Poisoned Oak

December 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM

That’s the problem with cutting down a tree.  No one tells you how dangerous it might be.  Sure they’ll warn you about falling branches, and staying out of the way while the job is being done, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about how the tree you are about to cut down might be the only thing standing between you and something very bad.  Maybe that’s the reason trees have been the object of worship throughout history.  Could it be because they are extremely good at keeping things out of our world that we don’t want in it?  Or it could be that it wasn’t the tree that was being worshiped, but rather whatever it was that the tree was keeping at bay?

Unfortunately for me, the reason our ancestors started worshiping trees in the first place is something that most of us have long forgotten.  Until now.

I bought the house in the spring of 2009.    It was on the Old King’s Highway that cuts through Connecticut between New York and Boston. While it no longer qualifies as a highway by today’s standards, it is still a fairly busy road.  There is a nice historical marker in the front yard of the house claiming that it had been built in 1700.  Of course the previous owners (of which there were many!) had made many improvements to the original house over the years so it had an updated kitchen and bathrooms.  It also has a lot of old growth oak trees in the yard.  I believe they are black oaks, but I’ve never been one to care that much about this oak or that oak.

There was one particular oak tree in the back yard was bigger and more majestic than any of the other trees in the yard.  Its trunk must have measured 6 feet around.  Occupying the center of the back yard, all the other trees seemed to defer to it.  A tree house or a swing would have seemed right at home in this tree, but it had neither.  There was a nice spotlight at its base that pointed up and illuminated the tree at night.  Day or night, the oak was really nice to look at and best of all it provided excellent shade for the back deck on hot summer days.

And then it started to die.

I can’t really pinpoint exactly when it started to die, but in the spring of 2010, when the leaves began to come out, I noticed that a couple of the top branches stayed bare.  I didn’t think it was cause for any immediate alarm.  If they stayed bare, I’d just have them removed.  So when they were still leafless in the middle of June I hired an honest tradesman to come over and take those branches down.  He and his team made quick work of it, and I didn’t think anything about the fact that they broke one of their buzz saws on the first branch they tried to cut off.  I figured it was a tough old tree, and a broken buzz saw was one of the hazards of the job.

A couple of weeks later I noticed that on some of the other branches on the top of the tree the leaves had started to wilt and turn brown.  As the wilting and dying began to spread to additional branches I became more concerned.  By the end of July the bark on the branches where the leaves had first died began to slough off and accumulate at the base of the tree.  It was time to seek professional help so I called in an arborist.  She examined the tree and quickly came to the conclusion that it was suffering from something called hypoxylon canker.  And the really bad news was that there is no known cure for hypoxylon canker once the symptoms have appeared.  The disease is internal and kills the sapwood of the tree.  The mighty oak was going to die within months.

It was shortly after getting this grim diagnosis that I noticed something else.  My wired-haired dachshund Baxter had a habit of lying down at the base of the trees in my back yard.  In the dog version of “hope springs eternal”, he was convinced that a squirrel would one day be stupid enough to climb down the tree into his waiting paws, and barring that, perhaps fall out of the tree.  He spent his days this way under every oak in the back yard at one time or another.  Except the one that was dying.  At first I imagined that he could sense impending death in the dying oak.  But that wasn’t it.

After some observation I realized that he didn’t bother lying under that tree because there were never any squirrels in it.  I could see squirrels in every other tree in my backyard.  But not in the dying oak.  Not only that, there were no birds in the tree either.  Not a single bird on any branch, regardless of whether the branch still had leaves or not.  That hadn’t always been the case with the dying oak.  It had formerly been full of squirrels and birds.  I considered it strange, but didn’t really give it too much thought.  There wasn’t really any logical reason why animals would avoid a particular tree.   Little did I know at the time that I was right about there being no logical reason the animals would avoid a certain tree.  It wasn’t the dying tree the squirrels and birds were avoiding.  It was something else entirely.  And as the tree died, it was getting closer to getting out.

Through the rest of that summer and into the fall the tree continued to lose leaves and bark.  It was apparent to anyone looking at it that it was dying.  It occurred to me to have it taken down and be done with it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  I had the weird sense that the oak was fighting back, and not simply bowing to the inevitable.  If that was the case, I was going to give it every opportunity to succeed.   But branch by branch the tree continued to die until only the lowest ones had any leaves on them.  By now it was October and all the oaks began to lose their leaves, so by the time all the trees were bare I couldn’t be sure whether the dying oak was gone, or it would once again sprout some leaves the following spring.

The footprints appeared in March.  We’d had a late winter snowfall of about 6 inches of snow, which had tapered off in the early evening of the 20th.  I remember the date only because the next day was the vernal equinox–the first day of spring.  When I woke up on the morning of the 21st and looked out the back window of my bedroom I noticed several pairs of footprints in the backyard leading up to the dying oak.  The footprints then spread out around the tree in a circle at the base.   I threw on some clothes and a coat and then, accompanied by Baxter, went out to investigate.  I gave Baxter a brief look of reproach as we left the house and his expression seemed to say “Well apparently you didn’t hear anything either”.  It wasn’t easy to determine exactly how many people had been in the back yard, but my guess was around six.  By the look of things they had formed a circle around the tree.

I didn’t have any idea who they were or why they had come.  It occurred to me that this may have not been the first time they had been there.  The only reason I knew about this visit was the footprints in the snow.  There was no other evidence that people had been there.  I followed the footprints out of the back yard to see where they had originated.  They dead-ended at the street in front of my house, which had been plowed earlier in the morning.  So all I really knew was that a group of people had come into my backyard sometime during the night and gathered around the dying (or maybe dead) oak tree.   Their purpose for the visit was a mystery to me.  I decided that the best thing to do was to start leaving the spotlight at the base of the tree on all night.  If they intended to make another visit, that might act as a deterrent.

Soon the weather started getting warmer and the trees in the yard began to sprout buds of new leaves.  I waited anxiously to see what would happen to the dying oak.  Was it dead, or did it have some life left in it yet?  As the days went by it eventually became clear to me that there would be no new leaves on the tree.  It was gone.  It saddened me more than I expected to see the dead tree surrounded by new life in the backyard.  The sooner I had it removed, I decided, the better.  In early June I contacted the honest tradesman who had earlier removed the dead branches and asked him to come back and remove the entire tree, including the stump.

I was still on the phone with the tree service looking out the back window at the tree when I first noticed what appeared to be a symbol carved into the trunk.  Making the appointment for later that week, I hung up and went out into the yard to take a closer look.  Sure enough, something was carved into the tree’s trunk.  It was plus sign with a circle or ring surrounding the intersection of the lines.  The intersecting lines measured about six inches each, and the diameter of the circle was around four inches.  I had no idea who had carved it there, though I suspected it was related to the footprints I had seen in the snow back in March.

I took a picture of the carving with my phone and uploaded it to Facebook to see if any of my friends recognized what it was.  Within an hour one of them posted that it resembled a Celtic cross.  Sure enough, when I compared my picture to images of other Celtic crosses I found on the web, that’s exactly what it was.  Specifically the pre-christian version before the cross morphed into the christian cross.  Now that I knew what it was, it was time to figure out why it was carved into the tree in the first place.  A little research was all it took to learn that the symbol was used by the pagan Celts as protection against evil spirits and spiritual dangers.

Armed with this new knowledge, things began to fall into place (or so I thought).  I came to the conclusion that some local wiccans/druids/whatever you want to call them had zeroed in on my dying oak and come to the conclusion that it represented a threat in some way.  That would explain the visit on the spring equinox–the oak tree played a central role in the druid rites associated with it (you can learn a lot very quickly with the Internet!).  And the same folks had likely been the ones to carve the Celtic cross into the trunk.  I guessed that both of these actions were efforts to remove whatever threat they supposed the tree represented.  My plans were a bit more modern–cut it down.

Over the next couple of days I noticed that the dead oak started to lean to the right.  Each morning its lean was a little more pronounced.  It was as if someone or something was pushing it out of the way.  Baxter started to avoid going anywhere near the tree.  Which was interesting because I had assumed the digging at the base of the tree was his work.  Most of ithe digging was on the side of the tree opposite from the direction in which it leaned.  My mistake was to assume that something was digging into the ground at the base of the tree rather than digging out.  Frankly, it would have been difficult to tell the difference.  In any case, with the lean getting worse, I grew more anxious to get the tree down.

As planned, on Friday morning the tree crew showed up ready to take it down.  If any of the team noticed the Celtic cross carved into the tree they didn’t mention it.  They went right to work starting with removing the top branches first.  As they worked their way down the tree I tried to ignore the growing unease I felt.  It seemed irrational, but nevertheless the feeling lingered.  Around midday the tree seemed to give a slight lurch further to the right, knocking one of the men cutting the branches off balance and causing the branch he was working on to suddenly break off.  It fell to the ground and delivered a glancing blow to one of the other men.  It hit him hard enough to knock him to the ground, and when he stood back up it was obvious he had dislocated his shoulder.

After the hurt worker was loaded into one of the trucks and driven to the ER to get his arm looked it, the remaining men went back to work on the tree.  By early afternoon the only thing left was the stump.  The smaller branches had been loaded into the wood chipper and chopped into small pieces.  The larger branches and trunk were cut into small logs and loaded on the back of one of the trucks.  They now brought in the stump grinder and turned what remained of the trunk and visible roots  into a pile of wood chips that were then shoveled into the back of one of the trucks. After that there was nothing left to do but to pack up, and as they prepared to leave I thanked them for their work.  Then it was just me and Baxter in the backyard.  I walked over to where the tree had once stood.  I would need to put sod over the area.  It was now just a few scattered wood chips and loose dirt.

That was three days ago.  A lot has happened since then.  The first morning after the oak was cut down I noticed there was a hole in the ground where it had stood.  It wasn’t very large, but it looked impossibly deep.  Even if Baxter had the nerve to go near the spot, it wasn’t a hole he could possibly have dug.  The second morning the hole was bigger and still impossibly deep.  Around the edges of it was bits of fur and pieces of bone of some unidentified animal.  There were also markings in the dirt that looked like it had been clawed by a very large animal.  The claw marks radiated outward from the hole.  I spent the rest of that day getting bags of dirt from the Home Depot and filling in the hole.  Only it never quite filled up

That was yesterday.  This morning I woke up and found the hole was back and bigger than ever.  There were footprints of several different people in the dirt around the hole.   It wasn’t like the time they had appeared in the snow, rather it looked as if there had been some kind of struggle.  The only other thing I found in the dirt with a necklace with a Celtic cross hung from it.  The necklace was broken, but I put it in my pocket anyway.  That was 12 hours ago.  As it got dark I started to hear noises coming from the backyard.  Baxter didn’t come back from his after dinner trip outside, and didn’t come when I called him.  I did eventually hear him start barking.  And it wasn’t a confident sounding bark. Baxter sounded terrified.

I’m beginning to suspect that it was never the tree that was the danger.  The ceremony on the spring equinox, the Celtic cross carved into the tree were both designed to give it the ability to continue its job as jailer even if it died.  Cutting it down was likely the last thing I should have done.  And now something has come up from underneath where the oak once stood imprisoning it.  I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know what it wants, but I hear it outside the house’s back door.  Baxter’s barking stopped long ago with a strangled yelp.  Maybe between the broken buzz saw and the dislocated shoulder the oak had been trying to tell me even a dead tree is better than no tree.  I don’t think I will ever know the answer to that.  That’s the problem with cutting down a tree.  No one tells your how dangerous it might be.

Credit To – LumaKing

Just Another Midnight

December 31, 2012 at 12:00 AM

 “I couldn’t exist in a world devoid of marvels…
even if they frighten me to consider them.”
–       Catlin R. Kiernan

12:09 a.m.

There’s got to be something wrong with me. Seriously, I’m twenty two years old and still afraid of the dark.  I’m not a little kid anymore, but I can’t work up the courage to just turn off the lights and go to sleep. Okay, let me explain how I came to this. One minute I was enjoying myself, writing a paper on Paleolithic cave paintings for my art history class, and then without warning I imagined that there was something spooky waiting for me in the hallway of my apartment, effectively   trapping myself in my own bedroom. You see, I did more than just creep myself out, because with me, fear has a tendency to spiral out of control into levels of mind boggling stupidity.

At first I just ignored it, going on with my work in the hopes that the feeling of being stalked would go away on its own. It didn’t, and I was starting to worry that some shrieking terror was about to burst through the door, so I had to double check to make sure that it was securely locked. After that I couldn’t concentrate on getting my paper written, as every other minute I’d have to look away from my monitor to see if the door was still closed. “This is getting retarded,” I said out loud to no one in particular, “it’s just my imagination fucking with me.” Which is honestly the truth here. I know that if I were to open that door and look into the hall, nothing would happen. One single action and “poof,” sanity becomes restored. The problem of course is the actual opening part. That’s always when the anxiety reaches its high point.

This bullshit started about thirty minutes ago, just before midnight, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to let up anytime soon. So yeah, I’m stuck in my bedroom for what seems like the hundredth time, alone with my computer and thoughts of strange boogeymen. Actually, this whole thing got me wondering where these irrational, paranoid delusions first started. That’s an interesting story actually, and it happened long before anyone could call me crazy.

There’s Something in the Basement.

This story happened in the spring of 1998 in the old house on Erie Street that my parents were renting (Erie as in “Lake Erie,” but yeah, weird coincidence right?) I was six years old at the time, so I was at a point in my life where sleeping with a night-light was still considered normal. I think that we had only been living there for a few weeks, it’s kind of hard to remember for sure exactly, but I do remember the first time my dad took me and my brother to check out the basement. Now the house itself was well over a hundred years old, and in a previous lifetime it served as a train station. The basement as it turned out, was used as a temporary jail cell where the town sheriff would keep the criminals he caught trying to catch a ride out to Chicago, and in the time between then and when my family moved in, no one had thought to updated the basement.

Basically, it was dungeon. The walls were made out of carved rocks or something, with certain areas bricked over from where ground water had been leaking through. Also the whole place was coated in layers of spider webs and dead insects. That’s not even the creepiest part. In the way back around a narrow corner was a heavy door labeled, “Milker Room,” whatever that meant. In any case my dad couldn’t get it open, even with a crowbar. The hinges were so rusted and caked in calcium that nothing short of a jackhammer was going to get through it.

During the daylight hours, I didn’t worry about the basement or the cryptic Milker Room, I just avoided going down there. But at night I couldn’t help thinking about it, and invariably I’d end up hiding under my sheets until I could eventually fall asleep. Of course, I wasn’t always able to fall asleep. Sometimes the voices would keep me wide eyed and alert. And when I say “voices,” I mean what I thought constituted the sound of a man’s muffled speech coming from the cellar. To me it sounded like someone under the floor boards was mumbling incoherently.  The reality here of course was that sounds were bouncing around the air vents in such a way as to trick my little kid brain into thinking that there really was someone down there, trapped behind that huge immovable door, trying to get out in order to… I’m not sure exactly. Perhaps I thought he wanted to eat me I guess. Who knows, I was six remember? It doesn’t matter what I thought this made up man wanted, all I knew at the time was that it was bad. And it got worse when my older brother Joshua keep telling me that he knew what was really in the basement. He was a sadistic asshole, and he thought it was just so damn funny to tell me that a monster with a woman’s face and a body covered in tufts of fur was trying to escape from the Milker Room. Let me repeat that: A woman’s face, and a body covered in tufts of fur. It was weeks before I could sleep a full night without yelling for my parents to rush to my room.

Let’s move forward a few years. When I was nine, my parents had decided to move to a better house for commuting reasons. I was helping my dad move some boxes out of the basement, and at this point the place had been cleaned up a great deal and being three years older, I didn’t find the basement all that scary. Until I found myself alone down there while my dad ran off to talk to my mom about something. At first I was fine, but then out of nowhere I started to hear this weird tapping noise. I remember looking around for what was causing it, more annoyed than frightened, when I looked around the corner towards the Milker Room.
It started getting louder, and it was coming from behind the huge black door. I didn’t move for what felt like hours, petrified, when all of a sudden I heard a crashing bang come from where the tapping used to be. I shrieked and started running back towards the stairs, nearly knocking over my dad in process. When he asked me what was wrong I told him about the noises coming from the Milker Room. He laughed. I swear he laughed and told me to follow him.

Going around the corner, my dad walked right towards the Milker Room door, opened it, flicked on the lights, and showed me the loudest water softener in world. He told me that he had it installed two years ago because he was sick of drinking rust flavored water, and the Milker Room was the best place in the house to put it. How’d he get it open in the first place? Well, a lot of hardware stores sell solvents designed specifically for rust and calcium.  I had nothing to be afraid of, never really did, but to this day I can remember with perfect clarity that one single moment of pure terror, where I was absolutely sure that something terrible lurked behind a few inches of wood and shadows.

12: 42 a.m.

So the point of that story was to remind myself that there’s nothing evil waiting for me outside of my bedroom. I don’t think it worked. I tried to open it about a minute ago to use the bathroom, but the second I placed my hand around the doorknob my heart started racing like I had just pounded six shots of espresso.  Images of a writhing mass of rot and flies filled my mind, or a black hound waiting to pounce from the darkness. I’m freaking out a little inside, because not only do I have a feeling that there’s something out there, but also the sense that whatever it is, it knows that I’m scared. I keep telling myself that it’s all in my head, that I’m just projecting my fears onto the environment. But it’s not working, which is a shame, because I know firsthand how frightening one’s own imagination can be. So here’s what I’m going to do: First, I’m going to pee in the beer bottle I found in my trashcan, and second: I’m going to write down another story, one where I had to go toe-to-toe with my own nocturnal demons.

Sleep Paralysis.

About four years ago I was trapped in a state of almost near total depression. I had just graduated from high school, but my grades where so low that my choices for college were very much limited to the “first place that accepts me,” category. Add to this that I was unemployed, my best friend had already left the state, and my parents were in the process of getting a divorce. In hindsight, I handled the whole situation in an extremely immature way by smoking a ridiculous amount of weed and barricading myself into my room to play video games all damn day. In other words, I was starting to turn into a complete loser.

Now, some schools of thought suggest that nightmares serve as a subconscious mechanism to resolve perceived stressors. If this is true, then I was lucky that things hadn’t started to get strange earlier.

One night after a long hard day of bong hits and masturbation, I fell asleep just as I always had. Except this time I woke up right in the middle of things. And by that I mean my brain woke up while the rest of me kept right on sleeping. I would later discover that this phenomenon was called “sleep paralysis,” which occurs when a person wakes up during the middle of the R.E.M. cycle and cannot move his or her limbs due to the sympathetic nervous system having shut down muscle control, in order to keep the person from hurting themselves while they dream. The experience is known to cause feelings of being choked or a sense of panic, and is often accompanied by hypnogogic hallucinations. Needless to say, I didn’t like it one damn bit.

I couldn’t open my eyes, I couldn’t move my arms, and I started to feel a sort of presence enter my room. I wanted to scream but couldn’t and the entity was surrounding me, observing me, judging me. I didn’t know what it was, but somehow the thought got into my head that it wanted to hurt me. I struggled to break free, yelling at myself internally to wake up before it got any closer, but I couldn’t move so much as a finger. Then I felt a pressure, or tightness on my chest, like the life was being crushed out of me by something huge and angry. If someone were to try to read my thoughts at this point, all they would hear would be the sounds of a wild animal backed into a corner: Vicious and scared, border lining madness.

Right when I thought that I was about to die, I heard myself scream, “WAKE UP!” Whether from inside or out I don’t know, but suddenly I bolted upright in bed, feeling very dazed and tired. I looked around my room, looking for whatever it was that was trying to kill me, but everything seemed fine, so I decided to get a glass of water. Almost immediately after getting out from beneath the covers, I started to hear a very deep, almost painful moan coming from the hallway outside of my bedroom, followed by a thud and footsteps. At this point I was more angry than scared, so I grabbed a baseball bat and moved towards the door. I didn’t rush out into the hall immediately, because by now it was slamming itself against my door, trying to get in, all the while its moans sounding more and more like it was in a state of constant agony. Eventually I heard it start to shuffle away, so fast as lightening I threw open the door a rushed into the hall. That’s when I saw it.

It was very, very tall. So tall that it had to crouch a little to avoid the ceiling. Also it was thin, more bone than flesh. It didn’t have arms, or skin, or even a face really. I suppose that the best description here would be that it was an elongated skeleton wearing a straitjacket made of bacon. Whatever it was, it had turned around and was beginning to shuffle towards me, so I ran forward swinging my bat like a madman until it had stopped moving, gurgling in a puddle of its own blood.

I woke up the next morning around dawn, lying face down on the hallway carpet next to my bat. Apparently I had dreamed the whole encounter, and now there was a hole in the wall from where my bat had punched out a chunk. I haven’t had a case of sleep paralysis since, nor did I ever witness the bacon monster again, but it just goes to show what sort of nightmares my own brain is able to conjure.

1: 38 a.m.

Well that clearly didn’t help. No, I’m not worried about the bacon demon hiding out there (I already stomped his bitch ass into the ground), but I’m still unable to just open the door. I can’t sleep if I think there’s something out there. I can’t force myself to stay awake until sunrise either. I really don’t have a clue here.

Shit, I just pulled a neck muscle from turning my head to fast. I thought I saw something moving in the corner of my eye. It was just a shoe. An unmoving, unlaced, dirty whore of a shoe. Okay, enough screwing around, I just found a hammer. Wish I had a shotgun, but I guess a hammer will have to do. I’m going try opening the door again, I’ll be back in a minute.

1: 39 a.m.

Nope, not going to happen. I started sweating before I could even touch the handle. I tried, I really tried, but it was too much. Even worse, now I’m hearing noises coming from outside of my window. Good thing the blinds are closed. I wish my roommate would just come back. He works a late shift, so he usually doesn’t get home until around five in the morning. Wait, hold on, that’s only like another three and a half hours or so. Yeah, I’ll just wait from him to get off work and then I can finally put this nonsense behind me. Then again, It’s not such a great idea to have too much faith in your friends. Especially when they know just how easily you can be startled. Like my friend Stephanie, who decided to tell me one of her own horror stories just as I was about to head home for the night.

The Union Street Cemetery

The Union Street Cemetery is the oldest graveyard in town. It’s also the shitiest. Over the years a combination of vandalism, poor upkeep, and harsh weather have made the headstones virtually unreadable, and the surrounding patches of grass that haven’t been overrun by weeds are a sickly yellow color, similar to bile. The cemetery itself sits squarely on top of a slight hill, and despite the fact that it’s been there for ages, most people in town don’t even know where it is, if they even know that it exists at all. This might have something to do with the fact that the entire area surrounding the Union Street Cemetery has been unofficially designated as the town ghetto. In other words, the houses in that area are made homes by the lower income families. My friend Stephanie was one of them for a while.

When Stephanie was in her early twenties, she led the glorious life of a single mother working as many hours as possible as a diner waitress, and in order to survive she had to move herself and her four year old son into a house on Union Street with two roommates. Or maybe she wasn’t single at this point, I’m a little fuzzy on the details here, but I do know that she lived in one of the Union Street houses with her son.

So the story as told by Stephanie, was that one night while her husband/ boyfriend/ roommates were all out of the house, Stephanie was in the kitchen trying to make some diner while her son played in the living room. Now her son Tyler (at least I think his name was Tyler) was being loud as usual, banging toy trucks into each other like little boys are known to do, so naturally Stephanie became worried when everything got quiet. When she walked into the living room to see if Tyler was doing alright, she saw him looking out of the front window from in between the curtains and the glass pane. Keep in mind that their house was right across the street from the cemetery.

“Whatcha looking at Tyler?” She asked.
“They’re coming over.” He responded, still looking out of the window.
“Who’s coming over Tyler?”
“The people from across the street.” He said.

It was here that Stephanie looked out of the front window expecting to see actual people, but instead saw only gates to the graveyard. Now Stephanie isn’t some dumb bimbo from a cheesy zombie movie, she’s a real person, and like most people in real life she’s seen her fair share of horror films. She wasn’t going shrug this off as just another child saying strange things, she was going to get the hell out of there, which she did. Stephanie grabbed Tyler, an overnight bag, and spent the night at her mother’s house. She returned the next morning after whoever else lived there had told her that everything was fine, that the walls weren’t bleeding or anything else even remotely supernatural. Even still, Stephanie moved out of that house within a year.

She told me this story one night just before I was about to leave my ex-girlfriend’s house (Stephanie was a good friend of my ex’s, that was how I came to know her.) so I was more than a little nervous to walk home alone in the dark. Actually, it really wasn’t a big deal until her story ran through my head when I was about half way home, which got me wondering just where I was exactly in position to the Union Street Cemetery, so that I could plan my walk in order to avoid it. I remember thinking that I was pretty close to Union Street, so I stopped walking briefly to try and locate any notable landmarks. I was trying to look over a hill when it happened.

At the worst possible moment, the clouds parted enough so that some faint moon light outlined the silhouettes of several headstones resting on top of the hill. As it would turn out, I was facing the back side of the graveyard, standing so close that I could have thrown a rock over the fence without even trying. Of course I freaked out, I honestly didn’t realize just how close I was to the cemetery. It was just that dark. I turned and ran without looking back. I didn’t stop running until I had reached the highway.

2: 57 a.m.

I’m not going to get out of this room tonight. I just can’t do it. There’s something terrible out there. Not just in the hall, but also outside my window, staring from behind the blinds, waiting for me to let it in. I’ve been griping the handle of my hammer so hard for so long that I know every grove in the carved wood better than I know my own face.

The light bulb of my desk lamp blew out about fifteen minutes ago, so now the only source of light is what little comes from this screen. I’m starting to think that it’s already gotten in here. Yes, yes it is. It’s definitely in here, maybe it’s always been in here, with me. I can’t face the darkness, that’s how it gets you. It only becomes real if you look at it, if even for just a moment. It will flicker to life, like a movie reel that skips a frame. There for a heartbeat, and then gone. But that’s all it wants, all it’s ever wanted. It will blink into existence for only a fraction of a second, but the damage will last forever. Where do you think these stories come from? They’re just the fallout of what I’m trying to forget: Something that doesn’t want to be forgotten.

I’m not going to let it get to me again. It only becomes real if you look at it, so I won’t. I’ll just keep my eyes on the screen, and I’ll try to ignore the shapes moving around the edges of my vision. I’ll be fine as long as I’m looking at the screen, because it only becomes real if you look at it. It’s only real when it looks back.

Credit To – Stephan D. Harris


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