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December 2014 Discussion Post: Your First Story

December 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM

This month’s discussion topic was suggested by EWR.

c2014

As a community, Creepypasta fans tend to have a higher-than-average interest in writing. The comments on both Creepypasta and Crappypasta are full of constructive criticism, and we have hundreds of people contributing to the prompts section as well as making themselves available as beta readers. That’s not even taking into account the thousands of you who send in new stories during each open period!

So this month I’d like to know how, exactly, that interest in writing first manifested itself – what was your first attempt at writing a story? Feel free to tell us the plot, what inspired you, how old you were, how long you spent on that first story – any details that you’d like to share are up to you!

Of course, if you’re brave enough and happen to have the story online somewhere, you can even link it if you feel so inclined.

I think that this has potential to be a very interesting post! As always, be excellent to each other and obey the commenting guidelines in the FAQ… and have fun!

Bright Eyes

December 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I didn’t want to move to a new place. All of my toys were in boxes and we didn’t have any T.V. Mom told me to play outside but she was always busy and Dad was at work. There weren’t any kids around there anyway. Mom told me to explore the house, but I didn’t like to. The house was empty except for boxes. The basement was dark and the attic was dark too and I didn’t like the funny smell in there either. The old people left some treasures in the house and those were fun. I found some shiny spikes that Mom called Jacks. She said they were for a game but I need a ball to play it. I couldn’t find a ball but the Jacks were fun to spin like tops. I found an old Teddy in the attic too when I went up there with Dad. It’s missing an eye and it has a big smile. I didn’t tell Dad about it because he doesn’t like dirty toys. He threw away Blanket after it was old. He never told me that, but I know he did.

The forest was fun to play in but Mom said not to go too far. I found a little house that looked like Dad’s old shed. It had leaves and stuff growing all over it and it looked all broken and really old. There was a little window with bars on it and I didn’t like it. I stayed away from the house because I didn’t think there was treasure in there. Sometimes I threw rocks at the house. I thought I might break it, but it was still pretty strong. I found frogs in the forest. They were hard to catch. I also saw other kids in the woods, but they all hid behind the trees and watched me. They didn’t say anything and I didn’t like them watching me. They got closer and closer if I stayed too long in the forest.

At night I heard noises. They made me very scared. I had to hide Teddy from Dad and Mom so I kept him under the bed, but when the noises got louder I would hold him tight and he would make me feel better. The noises got real bad when it was really late. It was the kids in the forest crying. They got louder when they were closer to the house. I never told Dad or Mom about them because grownups always think I’m dreaming when I’m not. I felt safe with Teddy anyway, so I didn’t need to sleep in their room.

I started to hear their voices one night. They were whispering real quiet outside, but I could hear them whispering. They were outside under my window and they were looking up into my room. In the night they glowed pale green like my star stickers, but brighter. I didn’t like to look at them. They had holes instead of eyes. When they got louder, I held Teddy closer. They went away in the morning.

One night I heard Teddy talking. He had a soft voice. I was crying because the whispers were getting louder. He told me it was going to be alright. He promised to keep me safe. In the morning when the children went back to hide in the forest, I talked to Teddy.

“Are you a good guy?” I asked Teddy. I made sure Dad and Mom were busy so they wouldn’t find us.

“I am a friend to children, little one. I am their guardian in the night from the wickedness of the Bright Eyes. I have protected many children from those creatures and I will protect you too.”

“Who are they?” I asked Teddy.

“They want to take you away little one. They want to hurt you. I am old and I am weak, but I can protect you for a while longer. I appear to children who need me. Those things aren’t children, they hide what they really are inside the skin of children. I have fought them for such a long time, but they grow strong as I grow weak.”

Every night Teddy would stay with me. The Bright Eyes came closer and closer though. They would float up to the window and stare inside. They whispered their noises to me and Teddy told me to shut my ears with my hands while he kept them from coming inside. He told me that he was getting weaker and that was why the child-monsters tried to get me. One night they got into the house. They came up the stairs and started scraping my door. We had to sit against the door to keep them from coming in. Their whispers were loud enough that I could hear them. They kept saying,

“Come and play, come and play. Come come come.”

Teddy watched over me while I was sleeping. In the morning Mom found me sleeping on the ground. She asked what was wrong, but I was afraid she would take Teddy away, so I couldn’t tell.

Teddy told me in the morning that he was too weak to protect me for much longer. He said that there was only one way to keep the Bright Eyes from hurting us.

“There is a key in the basement. We need that key to keep us safe. I cannot go with you. They are strong in that darkness. They will sense me if I go down there and they would take me from you. But they will not see you. They are asleep while the morning sun is up. I need you to go down and get the key.”

“I don’t want to go down there, Teddy.” I told him, hugging him. “What if they try to hurt me?”

“I’m sorry little one, but without that key, neither one of us will be safe for much longer. You can get the key, I cannot.”

“How will I find it?” I asked him.

“They will be guarding it. They know that with it, we can be safe from them. One of them will be holding it. You must take it without waking them. I will wait here for you.”

I didn’t want to go down there, but I couldn’t let them take Teddy away. I was scared, but I went down the stairs quietly. Teddy waited at the top watching me. He was quiet too so he wouldn’t wake them up.

I found them in the corner of the basement, hiding behind a lot of boxes. They were glowing in the dark and they were curled up together. They shook like they were cold and they sounded like they were crying. I was afraid. They didn’t see me. Their eyes were closed like Teddy said. One of them was holding a string tied to the key. I sneaked after them, hiding behind boxes. I wanted to cry without Teddy there with me. I got closer to them. I held my breath tight and was very quiet.

I got very close and I reached out for the key when the one holding it opened its eyes. It looked at me. Its eyes were empty. I screamed, but I grabbed onto the key and turned around, pulling it away until the string broke. They all got up and started coming after me yelling,

“No! Stop!”

They chased me. I tripped on the stairs and I heard them sliding up behind me like snakes. I got back up and ran up the stairs as fast as I could while they tried to grab my legs. I got upstairs before them and closed the door. I heard them on the other side. They were still yelling and hitting the door. I held the key tight. I looked down at it. It was black and plain like an old-fashion kind. I didn’t like how it looked. Then I noticed that Teddy was gone. I called for him, but he didn’t answer. I didn’t know where he went, he said he would wait but he was gone. I started crying.

Dad found me when the Bright Eyes stopped making noises. He asked me what was wrong and why I yelled. I couldn’t tell. I hid the key so he wouldn’t find it. I knew that Teddy had to hide too. That was why he wasn’t there. Dad was very angry. He told me not to yell except if it was an emergency. He told me that he found my Teddy and that he took it and threw it away. I cried and told him I needed Teddy, but he didn’t listen. He said he would get me a new one, but I didn’t want a new Teddy. I was afraid without him and Dad wouldn’t listen!

I hid from Mom and Dad all day. They didn’t know but they couldn’t help me. But Teddy came back at night time when I was in bed. I saw the door open and I was afraid it was the Bright Eyes, but I saw that it was him.

“Teddy! You came back!”

“Yes, little one. I will never leave you. Your Father tried to take me away. He is being controlled by the Bright Eyes, but I was still strong enough to escape their power. We don’t have much time. Did you get the key?”

“Yes.” I said. I got out of bed and showed him the key.

“You are very brave little one, but you must be brave one more time. This time, I will not leave you. We must go into the forest. There is a place there where they cannot go.”

“But I’m not allowed outside at night. If Mom and Dad find out, they might not let us be together anymore.” I said this, but I felt bad because I was scared of going in the forest.

“After tonight, you will be safe, but we must go now before it’s too late.”

I heard the Bright Eyes crying in the basement. They were hitting the door again.

“Please, little one. This is our only chance.”

“You’ll be with me the whole time?”

“Yes, little one. I will stay with you until you are safe.”

We sneaked out of the room. I held Teddy and the key tight. We went downstairs and had to go past the door to the basement before we could get outside. I saw the green light through the cracks and I ran. I heard the door open behind us when I got outside and I saw the Bright eyes push their way out, crying and yelling.

“No! Stop! Come and play!”

I ran into the forest. It was very cold. Teddy told me where to go. It was very dark and I tripped a lot. The Bright Eyes kept coming, flying after us. I ran further and further and I fell down and scraped my knee. I dropped Teddy. Teddy ran into the forest.

“Wait Teddy! Don’t leave me alone!” I yelled.

“This way little one! Follow my voice!”

I stood up and held the key. I ran after Teddy. He kept telling me where he was and I ran after him. I kept crying. The Bright Eyes were so close behind, still making horrible sounds.

“In here.” Teddy said. I stopped and saw that he was standing in the old forest house. The door was open. It looked much smaller in the dark.

“I can protect you in here. You will be safe from the Bright Eyes, little one.”

I looked at Teddy, with his wide grin. I smiled back, but I was scared. It was a very dark room.

“Do we have to go in there?”

Teddy looked sad. I felt bad for being scared.

“If you don’t hurry, they will find you, they will take you away. They will hurt you. I want to protect you, little one. You must come in here and shut the door. They can’t come in here when I’m here to protect you.”

I turned around. The bright children with crooked faces were floating after us. Dark stuff dripped from their empty eyes. They were flying forward with outstretched hands yelling,

“No! Come! Come! Come and play!”

I ran into the house and shut the door.

“Quickly now! Lock it with the key before they can get in!”

I stood on tiptoes to reach the lock and put the key in. I turned it as fast as I could. Right when I stopped, the children started hitting the door very hard, yelling at me. I dropped the key on the ground.

“No! Come and play!”

I ran away from the door to the corner of the room. I tripped and fell down onto a pile of hard, lumpy things. I turned around and saw Teddy walk up to the door. He bent over and picked up the key.

“Teddy, what’s all this stuff on the ground?” I asked him. I was afraid because he wasn’t saying.

The Bright Eyes were hitting the door, but it was locked and they couldn’t get in, just like Teddy said. He walked toward me. I heard something rip and his button eye fell off and rolled on the ground. The fur on his face began to rip and two glowing red holes appeared. They got real wide and bright and lit up his face. He smiled real big and his mouth began to rip open too. He made a sound like Granpa used to make when he was sick.

I cried. I ran away from Teddy and started to hit the door with my fists. It was locked up tight. Teddy’s eyes got really bright and lit up the room like a night light. Two long cracking arms with knifes instead of hands came out of his mouth and began to scrape against the floor, pulling Teddy toward me. I crawled back to the corner. I fell on one of the lumpy things underneath me and hurt my hand. They were white and hard and had scratches all over them. There were lots and lots of them all over.

“What are you doing Teddy? Please stop! You’re frightening me!” I cried as he came closer.

The children were yelling to me from the darkness. They reached in through the bars of the window. I finally knew what they saying. They weren’t saying, “Come and play,” they were saying, “Run away.”

Credit To – Marcus Arias

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No Body, No Crime: A Cheery Holiday Tale

December 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The neighborhood always was a tight-knit community. The gatehouse kept out all the wrong people, and the rotation of retiree guards provided a second filter for the riff-raff.

Most homes went for over half a million, but a few sold in the quarter-mil range. All of those, they were in the back, all on one cul de sac.

They all used the community pool.

It came as a bit of a scandal, then, when it wasn’t one of those houses that went into foreclosure.

It came as a bit of a scandal, then, when it wasn’t one of those houses that had the owners go missing.

They vanished.

They didn’t just disappear into thin air, though, oh, no. That would have been preferred.

They let the grass go, first. Neighborhood association letters and fines and summons piled up. It was quite scandalous when they actually lit a little fire in their driveway, burning all the notices.

In a further act of defiance, they stopped taking their trash to the curb.

So it was a relief when the young family of three who lived there just…left.

All their possessions, except a suitcase each and one of their cars, poof. Gone.

“Internet money,” the whispers went. “They never really belonged here at all,” people said. “I heard they found their minivan in long term parking at the airport,” they claimed.

That part was true. They did. And nothing else.

Meanwhile, the bank foreclosed. The yard was tended to by the neighborhood association, the house went on the market.

More new money moved in, but they seemed a respectable sort, so they were welcomed to Mallard Street. As it happened, they settled in right around Halloween, just in time for the kids to trick-or-treat and the parents to mingle at a couple of parties.

The first time the Jones met the Emersons, right next door, everyone was enjoying drinks, hilarious costumes, and the most delicious barbeque ever tasted, served from what was probably the largest, most complex smoker anyone had ever seen.

The Jones family were the newcomers, and they raved about the dinner and hospitality, and Mr. Jones asked about the smoker. James Emerson, proprietor of the region’s largest packinghouse, explained that he competed in barbeque cook-offs for fun, and he nicknamed his smoker the “Long Pig.” He liked to share his talents with friends, family, and neighbors at all major holidays and excuses to throw a party. “Everyone likes to come over for my dinners. Good fences don’t make good neighbors,” he’d joke, “good sauces do!”

“Just wait until Thanksgiving,” he winked. “We won’t be doing turkey. I have something special planned.”

Everyone got on famously.

Thanksgiving arrived.

The Emersons invited all of Mallard street, and quite a few folks from other places in the gated community (but no one from that cul de sac) for a Black Friday Night Party.

The smoker could be smelled all the way up at the guard shack starting Wednesday night.

As promised, the barbeque was amazing; Mr. Emerson had saved the youngest, tenderest of quality meats for the holiday season.

“What are you thankful for?” Mr. Jones asked as he enjoyed a plate, savoring each bite because he took the last available serving.

“New, respectable neighbors,” Mr. Emerson responded, stealing a glance at his wife and seeing her smirk where the Jones family couldn’t see. “I’m incredibly thankful that we’ve run out of the terrible ones.”

“Now that the freezer is empty, dear, I think we’ll switch to beef for the Christmas party,” Mrs. Emerson commented, offhandedly.

Everyone chatted and dined as the Long Pig ticked and popped, cooling in the November chill.

Credit To – Nick O’Caliban

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Family

December 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Family

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit To – Liam Vickers

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Kelpie

December 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I wasn’t very old when I first saw it. Maybe about five or six or so. It was a long time ago. But I remember it well.

For what feels like the longest time, the whole experience of it felt like…a dream. Like it never really happened, just a little image in my head. A half-forgotten memory.Maybe it didn’t. I can’t remember exactly where the place was, just what it looked like. As the same with the people there. No face or name I could say now. Maybe they weren’t even there. Just additions by time to the memory. Slowly changing the devils in the details. But they don’t matter much. They never did. What did matter, was the Kelpie.

It was summer. I was playing near the bayou not far from my grandmother’s house. I had been sent there to spend the duration of the warm season. My mother thought it was good to breathe fresh, humid air instead of the city smog. My summer that year was spent with my grandmother down south. She was a fierce old lady, second generation from Scotland. Often she would tell wonderful tales of the lochs and forests from her parent’s homeland. About all the creatures that lived within the waters, and all the ones that lived in the trees. One of my favorites was the Selkie. Beautiful seal-women who could change shape at will as they sunned on the rocks or swam in the sea. Another was the Each-Uisge, a more ferocious beast, but also quite interesting to me. My grandmother said that they could take the form of a singing woman, where they would lure sailors into the ocean, and drown them in the salt water when they got close, like sirens. The one I loved most though, was the Unicorn. Such a majestic, mysterious creature. I liked how pure it was told to be. I had always had a desire to see one. To touch its pure, white, coat. But I knew they weren’t real. Just stories. Just tales. But I liked to pretend.

One day I went down to the bayou to catch a fish. I was very proud of myself, having made a pole from a stick and some string. My grandmother laughed and said if I caught a fish, she would cook it for me. I became very determined to the task. I told her I would be back before sundown.

I waited at the banks of the water, legs crossed and pole in hand. There was a small bit of uncooked bacon on the end of the line. I knew I was going to catch a fish. I just knew it. My train of thought and concentration was broken, by music. Someone was playing a fiddle. The sound was enchanting. I looked around for the source. Not finding one, I tried to follow the sound. Abandoning the pole on the bank with the line still in the water, I quietly crept along the bank, walking until I found the source of the music. I found who was playing the fiddle. It was a young man, sitting on a branch of a large tree. The limb hung just above the water, and the young man lay against it, suspended over the mirror-like surface, playing a tune to his wooden fiddle. The white strings seemed to glow in the faint morning light. He stopped when he saw me, and smiled. No words came between us, but he beckoned for me with his hand to take a seat on the mossy bank and he continued to play. The music was wonderful. When the song ended, I asked for him to play another. He nodded, but only if I went into the water. My grandmother had been very keen with me to keep out of the water. I could not swim at the time, and she made me promise to stay on the bank. So I removed my shoes and let my legs dangle in the cool, calm, water. He played another song. When he finished, he beckoned with hand again for me to come closer, deeper into the water. Like he was going to tell me a secret and whisper it in my ear. I shook my head. I had made a promise. The young fiddler seemed sad. Dissapointed. I can’t quite remember the details of his face, but I can just remember his frown. He sighed and rolled off the branch and into the dark water without a splash. Just a few small ripples came from where he entered the bayou. He never came out of the water. After that, I went back to the house as my grandmother called my name. First, I ran to get my pole. A tiny minnow was at the end of the paper clip hook.

I almost told my grandmother about the young fiddler. But I didn’t. She would just think it strange and say it was nonsense.

The next day, I went again back to the bayou banks, fishing pole in hand. I said to my grandmother I would catch a bigger fish. I told her I would be back before sundown. I went back to my spot and sat cross legged, pole in hand. There was a small cut of deer on the hook. I sat, and waited for a fish to bite, my thoughts trailing off about my grandmother’s stories. They were stopped by the sound of laughter. It was a girlish laughter, light and soft. I was curious. Usually the bayou was so lonely, just the call of far away birds and the hum of cicadas. But the laughter broke though it. Right into my head. I followed the sound, leaving my pole on the bank and the line in the water. Moving silently, I walked along the bank. In the same place with the low hanging tree limb was where I found the source of the laughter. That small, watery grove seemed just a little different. A large grey rock sat in the middle of the water, emerging from the deep. I hadn’t noticed it before. Possibly I just hadn’t remember it from when I met the young fiddler. Sitting on the rocks, were three young girls. They looked a few years older than me. All of them had long, dark, hair that swayed around them like thousands of waved silk strings. Hearing them laugh made me…happy. I don’t really know why. I got closer and sat on the bank to watch them. The girls were as beautiful as the Selkies in the tales my grandmother told me. They all had fair skin seemed to glow in the dimmed bayou light. One of them met her dark eyes with mine. She beckoned with a finger towards me. She wanted me to come and play. I wanted to, they seemed as though they were having so much fun up on the rock there! I took off my shoes and rolled up my pant legs. I waded in up to my knees and my feet sunk slightly in the silty mud, but, looking down into the water, I remembered. I couldn’t swim. I sadly stood there, sorrowful that I could not join these new friends. One by one they slid effortlessly into the water and swam towards me, only their eyes visible above the water with their hair flowing behind them. They swum around my legs, barely disturbing the water. One pulled gently at my leg, another at my hand. A shook my head. I couldn’t. Disappointed, they sighed dismally and let go of my hand and left, slipping away like the water they swam in. Their sighs were almost musical, as melodic as they were. I didn’t want them to go. I almost swam in after them. But I heard my grandmother call my name. I went to get my pole. A small fry was at the end of my line.

I almost told my grandmother about the bayou Selkie girls. But I didn’t. I felt like they were…mine, somehow. Like a secret that only I would know.

The following day, I set out again. I was going to get a bigger fish. I had to. This was my last day in the bayou. I was going home the next day. I told my grandmother I would be back before sundown and went to the bank to fish, with the pole in my hands and my legs crossed over one another. There was a small strip of gator meat at the end of my makeshift hook. I gazed out into the dark, still, water. It seemed almost dead. Lovely, but dead. A metallic blue dragonfly landed on the water, took a sip, and flew off. I watched it go. My attention was then turned to most unusual noise. Hooves. And a neigh. There were no horses in the bayou, so I started to wonder. I put my pole down on the bank and let the line sit in the water. I followed the sounds of the braying horse. Yet again I came to that same place. The willows hung low, the tree limb sat just above the water, and the rock was empty of any Selkie girls. Standing by the tree on a small island bank in the middle of the water…was a unicorn. It didn’t have a horn, much to my disappointment, but there it was. A pure, white horse. It pawed at the ground with long furred hooves. Its mane was elegant and shiny. It seemed to glow. Just like the Selkie girl’s skin, and the young man’s fiddle strings. It was beautiful, even if it may not have been a unicorn as the bayou girls were not Selkies, and the young fiddler not the singing Each-Uisge. It looked towards me and waved its head up and down, up and down. It was calling me to it. Without hesitation, I got into the water. I didn’t even take off my shoes. I stood knee deep. The white horse trotted into the water and began to swim to me. I hoped it would play with me on the banks, or at least in the shallows. It stopped though, just a little further out from where I was. It could stand there, but then again, it was much bigger than me. The water couldn’t be too deep over there. Could it? It looked towards its back. It was offering me a ride. In my excitement, I forgot all about my grandmother’s words and went deeper into the water. Up to my chest. Then my shoulders. The water felt suffocating as it went higher and higher. I felt like my lungs were being crushed under the pressure of it. I held my hand out to the white horse. It was still just out of reach. I took another step and the water was to my chin. My fingers brushed over its silky mane. Water weeds had collected in it, giving it green flecks here and there. I went to touch it again. This time though, it felt more…sticky. Like tape, or glue. Looking down into the water, the white horse had lost its glow. It seemed more…grey. Darkening the further down it went until it was almost black. Maybe it was just the water.

My foot slipped.

I went down under the water. Opening my eyes in panic, I was horrified at what I saw in front of me.Where the white horse’s belly and legs would have been, I only saw smooth, black, decaying flesh. Water weeds strewn in and out of it. The back legs fused together in a slowly fanning tail. It was like something out of a nightmare. I immediately stepped back, my movements slowed by the water. I turned around and my head broke the surface as I reached the shallows. I scrambled onto the bank and looked back. The white horse was gone. I felt a relief, although I deeply missed the white horse. Where had it gone? I heard my grandmother call my name. In my soaked and muddy clothes, I ran by my fishing pole. A large catfish was at the end of the hook. I left both and hurried back to my grandmother’s house.

I told my grandmother about the white horse. I did this time. I left out the Selkie girls and the young fiddler from my story, and I did not mention the nature of me falling into the water, but I asked her about a white horse in the water. She told me a tale about a Kelpie. It was water demon, that often took the shape of a beautiful white horse, among others such as a handsome man playing a violin, or a young maiden. It would offer a ride to anyone willing, then take them into the water and drown them. Nothing would ever be found of them. That night, I forced myself to go back there. I needed to see if it was real. By the light of my torch, I followed the path I had taken as I had searched for the source of sound. But after hours of searching, I could not find it. No green willows, no low hanging tree limb, no rock.

I went back home the next day, happy to be away, yet desperate to go back. I never did.

Until recently.

My grandmother had died about a month before. It had been years since I had seen her, in fact, she had visited only once since the time I spent a summer with her. I traveled down back to the bayou, back to her home to pack up her things and sell the house. I had nearly forgotten those three days down at the banks of the bayou. The whole summer had been a blur that year, but going there brought those memories back. For so long I had dismissed it as a dream, or some dull event of meeting other people. A man playing an instrument. Some girls swimming in the water. An animal on another bank. A deer perhaps. Or a white goat that had lost its way. Nothing out of the ordinary for the south. Maybe it was just my imagination that I saw a white horse and pet its mane. But to reassure myself of this childhood nonsense, I decided to go and take just one little look that morning. I would be back before sundown.

I found my old fishing spot. My pole was still there somehow, as if I had just left it. I found the fresh carcass of the catfish I had left there years before. I tossed it into the water. Curious. Then I heard the music. Fiddle music. And laughter. And the sound of… a horse. I followed it, and I found that same place. The place with the willows and low hanging tree limb and the rock and the opposite bank with the tree. Once I got there though, all the music and laughter was gone. The tree limb sat empty over the water, the rock isolated and alone. On the opposite bank, was the white horse. The Kelpie. It shook its head and beckoned me over. Something seemed…strange, not quite right. Out of place. But against my better judgement, I took off my shoes and stepped into the water. Faintly, I could hear hissing, and a quiet screeching noise. It sounded like it was coming from the water. I ignored the sounds and went deeper into the bayou. Finally, it was getting too deep to stand. As I kicked off the bottom, my foot hit something sharp. I don’t think it bled though, so I continued across the water without a thought. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was…under me. Swimming. Maybe even multiple somethings.

I climbed onto the bank. As I got close, the Kelpie kneeled. It was offering me a ride. I remembered what my grandmother had said about these ‘offered rides’. I took a box knife from my back pocket and held it behind my back. Just in case. Opening the blade, I stepped closer and hesitantly put a hand on the magnificent beast. Its white fur was soft, and felt like water in my hands. I told myself I shouldn’t. I had one of those feelings that you get going into a dark tunnel or alley. You know it could be dangerous, and most likely is, but…you still go. I sheathed the knife and sat atop the white horse. It stood and pranced in a circle. I laughed. Oh, how I wished I had done this years ago! Looking up, I saw the young fiddler, laying on the low hanging tree limb. He plucked a string and began to play. He had a handsome face, with shaggy blonde hair hidden under a hat. His clothes looked old, like he was from the wild west. The three bayou Selkie girls came out of the water and lay atop the rock, laughing and brushing out the water weeds with their fingers. I noticed their faces this time. Soft, delicate features with shining dark eyes and smiling mouths. They all seemed so happy. I started to feel the same. A large grin was stuck on my face.

Though after a moment, that was replaced with a feeling of sickness. Worriment. I had a deep ache in my stomach. I was scared. But of what? I tried to lift my hand from the white horse’s neck. I wanted to get off. I wanted to swim to the other bank and run away from this place. My hand wouldn’t move. I pulled at it with my free hand, but it was stuck. Like it had been glued. I watched in horror as the white horse’s coat began to grey before my eyes, becoming darker, and darker. Finally, it became an oily black. Light shined off of it in different colors. It turned its head towards me. No longer was this the beautiful creature I had seen across the bank. It was a monster. The Kelpie.

It’s eyes were blue and clouded, and I could see its jagged teeth through a decayed mouth. A long, greenish-black tongue lapped out of its jaws. The Kelpie’s skin started to become a sticky black goo, engulfing my hand and surrounding my legs. I called for help from the young fiddler and the Selkie girls. It was like they did notice me shouting at them. When they did finally look at me, I realized that they too were not as they seemed. No longer were the Selkie girls beautiful and young. Their skins were green, and rotting. One of them was missing an eye. They gazed lazily at me with tilted heads, as if they were frowning at me with disappointment from their retracted lips and bare teeth, at my fateful decision to ride the Kelpie. The young fiddler, his clothes torn and half of his face peeled away, plucked a few sad notes before his skin began to bubble and turn black. The Selkie girls did the same. Slowly, they all dissolved, bone and flesh, into the same black goo of which the Selkie was made. Gradually they dripped into the water and dissipated like ink, becoming underwater smoke. As soon as they were gone, the Kelpie leapt into the water with me on its back.

As it dove deeper, I tried to pull away. The melting black Kelpie skin was slowly crawling up my legs and chest. I was running out of air. I snatched the box cutter from my pocket and cut at the Selkie’s decaying flesh. It screeched and looked at me with its dead eyes. I saw my own reflection in them. It was angry. It was in pain. And it looked ready to bite. I slashed at it again, and it bit at me, just inches from my face. I had freed my legs. As I tried to cut away the black flesh around my arm and hand, the Kelpie jerked and changed direction, causing the box cutter to dig into my arm. Silently screaming, I watched in horror as the last of my air escaped towards the surface. I cut at it again, and I was free. At a small glimpse, I noticed I was at the bottom. There were bones down there. Human ones. In that short look, I counted at least four skulls. The Kelpie screamed and swam off into the dark water as I pulled myself to the surface.

I gasped and coughed as my face was touched by the warm and humid bayou air. I looked around. Nothing was moving. Dead silent. I noticed a small ripple a few meters away. It got closer and closer, then it disappeared. Only a second passed before I felt something grab my ankle and yank me back under the water. I was being dragged back down. The Kelpie seemed insistent that I never make it back to the banks. I opened my eyes to see myself face to face with the Kelpie. Its black mane flowed around it. Below me, the Selkie girls were grasping at my ankle. I jabbed the knife forward into the Kelpie’s eye. It screamed again, such an inhuman noise that made my ears feel as though they were about to bleed. I no longer felt the hands grasping at my legs. The grip around my ankle was gone. The Kelpie, screaming, swam away, the box cutter still in its eye. I swam back to the water surface.

Quickly paddling my way back to the bank, I hoped that the Kelpie would not come after me for revenge. As I reached the silty shallows, I slowly walked forward, holding my freely bleeding arm. Blood dripped into the water from my fingertips. I crawled up onto the mossy bank and lay on my back for a moment, catching my breath. I sat up and tore away the water weeds that had wrapped around me on my way to the bottom of the bayou. My legs were covered in mud up to my knees, blackening the ends of my rolled up jeans. I looked around. It was nearly night somehow. The sun was gone and the first few stars had begun to shine in the darkening sky. The quiet and beautiful lagoon had changed in appearance. Just like creatures that inhabited it. The rock was mossy, crumbling, cracked. The low hanging tree limb sat broken and sticking up out of the water. All the willows were dead, their leaves decaying upon the ground in clumps. The rest of the trees looked sickly as well. Nothing here was healthy or alive. I backed further away from the water. My hand touched something smooth. Looking behind me, I saw the remnants of a polished fiddle. It looked broken, untouched for years. Further away, I saw the remnants of three colorful beach towels. They were just threads now. The skeletons of fish were around every discarded item. Looking closer in the weeds, I noticed more. Dozens of things, left behind by those who rode the Kelpie.

I never went back to the bayou. As I sold my grandmother’s house to a happy family from upstate New York and handed them the keys, I warned them not to get too close to the waters. There might be gators. As I got in my car and started to drive away, I watched as a little boy tugged at his mother’s sleeve, saying, “I’m going to the bayou, just to have a look. I’ll be back before sundown.”

I drove away, my heart giving an empty ache for the mother of that little boy. Yes, I told myself. He’ll be back before sundown.

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Ashen

December 18, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The river runs foul with the stench of death. It won’t be long now. For ten years I have fled, found each and every rock to hide beneath, a plethora of gutters soaked in the outcast remains of civilisation. No city, nor village, nor town has provided me with shelter. No home or friend to offer me sanctuary. I am untouchable, a rotten reminder that knowledge can be the bane of all who seek and thirst for it. Ten years of night have passed quickly since, and the dust does not shake easily from my feet, nor does the memory of what I uncovered simply dislodge from my mind. This recording will be my final testament, and this piece of rock by the river Nile my last resting place. Thank God for that, for I cannot continue in this wretched shell. To those who are listening, heed my story, forget the relics of the past, for they are surely cursed by things far fouler than the modern mind can ever comprehend. I must speak quickly, for the sun is low in the sky, and soon my pursuer will be upon me. My name is Dr Samuel Russell, and if you’re listening to this, let my tale be a warning to the curious.

*

When all this started I was an ambitious type. As an archaeologist I dreamt of the day that I would make an earth-shattering discovery, one which would lead to fame, a sentence in the history books, perhaps even a paragraph or a whole volume, a name not to be forgotten at the very least. This was my desire, my passion – to find a fragment of mankind’s past which would rewrite a chapter of our story as a civilisation. By the age of 32, I was convinced that I had found just such a thing.

The public does not realise that many archaeological breakthroughs have been made decades after their initial discovery. So many digs, so many ruins uncovered, so many bones unearthed – too many in fact. More often than not these relics lie packed away in crates and boxes in the bowels of academic institutes and museums, waiting to be categorised and understood by future generations. In some instances this can take years, and in the case of my discovery – the dusty old crate which held the tainted promise of fame and fortune – had been left to fester for over a century in the dark.

I had been searching through the archives at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland, after travelling there from New York to study the South Uist mummies. A colleague, Dr M. Grealy, was kind enough to allow me access to the Museum’s basement areas where vaults of crates, documents, and relics from digs over the past two centuries waited to be rediscovered.

It was purely by accident that I stumbled across the tablet. I was looking for an old text on ancient burial practises, to aid my study, when I noticed a strange entry in an archive book. It read: 1883, Predynastic Stone Tablet. Origin Unknown. How could I refuse such a mystery? Surely I could spare a few hours to investigate such a curious description? As I wandered between the crates and other boxed relics looking for the item, my excitement grew at the possibilities held within that description: ‘origin unknown’. How could its origin be uncertain? After all, it was a relatively easy task for an expert to identify such things, the language or hieroglyphs used, where the material was quarried from etc.

After much wandering around the labyrinth of dimly lit containers, cases, and bookshelves, I finally found it. The wooden crate had a number of old weathered travelling stamps on its side which read “Al Fayyum, Cairo, Boston, Vienna, London, Glasgow”. It certainly had done the rounds, no doubt being handed from expert to expert as they scratched their heads trying to identify it. The crate was nailed shut, and as I prepared to pry it open with a crowbar it was at that moment that I first noticed it. A sensation which would grow with time, becoming a constant unwanted companion through these past few years. I can only describe it as the feeling of someone walking over my grave. Dread, and foreboding, a coldness running up my spine, and the blood draining from my face. It was not unusual to feel uneasy in such a quiet isolated basement, but there was something uncanny about the experience – a momentary breathlessnesses, as if suffocated by the earth, with the taste of sand in my mouth.

The uncomfortable feeling passed, and my zeal for a new discovery soon quelled such thoughts. Plunging the sharpened end of the crowbar underneath the crate’s lid, and with some effort, it finally gave way, offering up its secrets to me. Wrapped in cloth the stone tablet lay there, cadaverous and solemn. Its appearance immediately surprised me. I had encountered other Egyptian tablets before, but this one was unique; older, cut in a peculiarly haphazard fashion, its greyed edges cracked and crumbled like ash. It was obvious why the archaeologists of 1883 had difficulty reading it. The face of the stone had been chiselled at, vandalised by some implement. It did indeed seem as though the tablet was barely legible. Someone had not wanted its message to be read.

On consulting with the museum’s archivists, they could only tell me that a letter sent with the tablet was the last known mention of the archaeologist who had discovered it. His name was Dr Fitzsimmons, apparently a well-respected academic of his time. Accounts were blurry, incomplete, but it appeared as though Dr Fitzsimmons had discovered the tablet somewhere in the Saharan desert in Egypt, before falling gravely ill with a sickness. In his letter, a feverish nonsensical mess, he repeated the bizarre phrase “a thing of ash” several times, a description which for some reason made me shudder. It was clear that Dr Fitzsimmons had been struck down by a terrible illness shortly after his discovery, one which had left him delirious, and his disappearance was probably the result of his premature death in a foreign country.

With a little persuasion, my friend at the museum was able to procure the tablet for me so that I could study it more closely. Indeed, most of the museum’s other academics seemed relatively uninterested in an illegible inscription from the past. For them, the message was lost to eternity. But it was not lost for me. It fascinated me, occupying my every thought, almost to the point of obsession. I was continually fixated on the message which had been erased from the tablet, what could it have told us about the past? And why was it deemed offensive enough to be deliberately removed, something which would have clearly taken some time and effort? From then on my days were filled with studying the tablet as best I could, and at night I thought of nothing else; I dreamt of the sands of the Sahara desert, and what secrets lay covered by the grains of time.

It was then that I stumbled upon an idea. I knew that several recent scanning methods had been used to decipher messages, inscriptions, and details from old texts and pottery; words and pictures which to the naked eye seemed unreadable, and yet could be enhanced through modern imaging techniques. I wondered if a similar approach could be taken with the tablet. Perhaps enough information still remained within the stone, subtle depreciations and marks which would reveal the hidden message beneath. In 1883 archaeologists could not have conceived of the investigative tools available to their 21rst century counterparts. It was a long shot, but after a few months, and a not inconsiderable amount of money, I was able to glean new data from the tablet. Thankfully, I had been working alone with the equipment I had procured, and you’ll forgive me for not mentioning the methods I used, or the exact details I uncovered. I simply cannot take the risk that some other unfortunate soul will use this information to seek out the truth, and find themselves in the same horrid predicament as I.

What I can tell you is that the inscription spoke of a tomb which dated back to before the founding of the great Egyptian dynasties. I was enthused. There was the very real possibility that the images I stared upon were the oldest known examples of Egyptian writing. Furthermore, it was clear to me that they depicted an event which to my knowledge had never been seen in all of archaeology, along with a unique location; one which I knew of almost immediately due to a distinct geographic feature which exists to this day. At the foot of a mountain range in the Egyptian part of the Saharan desert, the tomb lay nearby, in line with the rising and falling of the sun, and a constellation above. Whoever had carved the tablet was reaching out from the past and telling me where something important could be found. As for the depicted event, much of its story remained too damaged to tell. It seemed to depict a celebration, of a group of people visiting the tomb, their arms raised praising the sun. And yet one part of its broken facade bothered me – a stone carving of a malformed withered figure, standing amongst those who had celebrated now lying still and dead. I was certain that this was a metaphor for a plague of some sorts, which must have killed many people to have been recorded in a tablet.

Not wanting to share my discovery with the wider academic community quite yet, for I feared that someone with more influence would seek to claim whatever lay inside the tomb for themselves, I returned the tablet to the museum and kept the recorded images for myself, informing those at the museum, even my friend, that I had failed to uncover anything of interest. Ego was indeed my first sin, but it most certainly would not be my last.

It was not long before I was headed for the Egyptian desert; to the place where the tomb lay – the source of all that has befallen me since. Of course finding it was difficult, indeed it took me over nine months of geophysical surveys and failed digs, but by God I found it eventually. At the foot of the mountainside, covered in its shadow, I quickly saw the proof I needed. I had hired four Egyptian archaeology students keen to make a name for themselves, and, under the suggestion that after such a discovery they could work anywhere in the world, they were more than happy to keep the expedition a secret. Indeed, we did not officially have permission to dig there in the first place, but I wagered that the uncovering of an ancient part of Egyptian history would outweigh any punishment, and my name would already be heading for the history books by then, which was all that mattered.

We soon found our first relic deep under the sand and earth of the Sahara. But it was not an ancient piece of stone or pottery as expected, but rather a digging tool, one no doubt from the 19th century. As we dug further we found more, shovels, trowels, and then bags, old supplies – all manner of provisions. While the desert was quite capable of covering anything in vast amounts of sand, as we continued digging, that horrid sense of dread which I had experienced the first time I set eyes on the tablet, welled up inside when I thought of what it might mean. I suspected that the area had been deliberately filled in by someone, covering whatever lay below; both relics from 19th century archaeology, and objects from the dawn of history. There was little doubt in my mind that the belongings were from Dr Fitzsimmons’ excavation, as we uncovered an old empty box with the date 1883 on it. It seemed likely that he had found the tablet elsewhere, and like me followed its directions to the unknown tomb. But why had he left his equipment to be reclaimed by the sand? Worse still, why would he have buried such a discovery, what was there to fear beneath the desert surface?

Unperturbed by such ruminations, we continued. For three days we dug deeper, and at night, as the cold and dry desert wind blew through our camp, I slept little. There was a palpable sense of urgency amongst the group, and while the student archaeologists I had hired were grateful to be given the opportunity, they began to complain about the situation, accusing one another of rummaging around in their belongings. One of the students, a man by the name of Harking, even claimed to have awoken just as the figure of an intruder left his tent, scampering off into the night.

As the most experienced member of the team, I had to calm their nerves, and told them to focus on the dig and the incredible discoveries of which we would all be part. But this seemed to only act as a catalyst to the tensions, and by the fourth day as we dug, each member remained silent, eyeing one another suspiciously.

The silence was finally broken later in the day by a celebratory yell from Harking. Clawing at the sand, each of us worked furiously, digging, shifting buckets of golden grains away from the focus of our efforts. And there, finally, it stood. The sealed stone entrance to a tomb of unknown origin, a completely new discovery in the realm of archaeology, well, except for poor Fitzsimmons, but I was sure that I would honour his memory in any papers I published on the subject.

It quickly became apparent that the tomb had indeed been previously opened, as several blocks at its mouth lay discarded in front, square holes wide enough to fit the body of an archaeologist, a tomb robber, or perhaps something from inside. A peculiar thought, but nonetheless one which gripped me for a moment before passing.

As the sun dimmed in the sky, I packed my haversack with a voice recorder, dynamo flashlight, and camera to document any immediate findings, and gave orders that the others should set up battery powered lamps and remain outside within radio contact; partly to make sure that as little of the inside would be disturbed as possible, and partly because I wished to be the first of our group to lay eyes on what the tomb contained. I did, however, allow Harking to follow me, as he had been the one to first recognise that we had found what we were looking for, and it felt only right to include him. As we slid through the open wounds in the tomb’s exterior, disappearing into its embrace, I could feel the blood drain from my face, sharply, and the dried taste of sand return to my mouth. I will not lie, this did make me apprehensive, but I did not wish to share those misgivings with the other archaeologists, as they were already nervous of the dig.

I had feared that the tomb’s ceilings could have given in at some point to countless eons of sand and wind, and it appeared that those concerns were justified. A long stone corridor led off into the darkness, with broken rubble and sand from above obscuring most of the way. Thankfully, one slab from the ceiling had landed at an angle, holding back the unknown tons of material on top. This gave us a tight gap through which to continue towards whatever secrets the tomb contained. As we crawled along small openings and across ancient sands, which had festered for an age within that silent place, we whispered quietly and treaded carefully for fear of causing a dangerous cave-in.

Finally, the passageway opened up into a small room, and as my flashlight illuminated the cold interior, at first I was disappointed – the tomb seemed to contain only one chamber. But quickly this disappointment bled into utter excitement. While the room was in bad condition, an entire section of the roof having fallen with age allowing piles of sand and earth to reclaim that world beneath, something wondrous lay at the heart of the ruin. There, entombed for thousands of years was a relic unlike any I had seen before. Rising up above me was a statue at least 5,000 years old, if not even more ancient than that. I rushed over to it, utterly enthralled. Reaching my hand out, I touched its cold and jagged blackened surface without thinking. Two aspects of its appearance were immediately captivating, it was entirely made from Onyx – jet black volcanic glass – and it was of a style and form I had never seen or heard of before. It was shaped something like a man, with arms and legs, but its appendages were misshapen, as if twisted by a genetic malformity. One arm was longer than the other, and its legs gave way to a curved stoop, as it contorted at the hips. Stranger still, the statue was faceless, no eyes, mouth, or nose to speak of, and yet its head bowed down towards me in frozen pose, its surface crumbled and uneven. Yes there were no eyes, but in every way it felt as though I was being looked at.

I took out my voice recorder to document my thoughts, when it occurred to me that in all of my excitement I hadn’t heard Harking’s reaction to the statue itself. Turning round to face my colleague, I was greeted with an emptiness I cannot describe as my heart thumped what felt like frozen blood through my veins. Harking screamed and stumbled backwards falling to the ground. Quickly he scrambled to his feet and ran off into the tunnel back towards the entrance. At first I thought he was merely spooked by the strange statue, but no, the horrific truth was much worse than that – we were not alone in that room. Nor had we ever been. Something ancient had been watching. From behind me I heard nothing but the sound of sand, powdered, grained, shifting – moving with purpose. Spinning around I caught only a glimpse of what was there, uncertain but definite in its existence, almost human, a thing which lacked substance. I’m not sure how it appeared at first, for terror had taken me, but its face turned towards me from the corner of the room, and in that instant I recognised that it bore a startling resemblance to the statue at the centre of the tomb, charcoaled misshapen limbs and all, looking yet not looking, seeing with eyes which were not there.

The madness which then took me was all encompassing. No longer did I care about a cave-in or the fear of being buried alive. I had to escape. I rushed from the room into the precarious corridor, and scrambled over fallen blocks and through layers of festering sand. And yet as I reached the entrance I heard the thing in the tomb; an utterance of some unknown origin, a language which I did not recognise or comprehend. Yet some sounds are universal, transcending all epochs and cultures, and in that moment I was certain that the indefinite figure in the darkness, laughed.

By the time I neared the outside, I found the rest of the group attempting to console Harking from his delirium. As I slid back through the opening into the now nighttime desert landscape, the air seemed strange, colder somehow, almost burning my lungs with each breath. I opened my mouth to speak, and as I did so one of the archaeologists looked up. His reaction took me by surprise, for he screamed in abject terror. All four of my colleagues jumped frantically to their feet and panicked as they scratched and clawed their way out of the excavated hole. I chased quickly after them, asking what was wrong, but they only continued their escape.

I then found Harking cowering in his tent, and as I entered, he pleaded with me to spare him. I spoke nothing but calming words, but it seemed as though recognising my voice sent him into a more pronounced madness. He screamed with such despair that I stumbled backward in shock, falling to the ground outside.

A searing pain suddenly etched across my face, as one, then two of my colleagues began to attack me, kicking at my face and hands as I lay helpless on the ground, each kick showering me with the grit of the desert. As blood poured from my nose and mouth, I realised there and then that my team was going to kill me, they were going to beat me to death. That realisation gave me a life-saving surge of energy, and as they continued their attacks, I was able to crawl onto my knees, then to my feet, before running away as fast as I could. I fled our camp, confused, bloodied, and afraid.

**

The desert did not want me. My insides were frozen, and while I had no water, no provisions to speak of other than the haversack I took into the tomb with me, I welcomed the unrelenting Saharan sun, as it finally rose above the sand dunes, baking the landscape below. Yet I felt no warmth, no comfort. I felt only ice, as if my insides had been steeped in snow. The pain spread to my bones, and while I could bear the sensation, before long I could think of little else. Utterly lost, I knew that whether I could feel the heat or not, it would soon kill me. And so I had to search for our camp, hoping to reason with my team, who it seemed had been devoured by some form of hysteria; or if they could not be reasoned with, perhaps I could at least have taken some provisions. Just what had happened to them? But to no avail, I was lost, and the thirst, utter thirst which could not be quenched, had grown so strong that my mouth felt like sand, removed of any moisture; a torturous feeling which continued unabated and unrelenting as if springing forth from some infinite source of horror. I staggered through the desert, shivering to the bone, yet suffering from the fatal symptoms of severe dehydration, while the sun shone bright and unforgiving in the sky.

I continued on, with each and every icy breath, looking for hope, some way to survive my cursed situation, but I knew that the thirst would soon kill me; and before that the searing pain and confusion of sunstroke would arrive. I’ve never considered myself a particularly lucky person, but it was at that moment that luck perhaps tried to shine on me. For as I descended a steep sand dune, I saw before me a long thin crack in the desert floor. A ravine of some sort, and thirty or forty metres below, a small subterranean pool of clear water sat like an oasis in shadow.

In my weakened state I knew that I risked falling to my death, but I had to try the descent or otherwise the thirst would kill me. With each movement of my leg, and tight grip of my hands I squeezed down through the slit of rock towards the water below. But despite my caution, a shard of stone which I was grasping onto gave way, and I fell to what should have been my death. All I remember is clipping my elbow and dragging my face off the opposing rock wall, before smashing abruptly against the stone floor.

I do not know how long I was unconscious, but the sun was no longer high in the sky, and night was approaching. The thirst continued, as did the coldness within, and my throat felt as dry as the sand which surrounded everything. Nearby, I could see the pool which could save me, and eventually managed to get to my feet in anticipation of a soothing gulp of clear water. But no sooner did I step towards the pool that I saw the liquid begin to change, turning from its healthy transparency to a blackened ooze. By the time I stood over it, nothing faced me other than an oily sludge, foul smelling and curdled. I could not understand such a hideous transformation.

Collapsing once more to the ground, I admitted defeat, and the thirst which so painfully engulfed me, persuaded me that death would be a sweet release. There I lay, waiting for my demise; and yet I did not die, I only festered. Hours turned to days, and my torture continued without mercy, with no end in sight. Then, on the third night, as I lay beside the poisoned water, I heard the footsteps of someone nearby. I looked up, and in the moonlight I could see out of the crevasse to the world outside. The stars shining bright in the night sky. My heart began to falter as I saw the shape of someone peering down at me from above.

With all the energy I could muster, I yelled upward for help. Hoping beyond hope that whoever was staring down at me could get me out and back to civilisation. But there was no answer. Instead, the shape just glared at me and then, without making a sound, slowly started climbing down towards me. There I lay, and as I watched the figure scramble across and down the rock-face, I began to dread its every movement. How I wished I had remained silent, and allowed the nighttime passer-by to have moved beyond the ravine, and continued on its journey.

But no, I had yelled; playing dead was useless to me. The figure’s back arched and convulsed in the moonlight, and as it drew closer to the bottom of the pit, I could see that its arms were of different lengths, and its movements malformed. Almost human, almost, but not quite. Finally it had reached the foot of its descent, and then moved quickly towards me, on two legs cumbersomely at first, then on all fours, faster, quicker, its shoulder-blades contorting and skewing with every movement.

I let out a scream, not for help, for no one could save me from whatever evil I had disturbed in that tomb, rather, my cry was of dread, gripping and complete. As it approached I could feel the coldness within me growing, an icy chill deep within my bones, painful at first, and then agony. Just a few meters away, the thing from the tomb rose back up to its feet, and for some reason, of everything which disturbed me, one aspect of its being provoked the most terror – for all its movements, its climbing of the rock face, its crawling and stooped advances, there was no hint of breath from its form, and without breath, surely there can be no life.

A shard of moonlight caught the side of its head, charcoal, crumbled, no features, a darkness of the earth, something older and more putrid than even the heart of humankind. ‘Something of Ash’ as Dr Fitzsimmons had put in his letter. A warning which could not protect me in that cavernous gorge of the Saharan desert, but how I wished I had listened to it.

Reaching out its powdered fingers, the creature placed its hand on my chest. Ice ran through my heart, searing through my body. I convulsed, and with one last ounce of strength I instinctively turned to my side, and fell into the rotten pool of liquid which had once been water. I sank deep into the unknown. The thick soup of viscous, rancid sludge pulled me down into the abyss. I flailed, I kicked my legs and threw my arms as hard as I could, vainly attempting to swim. Yet each panicked movement only pulled me deeper into the dark. The sludge touched and stuck to my open eyes, covering my vision in an absence of light. I held my breath and continued to fight against my descent into the filthy tar-like substance, but it was too much. I could hold on for no longer. Finally, I involuntarily took a deep breath inward. The thick goo, oozed down my throat, filling my lungs and choking me. My eyes felt bulging, and the accompanying pain in my chest made me feel as though I was being crushed from inside. As the pain continued I gave up, exhausted. I stopped fighting, and waited for death, indeed I welcomed it by then.

And yet I did not die. I did not drown. I merely stayed. Remained in this world, and lingered at the bottom of that pit of rotten liquid. For the next few hours I experienced an agony which words cannot fully convey. I was drowning, continually drowning, but I would not die. If I could have killed myself I would have, such was the anguish I experienced, but I soon realised that, for whatever reason, the world would not let me go. To escape the pain I moved around from side to side, and eventually found the wall of the pool with my hand. Fighting against the weight of the thickened liquid on top of me, I pulled myself up inch-by-inch. All along with no breath; perpetual suffocation. Even in the throes of such pain, I knew that I was merely climbing towards my death and that ashen figure above, but any alternative to drowning, but not dying, was a far more desirable situation to the one I currently faced.

Finally, after many hours, I felt the air with my hand, and with one draining effort, I pulled myself out and onto the floor of the ravine. The black liquid stayed in my lungs at first, but as I wretched, coughed, and vomited, the rancid gunk was slowly expelled through my mouth. Scraping the sludge from my eyes, I looked around, and was surprised to see that I was alone, the sun beaming down through the slit above. I assumed that the thing from the tomb had believed me dead, and let me be, hopefully forever.

The thirst was still resolute, and all I could think of was finding another place, another source of cool, clear water, to quench the urge, and remove the barren, arid sensation from my mouth and throat, which had quickly returned. There in that stone prison, I knew, I had to escape and find water. Or perhaps even find my team, who I hoped had survived the madness which seemed to have taken them. It was clear to me that we had all been affected by our discovery, and that while it seemed outlandish, there was only one word to describe my situation – cursed.

Though it took a monumental effort, nearly falling to my death several times, I managed to climb up the rock-face, taking a similar route as the creature from the tomb had but in reverse, and found my freedom. The sun beat down upon me, and yet the icy chill in my bones remained. At the time I hypothesised that it was a disease, an illness or poison of some form, contained within the tomb which perhaps invoked severe hallucinations.

For weeks I searched the Saharan desert, looked for a sign of civilisation, hoping above all else to find water, to quench my horrendous thirst, and a fire to take away the perpetual coldness. On two separate occasions, I did locate a small pool of liquid, but as I approached, both turned to the same blackened, horrid sludge as before; an undrinkable festering ooze. And yet, again, no matter how dehydrated, I did not die. While I experienced all of the agonising realities of thirst, the world would not relinquish its grip on me.

And then, there were the nights. While others would prepare for a comfortable sleep after the sun had set, each time that swollen globe of light dipped beneath the horizon, I knew it would not be long before the thing from the tomb, that ‘something of ash’, would find me. Relentless, climbing along the sand dunes, no matter where I was in the desert, it would appear with the dark. Chasing, stooped and malformed, lifeless, and yet of intent. Its charcoal appearance, crumbled and powdered, sought nothing else but to reach me. For what purpose I did not know, but I was certain that its reasons were steeped in an ancient and inhumane mind.

All I could do was run, and so it was that I found myself a fugitive of my previous life, running from an ancient horror after sunset, and getting any rest I could during the day. Finally, one night, as a small sandstorm cast its grains across the landscape, and I moved quickly through the desert to ensure the ashen figure did not catch me, I did indeed find civilisation – a small Egyptian town. Its name meaningless to me, but at the sight of it, I cried, sure that it and its people would prove my salvation.

Several of the houses still had light beaming through their windows, and unable to contain my joy at the possibility of seeing another human being, I walked into the nearest open doorway I could find, yelling for help. The first person to see me was a young man in his teens, who screamed both in fear and rage at the sight of me. Quickly, others from the town appeared, and their reaction to me was violent and brutal. I was hit across the back of the head with a stone, and then I staggered through the town’s streets, unable to comprehend why they hated me so. A mob soon formed, and it became clear that my life was in danger, as it had been before with the archaeology team. The same madness, the same terror, the same violent anger. They chased me, throwing rocks, and beating me with sticks and other accursed objects. Luckily I was able to make it to the town’s outskirts, weaving and dashing along lanes and through small gaps between houses. Soon, the sandstorm obscured me, and the townspeople did not follow, cheering that they had driven me out.

I rested for a moment, unsure if the taste of grit in my mouth was due to the storm or my constant, agonising thirst. I sat in the shelter of a dune, utterly heartbroken, and as the wind howled bringing forth the sands, I looked out to the night, and saw the malformed figure of my ashen pursuer, wandering through the elements towards me.

***

Each night I would walk, and each time I stopped to rest, or ceased moving in the hope that the thing of ash would not follow, it soon appeared out of the night. Clambering, shifting, decrepit and yet unstoppable, roaming over the sand dunes in search of its prey. With no town or village willing to take me – for there had been many – and nothing in front of me but an endless escape, I knew the only recourse left to me: I had to return to the tomb. Perhaps there I would find an answer, a hint of why this had occurred, reaching out from the darkness of time, and therein a solution. Something to end my suffering.

For years I walked through the nightly sands of the Sahara, in search of the place where it had all began. But I had no means to chart my progress, no compass or map to follow. And yet, finally one day, I saw the mountain range on the horizon. I headed straight for it, and before long I stumbled into our abandoned camp, which at one time had promised so much – a career defining archaeological find, a name in the history books at least, to have achieved something worthy of being remembered.

One of the tents still stood, having weathered the Saharan climate remarkably well, but the others had been lost to the sands. It was clear that none of the archaeologists in my team had returned to the site. Had they not thought to search for me? Was Dr Samuel Russell such an unknown that he could simply disappear without anyone ever caring for him, or wondering where he had gone?

The sentiment made me angry – furious at the way I had been treated, and enraged at the world for producing such an evil thing, which surely was not far behind. In a rage I pulled at the tent’s canvas, tearing it from its pegs, only to see my belongings sitting there underneath, soon to be covered by the sand. My things, forgotten and obscured, just as Fitzsimmons had been. In my search for fame, I was to be disremembered.

I climbed down towards the tomb entrance still ardent that I would have some answers, and scooped enough deposited sand away allowing me to slip inside. Removing the old dynamo flashlight from my now worn haversack, I was delighted that it still worked. And so I moved through that familiar passageway, cluttered with rubble, and squeezed my way into the tomb, that place which haunted my dreams.

The room sat as it had done before, silent and grave. The statue which remained in the centre sent shivers up my spine, looking every bit as terrifying as the ashen monstrosity which had pursued me for years across the desert. And yet I had to be brave, I had to know why this had happened to me. I had to have answers. It was then that I noticed something at the feet of the statue. A block of granite under the sand which the foul thing stood upon, warped limbs and all.

I began digging wildly with my hands, and recognised the inscription immediately – it was the same as the tablet which had led me there, only in this case, the scene was complete unlike the damaged version sitting in the basement of the museum. How I wished I had left it there, undisturbed. How I wished I could go home.

The stone carvings showed the people praising the sun outside the tomb, and I saw the thing of ash in the end revelling in their deaths. But this tablet had not been worn by the sands of time, nor broken by the chisel of the archaeologist who had found it, no, this tablet told the entire story. It appeared that the statue had been dug out of a cave in the mountains nearby. This would suggest it to be much more ancient than even the Egyptian civilisation itself. Of an unknown origin, indeed. The statue was then taken to a town or city, where strange creatures seemed to emanate from it at night. After much death, the statue was placed in a tomb at the foot of the mountains where it had been found. Those praising the sun were brought there to die, sacrifices which perhaps would sate the relic. That place wasn’t a tomb at all, it was a home, a shrine, for something wretched and evil, and the ancient people of Egypt hoped to keep it there by offering themselves to it. And I, someone who had escaped its clutches, was cursed to walk the earth indefinitely, no water to sustain me, and feeling only the chill of death, until that thing would find me, and end it all.

Then I heard a sound. Shuffling, clawing, crawling – the creature had returned home, and I was in its lair. As its powdered body skewed and hobbled into the room, it stared at me without eyes or mouth, without humanity, far older than legends and myth, something foul of the earth. It kicked through the sands as it came towards me dislodging what lay underneath – revealing something more terrifying than any creeping evil in the night. I knew then why I was always cold, for it was the iciness of that horrid place which I felt. And I knew from that moment onward, why I always tasted sand, my mouth dry as the desert outside. For my body had never left that tomb. Eyes wide, mouth filled with sand, cold to the touch – the rotting corpse of Dr Samuel Russell lay stricken on the tomb floor. I screamed at the sight of my own dead body, and yet rushing past the statue, somehow made it to the passageway, and back out into the desert. A place I would never escape from.

****

Ten years have now passed since I first entered that cursed place. I have been unable to be near another soul without terror being their response, nor have I had one sip of water, not one cool life-giving drink, for when I am near, all that gives life is soon corrupted into a black festering sludge. And the coldness, an ever-present chill from the tomb in which it lies, remains potent. My mouth dry with sand, as it is filled in its resting place, as it always shall be. How many towns have I entered at night? How many times have I been chased and beaten by those no doubt fearing for their lives? How many people have I terrified with my crumbling, ashen appearance? That of a walking abomination, a man not allowed to die, that is, until that ancient evil is done with me. Sometimes I question if I even am Samuel Russell anymore.

I have rested during the day in the sands of the Sahara, the sun beating down, yet my bones as cold as a frozen winter. Each night, that ashen figure from the tomb comes for me, and somehow I have been able to continue on. To keep moving. To stay alive, if you can call it that. I do not claim to understand it, how can my body be lying dead in that ancient place, and yet here I am walking the earth? I suspect that whatever purpose the statue has, was not completed when I fled. Was I too to become one of those things, cursing those who happen to enter my home? To hound and hunt those who leave, as I too have been hunted? I do not know what remains for me, but I refuse to be like that thing out there in the desert. I refuse to be taken by it. To be made its slave, or worse. At night, when I see it nearby, I often wonder: is that all that’s left of Dr Fitzsimmons? Chasing me, his successor. All conjecture, but that is all I am left with.

And now here I sit. I’ve made it to the Nile river, and as it passes me the waters turn rancid and thick. A black flowing mass of corruption. The sun has now set, my story has been told, but I will try and record as long as I can. One way or the other this ends now.

There it is. I can see it now. In the darkness, shambling nearby. I will sit by this river on this rock, I will sit and wait for my moment. For in all the years, only when I fell into that pool of sludge did the creature refuse to follow. Perhaps if it can be killed, I can be freed from this torment.

A decade of thirst and ice has worn away at my soul. A decade of terror from the bleakness of lost history has chipped away at my humanity, and I refuse to give up any more of it. What other curses lie beneath the Egyptian sands? I often wonder, and I know you wonder too. If you’re listening, heed my warning, and leave whatever foulness haunts the tombs of old, leave them to the desert, and to the sands of obscurity.

This is the last testament of Dr Samuel Russell. And here comes the thing of ash, clawing up the rock towards me. I am not afraid, my suffering has extinguished my fears. If no one ever hears from me again, know this, I did something worth being remembered, worth being written about and recorded for all time. I pulled that ashen monstrosity into the river, and we both now sleep in its depths.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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Routine

December 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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A routine can be defined by a series of regular actions followed in a similar pattern. Most people have many routines they follow on a day to day basis, be it a morning routine before they go to work, or the order of machines they visit when they go to the gym. The human race are creatures of habit, and having routines can provide a comfort of familiarity

Sarah was no exception when it came to routines, in fact it could be said that she followed her daily regimes with more precision than the average person. Sarah worked in a steady job in an office block which she had started a few months back when she moved to the city. Anyone who has a job with regular hours knows how easy a routine can be to develop, and Sarah’s routine developed as soon as she moved into her flat. She lived alone, bar her cat, and she lived exactly a 20 minute bus ride away from the office, and 20 minutes back home at the end of her shift. The fact that she’d not been in the city long meant that her social interactions were currently limited to the brief conversations with her co workers and a bi-weekly phone call with her mother. Some would call her current life mundane, but Sarah was genuinely happy to be out of her parents house and starting to make her own way in life.

One of the drawbacks of being the new girl in the office meant she was assigned the early shift that no one wanted. Since her job description was basically a glorified PA to a few of the senior members, most of her work needed to be done before the rest of the staff came in at 9am, her work day officially started at 7. Relying on public transport however meant that the bus she needed to get was actually at 6am, making her work day really start around 6.30 when she had got in and made herself a coffee. Sarah didn’t mind at all, her 5am wake up gave her enough time to have a shower and breakfast before work, and her early finish time meant she had time to get in a hour work out in the office gym before rush hour traffic. Her evening routine rarely differed either, she would get home, feed her cat, clean and tidy her flat, eat dinner, catch up on laundry, and finally settle on the couch to watch a movie or read for a few hours before she went to bed early to be up at 5am the next day.

Sarah had adjusted to her role in her job with ease and the move from a smaller town was less of a culture shock than she anticipated. She had always felt content in her own company, so living on her own didn’t take much adjustment either, within a month of living there she felt completely settled into her new life. The move had come at a perfect time for the early shifts she had, it was mid July when the move happened, and the mornings in England, while cold, were light when she left the house.

In the back of her mind was a slight dread for the coming winter months where the sun wouldn’t come up until she had been at the office for a few hours. Sometimes the bus that she relied on was late leaving her standing there in cold for longer than necessary and derailing her routine. Sarah has suspicions that come the winter months and the inevitable bad weather, the bus may not even come at all, leaving her only choice to call in work or attempt to walk in on a road that wasn’t fully lit by street lamps. Still she refused to learn how to drive in a city that had little to no parking, and she hoped that come winter she wouldn’t always be the one who had to come in early, she expected with the high turnaround there would be another new employee to take her place.

The months rolled by and the days got shorter but no one new was hired to take her place on the early shift. Even though it made her uncomfortable to be alone at the bus stop in the dark, she couldn’t afford to kick up too much of a fuss at her job about her shifts, since she had stated in the interview she was happy to do them. And no other places were hiring that could match her wages, so she resolved to grin an bear it. When thinking about it it wasn’t too bad, there was at least one lamp above the bus stop outside her home, and she had gotten pretty good at leaving the house and practically stepping onto the bus, provided it wasn’t late that day, Sarah would only have to endure the darkness for a few minutes maximum.

The first few weeks of waning light in the mornings weren’t too bad, the really cold weather hadn’t kicked in yet, and the street lamp was always on when she arrived at the bus stop, it’s low orange glow was a comforting site in the dark when she walked from her house to the stop. It was only when it started to get even darker that Sarah’s routine was disrupted. There was the time where the bus was 20 minutes late and the later commuters started to arrive when it finally turned up, a week or so passed and then another incident where the bad weather had made a road flood further on in her journey, and the detour made her almost late for work twice.

The most notable incident though was when Sarah had been up later the night finishing a book that she had been reading, a story she was so captivated by she couldn’t put down until she had finished, resulting in rushing her night-time routine and forgetting to reset the alarm on her phone for the morning. Luckily her body clock was so in sync she woke up naturally half an hour later than she had planned to, but no so late she couldn’t make up for lost time. In fact in her rushing around to get ready on time, skipping the shower and grabbing breakfast to go, she ended up at the bus stop earlier than she did on a normal day.

It had gotten to the point in the year where the sun had yet to cast any rays in the sky this morning, however it was a reasonably clear night and Sarah was pleased that the rest of her day wouldn’t be thrown off from her earlier mishap. She stood under the street lamp and checked her phone for the time, while rubbing her forearm to fight of the cold. She still had 5 minutes until the bus was due to show up, if it was on time. Sarah stayed on her phone, flicking through social media to pass the time. She considered posting a status describing her mornings mishap but hesitated, realizing that no one else on her friends list would be on-line this early. She sighed and pulled her arms in closer, the temperature had defiantly dropped in the last few days.

Giving up on her phone she put in back in her pocket and closed her eyes, the sudden wake up in panic hadn’t given her the chance to truly wake up and she could still feel the remnants of sleep behind her eyes. She took the chance to try and fully relax, taking in her surroundings, there was a soft whistle of wind through the trees, and a far off sound of an ambulance siren towards the city. After a few minutes she began to realize how silent it really was near her, with almost all the sounds she could hear being faint and far away.

There was something though, something she hadn’t picked up on before. It wasn’t
so much something she could hear, but something defiantly felt off. Sarah opened her eyes and quickly scanned her surroundings. As far as she could see there was nothing wrong with her surroundings, though she still didn’t feel quite right. She put her uneasiness down to her lingering childhood fear of the dark and the fact that she was already unsettled from earlier.

Sarah checked around herself again to reassure her self further and caught the sight of the bus headlights coming round the corner. She let out a breath she hadn’t noticed she was holding, watching the cloud of mist form in the cool night air. Relief swept though her as she fumbled for her bus pass in her coat pocket, once she found it she pulled it out her pocket and looked up to watch the bus pull up. Just before It slowed down at her stop she noticed something she hadn’t seen before on the other side of the road. There was a street directly opposite her stop which was less well lit than the main road and she could be sure she had seen something in the shadows. It had a familiar shape that she thought was human, but after a second for her brain to catch up she realized it that it wasn’t. Logically what she was seeing wasn’t the correct shape for person, it seemed distorted, the proportions were off. Before she had time to dwell on it further the bus pulled out in front of her, obscuring her view of the opposing street.

It took Sarah a moment to snap back into focus and step onto the bus, handing her pass to the driver who barley glanced at her. She took a seat near the window looking out onto the street unable to stop herself wanting to find out what she had seen. From her seat on the bus she could see almost all of the opposing street, yet she saw nothing out of the ordinary . She kept scanning the the road, she knew she had seen something there, she desperately wanted to catch a glimpse of it again, so her brain could rationalize what she had seen into something she recognized. A dog walker with extended shadows or another early commuter carrying something to there car, but nothing was there.

She sighed and leaned back against her seat, casting a glance to the few other passengers to see if they had noticed anything, but none of them seemed to be taking any notice of anything outside of there own personal bubbles. Had she really imagined that? It wasn’t out of the question given her state of not being fully awake, and her mind had concluded that if there was someone there she would of heard them, considering the attention she was paying to the sounds around her. Even though she had rationalized that her vision must have been playing tricks on her, she still couldn’t shake that feeling that something was wrong. It was a sickly feeling in the pit of her stomach, similar to a feeling of regret. Her body was telling her that she had done something terribly wrong, something she wasn’t meant to do; like a small child who had witnessed there parents arguing when they should have been tucked up in bed.

The feeling Sarah had stayed with her all the way on her journey to work, being strong enough to put her off eating the bagel she had grabbed on the way, and stayed with her most of the morning while she went around the office setting things up for the day. The fact that she was in an almost empty building that was fitted with motion sensor lights wasn’t helping, there were too many shadows in the empty office floor. She only really began to relax when other people started to come in for the day. Even then she still had a feeling in the back of her mind that wouldn’t go away. One acquaintance at work even went so far ask to ask how she was with a concerned look on there face, which Sarah quickly brushed off with polite small talk.

Thankfully the rest of the day went by without a hitch, nothing else happened and the ease to which she was able to fall back into her daily routine provided a great comfort. By the time her shift finished Sarah had almost forgotten about the mornings incident, most of the details fading into her subconscious like a bad dream. When she got off the bus home however she couldn’t help but check the street, a part of her hoping the light of day would explain what she thought she had seen. There was nothing though, the street was lively as school children played a noisy game of tag while there mothers watched, and another family was unloading shopping from there car. Satisfied Sarah sighed and turned around to go back to her flat.
A few days passed and nothing else out of the ordinary happened, Sarah had looked again each morning down the street, but nothing looked out of place, and her bus had arrived almost as soon as she made it too the stop. She had pretty much convinced herself that there was never anything there to begin with until today.

The early morning had gone by as normal, she woke on time, had a shower ate breakfast and went down to the stop. The air was cool against her skin and the street was covered in a thin layer of fog, making it hard to see more than a few feet in front of her. When she made it to the stop she could hardly see anything outside the dim ring of yellow light cast by the street lamp above her. Unlike the days previous the bus wasn’t there at the same time, she attempted to for it but the fog was to thick to see if any headlights were approaching. She sighed and pulled out her phone to pass the time. A few minutes passed, and there was still no sign of the bus. Another five minutes passed but it seemed like an eternity. Sarah couldn’t help but nervously glance up from her phone every few moments, after what happened the other day she really didn’t feel at ease.

She could make out the sound of rustling leaves behind her, a noise that usually she would have ignored but it made her blood run cold. She tried to listen out for the sound again to figure out what was making it. The fog was thick but the night air had barley any breeze to it, and when she heard the sound again there was a distinctive crunch of movement. She tried to calm her self, it could have been an animal, or another commuter coming for the later bus, but the same feeling of dread that she experienced the other day was now creeping up on her again. She knew now that her previous experience wasn’t her imagination, that her mind hadn’t been tricking her and she really had seen something in the shadows. She tried to turn around with the intention to shine her phone into the darkness but the rustling sound became closer and she was rooted to the spot.

The air around her dropped even colder and she could feel her breath cooling on her lips as soon as it left creating a stinging sensation. There seemed to be a vacuum around her as all noise disappeared bar her own breath. She sucked in a gasp, it couldn’t have been her own breathing as the noise was coming from behind her. She continued to stare at her phone, however she was no longer paying attention to the smiling faces on her screen. She could feel someone was there with her in the dark, the longer the silence lasted the louder and closer the breathing got until she could almost feel the wet,raspy breath on the back of her neck.

She still couldn’t bring herself to turn around terrified of what might greet her in the dark, the glow of orange light around her seemed to flicker and become dimmer, the circle of light she was in was visibly shrinking around her. Her phone had dropped in her hand as she stared at the ever shrinking circle, her breath catching in her throat as she began to see wisps of black smoke in the corners of her vision. She knew at once that the smoke was something unnatural and cause by whatever was behind her in the dark. The breathing behind her had picked up with her own, it was louder and she knew now she wasn’t imagining the moisture on the back of her neck; a mixture of her own perspiration and the things breath on her neck. She began to notice a putrid smell emitting from it, the smell of coppery blood and rot, but still she couldn’t move from her spot.

The lamp suddenly shut off, bathing her in darkness bar the small light from her phone screen. She heard the thing draw in a breath behind her and move closer. It felt like something was standing right behind her and no matter how hard Sarah tried she couldn’t stop herself from shaking in fear. She squeezed her eyes to try and snap herself out of the nightmare but that only served to increase the volume of the things breath. She tried to look back down at her phone but recoiled in horror as she saw what resembled a hand; with long black fingers shrouded in smoke, slowly closing around her stomach from behind.

Sarah quickly shut her eyes in horror; unable to comprehend what was happening, she could feel herself being surrounded and willed herself to run or scream or do anything but stand there but she couldn’t do anything but stand there with her eyes refusing to open and look at whatever had decided to pray on her. A few moments passed and nothing happened, she was sure that the thing was just biding its time, waiting for her will to break and look upon it’s horrid form. But she stayed in her current position, not wanting to resign herself to her fate.

Suddenly she was shocked into opening her eyes from a loud sound in front of her. She couldn’t stop the scream from her escaping her throat as she saw the bus in front of her, with a concerned looking driver looking at her through the open doors. Sarah walked forward on shaky legs and apologized to the driver when paying her fare. She held back tears as she walked to her seat. She looked out the window to where she had just been stood to see that the lamp had turned back on and the bus stop looked exactly as it should have been. The tears began to flow down her cheeks, she was beyond terrified, she knew she hadn’t imagined it. She could still feel the moisture on her neck and it still felt like it’s hand was wrapped around her waist.

The bus began to move and she stole one last glance to where she had been standing, as it was almost out of sight she caught a glimpse of the black smoke on the edge of the light. It was still there, and she had the feeling that it was looking back at her. Sarah sank back in her seat, her mind was searching for something, anything, to rationalize what had happened. Deep down she knew she had caught the attention of a being that known logic didn’t apply to, this was something different, an entity that she couldn’t understand.

By the time the bus had got to her stop she had managed to stop crying. The other passengers had kept looking over to her on the journey but she couldn’t bring herself to care. Her body had gone into auto pilot as her mind was occupied with what she had experienced. It took her longer than normal to get to her office as she was constantly checking the shadows around her. Unable to comprehend what had happened she arrived at her desk and set her belongings down. She told herself to calm down and take in a deep breath to slow her heart rate. She still had a few minutes till she had to officially start work, and she could do with a hot drink to try and make sense of what had happened to her.

Sarah turned to go to the kitchen when something caught her eye. There in the shadows of her office was the thing from the bus stop. Seeing it head on brought on more terror than she thought possible. It was humanoid in figure but its limbs were longer than that of a person and it seemed to not have an entirely tangible form. It’s edges were blurred in the black mist that consumed its whole body, bar two Gray wisps of smoke where the hollows of eyes should have been. It moved towards Sarah with inhuman speed as she tried to run backwards, hitting her head as she fell into her desk and her world turned black.

She came too a few moments later being carried to the first aid room by the security guard on duty. He set her down on the bed, face full of worry as her grabbed her a glass of water. Before she had time to think she was bombarded with questions of what happened. She couldn’t think straight and made up a story about being half asleep and tripping in the dark, as soon as she’d finished her story she had to repeat it again for the first aider when they got to the office, and again for her supervisor who came bursting into the room as soon as he heard there had been an accident at work. Wanting to avoid being sued for an unsafe workplace, he was overly kind to Sarah who was just grateful she wasn’t alone, she was still on edge and constantly checking her surroundings. He offered her a week off work, paid, and even offered to pay her train fare home. She polity refused but accepted the offer of the lift to the station, anything to keep herself from being on her own. She rang her mother as soon as she was on the train, which thankfully was also crowded, who promised her she would be there when she got off the train.

The week she had off did Sarah the world of good, she stayed with her mother for most of the week, managing to catch up with the rest of her family as well. With her mothers instance she visited the family doctor who suggested the combination of the early shifts and isolated lifestyle may be detrimental to her mental health, and wrote a personal recommendation to her superiors that she be moved to a later start where possible. They were more than happy to oblige and she was moved to a later shift , and a colleague even offered to pick her up on mornings they were in together. A few weeks went by and normality had resumed, Sarah was happy with the change, she had even made a few friends at work who’s kindness and concern about what happened made coming back to the office easier. With the run up to Christmas fast approaching, Sarah fell into a new routine, with her spare time being taken up with preparing for the holidays and occasionally going for drinks with her new work mates. It had got to the point where the events of the past had lost there rawness and she was able to feel relativity relaxed again.

It was one of the mornings when she was due to be being picked up, she stood just outside her home with on hand in her pocket and one on flicking through her phone. A genuine smile crept on her face as she looked through photos from the weekends work party. The glow from her phone lit up the space around her front door, as well as the passing headlights from the many cars going by. There was a rustling of leaves in front of her and she lifted her head to greet her lift. She choked on a scream as thin, wispy tendrils engulfed her and she was brought face to face with hollow gray eyes.
Credit To – Lady Terra

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