Mirror Image

February 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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“I don’t want to move away.”
The words hang in the air between them, like dust, slow and stuffy.
“I don’t want you to move away either,” says Toby. They’re both sitting cross-legged on the hardwood
floor of his bedroom, facing each other. Matthew pokes at a small bug crawling across the floor, so does Toby.
“You could leave, too,” Matthew says.
“You know I can’t,” Toby replies.
Matthew does know, but he likes to think it might happen, somehow. The thought of being torn away from his best friend hurts him, especially because someone like him doesn’t often earn the title of best friend.
Ever since he’s known Toby, they’ve been practically identical, which, in Matthew’s opinion, is really great, because it’s pretty much like having a twin brother. He’s never had a twin, let alone a brother, and while he thinks he has some cousins on his mom’s side, they’re all grown-ups and they live far away. He doesn’t know if his dad has any family his age.
He likes Toby because Toby never thinks he’s weird or messed up for the things he says. Toby
doesn’t whisper about him, like his classmates do, or yell at him, like his teachers do, or scribble notes
onto a little yellow notepad, like Ms. Stacy does every Thursday at 4:00 after school. The best part is
that Toby doesn’t sigh. His mom seems to do nothing but sigh; sigh at the news, sigh at the grocery bill,
sigh at his report card, sigh, sigh, sigh, until he’s sure she must be nothing more than a big mouth of
never-ending sighs, like a draft from an open window.
Toby listens to him and understands. He cares. Even when all Matthew is saying is rants about his classmates and bad grades, rants about getting picked on or not being invited to so-and-so’s birthday party, Toby sits patiently and listens.
“Dad says I’ll meet new friends.”
Toby frowns his answer, “Yeah, but I won’t. I’ll just have to live with the fact that whoever else moves in here could be old and cranky.”
“You don’t know that. It could be someone our age, a kid. They could be nice.”
“I doubt it. Even if a kid moves in, they won’t be like you. It wouldn’t be the same.”
Matthew doesn’t reply, he picks at the torn hole on his jeans.
“I know I’m the reason your mom wants to move,” Toby speaks up.
“Don’t keep blaming yourself for it, okay?”
“No, it’s fine. I know she’s scared of me. That’s why you’re not supposed to talk to me. But I’m always here whether she likes it or not.”
Matthew laughs at the thought of his mother fearing his best friend, but he doesn’t disagree.

—–

A week later, moving day has arrived.
“It shouldn’t have to be like this,” says Toby. They’re sitting back to back, heads tilted towards each other close enough that Toby can’t actually focus on Matthew’s face without going cross-eyed. “You could do something to convince your parents not to move.”
Matthew considers this, but before he can reply, he hears his mom walking up the stairs, and then the sound of her shoes on the hardwood as she walks towards his room. Suddenly, the door is pushed open and his mom peers in. Toby quickly moves out of view and watches. Matthew’s mom comes in, fake smile and tired eyes. She helps him to his feet and walks him out of the empty room. For a second in the doorway she turns around. Matthew’s mom looks right at him, but simply shakes her head and walks into the hall. She knew he was there.
But from his hiding spot inside the mirror, he knows all she saw was herself.

Credit To – Irish Insanity

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The Pale Child

January 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It was just a painting… simply a creepy painting. That’s what I kept telling myself. Perhaps I should elaborate a bit. My name is Colin McFetridge and I come from a long line of McFetridge men. My father, Patrick McFetridge died in an unfortunate boating accident when I was young, leaving behind a small collection of paintings that still to this day hang in my room. My grandfather too was a painter and his father before him. This inheritance went all the way back to my great great grandfather, Bartley McFetridge. Just like Bartley, I too possessed various artistic talent. I have always excelled in art class and nearly every art teacher admired my “unusual art style,” whatever that means. I do, however, differ from my ancestors in that I don’t take much pride in my work. My heritage suggests that I should be proud of everything I make just like my father and his father was. They were so proud of every piece, that they would keep them close until they died, then the paintings would be sold to the highest bidder. That’s how it works in the world seeing as the dead don’t hold pride. Since I didn’t acquire the pride gene, I would always give away my work.
Mom always told me, “Your father would be turning over in his grave if he knew you were just handing out your paintings.”
Ever since dad died she had shut down and became a self-consumptive drunk. Don’t get me wrong, she was still a good mother, but dads’ death changed her. Whatever, I only gave away paintings to friends anyway, so they were going to people I trusted. It’s not like she cared about my paintings, merely that I finish school and make the right friends. We also had a curse in the McFetridge lineage. We never had the fortune of dying peacefully in our sleep, instead, all the McFetridge men in my family drowned without explanation. It never bothered me. I just considered it to be a coincidence, until I came across Campbell, the pale child.

Last Thursday I was on the computer, most likely looking at porn or reading random articles on Wikipedia. That night before I went to bed, I decided to check my e-mail to see if anyone responded to my offer on my school art projects. My brother, who was stationed over in France, sent me an e-mail saying he would be sending some paintings to the house. The paintings were from my brother’s friend’s grandfather who just recently died. Apparently he had slipped in the bathroom and fell unconscious in a full bathtub. Bizarre, but I didn’t think to question it. My brother’s friend didn’t care for the paintings, but my brother valued them. He said in the e-mail I could look through them and have just one if I found any I had liked to hang up in my room with my own work. That following Monday the doorbell rang while I was making my lunch. I saw the FedEx truck drive off and a few boxes were left on my porch. I brought the boxes inside and almost immediately my Alaskan husky, Spooks, began to bark at one of the boxes. We named her Spooks because she had a phobia of just about everything excluding food. I just assumed that she was hungry or wanted to play so I sent her outside. She can play with a stick or something, I have treats of my own to attend to. I cut the boxes open one by one. Each painting depicted a different child playing and laughing. Paintings of children? This is a bit bizarre for my brother’s taste, but the work was decent, yet a little familiar. I cut the tape of the last box, however, as I was cutting, the tape started melting itself to the blade of my knife ever so slightly.
“This is some really crappy tape,” I thought.
Spooks continued to bark like crazy outside the door. I gave her the finger hoping she would get the message, but she just ignored me. When I finally ripped the box open I saw that the painting was of a little boy sitting in a chair with no emotion on his face whatsoever. The most striking thing about it was the boy’s skin was so pale it almost shined. Almost, it’s just paint after all. The boy looked about six years old and he was dressed in tattered, filthy rags. For some dumbass reason, I thought it was a good idea to pick the one of the pale, expressionless kid over the ones who seemed to be enjoying themselves. I proceeded to take the rest of the paintings to the back room in my basement. As I did, I heard what I can only describe as knuckles cracking, but very slowly. This unnerved me a bit. Then, the cracking noise grew more profound until it sounded like someone was cracking their neck. I just brushed it off as the air pressure in the house changing which made the floors creak.

I brought the painting up to my room and found a glass frame in my closet that perfectly fit the canvas. This kind of excited me because I can never seem to find a compatible frame without first taking measurements then ordering a border that fits the measurements from eBay, but the painting had an average size and I had a few standard frames up in my closet. As I turned the painting around to place it into the frame, I noticed a title and description painted on the back of the canvas.
It read, “Campbell. This child is now with God. I only hope my work can give me redemption for the soul that was once full of life, now pale as the moon.”
Further down the back of the painting I saw, written in ink, “Return this evil portrait to Scotland immediately. Let not another soul suffer.-PM”
Suddenly it hit me, my great great grandfather always painted the name of his piece on the front of his paintings. I flipped the painting back over so that the front side was facing me and looked in the bottom right corner. The name Bartley McFetridge was painted right there, just like in all his other paintings.
“Well I’ll be fucked.” I said out loud in excited disbelief.
I couldn’t believe that I had one of the paintings by my great great grandfather. I had thought they were all given to art collectors or wealthy families looking to liven up their dining room. I finished installing the frame and mounted the painting on my wall.

That night, after I had just gotten to sleep, I opened my eyes to see my ceiling fan light had been on. I distinctly remember turning it off before I climbed into bed. I looked over at my new painting and noticed that the paint had started to run as if someone had put a radiator in front of it. The colors intermingled and the boy started to warp as the paint melted off the canvas. His expressionless face became perverse and collapsed in itself. I was too shocked to move. The paint started trickling off the frame, slowly dripping at first, then it escalated to a stable flow of paint oozing from the bottom of the frame. The space between the glass and the canvas started to swamp with the coat of dye that was once the boy. The pressure of the paint against the glass caused it to crack until there was a spider web pattern all across it with paint bleeding through the fractures. Ultimately the glass shattered and paint gushed from the portrait into my room, filling it up. I ran to my door struggling to open it, soon realizing it was locked. The room imbued with paint until my feet could no longer reach the floor and my body started to float. I screamed helplessly as my head sank under and I began drowning. As my lungs could no longer withstand the absence of air, I instinctively inhaled. When I did, I pulled a chest full of air in which caused the delusion to shatter. I had awakened. It was just a nightmare.

The next day at school, my friend Conor approached me, “Hey Colin, you don’t look so hot. You’d better wake up, it’s only Tuesday.”
Conor was a good friend of mine, if I told him I had been having nightmares all night it would just make him worry. I just told him I played Grand Theft Auto all night again. He asked me if I had any more of my work I was willing to sell.
“I still have to go through some old stuff but if I find anything, I’ll leave it in the garage.” I said as I rubbed my drowsy eyes.
Conor responded, “Payment will be a little delayed this time because I’m going to my dad’s lake house down at Dunkerdale Lake this weekend.”
I assured Conor that payment wasn’t necessary because we were good friends, although he always insisted. I was going to tell him about the Bartley McFetridge painting but the bell rang before I could get a word in.

When I got home from school that day I saw my mom, raking leaves in the yard. I decided to ask her about the painting. I asked her what she knew about Campbell, the pale child. When I did she froze and the color had washed from her face. She insisted that I don’t bring it up again and that I should stop asking so many questions. Typical crazy mom response. I knew that if mom wouldn’t tell me then grandma would. After trying to settle my mom down for about an hour we came to an agreement. She would stop freaking out and make us both dinner, and I would never talk about the painting as well as take a bath. I did need a bath, after all. I didn’t take one this morning before school and I had been perspiring like a pig that previous evening from the nightmare I kept having. Lack of energy and smelling like ass was starting to ware on me anyway. The aroma of moisture carried through the air which meant rain was on its way. As I prepared my bath a storm hit out of nowhere. I turned the nozzle mounted above the tub and it started to fill with the warm water that would serve as just the thing to calm my nerves. I stripped naked and hopped into my bath, closing the shower curtains as I did. A few minutes into my bath I heard a loud pop come from outside and the lights went out. It sounded like a gunshot right outside the house and I felt the vibration when it happened. It scared the shit out of me. The soft drone of the rain hitting the roof of the house mixed with the cozy bath water put me into a zen-like state, so you can imagine my surprise.
Shortly after the lights went out, I heard mom yell, “The electrical transformer on our street just exploded. Power’s out. I’ll get the candles.”
I sighed in relief and assured her that I was okay. I know that storms make my mom nervous and the power being out wasn’t helping, along with me getting her all stressed out about the painting. She’s probably a wreck right now. I felt bad and hoped that I could ease her mind a bit over dinner. Later I noticed something strange while bathing there in the dark. The rain had paused and the wind had halted. It was silent. Then I heard the bathroom door slowly get pushed open. I could hear what sounded like labored breathing approaching the tub. I knew mom wouldn’t barge in on me like this but none the less I called out to her. When I did, the rapid breathing hesitated momentarily and then continued, this time much closer to the shower curtain. My heart sank. I looked over and saw my mom’s hair curler hanging from the shelf under the shower head. The hair curler was my weapon of choice. I lunged forward to grab it and pulled the curtain back. With my blunt weapon raised and ready to strike I saw the folded ears and lowered head of Spooks as she yelped in fear. I stop myself from almost taking a swing at my petrified dog.
“Spooks, you scared the hell out of me”, I said as I took a sigh of relief, “Spooked by Spooks, that’s a new one.”
Now I realize that the power going out and the vulnerability in the bathtub is a cliché, but sometimes clichés happen.

I drained the water and changed into some fresh clothes, eager to get to dinner. Mom was patiently sitting at the kitchen table with our supper prepared. A single candle lit the table. The aroma of pumpkin spice from the candle reminded me that Halloween is right around the corner indicating that mom made her October special tonight. Popcorn balls, roasted pumpkin seeds, cinnamon bread toast, candy corn, and a nice big ham steak with apple cider to wash it down. She prepared quite the meal considering the short time she had before the power went out. By the end of our meal, we were both full and content. She told me she enjoyed the quality time and that we should make it a regular thing, I agreed. Stuffed with food we both decided to retire to bed early. I wasn’t about to argue with a full stomach so I happily made my way to my room. When I opened the door to enter my dark blank room, I saw something sitting in my chair. It looked like a kid, perhaps messing about with my paint brushes. I immediately flicked the switch to turn on my light, but the bulb never illuminated. It then hit me that the power being out is just teasing my imagination. I just need to get some rest. Merely to assure myself I called out to the figure sitting in my chair. My eyes started to adjust to the darkness and I could almost make out what I thought was a face, but it wasn’t moving. I rationalized that if it were a person then I would be able to see it breathing at least. I stared at what I believed to just be my own eerie creation in the dark for what felt like two or three minutes. Then, I saw its two little eyes blink. I felt a knot twist in my stomach. Seconds after it blinked, the lights came back on and the room lit up. My chair was vacant, and I hadn’t taken my eyes off it so it really must have been a hallucination.
“It’s all in your head.” I told myself.
I turned off my light and tuned my clock radio to a late night political talk show for some white noise. Lately, it’s better than silence.

The next day, school dragged on. The previous night was filled with nightmares and left me drained of all energy. Conor was so stoked about going to the lake this weekend that it was the only thing on his mind. Well, that and making it to second base with Lucy Mills, but I don’t blame him. Lucy is fricken’ gorgeous. After school that day I made my way to my grandma’s house. Her five cats greeted me at the door. Yeah, my grandma is your classic weird cat lady. She told me to come in and have some cookies, she had just made them a few hours ago. Her Halloween cookies were my favorite and they really livened the mood for me, all things considered. She inquired as to why I looked so exhausted. I told her I had been having nightmares and that last night I kept hearing a high pitched voice say, “I’m your favorite, right?” Her face grew flushed and she went silent.
“You okay grandma?” I asked concerned.
After a moment she reassured that she was fine. I asked about her strange response and she hesitated for a second, then informed me that her husband, my grandfather, had complained of hearing the same thing right before he died.
She hissed, “It’s that damn Campbell. Bartley should have never painted him.”
I asked as to what she was referring to, acting as if I had never heard of my great great grandfathers Campbell painting. She told me that Bartley McFetridge was a good man and a talented artist. However, before his art became famous, he worked in construction. One day the company that he worked for assigned him and a group of construction workers on a building project. About halfway through the building process, just as they finished digging and cementing the entire foundation, a storm came along and interrupted the whole project. This was before the roof had been built, so the rainstorm had hit the interior of the unfinished building pretty hard. It rained for an entire week and over time the rain water accumulated into the elevator shafts. After the storm had passed and Bartley went in to resume the project with his team, they found the body of a boy floating in the pool of water in one of the elevator shafts. Bartley blamed himself and made a portrait of the boy titled “Campbell” in his honor. He was most proud of Campbell for many years until he painted his piece “Lost Sailor”. Lost Sailor of course was bought by an Irish museum, giving Bartley the fame he deserved and taking the place of Bartley’s most prized creation. After that he started having awful nightmares until one night he turned up at the bank of a river, bloated and discolored. The painting has been handed down from generation to generation, not knowing it was the cause of every one of my ancestors’ demise. They only caught the pattern after my father and labeled it the family curse. After that, my father had sent the painting back to Europe, but that was the last thing he ever did. According to my grandma, the curse took his life on a boating trip after meeting up with an art collector overseas. By the time grandma finished the story, I had finished the entire plate of her orange, pumpkin shaped cookies. I assured her that I didn’t know of the painting and that everything was going to be okay. After a bit more small talk she wiped some cookie frosting from the corner of my mouth and hugged me goodbye.

When I got home I laid down on the couch and thought about what my grandma had said. Dad must had died on the way home from handing off the painting because the painting did end up in Europe. Before it got to me, it was in France with my brothers’ friends’ grandfather. The message written on the back of the painting that said, “Return this evil portrait to Scotland immediately. Let not another soul suffer.-PM”, that PM must stand for Patrick McFetridge. As convincing of a story as it was, I still didn’t believe in the supernatural crap. I always looked for solid, scientific answers. One thing didn’t add up though. If Bartley was as proud of his paintings as my family suggests, then why did he sell Lost Sailor in the first place and set the curse in motion. This inconsistency reinforced my skepticism and put my mind at ease. I dosed off after reflecting on it for a while.

I had awakened on the couch with a blanket over me. Mom came in the room with chicken noodle soup and claimed that I had been looking rather ill the past few days. I looked over at the clock on the end table to see that my school day was half over. Mom said that she called the school and informed them that I wasn’t going to be in today. I think that this was her way of saying thanks for the awesome dinner the other night. I dug into my soup as we watched movies for the rest of the day. It was nice, even if it was my nightmares that had brought us closer together.

Later that night mom asked me to go out to the well to fetch some of the rain water that had accumulated in it over the past few days. She liked the taste of the rain water mixed with her soup, and since I had been eating soup all day, she figured she wanted some too. I made my way to the well. I knew that if there were a time to see the pale child, it would be right now and right here. I peered down into the well expecting to see his expressionless face looking up at me. I slowly pulled the bucket up and to my surprise there was no child. I let out a small chuckle. I knew that my family was crazy, and that the irrational stories about the McFetridge curse were simply bullshit. Of course my grandma would believe something like this, she is psychologically compromised. Anyone would be if they lost their husband and son. I shouldn’t let this get to me. They are just stories. The little boy is just dried up paint on a canvas. There is no haunting only an overactive imagination. A sense of relief overcame me and I made my way back inside. I gave the water to my mom and told her I needed to head off to bed. We said goodnight and I made my way into my room to find Campbell still on my wall, right where I had left him.
“You are a work of art, not a curse. You can plague the minds of my family, but you can’t bother me anymore. I will sleep well tonight.” I said out loud to it.
Just then the glass of the frame started to fog up in front of the boy’s mouth. It looked as if the boy had just breathed on the glass. I took the picture down and removed the frame. I was not going to deal with this tonight. I was sure that there was a perfectly good reason for why that just happened. I just didn’t have it all figured out. I turned on my clock radio and got nothing but static. Fuck it, must be interference from another radio or something. I truly did overcome that fear, because I got a full eight hours of sleep that night.

When I awoke the next morning I felt refreshed and ready for school. I got dressed and before I left I took one last look at Campbell. He was just sitting there next to the frame, but I noticed something different about him. His face, he had a twisted little smile on it.
“That’s fine. Go ahead! Smile at me all you want you creepy little asshole. Doesn’t bother me any.” I said in an angry tone.
I left my room and headed towards the front door. Mom caught me before I made it out.
“Who were you talking to?” She asked.
“Oh umm, I was on the phone with Conor. We were quoting movies.” I lied.
Mom shrugged it off and told me not to be late for school as I did have yesterday’s work to catch up on. I made my way to school and found Conor in the library with my make-up work.
He looked at me and said, “It means crooked mouth.”
“What?” I asked in total confusion.
Conor responded, “The phone call last night, you wanted to know what the word Campbell meant. I would have told you to look it up yourself but you hung up before I could say that.”
The sinking feeling overtook me again. I regained my composure and asked him exactly what I said over the phone last night.
“You called at about 11:15 and you just said I want to know. What does it mean? Campbell. When I asked you what you were talking about you just said, the name Campbell! What does it mean? C-A-M-P-B-E-L-L! What does it mean? Then you hung up. Honestly Colin, don’t you remember or were you just prank calling me?”
I told him that I was drunk and just to ignore it. He laughed and then jokingly told me that next time I steal some of my mother’s whiskey to remember that Campbell is a Scottish name that means crooked mouth. This way I wouldn’t weird him out randomly at night. For the rest of the school day I couldn’t focus. The word Campbell kept playing in my head.
After school Conor ran up to me and announced, “Good news! You can come with me to the lake tomorrow! Hurry home and get packing!”
This news instantly made my day better. I had always loved going to the lake with Conor and this would sure take my mind off that uncanny painting.

My happiness was short lived, when I got home I found my mom standing in the kitchen with her arms crossed. Shit, she found the painting. Mom screamed at me, telling me that grandma called worried about me and that she knew I had been acting strange this past week. Finally she told me that after I left this morning she heard Spooks growling at something in my room. I had left in such a hurry this morning that I forgot to close my door and consequently Spooks made her way in there. When mom went to see what she was growling at she discovered the painting. She yelled at me for another hour then grounded me from my computer and forbid me to go to the lake with Conor. Defeated and upset I went into my room, shut my door, turned off my light, got into my bed, and slept like a baby. Best sleep I’ve had since yesterday. Looking back on it now, it’s probably because she confiscated the painting from my room.

The next day I awoke to the smell of bacon, eggs, and toast cooking in the kitchen. I apologized to mom hoping to get my computer back; it didn’t work. She said that there was no excuse for lying and that the painting had an awful history to our family. I assured her that I was in no danger, but she wasn’t having any of it. She claimed that I would be destroying it tomorrow and that she put it in safe keeping until then. She told me she couldn’t bring herself to destroy it. She justified that if I’m comfortable enough to keep it in my room, I was comfortable enough to set it on fire. I really didn’t want to destroy it, but I didn’t love it enough to give up the trust of my mother…and I wanted to see my computer again.
Then I got an idea, “We don’t burn it,” I said with a smile, “We sell it.”
Mom looked up from her morning paper right at me.
“A Bartley McFetridge painting in good condition has to be worth a good chunk of money to the right people.” I claimed.
Mom smiled, “You know, what you did was wrong. You kept this awful thing a secret and lied to your grandmother, but you’re absolutely right. We can make a nice profit off of it and keep it away from you at the same time.”
The two birds with one stone idea struck gold with mom so now was the right time to ask for my computer back. She said yes under the condition that we watch the news together. As much as I hate the news, I didn’t mind bonding with mom plus I could start e-mailing museums that would be interested in Campbell. Mom went to go fetch my computer from her hiding spot she uses when she grounds me. I turned on the TV and took a seat on the couch.

“This is News Channel 9 with Jessie Stone and Neil Brock. First, the president signs a new bill that helps gas stations fill your tank faster but will it empty your wallet? Then in sports, we give you the game plan for tomorrow’s game and how it will impact Coach Perkins of the Mississippi Mammoths. Later, we will investigate the strange disappearance of a young man in Dunkerdale. Finally, we will join Tim Elliot with our weather forecast. Looks like this weekend will be a sunny one. All this coming to you from News Channel 9.”
“Here’s your laptop back Colin. Anything good coming up?” Mom asked as she handed me my laptop.
I explained that the news wasn’t interesting and that I wasn’t really paying attention. She didn’t take it to heart because she was glued to Neil Brock talking about who cares on the not interested. I booted up my laptop and checked my e-mail. I got lots of spam and a few art requests from my online artist archive page. Then there was an e-mail from Conor. It’s probably about how much fun he’s having with a few pictures attached. Still I was interested to see what he had to say.
I opened the e-mail and it read, “Colin, I’m sorry you couldn’t come with me to the lake. That’s a total bummer man :( Before I left I stopped by to see if you were home, but you were already asleep and your mom told me you were grounded. That’s rough. Anyway I went into your garage to have a look at some of the art you didn’t want anymore. Remember you told me I could if you weren’t home, well I considered at home but asleep one of those occasions. Hope you don’t mind. I found some pretty cool stuff. I came across that twisted picture of Mr. Franklin that you drew in chemistry. I also got the painting of this messed up looking clown, you know the one with the blood coming from his mouth and nose. It’s pretty gruesome dude. I can’t believe you are scrapping some of this stuff, but I’m not complaining. Oh I found this one of the guy with the nails in his shoulders and neck, which was pretty cool. I took this one of this pasty kid sitting on a chair looking all creepy with his little grin….”
I froze. No. I turned to my mom and started to ask her where she put Campbell. She told me to be quiet and that we can talk during a commercial break. I was about to say something back when I heard “Dunkerdale Lake” come from the TV. I turned and watched in silence.
Neil Brock spoke, “Police found the body of a young man early this morning in Dunkerdale Lake. The boy had arrived in Dunkerdale late last night and went missing after he didn’t return when going out on his jet ski.”
I looked back at my computer screen and continued reading where I had left off, “I don’t know which one I like the most. Probably the one you painted for me last year of me and Lucy Mills making out while each of us holds a knife to the others back. That one is still the most badass thing ever. I’ll send you some pictures when I can. Later dude, Conor.
Neil Brock continued, “This just in, the body has been identified as Conor Stanley.
It was just a painting… simply a creepy painting.

Credit To – Uncanny Spaghetti

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The Real Nosferatu

January 6, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I’m sure if you’re a real horror fan, you’ve heard of the 1922 movie Nosferatu. It was one of the first real horror movies, made in Germany just after World War I. It had a large influence on vampire lore, because it made them vulnerable to the sun. Before, vampires were often weakened by sunlight, but exposure would not kill them.

The plot is based on the novel Dracula, but it takes a lot of liberties because the filmmakers didn’t have the license to make the film. It’s about a clerk named Thomas Hutter, who goes to Orlok’s (the vampire, or “nosferatu”) castle, and, blind as he is to the fact that Orlok’s obviously a vampire, even though he just read a book about it. Hutter sells a house to Orlok, who then goes to the city of Wisborg, to go on a killing spree. He dies when he is feeding of the blood of a pretty woman. Distracted as he is, he doesn’t notice the rising sun and vanishes in a cloud of smoke.

The movie is known for its haunting atmosphere, and Orlok’s presence is always frightening, even if you can only see his shadow. Some of the shots are colored, but only in one color, to add a feel to the scene.

The Real Nosferatu 1

If all of this sounds familiar, you’ll also know that the movie was banned for copyright reasons, causing the company that made it, Prana Films to go bankrupt. But just paying the sum of money to Stoker’s widow (who, by the way, also dated Oscar Wilde. History is weird, right?). No, every single copy of the film had to be destroyed.

Stoker’s widow had little to gain from suing the film, she only needed the money because she was in financial trouble, and she didn’t even see the film. There was no real reason for her or the court to banish the film from existence. But apparently, it was not gone forever.

So why can you still watch the film on YouTube? Well, in the late twenties, it became clear that some cinemas that had kept copies of the film in secret and started showing it again, because by this time the court apparently no longer cared.

Now this is the part where it gets crazy. Last week, I was on universalmonsterarmy.com, a forum for old horror movies. It’s the kind of forum where you discuss obscure interests or trade rare collector’s items, the kind of forum that’s silently active in some corner of the internet without the general public knowing or caring. It was in the silent movie subforum, where usually a topic got posted once a month or so. Usually, those topics are about whether anyone knows where to get a good copy of Nosferatu or, once in a while, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.

The title of the topic read simply: “Nosferatu”. I assumed it was nothing special, so I clicked it, ready to give a link to eBay. I can remember that it was pretty long, but after the recent events it got deleted. I’ll try to recap it while I can.

The poster, whose username was simply “rudolf” (without caps), to my surprise, didn’t want a copy at all, he just wanted our opinion on the movie, and had posted a few screenshots just for fun. I was already typing my comment when I noticed something was off about the screenshots. I didn’t know what it was, but I figured I would just watch the movie one more time on YouTube.

I was busy with my job (I’m a waiter, and it was the start of the holidays), so I couldn’t return to the forum until after a few weeks. I was browsing again when I remembered the Nosferatu topic. When I checked the comment section it struck me what was wrong with the screenshots: They were not from the movie at all. I couldn’t recall any moment in the film where Orlok was walking like that in the mountains, or staring at the screen from that angle, or Hutter running near the river. The other commenters had noticed as well, and called “rudolf” out on it.

There was a response from Rudolf, saying that these were definitely in the movie, and that their summary of it wasn’t correct. I was intrigued, but not interested enough to keep reading, so I moved on to another topic.

A few days later I was browsing again, in the music subforum, when I saw that Rudolf had posted a reply. He said that added music didn’t belong in silent horror films and that the silent version was the only true version. I remembered the thread, so I returned to it.

Apparently Rudolf and the admins didn’t get along very well anymore. The admins demanded to know where he got the screenshots, and Rudolf insisted that this was the original version, he even posted a picture of the plastic strip. I didn’t believe him for a second, and posted a snarky reply, saying that he was just trolling us.

Now I was following the thread. No one really took Rudolf seriously anymore, even though he continued to post more “screenshots” of the film. After a while the debate got so heated that Rudolf said he would record the full movie with his camera, and post a link to the whole movie on Friday (at midnight, for good measure).

All of us were interested now, and even though no one really knew what it was going to be. In the weeks that the forum thread was active, nearly all of us had posted replies. Some of us speculated that his copy was really an amateur fan film that he mistook for the real one, or cheap imitator with some added and deleted scenes. Some even believed Rudolf was right. In the following days, the nature of the film he would show us became the main topic to talk about on the forums, with a ton of other theories being submitted.

When the Friday night came, there was an unusually high number of online members. After about 10 minutes of waiting and watching the other members complain, he finally posted a link to Megaupload, which I clicked. After I had downloaded the file and opened it with Media Player.

I don’t remember the entire movie, but what I do remember still haunts me in my dreams to this day.

The first thing that hit me was that I was seeing the film being projected, so this really was a plastic strip. Didn’t see that one coming? Well, just wait, it gets better.

The Real Nosferatu 2

The title cards were in German, so apparently, this was either a really old imitator or just the normal Nosferatu. The movie started normally, with Hutter and his wife, Ellen, being introduced to the audience by being shown at home. A few minutes later Hutter had departed on his journey to the count’s castle. Nothing was really out of the ordinary, except for a few camera angles that seemed slightly different and some shots I had never seen before.

The first major difference was at the inn, where Hutter reads the book on vampires, instead of the normal text, it showed:

Führen Sie, während Sie noch eine Chance haben, für das, was kommen wird es keine Rückkehr möglich sein

Which was on the screen for an abnormally-long period of time, even for a silent movie. The second page showed:

Abwenden, für Baphomet kommt

Hutter reacted to this the same way as in the real version: by simply throwing the book away. Afterwards, he took the carriage like in the real version, but the woods looked much more dense, and it was evening instead of daytime, so everything was a lot harder to see, though there was a large moon in the sky. By this point my eyes were glued to the screen, I had no idea what was going on.

Unlike the normal version, where the coach drivers leave Hutter near the road because of their superstition, here, they brought him all the way through the woods. The scene was much longer, and I thought I could see something move in the woods, maybe or maybe not. What felt like an hour later they reached the castle, and Hutter entered the courtyard, at lot more cautious than in the normal version. That’s when Orlok first fully appears in the regular version, but here, there was no one there, so Hutter just entered the castle.

Inside, some walls looked distorted or darker. Hutter was looking very uneasy. Then Orlok came in.

He looked just like in the regular version, tall and thin, with his ridiculous hat and eyebrows, and yet there was something different about him. Something about the eyes, I think, yet I could not tell what it was. Like in the real version, his presence brought a chill down my spine.

The screen froze. I checked if it was Media Player freezing, but it wasn’t. The film remained frozen for abfout 5 minutes, with Orlok at the middle of the screen. I felt that he was somehow coming closer, but the shot seemed to remain still.

When the still shot finally ended, Orlok just sat down like in the regular version, his eyes fixed upon Hutter. Hutter began eating the food (somewhat nervously), while Orlok was examining the contract.

Now, if you’ve watched the film several times you will know that in the regular version the contract is covered in all kinds of hermetic symbols and symbols of the occult. This is due that the production designer was Albin Grau, an architect and member of the occult group “Fraternitas Saturni”. He was also responsible for Orlok looking like he did. The contract looked exactly the same, unlike many other things in this version of the film.

Then came the moment that Hutter cut himself. Instead of rushing forward like in the other version, Orlok looked surprisingly still, and Hutter just cleaned it off. This surprised me greatly, because that’s when the audience knows for sure that Orlok is Nosferatu in the original version.

After handling the contract, Hutter went to his room, mistrustful of the whole situation and unable to lock the door. After several minutes of paranoia, Orlok finally came in (for all the fans, this is the part you see in Spongebob). Hutter, who by now knew of Orlok being Nosferatu, faints in fear. The screen then cut to Orlok’s smiling face, slowly zooming in, then abruptly stopping. In the next shot, you can see Ellen wake up, due to the bond she has with Hutter.

Next, the screen showed footage I’ve never seen before. It looked like some kind of wildlife documentary, about rats. I’ll not describe it in too much detail, because it’s not important to the plot and pretty disgusting as well.

When he woke up, Hutter surprisingly didn’t find the 2 pinchmarks on his neck like in the real version. However, he did become mistrustful of the whole situation, and, like in the normal version, consulted the book from the inn. This time the text read:

Sie können Ihr Schicksal durch die Flucht nicht entkommen

Ubique Daemon

The Real Nosferatu 3

This was, like the previous page, on the screen for quite long. I was still wondering how all of this made sense, but I couldn’t. Hutter, unlike me, didn’t seem impressed and began wandering the castle. Eventually, he made his way down the stairs and came to a dimly lit underground room, the crypt. Just like in the regular version, he discovered the coffins. In the real version, he opens one of the the coffin and find out that Orlok is in it. Frightened, he flees.

That didn’t happen here. Carefully stepping though in the crypt, he opened the coffin.

Suddenly, the screen went pitch black. I waited for 3 minutes in anticipation for what was to come, because by this point I had no clue where the film would go next.

Then, surprisingly, the screen went back to the book page.

Sie können Ihr Schicksal durch die Flucht nicht entkommen

Ubique Daemon

When the screen cleared, the coach from the normal version departed in the distance, presumably with Orlok and his coffins in it. It then cut to Hutter escaping the castle through the window, but being knocked unconscious by the fall.

Next was the ship scene, in which the crew of the ship carrying Orlok were all infected by the rats from his coffin, carrying the plague. The ship was different, but for the rest it was the same. After the rest of the crew died, the first mate jumped into the see out of fear when he saw Orlok, and then the captain went downstairs.

The captain, like an idiot, tied himself to the ship like an idiot. Slowly, you could see Orlok ascending the stairs, and then the captain’s surprised face. Orlok slowly walked towards the captain with the strange walk he always uses. For a few seconds, they were looking each other in the eyes, and you could see the captain’s face white from terror.

The next shot was a shot of the stairs, with blood slowly but surely dripping down. I was surprised, because this was unheard of in silent films. Even movies made decades later usually didn’t show blood. Meanwhile, Hutter hurries home to warn his family of the danger. This was completely ripped from the regular version, until…

Sie können Ihr Schicksal durch die Flucht nicht entkommen

Ubique Daemon

…the book page showed up once more. I didn’t really know what it means, but I knew that “Schicksal” meant fate. And “Ubique Daemon” doesn’t sound very nice to me either.

After a while, I saw Orlok’s ship entering the Harbor. In the asylum, Hutter’s former employer, whom Orlok made into his slave could see him coming. Orlok exited the ship and moved into his new house with his coffin, and the dead bodies were dragged of the ship for research. Their death was attributed to the plague due to notes from a diary found on board.

As of now, the whole movie had been mostly the same, except for a few minor differences in text and minor details. The climax however, was what really made the movie so terrifying.

In the regular version, people in Wisborg get killed by Orlok, their deaths are attributed to the plague. Knock also escapes, but is quickly recaptured and Ellen sacrifices herself to kill Orlok after reading the book from the inn. Hutter comes back with professor Bulwer (basically Van Helsing) to save her but it’s too late. That’s it, you can see his ruined castle a few shots later to symbolize his death. This ending was radically different.

For one, the night scenes (all of them) in this version were really filmed at night (and the street lights, as you see in a minor scene, are unlit, because people are too scared to go outside), contrary to some of the regular version. This made everything very hard to see, except some of the scenes inside which were lit by lamps.

First, you can see the man that announces that everyone must stay inside due to the plague, like in the other version. Next, you see that Ellen is getting sick, like in the real version, but this time she actually looked very weak. Ellen, despite her husband having forbidden it, reads the book from the in, in which was written:

Die Stunde des Baphomet sätzt ein

She looked shocked by this text, but she is comforted by Hutter, who lays his arms around her. Like in the real version, Ellen points to the window, saying that she sees something there every night. Only this time, the shot from out of the window showed not Orlok’s house, but the darkened night sky, with no moon in sight.

After that, you can see the villagers talking to each other about Knock’s escape, and about how he should be caught. This scene is the same as in the regular version. One thing though, in the regular version he somehow ends up back in the asylum near the end. This didn’t happen here.

The Real Nosferatu 4

Hutter departed to bring Professor Bulwer to inspect Ellen’s illness, as you can see her fearing for her husband to get infected.

After this, you could see Hutter running besides the river to get Bulwer. Once he get’s to Bulwer’s house, the sun has already set and I could barely see what was happening. Meanwhile Ellen is slowly being hypnotized by Orlok, and opens the window.

In the next shot, I saw Hutter and Bulwer running beside the river (Bulwer was carrying a lantern, so you could see what was happening clearer than most of the night scenes), until they had reached a dark, empty tunnel. They paused, maybe to see if there was anything in there, but it was too dark to see anything.

Slowly and casually, they entered the tunnel. The lantern only showed a small piece of the wall, which was thick with moss. Suddenly, I could see the silhoutte of Knock in the distance and the screen froze, as before.

After a waiting for what seemed like 4 minutes, Knock was approaching fast, as if the screen had been lagging, and Hutter and Bulwer were standing there, half offscreen frozen in shock.

When he had reached the two, Knock reached his arm towards Bulwer, preventing him from fleeing, and bit him in the neck. Bulwer, seeing that his end was near, commanded Hutter to run, as he dropped the lantern in an attempt to scare of Knock, but the flame was quickly extinguished. I saw Hutter trying to save Bulwer, but Knock’s grip was too tight so he ran away.

Then, the camera slowly turned back towards Knock, who was still sucking Bulwer’s blood. You could see it spilling over his clothes, and over the ground. Knock became increasingly violent, ripping off parts of Bulwer’s skin off, so that the flesh was exposed. When he seemed to be satisfied, he slowly rose from the body, and, with his bloody mouth, looked at the camera. The film then abrubtly cut to…

Sie können Ihr Schicksal durch die Flucht nicht entkommen

Ubique Daemon

…again. I wasn’t even surprised this time, but I kept watching because I had to see the ending of this film, to see what happened.

Hutter was hurrying towards his house in the darkness. When he had entered the door however, someone was blocking the stairs. It was Orlok, with that frightening grin across his face. Hutter, hypnotized, was unable to move as Orlok came towards him, and launching his teeth into Hutter’s neck, making the blood flow down his clothes. For a moment, it seemed like he would protest, but the he remained still. After about 30 seconds, in which he also bit Hutter across his arm and several other places Orlok left.

The camera however, did not. That’s right. I was forced to sit through many minutes watching Hutter bleed to death. What’s worse, the camera slowly zoomed in on his corpse, particularly on his neck, arm and chest. I’ve never seen a movie do this before, and for good reasons. When the agonizing minutes were over, the book page…

Sie können Ihr Schicksal durch die Flucht nicht entkommen

Ubique Daemon

…came up again, and you could see the staircase scene from the photo on top of this page, which was now truly unnerving. I will not describe Ellen’s death here, believe me, it’s better this way. All I can tell is that it puts the previous scenes to shame, and that things didn’t quite end well like in the other version. There was no rooster that crowed, no sunrise, no sign of victory for good whatsoever.

The shots thereafter were of Wisborg by night, presumably years later, now an empty city inhabited only by rats and vermin.

The very last shot of those was of Orlok’s triumphant smile, his mouth dark with blood. The camera, like before, slowly zoomed in on him, on his eyes, and at that moment I felt a kind of dread that’s hard to explain, an odd sense of somehow being trapped.

After that, there was only one cut left.

Sie können Ihr Schicksal durch die Flucht nicht entkommen

Ubique Daemon

That was the end (there were no credits). I clicked away Media Player, which had now stopped playing for real, and deleted the file, never wanting to play it again.

After a few days I decided to go back to universalmonsterarmy.com to see what happened. I found that the silent movie subforum had been deleted, and its topics were nowhere to be found in the graveyard (deleted topic subforum). I searched for Rudolf’s user page, which was apparently no longer there (which was odd, considered that at most forums a user will simply get banned, but their page can still be seen.). Maybe it has been blocked from the search engine, I don’t know.

I tried to talk about it with a few fellow forum members and admins, but they seemed reluctant to talk about it and often tried to change the subject. The forum still exists, so maybe you can see what happened. I myself barely use the forum anymore.

The days after watching the movie, I found that I had a hard time sleeping and that I was losing a lot of hair. This was probably from the stress of getting through the movie and overthinking it, but I can’t lose the idea that the movie somehow… Infected me.

After thinking about the movie while trying to sleep, I got the idea that maybe, the summary on top of this page is wrong, and that the copies of Nosferatu weren’t destroyed because of copyright infringement. Maybe, the true version of Nosferatu barely survived at all, and the “regular” version is only a cheap copy, made by other filmmakers trying to cash in on Nosferatu’s name, or maybe the “regular” version is a combination of real and fake footage, as evident by some continuity issues (like Knock inexplicably being locked up again).

Also, I found the translation of the book page:

Fleeing will not help you escape your fate

Ubique Daemon

Credit To – ArcticWolf

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Bits & Pieces

January 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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If you are interested in the weird and wonderful, then you might already be familiar with the strange case of the Uist mummies. Discovered in 2001, the mummified remains of two ancient residents of the Scottish island of South Uist have perplexed and puzzled archaeologists ever since they were unearthed.

Buried deep in the ground of that remote corner of the developed world, the most recent scientific data estimates that both corpses were placed there over 3000 years ago. Their skeletons were found to have been contorted into an unnatural foetal position, and the photos, which appeared in the national newspapers at the time, were enough to make anyone uneasy. It was said that such a deliberately manipulated pose was common in ancient burials, but it was clear during those first few weeks of the excavation that one of those individuals was anything but common.

Initially the archaeologists exhuming the bodies placed great importance on the burials being the first concrete indication that the ancient peoples who once populated the British Isles mummified their dead. This has created quite a stir in the academic community ever since, as the hunt continues as we speak to find the estimated hundreds, if not thousands, of similarly preserved dead ancients dotting the land beneath our feet.

After some preliminary tests were performed on the corpses, it became apparent that both bodies had been immersed for at least a year in an acidic material shortly after death. This led to the speculation that they had both been mummified by being steeped in a nearby peat bog – a blackened, swamp-like piece of wetland formed via centuries of accumulating rotting plants and animals – for some time, before being left above ground, perhaps to be paid tribute to or to act as a warning to others for hundreds of years for some hideous crime. Both bodies had been remarkably well preserved and it was estimated by the archaeological team on hand that they had perhaps been stored in a primitive hut or house structure for much of their time above ground. Why this occurred is anyone’s guess, but it has been argued that the bodies were of ceremonial importance, and that perhaps a priest class lived alongside the seemingly immortalised bodies for an unknown ritualistic purpose, before finally concealing them in a stone coffin made of uneven slabs beneath the ground; not before removing a tooth from each jaw and placing them in the palms of their rotting clenched fists. A curious practice indeed.

The fact that the steeping of the bodies in the peat bog had led to the preservation of both corpses, excited the researchers: They believed that there was every possibility that some DNA might have been protected from thousands of years of rotting beneath the earth. This could be used to trace the ancestry of the individuals. And so, the difficult process of extracting genetic material from any remaining flesh began.

It was during this process that one of the scientists, a Dr Grealy, noticed something amiss with one of the cadavers. How something so obvious could have been initially overlooked was the source of much debate amongst the research team, but there seemed to be no doubt: One of the mummified corpses was composed of body parts from a number of once living individuals.

At first this was assumed to be pure chance, that perhaps the area had been an ancient cemetery, housing numerous bodies and had become a mixed bag of bits and pieces as they rotted, tossed around by the elements above and below ground level. This, however, was vehemently denied by Dr Grealy. She was absolutely convinced that the mummified body was deliberately cobbled together from various corpses for some unknown reason. Regardless of who was correct, the research team concluded unanimously that the body was ‘mostly’ that of a 40 year old man, with at the very least an arm, part of a leg, and a few ribs coming from other sources – with the jaw bone and lower teeth coming from an elderly woman. DNA identification of other body parts was, unfortunately, impossible.

Dr Grealy initially argued that the remains must have been pieced together in a ritual where body parts were offered to the whole skeleton for some reason; perhaps as a way to cement alliances or lay claim to land where the man was buried. But as Dr Grealy’s investigation became more time-consuming, so too did the outlandish nature of her claims increase. After pouring over the data and performing her own tests on the corpse for several months, she petitioned the academic research team that she was part of to publish her conclusions.

There was much resistance within the group, and it was decided that Dr Grealy had either lost her mind or was not the excellent researcher that they had believed her to be. She was suspended from the research project for an indefinite period and asked to rethink her assertions. But she would not, could not, let them go. Before she was escorted from the laboratory where the mummified remains were being stored, she was informed of the proposals to remove her from the project by a sympathetic colleague. With little time to act, Dr Grealy gathered up all of her research notes and pocketed a shard of bone which she had removed from just above the corpse’s rotten knee joint, before the head of the research team entered the laboratory with a security guard and asked her to leave the premises immediately.

Wracked by guilt at their colleague’s dismissal, two members of the research team maintained contact with Dr Grealy over the following four months, exchanging emails and even some ideas about the origins of the corpse. They all sympathised with Dr Grealy’s predicament, although they never would back up her conclusions publicly: They just seemed so outrageous. Even though the evidence did indeed suggest that she was correct in her beliefs, no one was willing to put their name to a paper stating that the corpse, that 3000 year-old cobbled together collection of bones from different bodies, had at one time walked about, lived as a single functioning human being. No, while Dr Grealy had found overwhelming evidence that the bones had been attached to one another by cartilage, tendons, and muscle, there must have been some bizarre contamination of the results. It just couldn’t be true.

And so, Dr Grealy was on her own. And on her own she stayed, but while some amongst her ex-research colleagues claimed she was quite mad, she didn’t seem delusional. She didn’t, for example, run to the press. No, she valued her career as a scientist and made it clear during conversations that she had to make sure that her conclusions were irrefutable, only then would she go public. It was for that reason she sank all of her money, time, and resources into finding another burial site on the island of South Uist. If she couldn’t gain access to that bizarre corpse, she would find her own to study, to hopefully support her hypothesis.

Dr Grealy hired a team of historians to help her identify locations which potentially contained early bronze age settlements. Those areas were then assessed at great cost by a freelance geophysical survey team, probing the ground for possible chambers or stone coffins hidden beneath. Keeping those she was closest to abridged of her progress, it appeared that she had indeed finally found another burial site and was confident that its construction matched those of that strange pieced together individual which had been dragged out of the ground on the previous dig.

Having spent most of her savings just to find such a place, she did not have enough money left to employ a group of archaeologists to help her excavate any remains which might have been found there. For this reason Dr Grealy began the hard work of digging for proof. The phone-calls and emails that she sent to her colleagues diminished over time, and it did indeed seem that she was slowly succumbing to a debilitating mental illness, ranting about ‘bits and pieces walking about at night, disturbing my work.’

Two months later the dismembered and decapitated body of a woman was found floating in the Clyde river. The body was identified as belonging to Dr Grealy, but it was argued that that was impossible; Dr Grealy had been missing for only several weeks, but the forensic investigation into the remains suggested that the body had been submerged in a peat bog for at least a year.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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The Time Machine

December 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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First test of Space-time Manipulation Device “Time Machine” with Human Subject

 

Abstract: This paper documents the initial test of the Space-time Manipulation Device carrying a payload of a willing human subject. Using methods detailed in this paper, the SMD is sent 1 year into the future, remains for 10 minutes, and is returned 10.0037 seconds after departure. Due to success of previous unmanned tests and new project parameters, a voluntary human test subject henceforth known as S7 was carried on the machine as a payload.

Orbital calculations were successful and well within error. Some concern is given to return time, being outside error predictions by 1.8%. Ongoing medical examinations of S7 are being carried out. The subject was returned unharmed, fully conscious, and completely and utterly unresponsive.

Introduction: For the past 25 years, a machine capable of travelling along the temporal dimension has been developed without public knowledge. By distorting space-time (See Pg. 48) the device can physically disappear from a point in space and reappear at the same point at a different time. The methods used to achieve this are discussed later in this paper.

Previous tests of the SMD have met with varying results. Initial tests ranged from minor incidents to catastrophes, the worst being test 4 wherein the appearance position of the SMD was miscalculated leading to the death of Dr [REDACTED]. Unmanned tests continued with increasingly accurate timing and positioning of the device. The last major problem occurred on □□/□□/□□ when SMD#136 failed to return. Its location remains unknown.

As the project was not made public, adherence to animal testing laws was not necessarily strict. As of SMD#223 the procedure was deemed stable enough to allow a living subject to travel a distance with the device. It is believed that increased military interest in the project was a major factor in the addition of an organic component. MoD official [REDACTED] oversaw all transport of living subjects.

S1, a small rodent, was placed in the machine and sent one year ahead. When the device returned, S1 was not present. An investigation concluded that this was due to insufficient restraints on the animal. After the harness was refitted, subjects 2 and 3 both returned dead form the trip. Subjects 4 and 5 returned alive, but seemingly unconscious, and died before reaching medical attention. S6, a dog, returned alive and was shown to be healthy upon medical examination. However, it was completely unresponsive, lying still with its eyes open. Shallow, rapid breathing could be seen, but S6 died before a brain scan could be performed. No cause was forthcoming. The subsequent autopsy could only conclude “It seems to have simply given up”.
S7 put himself forward for the experiment. As of □□/□□/□□ growing pressure was on to pull the plug on the project. If the SMD was not safe, then it was of limited use and would be broken into smaller projects. Financial concerns were a part of this. We had less than a year to prove that time travel was survivable for human beings, there was no time for extensive animal testing any more. S7, one of the senior leaders of the SMD program, volunteered as a subject, and the whole team was thrown into uproar. A few, like myself, were excited for the prospect and saw it as the only option, however there were many voices raised against the idea. After much debate, medical examinations, and final tests of the machine, it was determined that the S7 test could take place. SMD#414 was used for the experiment (specs Pg. 120). The test was the standard year-hop, stay for 10 minutes and then return. All parameters were strictly determined (Pg. 133) and the errors were acceptable (Pg. 227). The test was given the green light.

S7 was nervous as he was strapped into the machine. The SMD underwent extensive redesign since human transportation became a consideration. A carbon-fibre chair was used with restraints for arms, neck, head, chest, and legs (See fig 8). These were to prevent injury. As the countdown to departure began, S7 started becoming more agitated, turning into full on distress. He began to ask for the test to be postponed, for the straps to be loosened, to be allowed an extra few minutes preparation. We muted the speakers from the room. The straps were very well designed (fig 9) and managed to hold S7, as his verbal objections had become physical, pulling this way and that, trying to come free of the machine. It was hopeless. Seconds before departure he began shouting and thrashing wildly, but the speakers were still muted and we didn’t hear it. Then the device vanished.
10.0037 seconds later, the machine returned. S7 was in place, completely still. He stared straight ahead, every muscle locked, straining outwards. His breathing was rapid and shallow, and he wasn’t blinking. The medical team rushed in and released the straps, but S7 seemed not to notice. He just continued staring. No stimuli could coax a response from him: shouting his name, shaking him, even moderate amounts of pain caused any kind of a reaction. He simply sat, rigid as steel, eyes wide. The readouts showed an aggravated heart rate and critically high blood pressure. It was assumed that S7 was in some kind of coma.

Until the brain scan.

As soon as the EEG started, it was clear that S7 was not comatose. The amygdala, the most ancient and primal part of the brain responsible for fear and anger, was furious with activity. The frontal cortex was all but silent, but the deepest part of the brain glowed brightly. All of the team knew what this meant. S7 was alive. S7 was conscious. And, inside his own head, S7 was screaming. An animal, wordless scream of unimaginable terror. [FROM THIS POINT ON THE PAPER IS REDACTED. THE AUTHOR IS CLEARLY EMOTIONAL AND THE STANDARD OF WRITING HAS FALLEN FROM THE EXPECTED SCIENTIFIC LEVEL. PLEASE FIND A REVISED COPY OF THIS PAPER. THE CONCLUSION OF THE PAPER REMAINS AS EVIDENCE FOR AN ONGOING STUDY OF THE AUTHOR.]

Conclusion: I must know what happened to S7. The SMD is safe, I know that it is. I’ve worked here for [REDACTED] years, I have seen countless devices appear form the past. Nothing happens, the procedure is safe. What could be so bad that it could do that to a person? I have to find out. The thought of that man keeps me up at night. The clenched jaw, the straining joints, those horrible eyes. S7 panicked, that is all that’s wrong. He panicked and now he is how he is. I won’t panic. I will volunteer. I must, how else could I call myself a scientist? I won’t let the project be shut down. I will be the new subject, and I will see the future.

***

Medical Report on the Continuing Condition of Subject 8

 

Abstract: S8 continues to show no improvement. EEG’s show high levels of activity in the brain stem and amygdala. S8 remains in a conscious, vegetative state, showing no response to stimuli. Lactic acid build up in his permanently tensed muscles is beginning to lead to severe damage. Euthanasia is being considered.

***

Why do I not die? Why must I endure this? The others walk around me, but they do not walk. They stand, as still as rock. They do not move. They mock me.

But they do move, I know that they do. I see it, the slow crawl, over the millennia. Moving moving, but standing so still. The distortions of time, I know it is so. I know.

We dared to test the universe. We were arrogant, we bent time, and now I must suffer the consequences.

Alone.

But not alone, for they stand around me. Even now they crowd me, as they have for countless years. I know their faces, I have counted ever hair on their heads a million times over. It is their eyes that mock me. WHY DO YOU NOT MOVE?!

Madness is not far off, if it is not already here. It must be, for I am forgetting how to think.

I have forgotten so much.

What will I be when I forget all language? When I forget who I am? Even forget my name.

Well then, all the will be left, is to scream.

But I will hold my sanity, for I must.

I must.

WHY DO YOU MOCK ME? WHY DO YOU NOT MOVE? WHY DO I NOT DIE?!

Credit To – Jonteon

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The Book

December 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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It’s so dark I can’t breathe, it’s filling my lungs I’m going to choke on it
He’s there I can feel him watching me, I wish I could see him
but I know he’s there he’s laughing at me just waiting for me to close my eyes
Someone please turn on the light.

I set the book down, it was getting late. The only thing illuminating my room was the cracked bedside lamp that occasionally flickered, casting my room into impenetrable darkness for a split second at a time.

I laughed nervously to myself. I knew there was nothing there. Of course I did, I had grown out of the tales of ghosts and ghouls and monsters that had been my favourite as a kid. At least I thought I had, until I got the email.

It was from an address I didn’t recognise, and it came to me one night as I was staying up late to finish my homework. I probably should have questioned its source before I clicked on it (I’ve never been very good at keeping my laptop virus-free), nevertheless curiosity won me over.
It had been sent to a large number of emails, and the subject line read, rather simply:

it’s here

What was here? It all became clear when I clicked – a single hyperlink directed me to an eBay page advertising an archaic-looking book. It wasn’t a title I’d ever heard of, and it didn’t even include the author’s name, but the curious design of it intrigued me. It was on sale for a single penny, someone’s obviously keen to get it sold, I thought to myself. Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, or the way the find had rekindled the mystery-seeking child in me, but I started to giggle with excitement. Had I just found lost treasure? Grinning, I pulled open the drawer in my bedside table to reveal my dusty debit card, which had laid abandoned for weeks on account of the pitiful sum contained in my account, a little over a few pence. My fingers flew across the keyboard as I tapped in my details to purchase the book, which promised to be delivered within 3 to 4 working days. ‘Thank you for your order; we hope you enjoy your purchase.’ I felt exhilarated, but the feeling was a little odd, it was just a book after all. Yet as I sat there, the clock ticking 3am, I couldn’t help but feel sick with anticipation.

The days passed slowly after that. I found it difficult to get the book off my mind, and I couldn’t sleep at night, as if I were a small child with Christmas just around the corner. It finally came on Thursday, 5 days after I had received the email.

My mum had taken it, probably suspicious about what it was as I rarely ordered anything for myself. But I was 17, and she was being a nosy bitch. I wasted no time in snatching it from her grip, yelling something over my shoulder about how she should mind her own business. She shouted something back but I had already slammed my bedroom door, eager to finally get my hands on the book.
The package was plain, wrapped in brown paper with my address scrawled sloppily across the front. I flipped it, and scratched at the tape holding it together. Even when my fingers started to bleed after days of nervous nail biting I didn’t stop, and after what felt like hours the brown tape gave way, and the book tumbled to the floor, landing with a heavy thud. I gingerly picked it up and sat on my bed. It was bound in some sort of animal skin that looked like leather but felt softer, and smelt somewhat revolting. It wasn’t a strong smell, but it was distinctive and certainly wasn’t leather.

Opening the book after the long wait felt somehow daunting, and I was hesitant. The sound of my mum weeping softly in the kitchen snapped me out of my daze and I suddenly felt disgusted at myself for giving her a hard time. I placed the book in my drawer and looked in the mirror at my pale reflection. I ran my hand through my greasy hair and sighed, the lack of sleep showing in the dark purple circles under my sunken eyes. Exiting my room, I saw my mum sitting with her back to me, her head buried in her hands, her shoulder blades rising and falling irregularly to the tune of her cry. I slumped towards her, my movements slow and heavy as if I was physically weighed down by my guilt. Reaching her, I placed my hand on her back and muttered an apology. She continued to face the floor, seemingly ignoring my words.
It was then that I bent down and noticed the red liquid that was seeping from between her fingers and trailing down her arms. My breath caught in my throat and I grabbed her arms, pulling them away from her face.

Her eyes were missing. Blood was pouring from the black, empty sockets. They were so dark, so dark. Her mouth was a thin, straight slit yet I could still hear the sound of her sobbing. How was she doing that, how was she making that noise? Was it her or was it the sound of my own cries I was hearing, as my mouth had opened and tears were dripping from my chin onto the floor, mixing with the congealing blood. I felt my whole body spasm – whether from terror or nausea I couldn’t tell. I crumpled to the floor and my mum’s eyeless gaze followed me. From this position I could see the scalpel that was lying under the kitchen table, its handle streaked with gore and more blood, the tip poking from a lump of white flesh… Oh my God her eyeball. It was looking at me! It was looking right at me! As tears pooled in my eyes I looked back up to her, and she smiled. The corners of her mouth lifted and she tilted her head to the side in unison, transforming her face into a grotesque doll-like image. The crying turned to maniacal laughter and the light above our heads blew, scattering shards of glass around the room. I sobbed harder realising I was unable to run, my muscles paralysed with fear. But then something descended on me, like a dense fog, smothering my face until the only sound I could hear was the pounding of my racing heart in my ears. I tried to break free, my arms having found strength flailed around desperately, but it was futile…

Ah! The phone! I can hear the phone! I jolted awake and sat bolt upright. My face was drenched in sweat and my shirt clung to my back. I burst into tears. It was a nightmare, just a nightmare, but it felt so vividly real. Down the hall, I heard my mum answer the ringing phone. Relief washed over me, taking the uneasy feeling with it, but I wondered how I had managed to fall asleep. I didn’t remember going to bed. Still shaking slightly, I levered myself off the bed and into the bathroom to wash my face. I passed my mum who was chattering away to my aunt, and she smiled at me. I smiled back, a genuine grin that felt unfamiliar to my tired facial muscles. I hadn’t smiled like that in days.

The book! I had almost forgotten the book! In all that excitement, my mind had wandered off the book. Maybe now I’d finally get a chance to read it. Dashing back to my room, I called to my mum saying I wasn’t hungry and that I was doing homework so to not disturb me. With my racing thoughts, I had no idea if she heard me.

I read and read until my eyes started to go blurry with fatigue. Every page I turned I expected it to be better than the previous, but I was thoroughly disappointed. I sighed heavily. The book seemed to be nothing more than the ramblings of a madman, as if I’d just purchased some crazy guy’s diary.

That was, until I reached about half way through. I flipped the page, about to set it down and call it a night when I saw that it was the last entry. The ink was imprinted deep into the paper from the weight of the writer’s hand and it was shaky, like you might write if you had your eyes closed.

I read, and carefully put the book down.

I put it down because it was late, not because I was afraid, I told myself. Yet I couldn’t help glance nervously around my room, cast in shadow. The pathetic lamp that was supposed to be keeping it light was getting old and failing, and oh man, I hadn’t even closed the curtains.

I got up to close them when I suddenly found myself terrified. Remembering the dream I had experienced earlier, how could I be sure I was awake? Paranoia wasn’t something I usually felt, but now it swallowed me up whole. The eyes. They were so dark, so black. They were drawing me in, grabbing at me. What if I was back in that nightmare world? I shuddered at the thought, but I got up.

I wish I had never gone to the window.

Looking out, I saw the man that was standing just beyond the pool of yellow that was cast by the streetlight. His malformed outline was barely visible, but it was there. Arms that were far too long for his body hung limply by his sides, and his pale flesh reflected the moonlight ever so slightly, mottled with brown lumps that looked rotten. His continuous stare was only broken when a wailing police car sped down the road between him and me, momentarily blocking my view. When it passed, he had vanished. With a fizzle my bedside lamp died, plunging much of my room into complete darkness, save for the square of light coming from the window. I froze. I had to stay out of the dark; the book was trying to warn me. Panicking, I dashed to the door and flung it wide, desperate to bathe myself in the unnatural glow of the hallway.

The lights were off! What time is it? I had never experienced darkness so intense. It was so black it flooded my whole body and weighed me down, as if it were alive and trapping me.
It’s here, I thought, it’s here.

I turned around to find the man standing in the doorway. I went cold as I felt all the blood drain from my face. Even in the near pitch black I could see he was hideous, gangrenous flesh dripped from his frame. The stench was unbearable – I recognised the smell from the book cover. Revulsion overcame me as I realised. It was his skin. Nausea overpowered me as I bent over and deposited what was left of my lunch at his feet. I could’ve sworn I heard him laugh, the same maniacal laugh that had emitted from my mother’s mouth. Don’t close your eyes, I whispered to myself. Don’t let him inside you.

Just when it was becoming excruciating to keep my eyes open, and I was sure he was about to descend on me, the light above my head abruptly flickered to life and he vanished. I turned to see my mum looking extremely concerned. I was twitching, and my bloodshot eyes with tears splashing from them looked desperately at her, a puddle of vomit at my feet. Nightmares, I whimpered.

I turned around and shut my bedroom door gently.

I logged onto my eBay account.
I put up a photo.
And I got rid of it.

But I still get the nightmares. And I never, ever turn the light off.

Credit To – Amanda G

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