Chronicles of the Mark – The Snake In the Sun

April 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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View the original story here: The Mark of Canus.

Two concepts exist in our world, the natural, and the supernatural. Humanity actively sees and understands the natural, as we progress in science and mathematics, but most of us refuse to observe the existence of the supernatural, as we usually cannot perceive it. Many outright deny the possibility of supernatural occurrences, artifacts, or entities entirely, on the grounds that these things cannot be logically explained. The supernatural cannot be explained logically because it is not based in logic, as logic itself is a natural principle.

The human mind, or at least the part our basic consciousness resides in, is another natural thing, an article of logic. This is why we are not able to accept the supernatural as real, because it goes against the very basis of our understanding. Many argue the supernatural is in a part of our minds, the usually dormant part from where psychosis comes from, the crazy part, and that our minds have the capability for the supernatural, but that portion is almost always locked for some reason. Either way, the supernatural most certainly exists, and there is a lot of power in it even today.  One such case of supernatural power in the world is the Mark of Canus, a manifestation of evil in the universe, and a driving force for violent insanity and even deeper darkness in the confines of the mind.

The Mark of Canus has had a profound impact on certain individuals throughout time. James Dodd, an outlaw turned lawman in the American West during the time of expansion and greed recalls his experience with the Mark:

The year was 1876, a full one hundred years after this country was founded. During that time we have seen many wars with the natives, continued fighting with the British, and a full blown Civil War, but all those horrors pale in comparison to the man known as The Snake in the Sun, Darrel Shrimer, the gold tycoon.

Shrimer was an ambitious man, known for his drive and ability to get things done, but there’s more to him than that, alright. He was sadistic, ultimately evil, and it all had something to do with this symbol he always had on him, on a belt buckle or boot. They say you could see it in his eyes, pure evil in that symbol. I shiver to think of when I looked on it. My story with him begins with my return to Albright, Arizona.
I rode into Albright in the late evening, had taken me all day to get here from Tucson. Things felt different going into the town this time, could be because I wore a badge now, instead of a bandana. I was born in Montana, but Albright had been my home for a while, when I was with a gang. Things are different now, I protect people. I cleaned up myself and became one of the best, an Arizona Ranger. Yep, I wore a bright badge and a lot of responsibility with it. The last time I’d been in Albright I had been a criminal, so naturally I knew things would feel different riding in with that weighty title.

Maybe it wasn’t the badge at all, I couldn’t really explain it, but something had come over the town, a heavy feeling. I thought nothing of it, maybe it was just me, after all I’d killed men here years ago. I rode up to the bar for a drink and some food when I noticed a strange marking on one of the posts, it was some kind of symbol, a symbol I would later come to abhor for the rest of my life, but back then it seemed like just an odd little scratch in the post, so I went on in and sat down at the bar.

I looked around to exactly what I expected, people staring. They had a scared look in their eyes, they knew me from before. I used to be a stone cold killer, a criminal who’d rob and steal and shoot men for a living. It’s no wonder they all looked frightened to see me. I’d been brought to justice by a lawman, but not all justice in the West ended in blood. He took me to Tucson to be tried, and they stuck me in prison for many years, many turned to few as I was let off for good behavior. I was completely reformed, cast off my old life in crime, to seek a new one in the law.
I ordered a steak and some Dawson brew, and was waiting for my food, thinking about my new life here when a young man came up to the bar and sat next to me. “You that Jim Dodd they talked about, the outlaw gone put on a badge?” I looked over and saw his face. He looked young, his face not yet rough. He looked innocent enough, and yet there was something off about him, an odd feeling I got. I said nothing, only turned out my badge and nodded. The boy said, “So it is true then. You’re gonna keep the law round here?” I nodded again, eyes still on the boy. “That mean you gonna take Russell Lewis and the Snake in the Sun?” He asked. I cocked my head in curiosity, partly as to who these people are, as well as that the boy was so frank with me about the nature of the law. Sensing my puzzlement, he explained, “The Snake in the Sun is Darrel Shrimer, that gold boss who’s been sweepin’ cross Arizona lookin’ for gold and fortune. They call him the Snake in the Sun on a count of he will kill a man in broad daylight, as much as the dark night. He’s had the whole town in his hands for comin’ on two years now, and I reckon he won’t let us go till someone puts him down or he gets bored. Russell Lewis is his right hand man, he’s just as scary. This guy is like the Devil ate a scorpion and spit him back out into the desert to mock the Lord by puttin’ him in the image of a man.”

I was intrigued at these man he talked about. I’d heard once of Darrel Shrimer, apparently he had gone out on a mining expedition with a whole company of men, went up into the mountains, and returned alone, with a large fortune of gold and a ruthless ambition to get more, but that sounds like most all other gold tycoons around the West. This is the first I’ve heard of murder and settlement extortion, and who was this Russell Lewis? If these claims were true, I’d have to do something, being a man of the law.

Just as I decided to open my mouth and tell the boy I’d look into it, his stare changed. He now looked pale, almost grey, and those eyes, they were empty. The eyes were as empty as the night sky in the Mojave, and just as deep. My blood ran cold, I was frozen stiff. I could not look away. Then the boy said, in a raspy voice unlike what I had just heard from him, “You can’t stop the Mark, it lives everywhere, inside you, inside your mind. The Snake in the Sun will make you submit, submit to the warming insanity of the Mark. We have given in, all of us, Albright belongs to the Mark, to the Snake in the Sun. Can you feel it, man of the law, can you feel the Mark in your mind? It’s there, waiting for you to see its glory, and love it eternally in darkness as the Snake in the Sun, and all of us.”

I looked at the boy for a moment longer, trying to figure out if what I heard was even real, I was very tired. I blinked a few times, and to my surprise he was still there, with that grey look about him, but now the symbol from the post was there, inside both his eyes, this time terrifying, its silent glare penetrating my mind. It was like looking into the essence of the symbol itself, which I now knew as the Mark. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before, that Mark. It’s the face of terror, the face of sin and greed and corruption, it’s the origin of all evils. I turned away, towards the rest of the bar, only to see them all the same, silently staring with the Mark in their eyes, silent, unmoving. All of them. I got up without my food and left the bar.

I ran out into the street, unhitched my horse and saddled up as fast as I could and spurred the old bronco out of town at full speed. The Sun was down but I didn’t care, I was so mortally terrified, and every part of my being was screaming at me to leave, leave while I can. Think of it now what I did was pretty dumb, but I was just so scared I couldn’t think of anything else but to turn tail and run like a child. I rode and rode into darkness until I the horse was so exhausted she just collapsed in full gallop. I flew off her and hit the ground hard, then I blacked out. The last thing I saw as I flew through the chilly desert air was my horse, eyes gaping, the Mark in those eyes.

I came to when a hand tugged at me. In a daze I realized my own hands were tied up, and I was sitting atop my horse, walking along behind another man on a horse. He held the rope. I could tell I wasn’t speaking complete sentences, but I tried to ask what was going on, said I was an Arizona ranger and I demanded to know why I was tied up. The man ahead of me wore a black coat and brown hide hat, all dusty. He didn’t turn back, only laughed, the kind of laugh you hear in a looney bin. He then spoke, still facing forward, with a voice that could cut stone, “That’s a good one, friend, but the law don’t make it round these parts, law dog. And that shiny badge of yours, well it just got you in a world of hurt!”

He continued to laugh, and by this point I was all cleared up. “You trying to be funny?” I said, “Sounds to me like you’re the one about to be in a world of hurt when I get loose here friend.” He was silent for a second, then replied, “Who you think you are anyway, Dodd? The only reason you’re still alive is because It wants you somethin’ bad, and the Snake in the Sun wants to watch you suffer It’s madness. That’s the world of hurt I was talkin’ about earlier.”

I was surprised he knew my name, the Arizona rangers are officially anonymous, I had no ID. I finally asked “How’d you know my name anyways, slick?” “Oh It always knows, Jim.” he replied quickly, “It told me ‘fore I laid eyes on you yesterday. Besides, I heard about you, been an outlaw in Albright stirrin’ up trouble daily, caught by Manny Gargas with that six-shot .44, and put in jail. Then out of the blue they let you out early and you change colors, swappin’ your red sash for a white hat, and go on slaughterin’ outlaws like you’re some patron saint of Arizona. I hate lawmen like you, who use violence as means of ending violence.”

He made a point, but I was still baffled he knew so much of me. “And just who are you then?” I asked. He finally looked back at me, his face was rough as sun-bleached leather, all cut up and dusty. He looked like he’d been dragged through Hell by the spurs and pulled back to Earth again. “Why little old me? Name’s Russell, Russell Lewis, friend. I work for the Snake in the Sun, and I’m an outlaw through and through. I hope that hurts you inside, Jim, seein’ an outlaw you can’t kill? And, I serve It, our master, the Evil of Humanity. I serve the Mark. That’s all you really need to know there, Jimmy boy.” “Pleased to meet you.” I said, as we came upon the town. I looked ahead and saw him.

From a distance he looked like anyone else, a man on a horse, in a hat and coat. As we got closer and closer I began to make out features, He was older, snowy hair and mustache. He had a rough, stern face which was ever the norm in the West. He wore a tan coat, a hide hat and a nice shirt. On his boots was sewn an image of the Mark, and on his shirt and hat.

Then, as we got really close, I saw something different in him. His face was like an animal, he looked borderline insane, like he could snap at any minute. He looked evil. “So this is the James Dodd I was so compelled to have brought here.” He started, “you know something boy? You should have stayed in that jail cell, cause it ain’t half as bad as what you’re about to go through. You’re in Hell now boy, God can’t save you now.” I was thoroughly convinced of his words, but I wouldn’t show it. “You got a pair of balls holding an Arizona ranger like this. I’ll see you tried and hung, but that’s if I don’t put a hole in you first.” He chuckled, the kind of chuckle that made it clear he was confident of himself. “Well boy,” he said, “that sure sounds nice, but the Mark has different plans for you.” He reached in his shirt and pulled out a necklace, looked silver, with that unholy Mark on it. “Do you even know what this is, boy?” he got off his horse and I was pulled off mine.

He came up real close, held up the necklace. I could hear whispers in some odd language, saw lines coming off it, like sometimes in the middle of the desert, under the hot sun, when you’ve been out there too long and things get to your mind. He looked closely at me, I saw the ferocity in his eyes, after a long moment he spoke again, “This, boy, is the Mark of Canus. It’s as old as time itself, and it’s as evil as it is powerful. It can make men do terrible things, to others, to themselves. I feeds off us, our sheer horror satiates its terrific hunger. Men have lived and died wearing this Mark. I found it on a Spaniard some time ago when were on a mining trip. Said he got it from Spain, and it had great power. It haunted me from the moment I laid eyes upon it. So one night, in the mines while everyone was sleeping, I took the Mark, and I killed everyone there. I ate their rich hearts, and cut off their sad faces. It was ecstasy, the Mark had me from then on, and I’ve served it in madness to acquire my fortune. But now, now the Mark wants you too boy. And it’ll have you. You’ve seen it, I know you have, there’s no going back now. The insanity will come over you, then to serve the Mark, you’ll cut out your own heart for me, so I can taste it.”

I was not going to do that, but he spoke so confidently, as if it was inevitable. Suddenly, my head started spinning, I saw the Mark everywhere, on the walls, in his eyes, on the ground. I took a step back, tripped and fell. My hands were still tied, I sat there in horror as the Mark permeated into my mind. “Where are my manners?” Shrimer snorted, “Russell cut him loose.” Russell did as he was told, and I was free, or I thought I was. I then tried to run, but the whole town crept out onto the street and blocked me, they all looked grey, soulless. The Mark was in their eyes, all of them.
They started closing in, cornering me. All the while I could hear a thrum of some odd sounding drums getting louder, and whispers. The Mark was taking me, my own evils from long ago coming back out to claim what was theirs. There, back in my head the faces of the men I killed, the nightmares I’d woke from in my prison cell, all I worked so hard to erase back again. The sins I thought I had absolved, dropped on by as if they never really left. I screamed, fell down again and writhed on the ground, I could feel a slithering inside.

“You feel that boy?” called Shrimer, “That’s the Mark inside you, that’s me inside you. Do you know why they call me the Snake in the Sun? Because I slither through the desert and eat any rats I find. You’re no exception, boy, you’ll succumb just like all the others!” I fought it, I fought it hard, but it didn’t matter, the Mark was quickly taking me.

As the darkness closed in, I had a thought, something that sheriff Gargas had told me when get finally took me. He said ‘Evil is everywhere, friend, it is even inside you. Fighting that evil is all we can do, all we can live for, because it is the only way we can redeem ourselves. We do bad things, no one is perfect, but it is how hard we fight it that makes the most difference, because in the end, we are all judged by our efforts. Even if we never really win, what other choice do we have?’ That thought inspired me, I fought back the Mark, not completely but only for now, accepted it, and pushed it from controlling me.

My hands free, I reached for my hip, and pulled up my .44 Magnum handgun. I was surprised they left it on me, Shrimer was really convinced that I’d be taken. Things happened fast after that, Russell reached for his rifle, but I was too quick, and I nailed him twice. Two of the other henchmen tried after that, each went down with only one round, ranger training is extensive. There was blood on the ground, and Shrimer reached for his gun, but I shot him in the leg. He dropped it and went to his knees, I had him now.

The man dragged himself back as I came to him. “What are you gonna do now?” He puffed out a few more mad chuckles, “You’re out of bullets, you gonna cuff me, boy?” He seemed confident still, even wounded and outmatched. “Not today, Shrimer. Look again, and count my bullets before your blessings. Normally they have only five, but I had this one made special like Gargas’. There’s one round left, friend.” He stopped lurching backward, but I kept towards him.

He just continued to laugh, “Killing me won’t help you, Jim. The Mark still has you, though you managed to beat it back. We all go sooner or later, and the Mark is always there. You haven’t won, boy, not by a long shot. Evil will always be with us, and you can’t escape your wicked past! You can’t change!” I put the gun to his forehead, and looked down on him. “That doesn’t matter anymore. I am the law now, and I’m gonna bring you to justice. And you’re right, I can’t change. I killed back then, and I kill now, but the difference is I kill the killers, and not the innocent. Condemn me if you will, but if killin’ you saves someone else, well I’ll be damned if I let you go. You made this personal, you brought the hawk down on you, snake. Now I’m gonna cut you down, just like I promised.”

I pulled the trigger, and he fell down. The Snake in the sun was dead, and already I felt a weight lift off the town, suddenly the townspeople weren’t looking grey anymore, though they were confused. I plucked the necklace off Shrimer, and put it in my pocket. I would return it to Spain where it was found, and evil like that needs to stay buried.

Dodd’s story is only one of many like it. Throughout time, the Mark has always been there, tormenting souls and enforcing its evil on the world. However Dodd, unlike many, has been able to keep the Mark from taking him, it would always be there, and every once in a while a chill would creep down his spine, and he knew the Mark was present. He battled with the evil in him until his death in 1919, when the fever got him in his sleep. It is said he rambled in his last days, talk of something coming for him, and he mentioned the Mark over and over again. He passed away in the late night, a look of fear on his face, fear of the Mark and its madness, that same madness he had beat, if only temporarily, on that day in Albright, Arizona.

Credit To – Greg P

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The Puzzle Ball

April 10, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I’m writing this not for sure exactly why I am, but I’m going to just because my mind is trying to think back on the past several months. It hasn’t been a good several months, not at all, but I guess I might as well start from the beginning. Sorry if I ramble I usually do and my medication is making it hard for me to focus.

I went to flea markets, pawn shops, and yard sales a lot. Mostly in search of comics or anything that looked cool. I know that sounds stupid, but that’s what I did in my free time. One day in my exploration for comics I came across a yard sale. The yard sale was at a small one floor home that was quite old. I did my usual search through, when I found an odd looking ball.

It weighed several pounds and was made of brass. It’s diameter was about six inches. On both sides of it, it had nine square buttons in a square; the buttons had many different symbols. Such as a Scorpion, an eye, a triangle, a bird, and a key. I was intrigued by it. So, I went up to the man running the yard sale.

I asked him “Hey, what is this?”
He replied “Oh, yes the Puzzle Ball. It was a family heirloom.”
“Why are you selling it? It’s not curse is it?” I said laughing.
“No, no! Well, my uncle thought it was, but he was a drunk. I’m selling it, because my business hasn’t been doing good.”
“Oh, well I’m sorry to hear about your business, but what does this Puzzle Ball do exactly?”
“Well it’s a puzzle my grandfather had gotten from Egypt. He was an archaeologist and went their around the big burst in ruins found in Egypt. He and my dad obsessed over trying to open it. They thought it had riches in it but, they were both pretty crazy.”
He laughed
“Here I’ll show you how far my dad used to get with it.”

He grabbed a little cheat sheet and got pretty far along until he hit the wrong button. After that it’s a bit of a blur we talked awhile afterwards. He was a nice guy. Can’t remember his name and the Morphine isn’t helping. I’ll try to describe how it worked.

You had to hit the buttons in a correct order to make a part of the ball turn like a Rubix cube. It was split three times so if you got a sequence right you could rotate so that side would switch over to the other. It was extremely hard. The order was random with no basis so after you followed the cheat sheet you had to just guess. And if you messed up it wouldn’t move anymore, until you moved the pieces back to the correct position.

The guy showed me it all and told me he was happy that not some of the trash around here wasn’t buying his family’s heirlooms. I was glad I could help him with some money to help his business. So for about a month… Yeah, I think a month, I messed with the ball trying to figure it out. I would even say I, became obsessed with figuring it out. It was affecting my sleep as I became obsessed with it. Several times I would try not to play, but I just could not stand the thought of not playing it. It was driving me mad.

One time…The time… The only one I remember very well of my late night playing of the puzzle. I had been playing for a very long time. A very long time. Ugh… I don’t know how long, but long. I had this feeling that I was close, really close to getting the riches in there. Irony I guess, but I felt it. That it was going to be something amazing. I knew that this was the last one. I knew; I don’t know how, but I was one hundred percent sure.

Not knowing I clicked “The Eye” symbol. No luck! I reset it angry nearing tears. I got up and went towards the window. I was about to throw it out the window, but my arm buckled and the ball hit the hardwood with a large thud. It rolled across the hardwood and stopped at the base of my chair.

I didn’t question it. I saw this as a chance to get the prize whatever it was. The ball had forgiven me. I played again until I got the feeling that I was on the last one again. This time I knew the answer, just like I knew this was the last one. The cross. It was the middle one on the final one. A small cross with a mark centered on it. It was a grave marker. I may have not known it then, but now I know. I clicked and a sharp click sounded from it. The ball spit down the middle.

Inside there was a small three inch box. I opened the box to find a small dark black Scorpion crawled out of the box. It had some symbols of sorts on it’s back. In a blind rage from there being no ultimate prize for all my hard work I stepped on the little piece of shit. I gotta feeling like the one you get after doing something stupid.

While my brain was thinking about how it did not make any sense how that scorpion was alive; I was too tired and pissed off to care about logic. After about a day…or two. I’m not for sure. I came home to find another pure black scorpion crawling across my floor. I stepped on it, picked it up with a Kleenex, and threw it in the trash. You would think this would have sent off red flags, but no! I was too focused; I had just got my dream promotion. Everything was going really good, but as life has taught me extreme highs come with extreme lows.

For about a week, this time I’m for sure. I came home would stomp the little guys and move on. It hit me after the third day of smashing them that I had an infestation. I called an exterminator, but it was bedbug season and they were filled for another month. I wasn’t too upset about it, but I was going to be soon. After a couple more days of smashing bugs, I started getting a really bad rash. It burned and itched. It was terrible; I always scratched at it non stop. One time I scratched until before my skin became red. I went to see a doctor, but he couldn’t find any reason for it. I even told him about the scorpions; While that did confused him he said,

“A scorpions sting wouldn’t cause a rash like this. If it gets worse just call.”

And that’s what I did. I moved on. I smashed the scorpions when I woke up, when I came home, and when I went to bed. The rash slowly got worse. Spreading from my arm all over my body. I went to the doctor again and no results. Blood test, X-Ray, and even a Physical showed nothing. Squat! One morning I woke up and my skin felt like it was crawling. Something under it.
I went into a scratching frenzy. As I scratched blood started forming on my arms. I had to stop it. I cleaned the wounds put gauze on them. Took some Tylenol and went to work like normal.

It was terrible painful. For a couple weeks after that I scratched and pained over the new symptom. I went to the doctor; of course there was nothing wrong with me. He asked me if I was on any drugs. I told him
“Fuck no!”
I guess I did look kinda like a meth addict. They even gave me an MRI with no results. Though they were nice enough to give some low pain relieving medicine. More and more fucking scorpions every day I had to smash. I started losing sleep. Hell, most nights I couldn’t sleep.

On the final day or I thought it was going to be. The next day the exterminators were coming. I had, had a pretty shitty day already, but those motherfuckers had to have the grand final of shitness. I opened my door, walked and saw air pockets in the wallpaper.

“Great!” I thought

I went over and hit one of the air pockets. But instead of no noise I heard a “Squish”. I look at a big cluster of the air pockets. The wallpaper started ripping and thousands of Scorpions, spilled out onto the floor. I ran right out of there, locked the door, and left a note for the exterminators. I called a friend and he said I could stay at his house until the exterminators cleared the house.

I went to his house, took my series of pills, fell into his guest bedroom, and slept. My skin actually had stopped feeling so bad and I was actually getting some sleep. Until I woke up, I saw the alarm clock said 3:34. I don’t know why, but that number was so clear to me. I felt a burst of pain. I looked at my swollen red arms. I saw some blood roll down my arm and hit the white bed sheet. A little pincer poked through my skin. Then another broke through, and another, and another. The scorpion crawled out of my skin painted with crimson. It was now a mix of crimson and black which made the symbol on their backs more clear. A cross.

Then more pincers broke my skin. The scorpions crawling out. I started screaming for my friend. As they crawled it, it…it was fuck, I can’t describe it. It was torture. I just froze. I started trying to smack them, but tons of blood was rolling down my arm. I felt my skin breaking all over my body. The sheets were pure crimson. As soon as my friend burst through the door I passed out.

I was told my friend had stopped me from bleeding to death. That my apartment had, had no scorpions in it or Puzzle Ball. That the man who sold me the ball had committed suicide. The doctors are still baffled about how the scorpions got in under my skin, but I don’t give a fuck about any of that. The morphine has made not care about any of it. I don’t know how long I have been in the hospital. I know that I just got my final skin graph a day or two or three days ago.

I don’t know why, but after writing this I feel so much better. Maybe it’s because the nurse just refilled the morphine, but I would like it to be me writing this down that made me feel better. Now my hand is hurting so I’m going to stop… My new skin has a rash.

 The Puzzle Ball

Credit To – Written by: tytiger10 Illustration by: Jake Lissone

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A Childhood Dream Destroyed

April 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM
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A Childhood Dream Destroyed

There is no God. There is no Heaven. There is no Hell. There is only this fucking Dorito disguised as a GODDAMN Greasy lookin chicken nugget from McDonald’s Hell, where it was banished for all entirety. What the fuck is this? Who would do this? What has this world come to? Thanks Obama.

Ever since I was a little boy all I ever wanted, was to buy my own bag of Doritos. My mom would never let me eat them. Oh how I longed for my own bag of Doritos. I would sometimes imagine the smell of opening the bag, that sweet, sweet smell invading my nostrils, SMELLIN like a fresh home cooked ham in December. How I forever wanted to slowly lick my fingers off and taste the dust and shit that gets left over from them after you hold it. My mouth would be in heaven after I crunched down on them, chewed, laughed and cried as I devoured them. But that all would change tonight. I walked into cvs with much, so much anticipation, it would finally happen, I would finally buy my own bag of Doritos. I finally made my way to the chip aisle and grabbed the first Doritos bag I found. I payed for them quickly and got the fuck out.

My mind, body, soul were all ready and prepared for this moment. It was 19 years in the making, it was everything I’ve ever dreamed for. As I took a deep breath and opened the bag, I couldn’t hold myself from letting out a little scream of joy as I knew this was it, the moment that I had waited a lifetime for. The nightmare of never eating doritos was at a end. Eating this beautiful bag of chips would be my escape from madness. My life long dream would come true. As I ate the first small Dorito, a small, single, wet tear fell down my rugged face. At the moment I was in heaven, just like John Coffee at the end of the green mile when he was in the execution chair crying. This was nirvana, pure harmony at its finest. I felt like Luke Skywalker after he destroyed the deathstar and so carefree and light like Miley Cryus on the wrecking ball.

As I reached into the bag, I felt something round and large. At first I thought I hit the FUCKIN JACKPOT and it was a huge one, the kind of dorito that comes around once in a 1000 years like a Lebron James in the NBA or a Wayne Gretzky in the NHL. But as I slowly and carefully pulled it out, my world… shattered & crumbled right before my very eyes.

There is a moment in everyone’s life where there are no words. You are just stuck in the moment. Time has slowed down. You can’t think, feel, or move. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t speak, my life flashed before my eyes. A lifelong dream shattered in seconds. I started to shake furiously, my mouth agaped in horror as I stared at the very thing that I had dreamed of but this wasn’t a dream. This was real life, and sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. I held up the dorito, no chicken nugget and let out a blood curdling scream that shook the house to its core and would have made a banshee proud. This not what I had dreamed for, this not what MLK had dreamed for. There is no light in this world, only darkness, and as the Winter Storm of the Century nears closer to Metro Detroit, where I live and I can only think this it, my time is up. By standing outside in the storm I can end it all, the nightmares, the childhood dream, everything. I will leave this earth as a man who is broken and shattered beyond repair. There is no hope left for me. Death is my only option. As my life slowly fades from my dark, cold brown eyes, as the cold winter storm and snow tears away at my naked body, freezing me to death, I will get down on my knees, throw up my arms & look up to the heavens and scream, “God why have you forsaken me!!?” And all I will be able to think about, as I die, is that fucking chicken nugget dorito from hell, and how the very thing I dreamt about and swore to eat, was the death of me. God is dead. There are no dreams, only nightmares.

There is no hope in this world…

No Hope.

Credit To – Cameron K

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The Memory Card

March 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Growing up I was always a curious child. I always wondered what was behind all the “Authorized Personnel Only” doors and in the “Classified” folders. It didn’t have to be anything secret to attract my attention; it just had to be out of my reach to get me wondering about. As I grew up my curiosity only grew stronger, so much so that when it was time to go to college I’ve chosen a computer engineering major, despite the fact that most IT and programing jobs are being outsourced. All that mattered to me was that being a programmer I would get the “behind the scenes” look at the biggest pool of information in the world- the internet.

This natural curiosity of mine was the cause of the chain of events that made me kill that homeless man. Not directly, I didn’t want to kill him, or anyone in particular, but at the time it seemed like the only way out. How else would I be sure that she’ll leave me alone? Anyhow, it started on the bus. Back then I was still attending UNT, a fairly large university in Dallas. By the time I was done with classes it was around six in the evening and I was exhausted, with barely enough energy to get on the almost empty bus. Aside of the driver it had a teenage couple sitting at the very back watching something on a cellphone and an elderly woman sitting close to the driver, reading a Stephen King book. Naturally I proceeded to sit down in one of the seats in the middle of the bus spacing myself evenly away from others.

I put the headphones on and started looking through the window, mostly spacing out. As the bus was passing the downtown area I started looking at skyscrapers, dreaming about a corner office in one of them some day. All of a sudden I saw a silhouette of a girl emerge. It was dark and transparent. The girl was looking at something. My first thought was that she was standing behind me, and I was just seeing the reflection of her in the window. I quickly turned around but there was no one behind me. I looked around; the couple was still there, as was the old lady upfront, peacefully reading her book. I didn’t know what to do, yelling would seem weird, besides it might have just been a trick my brain was playing on me, as revenge for six classes a semester and long nights of online gaming. Calming myself down, I slowly turned around…The girl still was there. She didn’t move, she didn’t even look at me, she was looking at the empty seat next to mine. I turned around once more to inspect the seat, and didn’t find anything. I looked back at the window, the girl didn’t move an inch, her calm face seemed scarier to me than any other expression imaginable. She looked young, maybe twelve or so, wearing as far as I could tell a grey hoodie, I couldn’t see much more, but she didn’t seem even remotely from the past, like I would imagine a ghost to look. Her eyes, her pitch black eyes were locked at the same point. I tried my hardest to trace her look that was piercing through me, as if I wasn’t there at all, but deep inside I felt as though the girl wanted me to see what she was seeing. Finally I looked at the gap between the seats and found a memory stick, the micro one that is usually used in smartphones. When I turned around the girl was no longer there. This must have been it, she wanted me to find the memory card. Still being frightened by the silhouette I just saw, I started thinking that it must have just been a coincidence, after all how many ghosts do you know that are dressed in modern clothe and reveal themselves to help you find a piece of digital technology?

When I got home it was already nine, the rain that I thought would start a lot earlier just now started pouring, and I could see the lightning flash even with the blinds closed. I lived alone in a one-bedroom condo my grandma left my family when she passed away. This place was the main reason I moved away from my parents, it was my first shot at independent life. I loved the place since I could remember myself, it was in between other condos and trees, so the light almost never came through. Furnished in a Victorian style it had a hint of darkness to it, and such surrounding always helped me think and be productive. The only downside to it was that no friend I’ve ever brought home ever came back here again, but I didn’t mind, I liked being alone. Especially during a storm, such at the one that was about to start. I put the kettle on the stove to start making some tea, laid back on the couch and reached for my phone. As I was grabbing the phone I felt something besides it, something tiny and thin…the flash card. I almost forgot about it, frankly if it wasn’t in my pocket I would soon forgot about the girl in the window. I pulled out the card and looked at it. Nothing special, a plain micro SD card, 256 megabytes, the basic one, the kind that comes standard with the phone, the kind that you change for something better the same day you buy the phone, the kind that just sits in your desk drawer for years never once used. The kettle whistled, and I went to fix a cup of black tea with some lemon. Nothing in my opinion feels better than drinking some hot tea on a cold rainy evening. Thinking about how cold and yucky it is out there while staying warm, dry, and sipping on a delicious cup of pure goodness.

I brought the tea to the room and left it on the desk, and then came back for my phone and the memory card. I wasn’t sure if I should do anything about it. On the other hand I’ve already picked it up, it’s not like I could just go put it back…or could I? My natural curiosity got the best of me. I quickly swapped the memory card in my phone for the one I found on the bus and started anxiously waiting for the phone to read it. No new applications or pictures showed up on the phone, however the video folder contained a file. The thumbnail was black so I could only guess what was on it. After couple of seconds oh hesitation I’ve decided to play the file after all.

The screen was black, nothing was happening for the first five seconds, suddenly I heard heavy breath, scratching noise, and finally a cry for help. “Help me!…Someone please!…This is not funny any more..” The voice sounded desperate and loud, it was high pitched enough to belong to a child, maybe even the girl on the bus. Suddenly the screen got green, like in a video that is shot in infrared.  I could see her now, it was the same black-eyed girl that I’ve seen earlier today. The camera was positioned a few inches from her head, and the girl herself was laying down on some soft fabric. I could only see her face, a nicely decorated pillow, and more fabric on top. I couldn’t tell the colors, all I could see is her laying between the two walls of fabric crying for help. The moments the girl wouldn’t cry I couldn’t hear a thing, just her breath, it was dark and quiet. The top wall seemed curved…just like a coffin. Could it be…could someone have buried her alive and filmed it? But why? And why leaving such a horrifying video on the bus, and why did she help me find it? I kept watching, hoping to see a slightest hint that it was just a prank, someone’s sick joke. At one moment the girl stopped crying and turned her head to the right, looking straight into the camera and whispered “help me”. She was looking right at me, as though she knew I was watching. The video abruptly ended. I put the phone on the table and grabbed the teacup. Only now I’ve noticed how much my hands shake, I literally could not hold it without spilling tea on the desk so I put it back. “Starting navigation to Richland Cemetery” computerized female voice proclaimed. I looked back at my phone, the GPS was set for the cemetery on the other side of town. It…or she…something wanted me to go there, maybe rescue her. I opened my laptop and looked up the cemetery, I searched the recent obituaries nervously scrolling through the page. 1924-2013 1935-2013, 1966-2013…I couldn’t find anyone younger than thirty buried here in months. Maybe this is all just in my head, if not than it’s just a prank, it has to be. I turned off the GPS and got on Netflix, hoping that a season of a good show on a Friday night will wipe this memory and I will start tomorrow with a clean slate.

I was awakened by a phone notification. My phone was buzzing as though someone kept texting or messaging me on Facebook. This was rather annoying, anyone who knows me well enough to text me knows that I will never be up at 10 AM on a Saturday morning. My dungeon-dark condo didn’t let a single sun beam in so I could rest safe and sound, like Count Dracula in his coffin….Coffins, why did I shiver thinking about them right now. I reached for the phone and peeked at the bright screen. Something wanted me to share my location, probably some app that updated overnight and now came out with a GPS feature. I agreed to the terms and conditions to shut it up and went back to sleep.

After I woke up and ate it was time to fulfill my New Year resolution- go running. I barely started my grandma’s old mercury and headed to the nearest park. When I got to the park there was just one other car there, and no wonder, all the running trails were wet, and the cold wind was blowing especially strong today, as though near-freezing temperature alone wasn’t bad enough for me. But since I’ve decided to not make any excuses I forced myself out of the warm car. The park was dark, despite the mid-day, not a single person in sight. The wind was blowing in my face so I looked down as I slowly started to run. Two songs into the run (I would time my runs by songs) I got to a narrow alley with a wall of tall bushes on both sides. Wind didn’t freeze my face here as bad so I could finally look up. What I saw ahead of me made me freeze like a deer in the headlights.

About fifty feet ahead of me I saw a girl. Not a jogger, and not the owner of the other car on the parking lot, she looked too young to be a driver. Her skin was pale, grey hoodie and jeans were muddy. I froze, waiting for her to make the first move. After a minute or so of silence she started walking towards me. An unnatural, animal fear took me over, I started sprinting back to the car. The girl just walked. Each time I would turn around she just seemed to walk, but each time the distance between us didn’t seem to change a bit. By the time I ran up to the car I didn’t win an inch of the distance between my pursuer and me. My hands were shaking as I started to mess with the lock. By the time I opened the door the girl was at most twenty feet away. She now was walking even slower than before, almost if she knew that I will not escape. I could see her much better now. It was not just her clothes that were muddy, so was her face, the face that was no longer neutral, it was furious, she was looking at me with her eyes that now were solid white with no sight of pupils or iris,  dirt was in her hair, and on her hands…her hands…her nails, they were handing of the hands attached just by some of the skin, some nails were missing, as though she was scratching them on something…like a coffin lid…no…this is impossible, I’ve read somewhere that it is impossible to get out of the buried coffin alive. I wasn’t sure if she was alive though. I jumped in the car and slammed the door shut. Couple of spins of the starter, and no sound of pistons firing. There was a reason I took a bus to college; this car would never start when I needed it the most. The girl was now near the trunk. I closed my eyes, floored the gas pedal and turned the ignition key again. The old Grand Marquis roared, I shifted in drive and took off the moment the girl reached for the door handle.

I got home at least twice as fast as I got to the park, I ran the lights, and I didn’t care for the speed limit. If anything, an officer pulling me over would comfort me, the though of sitting in a metal cage on the back of a squad car driven by an armed officer didn’t seem too bad at all at the moment. As I closed the car door something seemed odd. It was the handle, or more specifically the absence of the handle. Could it be that when the girl grabbed the handle she ripped it off.

I had no intention of staying in the condo for too long, I grabbed my laptop, some basic clothing, and couple of energy drinks. I wanted to go home, if I was to die I wanted to spend the little time I got left with my family. A car alarm went off but I paid little attention, I needed to get away from this place as fast as possible.

I opened the condo door ready to head to the car when I saw her again. She was standing next to my car, the driver side window was broken, the alarm that was going off turned out to be mine, there were imprints of the dirt on light-grey cloth driver seat. My heart started racing as I slammed the door shut from the inside and locked both locks. Alarm timed out and stopped panicking. How did she find me? How did she know I was on a trail, knows where my car is, but not where I live. I’ve decided to call my only friend in the city to come pick me up. Cellphone was nowhere to be found. Thankfully grandma, being old-fashioned lady had a landline. I didn’t know my friends number, but at least I could call my phone. After the first beep in the phone I heard the same car alarm go off. I looked through the peephole and saw the girl beating on my car and reaching inside. By her chaotic moves I could tell she was blind. That’s when it hit me, the cell phone! I took it with me on the run and left it in the car. She didn’t know where I was, she just knew the phone’s location. This scientifically made little to no sense to me but I was not going to question in when my life was on the line. I sat on the couch and started praying, as far as I can recall, for the first time in my life. In ten minutes or so the car alarm turned off.

I slowly stepped outside and made my way to the car constantly looking around. When I opened the door there was glass and dirt everywhere, I swept all I could off the seat and started the engine. I didn’t know for how long she left me alone and if my phone is the only way she can track me, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I decided to leave Dallas and go back to my family.

The traffic was heavy and the traffic light would only let about five cars through at a time. My phone was turned off and I kept staring at it, and on a rear view mirror, expecting something supernatural to scare me to death one way or another.

“Spare some change?” the old man said. I never talked to homeless people at the traffic light before, I wouldn’t roll down the window, but since this time my window was gone, the man approached me unsolicited. “Pardon me?”- I said, trying to get my thoughts together and snap back to reality. “Could you spare some change or food please?”-the man said. He looked very pleasant, the kind of a guy who could play Santa Clause if he was to wash his beard and put on a couple of pounds. His face, despite all the troubles of life he must have been through, still looked very kind and appealing. “I…I’ll do you one better”-I said looking at my phone-“Here, take it”. I handed the homeless man my phone. “I don’t have any change but you can sell for some money”-I said. As the man with the genuine smile thanked me I tried to look away. I was ashamed of putting him in danger, but all I could think of was the girl who was still on my tail, the girl who was able to crawl out of the grave and could easily break into my car. As I finally got to the highway all I could think of was the old man selling the phone to someone who deserved to die, or to someone who would throw it away, or recycle it, and those thoughts helped me deal with the guilty conscience.

Six month later I was at Texas Tech, on the other side of the state, still far away from parents, but thankfully as far from Dallas, and Richland cemetery, and my condo. I was about to go to lunch when I received a call from a Dallas area code phone number. The shivers went down my spine as the memories of the winter events emerged again. I let it go to voice mail. As soon as I got the notification about a new voice mail I immediately opened it. “My name is Officer Williams”-the voice said-“I believe we recovered your cellphone and we’d like to ask you a few questions”. The officer proceeded to ask me to show up to one of the police departments in Dallas at my earliest convenience.

Being anxious about what the police wanted with me I headed to Dallas the same day to show up to the department the following morning. I was lead into the office of one of the detectives. “My name is officer Williams”- said a sharp dressed lady in a suit-“I was the one who left you the voice mail. Now tell me, what happened to your phone?”. “I…I lost it”-I mumbled. “Where?”- Said the detective. “Around my condo, I must have been taking out trash or running late to school and didn’t notice it falling out”. Detective looked disappointed, not with me, but with my answers, she was clearly hoping for some promising clues. “We found your phone on an elderly homeless man”-said Mrs. Williams-“I don’t assume you know him, but nevertheless, could you look at the pictures and tell me if you ever seen him around”. She proceeded to hand me a folder but stopped at the very last moment. “These pictures are very graphic, you don’t have to look if you don’t want to”-she warned. “Its okay”- I replied taking the folder.

Inside were three pictures. Just by the first glance I could tell it was the same guy I handed my phone to; medium build old guy with a long white beard. First picture was him laying on the ground. Another, a face close up, his eyes were wide open, and solid white, just like the girl’s. His hair and beard were black from dirt, so much so that I could barely tell that they were grey before. The other picture was of one of his hands, all bloody and missing nails, some fingers were bent in unnatural shape, as if they were broken. “She did to him as they did to her”- I whispered. “What did you say?”-Asked the officer. “Nothing, nothing officer. I’ve never met this man.”-I replied

I drove out of Dallas in silence. I was angry at myself, at the girl, at the memory card. I didn’t even know that old man, I don’t know where he’s buried, I can’t send him flowers or say thanks, but I will be forever in debt to him for taking my fate on himself. From there on I spent a lot of time volunteering at the soup kitchens and ended up changing my major to human sciences and becoming a social worker, working with homeless, trying to repay the debt that I owe to one kind old man.

Credit To – Yevstakhiy Syvyk

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You Are Being Transferred To The Operator

March 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I had had enough of the running around, the missed calls, the signed cards: I had had it with the second guessing, hiding behind my curtains and hearing nothing but the busy signal. If they couldn’t deliver my package on time, I would simply go and collect it from the depot myself.

I had no idea what the package was. The whole ordeal had been going on for about two months now. A purple card had showed up on my doorstep, so I had gone online, filled in my details then waited in the next morning. Despite sitting in from 8am until 1pm, no delivery was even attempted. Yet when I whirled downstairs to head to work, now much later than I had negotiated with my boss, having run upstairs to get a coat, a note was waiting on the front door rug for me, bold and purple and smug, with a passive aggressive apology about my own absence.

A similar incident had occured a week later. I was still packageless, and the cards had increased in frequency, sometimes two would be waiting, wedged through the letterbox. I had phoned. Of course I had phoned. The number wasn’t toll free though, so I was forced, through a matter of finance, to call from my work phone in the later afternoons when people in the office were too tired and bored to eavesdrop on me. I’d go through the menus- my God I’d been through them well enough to know how to get through- 4, pause for two seconds, 1, pause for one second, 1, pause for two seconds, 3. Then there’d be a clunk a snapping noise and a pre recorded voice would intone coldly “You are being transferred to The Operator.” After that, the sound of a phone ringing, ever so slightly echoey, and occassionaly, and not in any regular intervals as far as I had been bothered to calculate, the sound of that voice again, “You are being transferred to The Operator.” I had never been able to connect to a human being: just that voice, a pre-record, or the automated Lady of the Option Menu. My record for holding on this line was 47 minutes. Funny thing was, it hadn’t felt that long. I’d rung up on that occasion on a Wednesday about ten to six, and sat half distracted by invoices with the work phone cradled between my cheek and shoulder, and I guess that voice must have had a slightly hypnotic quality to it, irregularly reminding me that the transfer was in process, and the mythical Operator was expecting me, I suppose. When I snapped out of it, it was only because the cleaning staff came in and started emptying the bins noisily.

I went home, and resolved I would simply visit the depot myself on Friday after work – it was open until 7pm according to that damned purple card, and just on the edge of town. Not the most celebratory way to end the working week, but it wasn’t as if I had any plans anyway. I’d been too busy at work, and too distracted lately to go out with friends.

The depot was completely dark when I arrived in good time for closing. It was a single lock up with a parking lot. Other traders on the site had already departed for the weekend, and the lamps were still sodium in this part of town: everything was a queasy yellow. I squinted at the address on the purple card, now a lurid brown in this light, and confirmed I was in the right part of town. I sat in my car and tried the number again. I could hear the phone ring inside the depot. Then someone picked up and the shrill tone stopped abruptly.

“Hello?”

And this time the response was live, though it was the same voice and phrase I had heard before:

“You are being transferred to The Operator.”

“Sorry?”

They hung up.

I got out of the car and tried ringing again, but now my call went back to the normal menu: I was reconnected to the Lady of the Option Menu, who seemed as pleased as ever to see me, which was not very much. The phone inside the building did not ring. I waited for a few minutes, but no sign of life stirred and a sudden gale started up. I drove home in good time: there was no traffic to speak of.

When I got home there was a card waiting for me: but it wasn’t a missed delivery. It stated that a collection would be made in the next few hours. So I decided to wait for them to come and collect. I think that perhaps after all the delivery has been made: I don’t feel as if I am missing anything any more. The neighbours aren’t in, and my friends won’t return my calls, and the internet forums I frequent seem quiet even for a Friday. So I’ve finished writing this, and I’m sat cross legged, waiting by the threshold ready to be collected. And when I lean my head against the door I think I can hear someone on the other side who has been waiting a long time too. Waiting to, at last, speak to a real person.

Credit To – pageantmalarkey

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Dream-Jaunt

February 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Unsent email found in a fifth floor office of the Morpheus-Delta Research Facility. Account belonged to Cal Rooker, Security Chief.

*

- Subject: RE: back from vacation! -

Sorry I haven’t got back to you in so long. Been real busy over here.

Glad you had fun in Jamaica. We got your card all right. Ginny was tickled pink. She’s not used to people remembering her birthday (I’m a forgetful ass myself). I gave her a kiss for you. I think I’ll have to take a rain check on our golf game this weekend though.

How’ve I been? Oh, not so good. Things have pretty much fallen apart over here. I got promoted to Security Chief last week, which means I got to see more of the project than the other grunts on my team, which means I had to keep my lips shut tighter than everyone else. Pay was great, but it meant watching more than my fair share of the volunteers’ violent reactions to taking dream-jaunts. The paperwork always said “fatal seizure,” but if you ever saw one you’d know it was bullshit. They gave sweet ol’ Gary a dream-jaunt on Tuesday and he took a pair of scissors to his eyes and died of shock. “Fatal Seizure.” Sometimes it’s like they’re trying to crawl inside themselves to escape something horrible. Turns out that’s not far off.

Dr. Eddings and Dr. Pearson are dead now, so confidentiality is out the window. Better take notes ‘cause this’ll definitely help you with your writer’s block.

I don’t remember the proper name for the thing, but the docs called it the Dreamcatcher. It’s a prototype machine that translates brainwaves into images, like how you plug a VCR into your television so you can see what’s on the tape: you plug yourself into this gizmo and watch your subconscious mind like you’re watching home movies. Dr. Hayworth invented it — that yahoo in charge of the Morpheus-Alpha medical colony. Hayworth wanted to find a sure-fire way to treat and even CURE all mental illnesses. If his Dreamcatcher worked as well as ours did, then it’s no surprise why they carpet-bombed his facility last year. But I’ll get to that, don’t worry.

As the security chief I sometimes got to accompany the docs to the lab in the back of the facility. At the far end of a poorly lit corridor screaming “Nazi bunker” is a pneumatic door that requires a six-digit code and a security card to open. On the other side is a small gray room wall-to-wall with electronics equipment and glowing white and red buttons. On the furthest wall of the room another security door and a big glass pane look into a small, brightly lit, white-tiled room where the ‘Catcher itself sits.

It’s crude and scary-looking: a reclined dentist’s chair sits beneath a round, silvery screen suspended from the ceiling. The screen is framed by a ten-foot metal ring lined with wires and glass tubes. Subjects are strapped into the chair with a dozen wires pasted to their heads and chests — during dream-jaunts they look like they’re about to be executed by the state.

The most common problem with the ‘Catcher is after a single dream-jaunt most subjects die from shock or suicidal mania, and the docs couldn’t figure why. That’s why the Morpheus-Delta team drafted AIDS and cancer patients for their project: their philosophy was that these people are all going to die anyway, so what difference will it make? The “volunteers” were never told about the deaths, of course. And the docs were real pieces of work. I kill one guy during the war and ten years later I’m still drinking it out of my memory; Eddings and Pearson must’ve killed two people a week and didn’t bat a fucking eye.

Their favorite subject was Nikki, an eleven-year-old albino girl. Real cute, real smart, real creative. She played violin and piano and composed the prettiest tunes you ever heard. Nikki had bad dreams just about every night: I’d see her walking around the halls when she should’ve been in bed, whispering she was afraid to be alone. The nurse would give her something to help her sleep and stay with her in her room ‘til she konked out. Always figured it was typical for overly creative kids. I always wanted kids, so I had a soft spot for Nikki.

I shared some ice cream with her in the cafeteria once and she told me about the dream. She was in another world where the sky was always red and yellow like at dawn. She scrambled as fast as she could across an earthy landscape full of black pits and chasms of sky as if the world was broken into floating fragments. She was always frantic and never knew why, and always inches away from falling into the sky, or into one of the hundreds of black pits. The pits were the scariest part of the dream, she said, ‘cause they made these ungodly gibbering sounds and sometimes she could see things moving around in them. The dream was so vivid she’d usually wake up screaming.

The docs were fascinated by her insomnia. They’d never met a guinea pig with recurring nightmares so potent and so consistent, so they gave her special treatment. She was the prize cow they wanted nice and fat for her trip to the slaughterhouse. They figured if the ‘Catcher could help them figure out what underlying trauma caused the dream (without driving her insane, of course) it would be a major breakthrough.

Now, you ever hear about Madison LeBroche? She was an army ranger they shipped here a couple weeks ago that knocked out two of my guys and had to be sedated and locked in a clean room. Turns out she was a security officer at Morpheus-Alpha, and the only survivor of the bombing. They’d found her sleeping like celery in the woods six miles from the colony. Eddings had her shipped here for interrogation and kept her like a prisoner until she decided to talk. I took down everything they said for Eddings’s records and saved part of the transcript for you. I think LeBroche sums up the ‘Catcher’s effect on people better than I could.

*

EDDINGS: “It’s my understanding you were the only survivor of the epidemic at the Morpheus-Alpha Medical Colony managed by Dr. Harding and Dr. Hayworth. Can you tell me what happened? Just in summary for now, if you like.”

LEBROCHE: “That’s what you’re calling it? An epidemic?”

EDDINGS: “Miss Lebroche—“

LEBROCHE: “Dr. Hayworth told me I was gonna help him cure cancer. He fed me sentimental bullshit about DYING CHILDREN. Then he strapped me into a dentist’s chair and dunked my head into an ocean of nightmares.”

EDDINGS: “Taking a dream-jaunt is a naturally harrowing experience, but Hayworth’s purpose was always the advancement of medical science and psych—“

LEBROCHE: “No, no, no, don’t. Don’t. No. Medical science does not use stories about suffering children to lure people into dentist chairs of horror. Did Hayworth tell you why he always strapped them down? You’re fine at first. Scared shitless, but fine. But then you start to s…you SEE things…and when it’s all over, sometimes you STILL see ‘em and you realize they can see you, too…And the first rational thing you want to do when you come back is gouge your eyes out.”

EDDINGS: “You were one of only three test subjects who survived the process. You must know if the problem was a technical failure or human error—”

LEBROCHE: “The PROCESS was the problem. The human brain can’t handle the experience. And it opens a gateway to places that were meant to stay hidden, REAL PLACES that some of us got better connections to than others. Hayworth shoulda figured that out after the first ten people lost their fuckin’ minds. Shoulda figured it out before the ‘epidemic’.”

EDDINGS: “That’s why we’re trying to improve it.”

*

Shit hit the fan right there. In the next moment Lebroche was on top of him screaming, “Let me outta here! Let me outta here!” and me and Greg almost needed the Jaws of Life to pry her ass off. Another shot of morphine and she was out for the night.

After the most recent “fatal seizure” I went to ask LeBroche a few questions, but she was gone. Tom was unconscious in her room wearing nothing but his briefs. I don’t know how she got out, but we couldn’t find Tom’s uniform or his security card. Brady thought she was hiding and wanted every available man sweeping the place for her, but I knew better. She must’ve slipped out during the security shift change.

This afternoon Pearson got an urgent call from Eddings that the experiment “goddamn works” and was “absolutely incredible,” and I wanted to see for myself. But when we got to the lab door, just when Pearson had her card in hand, Eddings’s voice exploded over the intercom.

“Pearson, stay out!” he screamed; then over his shoulder, “Pull the plug, goddammit! Pull the plug!”; then back to the intercom, “Stay out, do you hear me? Do NOT come in here!”

Pearson was frozen in position with her card over the swiper. She looked at me, then the intercom, then back at me. I yanked the card out of her hand and swiped it, opening the door. Five people were scrambling around in there, flinging brainscan printings like confetti, vomiting techno-jargon I didn’t understand with shrill, panicky voices. Strapped into the ‘Catcher with eight wires pasted to her head was Nikki. Her limbs trembled and twitched and her eyes bulged wide open. I couldn’t tell if she was conscious or not — they probably started drugging their subjects, hoping it’d keep them sane — but if Eddings had been in my sights the first moment I saw her I mighta planted my fist in his head.

Eddings didn’t seem to notice I was there. He saw Pearson and stuttered like an idiot for a minute and a half before anything came out what sounded like words. He couldn’t seem to keep his hands still and his face was colorless and dripping with sweat.

“We saw…saw something in the ‘Catcher…”

Pearson got excited. “She had a vision? The ‘Catcher finally caught a vision? Did you—?”

Eddings cut her off. “We SAW SOMETHING. It wasn’t…The thing’s supposed to transmit abstract imagery, dream visions. This was REAL. This was like looking through a window onto…Oh god, and something was alive in that black pit! It SAW us, Pearson! It SAW us and—”

One of the control panels on the left wall sparked and caught fire. Something started humming real loud like a guitar amp on the fritz. The big round screen flickered. One of the techies screamed that their toy was turning itself on without a power source.

The screen went pitch black and the entire lab came alive with a chorus of murmuring voices not of this earth. Something putrid and pink like raw flesh oozed out of the blackness, taking up the entire screen, and split at the middle into a pair of dribbling infant lips big enough to swallow a man whole. They opened wide to let out a long, awful howl like a hippopotamus would howl if it had no bones. A giant pink worm of a tongue lolled around inside, slapping against I don’t know how many sets of yellow, spade-like teeth.

I couldn’t tell if Nikki knew what was going on. She didn’t struggle to get free or anything. She just kept lying there, staring up at the abomination and not even flinching at the ropes of drool it dribbled on her face. Eddings ran in and tried to pull her out of the machine, but the wall of flesh came out of the screen like water bursting through a dam and filled the little white room in an instant. Eddings and Nikki were gone.

Some of the other doctors muttered prayers or cried like three-year-olds. None of us moved a muscle at first: we just stood staring as half a dozen slobbering mouths pressed against the glass, licking it with their worm-tongues and fogging it with their breath, as though the thing knew we were there and didn’t know how to get at us. When the windows flexed and cracked, we ran.

So we’re not doing so good over here right now. The volunteers lost their minds with fear, killed themselves, fell into catatonic trances. My security team was useless. We had about thirty seconds to evacuate over two thousand volunteers before the thing flooded through the lab doors, mouths foaming and dripping with spit and letting out all these noises that make me shudder in remembrance. Half of my guys took one look and froze like statues and let the thing swallow them. Jesus Christ, it’s like running from an avalanche. I can’t tell if it’s endless in size or if there’s an army of them running amok here. And the sounds it makes are worse than any of the screams. The way it gibbers and slobbers and snorts.

It overran the lower floors and trapped everyone inside; if anyone made it out, good for them. I think I’m the only one left now, hiding like a coward in Eddings’s office on the fifth floor. There’s no more screaming below and the air vents belch a nasty stench medley I can’t apply metaphors to. It’ll find me soon, and when it busts its way out and slithers into the city, God help everyone.

Please get Ginny out of the country as soon as possible. It’d mean a lot to me. Maybe you can take her to Ja

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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