The Memory Card

March 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.1/10 (381 votes cast)

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.1/10 (381 votes cast)

You Are Being Transferred To The Operator

March 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 6.4/10 (195 votes cast)

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 6.4/10 (195 votes cast)

Dream-Jaunt

February 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.5/10 (317 votes cast)

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.5/10 (317 votes cast)

Mirror Image

February 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.6/10 (288 votes cast)

“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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.6/10 (288 votes cast)

The Pale Child

January 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.1/10 (367 votes cast)

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.1/10 (367 votes cast)

The Real Nosferatu

January 6, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.8/10 (228 votes cast)

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.8/10 (228 votes cast)

This website contains fictional content that may be too scary for younger readers. Please verify that you are either at least 18 years of age or have parental permission before proceeding.