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Anubis

April 30, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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As a student majoring in archeology it was a thrill to go to other countries and study artifacts of that culture. My favorite has always been Egypt. Their mythology was more primal compared to any other mythology, with the gods having heads of animals. The ancient Egyptians were a strong believers of life after death. The afterlife played an important role in the people lives. So when I’ve received a letter from Elaina Fletcher, a woman who specializes in Egyptians artifacts that I was accepted to join her travel to Egypt at the Valley of the Kings, a very popular archeologic sit, I was overjoyed. I’ve booked my flight from Boston to Egypt and met with Elaina at the airport the next day.

The flight went smoothly enough, I slept during most of it. The person that met with us at the airport was the governor. I couldn’t remember his name, though I remember it was hard to pronounce. The man had a dozen cops with him, he said it was for our protection. I wondered who would hate us so much that he would need so many cops with him, but then I remembered that the locals hated foreigners “defiling” their ancestors’ graves. The drive to the Valley was about an hour. The long flight made me restless, I was eager to explore the most famous site, where only kings and pharaohs were buried.

We arrived to the West Valley at midafternoon. The Valley was surrounded by cliffs. The place was barren, there was only one road that led to the Valley. Two police officers were assigned for us, to prevent any grave robbers or any locals from hurting us. They were the two most fluent in English.

“We will arrive back here by sundown,” the governor announced.

He shook Elaina’s hand. His driver shut the door after he entered the car. One police car took the lead, followed by the governor’s black car with the other police car trailing behind. The halls had many ancient Egyptians painting, mostly dedicated to the afterlife. I saw the people burying their rulers, mummifying them, and wrapping them before placing them in their sarcophagus with extravagant jewels and gold being placed in with them.

They believed that they needed to pay to get to the underworld. I’ve trailed behind taking pictures of every artwork I come across. I was so focus on the walls that I nearly bumped into one of the cops who stopped so suddenly. I peered around him and saw Elaina agitated.

“Is something wrong?” I ask as I came beside her.

She shook her head, “This can’t be right.”

I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I looked ahead and saw an empty square chamber. Every part of the wall had paintings mostly with Anubis, god of the dead. This god was always portrayed with a Jackal head and a human body. Many showed him preparing and mummifying the dead, others showed him leading the dead through the underworld while the tortured souls were trying to grab him. There was one painting in particular that fascinated me. It was up ahead and took up the entire wall. Osiris was sitting on his throne a large double scale was between him and Anubis with the feather of truth and justice on one of the pans. A man was placing his heart on the empty pan. If the feather is heavier than the heart than they will join Osiris in the underworld. If the heart is heavier than it will be eaten by Ammit the devourer, a little creature that only eats the hearts of evil intent. Many may find the meaning behind the scene disturbing, but it was secretly one of my favorites. Just to see that there may still not be an escape even after death for those with evil deeds.

The picture seem to have made the cops anxious to leave because they didn’t enter the room. Their eyes were averted away from the pictures. My eyes left the painting and that’s when I notice what caused Elaina’s frustration. The room was empty no mummies or their sarcophagi.

“Maybe we should look somewhere else,” I commented.

She walked up to the painting with the scale, “I should have known this trip would be a waste.”

“Come on, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over this. This Valley had been excavated in the 1800s…”

“Do you know how hard it is to find any unique artifacts in the modern world?”

I wasn’t sure if she was asking me or just speaking in general. I decided to think the former and shook my head.

“Ancient Egypt is starting to become overrated… I just thought this would be my big break. Finding something, anything would be better than going back with nothing.”

She was starting to sound depressed, “This Valley is big enough. We just need to look somewhere else.” I was trying to sound upbeat, not sure if it had work. She was quiet for a while, I just stood by her awkwardly.

“We better move.”

We went to leave when we heard a low grating sound. We both stopped and turned. I didn’t realize at the time but my hand had touched the double scale. One of its bricks was pushed in where my hand was. I quickly removed it and saw that where the scale once was, was now a passageway. Elaina was shocked as well. A stairwell led down where we only saw darkness. Nobody could have possibly known about this.

“Miss, you shouldn’t go down there. Wait until I call for backup,” One of the cops order.

“It will be too late by then. We have to leave here by sundown. This will be quick,” Elaina said.

The two cops looked uncertain, “One of us will go with you, just to make sure it’s safe,” The first cop said.

Elaina didn’t bother answering before taking out her flashlight and headed down the steps. I did the same. The second cop who was younger than the first, but taller followed behind. One hand was at his holster and the other was holding his flashlight.

The air was cool down here and the smell of musk was pungent in the air. I was amazed at how far down we went. It felt like we were being swallowed by a bottomless pit. What met us below was a small room, with several hallways branching out from it.

“Miss, we shouldn’t go much further than this,” the cop said nervously.

Elaina surveyed the room, “We are already here. We will check one hall and come back tomorrow.” Without waiting for a response she went to the furthest left hall.

The walk became a little disoriented. We discovered that all the halls were connected which made knowing our direction confusing. I felt like we entered the same halls a few times. Everything looked the same so it was hard to tell. We later decided it was easier to leave a mark on the walls to make it easier to navigate. It worked. We backtracked a few times until we saw a small room with paintings on the wall. These were the only paintings we’ve seen down here, but were different from the ones I’ve seen in my classes. Anubis was in all of them. People were running from him. Fear were in their expressions. Anubis was sinister I never saw a painting like this. One showed Anubis with glowing green eyes, mist coming from them and his open mouth. His hand was on a man’s throat. My eyes caught on something below the painting, I pointed my flashlight towards it.

“Hey what is this?” I asked as I stared at the hieroglyphic.

Elaina came beside me, “He who is in the place of embalming.” She read out loud.

“Ma’am we need to leave now,” the cop was anxious and I understood why.

Beside the disturbing paintings was a life size statue of Anubis standing like he was on guard by a human shaped sarcophagus. It was carved, decorated, and painted to look like a human. It was standing on a pedestal.

“Not just yet,” Elaina’s eyes focused on the sarcophagus. She gently touched its surface.

My eyes focused back on the statue that looked so real. It was 6ft high and was made of onyx. He held a scepter in his left hand. Gold bracelets were on his wrists and biceps and he wore gold anklets as well. A gold plaited kilt was wrapped around his waist. His chest was bared. The artist who made him took special care on the details. I could easily see the defined muscles. A Nemes was on his head, which pharaohs had worn. This one however had green stripes painted on the gold headpiece. My fingers grazed the smooth surface of Anubis’s snout. He looked calm, regal even. Emeralds were placed for eyes. The statue of Anubis was unquestionable an expensive piece.

“Be careful. We don’t want to damage any of these valuables,” Elaina called out as she started to study the pedestal.

She pressed on the front and the front board of the pedestal popped open. There was a hidden compartment. My interest peeked as I saw her take out a canopic jar, the cork was a jackal head. Three more canopic jars were in the compartment; a human, baboon, and falcon. The canopic jars represents protective spirits for the Egyptians.

“Ma’am we should leave,” the cop said, staring at the statue of Anubis anxiously as if he will spring to life.

Elaina took the jars and gently put them in her bags, “Tomorrow we will need help to get the statue and sarcophagus out.”

“The governor will send some help with you tomorrow,” the cop assured.

Elaina stood up, “We will discuss this once we are out of here.”

Finding our way back was easier than finding that chamber. We were almost there when a noise stopped us.

“What was that?” I ask as I aimed my flashlight behind me. I saw nothing, but darkness.

“We’ve been down here too long. It could have been a loose rock or water leaking through,” Elaina reasoned.

The sound came again, “It sounds like footsteps.”

I aimed my flashlight at the darkness again. What I saw caught my breath. Coming towards us was Anubis, the same statue we saw in the room. His pace was slow, though his footsteps resonated through the hall. His emerald eyes were now mist. His onyx skin was fur, green mist was also coming out of his mouth as he snarled. He looked like that painting. Fear and astonishment had me rooted to my spot. I heard my rapid heartbeat as he slowly walked closer. A gunshot brought me back. Anubis wasn’t fazed by it. He still walked with the same pace.

“R-Run!” The cop shouted.

I didn’t need to be told twice. I wasn’t sure if Elaina followed behind and I didn’t bother looking back. I knew it was a selfish thing, but life preservation was strong in me. I ran and ran. Breathing was becoming hard, I had to stop to catch my breath. I leaned against the wall. My whole body was shaking. What the hell just happened? What I saw could not have been humanely possible. The sound of running footsteps brought me back. I should not relax until I’m out of this hellhole. I evened my breathing and walked slowly, trying not to be heard. The gunshots stopped long ago. I didn’t even want to think about what happened to the cop. I stopped in a small room that looked like the one we’ve entered. I hope it was the same one. The problem was I didn’t know which direction would lead out. The footsteps grew closer. I went to run in any direction when I saw Elaina entering from a different hall.

“You’re alive?” She seemed more shocked than relieved to see me.

All I did was nod, “Do you know which way is the right way?”

“If I knew that I wouldn’t still be here.”

I didn’t let her remark bother me as I focused on each possible exit. Elaina was looking at all tunnels, her hands were sliding against the walls, trying to find anything similar that can guide us out. I heard a whistle, the sound of wind.

“Down this way!” I pointed to where I’ve heard the wind.

I ran not waiting to see if Elaina followed me. I heard Elaina fall. I stopped and looked behind me as I saw her hurriedly stood up. She grabbed my arm while she ran passed me. The momentum made me drop my flashlight. There was no time to go back for it. I had to depend on her to guide us out. She stopped so suddenly I crash into her. Annoyed and frightened I was going to ask her why she stopped, when I saw what was ahead of us. Anubis was in front of us. How did he get to us so fast? There was another tunnel to my right and I went to run for it but was held in place by Elaina’s iron grip. I could feel her shaking. I tried to pry her off.

“Please let go of me,” I pleaded with her.

I could see it in her eyes. The look of surrender. She gave up trying to escape. Anubis slowly walked to us. His green mist eyes were staring at her. His free hand grabbed her throat which made her release my wrist. I fell backward knocking the breath out of me. I watched in horror as I saw him lift her up in the air. She was gasping for breath. Anubis’s mouth opened wide and green mist flowed freely out surrounding her. There was no coherent thought as I saw her skin start to pale as it started to sink in and sag. Her clothes started to sag around her as I slowly started to see every bone in her body. Her body was deteriorating while she was alive. Her scream was the worst I have ever heard. It echoed off the walls making the sound almost deafening.

My body moved before I had time to think and I ran in the tunnel as tears streamed down my eyes. Will I suffer the same fate? I felt a cool breeze up ahead, spiking my adrenaline. The faded light up ahead was my only guide. My foot caught on something and I fell forward hard. My chin slammed against the floor. The numbing pain blurred my vision. My mouth was filled with blood. I had bit my tongue. I spit the thick substance out as I got up. A sharp pain pierced my right hand and I looked down to see a piece of stick piercing the palm of my hand. I quickly took it out. I got up when my foot stepped on something causing a loud snap. I removed my foot and realized it was a human bone. I quickly scanned the area and realized this whole hall was covered with human bones. Skulls looked like they were all grinning at me like they knew of my doom. I heard those heavy footsteps again. He was close. I stopped looking at the bones and ran.

The light grew brighter. I’ve never seen such a more beautiful sight in my life. My happiness quickly faded when I saw the path blocked by a pile of rocks. The only opening was where a small stream of light filtered in. His footsteps were getting closer and his growl became louder. I didn’t think and I took hold of a medium size rock that was loose. I had to be careful because one small mistake could cause a collapse leading to my death. The more rocks I took out, the more light that entered. I was scared to look, but had to. I turned and saw two small green mists. His eyes. He was far and his steps were slow and deliberate, like he already knew he won. I quickly went back to my task. At this point, the opening seem big enough for my thin body. I feared that if I moved any more rocks everything would collapse and I would be trapped. I glanced behind me and saw he was quickly closing the distance. I had no choice. I unstrapped my backpack and I undress as quickly as possible until I was just wearing briefs.

Rocks dug into my skin as I crawled through the small opening. I felt it splitting my skin as I slowly made it out. Before I was clear I felt a strong iron grip on my right ankle, I looked behind me and saw his claws digging into my skin. I fought for leverage. My hands braced against the rock pile as my free leg made it out, I was able to use my free leg as an extra boost. My leg almost made it out as I saw his hand that was once fur turn to mist as the sunlight hit it. We were in there all night. His hand quickly let go. I tumbled forward.

————————–
I shot out of bed breathing heavily. I scanned my surroundings quickly and realized I was in my dorm room. My roommate Chris was by my bed looking concerned.

“You’re awake. I was starting to worry.”

“What happened?” The confusion overwhelmed me.

“You were shaking and mumbling in your sleep. I couldn’t wake you. I almost called the nurse.”

“What’s today?”

Chris gave me a look of disbelief, “Don’t you remember? Today is the day of your internship. You couldn’t stop talking about it.”

I tossed the sheets and got up. I went over to my desk and saw the acceptance letter from Elaina Fletcher. I nervously read the letter. The more I read the more I couldn’t stop shaking. This was the letter that would take me to Egypt. I crumbled the letter and noticed a small piece of paper hidden under the letter. I tossed the letter and took the paper.

“Hey Oliver are you alright?”

I ignored my roommate as I looked at the hieroglyphics written on the paper. Right below it was an English translation: ‘Those that disturb the resting place will be punished by its protector of the underworld.’

“Do you know who sent this?” I ask Chris as I handed him the piece of paper.

He shook his head, “No, I got back pretty late.”

This was some kind of warning, one to acknowledge. I felt a throbbing in my leg. Fear rise in me, I was scared to look. I slowly lifted my sweatpants and was shocked to see right there in the same area were the claw marks, the one Anubis had given me.

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The Swamp

April 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It has been exactly a year now since the incident happened… The day that my younger brother, John was killed. I have tried and tried to forget about what happened but it is still burned in my mind. So I know this is rather a cliché but I am recording this and putting it online in hopes that sharing what happened for all to hear will bring me solace.

My brother and I had a very strong bond, beyond what most siblings have because of our isolation from civilization in southern Louisiana. We were raised by our mother who not only assumed the additional position of a father but as our teacher due to the distance from the nearest school, we were forced to be home-schooled. Our father disappeared when we were very young; he left one day and never returned, our mom says he left her for a younger woman but I am pretty sure, now, that that isn’t true.

Last year today, on my brother’s 17th birthday, we decided to take the canoe out through the swamp in hopes of finding an Alligator that we could shoot. John and I always loved hunting Alligators, it is so fulfilling to bag a big gator and get to feed the family. Well, I have wondered off topic; so we were out on the canoe, rowing around. The cold, salty sea air met the hot, humid swamp air, creating a very interesting atmosphere. We had already in past adventures scouted a 3-mile radius around the house but we were determined to reach farther than ever.

Rowing in a canoe isn’t the fastest means of transportation but it works; we had gotten very good at swerving around the protruding stumps, trees, and the occasional rock that poked out of the murky, green water. The sudden rush of water knocked us out of our trance; it was an alligator! The time we had been waiting for was right there! My brother rowed closer as I grabbed my 45. revolver. The alligator wasn’t affected by us, it continued to swim north. The sun was setting as my brother gazed out towards the sea; his voice trailed off. I looked to see what he was looking at and almost couldn’t believe what I saw! Standing on a small island were two people, who appeared to be blankly staring at us-mouths agape. And in between them was a glowing object that neither of us could make out what it was. “Hey!” I yelled to the two men. Strangely there was no response, they didn’t even move, blink, shift, or anything! “Let’s get out of here.” I said to John but he didn’t reply. The canoe was drifting and the only change by the people on the island was their heads gradually turning to keep their blank stares on us. “Hey, let’s go!” I spoke up. He stared blankly back at the small island. “John!” I yelled but again, no response.

I was about to start paddling but john unexpectedly leaped out of the canoe and into the murky water. “What are you doing?” I asked him as he swam, then walked, to the island. Before he was out of the water, however, I noticed something. It appeared to be black hair emerging from the sea which was followed by the top of a head, then what I was expecting to be a person but that’s where I went wrong… Walking out of the ocean was something I had never seen before; it was tall- probably seven or eight feet, it had long black hair, its black eyes looked foggy due to what was most likely a film over them. They slanted down its face at an angle. Its face was narrow and sharp like it had been starved. This absolutely terrified me! What are you supposed to do when you see something like that? Anyways! The creature walked up the island and the two people shot one last look at me; this one was different, though- I saw tears and absolute fear suppressed by their blank stares, it was like their human instinct were trying to prevail over whatever trance they were in but that was to no avail, the creature grabbed both the men, one in each arm and turned around, returning to the ocean. I saw bubbles emerging for a little bit when their heads became submerged.

Now I am sure you don’t believe me, but I saw what I saw! If someone had told me this story, I wouldn’t have believed them either. I yelled to John; “we need to get out of here, now!” and his response is still unforgettable… His head slowly turned around as he gave me a blank stare then turned back and approached the glowing object which flashed a red color then returned to its white shine. “John!” I cried but he just stared at me… I fled, I went home and told my mom all about it but she didn’t believe me, she kept telling me to tell her the truth about what happened but it was and still IS the truth… you have to believe me…

After insisting it as the truth, she finally gave in and left to go find the elusive glowing item on the island, she never returned… I have been living by myself for the past year, I just wanted to get the story out.

I am starting to worry, however, I think the light is getting closer because at night if I look just at the right angle, through the trees I can see what appears to be a faint light. I am tired of living in fear, I am going to submit this now, go check out the light, then I’ll update this when I know the truth, goodbye for now.

The OP has also submitted their own video reading of the story, embedded below. If the video does not display for you, please click the link to view it on its YouTube page.

The Swamp by: CreepyQuantum

Credit: CreepyQuantum

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The Mirror

January 19, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I touched the button in the middle of the screen, and a quick blue flash filled the room.

I turned my phone’s screen towards me, and looked at the photo I had just taken. I was smiling, and my new fluffy kitten was nestled into my arm, looking off to one side. I gently placed her onto the bed, where she sat down and curled a thick white tail around delicate black paws and blinked at me slowly with bright green eyes.

She had been the only female in the litter, and instead of being covered in lots of black patches like her siblings, she only had one black patch on her cheek and four matching black paws. Today I was able to bring her home, and was taking lots of pictures to remember the day.

On the bedside table was a little red collar with a bell. I picked it up, tore off the price tag, and fastened it around her neck. I walked over to the bed, and sat as she wandered curiously around the room, and eventually towards the old antique mirror in the corner of the room. I watched amused as she curiously sniffed at her reflection, fogging up the glass briefly with each breath.
I began scrolling through my recent photos, deleting those I was unhappy with.

Meanwhile my tiny cat had begun growling at the mirror, fluffing herself up to twice her size, baring her teeth. Her reflection mimicked her, hissing and spitting right back. I laughed as I watched her reach out a paw to strike at the glass, and then bounce backwards. She made one last snarl at the mirror, before turning and fleeing under the bed. “Silly kitty” I muttered
I sat up to go retrieve her from under the bed, when I noticed a white flash by the mirror.

The kitten’s reflection was still there, frozen in a snarl, staring directly into the room. It slowly reached out one paw, and rested its pink pads on the other side of the glass before it rippled like water. The kitten pressed harder, and the reflection, limb by limb, crawled out of the mirror and stepped delicately, paw by paw into my room. It briefly glanced at me, before it focused its attention under the bed and darted under.
High pitched squealing echoed around the room, and two snarling balls of fur, locked together, rolled out from under the bed, tufts of white fur flying, two collar bells tinkling. One of them started to scrabble away, but the other pounced onto its back, and hammered with its hind paws, causing the pinned Kitten to wail in agony. Teeth dug into her neck, and paws flailed as one of the cats dragged the other by the scruff towards the mirror in the corner. I sat, stunned, positive I was hallucinating.

The two fighting cats sprang apart briefly, and stood panting, tails flicking, fur bristling, staring each other down. I looked from one to the other, trying to work out which cat was which… I desperately tried to remember which side she had her black patch on… One had a black patch on its left cheek, the other on its right. Perfectly mirrored. I panicked, and grabbed my phone, fumbling to turn unlock the screen and see the photos. The most recent picture I had taken popped up, a white kitten in my arms with a black patch on its right cheek. I put my phone down, and crept towards the two cats, on the verge of spring at each other again, and grabbed the kitten with the patch on its left. It’s squirmed and struggled in my arms, sinking its teeth into my skin, and shredding my arm with its thorn sharp claws. I pressed it against the glass as hard as I could. Like water, the glass rippled and the imposter plopped to the carpet on the other side of the glass. It crouched, ready to jump back out.

Terrified, I kicked the mirror as hard as I could and left a huge crack running jagged from bottom to top. My own reflection was mirroring my actions. I kicked again and again until shards of glass fell out of the frame and rained onto the carpet. Breathing heavily, I looked back at my kitten, who was staring wide eyed at me. I scooped her up, and carried her to the bed, cuddling her as she trembled. As I was about to place her down, I noticed my phone still lit up with the picture of us. And my stomach flipped as I spotted the poster in the background had the words written backwards. I had used my phone’s front camera and it snapped mirror images…

Credit: Sophie Norris

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Mountain Magic

December 6, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Coming from the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia, where driving to town was a big to-do, I realized at a young age that people tend to lean toward the supernatural for things that they cannot understand. The women in my family were particularly guilty of this kind of superstition – the kind that only festers among neighbors and families deep in the hollers and bottoms of the mountains.

My aunt was a self-proclaimed water witch. She would find a large, forked branch of a specific kind of tree – I can’t remember which kind – and walk out into people’s fields and wooded properties until the end of the tree branch would suddenly gravitate toward the ground, indicating that there was a natural underground spring below her feet. My mother would claim that there were always more people in the house than she could see, but couldn’t explain herself much further but to say, “I just feel them.” My grandmother used to speak of shadows in the corners of her eyes and keys that had been misplaced and replaced to their original spots, piles of small change on windowsills, and the smell of something burning during late summer nights when the stove and heat were off. My great grandmother used to pour salt just inside the threshold of her front door before going to bed each night, and once when I watched her performing her bedtime ritual with what I could only assume to be absolute incredulity on my face, her only response was, “Just in case.”
I became contemptuous of this voodoo-like behavior, and in my mind, I dubbed it “Mountain Magic.” Swinging wedding rings over pregnant bellies and bodily shivers indicating someone had just walked across my grave somewhere – it all seemed so silly to me. I am a very analytical person, and I could make sense of none of these tales, so I dismissed them. And yet, as I reflect on and discuss with loved ones outside of the women in my family the happenings of my life that have come to seem so normal to me, I realize that maybe the things that I have experienced aren’t as normal as I once thought.

My mother used to call me “gifted,” but not in the academically-accelerated sense of the word. I was not really good at math or a quick reader; she used the term to describe what I’ve come to know through some quick Googling as a “highly sensitive person,” or HSP. HSPs, according to my research, are considered to be more prone to experiencing or causing paranormal activity because, through some atypical biological and psychological development, they are more in-tune with the paranormal world. I also read that about 15 to 20 percent of people can be considered highly sensitive and that it is also hereditary. I can’t say that I’m a firm believer yet, but I have experienced some things that I have been unable to explain, and my husband has encouraged me to write them down. So here’s the first one I can remember. It’s a little unrelated to Mountain Magic as I have defined it, but it was the first of many more experiences in my life, and I find that the beginning is usually the best place to start.

My family lived in New Jersey. My father was in the Army and was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, which is no longer in existence, I don’t think. We lived on Goslin Avenue – a picture of a street, really. Looking back, it reminds me of Maycomb in To Kill A Mockingbird. I was very young when we lived there; I attended kindergarten through second grade and extremely extroverted.

One afternoon after school, a bunch of us went over to my friend Kerry’s house, which was about three or four houses down from mine. Earlier that day, Kerry had informed us that she had a miniature pool table in her basement, so we all decided that’s where we’d be spending that afternoon. I was the first to arrive and had never been inside her house before. Upon entry, I immediately knew why. Kerry lived with her dad who, to me, seemed a million years old. It was dark and cramped in her house, and exceptionally warm, with a huge, glowing fish tank in the living room filled with giant tropical fish crammed in, swimming all over each other. And the entire house smelled like that fish tank. As we walked through the living room to the kitchen, her face turned a slight shade of red, embarrassed, and I quickly removed whatever dumbstruck look I had to avoid any awkwardness.

After the group all showed up, we made our way down the stairs and into the basement. We saw the pool table in the middle of the floor and quickly took up residence in the patio chairs, boxes, washer and dryer – any place that we could find a seat – and claimed our spots for seatbacks. After growing bored of miniature pool and having caught up on all the things that happened at school that day, we eventually ran out of steam and became restless. The only solution at that point, as was logical to us and our childish minds, was to play Truth or Dare. I remember actively avoiding eye contact and communication with the group at that point because I absolutely loathed that game. Why would I want to subject myself to discomfort just because someone else said I “had to”? The premise was dumb, and the kids that thrived on it were dumb too, at least in my mind.

So after a few rounds of Truth or Dare and a good thirty minutes of silence on my part, I was unamused and restless, trying to think of an excuse to go home. My mom hadn’t called, dinner wasn’t ready, my brother was at his friend’s house. . . I was out of ideas. So I sat there discontent for a few more minutes, and again the conversation died down and we began to pick at our fingernails. The room went silent.

Something caught my eye.

My head shot up just in time to see one girl in our group directly across from me, on the other side of the room and long side of the pool table, frozen in fear, her eyes wide in disbelief as she stared at what I thought was right at me. I started to say something – I don’t know what; probably mocking the look on her face because that was my MO at the time – but my own voice caught in my throat as the atmosphere quickly changed from lighthearted to confused. I glanced around at everyone else to see them all staring at the green felt of the mini pool table. I followed suit, wondering why everyone became so solemn so quickly.

A ball on the table had begun to spin in place. I don’t know if this has any significance or not, but I can still remember what number it was: 9, with a yellow stripe.

We all sat in icy silence, unable to move. I, at least, was unable to breathe. I can still remember the cold aluminum of the lawn chair I was sitting in against my thigh, slight condensation from my own sweat gathering and becoming slick. After what seemed like only a few seconds, the ball began to roll.
It rolled from my side of the table, away from me and towards my friend. Slowly at first, almost like it was a struggle, and then it picked up more and more momentum. And as it rolled to the other side of the table, the balls in its path would move themselves out of the way and into the pockets on the sides.

When the 9 reached the far side of the table, it stopped abruptly, just short of the ledge. By that point, all the other balls had moved into the pockets, and all of our eyes were fixated on the last remaining ball. It paused for a long moment, and I let out a nervous sigh. I hadn’t realized I had been holding my breath and immediately felt a little silly.

But almost as if someone had flipped an off/on switch, the ball reanimated. Only this time, it moved straight up. It was almost as if someone had wrapped a piece of fishing line around the ball that I couldn’t see and was reeling it up from some secret hole in the upstairs floor. But we had all played at least one round on that table, and a string would have been quickly discovered during gameplay. I watched the ball slowly gain height until it was at eye level with my friend across the room. It then moved directly toward her face, still very slowly, with what seemed to be calculated intention. It crossed over the edge of the pool table, traveled another six inches or so in the air toward my friend, paused, and then just dropped to the ground with a light crack and rolled away under some shelves by the cellar.

The air changed – cool but chokingly humid – and I suddenly had a very metallic taste in my mouth. And without a word, I walked as fast as I could to the stairs, through that cramped, fishy living room, and back into outdoors. I didn’t stop, but I didn’t run. I walked with a purpose straight from that basement through my front door and onto the couch where my mother was sitting watching TV. I didn’t say a word. I went over it and over it again in my mind, trying with all my eight-year-old might to make sense of it. I wasn’t able to say a word about it for a lot of years because I wasn’t quite sure of what I had actually seen.

It wasn’t until I was 13 and we had moved back to West Virginia to be with family that I told my mom about it. We were sitting around the kitchen table with my aunt and grandma peeling potatoes, and not one of them laughed. She then told me of the history of that street and of the field behind it, Greeley Field, and of her own ghost stories at Fort Monmouth, which I may put on paper at a later date. Each woman took her turn explaining to me the first time they realized they were “sensitive,” and they congratulated me on inheriting their “special gift.” My aunt offhandedly suggested that it could have been my disdain for the current game of Truth or Dare that could have even sparked it, similar to a psychokinetic poltergeist-type of event.

But even now, at the age of 28, I still dream of that event and often think of my aunt’s explanation. The precision of the balls on that table falling straight into the pockets – I can still hear the muted thunks of each one. The slow and deliberate movement of the 9 ball as it moved first laterally, and then through the third dimension, into midair . . . But mostly, it’s the thick air of that basement and the metallic taste in my mouth, the thought that it could have been me all along, that haunts me.

Credit: Shery

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One Mile

December 1, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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JayJay suspected herself of having a mild form of ADHD to balance out her high IQ. It was undiagnosed, if so; she had better things to spend her money on than psychoanalysis. Still, there were the occasional days like today, when her concentration was shot, and whatever was in her peripheral vision seemed more important than whatever was in front of her face.

As she stood, fiddling with her phone in the convenience store parking lot, she found herself struggling with the simplistic task of downloading and installing an app. She was distracted by the dry wind blowing dust and leaves into her hair. She was irritated by the wail of a crying child denied candy by her stoic mother. She was creeped out by the ragged homeless woman idly eyeing her from the bus stop.

The app was a relatively simple thing. It would allow her to determine the make and model of a shoe via a simple photograph, automatically locating a nearby store and a current price. It was a silly thing, but her college roommates loved it, and so she had decided to give it a try.

Somehow, it was a hassle. She was momentarily blinded by sunlight reflecting from a passing car. She was jostled by a rude store customer with a dour look on his face and burly shoulders. She was startled when someone called her name from nearby, only to soon find out it was a different Jennifer they were calling out to.

Annoyed, she jabbed her finger at the shoe icon as soon as it came up, likewise clicking through the EULA without reading it (had it actually contained the word “soul”?) and chose INSTALL, anxious to get through the minor task.

After a moment, the phone’s camera activated, and she was looking at a closeup of her own finger on the other side of the phone. She brought the phone up so she could sweep the view around and paused, momentarily puzzled. The name of the app, sharply written in black letters resembling an old typewriter style font on a greyish white background read “One Mile”. Next to and slightly below the title was a green counter, set to 5280. Had she downloaded a pedometer by mistake? If so, why the camera function?

As she swept the camera around, however, she noticed that a green rectangle was appearing around the feet of people in the camera’s field of view. She hesitated momentarily on the shiny Mary Janes of a tiny schoolgirl, then the dilapidated and untied sneakers of a guy whose gait and facial expression screamed ‘stoner’. She was irritated, however that a display with the pertinent information was not automatically appearing. Did she have to frame the shoes for longer? Did she have to actually take a photo?

She considered taking a photo of her own feet, but the rectangle framing them was red for some reason: maybe the angle was bad, or her feet too close to the camera? She raised her gaze, and there was the homeless woman at the bus stop, pouting and staring steadily. Creepy. Defiant of the rush of fear tingling at her spine, she focused on the camera and aimed at the woman’s shoes.

The (presumably) homeless woman’s shoes were of course, old, unfashionable, dirty and worn. She figured that if the app could identify these canvas-topped rubber soled ancient artifacts, it could likewise handle any shoe she would actually be interested in.

They came up green. Since the woman was just standing and staring, she herself stayed still, and sure enough, after a moment, a green button appeared with a camera icon on it. She poked the icon.

The image froze, then zoomed to show the woman’s shoes (and swollen, greasy ankles emerging from torn, soiled socks) in more detail. The words “Are You Sure?” appeared in black typeface at the top of the app, with accompanying yes and no buttons. JayJay snorted a bit in irritation; of course she was sure! The thought occurred to her that the app might try to charge her credit card or something if she said yes, but she did not recall the app requesting access to her data. So it was probably safe? Shrugging, she pressed yes.

The disorientation was instantaneous and absolute. She felt like throwing up, but instead of pitching forward, she reeled backward, very nearly into …traffic?

Somehow, she was standing at the bus stop where the homeless woman had been. An irritated driver honked and swerved a bit, while still accelerating. She wrenched herself forward, skinning her knees on the bus stop bench. Scanning, she realized that she was looking at the front of the 7-11, where she had been standing a moment ago. She was annoyed to see a gawky blonde wearing the twin of her own outfit staring back at her.

The world seemed to spin and weave. She felt drunk. She was in fact drunk; she smelled like a brewery and reeked of old sweat. Her hair felt matted and tangled, and her clothes …she was wearing tattered, dirty, threadbare layers of mismatched clothing. She was dressed like a homeless woman. An instant later, more facts fell upon her like monolithic dominoes: she was shorter, heavier. Her skin was wrinkled, older. Her fingernails were longer. She was the homeless woman!

On the brink of madness, a dozen horrendous possibilities rushed at her, drowned her. Maybe she really was a homeless woman who had been enjoying a delusion of being a young pretty girl? Maybe she was simply dreaming? Maybe the application had somehow caused them to switch places, even bodies?

It didn’t matter. Dream or no dream, she needed that phone. Right now. She fixed her gaze on the gawky girl. Was that how she looked? Too skinny, hair the color of straw, showing too much skin, wearing too much makeup? It didn’t matter; it was better than what she had now. The gawky girl met her gaze and blanched. She looked quickly from side to side. Was she going to run? Crap, she was going to run.

The girl turned, stumbling and falling headlong, spilling the contents of her purse everywhere. Sitting up quickly, she started to scoop up the scattered papers and mascara and other items as if by instinct before she remembered her situation. Tearing off the high heeled shoes with something like regret, she stumbled to her feet and made for a narrow alleyway near the store.

JayJay was in no better shape. The old shoes were much better for running, but the body above them was not. She was heavier all over, especially in the hips and bust, and everything tried to go in different directions, throwing off her center of balance and making her want to vomit even more. She was grimy everywhere. Her heart was slamming like a jackhammer. She could not breathe. Her head was pounding.

She knew she looked like a monster, with her arms outstretched, lumbering forward. Her voice was moaning and unfamiliar even to her own ears, “My phoooone! That’s my phoone! Give it here!” The girl –JayJay’s real body– squealed and backpedaled, wheeled and ran. JayJay knew she looked like an utter lunatic to everyone around. But hopefully, that wouldn’t matter if she could simply get her hands on that phone.

If the app had somehow switched them, she could use it to switch back. She hoped. The only other choices were that the change was somehow permanent …in which case she would cry, and likely fling herself into traffic… or that it was a dream or otherwise temporary, in which case it didn’t matter. She needed that phone.

Into the narrow alley they plunged, the girl still awkward, but moving with an assuredness that JayJay did not feel. The alley was familiar territory to whoever was in that girl’s hed. JayJay seemed to stumble over every bit of trash scattered on the cracked pavement, while the girl’s steps were swifter and more sure. She was pulling away.

JayJay, already gasping and dizzy, pushed herself harder. This was it, she was sure; she’d have a heart attack and die in this alley, while that homeless woman walked off with her body and enjoyed an extra 20 years of young, fit life with it. It wasn’t fair! She had done nothing to deserve this! She was a good person!

It was at that moment that the girl, that JayJay’s body, died. As she had exited the alley into the street on the opposite side, she had cast a last glance back at the monster stumbling behind her. A fast, expensive white car, it’s stereo loud and it’s owner texting, plowed into her without slowing down.

The girl’s face smashed into the windshield, her own body a fulcrum, like a small wet wrecking ball. It was instantly destroyed: bits of glass drove into her eyes, her nose flattened, her lips were torn away by her own teeth as they tore loose from her mouth, scattering into the afternoon along with autumn leaves. Within her now fractured skull, her brain flattened and ruptured.

No. JayJay halted, unable to even speak. She wanted to scream, wanted to beat up the careless driver, wanted to ironically kill and re-kill her own body for both dying and being ruined. Instead, she threw up. In fact, she almost passed out, but as her consciousness descended into a grey well of denial, she shook her head (earning a spike of pain in doing so) and made herself stand.

The phone. Where was the phone?

Had it been crushed beneath the tires of the car, along with the girl’s twisted tangle of limbs? She did not see it there, just a widening pool of blood and some thick black liquid. The driver was emerging from the car, pale and texting frantically.

Could it still be with her purse?

JayJay vanished back into the alleyway just as the driver piped up with a “Did you see what happened?” and she moved to the opposite end as fast as her grimy but unbroken legs would carry her. Emerging from the alley, she looked toward the front of the store, where an employee, dustpan in hand, was procrastinating before cleaning up the scattered purse.

“Mine!” she hissed, kneeling in the spill of her belongings. The employee looked dubious, but did not protest. He seemed distracted by a growing group of people wandering toward the far corner of the building.

It was there! JayJay picked up the phone, holding her breath in the eternity between hitting the power button and the screen brightening into life. She swiped her finger in a familiar pattern to unlock the phone (she inwardly sighed; a part of her had been worried she had been delusional. Now she was just horrified). The app was still there, and opening it showed a simple blank screen with a counter currently at 5008.

She was puzzled, but she had no time to ponder. Soon, people would think that a homeless woman was stealing the belongings of a tragically killed girl, and she did not want to be here when that happened. She quickly located her wallet, her keys, and with that and the phone, she left. Somehow, her cosmetics did not seem so important now.

As she strode quickly and purposefully away from the convenience store, her mind continued to swim with a dozen warring implications. How had the app done this, if it had? What was the counter for? How many people had this app? How would she explain that some older woman was now living in JayJay’s apartment? What about her friends and family?

Back at her apartment, JayJay collapsed into a chair. Her phone pulsed, then started up in her mother’s familiar ringtone. She almost answered instinctively, but then she caught herself and ignored it; her mother would not recognize the voice on the other end. She let it go to voicemail, as tears streamed from unfamiliar eyes. Her mother would be so heartbroken when she found out…

JayJay looked at the app again, desperate for answers. Obviously, this was not the app her friends had been using, although the icons were similar. The counter had changed again, to 1237. That felt …ominous. She waited, holding her breath, for nearly two minutes. The counter did not change. Puzzled, she went to her refrigerator, grabbed an iced coffee, returned to the chair.

The counter was at 1231.

“What the fuck!?” With effort, she resisted hurling the phone at the wall. Calming herself with deep ragged breaths (that smelled sickeningly of onions and beer), she began to take off her shoes, desperate for a shower, although she was petrified of what she would find beneath the dirty ragged cloth and grime.

Her phone sounded a short, sharp alarm. The app, clearly visible on the glowing screen, read “Are you sure you want to quit?” With big red yes and no buttons. She grabbed the phone, eager to escape the nightmare.

But she stopped. If she quit, what then? Would she go back to her old body? Her destroyed, wrecked, ruined body? Her eyes glued to the screen, she clicked NO. The bland typewriter font returned: “Error: replace shoe.” With deliberate, slow movements, she ran a finger between the shoe and her foot, pulling it snug against her heel once more. The app returned to the green counter, back at 1231.

One mile. She was going to walk one mile in this woman’s shoes, literally. And then…

Her mind skipped across several scenarios: quit her job, become a hermit, work from home via her computer to somehow never walk a full mile for the rest of her life? What about her friends and family that could drop by at any time? What about when she was reported dead or missing and some strange woman was found in her apartment? What effect would using a car or a wheelchair have? If she took it back to the error screen and left it there, could she live out her life? Could she live forever?

Her heart stopped as a knock sounded through her door. It returned several times as she crept slowly up to the peephole and peered. It was no one she knew; a slightly plump young woman wearing conservative clothes. In one hand was clutched some brightly colored paper.

JayJay, feeling a reptillian cold creep down her spine, opened the door, refusing to allow herself to think; only to act. She forced herself to smile; something that probably looked ghoulish in her new hard, lined face with likely horrible teeth. She opened the door.

The young visitor kept her expression open and cheerful, although she hesitated for a telling moment upon first sight of the disheveled woman inside the apartment. “Might I have a moment of your time?”

“Jehovah’s Witness,” JayJay guessed in an unfamiliar voice.

The woman nodded. Cheerful and resigned, but hopeful. In white stockings. With black, polished Mary Janes.

JayJay opened the door wide and swept her hand in a magnanimous gesture. “Come on in! I’ll get us some tea.”

The woman hesitated, no doubt reciting a silent prayer, then stepped across the threshold. JayJay ushered her to an empty seat, taking her phone from the armrest as she did so. “This is going to sound weird,” she said. “But your shoes are darling! Do you mind if I take a picture of them?”

A few hours later, a young woman exited the apartment. She was dressed differently than when she had entered, except for her white stockings and black shoes. She was wearing a stuffed backpack and towing an equally overfilled wheeled luggage case, her large purse heavy on one arm. She had a phone in her hand, and a distracted yet determined expression on her face…

Credit: Kitsune9tails

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My Grandfather’s Final Invention

November 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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My grandfather was an inventor.

All his life he’s be tinkering with something, either taking something that existed and changing it, making it into something brand new (Or at the very least different) or inventing something entirely from spare parts. And while nothing he invented was ever earth shaking it was always one of my greatest delights, ever since I was a little girl, to see what he’d made.

Childhood visits to his home would always begin or end with me sitting on the couch, a look of absolute fascination on my tiny face as he showed off whatever gadget he’d put together in his workshop this time around. It was like having my own personal Santa who worked all year ‘round to fill my eight year old mind with wonder and glee.

My older sister was likewise excited, no matter how much she tried to hide the excitement it filled her with, probably in an effort to appear cooler or more mature than myself. And while, because of real life getting in the way, the visits became fewer and fewer the older we got, we would always make time to see him at least a few times a year. And every time he would have something new to show us.

He really was a genius.

I should add that isn’t meant to imply something horrible happened to him. I’m sure some days he wishes it had, that it had been him who had wound up in that hospital instead of my sister but no, he went in his sleep and I hope that his passing was a peaceful one.

Even all these years later I can’t bring myself to be angry about what happened, can’t bring myself to hate him. He had no idea what would happen, no clue how things would pan out.

He knew something was wrong, oh yes. He wasn’t some doddering old fool. He knew the first time he looked through them that something was wrong but he thought it was something only a little odd, something unsettling and curious perhaps but not anything dangerous. Not anything that would HARM anyone.

I think deep down he just wanted to know that he wasn’t crazy. He wanted to be sure that he wasn’t seeing things. And who can blame him?

There were three of us that year.

Myself and my girlfriend Justine and my sister Joan. We were both used to our grandfather being bursting with energy to show us whatever he’d put together so his oddly subdued mood when he came to the door to greet us came as a bit of a surprise. I was a little disappointed in fact, as I’d been hoping Justine would get to share in the experience of having a new invention demonstrated before our awe struck eyes. We’d only started dating that year so it would be the first chance she got to see the kind of things I’d been telling her about.

The day passed pleasantly enough as we chatted, enjoyed lunch and watched the television together. I think it was
Joan who asked him, finally, if he had anything special to show us today. We knew that he’d been working on something as while this was the first time we’d seen him in person in a while we’d both spoke to him on the phone in the preceding months and he’d eagerly explained to us that he was working on something he thought would be quite extraordinary.

I still couldn’t tell you how he made them, nor would I if I could. Nor could
I tell you what his original idea for those oddly coloured circles of glass had been, before that fateful day he’d looked through them and seen what he’d seen. He never shared details of his work with us beforehand as he wanted it to be a surprise and afterwards I think he was terrified of the thought of anyone replicating what he’d made.

All I know is that when Joan pressed him to reveal his latest invention he looked nervous in a way I’d never seen him before, looked as if he was deeply troubled by something. He hesitated before speaking as if not sure he should say anything at all before explaining to us that the nature of what he was working on had changed after an ‘Unusual event’ and that he wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea to show us the end result.

Now we may have grown since the days when we could perch on his knee but whether someone is two years old or in their twenties the surest way to make them want something all the more is to tell them they can’t have it. So his reluctance (Which at the time I’m sure we BOTH thought was feigned, to heighten the suspense before the unveiling) just made us both want to see his invention more than ever.
With a little persuading he agreed and left to fetch it. He came back a few moments later with what appeared to be a pair of glasses.

With one big difference.

The lenses were like no glass we’d ever seen before. I can’t even describe the colour of it without resorting to words like ‘Red-ish’ or ‘Green-y’ as they didn’t seem to be EXACTLY any colour that we have a name for. In fact they didn’t seem to be exactly any one colour at all, as if you tilted them one way they would look different to if you tilted them another. I know full well that probably sounds more like magic than something a well-meaning old man could put together in his humble little workshop but there you have it.

Joan asked what they did and our grandfather paused for a few moments,
as if not quite certain how to answer.

In the end he told us that we really had to put them on for ourselves as he was certain neither of us would believe him if he told us. Joan wanted to put them on first but as she lifted them off the table he reached out and grabbed her hand.

He cautioned her that it MIGHT be startling at first but that she wasn’t in any danger and that if she got frightened she could just take them off. He warned her that what she was about to see may not make any more sense to her than it did to him but that we were all there and that she was safe. I could tell Joan was a little frightened. She always was lousy at hiding how she felt from people and even I was feeling a bit unsettled by our grandfather being so uncharacteristically ominous about the whole thing.

Joan slipped the glasses on and we waited.

She gasped and then for the next few moments she looked puzzled more than anything. Her lips moved wordlessly and I thought I caught a ‘No…that’s not right’ under her breath as she seemed to look around at something none of us could see.

And then she began screaming.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard someone scream in horror in real life. I can promise you this; it is not like in the movies. The movies do not convey the awful sound of someone you love screaming their lungs out, making a noise more like an animal than a human being. They cannot make you feel the things I felt in that moment, watching Joan yank the glasses from her head and hurl them across the room.

And nothing could have prepared us for the sight of Joan beginning to claw at her own eyes, screaming louder than anyone should be able to scream as she did it.

It took all three of us to restrain her at first. When we had her pinned down so she couldn’t hurt herself anymore Justine and my grandfather held her that way while I called for an ambulance. I had to watch as she was strapped down and wheeled into the back of one, thrashing and hissing and shrieking like some mad animal, like something utterly consumed by fear.

I explained what had happened, knowing full well how it made me sound. Justine and I both explained the series of events that lead to this to the sceptical if not totally disbelieving hospital staff and then to the specialists called in when nothing short of being tranquilised proved effective at stopping my sister from trying to hurt herself while screaming like that.

The glasses had supposedly ‘Gone missing’ which made proving what had happened difficult. And it wasn’t until almost a year later, long after my sister had been committed, that my grandfather finally confessed to me that he’d destroyed them. I don’t know if having them could have helped, could have given the doctors some way to make things right. I doubt it somehow and I can’t truly blame him for doing what he did, given that it was an act born out of guilt and an honest desire to make sure this didn’t happen again.

I asked him what my sister had seen that day, when he told me what he’d done. I asked what those glasses had done to her. He hadn’t wanted to talk about it and for the first time in my life I’d raised my voice to him, angrily demanding to know, after all this time, just what had driven my sister to this state. What had affected her so deeply, so profoundly that she was now no longer even recognisable as the person I’d grown up with.

He took me to his workshop and began digging around through the bits and pieces that littered the place, the half-finished and now long discarded inventions still awaiting completion, he produced two pieces of glass rather like the ones that had been fitted into those glasses. He told me that there wasn’t any way to describe it without sounding insane, that if I had to know then I had to see. But he begged me not to do this, that knowing wouldn’t make things any better.

He was right.

I held the glass up to my eyes and in an instant everything changed. Instead of just my grandfather stood before me now there were dozens more in the room with us. But they weren’t people.

They were pale and emaciated, hunched over and dressed in dark clothing with black lips and wide lidless eyes that seemed to almost bulge from their skulls in a manner both comical and horrifying all at once. Their mouths were full of hundreds of thin teeth, like needles. Their fingers were grotesquely long and ended in dark and viciously pointed nails that scraped along the floor as they walked. And all of them were talking, or rather their lips were moving soundlessly.

Each and every one of them was trying to say something that couldn’t be heard, dozens upon dozens of voices trying to convey something.

I dropped the glasses to the ground in shock. And my grandfather brought his foot down on them hard; grinding them to powder beneath his foot, muttering that he should have done this in the first place. He put an arm on my shoulder asking if I was alright. I was far from alright and he had been correct…what I had seen had made things worse, not better.

It took me a while to work it out of course. Why this had such a horrifying effect on my sister and yet I had survived the experience, frightened but not sporting the mental scars it had given her.

The glasses only let me SEE the creatures. I couldn’t hear what they were trying to say to me, couldn’t understand the message they were trying to impart.

But my sister was deaf.

She could read their lips

Credit: Alice Thompson

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