Mirrors

December 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Mirrors, a window in which one’s true self can be viewed. But something has always been off about mirrors, you can’t deny it. Deep down in your brain there is always some bad feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on when you stare into a mirror. That, my friends, is your brain trying to warn you. Your subconscious notices it long before you ever do. Something off, something that just isn’t quite right. It’s never something too obvious, though it is never impossible to spot. It’s not like the mirrors constantly want to feed, but doesn’t everyone and everything get hungry? Let me rephrase, mirrors aren’t “alive” and they don’t want to eat you. In fact, I’m not sure how any of this got started in the first place; all I know is that if you have a poor self image then you are in for a really bad time.

Anyway, it may start with something as small as a slightly darker shade of paint on the wall, or something just a few centimeters away from where it really is, all the way down to random actions that are barely even visible to the human eye. They almost always go unnoticed, almost always. I will touch on what happens when you notice them later, but this isn’t the time for you being scared; for all I know you could have noticed it by now, so I’ll do you a favor and save the gruesome part for the end. If you have already noticed it then you may be looking for help. The only good news I can give you is that you won’t be needing a coffin because there won’t be anything to bury, but if you really want to
prolong the life you have left then what you need is to get away from all mirrors! You need to distance yourself from all reflective surfaces, and you definitely need to shatter the mirror you first noticed the anomaly in.

While I can’t say how long that will stop anything bad from happening, it will increase your chances, and hopefully help you sleep better at night. After that, it may be a good move to scuff up any shiny surfaces; even slightly reflective surfaces, the less reflective the better. I’ve known people who lasted a few years just with this, but keep in mind you can’t stop all reflections. Other peoples vanity items? Hell, your own eyes have reflections; do you have enough guts to rip out your own eyes? Yeah, there isn’t much you can do. Especially since after a while, you don’t even need to be looking into the reflection, things just kinda start to happen. Then the next time you look in a mirror, BAM!! You’ve already been fucked over.

So lets get down to it. Right now you are probably thinking “How do I know if I have noticed an Anomaly?”. Well you won’t be able to at first. It’s not like the mirror just swallows you suddenly. You’ll most likely just think that it’s strange that this one hair is here when its actually there, but after you see it once you start to notice it more. Not just little changes either, they can become massive. The worst part is: the more you notice it, the more it happens. It is a downward slope; after these events have started there is no way to get back out. See, it doesn’t seem so bad at first, nothing but slight mishaps. Pretty soon though, it gets bigger: someone off in the distance that isn’t there, little blemishes or pimples on you that aren’t, but it doesn’t stop there either.

Before you know it, major changes start happening to you. Wounds appearing on you, but unlike the other things, that never leaves. Once the wounds are on you they stay in every mirror. Various contortions and bodily mutations start to show up, not in real life; you look at yourself and you’re fine, but these mirrors just keep showing you what you don’t want to see. Just when you think it can’t get any worse suddenly, it stops. Yep, just like that. You look in the mirror and there is no reflection, poof, gone. There is a big relief when that happens. Well, until you try to leave the room and remember that there used to be a door here. Oh, and when you look down and notice that those mutations and wounds you saw are now actually on you. That’s right folks, you are now that disgusting, demented, and tortured person you saw in that mirror! Oh, and you are locked in the mirror. Yeah, those little “blemishes” aren’t very insignificant now, huh?

I’m just glad I got trapped in a room with a computer.

Credit To – Captain Stubbs

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Kingdom of Suffering

November 23, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Hidden deep within the rural countryside of mainland China sits a rotting edifice of failed consumerism: the decrepit remnants of Disneyland China. Half of a Western-style castle, bits of girders and wires and planks jutting out of moldy particleboard like shattered bones from gangrenous skin, looms over a wide swath of flat swampland. Tourists and backpackers have happened upon it from time to time but the intense feeling of inhuman wrongness urged them to ignore the queer structures and fragments of civilization in favor of escape. Half-completed spires, collapsed trailers, rusted red metal, and the scent of rot drift out of the dense fog like a bizarre fairy tale mockery. Shadows and animals roam the location although everyone in the surrounding area knows that nothing living frequents the uneven cobblestone streets and half-constructed cottages. It is a city of ghosts.

The Disney bosses were hesitant to buy at first, shrewd as they were, but the price was too good to pass up and the area perfect for a sprawling theme park complete with exemptions from the ruling party members – palms greased as needed from nearly unlimited coffers. It was a perfect location they enthused, the area ripe for their corporate thievery and corrupt guile, why they could build a private airfield and corner the market entirely! Why they believed that thousands of Chinese would flock to the fake cobblestone streets and put down their hard earned pittance for a chance at Western capitalist nonsense was anyone’s guess. But then again those were simpler times when the bottom line mattered more than how you managed to get there…

Deals were made, contracts were signed, and massive amounts of money began pouring into the project. A veritable town grew up in a wide circle around the construction area. Administrative offices were built for comfort, worker lodgings were built for utility, and the land was readied for the great transformation from rice paddy to imaginationland. All supplies were kept under lock and key, guards roamed the perimeter of a tall chain-link fence, and workers were subject to random identification checks to ensure Disney didn’t spent a single penny more than expected.

The first death was a cement worker; he fell into a mixing vat and was chopped to pieces by the stirring blades. The accident, if you could call it that, occurred late in the day and it wasn’t until they began pouring the next morning that his grisly fate was discovered. Disneyland executives were cleared of any wrongdoing after a smear campaign discrediting the man as a ‘worthless drunk’. So they poured the bloody cement in the base of the Magic Kingdom and hoped to forget.

Next, four electricians were killed when a transformer blew in an enclosed room. ‘Poor standards and lack of safety measures’ the press release went but already there were whispers and shivers among the workers. They were from the urban outskirts, businesses contracted because they were cheap and didn’t care that Disney was willing to overlook their safety. And why should they cause a fuss? They were each getting paid more for the year of construction than most of their families made in ten.

The small hamlets around the construction area remained tightly closed. Shuttered against the invaders they shared nothing, no food, no water, no supplies. Everything needed to be shipped in from afar. However, local tales of ghostly vapor and vengeful soldiers dragging unfortunates down to the underworld filtered their way into the ears of the workers and day laborers. The area was known for war – too much blood had been spilled on the land for anything more than horror to grow. The workmen grew restless, they refused to work, but that mattered little to the oncoming steamroller of corporate greed. They were fired, their contracts broken, and others either poorer or stupider were brought in to replace the suddenly hemorrhaging construction force.

And so it continued apace but certainly not as quickly as expected. Forty-seven more deaths followed, all accidents caused by personal negligence or carelessness, but there was only so far Disneyland executives could hold that lie….

The Magic Kingdom, half completed, became the focal point of the project – for in the eyes of greedy investors and embezzlers and the like if they could only raise that symbol the project would fall into place. Work was doubled, the timetable shortened, and more deaths followed. The areas around the forsaken theme park refused to serve workers, refused to sell food, refused the cheap comforts of the flesh such projects inevitably spawn in the loins of rough men and uneducated laborers. For stupid they were to continue working when everything in their bones cried out the wrongness and terror of their work.

Workers were killed, their mutilated bodies (bereft of head, limbs, and genitals) discovered cast into the boggy marshland at the borders of the construction site. Later, pieces of them were discovered in all manner of locations throughout the theme park. A head was found inside a generator, hands were plucked from painting buckets, and ten penises were skewered atop the flagpole in the center of the Village Square. Workers stopped arriving, construction firms pulled out, and everything seemed doomed for the project…

Until Disneyland executive Steven Oroko flew in to personally put the project to rights. Word came two weeks before his arrival and the local planning commission dismissed all their current work in preparation for Oroko’s legendary iron-fisted approach. The death toll came to an end as workers were fired, the equipment was polished and oiled, and all was in readiness for a whirlwind of work that would finally see Disneyland rise tall in the Chinese countryside.

Outside the construction zone, to the west, lay a tiny collection of huts and simple buildings. Teng Kai Rui was an old man, a farmer, who had weathered the storms of war and famine. His ancestors lived in Beijing before hard times and debts conspired to oust them to the fringes of society. He lived far afield from the construction because he knew exactly what lay in the soft lands. Ghouls and ghosts stalked the lands; murdered people rose up and sought vengeance, broken lovers desperately searched for their lost partners in the foggy mists. He never went to the area, cautioned his entire family not to go, and steadfastly refused to listen to anyone hoping to make something of the loose assemblage of hate and horror where Disneyland China would stand. His great-great-great-great grandfather settled in the ‘Mogui Wan’ or ‘Devil Bowl’ where Disneyland seethed in the middle of open farmland and frequently told of the night he left Mogui Wan.

Teng Fa Lai was Kai Rui’s ancestor’s name and, like the Disneyland Committee, settled in Mogui Wan due to the cheap living and lack of competition (in those days). Also like Disney he was unaware of the danger he placed himself and his family in until it was almost too late. For three summers Fa Lai toiled until his harvest, although modest, became enough to feed his growing family. With two sons and another child on the way he could not justify leaving the area even if the land and air felt wrong. His wife refused to talk of it – Fa Lai believed she felt the same – but his sons had told stories of shadows and shapes moving in the mist since they settled. He dismissed them thinking it was agitation from being displaced but the longer they stayed the more frequent their observations came until even he began seeing dark forms skulking in the fog.

Fa Lai convinced himself it was just his imagination.

Then, one midsummer eve a mysterious knock was heard upon their door. The night was humid and still but the omnipresent mist curled around their hovel in a gauzy grip. The air smelled of putrefaction, like rotting water plants or clay, and drifted into the house through every crack in the walls and ceiling. The night was deathly silent. Fa Lai rose to the door and listened but could hear no one on the other side – no breathing, no movement. Relief pushed the tension from his body and he began to return to the dinner table when the knock came again. Instantly the hairs on the back of his neck rose and a prickling sensation leaked from his head all the way down to the soles of his feet.

Opening the door revealed an upright corpse, skin putrefying and pus oozing from open stab wounds down its front and legs. The head was almost completely severed under the chin and it dribbled crawling insects from the wound like a writhing beard. At first he thought it a sick joke, that someone propped the thing up in order to scare them away from his profitable farm, until the limp head swiveled in his direction with the sound of grinding glass.

“Leave this place.” It spoke without opening its fetid mouth. “Leave us this place for the living have no power here. Leave us and save yourself.”

Fa Lai shut the door and the family ran that very night. They settled with Fa Lai’s brother’s family in the homestead where so many years later Kai Rui would be born.

An omen, an orange with thirty-six seeds, and a lightning strike on the tree his father planted on the day he was born told Teng Kai that the time was right. He held no love for the government or for Disney but he would not see innocent people die. Kissing the remaining family he held dear goodbye he set out for the skeletal ghostly spire of The Magic Kingdom in the distance.

Oroko arrived and immediately began work. He began by bringing in outside construction firms and firing all local contractors. His reasoning was that you didn’t trust people you never worked with before. The local Committee told him nothing of the deaths or strange phenomena, no hint of the rumors or the mutilations; they simply smiled at him eager to start rolling in their profit margins. Day became night as it was wont to do and a deathly silence fell upon the site. Despite the frantic banging and drilling and sawing the darkness swallowed all sound – workmen left machinery running and stepped away to grab another bit or a tool only to become deaf to the sounds of their own industry once outside a foot. Two men left a table saw running and stepped away to lift new planks – they did not hear the machine running and unwisely decided they had turned it off – only to saw their own fingers as they lay the new wood down. An electrician working in the upper levels of the Magic Kingdom, after twenty minutes of dead silence, jumped from the rigging to the pink concrete below.

Fog began rolling in from the lower areas of the uneven terrain and people began seeing shadows dart to and fro between unfinished foundations and bare girders. Oroko was roused from his trailer outside the castle gate by thunderous blows against the walls and door. He rose from his late nap and opened his door. No one knows what was on the other side but pieces of him were all that were found the next morning. Fragments really, nothing of any substance, most of him was blasted and pureed against the walls of his trailer. Bits of skull and his ocular nerves were all that were recoverable.

Panic set in after Oroko’s agonized screams filled the air, the first pure sound heard since the final wrath of Mogui Wan began, and workers raced around the construction site looking for any way out.

There was no escape. By the time Teng Kai Rui arrived all 1206 members of the night crew were splashed against every surface in the incomplete park. The outlying farmland was literally dyed red and nothing grew there ever after. Kai Rui shuffled through the gate of the Magic Kingdom sick with revulsion and anger at the foolishness of men.

He sat upon a worn stone on the packed dirt path and looked towards the cresting sun. Could he have convinced the greedy white man to abandon the site? No, in truth he knew that he would never had been able to convince them. What power could an illiterate farmer wield against such base avarice? He turned back to the west and home but as he stood the rising sun seared over the edges of the mountains far in the distance. In that muddy illumination, in that murky period between darkness and light, a terrifying tableau manifested in the Devil Bowl.

All around him in the low plain were standing shadows. Solid black people disappearing in the rising sun but each one of thousands staring at him…into him. Rising with the drying dew a nightmarish image arose of twisted towers and blackened steel, sheets of human skin and rivers of infected blood, and everywhere multitudinous dark eyes. The quivering mirage of horrible agonies dimmed in the rising light and the shadows dispersed but Teng Kai Rui knew what he had seen.

A Kingdom of Suffering. Perhaps it was all meant to be, he mused, perhaps the evil wanted the Magic Kingdom built in contrast to its Empire of Agony. Perhaps the dead simply wanted an amusement park of their own…

And so it stands to this very day shrouded in mist and silence.

Credit To – ThePhantomLibrarian

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Little Glass Box

November 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The pungent, acrid smell permeated the old home that was now mine; I knew that the smell would fade with time, and that I would become accustomed to it as time went on. It was a beautiful little two-story Victorian home in the heart of a small historic town in Virginia. With that being said, neighbors weren’t nearby. Therefore, I wasn’t bothered. I somewhat enjoyed the scent of the home, and was looking forward to learning about the history about the town.

I soon got to unpacking, eager to make the place feel more like home. After the death of my wife, my last home no longer felt like home, and only brought on painful memories. I only want to hide for a while; a few months, maybe a few years. I was hoping this place would do the trick.

It was getting close to 1 in the morning when I decided to relax for the rest of the night and leave the rest of the unpacking for the morning, and I sat down with a glass of wine, next to the fireplace. It was then that I heard the tapping. It was a slow, steady sound, almost as if something was hitting against the pipes down in the cellar. I’m not sure if it had been steady making the sound all day, or if it had just started. Now that it was calm and I was no longer dropping boxes or shoving furniture around, I could hear it distinctly.

I made note of where the sound was coming from down below, and then made my way to the cellar. The smell was even more potent down below due to the humidity; I worried at this point that the basement might be flooded due to the old pipes, and that the sound was from water leaking. I scurried down the basement stairs, clutching the railing on the way down, hoping that the old stairs wouldn’t give way.

I made it to the bottom, relieved to find that the floor was completely dry. I remembered that the pulley for the light was at the bottom of the staircase when I first viewed the home, so I reached for it. Dim light flooded the cellar, revealing an empty room, aside from the pipes, an old water heater, and a few wooden shelves along the wall. The smell of the old cellar was musty and old; it was the pungent smell of wood which had moistened and dried over many years.

I heard the tapping sound again, much louder now, reverberating against the pipes above. I searched the basement, only to discover a small chain, dangling from a hook, clanging against the pipes every time there was a gust of wind that blew from a small cellar window, which was opened. I closed the window, and pulled the chain down from the ceiling. The cellar went silent, and the air began to warm without the cool breeze from the open window.

I turned to head back upstairs, before something caught my eye. Along one of the shelves was a small, wooden cabinet, adorned with small onyx pull handles. I walked over, and opened the small doors. Inside, there was a beautiful stained glass box. It was rectangular in shape, and mostly red and purple. It looked to be an old jewelry box. It was particularly dusty, but with one swipe of my hand across the lid, the glass came clean, and the vibrant colors shone in the light.

I brought the box upstairs to clean it off, under running water. Dust had particularly collected at the bottom, regardless of the lid being closed at the time, which I found unusual. Once it was clean, I set it next to my desk. It was so colorful under my desk lamp, and it made me wonder why someone had left it there, and if the owner misses it now and wonders where it went. I pondered on how old it was, and if it had been passed down for many years. I finally headed to sleep at 2:15 AM that night, and fell asleep almost instantly.

I awoke the next morning very sore and not feeling rested at all, but rather feeling the effects of the hard work over the past few nights. I sat up, rubbing the back of my neck, and got up to retract the blinds. The sunlight shone bright through the window; it was then that I saw the little box again, gleaming in the sun. It was beautiful, and I couldn’t help but be absolutely mesmerized by it once again. I took a seat at my desk, and held the little box. It was clean, and almost perfect; it was free of almost all scratches. I was sitting, almost hypnotized by the little box in front of me, when a loud crash came from behind me. It was the sound of something crashing into my window, and it scared me to the extent where I dropped the box, letting it crash to the floor. It bounced off the carpet, undamaged, but left a small scrape on my leg in the process. I dashed to the window, and grimaced at the sight of the dead bird below.

I spent the rest of the day unpacking and decorating the house, after burying the bird out back, between two oak trees. I was exhausted by nightfall, and decided to head to sleep early. I was finally done emptying every box in the house, and it was still early, but I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. I fell into a deep slumber, once again.

The aching, radiating pain was unbearable, and it was the first thing I woke up to in the morning. I pulled aside the covers, only to find the cut on my leg now red and inflamed. I felt the area, and it was hot to the touch. “Shit…” I mumbled to myself, “It must be getting infected.” I stumbled to the bathroom, and retrieved the rubbing alcohol from the cabinet. I soaked a few cotton balls in the alcohol, and gently swabbed the area. I wasn’t worried; I knew I had my tetanus vaccine recently. So, I resorted to wrapping the wound and resting for the day. I knew that old box had much dirt and dust in it when I found it, so there’s no doubt it got in the wound. I was relieved that the box wasn’t damaged. It was so beautiful, and I wanted to keep it from getting damaged. I laid down to rest that night, with my leg in less pain than it had been before.

I awoke the next morning to a very unfamiliar, putrid smell. I pulled the covers off of me, and choked at the sight of my leg, almost retching. The scratched area had now swollen and had turned a putrid, blue-grey color. What shocked me the most, though, was the fact that it was no longer painful at all. It was just there, on my leg, only about an inch or two in circumference. The tissue looked completely dead. I was hours from any hospital, and no doctor’s offices were open, as it was Sunday. I cleaned and dressed the wound the best that I could that night.

I awoke the next morning, and was shocked to find that the wound had grown in size significantly, now taking up a quarter of my leg. It oozed with any slight touch, and the smell of tissue decay from the site was overwhelming. I went to brush my teeth later that same morning, and felt something rolling about in my mouth. I opened my mouth wide, only to find a large molar sitting atop my tongue. I then noticed that my tongue was now a blue-grey color, the same rancid color of my leg. Afraid for my life, I headed to the hospital, knowing I could wait no longer – but not before I threw the little box in my bag.

Once I arrived, I sat quietly in the waiting room, silent with fear, while awaiting my turn with the doctor. I examined the skin around my nails; the skin was now fraying at the cuticles and pulling back. With a slight pull at the nail, it fell off. One more pull, and another fell off. They began to come out as if nothing was holding them together at all. I then looked to my arms, and watched as blood vessels began to slowly become visible behind the skin of my arms. I glanced up briefly before turning around, but something caught my attention in the reflection of the glass in front of me. I glanced back at my reflection, and saw my own face, now sunken in and riddled with a marbled appearance. I looked lifeless. And with this, I began to scream.

Doctors tended to me almost immediately, shocked at the state that I was now in. I was whisked away on the gurney, down the narrow halls, into a room with bright lights above me. They examined my leg, then my hands, and every inch of my body. Then came the needles; I became a human pincushion, with lines of red streaming from my body. Vials of my blood were taken away, in order to be tested. Words like “sepsis”, “necrosis”, “hemorrhagic”, and “debridement” were exchanged between doctors, interns, and nurses alike. I was taken in for an MRI, and biopsies were taken from my wound, before I was finally reeled back into my room and left to rest.

It was a little under two hours later, when a single doctor from the group walked into the room, and pulled up a chair, staring at his paperwork, and only slipping glances my way. He seemed frightened, which frightened me. “I don’t really know how to tell you this so that you’ll understand….” he trailed off, “…because I don’t understand it myself.” I looked towards him, shaking, wanting him to continue, and afraid for my life. “Your body is breaking down your red blood cells at a rapid rate, causing you to have this…appearance. We tested your blood for viruses, any virus at all, and it came up clear. There are no signs of cancer or any tumors at all, and you don’t have a fever. In fact…your temperature is very low.” The doctor cleared his throat, as I looked on in bewilderment. “Your body is also releasing gases such as methane and hydrogen sulfide, which, in these levels, are really only characterized…..with the decomposition of the entire human body. I…can’t explain how you are alive right now.”

The doctor returned his gaze to mine. “Sir…have you any idea how this started?” Trembling, I pointed across the room. “That…that box” I told him, my voice quavering. He walked over, picked it up, and brought it back to me. “This?” he asked. He opened the lid. There was now a small piece of newspaper clipping inside of it. “Is this yours?” he asked, while handing it over to me. I shook my head no, knowing full well that it had not been there when I had originally found the box. I took the clipping from him, and opened it slowly. “MAN FALLS DOWN STAIRS AND BREAKS LEG; IS LEFT TO SUFFER AND FOUND DEAD BY FAMILY ONE MONTH LATER”, the heading said. Underneath the heading was a photograph of the man, and beside the man, was a photo of the house I now lived in. The story told how the man, Steven Cascio, had fallen and suffered a compound fracture in his left leg; since he was old frail, he was unable to gain enough strength to get back up the stairs, and died slowly, with his cries for help left unheard. He had been alive for at least four days before he died due to blood loss and infection. His family, who became worried about him, had found him in advanced stages of decomposition. Due to the state of his body, his family opted for cremation.

It was then that I knew what the dust at the bottom of the small box was.

It has now been almost one month, and I just keep rotting in this hospital bed. I can’t even remember the last day I had a pulse.

Credit To – Vacantia

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Craters in Her Face

November 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I’ve always been an art enthusiast. I guess I inherited that from my grandmother. She had been a painter for many years, and tried her best to instill a love of the fine arts in me. I have many fond memories of trips to museums and galleries with her, gazing upon the countless beautiful and thought provoking pieces.
Sculpture and photography were nice, but I always had a special place in my heart for paintings. Especially old oil paintings. It’s hard to explain. There’s a sort of special property to paintings that you can only appreciate with your eyes in person. Photographs do them no justice. The way the light refracts off of the oil, and bounces back to your eyes give them a sort of life that no other medium can.

Well as much as I loved oil paintings, I was never much good myself. As a child, my grandmother tried giving me lessons. She’d create a breathtaking scenery, whilst the only thing I managed to make was a colossal mess.

Despite my apparent lack of talent in the oil painting department, it did not in the slightest diminish my love for the craft. My grandmother had a room dedicated to the paintings she had created or collected, which she dubbed “the gallery”. I spent hour upon hour in that room, staring in wonderment.

Despite my being a child, my grandmother had no qualms with leaving me alone in a room with tens of thousands of dollars worth of paintings. She knew I had far too much respect for them to damage them, even as a bouncy little girl. She did, however, have one rule that was to be strictly adhered to at all times in the gallery: if any paintings in the gallery are covered, you are NOT to uncover them. Not even to peek.

Now some might think this a strange rule, I certainly did as a girl, but there is reason behind it. Oil paints are very sensitive, and it’s possible the pieces she had covered up could be damaged if exposed to light, or various other factors.

But regardless of the reasoning, I made sure to follow that rule. Or at least I did, until the day my grandmother received her newest piece.

I remember arriving at my grandmother’s home for a visit and running straight for the gallery. I rounded the corner into the room when I was forced to screech to a halt. There, in the center of the room was an incredibly large painting, propped up by an easel and covered with a long, dark curtain.

I had never seen the piece before, and the sheer size of it astounded me. My curiosity overtook me for a moment, and I found myself slowly reaching out a tiny hand to unveil the mysterious piece. But just as my hand grasped the dark velvet, my grandmother entered the room, wearing a frown.

“Evelyn what are you doing? You know the rule about covered paintings!”

My hand instantly whipped back to my side and my head sulked at the realization of my actions.

“I’m sorry Grandma. I forgot. This painting, it’s so huge! What is it?!”

My grandmother’s expression softened and she placed a hand on my shoulder.

“This painting was just given to me by a friend. Her ill sister painted it shortly before passing away. She said she couldn’t bear to look at it because it made her too sad, so she gave it to me.”

“May I see it?” I asked.

“Perhaps later. It’s very sensitive because it’s in poor condition. I’m going to try to preserve it though. After I’m done, I’ll let you see it like with all the others.” she warmly responded.

Although my curiosity was not satisfied, I agreed and resigned myself to looking at all the other pieces in the gallery. Content that I would no longer cause any sort of mischief, my grandmother returned to the sitting room.

I lay there in the soft plush carpet, gazing at the works of art until my focus drifted. Despite how bad I knew it was to disobey my grandmother, my curiosity continued to burn hot in my chest. I had already stared at each and every piece in the gallery to detail, and had grown restless. I had to see what was beneath the curtain.

Holding my breath, and tiptoed over to the massive easel and grasped the soft fabric in my hand. I’d just peek for a moment. It wouldn’t hurt. Just long enough to quench this burning need to know.

I released the breath I was holding and quickly pulled the curtain aside. Immediately, I felt myself release a gasp. I had seen countless paintings of all genres and matters, but none so utterly disturbing as what lay before me.

The painting depicted what appeared to be a pale young women. Her skin was a sickly yellow, and appeared clammy and unwell. She wore a tattered ivory dress, and her long black hair flowed behind her, seemingly following wind sources from no particular direction.

She sat in anguish, with her hands held up to the side of her face, digging her long black nails into the flesh. As uncomfortable as the piece was as a whole, what really unnerved me was her eyes and mouth. Black, gaping holes sunk into her head where they should have been, and a thick, rust colored fluid seemed to leak from them.

Immediately I panicked and threw the curtain back over the horrid painting. I wanted to run screaming and crying straight to my grandmother, but I restrained myself. I knew that if I did that, she’d know I disobeyed her by looking under the curtain. So instead I gave myself a moment to regain my breath and composure before calmly joining my grandmother in the sitting room.

I never went into the gallery by myself again.
That is until my grandmother passed away, naming me the sole recipient of her painting collection.

The reading of the will was an uncomfortable enough experience on its own, but it was made worse by the fact that my jealous cousins were also present. My grandmother’s estate, belongings, and all of her life earnings were to be split evenly amongst the family. I however, was chosen to receive the paintings alone.

I knew this was because my grandmother knew of my great love for the art, and that I would be the only one not to sell all of them for the money. However, my cousins simply saw it as me inheriting nearly $80,000 in oil paintings, and not sharing a dime of it.

Oh, you can believe they tried to contest the will, but it was iron-clad, and despite their protests, I soon enough found myself transporting the pieces into my own home.

My boyfriend Edward and I had purchased a lovely Victorian style home two years prior, and I, following in my grandmother’s footsteps, had dedicated the long hallway and large room at the end of the third floor to hosting my own collection of paintings.

My grandmother had a great deal more paintings than I, but Edward and I managed to shuffle things around until everything had a cozy new home. Well, everything except for the one, nearly six foot tall canvas, wrapped methodically in several layers of brown paper and twine.

Instantly a knot formed in my stomach. I knew exactly which piece it was. The image of the tormented young woman with bloody caverns in her face flooded my mind, and I felt myself growing pale. Edward however, did not share the same unfortunate memory, and excitedly began unwrapping the piece.

I rushed forward to stop him, exclaiming how I wanted him to keep it wrapped, as it was a horrifically gruesome piece. However, by the time I reached him, he had already revealed the piece’s glossy surface.

I prepared myself for the horrible sight, but to my shock, it was different. The sickly girl in the white dress still stood, hair flowing in the non-present wind and hands digging into her cheeks, but the bloody craters were gone.

Instead, she now appeared to be a pretty little thing. She had soft pink cheeks, sparkling green eyes, and her lips parted daintily into a dreamy smile. I recognized the style immediately. This was my grandmother’s work. She had done an exceptional job covering over the old, horrific facade, however, if I inspected the piece closely, I could still see traces of the gruesome sight hiding right below the surface.

My grandmother had clearly worked painstakingly on the piece. To anyone who hadn’t seen the original, it actually did appear quite pleasant. I, however, hated it to my core. Edward on the other hand, was instantly in love.

The next few days consisted of us arguing over where the piece would be hung. We were out of room in the gallery, and he insisted upon hanging it on the large, blank wall on the far side of our bedroom. I of course wanted nothing to do with the piece, thus the fighting began.

Finally, we came to an agreement. I would let him hang the piece in our room for the time being, but I would begin looking for the family of the woman who originally painted the piece. Obviously, they wouldn’t want to look at it in its former state, as it forever captured the state of sickness in their beloved family member. But now, it was beautiful. It would memorialize her as she was before the sickness began changing her. Certainly they would want it back now!

Edward was hesitant, but agreed that returning it when I found the family would be the right thing to do. So it was that I prepared myself for a few weeks tops of having to gaze at the uncomfortable piece.

The piece went up, and despite my reservations, it actually wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Without the bloody chasms, the threatening aura of the piece was gone, and I will admit that seeing my grandmother’s painting style made me a little happy.

And while it had taken a few days, I finally tracked down a phone number for the family. The daughter of the woman who had given the painting to my grandmother answered, and seemed excited when I told her of the relic from her aunt. She said she wanted the piece, but she needed some time to find a place for it. Excitedly, we both agreed to hand over the piece the following week.

My excitement however, quickly faded when I learned that Edward was going to be leaving town for the remainder of our time in possession of the piece, due to business. Displaying the piece was one thing, but being home alone with it was an entirely different situation. Despite my grandmother’s beautiful work, being alone in the same room with the piece always left me with an uncomfortable knot in my stomach.

So after kissing Edward goodbye, and locking the door, I immediately ran to the linen closet, where I promptly grabbed a sheet to throw over the creepy painting. I stormed into my bedroom, armed with the linen and a tack, and came to a halt in front of the piece.

It was very vague, and I needed to squint my eyes and lean in to notice it, but it appeared as though my grandmother’s paint had begun to crack and peel a bit, revealing glimpses of the rusty brown color hiding right below.

That was impossible though. The piece was nowhere near old enough for that to occur. Oil paint is famous for staying wet for a very long time. There are even some paintings from the middle ages that are still moist on the inside! There was no way the paint here should be peeling!

Just the sight of that gross, rusty paint made me feel ill. I immediately threw the sheet over it, and breathed a sigh of relief when I was no longer confronted with the eerie sight. I couldn’t give the painting back soon enough.

It was about this time that strange things began happening. Nothing huge and panic worthy. Just little things. Doors I could swear I had left open would be inexplicably closed, every so often I’d feel a soft gust of air as if someone had just walked by, and an occasional creak or groan, which weren’t all too uncommon in a home as old as mine.

Things continued on like this for the first few days Edward was gone. It was Wednesday. Edward would be back on Sunday, and we’d return the piece on Monday. As uncomfortable as I was, my goal was in sight, and I knew I’d make it.

A few more days passed, and things were going relatively well until I decided to look at the piece again. I had been on the phone with a shipping company earlier, trying to decide the best way to wrap and transport the piece. I figured that the cracking and peeling of the piece must have been due to improper preparation and handling, and wanted to avoid further damage. Hesitantly, I lifted the sheet for a quick assessment.

I immediately dropped the sheet once more, and backed away in a moment of panic. The paint had continued to deteriorate, and now even more of the seeping rust was breaking through the girl’s once lovely face, now leaving her with a grotesque, cracked open face.

It was at this point that I decided I needed to speak with the family once more. I dialed the number, and to my surprise, found that the woman who had gifted my grandmother with the piece all those years ago was still alive, and had answered the phone. Apprehensively, I told her about the piece, and she immediately invited me over to talk about it over tea.

Jumping at the opportunity to not be home alone with the piece, I grabbed my purse and immediately headed over. Upon arriving at the address, I was greeted at the door by a smiling old woman. She graciously welcomed me into the home, and in minutes we were settled in the front room with daintily painted teacups in our hands.

She released a long sigh before speaking.

“That painting should have been destroyed a long time ago.” she breathed sadly.

“You’ve seen it. It’s terrible and frightening. It’s the result of a very sick mind.”

She shifted her gaze down to her teacup before continuing.

“My sister had brain cancer. In its final stages, she became very ill mentally. When there was nothing more the doctors could do for her, they sent her home and told us to make her comfortable. She always loved painting, so we bought her the biggest canvas we could, and hoped to make her last moments happy ones.”

“But as you can see, they weren’t. Her mind was plagued by demons. She began withdrawing more and more into the madness of her own world, and it showed on the canvas. I actually walked in on her slashing her arms with a palette knife, and mixing her blood right into the paint.”

The image of the gross, rusty color oozing from the craters in the girl’s face flashed across my mind, and I had to set my cup down for fear of dropping it.

“I was going to get rid of it” the old woman continued “Burn it after my sister passed away. But your grandmother, ever the art enthusiast insisted on keeping it instead. I don’t know why. It’s a horribly dreadful piece.”

“And now, what’s worse, my daughter wants it back in our home. Please, I beg of you. Burn it. Burn it right to ashes. Destroy that accursed thing.”

Right at that moment, the old woman’s daughter walked into the room.

“Mother! What is wrong with you? We have almost nothing to remember Aunt Marnie by, and when something she made with her own hands finally resurfaces in our life, you say to burn it?!”

“It’s a bad painting Sarah. It’s dark, and it’s angry, and it holds all the ugliness of the disease that took your Aunt from us.”

“No! It’s not! Evelyn here said that her grandmother restored it! It’s beautiful now, and I want to display it in our home to honor Aunt Marnie. You’re my mother, and I love you, but this is my home, and I want the painting. That’s final.”

By this point, the atmosphere in the home had gotten quite awkward, so I readily thanked them for the tea, and made my way back home. My newfound knowledge about the piece making me even less eager to keep it in my bedroom.

Without realizing it, I had spent far more time visiting the old woman than I had expected. That paired with the sizable drive back home, I found night to have already fallen by the time I finally arrived on my front porch. The house was empty and quiet, and confirmed my decision to sleep in the guest room that night.

Edward would be back the next day. Silly as I felt, just one night in the guest room wouldn’t kill me. I snuggled down with a good book, and read until I felt my eyes growing heavy. It had been a while since I had felt this at ease. I was quite happy to have made the decision to sleep away from the dreadful painting.

Within moments, I found myself drifting off to a peaceful sleep. However, this did not last. What I assume to be several hours later, I awoke to the sound of a slamming door. I jolted awake, my heart racing. I was home alone, and feared for a burglar.

I immediately began scoping the room for something I could use as a weapon. Thinking quickly, I pulled down the pole that was holding up the curtain, and wielded it like a staff.

Slowly, I crept through the doorway, keeping as silent as possible. The only thing I could hear was the sound of my own heart rapidly beating in my ears. Strangely, nothing in the house was amiss. I stood in the hallway pondering a moment before deciding which direction to move in.

My first instinct was to reach for the light switch, but if there was an intruder, hitting the light would immediately give away my position. So I decided to navigate in the dark. I knew my own home better than a thief would, so if I moved quietly, I’d have the element of surprise on my side.

Just then I had to muffle a scream as the door to my bedroom at the end of the hall slammed shut. Then the sound of weeping filled the home. It was sad, and distant, but it was definitely coming from my room.

Acting on instinct instead of logic, I hit the light switch in the hall, and went to investigate. Slowly, and as quietly as I could, I cracked open the door. The light from the hallway spilled into the dark room, and immediately, the weeping stopped.

I held my breath for a moment, not sure of what would happen next. That’s when my eyes fell upon the painting.

The sheet lay crumpled beneath it. I know it was covered the last time I had seen it, yet there it was, strewn across the floor.

Shaking, I pushed the door open further, allowing more light to spill into the room. The oil painting on the far end of the room illuminated, hungrily refracting the beam of light that now shone across it.

The last flecks of flesh colored paint my grandmother had painstakingly applied to the topcoat had crumbled away, once more revealing the horrifying visage I remember from my childhood.

I froze for a moment, overwhelmed by the same disgust that had captured me all those years ago the first time I laid eyes on the piece. That sickly yellow skin, those long black nails, the inexplicable wind that defied natural law. It all looked so terrifyingly real in the faint light.

Those deep oozing craters… Wait. Oozing? Oh my God. There’s no way. The craters in her face were actually oozing that horrible rusty material. It was impossible, but those deep, dark crevices were literally dripping with the stuff. I could see it seep out of the canvas and hear the splatters on the hardwood floors below.

I knew I should run, but my feet seemed glued to their place. I tried to calm my heavy, raspy breathes, however, I soon realized that they weren’t mine… I held my breath for a moment, and the scratchy exhales continued. I focused my gaze on the abomination on the wall, and released a silent scream.

The painting was moving. The woman’s bony, misshapen chest was jaggedly rising and falling in sync with the heavy breathing that now filled the room. My eyes widened in terror as my worst fear came to light. The painting slowly began to lurch. The shape of a crater filled head began to push through the canvas as if it were merely a sheet of spandex.

As the wretched figure began to force its way through, I finally regained my senses. I slammed the door shut and began running down the hall. I had only made it a few feet before I heard an enormous thud. The canvas had fallen off the wall. And at that precise moment, the wailing resumed. This time so loud I physically had to cover my hears.

Right as I rounded the corner, I shrieked in fear as I was immersed in total blackness. I tried desperately to orient myself, but my night vision had only just started to develop. In a panic, I continued forward with my hands outstretched, hoping to find the banister that lead downstairs.

A jolt of terror ran up my spine when I heard the creak of a door opening, followed by the sound of something heavy thumping, then dragging down the hall. The weeping had turned into wild shrieks, and were so loud they were disorienting. I nearly fell down the stairs when my hands finally grasped the banister.

As quickly as I could, I began racing down the stairs. The thumping and dragging sounded closer now. It was moving far faster than I thought. When I got to the bottom of the staircase, I felt for the side table on the right and threw it to the ground, hoping to slow it down.

Something was off now though. The shrieking had stopped. It was silent. No thumping, no dragging. Just silent. For some reason this scared me even more. So I ran as quickly as I could, despite the dark, straight for the front door.

Right as I was mere feet from grasping the handle, I felt my feet give out from underneath me. Something bony and cold had wrapped itself around my ankle. I fought wildly to break free as the sound of heavy breathing filled the room loudly again. I saw the form of something large and dark approaching me, and I swung wildly with my hands.

I felt them dig into something cold and moist. In disgust, I used all my might to push it back, and break through the front door, slamming it shut behind me.

I didn’t stop running until the sun had begun to rise. When I finally stopped, I collapsed on the ground, panting heavily. I raised my hand to wipe my brow, but stopped. I had been so focused on fleeing up until now that I hadn’t taken a moment to look at my hand. It was covered in a dark, rusty material, and tangled in several strands of long, black hair.

***

When Edward returned, he found the home to have been targeted by burglars. The place was trashed, but it was rather odd. Only one thing in the entire home had been stolen. He noticed that the large, lovely painted my grandmother had restored was nowhere to be found.

The police came by, and told me I was lucky to have escaped. I just nodded and kept quiet. After all, a burglary was the only logical explanation, right? This was a fairly textbook case, you see. A large, Victorian home full of valuable paintings makes a tempting target for thieves.

There was however, one detail about the case that seemed to have everyone baffled. All throughout the home there were trails of a dark, rusty fluid. Lab reports later confirmed it to be a strange combination of paint and old, rotten blood.

I’m not much a fan of paintings anymore. Edward and I sold the gallery, and are using the money to plan our wedding and are currently looking for a new home. I told him that I have trouble sleeping here because I have nightmares about the break in, but the truth is, we never did find the painting.

And some nights, I’ll lay in bed, moments away from drifting off, and I’ll swear I hear the sound of distant, raspy breaths.

Credit To – Madame Macabre

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The Thief in the Yellow Robe

October 30, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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My training in Comparative Literature — my miserable graduate school experience in particular — taught me that there is much productive work to be done outside of one’s own academic department. You learn new things by diving into other disciplines. In turn, you come away with fresh ideas; and in turn, those can be synthesized into worthwhile discourses that can open exciting, untraveled pathways for your field. There is good reason why some of the most influential thinkers in the study of literature — Freud, Marx, Foucault, Derrida, to name a few — all came from fields seemingly unrelated to it.

Therefore, when I found that half of my department’s faculty — the half that apparently had no hand in my hire — despised me for reasons of varying merit, I began to look to other departments; if not for friendship, then at least for a less hostile work environment. I settled upon the Theatre Department. Although I had never formally studied drama, I had been involved in my high school’s theatre troupe long ago, and felt that my cursory knowledge and the innumerable plays I had read over the years would serve me well in any conversation among the professors. And indeed they did. I became fast friends with much of the Theatre faculty. When I was not teaching, and not trapped in my building by my bi-weekly office hours, I whiled away the time in the Q— Fine Arts Center, chatting up my colleagues, watching rehearsals, or even guest lecturing on Spanish and Russian tragedians.

Among my closest companions was one Professor B—, a gifted teacher and a playwright of some small renown. She had been granted tenure several years before my arrival at the university on the strength of a trio of semi-historical plays she had written. After that, she had, by all appearances, run out of ideas. Although she numbered among the university’s finest educators, and despite her many successful stagings of classic dramatic works, her output of original plays had clearly stalled. A persistent rumor — albeit one of considerable gravity — claimed she would not earn promotion to full professor as a consequence of her years-long dry spell.

I could only think of what a tremendous shame it would be not to raise Professor B— ‘s rank. Certainly I was prejudiced in her favor, but my favor came less from the caprices of human attraction, and more from what I had seen of her as a teacher. In addition to her unparalleled skill in the classroom, she handled student crises with the greatest expertise, where a lesser mortal would have failed or been driven to wit’s end.

One such instance I remember in particular. A graduating student, bedraggled and in tears, sought her counsel while the two of us enjoyed our lunches beneath the Q— Center’s proscenium arch. I wished I had not been there to intrude on the conversation, but he began to spill out his story before I could make myself scarce. The student claimed that one of the other drama professors, after granting him top marks on a final project, had proceeded to steal the script he had submitted, turning it into a soon-to-open Broadway production whose writing credits were in the professor’s name. The poor student only found out from an actor friend of his in New York City, whose familiarity with the student’s project caused her to mention it during a phone conversation. What could be done? Who would believe him if he brought forth the accusation of plagiarism?

Professor B— thought long and hard about the question. Then, to my utter astonishment, she advised the student not to raise a ruckus. I prepared to interject, but before I could, Professor B— said something that I have kept with me ever since:

“It is less discouraging to be stolen from,” she said, “than to need to steal.”

Indeed, she went on, this student was clearly a talented writer; the professor’s theft constituted his proof. Let him write more. Meanwhile, the professor’s inevitable failure to produce quality plays in the future — coupled with knowing his accolades came from a work not his own — would be a vengeance more emotionally devastating than any the student could inflict.

Her recommendation succeeded. The professor, tormented by a string of flops and critical pans, quit the trade a broken man. The student, taking up his pen with renewed fervor, went on to write several extremely successful plays that continue to run in theatres across the country. In the meantime, Professor B— had spared the offending professor further ignominy, and protected the student from a protracted legal battle he may not have won. The more I thought about her sage advice, the more I wished that I, too, could be so far-sighted and effective. I would have modeled my own advisement after hers, if only I knew how to practice it.

Thus it was with great distress that I watched Professor B—‘s chances for promotion slip away as no new writings materialized with the passing months; and my concerns grew all the more acute when she disappeared a couple of days after the semester’s end. She would answer neither phone calls nor emails, and her house remained empty each time I tried to pay a visit. I told myself that, in all likelihood, she had retreated to some secluded haven, devoid of cellular reception and Internet connections, where she could work on a play without distraction. Even so, a dark inkling led me to wonder whether she might have suffered a mental breakdown from the mounting pressure to compose another worthy drama. Her absence and silence did little to dispel my fears.

Professor B— returned several weeks later, offering no explanations. She did not need any. For when I next saw her, during a chance encounter in the university library, she held in her hands a sheaf of papers bound with brass fasteners — a completed manuscript! Leaden pouches sagged beneath her eyes, and her hair looked disheveled as if by a sudden wind, but I imagined her frantic efforts at writing were to blame for her haggard appearance. After all, I, too, had endured many a binge-writing session in my time; I knew what kind of toll it exacted. Furthermore, when Professor B— gave me a comely, victorious smile, and thrust her manuscript into my hands, any worries I had for her well-being evaporated. She would be fine, I thought; any energy she spent on her play would be returned to her tenfold.

She said I could keep the manuscript to read at my leisure, for she already had several hard copies in her possession, in addition to myriad digital backups. At the same time, she swore me to secrecy regarding its contents. A production was already in the works, she said; with the aid of some of her most promising graduate students, she would stage it before the next semester’s end. Of course, I was welcome to watch their rehearsals — provided I remained equally as reticent as I did concerning the script. I gave her my word that I would keep the door of my lips, and looked forward to reading her latest masterpiece.

That night, instead of pursuing my own research, I sat at my desk with the manuscript, as I knew I could accomplish nothing else until I read Professor B—‘s latest work. What an opportunity I enjoyed! Was this what it felt like to read a play by Ibsen or Miller before it appeared on stage? My excitement darted through me like an electric current as I glimpsed the first page, where the play’s title, “THE THIEF IN THE YELLOW ROBE,” seemed as freighted with meaning as the epitaph on an ancient grave.

I must admit that I could make little sense of Professor B—‘s title. It alluded to no literary work or figure that I knew of, and as I read more, its referent became still more opaque — for no character approximating a thief, much less one clad in yellow, appeared in the play! The action, from what I could determine, consisted of the nonsensical banter of a group of courtiers at a lavish banquet. Their exchanges appeared coherent at first, but devolved long before the end of the first act. They barely seemed to converse with one another, each spoken line a virtual non sequitur to whatever dialogue preceded it. It was as if Professor B— had written a complete draft of the play that included an additional character — whom she removed upon its completion, leaving the rest of the script intact. The resultant text was not without humor, but I felt more bafflement than levity upon finishing it.

What was I to make of such a work? At first, I imagined that poor Professor B— truly had cracked under her creative stagnation, and that I beheld the product of a damaged mind. I soon scolded myself for the thought, however. It was perhaps more plausible that Professor B—‘s play tackled the theatre of the absurd with a nuance beyond my powers of analysis. After all, Beckett — rather notoriously — had brought forth plays that eroded language and meaning. In a similar vein, the promised antagonist in Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano never materializes, except for a single mention in the largely incoherent exchanges between the play’s characters. The point behind such plays might initially seem inscrutable, but inscrutability and nonexistence are different things entirely. My responsibility as a reader was to find the point, not to pronounce it absent. Moreover, the work I read was merely the embryo of a finished play. The script furnishes a mere fraction of the actual performance; the lighting, sounds, set design, costumes, makeup, and acting all lend something to the play’s meaning. Having only the text to consult, then, left me at a disadvantage. Therefore, I placed my trust in Professor B—‘s abilities, telling myself that The Thief in the Yellow Robe would prove far more understandable — if not downright illuminating — once she brought it to the stage, and joined it to the other trappings of the theatre.

Although rehearsals began within the week, I chose not to drop in on Professor B— and her students until their early dress runs. By then, I reasoned, the play would carry some semblance of its true form, but nonetheless remain distinct from its final version. As such, without spoiling all I would behold on the play’s opening night, I could see something markedly different from the text I read, and perhaps come closer to fathoming Professor B—‘s peculiar genius.

I sat in on their second dress rehearsal, taking advantage of the auditorium’s unoccupied front row. Professor B— welcomed me, but sat a short distance away in order to take notes on the performance. The house lights went out, and the curtain rose, revealing a set designed like a grand medieval hall. The student actors, all in period clothing, managed to inject quite a bit of character into their bizarre lines.

“Such bounty,” said the queen, a young actress made old by some makeup wizardry.

“Let him feast!” replied a noble lady, portrayed by the knockout blonde that every theatre troupe seems to have.

“I’ll bring the wick,” a portly nobleman put in, as if it were a witticism.

As the play progressed, I noted that each ingredient in the production seemed of the highest quality, but added little to my understanding of the script. Everything onstage thrummed with life, yet remained incomprehensible. With some imagination, the play I watched could have passed for something by David Lynch, if ever he tried his hand at live theatre. Alas, unlike a work of Lynch, I could not determine what part of my brain I needed to deactivate in order to appreciate Professor B—‘s play. I began to worry that The Thief in the Yellow Robe would flop — an unprecedented occurrence in Professor B—‘s career — and wondered whether such a blemish would fatally stain her record.

Despite my misgivings, I made sure to attend the play’s opening night. If Professor B— were doomed to failure, the least I could do was to stand by her side, and offer my solidarity. I must confess that, before I reached this conclusion, I battled some serious indecision, and my delay cost me. In the time it had taken me not to act, the show had almost sold out, and the best ticket I could buy would grant me a seat on the upper mezzanine. When I arrived at the theatre and claimed my spot, I was so high above the action that I felt like a bird lost in the rafters. A sea of people murmured and shifted in the packed auditorium below, while the proscenium arch’s heavy curtain undulated with a rhythm like breathing.

Somebody tapped me on my shoulder, and when I turned to look, who did I find but Professor B—! Waving, she gave me an impish grin. I asked her what in the world she was doing up here, when surely she ought to be down in the front rows. She laughed.

“What good could I do down there?” she asked. “It’s out of my hands now. Besides, I prefer to watch all of my plays from the mezzanine. It’s a vantage I seldom have the chance to enjoy during rehearsals.”

We persuaded the man to my right to switch seats with her. The two of us sat shoulder-to-shoulder as the house music faded, and the light slowly retreated into the dimming lamps. A spotlight activated with a sound of pounded metal, beaming a harsh circle onto the rippling curtain. The audience applauded as the curtain lifted, exposing the detailed banquet hall. A noble strutted into view, delivering a familiar monologue. More actors joined him as the drama unfolded, but as each one spoke their lines, I counted down the moments left until the script fell apart. How would the audience respond? My nervousness was palpable, but Professor B— seemed unfazed. I could not imagine the source of her confidence.

The queen’s second monologue wound to its close. It marked the point of no return. Once the prince began to speak, Professor B—‘s career would be over…

Before the prince could make his nonsensical interjection, a figure wearing a yellow hooded robe that completely obscured the face and body beneath glided onto the stage from the left wing. A fine mist billowed from under the robe’s folds, coating the ground the figure trod. What a marvelous effect — and undoubtedly a challenge to mount. In a haunting voice that sounded at once female and male — as if a man and woman spoke the same words simultaneously — the figure serenely recited a monologue whose words were pure poetry. The beauty of it all threatened to overwhelm me. Was this the character from whom the play derived its name? It must have taken nothing short of brilliance to conceive of and create such a being. Here, at last, was the saving grace of Professor B—‘s drama.

I placed my hand on her arm, and congratulated her for such a masterstroke. When she faced me, however, she wore a stricken expression. She staggered to her feet, and began to wind her way through the occupied rows toward the exit. The players onstage continued their performance, seamlessly incorporating the figure in yellow.

Had the months of intense stress finally broken Professor B—, now that she was out of danger and loosened her guard? I followed in her wake, catching up with her in the hallway outside. She shook violently, and steadied herself against a wall. I helped her to stay upright, and asked her what was the matter. There was no cause for despair in this moment of triumph.

She turned to me, intense fear smoldering in her eyes. “That person,” she said, “wasn’t in my rehearsals.”

How clever of her! I remembered that the script seemed to allude to an unexpected guest. What better way to emphasize that feeling than by forcing a surprise on her cast? I had heard of directors using unorthodox means to coax memorable performances from their actors, albeit never in a theatrical context — only the antics of Tarkovsky or Kubrick sprang to mind. I congratulated her on joining their elite ranks, if not surpassing them.

“You don’t understand,” Professor B— said, her strained voice scarcely louder than a whisper. “I’ve never seen that figure before, either. I have no idea who might be under that robe.”

“Whoever it is,” I said, “he or she seems quite familiar with your play.”

Professor B—‘s jaw began to tremble. She bit her lip. Her body threatened to convulse.

“It’s… It’s not my play.”

My face must have betrayed my shock, although I fought to suppress it, lest I cause her any further distress.

“I translated it,” she stammered, “but… I didn’t write it. I… I found it. A typed Latin manuscript, buried in the periodicals section of the university library. No binding. No call number. Nor was it on file in our database. It was as if someone had left it there and forgotten…”

Or left it there deliberately, I didn’t add.

“And I was so desperate,” she continued. “You know I wouldn’t have done it, unless…”

I had no words to offer her.

“My students all know how to improvise,” said Professor B—, “so they’ll carry the show if I let them. But I have the worst feeling about this. I… I have to stop the performance.”

We descended to the ground floor, Professor B— several strides ahead of me. As she rounded a corner toward the dressing rooms, I approached one of the auditorium doors. Curiosity had overtaken me, and I had to know the state of the play. I gently tugged on the door so as not to distract the audience. It would not budge. I applied more force, and still it remained firmly shut. Muffled voices filtered through from the other side. What was going on?

I made my way to the dressing rooms, where Professor B— berated the stage manager.

“Who’s that out there?” she demanded. “Why did you let him onstage?”

“He — she? — didn’t come through this way,” the stage manager said. “I thought it was your idea, and it fit the play so well, I…”

Professor B— shoved the stage manager aside, taking his two-way radio. In her haste, she had knocked it off-frequency, and could not find the channel to communicate with her technicians. She threw the radio aside, and it broke into pieces on the floor.

“I’ll need to go out there,” she said. “I must give them some excuse for calling off the show…”

“The auditorium doors are locked,” I told her. “Be careful not to cause a panic.”

“They are?” she cried. “But, I didn’t… Who… Oh, god!”

As she darted off somewhere I could not see, I peered out from the wings. The figure in yellow stood in the center of the stage, while the cast had arranged themselves in various postures of submission nearby, the mist coiling around them. The dialogue proceeded as expected, except for the robed figure’s two-voiced contributions. The air around me felt chilled, but my lungs tingled and burned as I breathed it. The audience looked on, enraptured.

“I am no thief,” the yellow figure intoned, “for one can only steal what is not given.”

“I give you my eyes,” said the queen.

“These ears are yours,” said a nobleman.

“Take my heart,” said the princess.

The cast began to claw at themselves. I heard the slick sound of rending flesh, and urged myself to turn away, but I could not pull myself from the grim spectacle before me. Nobody in the audience made a sound. They seemed every bit as entranced as I was.

“Drop the curtain!”

I heard Professor B—‘s voice in the catwalk high overhead.

“Can’t you hear me? Drop the curtain!”

The cast lay in a viscid heap on the stage, the robed figure towering above their fallen bodies. Their mutilations looked so severe as to be fatal. A single cast member seemed to breathe, but her breaths were shallow and labored. The figure paid the bloodied students no heed. One yellow sleeve had risen in a peremptory gesture. It looked empty and hollow. Then it pointed toward the audience.

“Even my sovereignty hinges on the charity of my subjects,” said the figure. Though the melody remained in its voices, the poetry of its words seemed to have vanished. “Without their compliance, I am nothing.”

To my horror, the cast managed to speak.

“We will what you will,” they murmured.

Without my volition, I, too, had mouthed those words.

The eviscerated cast stood up in unison, their wounds dripping. The fat man who promised his heart held it in his hand, and a gaping hole bore through his thick chest. How could he stand? My fright was worse than any I had known, but I could not avert my eyes. The cast reached into the deep gashes they had torn into themselves, and each drew forth a pristine blade from the opening that glistened in the spotlights. They lined up beside the robed stranger in two jagged flanks, and turned toward the audience.

“Drop the curtain!” Professor B— shouted.

“I take only what my people offer me,” said the figure in yellow, “and only if they be blessed with abundance.”

“Such bounty,” said the blinded queen, her age makeup melting off her face in grotesque streams.

“If my people will me to eat,” said the yellow figure, “then I eat.”

“Let him feast!” said a noble lady, whose patchy scalp oozed where she ripped out her flowing blonde locks.

“And if my people build me a sacrificial pyre,” the figure proclaimed, as the cast advanced toward the edge of the stage with their weapons drawn, “then I light it at their command!”

“I’ll bring the wick,” said the heartless nobleman.

I heard the singing of sharp metal as the gored cast prepared to pounce on the audience. Then a crashing noise thundered in the catwalks. The heavy proscenium curtain fell unrestrained from the arch above, its anchor ropes trailing after its weighted base, and cracked against the stage floor with a noise like breaking bone. A rush of scorching air knocked me onto my back, slamming the stage door behind me. It rattled in its frame as fierce winds lashed the wood.

Roaring applause erupted on the other side.

Wincing with pain, I raised myself, and stumbled toward the door. Its knob felt warm in my palm. I pulled it open. Professor B— stood on the other side, staring at the stage.

The set remained intact. But none of the actors could be seen. Piles of ash lay inside their rumpled, bloodstained costumes.

Except for the flowing yellow robe.

It was nowhere to be found.

Credit To – Lex Joy

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The Doll

October 22, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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Three years ago I had been asked by my employer’s to retrieve a particular item but that day I walked away with more than just a mere trinket.

I had been employed for several years at an antique store called “A Moment in Time”, and I liked my work. I got to meet many interesting people and encounter rare items of just as much interest.

Often my elderly employers, a married couple known as the Hudson’s, would send me out to pick up items that had been donated to the store. Sometimes the trip was just a few a blocks away and other times I had to leave the city for the outskirts. In the end my final trip out would take me further than I had ever imagined possible.

The item pick up seemed simple enough: Go to the house, pick up the trunk and bring it back to the shop. But when I finally got the house that day it was anything but simple.

As I drove deeper into the forest and onto the large property the birds stopped singing, the insects stopped buzzing and even the wind seemed to come to a halt. The house had clearly been abandoned and had been so for some time. What was once a gorgeous two-story log cabin on the edge of the lake was now a decaying structure overgrown with wild vines and uncut weeds that blocked out the windows on the first floor. The roof was blackened by a fire and a large gaping hold in the roof that surely allowed the elements to decimate the interior just as severely as the exterior.

Moving through the thick weeds, following what was left of the front walk, I knocked on the door but received no response. I knocked again but there was no denying that no one was in the house. I checked the faded numbers of the house’s address to the information that I had been given, it was the correct house.

As I put my hand on the doorknob it fell from the rotten door and landed on the wooden porch with a loud ‘thud’. The door slowly creaked open on its own. I peeked inside and looked around and saw nothing moving. More vines snaked along the floor like a natural carpet. There was no furniture in the whole house, all that was left was a broken grandfather clock and the long dormant fireplace. I could see that the windows in the distant kitchen area were broken and dirty. There was a single bedroom that was also empty.

Small circles on the dirty floor indicated that furniture had once been in the room but removed, and removed recently it seemed. The adjoining bathroom was a mess, the pipes were no longer dripping as rust encrusted the leaks. The medicine cabinet mirror had been broken. Checking the closets I found nothing but a stray wire coat hanger.

On the wall of the kitchen there was a phone. I picked it up and listened to the receiver but I heard nothing, no dial-tone, no busy signal. Only silence. I hung the phone up.

I called out again but the house remained silent, except for my own footsteps against the warped wooden floorboards. The staircase itself was its own story. The vines engulfed the side of the stairs and wrapped up the banister. Most of the steps were cracked and splintered, other steps were missing entirely. An ominous thought entered my mind; who put the trunk up for donation?

As I ascended the stairs I couldn’t help but feel like someone was watching me. My skin began to crawl with building uneasiness. The second floor was a room all its own, extending the entire width and length of the house itself. The hole in the roof shone a single intense beam of sunlight when the wide tree branches over the house would allow the light’s passage. In the center of this beam of light was a single trunk.

I took a step toward the trunk and heard the rapid steps of a small child running behind me. I froze and looked over my should quickly but saw nothing and all fell silent again. I called out but received no reply.

Wanting to get the trunk and get out of that house as fast as I could, I kneeled down in front of the trunk and checked the lock but it was secured. I wiped the sweat from my face and looked around in a feeble attempt to find some sort of tool to pry open the lock. As my eyes left the trunk the lock began to loudly rattle.

I jumped back and stared at the trunk, my heart pounding hard in my chest. With my shaking hand I tested the lock again and this time it was loose. I removed the lock from the trunk and took a deep breath as I slowly opened the lid.

Inside the trunk I found what looked like scraps of newspaper and a single red velvet bag. I opened the bag and pulled out a porcelain doll. I held it in my hands and studied it, the uneasy feeling returning with a vengeance.

The doll itself seemed so otherworldly. It was a doll of a small girl. She was wearing black and white saddle shoes and white stockings, with a snow white circular brimmed hat on her head. Her dress was snow white as well, reaching down to the dolls knees and half way down her arms. A red sash was tied at the doll’s waist with a red barrette clipped in her hair. Her hair was the deepest black, blacker than charcoal. Her hair reached down to her waist and it had bangs cut just over where her eyes should’ve been. The doll’s face was blank. No eyes, no mouth, no nose. Just a blank canvas that was even whiter than her dress.

I carefully slipped the doll back into the bag and set it on the floor beside me. Slipping my hand back into the trunk I checked it for other items but found only more scrap newspapers, at least I thought they were scrap. I caught a glimpse of a strange picture in the scraps and saw that it was an old article clipped from the newspaper.

The article told of a mysterious fire that happened in the house, how there was no explanation ever given and the case was still be investigated. Another article spoke of mysterious animal deaths on the property. A third clip spoke of a little girl drowning. On and on each article I picked up spoke of one tragedy after another, all happening at the house or its property. The dates stretched back as far as seventy years, and in every photo that accompanied the articles I saw the same name of the person who was reportedly responsible for all the tragedies; ‘Caroline’. As well as the same object: The doll.

I felt a chill go up my spine. I reached for the velvet bag with the doll but my hand only found the floor. I looked down at the bag was gone. A thump from behind caught my attention. I turned around and saw the bag in the middle of the floor. Outlined in the bag was the form of the doll sitting up right.

Now my heart was beating so hard I could hear it in my head. I grabbed the doll, tossed it in the trunk, slammed the lid and dragged the entire thing down the stairs. As I dragged the trunk through the front door the itself somehow slammed shut on its own. It was a struggle to lift the trunk into the back of the truck but I managed to do it thanks to the fear-induced adrenaline.

The drive back to the shop seemed to take even longer than before. All the while I kept looking in the rearview mirror at the trunk in the pickup bed. Whenever I looked away I would hear a bizarre scratching noise, like a tree branch dragging against the roof of a house.

As soon as I pulled into the parking lot of the store I ran in to inform my boss’s of the delivery. Mrs. Hudson could see I was upset, she sat me down and asked me to tell her what happened while Mr. Hudson went to check on the trunk. Before I could even begin my story I heard Mr. Hudson’s weak voice call for help as he hit the gravel of the parking lot. With Mrs. Hudson as my side I knelt down next to him and checked his neck for a pulse, but I couldn’t find one. He was dead. Mrs. Hudson began to panic, so I told her to run back inside and call 911 while I hopelessly attempted CPR.

I looked around trying to figure out what caused Mr. Hudson’s collapse when I noticed that the trunk had been opened. The lid was being held open by the lock that had been bent at an odd angle. On the inside of the lid of the trunk were tiny scratches, almost like claw marks as if something or someone, had been locked inside.

The EMT’s and police arrived at the shop but it was too late, Mr. Hudson had died from an apparent massive heart attack. As the ambulance pulled away with Mr. Hudson’s body and the police took Mrs. Hudson aside for questions, I cautiously approached the opened trunk.

Inside the trunk was the bag with the doll, it was again sitting upright. I opened the bag and took out the doll, small abrasions and dirt covered the doll’s small hands and fingers. They matched perfectly with the marks on the lid of the trunk.

The brittle paper that had been clawed began to flake away revealing the ancient wood beneath. Strange markings marred the wood, like a burned engraving. I cleared away the paper and saw a name: ‘Caroline’. I put the doll back in the trunk and tried to slam the lid shut, but it wouldn’t close anymore.

Unable to cope with the loss of her husband Mrs. Hudson closed down the shop. She died of a stroke two weeks later.

As for ‘Caroline’, the name I had given the doll, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I would dream of a faceless girl every night and I would hear tiny foot steps running through my apartment at all hours of the day. Whenever I drove by the closed down antique shop I would see her standing in the window starting out, staring with her blank eyes.

I put her ebay along with the trunk and newspaper articles. As soon as she was purchased my nightmares stopped and my apartment was quiet. But the most disturbing image that ‘Caroline’ left behind was the picture I had taken of her when I put her up for auction. At first the image seemed normal and it remained as such until she had been shipped away. I went to delete the now unnecessary photo from my laptop when I saw in the thumbnail that the doll’s face was different.

Her eyes were black hollows and she had painted ruby red lips that were twisted slightly upward in a sinister grin. I clicked on the thumbnail to enlarge the image but when I did the face returned to its blank expression of nothingness.

I deleted the image from my computer, but I couldn’t get her eyes or her smile out of my mind.

Credit To – Katie Averill

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