The Christmas Tree

December 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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Staring at the tree, whiskey in hand, Pete was pleased that this year would be different from the last. It had been the strangest time of his life, but he truly felt like things were finally coming together, and when better to come together than at Christmas? A time he loved more than any other.

In some ways the past year had been like an eternity, in others as if it had succumbed to time in the blink of an eye, but either way he was glad to see the back of it.

Staring at the Christmas tree, its beautiful lights casting a warm hue over the room, and the snow quietly falling outside as the sun set, Pete began to think of the past year, of his daughter Lana, and his wife Janet.

It had started with a very normal December, 12 months earlier. The small town in which they lived was covered in a thick layer of snow, the residents spending most of their days clearing driveways, and Pete’s wife going off for one of her usual wanders.

She had been gone for a couple of hours, but while Janet was utterly devoted to her family, she still needed moments to herself. To clear her head. To diminish the stress that comes with a loving yet disorganised husband, and a little girl who was kind, but whom enjoyed trying her parents’ patience as much as possible.

When the tensions of a domestic life clouded her feelings, or began to weigh on her spirits, Janet would wander out of the back door into the fields and woodlands which characterised the entire area, and trek for a little while through the pines which dotted the landscape.

It therefore wasn’t unusual for her to be gone for fairly long periods, especially since it was around that time of year when she would take it upon herself to choose the Christmas tree. No matter how much Pete or Lana asked to help out; this was Janet’s job. She loved the tradition of it, the process of choosing the best possible tree, cutting it down, and then seeing the bright smiles on her family’s faces, as they would gleefully take the tree indoors and decorate it with sparkling glitter garlands, warm glowing lights, and an array of festive baubles.

It was a small Highland town, where they lived, far away from any major city, but Janet and the rest of her family loved their home. The simplicity of it, the feeling of being an integral part of a close-knit community, and of course the beautiful surroundings, lush during the Scottish summer and cold, crisp, stark but yet awe inspiring in the winter. Most importantly, she loved the pine woods nearby, specifically a collection of trees which sat at the top of a small hill within walking distance from the house: Perfect for picking a Christmas tree! She would return there each year, and while their numbers thinned due to a few other neighbours going there for the exact same purpose, there were enough trees to last a good many years.

When she had been gone for three hours Pete began to grow nervous, as this was longer than usual, and since it was getting dark, he took it upon himself to venture outside, telling Lana to lock the doors after him, and that he would not be long. Lana laughed when he told her that he expected that mummy was struggling through the snow with a huge tree; bigger than any other they had ever had!Pete loved to see the excitement in his daughter’s face at this time of year, and he told her to watch from her bedroom window to see what they would bring back. With this, she excitedly ran up the stairs straight to her window before he had to call her back down to lock the door.

Gazing at the beautiful tree, he could remember that night like it was yesterday.

The snow was crisp on the ground and crunched under his feet as it began to freeze. Small flakes fell from the sky occasionally, but Janet’s footprints remained uncovered. Even without them, Pete knew where they were heading.

The hill where Janet returned each year was only a forty minute hike away. She would pick a pine tree from there. In fact sometimes she picked two. One around six foot, the other a young tree about half the size, if they could find one suitable. It was difficult at times to find smaller trees as they seemed to be rare in that area. Everyone in the town seemed to like the idea of having a small tree in their children’s bedrooms, so people would climb up there with an axe and take what they wanted, so there weren’t as many at hand. Lana at one time had thought it was sad to cut down and kill the trees just for people to look at, but Pete explained to her about tradition and that he was sure more would grow back. With time, she forgot this protest and looked forward to the years when she could have one. If a smaller tree couldn’t be found, they had a lovely synthetic one which would sit at her window – secretly she loved this just as much, but as her father had said: ‘Tradition is tradition’.

The larger tree would be placed in the living room and adorned with an assortment of baubles, glittering decorations, and lights. The other, in Lana’s room, would be sprayed with a can of fake snow and covered in hanging candy sticks and chocolates. Although she was always told she could only have one a day before bed as a treat. Of course occasionally she would break this rule and just hope no one would notice. Janet could always tell, but she would let it go. Christmas time was the best of times after all, and it was so brief.

As Pete approached the hill, he knew something was wrong; he felt it in his bones. As he climbed, the snow began to fall in greater volume and the sky dimmed with it. Standing at the humble summit, a stillness spread; silence interrupted momentarily by the almost audible patter of snow flakes floating gently to the ground.

He followed the footprints now with purpose, knowing that if the snowfall increased that it would be nearly impossible to find Janet. Twilight fell, covering everything in a dark blue wisp of colour, as the frost began to nip at his now rosy cheeks. The footprints bobbed and weaved their way through the huge pines, finally stopping next to a wonderfully thick and vibrant tree. One which was perfectly suited for their purposes. The perfect size; almost seven foot tall, a deep life-filled green, and a thick abundance of branches and pines which made it almost impossible to visually penetrate its cover in such a light. But yet Janet was nowhere to be seen, and as far as Pete could tell there were no other tracks in the snow leading away in any direction. She had most certainly been here, but where had she gone?

This was both puzzling and worrying. It seemed impossible, but there they were, Janet’s last two footprints engraved in the ground, but the snow all around, virgin, undisturbed, and lacking all signs of life. It was as if she had just vanished into the night.

Looking at the base of the tree Pete ran his fingers over a deep gash in its trunk. There was no doubt about it; Janet had taken a few swipes at it with her axe. Then for some unknown reason, she had left, or perhaps moved on to a tree she felt was more suitable.

Surely not though? This tree was perfect!

That must have been it though, she must have moved on. Perhaps there was some random, freakish flurry of snow which covered her tracks. Yes, that must have been it. But Pete knew this was wishful thinking. He had lived there for years, and in all of that time he had never seen such a thing.

Then he saw it. Several metres away lying in the snow, was Janet’s axe. He rushed over to the object, falling once as the snow deepened. Rising to his feet it was now unmistakeable. Yes, it was partially covered in snow, but it was Janet’s axe all right. It lay there much like the footprints, isolated but with the absence of any human imprints. It was as if the tool had been dropped from a great height, but Pete did not care to speculate. A sense of growing worry permeated his mind as the thought of Janet lying somewhere injured increased his anxiety.

Shouting his wife’s name repeatedly drew no reply as darkness now began to creep ever closer. If she was hurt, he would have to raise the alarm and get the town out looking for her, along with mountain rescue. She wouldn’t survive long in the snow, in that biting cold. At this thought the panic grew; worry, fear, hurt that can only be felt through love.

With torch in hand he continued in the direction the axe had taken him. As he entered a thick den of pine trees, he noticed the broken branches littered on the ground as if something had rushed passed, tearing them apart and breaking them off on impact.

Maybe Janet ran through here?

The scale of the damage, however, looked too great to have been dealt by one person alone. Had he been in any other country he would have assumed a bear was nearby, but they had been hunted to extinction in Scotland long ago, along with the wolves and any other predators. For a moment his torch reflected off of something scuttling under a bush, but it looked more like an insect than anything else, and again far too small to cause such devastation.

Pete fixed his scarf, trying to cover his face as the frost bit deeper, but just as he did so, something caught his eye. Something on the ground. Shining his torch on what he at first thought to be a dead animal, was the crumpled body of Janet, lying still on the ground.

A heart attack they said. A heart attack! But Pete had seen her face, he had looked upon those eyes once so filled with kindness, transfixed in a frozen stare. Cold, glassy, black with fear. Her hands were clenched in front of her and the pathologist told him that this was perfectly normal for one suffering such a massive heart attack in such low temperatures. As was the contorted look on her face, although at the mention of this Pete saw a flicker in the pathologist’s eyes which gave away that he was as puzzled by that look as anyone. A look Pete would never forget. Darling Janet, love of his life, mother of his children. Dying alone in the cold, with lips pulled back over teeth in agony, frozen into an inhuman sneer.

The whole ordeal had devastated him. If it hadn’t been for their daughter Lana, for the necessity of her needs to be met before his own, Pete would have found it nearly impossible to have gotten through it.

The past twelve months had been cluttered with reminders of an aching loss. As with any bereavement, the first time of doing something once shared without that person made the pain more acute. The first Christmas, the first day at work, the first walk to school, the first family get together; every person’s face etched in concern accompanied by the usual well-meaning but empty traditions of ‘how are you holding up?’, ‘It must have been so difficult’, and ‘If there’s anything I can do…’.

Helping his daughter through the loss of her mother was all he had to make sure he could face another day.

But that stopped now. They had been through the horror, through the denial, through the silent meals, through the lonely cries of despair at night, through the birthdays empty and sombre; they had been through it all. All these ‘firsts’ were over. It had been over twelve months since Janet’s death and Pete felt almost exhilarated by this. He still missed her everyday, the pain would never truly leave him, but the feeling of accomplishment, of strength – something which he thought had deserted him – that he had endured, filled him for the first time with thoughts of the future; thoughts that life does indeed go on, even when our dearest have gone before us.

And what of his beautiful daughter? Dear, kind Lana. He may have felt compelled to bring her through the past year, but her empathy and strength had left him in awe. Characteristics which someone so young had no right to possess, but which were thankfully present nonetheless.

When she had cried he had been there, and on more than one occasion when he lay sobbing, staring at that empty void of space in his double bed at night, Lana would waken and climb in beside him, and they would both cry together until they fell asleep.

She was his rock, and by God she was going to have the best Christmas she’d ever had. Pete had made a number of arrangements. He had spent a fortune on every gift imaginable, he had filled the house with every food and treat that she enjoyed, and both Janet’s parents and his own were flying in for Christmas dinner to be with their brave, sweet little granddaughter. He’d also organised for Lana’s friends to have a sleepover on Boxing day which she had pleaded for, but Pete always knew he would give in eventually. She never asked for much, but this year, this Christmas she would have more than she could imagine.

The house was perfect, but there was one thing left to do. One thing that Pete had dreamt of since the night he found Janet’s body. She had chosen that tree. It was going to be sitting in their living room adorned with all manor of decorations. That was its purpose, its very reason for being. Janet never finished cutting the damned thing down. It was in many ways her dying act, and Pete was going to make sure that it was fulfilled.

On the anniversary of her death, he wandered through the snow, winding his way through the pines until he stood at the foot of that ominous little hill. The sun shone brightly and it wasn’t as cold as it had been the night Janet died, but each footstep was accompanied by a sickness in the pit of Pete’s stomach. Each stride a morbid reminder of the previous year, and that terrible heartbreak in the snow.

Marching to its peak, he first walked to, and observed the scene of Janet’s untimely death. Standing there where her body had laid, Pete wiped the tears from his eyes and placed a small Santa figurine on the ground, burying it in the snow. It had always been hung from the branches of each yearly tree, and was her favourite decoration, it seemed only right that it be with her.

After another few minutes of trudging, there it was. It was still standing! That damned tree! As if ravenous for revenge, Pete pulled Janet’s axe from his backpack and charged at the pine. He battered and chopped at the cut which Janet had made the previous year, making it deeper with every slice, with every pound of pressure he could muster.

The tree groaned and creaked as if in pain, but Pete did not care. This tree was the final reminder of Janet’s death. Whatever had happened that night, it happened because of that tree. As crazy as it seemed, it all made sense for a moment, and then clarity was clouded by mundane reality.

She had simply died of natural causes.

With the roar of cracked wood breaking under its own weight, the tree swooned and collapsed to the ground in defeat. Tying a rope around its trunk, and then using string to fold its branches inward, Pete dragged that memory, that cold hearted pillar of nature’s brutality through the snow, over grass and gravel, and finally to his back door.

He was victorious.

With little thought for carpet or furniture, he dragged it up the stairs into the house and placed it in front of the window in the living room, wedging it upright into an old wooden stump they had used as a stand every year. Breathless and covered in sweat, he stood back looking at the tree standing tall over all it surveyed.

You picked a good one love. You picked a good one.

He held back the tears and waited for Lana to return home from her friends. Pete put an old Christmas film on the television as they both decorated the tree together, singing, laughing, and being a family. There were moments, fleeting glances when they caught one another’s stare. A glance which showed pain buried deep down inside. One which said: I miss her too.

But it was Christmas, and the moments of grief passed, buffered by longer, caring, periods of happiness. Contentment caressed smiles from ear to ear, and festive spirit once more filled that home, which had for too long been host to loss and anguish.

As night began to fall, after Lana went to bed – earlier than usual because the excitement had worn her out – Pete decided to reward himself for the day’s efforts. The lights were dimmed, and after pouring himself a large whiskey, he sat on the living room couch and stared at the tree. Draped in tinsel garlands and adorned with bright white Christmas lights, it really was a sight to behold. The best tree they had ever had.

‘Here’s to you, gorgeous’ Pete said, lifting his drink to the sky in a symbolic gesture.

Staring at the Christmas tree, its beautiful lights casting a warm hue over the room, and the snow quietly falling outside as the sun set, Pete began to think of the past year, of his daughter Lana, and his wife Janet.

Time passed slowly as he thought of all things gone, how they had led to this moment through pain and suffering, but now hopefully onwards to the future, and one filled with at least the briefest possibility of joy.

The glow from the tree reflected off of the window, but it penetrated far enough to illuminate the now thick blur of snow, falling to the ground silently outside. The room remained dark, but the lights bathed everything subtly in a warm Yuletide radiance, which when accompanied by the orange lambency of the fire only served to cultivate the anticipation for Christmas even more so.

For the first time in a year, Pete was happy.

Something bothered him though. There was a slight apprehension or annoyance at the back of his mind. Something which was spoiling the display. Sipping at his whiskey, casting a glance at the entire room, he finally saw what the problem was; two of the Christmas tree lights were occasionally flickering. Not constantly, but often enough to be noticeable, and more importantly, aggravating.

Downing the rest of his drink, Pete rose to his feet, now feeling the aches in his muscles from the effort exerted while dragging that thing all the way home from the hill. Walking over to the tree the lights were indeed flickering, but there was something unusual about them. They seemed deeper than the rest, as if coming from around the trunk, rather than resting on the branches. Again, Pete was struck by how dark the interior of the tree was. That even in the presence of many lights placed upon it, he could not peer, or adequately see between the branches. Even the two lights which sat deeper behind the pines did not seem to illuminate their surroundings in any way.

The empty glass slipped from his fingers, smashing on the floor.

The lights were fine, they were not flickering at all, but the occasional blinking of two eyes amongst the branches had been enough to catch his attention. He froze to the spot, and it was as if the room grew somehow darker. Something stirred between the pines, between the knotted wood, and the scratched porous surface; something lived there. A feeling of utter paralysis now took hold, his feet firmly glued to the ground as the two eyes slowly pushed forward. Creaking and cracking, a face revealed itself from between the pine covered branches, as if seeping out from its innermost visceral point. Mould covered, ancient, its features twisted in rage.

Fear began to course through Pete’s veins. His heart beat faster and faster as the face moved closer, its eyes devoid of pupils now swamped in a maddening yellow, and from below, the protrusion of two thin, moss covered legs arching out from between the branches. With a creak and snap, it straightened itself now standing in all of its terrible glory in front of the tree.

It was now pitch black outside, and it would have been clear to Pete that this animal, this creature was of a nocturnal nature, but in its stare he found himself helpless. His heart skipped. First it was a palpitation, then he could feel a searing pain in his left arm. He clutched his chest, but his feet remained adhered to the ground and it was impossible to look away from those yellow unmarked eyes.

Its gaze came closer still, and in the pain which it brought, Pete knew he was going to die. To be found like Janet, cold, face contorted, and the second victim of that which lived amongst the pines on that hill.

The pain was now unbearable, but the paralysis removed the possibility of a scream. What little light there was from the fireplace now illuminated its head, elongated on one side and pulsating on the other, its face dominated by a large dark hole which appeared in place of a mouth or nose. One which no light could penetrate. As its boil ridden head stooped to meet his own and the hole in its face almost touched his mouth, an involuntary sneer pulled Pete’s lips up to reveal his teeth, as his face contorted into an entirely unnatural position.

Then that one word. A word so powerful, so pure that even the most evil of intentions could be dispelled by it:

‘Daddy’.

With the snap of wood, the gargoyle-like creature turned its wide, yellow gaze to Lana. Standing at the bottom of the stairs in her pyjamas, her scream echoed out into the night. Arms outstretched, its odd-numbered fingers moved with a stutter as its moss covered legs groaned, carrying it forward in a peculiar unbalanced motion towards her.

Now Lana was paralysed by its stare, and with each step closer, her face contorted more fiercely, and the pain in her chest brought her to the point of unconsciousness. As intense as its ancient gaze was, it was focused. So focused that it did notice Pete clawing his way across the floor towards the kitchen.

The wooden creature’s unsure movements made it appear more like a puppet than a thing of autonomous purpose, and as it reached Lana, it cupped her face in its uneven hands and stared wide eyed and pupil-less into her face. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

The sound of feet running filled the air, and as it twisted to investigate, a loud crack was heard as Pete ran up onto the couch, jumping high into the air bringing Janet’s axe down deep into its spine.

No blood ran or gushed, but a plague of unfamiliar insect-like critters poured out of the wound. Instead of a howl of pain, the creature emitted a crescendo of strange squeals and clicks before throwing Pete to the ground and smashing through the back door.

Lana’s father gave chase, but it was impossible, as the wooden creation moved at an unimaginable pace, gliding on the ground with each stride, leaving no footprints in the snow.

After a visit to the nearest hospital, both Lana and her father were given a clean bill of health, but they never returned to that house, filled with memories of the good times, the happy times; of a mother, a wife, a kind soul; of birthdays, and weddings, and of course, of Christmas time.

Pete didn’t know what that creature was, whether it was alive, or dead, or something else entirely inconceivable to human mind, but he made a solemn promise to himself from that moment on: Never again would he cut down a tree, decorate it, and take enjoyment in its appearance as it died, because no matter how pretty they are, no matter how much warmth they may give, no matter how much they might make people think of Christmas; you just don’t know what may be living inside.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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Bedtime III: My Fears Realised

December 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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A few days ago I submitted two nightmarish accounts from my childhood, perhaps you best read them to truly comprehend what has befallen me. I had been compelled to silence, gripped by the irrational fear that somehow even after all of these years, should I speak of it, that those things would seek me out and once again wreak havoc on my life.

In the name of science and reason I confronted those fears and set out to vanquish those tormented memories once and for all by sharing them with others, exposing them for what I believed they were; the delusions of a troubled child. I have held on to my scepticism and rationality for dear life, I have allowed them to define me, but this morning I was presented with verifiable, physical evidence. Evidence of what I do not know, but it cannot be ignored, and it seems strange to me that the last few days have been so tainted by apprehension and misfortune after finally breaking my silence, that I can no longer rely upon entirely conventional explanations.

In the wake of sharing those traumatic experiences I had as a child, I have been plagued by an overwhelming sense of unease. Initially, I attributed this to the fear I had experienced in simply recounting and reliving those terrible events in my mind, but as the days past it felt like so much more; a feeling of impending doom consumed my every thought.

While sleep came to me, rest did not. Each morning I awoke, my nerves on edge, as if deprived of sleep for an age. Nothing overtly frightening happened during the first few nights, no visitation, no unwelcome bedfellows, no wheezing breaths reaching out from deep within my bedroom walls, but I had that distantly familiar feeling of not being alone.

Do not misunderstand, I did not sense someone in the room with me. I did not hear, smell, or feel anything remotely supernatural, but throughout my days and nights I have sensed something subtle, almost on the periphery of my awareness; the feeling that something is on its way, something is coming, like the first few stagnant blasts of air from a subway tunnel, heralding the arrival of a lurching, unstoppable monstrosity; surprising, yet expected.

My sense of unease grew with each passing day, pushing its way under my skin, deep into my mind like some form of cancerous infection. I tried to focus my attention on various writing projects in a vain attempt to fill my mind up to the brim with other thoughts, hopefully leaving no room for those contaminated memories, but those thoughts came to me nonetheless.

My anxiety gained momentum until I could think of nothing else. I had to do something! I had studied Psychology for years at university, with this I knew that anxiety is often the result of a loss of control, and that one of the most effective ways to combat it is to empower oneself; this is what I intended to do. Call it foolhardy, but I was going to go back to that place, that house where those terrible events took place. I was going to confront those memories and expose them for what they were; nonsense.

It was an hours drive to my old home, but it was one filled with elation. I was confident, at ease, happy; I was in control now and nothing was going to get in my way from showing that the place I had feared my entire life was nothing but an average, humdrum, harmless little suburban house.

Gleefully negotiating the country roads and then motorway, finally I made it to the city. Gradually the streets began to take on a familiar appearance. Memories of playing in that neighbourhood came flooding back to me; a play park with my favourite slide, an ash pitch where we used to play football, my school yard filled with hide and seek and friendships long since abandoned, but never forgotten.

My mind wandered through those memories like a prodigal son walking home; wandered so much so that before I realised it, I was pulling into the street where I had once lived. The road was long and disappeared far into the distance finally entering into a sharp, blind turn. It was an old neighbourhood, and had been planned and built long before the advent of the car; this was evident by the narrowness of its roads creating a strangely claustrophobic feeling, as if the houses on each side rose up, leering at passers by.

I slowed my speed and cast my eye over each house that I passed. It was a uniform place, with every house looking not dissimilar. My heart suddenly began to beat faster as a cold chill crawled up my spine; there it was, there was the house! It was late afternoon and the street was quiet, almost lonely. I stared at that little place wondering how such an ordinary home could have instilled so much fear in me.

I had initially intended to only look at the house from afar, confirming it to me as a material construction, entirely explicable, and removed from anything uncanny. But as I parked I took a deep breath, and before I knew it I was out of my car, walking towards that old, metallic gate, its once bright floral shapes now darkened by aged, flaking deep green paint, revealing nothing but rust beneath. I ran my fingers over its uneven top, and with a subtle gasp, I pushed it open.

Walking along the path I was shocked at how disused the garden was. I thought to myself how much of a waste of a good lawn it was, which was all but obscured by a thick mosaic of weeds and other invasive species, but as I neared the house, I realised why: It was unoccupied. Once again a shudder crept through me, but as my anxiety rose up, I crushed it with my rational mantra:

“The simplest of explanations is usually the correct one”.

I assumed that due to the current economic climate that the house had probably just been on the market for some time, and that the owner wasn’t too aware of the old sentiment that the first bite is with the eye, but as I looked around I could see no “For Sale” sign, nor one “To Let”. It genuinely seemed as though this house had been forgotten, abandoned, and left to rot.

The windows at the front of the house were filthy and, as such, almost impossible to see through, but as I wandered around to the back of the building, I could see more clearly inside. I would have imagined that a house such as this one would be empty, but on the contrary, it was entirely occupied , occupied by the trappings of a modern life. I could see a television sitting in the living room corner, a coffee table with magazines strewn across it, various pieces of furniture sitting as if ready to be used, and a couple of coffee cups sitting on the windowsill still full, covered in mould. I would have thought the house was lived in if it was not for a thick layer of dust lying over everything, accompanied by the occasional spider’s web.

It seemed as though the most recent occupants had left in a hurry, and never returned.

Clambering through a sea of waist-high grass and bushes, I eventually arrived at that innocuous little window at the back of the house. The very sight of it frightened me, but this was mere memory and not the strange feeling of being watched from within as I had experienced as a child. Peering in, the room looked eerily familiar. I suppose there is little that can be done with a room so small, so oddly narrow, but through the dirt covered glass the room looked almost unchanged from when I had slept in it. A bed, a set of drawers, and what looked like an assortment of toys on the floor.

A profound sense of anger washed over me momentarily, but I shook it quickly from my mind. The room was clearly that of a child’s and the thought of that thing harming another innocent filled me with contempt for such a thought, and within me swelled the desire to protect any child from such an abomination.

As I gazed at that wall, of which a bed lay alongside it, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. For a moment (and it was for only the slightest) I thought I saw the blanket on top of the bed move. More than that, through that window pane I could have sworn I heard a wheezing gasp. Closing my eyes tightly I repeated another scientific mantra:

“Science does not owe its debts to imagination.”

Opening my eyes I saw nothing but an empty bedroom. No foul spirits, no unearthly things; just a room, no more, no less. I breathed a sigh of relief as it that all was well with world for the first time in many days. You may think that it was wishful thinking, but I genuinely felt that I had shown myself that there was nothing to be scared of, other than my over-active imagination.

It was starting to get dark and I wanted to be home before the night. Filled with confidence now that my anxieties were behind me, there was one last thing I needed to do. When we had left that house we did so in a hurry. As a child it was disorientating, even frightening to leave everything I knew behind, but there was one thing left which I always wondered about.

At the bottom of the garden stood a sycamore tree which looked to be even older than the house. I was amazed at how unchanged it was. I had grown up, gone on to pastures new, but the old sycamore still stood, wise, warm, almost friendly in its appearance.

I think it’s a rites of passage for any child to have a place to hide things. It’s often their first experience with independence, something removed from any authority figure. For me, my ‘stash’ was half way up the old sycamore. I’m sure I must have looked like a fool, but I happily and gleefully climbed the tree with abandon. The configuration of the branches had changed in places, but overall the happy memories of playing amongst the limbs of the old sycamore, of having a little piece of the world to myself away from everyone else, seemed vivid as it was remarkable how much remained unchanged.

Half way up I caught my breath and smiled to myself. In the central trunk of the tree lay a hollow. Whether it had been created by an animal, or perhaps the tug of a gale on a weakened branch long ago, I do not know, but it was where I kept things. If I found something which I was sure would be taken from me for being ‘inappropriate’, into the hollow it would go. The truth is though, that the majority of the items inside were not very interesting, mostly just toys and rarely exotic pieces of contraband like a slingshot or some smoke bombs. I had no reason to hide the toys, but when I was young it felt adventurous to have a secret.

The hollow was dark and filled halfway with rotting leaves, no doubt deposited there from countless autumns, nevertheless I reached deep inside to see what remained. I couldn’t believe it! I had found a toy that I had hidden there before we moved, all those years ago! I could feel the plastic in my hand, it’s sharp edges unmistakable, but the leaves and darkness of the hollow obscured its view from me as I struggled to remove it from the thick,wet mixture of rotting leaves and rain water. It seemed to be caught amongst a collection of small twigs.

The reason I was so excited was that I knew when we moved that I had left one of my favourite toys behind; a small plastic First World War British Soldier. It may not sound like much, but I had grown up on my family’s stories of my Grandfather’s adventures during both wars, and while he had passed away before I was born, I would often act out exaggerated versions of the stories with this small soldier in the role of the hero: My intrepid Grandfather. At the time I thought a hollow the perfect hiding place for a soldier.

My delight, however, quickly turned to horror. I felt sick to my stomach, for as I pulled the soldier out, I realised it was not my toy, but something else entirely. Stuffed into the back of the hollow amongst the sludge, and now in my hand, was the skeletal remains of a small animal. The bones crunched together in my grip as the few small flakes of hair and flesh left on it putrefied between my fingers. I almost lost my balance as the rotten and potent smell of death escaped through my moist grasp, invading my senses.

I climbed back down carefully, dejected. There was nothing else in the hollow, my toy was gone, probably taken by another child during the subsequent years. What remained of the poor animal, I buried under some loose earth in the garden.

I left that place immediately.

Despite my unfortunate encounter in the hollow I still felt empowered’. That I had actually plucked up the courage to revisit that place, to see how ordinary it really was, made me feel in control once more of my faculties. I did not at that time require anything other than a conventional explanation.

I said goodbye to the old neighbourhood, to that bad memory once and for all, and began to make my way home. By the time I had driven onto the motorway, something had begun to filter through from the back of my subconscious. At first I disregarded it, dismissing it as my imagination, but as the sun shone its last and dipped below the horizon, I sensed the growing of a compulsion in me. An idea which seemed to have been born and nurtured for no good reason. No rationale, no sound causal footing, but one which had to be followed, at all cost…

I must get home!

I increased my speed, zipping sporadically between the slower cars on the motorway, looking in the rear view mirror, keeping an eye on what might be following.

I had to get home!

Again, I drove faster constantly looking behind as if racing some unseen pursuer: 70, 80, 100 miles per hour! I tore along the road, I beeped, I yelled, the sweat lashed off of me. What was happening to me!?

Please, just let me go home!

White knuckled, I finally made it off of the motorway and onto the country roads which would lead directly to my town. The roads were narrow and wound around the now bleak and ominous countryside. Darkness seemed to blanket the road in front of me. I turned my full beam on and breathed a sigh of relief to see a bright light again, even if artificial. The manic anxiety which had seemed to grip me on the motorway appeared to have diminished, however, I still glared into the rear view mirror more often than I should have, just to make sure that there was nothing following me.

What a ridiculous thought! To think of something chasing my car! To put myself and others in danger by speeding down a busy motorway… Madness!

Still, madness or not, I had felt compelled to get away as quickly as possible and even though I had managed to collect my nerves, the loneliness of the road I was on fuelled my yearning for my own town, my own street, my own bed!

Nervously, I traversed the web-like winding roads which seared through the countryside, feeling relieved at the first sign of a lamp post, of civilisation, and of the boundaries of my town. I pulled up outside of my house, switching the engine off, and sat for a moment in silence. I had to stop all of this nonsense! Things coming out of walls, watchers smothering me at night, looking into someone’s window like a prowler, all of this was lunacy!

Tomorrow, I would start afresh, no more writing about my childhood experiences, no more reliving of dread filled nights. Just getting back to normal, carrying out my work, spending time with my girlfriend, and most of all reaffirming my belief, faith, and confidence in science and rationality.

Then the thing in the back seat leant over, grabbed me by the shoulder and breathed a foul, rancid breath from deep inside its lungs down the back of my neck.

I scrambled for the door, my arms flailing around looking for the lock. Fear possessed me, shook me; a fear I remembered all too well, a fear from all those years ago, lying awake at night in that sickening room. The inside of the car had grown much colder, but that was nothing compared to the icy fingers burrowing into my shoulder.

I honestly thought I was going to die, that this thing would finally get its way after all this time.

The door handle popped in my panicked grip and I fell out of the driver’s seat onto the pavement. For the briefest of moments I thought I caught a glimpse of something in the back seat; vague, the form of an old man, yet twisted and distorted grinning from ear to ear. Luckily there was no one around, as had there been I would have appeared a mad fool, for the car was empty. I grabbed the keys from the ignition and booted the door shut with my foot, locking it for the night.

I staggered down the path and into my house. I’m not going to lie to you but I drank myself to sleep last night. You may recall that I said I had evidence, actual physical evidence of something unnatural. You might be wondering what that evidence is. Well, I could say that it was the marks on my shoulder that made me shudder with fear, or I could tell you that my bedroom window lying prised open this morning, by what looked like claw marks, has left me dreading tonight, or any other. But no, none of that scared me as much as what I saw today upon waking.

Sometimes the most frightening of messages are the most simple, for lying on my chest as I awoke this morning, was a toy soldier, the soldier I had hidden in that hollow all those years ago; returned to me as an adult, bitten in half.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse
Note: This story is part of a series. You can read the first installment here – Bedtime
Look forward to more installments being posted over the next few days!

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The Vegas Illusion

December 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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When going to Las Vegas, ride the rides from places like New York, New York and the Stratosphere, gamble away your money in a drunken state on a few hands of poker, or take a complete stranger back to your expensive hotel room. Or perhaps you’d prefer a magic show from Cirque Du Soleil or David Copperfield? I would suggest this option for your first night in Sin City. Real magic is to be found in Vegas, but not on the Strip, oh no. For a true experience that will make you believe in the realm of magic, you must seek out master illusionist Mephisto Centurion.

To see his astounding performance, drive off the Las Vegas Strip past the airport, and keep going until you reach desert. Be sure you make this journey after midnight, for Mephisto’s act is only to entertain the nightlife. Once it seems like you’ve made a wrong turn, stop your car, get out and peer across the night desert. You won’t see anything at first, but then a hotel shrouded in darkness will catch your eye. Leave your vehicle behind and approach the hotel in the distance.

You will notice that no lights are on in this hotel, but don’t be fooled, it is plenty occupied. Walk up to the hotel’s entrance and knock on the glass doors, which will swing open. The entire lobby will be dark, and no one will be there to greet you, so bring a flashlight as you enter the building and make your way through a large, empty casino, following the signs hanging from the ceiling that will direct you to the hotel’s theatre. While there will be no one around, if you get the sense that you’re being watched, you’re correct, but don’t let that feeling hold you back. Continue to follow the signs until you come to two large, golden doors with many faces sculpted on them.

These doors will open for you, and to your surprise, you will find an enormous, bright theatre filled with hundreds of people you didn’t even know were there. It will be a full house, but one seat will still be available in the front row. Take it, it’s yours. Once you are seated, the lights will dim, the curtains will open, and the great Mephisto Centurion will appear in a flash of light onstage, dressed entirely in black with a cape, top-hat, and a long, black beard and mustache. He will have a wide variety of tricks up his sleeve that will astonish you, so try not to blink.

The beginning part of his act typically consists of card tricks like making a card float in the air right out of the deck, or making the card appear on the other side of the room. Something even more mind-boggling is when he takes a real sword and impales himself right through the stomach. This special trick isn’t even performed inside a box, it looks like the sword is actually going through his body, and he’ll pull it straight out and be just fine. He can also make real animals and automobiles disappear and reappear at his command. His talents are endless.

Fire will accompany many of his acts, and you will find yourself cheering and applauding with amazement, but in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking that nothing you saw actually happened in real life. Once this thought crosses your mind, Mephisto will ask for a volunteer, and point directly at you. He tells the audience that he will make you disappear, how can you resist such an honor to be part of his legendary act? A spotlight will shine upon you, and the whole audience will join in to give you encouragement. Stand up, and get onstage where the real experience will begin.

You may have seen disappearing acts before, and you’ll probably think that a trapdoor will open, and then Mephisto’s assistants will help you back to your seat while everyone claps for you. Instead, you’ll feel the most intense rush of your life. Mephisto, at nearly seven feet tall, will loom over you, and inform the crowd that the trick is about to begin. He’ll have you tell everyone your name and what you do for a living, then he’ll have you stand atop a platform and wave his hands at you while chanting words of an ancient language. At a certain point during his speech, you’ll notice his eyes glowing an eerie purple, and before you can scream, a beam of white light will engulf you.

After the light comes the darkness, but it only lasts for a few moments before you’re flying through a wormhole at a very fast rate beyond your control. It will be quite a thrill, so don’t close your eyes. When you reach the end of the wormhole, the next thing you know, you’ll be soaring high in the air above the Stratosphere, and an invisible force will keep you up there. The feeling of the wind will make you realize that it’s not a dream. Don’t be afraid to swoop down over the Vegas Strip that glows in the night.

Enjoy this flying sensation, don’t even question it, just have fun while you can because it won’t go on for too long. Before you know it, you’ll be teleported inside a lion’s habitat at The Mirage. A lion will wake up and approach you, and you’ll run for your life, frantically searching for an exit, but there will be none. The ferocious beast will eventually have you cornered, and ease in for the kill. In fear, you’ll curl into a ball, shut your eyes and prepare for the end.

When you open your eyes again, you’ll be in a dark room with a wide opening at the top. You’ll realize all too quickly that you’re standing inside The Mirage’s volcano, and the show is about to start. You may scream loudly in hopes that someone will rescue you, but it will be too late. A ball of fire will come for you, and there will be no way to escape it. Just seconds from your impending doom, there will be another flash, and you’ll be back at your seat, sweating and trembling as you suddenly hear clapping from everyone in the theatre.

Mephisto knows your journey was intense, but he was there with you the entire time to guide you along your way. He welcomes you back and thanks you, then he bids the crowd farewell and vanishes. Converse with the crowd, if you wish, then make your way back through the dark lobby. As soon as you exit the hotel, there will be another flash, and then it will be morning, and you’ll be in your own hotel room with no memory of how you got there. That’s when the realization comes that the magic trick isn’t over… and it never will be.

Don’t bother looking for this place in the daytime, you won’t find it. If you look up Mephisto Centurion online, all that exists will be a single article titled: “Vegas hotel burns; Illusionist goes missing.” This article was written in 1960, only a few days before the famous El Rancho hotel burned down, which was a far bigger story. The hotel was called The Vegas Illusion, and Mephisto’s act was the main attraction. Little did the audience that attended know their entertainer was completely out of his mind.

He committed arson that night, burning the whole place down with the intent of taking himself with it. Many guests fled, but some did not make it out alive, and their remains were never found. Mephisto, real name Albert Torrance, worshipped an ancient god who promised him great power if he sacrificed his body, and he would do it in the most dramatic way possible with one show. Now he has abilities you can’t possibly comprehend, and he’ll be entertaining you for all eternity.

You can ask for help from the people around you, but they won’t hear you because, well, you’re dead. You died the second you got out of your car and stepped into a dark abyss that consumed you. There was never a hotel, there was never an audience, there was only HIM, and his beloved act. How do I know all of this? I am The Creator of the Magic Realm, I am amongst you, and I invite you to the show of a lifetime. I promise that my dear apprentice will make it all worthwhile.

Credit To – J. Stan Shocker

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Bedtime II: The Aftermath

December 24, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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After writing my account of an horrific experience I had as an 8 year old child, many have encouraged me to speak about the aftermath. I’ve been hesitant to do so as I have felt unsettled since I broke my silence. Sleep has not come easy to me these last few nights. My scepticism, however, remains resilient and as such I will tell of what I experienced in the other room.

This won’t be as long, as what occurred only took place over a few days but that was more than enough for me.

If you recall, after that unwelcome nightly visitor left me, I was moved into another bedroom a year later. This room was much larger than the previous one and had a warm and welcoming atmosphere to it. Some places feel bad. The room before felt foul, but this one did not.

Thankfully I was given a normal bed, the previous one was taken apart and thrown out (a welcome sight I might add). I loved my new room, I enjoyed the space for all of my toys, I was happy that the place was large enough to have my friends drop by, but most of all I was relieved to just be out of that uneasy, foreboding part of the house.

On the first night I slept more soundly than I had done for a long, long time. Of course I still moved my bed several feet from the wall. I told my mother that I and my friends liked to use the gap between the bed and wall as a hiding place when we were playing.

I awoke the next day feeling refreshed and relaxed. As I lay there watching some of my favourite cartoons on a small portable television, I noticed something odd. An old dark brown armchair which had always been there, sat at the foot of my bed, large and looming. It was frayed and worn, having been given to us as part of a suite by my cousin, but it had been used many times even by then. The chair itself was not unusual, but what unsettled me was that I could have sworn that before I had went to sleep, the chair had been facing away from the bed. Now, in the cold light of day, the chair was facing me. I assumed one of my parents had moved it while I slept, probably looking for something which had been left their before we switched rooms.

The second night was not as restful. It was around 11pm and I could hear my parent’s television from the other side of the house. The room was largely in darkness, the only illumination an orange hue drifting through my window from the street lights outside. I lay there content. Content, until I heard something quiet, yet unmistakable.

At first I thought it was the sound of my own breath exhaling and inhaling as I rested, but when I stopped for a moment, the quiet almost inaudible sound of someone else in the room breathing in and out did not cease. It continued, rhythmically and without pause.

I lay there in the darkness, but while I was still recovering from the terror instilled in me from my experiences in my previous bedroom, I was not entirely afraid. The breathing was so distant and unlike the wheezing I had heard during my encounter with that thing in the wall, that I remained calm, and even at that early age I believed that it was so subtle, that it was probably my imagination playing tricks on me.

Still, I took no chances, I stepped out of bed, walked across the room and turned the light on. The sound had gone. I stared at that old worn armchair facing the foot of my bed, which was within reaching distance of where I slept, and turned it around to face the other way. I had no real reason to do so, but something about it sitting there filled me with dread.

The third night I was not so fearless. Again, I awoke in darkness. Lying on my back I stared up at the ceiling which seemed to happily absorb the dim orange light from the street. The tree outside my window swayed in a calm breeze casting a strange collection of improbable moving shadows across the room.

I could hear nothing but the long and distant hum of the city’s night traffic. Just as I began to drift back into sleep, I heard it; a creak from the bottom of my bed as if something had moved, or shifted its weight on the floor.

I raised my head, peering through the darkness, but saw nothing strange. Everything sat as it had done throughout the day, nothing was out of place. I cast my gaze across the room; some comics on the floor, a few boxes which had still to be unpacked, the armchair unmoved still facing away from the bottom of my bed; there was nothing sinister here.

I was now fully awake, glancing over at my television considering whether or not to enjoy some late night TV. I’d have to keep the volume low of course as my older brother would hear it in the next room and no doubt tell me to switch it off.

Just as I sat up fully in bed, I heard it again. A low creak, accompanied by a sound. The sound of the slightest of movements. I looked again at the room. The dim orange shadows cast by the leaves hanging by my window now took on a more menacing form.

I still saw no reason to be afraid. I stared at the chair at the end of my bed and saw nothing unusual about it. It’s quite common for the mind to take a moment to fully come to terms with what it is seeing. It takes time to put the full horror of what is in front of you together, into a moment of cold, bitter realisation.

Yes, I was staring at that old worn armchair in the dark, but what I was also staring at was the person sitting in it!

In the dim light I could only see the outline of the back of its head, the rest obscured by the spine of the chair. I sat motionless, staring, praying, hoping that my eyes were being misled by their surroundings. The slow creak of movement as it shifted in its battered throne chilled me to my very core; this was no mere trick of the dark.

Then, it shifted onto its right side. I knew what it was doing, it was turning to look at me. It was difficult to make out, for even in that room it seemed darker than everything around it. I saw what looked like a collection of long fingers slip over the crest of the chair, and then another. The room was silent but for the sound of this thing shuffling in its seat, and the crash of my racing heart.

At first I could only make out the outline of its forehead, but then it began to rise up revealing two pin points of light in the dark recesses of its deeply set eye sockets .

It was staring at me.

I screamed, and within a moment my brother and mother came into the room, switching the light on, asking if I’d had another bad dream. I sat speechless, barely acknowledging them, staring intently at the now empty armchair.

I was only in that room for another few days before we suddenly moved. I saw nothing for the remaining nights, except for my last sleep in that room where I awoke to the warm air of something breathing into my ear. I jumped out of bed, turning the light on. The slow rhythmic breath of something unseen remained, louder than before. I spent the rest of that night on the couch in the living room.

Two years later I slept soundly in my bed, in our new house. There had been no other incidences, and I was sure I had left behind whatever strangeness had plagued me, in that little average suburban home.

I was, however, left one parting gift. My tormentors (and in my opinion the watcher in that armchair was a different entity to the thing in the elongated room) had one last surprise in store for me. Like an animal claiming its territory, I was not entirely out with their grasp.

For one last, terrifying moment I felt the presence of those, things. I lay their sound asleep, two years since those horrifying experiences. I was in the throws of a nightmare and suddenly, happily found myself awake, safe and sound in my bed. The room was darker than usual. I breathed a sigh of relief as one does when waking from a nightmare.

But the room was so dark.

I could see nothing at all, as if something had snuffed out the light. I chuckled to myself, realising that I must have pulled my blanket up and over my face while sleeping. The cotton blanket felt cool against me, but the air was a little too warm, almost stifling. Just as I was about to remove the blanket for some air, I heard it: For the last time I heard it.

The rhythmic breathing of the watcher at the end of my bed.

Fear gripped me, followed by anger and despair. Why could I not be left alone? I then did something most peculiar. I decided to speak to it. Perhaps this thing did not mean to harm me, perhaps it was unaware of the terror it had caused. Surely a young boy deserved some mercy?

As the breathing grew louder and closer, I began to cry. I could feel its presence on the other side of the blanket, its breath hanging over me like a stagnant wind.

Through the tears I uttered two words, words which surely would put an end to all of this:

“Please stop”.

The breathing began to change, it became more animated, quicker somehow. I could hear something shuffling next to me, standing close by. The breathing then moved, first back to the foot of my bed, and then slowly across the room, through the door, into the hallway, and then gone.

Half crying, half elated, I lay in the still darkness, my face still covered by the blanket. You may consider this a victory of some sort, but I do not. If those things were real, I know now beyond a shadow of a doubt that their intentions were not misconstrued, they were twisted, filled with malice. I would normally never use such a word to describe anything, but it’s as close to evil as I hope I ever come.

How do I know that? I’ll tell you how. Moments after that thing seemed to have left the house, something pressed forcefully down on top of me, pushing the blanket with great strength against my face. I could feel a large hand with long thin fingers wrapping the covers around my skull, its nails imprinted upon me like razor sharp ridges. I managed to slide down into the gap between the bed and the wall, quickly making my escape, clambering and screaming out of my room waking my family.

Make no mistake, that thing in the darkness tried to smother me, smother me to death.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse
Note: This story is part of a series. You can read the first installment here – Bedtime
Look forward to more installments being posted over the next few days!

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Spectrophobia

December 23, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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Mirrors surround us, human beings, through all our history. Even before the first mirror was invented, one could see his reflection in some body of water. Whatever happened in the world, the mirrors would reflect everything and everyone. They have retained the millions of faces including the ones that belonged to madmen, miscreants and murderers.

In the middle of the night, I woke up in cold sweat – for the third time in a week. I couldn’t sleep anymore thinking about the creature who wanted to hurt me and my children. I lived in a constant fear, and noone could help me, neither police, nor a psychoanalist. The most terrible thing was that I couldn’t tell anyone the whole truth, and if I did, I would end up in a lunatic asylum. They would take away my kids and find them another family, which would be obviously better than living with a schizophreniac mother.

It started about a year ago when my husband was found dead in a hotel where he stayed while going on a business trip to another town. He would go in such journeys quite often, and I never thought that something terrible could happen. I still remember that morning when I got a phone call, and that voice told me that gruesome news. They found him before a broken mirror with a shard of glass in his hand. His throat was slit, and there were some other cuts on his body. The police thought that he did it himself because the door was closed from inside. However, I knew he would never do this, would never leave us alone, and even if he wanted to commit suicide, why would he choose such a horrible way?

First months after his death I didn’t imagine that someone could threaten me. Of course, I was depressed, and my life turned much harder, but it was not untill that night when an unspeakable fear took over my mind. I woke up and went to the bathroom when I saw something strange while passing by a mirror in the hallway. There was something wrong with my reflection. It could be just some kind of optical illusion what is not unusual when you look at things in the dark. However, when I went closer to the mirror, I saw something that made me jump in my skin.

It was not me in the mirror – in fact, it looked like some grotesque version of me. The back was crooked a bit, and the neck was unnaturally elongated. Its ashen face looked like a mask copying some of my features, but distorting them in some eerie way. The thing in the mirror moved, and its movements didn’t seem human. Scared out of my wits, I still tried to think rationally, and I turned on the light.

The thing disappeared. In the mirror, I could see only my usual doppelganger, although it looked really frightened. I told myself that it had been an illusion, a weird play of light and darkness. But in the morning I remembered that I had seen, and I could no more approach any mirror. At least, I’d never allow myself to get in a dark room where would be anything where you can see your reflection.

Now imagine yourself having a job where you have to meet a lot of people, where you have to worry about the way you look, and the sheer idea of looking into a mirror makes hair on your neck stand up. The worst thing was that I was afraid not only for myself, but for my children too. I told them not to look in the mirror when nobody’s around. Of course, they laughed at me telling that I was crazy. What could I do? I didn’t know anything about that creature, and I wasn’t even sure that it was real. My rational self tried to persuade that it didn’t exist, that it couldn’t exist from any reasonable point of view. But I still couldn’t chase away an idea that behind this cold glass surface hid someone or something that expected me to make some fatal mistake.

One night my daughter went to her friend for a slumber party. There, they played some stupid old game, summoning Bloody Mary or some other boogeyman. My daughter had to go in a dark room and stand before a mirror. She remembered that I had forbidden this, and although she had never believed me, that time she hesitated for some reason. The other kids laughed at her saying that her mother was away, and she could do whatever she wanted. She agreed.

I still don’t know the exact details of what happened. Different people would tell me different things. At some point, they had heard her scream, so they came in and found her on the floor with several burns on her arms and shoulders. She was taken to a hospital where she would recover her consciousness only in the morning. Medics couldn’t give me any answers, just like the cops who investigated my husband’s death. With tears in my eyes, I took her home with no idea what had happened to her. All I knew, was that my daughter had changed. First, I thought that it was a consequence of a shock that she had survived, and her doctors told me the same. Then I started to understand that something indeed was wrong.

My daughter had never been too talkative, but after that accident she completely retired into herself. I would try to talk to her, but I would hear only insults. Later, I learned that she started to skip her classes, and at some point, one of our neighbors spotted her torturing animals. I didn’t understand what was going on with her. Some people proposed me to get her to a doctor, the others, probably inseriously, advised to call a priest who would exorcise an evil spirit from her. But I already suspected that this thing had nothing to do with an illness or religion. I started to think that something had killed my daughter, taken her form and replaced her.

This idea was absurd, and I knew that. At the same time, my fear kept growing worse. One night I caught her near my son’s room with a pair of scissors. I asked her what she wanted to do, but she only laughed. I took the scissors away and told her to go to sleep, but she attacked me and hit me. Her punch was strong and painful, especially for a girl of her age. Then, I left all my doubts, and a single thought started gnawing my mind.

My son was three years younger than her, and I was afraid for him. I decided that if this thing had taked one of my kids, I couldn’t allow it to hurt the other one. Only a terrible mother would leave her daughter alone, and only an even more terrible mother would let her son live under the same roof with a bloodthirsty creature. So, one day I took my son, and we drove to my mother. I’ve told him that we were only going to visit her for some days, and that his sister couldn’t join us only because she had to prepare for her exams. I shamelessly lied, but it was a white lie. So I thought.

We’ve spent some days in safety. I still couldn’t overcome my fear who got himself a new powerful ally – the guilt. Again and again, I would think that my daughter needed my help. That I was wrong, and there was no monster in the mirror, and that leaving my daughter was an unexcusable mistake. I needed to be sure that all that I had done was right.

One day, I walked to a mirror in the living room and looked at it. I’ve seen myself, yes, I’ve seen myself. I didn’t do it for nearly a year. My skin was creeping, and my hands were shaking – I felt something strange, something unusual. “I have nothing to fear, I have nothing to fear”, I whispered to myself.

I was about to be moved in tears. My daughter could be a victim of some nervous breakdown, maybe, it was my fault, as I didn’t pay enough attention to her. She was in such a difficult age! I hated that stupid irrational fear, and I hated myself for giving up to it. All I wanted was to go back, to find her wherever she was, and whatever she had gone through because of me, just to give her a hug, to tell her that no word can make her forgive me.

Suddenly, I remembered that the creature could appear only in the dark. This thought struck me. I needed to be sure. I needed to see myself in the night.

At night, I took a candle and lit it before the same mirror. I made sure that nobody could hear me and looked into the mirror. I looked myself into the eyes. My face was covered by shadows, my eyes were pitch black, but it was me. Always me. I stared upon my double, and I didn’t notice myself that I couldn’t move my sight away. I seemed to be hypnotized.

My reflection started to get more and more disfigured. Its neck stretched out, its back bent, and its teeth grew up so much that hey were sticking out of its mouth. I wanted to run, but I felt like I was paralyzed. I wanted to scream, but only a yelp could break out of my throat. The creature stretched out its arms, and I saw that the candle’s flame swayed.

Its fingers touched my arms, and a burn brought me back from that mezmerized state. I screamed and waved my arms, but its grip was too tight. Something pulled me forward, and I felt myself sinking in some large and empty space. I had no power over my body being carried into some distant light which I first took for my candle’s reflection. I faced the light, and it consumed me whole.

I was no more. Nothing was left of me. Now I can only think. Think about my destroyed life. Think about the horrible things that this creature wearing my face and speaking with my voice can do to my boy. But I have a hope, a hope that one day you’ll enter a dark room and look yourself into the eyes.

And then you’ll look into my eyes.

Credit To – CandleClock

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Miracle City II: Another Perspective

December 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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This is Private Blake Aaron of the U.S. Special Forces, I’m stationed outside the city of Los Angeles with what is left of my original squad and I am recording the events that I have just witnessed in the hopes that someone finds this report if we don’t make it out of here. This report itself will be dedicated to my fallen comrades and my big brother Dan Aaron, who I suspect is dead. Dan was a news reporter doing a story on the very event I’m going to talk about before he was attacked. We are dealing with dangerous beings that possess powers no military force could have prepared for because they’re not of this world. The information on these attackers is said to be classified, but let’s face it, no one knows what the fuck they are.

My experience started after my team was scrambled at sundown and sent to L.A. after a supposed riot broke out, and we were to take control. A large S.W.A.T. team had been sent in before us, and these “rioters” had overwhelmed them, and it was our job to save the day. We expected to get the situation under control in no time, but when we arrived at the scene by nightfall, the whole place had already been transformed into a chaotic battleground after only a few hours. Buildings and cars were on fire, there was barely anything left of the S.W.A.T. team, and there were tons of citizens out on the street yelling and screaming. Our first instincts told us to get those people to safety, so we tried to establish order, but we soon found out that the people on the streets were actually our enemies.

My squad and I all of a sudden started to hear shouting from people who had barricaded themselves into the nearby buildings, and we realized they were warnings, saying that the seemingly ordinary people outside were evil, and that we should engage them. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of confusion, but that’s when we looked around and noticed the remains of the squad that went in before us. It had been a riot-control team, and riot-shields, helmets and pieces of body armor littered the streets. Some massive force had to have done this, and the only suspects around were harmless-looking citizens.

We all thought we’d show up on the scene guns blazing, but we just stood there with no plan. Suddenly, shots were fired into the crowd from three surviving squad members that had been hiding behind an over-turned van. Since they were on riot-control, the bullets in their guns were rubber, so the crowd wasn’t too affected. Then I saw a frail, old woman walk up to the three troopers, open her mouth and let out the worst noise I’ve ever heard, followed by a blast of energy that shot out of her body and reduced them to ash. Our team leader, Frank Hobsen, then gave the command to open-fire before he too was vaporized by another member of the crowd.

I held down the trigger on my machine-gun and instinctively grabbed a riot-shield as I ran for cover while more blasts of energy came my way. Four more members of my squad were gone in seconds, and the rest of us took cover behind wrecked vehicles of all kinds. Tobey Gearhart, my squad’s second-in-command, immediately radioed for back-up, and emphasized that tanks and helicopters were needed. The rest of us took shots at the crowd, and although some of them were going down, it didn’t seem to do much good because more of them were coming from a portal that had opened up far off in the distance. To make matters worse, the ones that had been shot started to get back up, and although it was hard to see through all the smoke from the nearby fires, they didn’t seem to have any bullet-wounds.

You read correctly, these living weapons came from a portal that just opened up without warning, that’s the only way I can describe the phenomenon. The eerie light that shoots out of their eyes and mouth would be astonishing if it wasn’t so terrifying, it’s a very interesting method of attack that simply should not be possible. What’s even more interesting is their appearance as human beings, and they must have been studying us for a very long time to mimic us so well. There’s another thing about their appearance that’s even harder to believe.

I was blindly shooting at these things, pointing my gun through the car window that I was hiding behind, but then I decided to look up over the car, and that’s when I saw the face… of my wife. Alisa Aaron, the woman I’ve been married to for six years, was standing amongst the crowd of invaders, screaming my name and crying with joy. I released the trigger, and so did two others when they also saw people they recognized in the crowd. Her presence in the battle-zone was impossible, but for some reason my mind didn’t even question it. The urge to drop my gun and run over to her was almost too much to resist.

I would have given in to this urge if I hadn’t noticed that the faces of the other people were constantly changing depending on who they were looking at. It then became all too clear that their plan was to beat us by getting into our minds and playing with our emotions through shape-shifting. I remember calling out, “It’s a trick, they’re not our loved ones!” to my comrades before putting a hole in my wife’s head, who just returned fire in my direction moments later. Despite this, some of my comrades still refused to fight, one of them being none other than Tobey himself, the toughest bastard I’d ever known who surpassed me in every military training session I could think of. The guy literally stood up, dropped his gun, and abandoned us because his emotions would no longer allow him to shoot at people that looked like those he cared about.

With two of our leaders gone, I volunteered to become the new team leader, even though I knew we would be fighting a losing battle. I ordered my men to fall back, and by doing so I could not only get them to a safer place, but I was also expecting the evil crowd to follow us so all the people hiding in the buildings could sneak out and possibly escape the city. My plan seemed to work, but that also meant we had to run like hell as energy blasts were fired at us. Those things began to chase us down the street, and they made horrible screeching noises as they did so, which were unbearable to listen to. One team member couldn’t stand the noise any longer, and he covered his ears and fell onto his knees, making him an easy target who was killed quickly.

I believe the man’s name was Jerald, the youngest of the group who was very recently added to my squad, and seeing his skin burn away and bones disintegrate made me think just how hopeless our struggle was. All I could do then was continue to flee for my life, not knowing how many of my teammates were still with me. We briefly hid behind a diner to return fire, and as I shot at the killers some more, I gazed further back past the crowd to see a group of survivors leaving their building and running to safety. A couple of them, however, were not so lucky, as they fell for the same trick I almost did. Several beams of the eerie light shot the diner, setting it ablaze, so I gave the orders to keep moving as the armies of the strange beings hunted us.

We ran down the doomed streets as fast as our legs could carry us, and nearly got ran over by some vehicles heading far away from Los Angeles. It was around that time that we heard the buzzing of helicopters, and the rumbling of several tanks that were headed our way. Once the tanks became more visible, we ran into the nearest alleyway out of their line of fire. One chopper flew over our heads, shined a light down on us, then landed away from where the invaders were. There was nothing more we could do, we had to board the helicopter and leave.

As we ran for the chopper, we heard loud booms behind us that shook the ground hard. Once we were in the air, I caught a glimpse of the battle scene that I’ll never forget. Dozens of invaders blasted a tank all at once, causing it to melt. The other tanks fired many shots that sent the enemies flying back, and bullets rained down upon them from the other helicopters. I never got to see if those that were hit stood back up, but I’m sure at least some of them are finally dead, assuming they’re able to die at all.

The view from the chopper of the dark city below was haunting, to say the least. Nearly all the lights were out in every building, with only the glowing of the fires to illuminate it. An evacuation was underway, and all exits leading away from the city were clogged with cars. Our pilot reported back to base that he could spot more armies of the invaders marching towards the nearby neighborhood. There were other teams standing by to help with the evacuation, and we would need all the help available to us to get citizens far away from the extermination squads that were in full force.

We were flown to a camp that had recently been set up in an area overlooking the city, with plenty of vantage points in case our enemies tried a sneak attack. This camp is where I’ll be sleeping tonight, and I’ve been told to stay put and wait for further instructions from the people now in charge. The boys and I only have one TV set up, and I’ve been watching reports from newscasters on this disaster from literally all over the world, I shit you not. It’s on one of these reports that I heard my brother’s last words. One of those things got into the building where he was hiding, and from experience I know that you can’t survive if they get too close.

There’s something I’ve been trying to talk to people about, but they won’t listen to me, so I’ll just put it down right now: I know what these beings really look like. When one of them invades your mind and tries to make you lower your defenses, you get brief flashes of their true face. It must be like your minds are becoming one. Their skin has a metallic silver shine, their eyes are large and diamond-shaped, and they have razor-sharp teeth and no noses. The weirdest part of them is their eyes because they’re vertical, and that image will never leave my memory.

I must say that there’s something very strange about the people we’re now taking orders from, the first thing being that they don’t seem to be with the military. There are troops marching around with black armor like Darth Vader, and they won’t even make eye-contact with me. Someone keeps radioing in about what sounded like an unsuccessful attempt at capturing one of the invaders. So far, I’ve at least been able to talk to Agent Matthews, the person who seems to be running this operation. He informed me that my men and I were relieved of our duties for the time being, but to stand by anyway.

Agent Matthews is a shady character, and I get the feeling he knows something the rest of us don’t. There’s an odd calmness about him, even though we’re at the brink of an apocalypse. He and his men were quick to respond, almost as if they knew these invaders were coming, and that makes me want to ask more questions, but I know that will be frowned upon. I’m not here to have questions answered, I’m here to fight when told to because I’m just a grunt… although because of my recent actions, there’s talk that my status as a Special Forces operative might change soon. That doesn’t matter much, however, not after the mass-exterminations of humans everywhere.

One more thing I’ll mention about Matthews is that he’s constantly on his cell-phone with someone he keeps referring to as “Master”. I’ve been in the military for a long time, and I haven’t heard the word “master” uttered as a military term. Obviously there’s someone far up the chain who put this operation in Matthews’ hands, and to fuck it up would lead to a harsh punishment. The only time the guy ever seems to get anxious is when he’s on the phone receiving orders. Maybe someday I’ll get to actually meet this mysterious person, because I’d sure like to know who I’ll be fighting for.

You can bet I’ll be sleeping with my machine-gun tonight, even though I have the feeling that I’ll wake up dead. Whatever traveled to our planet is here to stay, and it won’t be easy to stop them when they already know all of our weaknesses. If I don’t make it through this nightmare, and someone happens to stumble upon this report, please find a way to let my wife Alisa and my son Colton know that I fought my damn hardest to save what’s left of this world.

Credit To – J. Stan Shocker

Note: If you liked this, please read the original story – Miracle City

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