the color of the door. “He’s the reason I’m allowed to go shopping for supplies on the surface world.” SLAM! More of the wood was exposed. “He wants me to become just like him!” SLAM the entire door was visible.

“But your mother was human,” I said. That was all I wanted to focus on. I didn’t care how old she was or if she was some kind of Hell princess.

“Yeah, and my father wants me to see humans as nothing more than animals!” Her words gave her the burst of necessary to force open the door. Sunlight poured into the tunnel. “Go, hurry!” She was grabbing her arm in visible pain.

I reached my hand for Eliza. “Come with me.”

“I can’t.”

“Please! You don’t belong here! I’ll watch over you, I’ll take care of you.”

She smiled at me. Her eyes sparkled with heavenly light. “You’re sweet. But right now I need you to run and don’t look back.”

I nodded. “Goodbye.”

“No, not goodbye. Until we meet again.” I watched as she closed the door. As soon as it shut the wood began to decay. In a matter of seconds, all that remind was a pile of ash.

“Please, no!” The gateway was no more. I feared would never see Eliza again, not at Walmart, not ever. My heart was in pain. Then I got my first look at Olivia. If I was not a nurse, by trade, I would have passed out. My sister had no face. It was as if someone had taken a blowtorch to her eyes, nose, and mouth. I could feel her breath on my neck as I carried her, but she had not spoken a single word.

I laid her in the back seat of my car and drove to my father’s house. She was as still as a corpse for the entire thirty-minute trip.

I pulled into the driveway and glanced at my father’s ring. It was still glowing. I held it to my chest, with a glimmer of hope.

Then I opened the door. The smell was unmistakable, I didn’t even bother to check his bed. My father was dead.

I pulled out my phone to call 911 but fell to my knees as I looked at the date. I had been gone for nearly a week. My mind was racing, as to the horrible nature of my father’s death; seizure, starvation? I almost forgot about my mutilated sister.

Eventually, my hands became steady enough to dial 911. I managed to convince the police I found my sister’s body abandoned in a field, the possible victim of a hate crime. She was taken to the hospital.

Over the next year, I worked on settling my father’s estate. With my inheritance, I transferred Olivia to a psychiatric hospital in California. With a stellar letter of recommendation from my superiors, I was able to land a nursing position in the same hospital.

For the last six years, my life has been devoted to working and watching over my sister. I bounced between the pediatric ward and maternity ward. I took pride in working with children, each one of them a miracle.

During my lunch breaks, I checked in on Olivia. She still had her hearing and sense of touch, with her remaining limbs. With the help of a great team of doctors, she was learning how to communicate, even making friends. I was hopeful that someday she might even be able to live a normal life. Or perhaps that was my wish for my own life.

After a ten hour work day, I would go home to my studio apartment and sleep until my next shift. I had no friends, no family, and no hope. I ate lunch alone every day in the cafeteria, eating the sandwich I brought from home. No point in spending a lot of money. I kept to a moderate budget, dividing my income to pay for Olivia’s care, my food and rent, whatever was leftover went into my retirement account. That was the goal: to work until I was too old, then maybe travel the world.

I would love to work for an organization like Doctors without borders, helping children in third world countries. Perhaps once Olivia was independent enough to be moved to a live-in facility.

All I had were my dreams, until the one day she appeared. I spotted her in the cafeteria a girl with eyes the color of the brightest day and hair the color of the darkest night. She was sitting in the corner, staring out into the crowd as she sipped a can of Sprite elegantly, with a straw. She was maybe 5’6″ with plump, glossy lips the color of cinnamon candy. The girl looked up at me, our eyes met and she smiled.

My heart was in my throat as I walked over. “Hi, this might sound odd, but you remind me of someone I knew a long time ago.”

“Hi, Johnny,” she said. Her voice was mature and seductive, but with that same child-like innocence.

“Eliza?”

She nodded, batting her long eyelashes. “It’s me.”

“I- I can’t believe it! How did you escape? How did you find me?”

She licked her lips and motioned for me to pull up a seat next to her. “I earned it.”

“You earned it?” I asked.

“I earned my freedom, and with it my beauty,” she said in a haunting whisper. “Then I tracked you here,” she added, her voice returning to normal.

“How?” I didn’t have any social media accounts since there was no one I wanted to follow or stay in touch with.

“Your parents,” she answered. “They’re very happy where they are. Oh, and your Dad told me to tell you he’s proud of you.”

“Okay…” I would be lying to say I wasn’t nervous. What exactly was she?

With a coy smile, Eliza slipped me a plain white envelope. “For you.”

Inside was a necklace with a leather pendant.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

I turned the pendant over. It wasn’t leather at all, it was skin. A piece of dried flesh tattooed with a letter ‘V’. “I love it.” I looked at Eliza; what was once a caterpillar was now the most beautiful, powerful butterfly. “And I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said with a giggle.

“Do you have a place to stay?”

“I’ve actually been living out of my car.”

“Your car?”

“A Honda Civic, just enough room for my entire life,” she chuckled. Now she was the one who looked nervous. “I-I kind of bet the farm on you still wanting to see me.” “I mean, it’s been six years, you could have been married with a kid.”

“What do you mean by ‘bet the farm’?” I was curious to know just how much she carried of her past.

Eliza shrugged. “I have a little money saved up. My plan was to enroll at the local community college.”

“That’s cool.” I chuckled to myself. “Well, for me, the last few years have been devoted to Olivia.” I glanced at my watch. “I’m supposed to check in with her.”

“Now?” Eliza asked.

“Yeah, she’s getting assigned a new therapist. I promised her I’d check in during my break.”

“Great, I’d love to finally meet her.” Eliza stood up. She wore a modest green tank top paired with dark denim jeans.

“Sure, I mean if you’re done eating.” I had not eaten my sandwich yet but I figured I could do so on my next break.

I held Eliza’s hand in the elevator as we went to the psychiatric ward.

She leaned her head on my shoulder, her hair smelled like roses.

We walked arm in arm to the ward where I introduced Eliza to the Nurse Becca at the reception desk.

The older woman greeted Eliza then quickly pulled me to the side. “You need to get in there. The new therapist is some kid, straight out of school. All she does is go on smoke breaks. I can’t believe the hospital would hire someone so incompetent.”

“Is that her?” Eliza asked, motioning towards a nearby patio. On the opposite side of the glass door stood a young female doctor with long red hair. She was smoking a cigarette. “She’s pretty,” Eliza muttered under her breath.

“Yes, that’s about all she is,” Nurse Becca groaned. “All she does is complain non stop about having to work in a ‘freak show.’”

Eliza gave a look of disgust. “But she’s a doctor!”

Becca rolled her eyes. “Dr. Elena Ryan: Her goal is to transfer into sports medicine, spend all day working with beautiful people.”

I threw up my hands in frustration. “I’m going to go check on Olivia.” I walked away, to Olivia’s room.

She was sitting in her rocking chair listening something on her iPad while wearing a plain white mask that covered her entire face.

I tapped her shoulder to get her attention. “Where did you get the mask?”

Olivia flipped the iPad over to a brail keyboard. I watched as she typed her answer. “Dr. Ryan said I had to wear it if I ever want to be let back into society.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had gotten used to her face or lack of one. The rest of the world could easily do the same. “You don’t have to wear that if it’s uncomfortable.”

“Thanks,” she wrote.

I watched as she removed the mask. The scar tissue had mostly healed. The current state of her face was smooth like plastic; no eyes or nose or lips. Her mouth was still present, a gaping hole with teeth but no tongue.

Suddenly Eliza appeared. I noticed she was running her fingers through her hair. With every stroke, her dark locks sparkled. “Hello Olivia,” she said as she approached my sister without fear or hesitation. Eliza touched her hand to Olivia’s face. “I’m Eliza, we’ve met before.” She placed a hand on Olivia’s head, forcing her to bow. Eliza then bowed her own head, their foreheads pressing together. For a moment their dark hair seemed to flow into one mass of shadow. “Much better,” Eliza said, taking a step back.

I rushed to my sister’s side. “Olivia?”

My sister’s head was still leaning forward. She was making strange sounds, like weeping. With her one prosthetic hand, she brushed the hair from her face to reveal an actual face; eyelashes, a nose, and actual lips. But something seemed off. Olivia opened her eyes. They were green. My sister never had green eyes. Her new eyes blinked rapidly as if trying to get used to the sensation of light. She stood up and walked towards the sink, her hands reaching towards the mirror. She gasped but no words came out of her mouth.

“Sorry,” Eliza said biting her lip nervously. “I couldn’t figure out how to grab you a new tongue. I’ll work on that. But do you like the eyes? I think they look good on you.” The question was posed so casually as if she was referring to a pair of earrings or a necklace.

Olivia nodded, a smile gracing her new lips.

“I’m glad.” Eliza took a seat, looking out the window at the bright afternoon sun.

“So, Johnny, what time do you get off?”

“Seven,” I replied.

“Can I hang out with Olivia until then?” she asked.

“Actually, you can make a copy of my house keys, then we can meet up for dinner.” I took my keys from my pocket and pulled my door key and gate key from the ring. I knew my landlord would pitch a fit about me being in violation of my lease, but my new girlfriend could communicate with the dead and grant sight to the blind. I think my landlord would just have to deal.

As I placed the keys in Eliza’s hand. She sprang up, cupped my face and kissed me. Her lip gloss tasted like cotton candy. And her eyes; the look in her eyes filled my heart with joy. She was an angel.

“Let me walk you to your car,” I said to her. “Olivia, I’ll be right back.”
Olivia didn’t respond, she was too captivated by her new gift of sight.

I walked with Eliza, to the main elevators but as we passed the glass door of the patio my eyes drifted. Dr. Ryan, the woman with the red hair was no longer smoking a cigarette, she was slumped on the ground, her body twitching. The medical professional in me wanted to check on her.

Eliza gripped my hand. She placed a finger to her lip to say “Shh,” as she walked me to the window. With our backs pressed against the wall, we peered around the corner. I could clearly see the woman’s face was hemorrhaging large amounts of blood. I was horrified but Eliza was giggling. “Be careful who you call ugly,” she said like a typical eighteen-year-old. She was ecstatic, proud.

“What have you done?”

“What? Dr. Ryan was a conceded bitch, people like her don’t deserve beauty.”

“You sound like your father.”

“No, I don’t. He took beauty from-”

“Your father took beauty from people who HE considered unworthy.” I turned to walk towards the elevator. “The only difference between you and him is that your father created that underground chimera thing.” I didn’t even know if that was true. Did Eliza inherit her father’s kingdom?

Eliza followed me, arms crossed. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to help Olivia.”

I knew she was telling the truth. “I’m sorry I compared you to your father.”

Eliza held my hand, leaning her head on my shoulder. To say I was not afraid would be a lie. Loving her would be like loving a live grenade. But for now, she was moving in with me; my angel, my Eliza, my butterfly.

 

CREDIT : Mary Ramsey

 

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