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The Hunted

February 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The bitter cold gusts ripped through the thermal underwear he wore underneath his camouflage, biting into his very bones. He had climbed into his tree stand about thirty feet up a yellow-leaved cottonwood and had huddled with his knees to his chest to fight the freeze. As he scanned the open field in the midst of the woods, the hunter admired the beauty of the frost tipped grass that reflected the full moon setting in the early morning. He thought he loved this time of year, but rumors of unexplainable occurrences and a thick fog seen in the distance inching its way closer advised him that he would not be out there long.

As the glowing moon dipped under the horizon opposite of the arriving fog, the hunter decided to peruse the scenery one last time before quitting the hunt or risk getting lost in the fog. In the final sweep, his pulse quickened. He noticed an odd silhouette against the fog about two hundred yards away to his front left. The twilight made his unaided sight untrustworthy, so he decided to put his binoculars to his stubbled face. The magnified, black figure had many details in shadowed darkness, but he could see the outline of the beast. The hoofed feet connected to what seemed to be abnormally long legs. The elongated fingers wisped in the breeze but came to a pointy end. Its stretched arms were connected to a thin torso, but the muscles bulged from its shoulders. As the hunter scanned up the profile, he distinguished the ears and the way they came to a point half a foot above its head. The only colors the creature reflected were white teeth that had as many edges as a band saw blade producing a menacing smile, and thin, blood red slits where pupiled eyes normally were. Just as the hunter gathered all of this information in the span of about ten seconds, the thing disappeared into the overcoming fog.

He slowly lowered his binoculars. The town wouldn’t believe that he had actually seen what was causing the unexplainable occurrences. He now knew how disfigured, gory stray animals dotted the main street after a full moon night. He now knew how a whole herd of cattle had been mutilated, their flesh strewn across a bloody field, their bones shattered into millions of pieces like broken glass. He now knew how a group of young grade schoolers taking a field trip to a quaint pumpkin patch had been mauled by what seemed to be a bear in a bear less part of the country, the bus offering no protection as it ended up like a crushed pop can.

Even though he knew the sun was peeking over the horizon, it only created an eerie glow through the fog. He decided to get down from the cottonwood. But as he looked down from his tree stand, he noticed the fog had crept to where he couldn’t see the ground. He thought he might stay, as quiet as a graveyard, in his tree stand, but the crashing of a fallen tree somewhere in the fog and the stench of death permeating his surroundings made him think differently.

The deafening break of the silence came opposite of the place his vehicle was parked, so he quickly climbed down the tree, leaving everything but his gun. As soon as he hit the ground, a sharp pain shot from one shoulder to the other causing him to lose his balance. He turned around as he fell and pulled the trigger at whatever was behind him, but the gun was still on its safety. It wouldn’t have mattered if the rifle had fired because the pain producer disappeared into the mist. He picked himself off of the ground and noticed a stark red streak melting the frost on the ground. He made his mind up as he turned his safety off that he wouldn’t be the next unexplained occurrence and hurried in the direction of his truck, the sweat on his brow only amplifying the cold. As the leaves crunched under his boots, he could hear branches cracking from all directions in the mystifying fog. One loud snap came only feet away from him, and he stopped to aim his gun into the haze.

The hush that surrounded him as he aimed stopped his warm blood from flowing through his body, making him ice cold. With the calm over the next few achingly long seconds, he became somewhat hopeful. But just as he lowered the gun, something soundlessly came from his right and knocked him clean off of his feet, the rifle flying into the unknown mist. A sting went from his knee to his brain, making him scream in pain but also making him become even more desperate. With a limp he began in the direction he thought his truck was, the fog seemingly clearing as the sun warmed the day. He couldn’t hear anything besides his own heavy breathing, taking in the putrefying smell. He was only a short few hundred feet from his truck when the black beast towered over him in his path. A demonic hand swept across his face, knocking him to the ground. His terrified cries magnified each time the sound of crushing bones echoed off the trees. The monster cut through the hunter’s skin and severed the veins as easily as a freshly sharpened band saw blade cutting through butchered meat. With one last violent crack, the sounds disappeared with the fog.

Now you may be wondering how I know every detail of this occurrence. The last surviving human did die, didn’t he? You see, I was watching the whole thing. I looked down from my solitary perch as my monster, yes my monster, crunched and swallowed the last bone as his back bristled. The reason why I am telling you this is because the creature looked at me one last time with his diabolic red eyes, looked deep into his creator’s soul, licked the last drop of blood from its lips, slowly turned into the thick forest, and was never seen again.

I should’ve known what would happen when I put the hooves of a dead goat, the wings of a dead bat, the teeth of a dead crocodile, the muscle fibers of a dead, crazed gorilla, and drops of my very own blood in the fire. My basement instantly smelled of the most decaying death you can imagine. The beast that limped from that fire had a meanness about it, but it obeyed my every command. It grew more evil with each act, starting with killing the dog that kept me up at night to eliminating my neighbor’s cattle herd. Then it started to do things I didn’t tell it to do. I awoke a fortnight ago to him getting out of his cage and followed him to that field of death, only watching because I knew my efforts could not save the hunter. Now, though, I don’t know where it is.

I feel like it will always be hunting, waiting for the opportune moment to kill again. It may be the thing that makes you wonder what’s in the cellar in your back yard or in the basement of your house. It may be the brief disturbance when you think something is peering around the corner, waiting to pounce when you least expect it. It may be the thing you think you see in the mirror when you look at your reflection and notice something stir behind you. It may cause the brief, cold tingling sensation along your spine that you are feeling at this very moment. But I have to quit writing, because it may be the thing that is breathing its warm, putrid breath on my neck right now.

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Fog Children

February 3, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Staring at the clock, Brandon heaved a sigh as the digital numbers switched once again, marking the death of yet another minute as he sat outside the Sun Theater waiting for his girlfriend to get off her shift at the Flying Saucers bar. The gently humming engine of the older model Dodge filled the air, along with a soft mist that was coming from the nightly rainfall. The city of San Antonio had suffered from these strange heat waves before, but never these heat showers. It would rain just after the sun went down, which in the summer was late, cooling the hot streets too quickly, creating a thick fog that the people of the Southwest were hardly equipped to deal with.

Brandon flipped his headlights off and rolled up his windows, locking his doors out of habit. With the fog rolling in, you never knew what kind of crap you were going to see. There’d been reports on the news that gangs of teenagers had been using the clouds as a means to carjack people, sneaking up on them and just yanking them from their vehicle. Brandon smiled; no way that would happen to him.

A sudden knocking on his window caused him to jump in his seat, dropping his cell phone down to the floorboards. Cursing under his breath, he looked off to see what had knocked on his window.

Two young boys stood in the pale light of the Sun Theater’s pale light, clothes immaculate and distance appropriate. Brandon watched as the taller boy, the one on the right, motioning for him to roll down the window. The boy on the left was smiling, his glistening white teeth luminescent in the roiling fog.

Brandon stared at the kids for a few moments, looking them over. He knew all the movies at the Sun were starting up or were on their last round, and there was no way they were going to be interested in the bar… in fact, they were of that delightful age where Brandon couldn’t exactly tell how old they were. They were somewhere between ten and fourteen, and lanky; they had red curly hair and freckles while the one on the left was dressed in an old video game tee shirt the one on the right was wearing his Sunday best. As the fog licked at their edges making them indistinct, Brandon rolled his window down a few inches.

“Yeah, what you kids need?” Brandon asked, trying to sound friendly.

The one on the right folded his arms behind his back and teetered slightly to lean on his right foot. “Well sir, we were coming to the movies to see the new action film and we realized we left our wallets at home.”

The boy on the left nodded, eyes still not meeting Brandon’s as he kept twitchily looking around. Brandon nodded.
“So you thought you might get some random adult to fork over some cash for you two?” Brandon sneered, reaching down to pat for his cell phone. The fog rolled over his hood, obscuring the chipped paint and warped metal from view. From the light of the Sun’s marquee, the two young boys shadows split into three distinct lines, stretching out over the car as they stood by silently watching Brandon fumble.

The boy on the right’s head drooped. “I wasn’t planning on asking you for money, not at all. We just want a ride, see?”

The other boy nodded, his smile widening even further.

“A ride?” Brandon repeated, not bothering to look at the boys as he stared within the dark car’s interior. “A ride where?”

“Well, that depends on you actually,” The boy on the right said, now standing directly outside the window of the Dodge. Brandon jolted, looking up as he tried not to spaz about the boy’s sudden movement. Looking up through the inch slit of glass at the boy’s silhouette, Brandon blinked. Had he been that tall?

“What do you mean?” Brandon asked, looking at the darkened figure as it peered down at him.

The boy… no, the man that stood there seemed to lengthen and grow as he peered down with shadowed eyes. His clothes were no longer church perfect- no, they were tousled and dirty. The skin that was apparent was blocked by flecks of fog dancing over him. Brandon stared up at the figure for what felt like minutes, until he heard it.

Click.

The figure had tried to open his front door. That seemed to break the spell that’d fallen over Brandon, who broke his gaze away from the shadowy figure and punched his electric window, rolling it up. As it sealed in place, Brandon thought he could hear an angry hiss of a serpent denied its dinner. A palm slammed into the window, the fingers impossibly long and willow-thin to be that of a child, or even a normal human being.

“Come on Mister,” the boy’s voice implored from the fog all around him, a dark humor underlying the plea. “The ride would be quick, we just need a lift a couple miles.”

“Get the fuck away from me!” Brandon shouted, flipping on the headlights for his Dodge so he might have some chance of finding his phone.

Standing in front of his suburban were dozens of black forms, all thin as reeds with mirrored eyes of inky darkness, partially wrapped in tendrils of fog bouncing the brilliant lights of the Dodge back into the cab.

Brandon screamed and dropped to the floorboards as his suburban started to shake, the heavy steel exterior scraping as innumerable fingernails pried and pulled at the edges of the Dodge in search of an easy opening. The voice of the boy, now seemingly from everywhere, was growing deeper by the second, a thick gravelly baritone that was commanding Brandon to open the door.

“This isn’t happening,” Brandon said to himself as he turned on his hands and knees to face the seat, his eyes never leaving the floor. “This can’t be real!”

He heard the handles being depressed and repressed in and out on all four doors repeatedly and let out another scream when something climbed up on top of the vehicle. Looking up, Brandon could see the skylight.

Open, wisps of fog sinking in like sinister fingers looking to pry a wound apart. Brandon climbed up onto his knees and slammed his fingers on the side panel, rolling the glass slowly closed as he felt something shuffle about atop the vehicle. At the very last second, a hand of dripping darkness hit the glass wetly, smearing a greasy line that was only made that much more pronounced by the reflecting headlights.

Brandon turned, eyes closed, and reached up to grab the keys, killing the engine with a silent pull, the lights dying, along with the sounds.

Sitting in the roomy space for his pedals, Brandon remained silent. As did the night. No voices, no cries. No scratching of a nail on steel.

His moment of peace was broken when his cell phone rang, violently and loudly, causing Brandon to yelp as he sought to silence it.

“Hello?” He answered hesitantly.

“Hey babe,” Rebecca said from the other line, weariness creeping from her voice. Brandon smiled. His girlfriend was calling him. He almost laughed.

“H-Hey honey,” Brandon said, crawling up into the seat of his suburban, sticking the keys back into the ignition. The lights came on, shining over the parking lot and onto the front steps of the Sun. He saw his delicate little girlfriend standing there, holding a large cake. “What have you got there?”

“Oh one of the cooks had a birthday and he’s diabetic, they said I could have the cake. Figured it could be a reward for how well we’ve been doing on the bills.” Rebecca smiled over the line, her tiny body walking out towards the suburban. “Do me a favor and unlock the back, k?”

Brandon smiled and pulled the lever unlocking the back gate, which lifted up slow enough to allow a breeze to breathe across the back of Brandon’s neck. Brandon slowly started to choke as Rebecca’s voice grew deeper, gravelly, all while laughing over an increasingly staticky call. Staring forward, a wave of fog rolled from beneath the Dodge, billowing like drapes caught in a wild wind as the feather light claws of the dense mist danced over the hood and windshield, scratching like nails on a chalkboard.

Credit: Nicholas Paschall

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Seven Times

February 2, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It sounded like footsteps.

When she was three, staring after the retreating back of a woman with a once-familiar smell, her young brain snapped at attention at a feeble noise behind her. She had turned then, getting even more tangled in the warm heavy blanket draped around her slender body, but her round wet eyes only saw a tall green door. She eyed it curiously, marveling at the vivid colour until it opened, startling the young girl. Warm arms and a sad, gentle smile greeted her. Soothing words whispered by her ear.

When walking silently through the long cold halls, eyes wide at the darkness around her, she hear it again; a sound lifting from the deepest haze of her memories. Slow, deliberate steps a ways behind made the tiny hairs on her neck stand. She froze, breath quickening and eyes shut tight, but whatever it was ceased immediately. A rat, she told herself, there was always one of the little animals roaming the orphanage but still she ran the rest of the way to the security of her blankets, baring little concern for the other sleeping forms on the crowded bedroom.

When her friends mocked her for bringing no one on parents’ day she ran away with tears in her eyes, forcing her legs to go as fast as they could but when the heavy thumps of her boots against the stoned floor was replicated by another she was crying over a whole different reason. Rounding a corner she hit a warm body, crashing them both to the ground. Fearful eyes met soft brown ones. A girl from the orphanage that smiled shyly and suggested that maybe she needed better friends.

When she skipped school from the hundredth time, sharing a dirty mattress with a passed out girl who had long lost her shy smiles, a needle half-thrusted into her arm, she felt more than hear the mild footsteps creeping along all the others bodies scattered on the floor – stalking near her bed. But she was too far gone to care.

As she stood alone by the sad, gloomy little tombstone of her only friend, whose smile she would never see again, the wind blew an eerie presence from between the graves of the dead. Her friend saying goodbye, she wagered. Breaking the laws of nature to listen to her half-sobbed promise to change her ways, mend her life. But even then she could not turn back.

When she cushioned her son in her arms – a silly smile plastered on her face as her finger traced gentle patterns on his impossibly soft skin, the tapping resumed somewhere out of sight, stopping just behind her. It was close. Each time closer. And even as her heart threatened to leap out of her chest she simply held the fragile, precious body in her arms tighter; glaring stubbornly ahead.

It sounded like footsteps.

When she locked her car, spring in her step because finally, finally she got that promotion so long deserved she heard it walking from behind for the last time. And at the hot, putrid breath hitting her neck and the pale talon hand gripping her shoulder she realized it had always been footsteps and she had run out of time.

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Love

February 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This is not meant to scare anyone.

Calling it a creepy story would be a bit of an insult, because it isn’t one. This is an expression of gratitude toward a friend, a friend who was always there for me. He watched over me as I was growing up and was the best friend any kid could ever have.

Even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.

He was always there, even though I couldn’t see him, and he was always acting in my best interests, even if I couldn’t understand. I’d like to take some time to share with you our story, because if you’re lucky, you might have a friend like this too.

I think I should let you read his letter first. In May of 2010, I bought a new computer and took my old one to the shop to have everything backed up. I’d brought the new computer home and had begun restoring my files from my portable hard drive and reinstalling programs when I noticed that there was a file in the Misc. folder that the shop’s technician had created for files with no other place. It was called HappyBirthdayBaby.txt.

Initially I thought it was a message my mom had written for me that I’d never read as intended, but I opened it, and this is what I found:

You might find this one day… I’m not great at this computer stuff, but I’ve watched you tinkering with this machine lately, and I think I know how to save this so that you’ll find it. Seeing as it’s time for me to go, I want to leave you this last little message.

I know you never met your father, but to me he was Col. Marcus Andrew Stadtfleld, as I’m sure your mother told you. He was a good man, one with the pride of a lion, the strength of a bear and a heart of pure gold. Truth is, I was almost like his son long before you were born. I was his second in command and served with him for three years.

I watched as your mother wept when she heard the news, her belly swollen with your soon-to-be debut into this world, and I stayed with her every second of every day. That was, until the day you came into the world- then my focus shifted to you.

I watched as they cleaned you and handed you to your mother, and she seemed to look right at me with a knowing eye as I stood over the both of you, almost as if she’d known along, and I’d be willing to bet my last penny she did. I’ve watched you grow and I remember everything, even the things you don’t. You always were such a happy baby and you had seemed to have inherited your father’s sense of humor. When you were getting to be four months old, you would do just about everything to hinder your mother’s attempts at changing you, laughing all the while. You were a wild one at heart, just as you are today.

Just like Marcus.

When you were about six months old we would play all the time. We had one game in particular, where I would grab your toes and tickle your belly. You would love it, though when your mother came in l’d have to stop, and it always perplexed her as to why you’d abruptly start crying- after a while, she seemed to think you didn’t like her, which is when I realized that I had to back away some.

When you were one year old you seemed to develop a sixth sense for me and although you couldn’t really see me so much or so well anymore, you knew I was there. I couldn’t play with you as much as before because I knew it would only hurt you in the long run, but I always kept guard. I knew you remembered seeing me because you had a way of testing my presence, you’d throw toys into the corner where I stood and then wait to see if I would play with them. Now, I know you won’t remember this, but once you threw a bear and a ragdoll at me, and because your mother was busy in the kitchen making dinner, I kept you entertained by putting on a little show. It was nothing special, I just made them dance a little. You were laughing loudly and your mom came in to see what was so funny, but when she saw, she wasn’t laughing. I bet you could mention the bear and ragdoll dance even today and the colour would run right out of her cheeks, but do me a favor and don’t. I think it would be kinder to ask if you ever threw the toys into the corner, that isn’t quite as bad a memory for her as the dancing is.

Do you remember your first word? I do… “Love.” Hahah. your mother made damned well sure you knew just how much you were cherished by her, every moment of every day and she would always say, “Love you baby…” I remember you tugging at my heart strings something awful once, when your mother was changing you in the bathroom this one time. You seemed to have caught my reflection in the mirror behind her, and you pointed and said Love (well, more of a wuv, but your mother knew), and she laughed and affirmed it. It was your only word for a time, but as I walked out of the reflection you started getting restless and I knew again that I had to be more stealthy. You were growing more and more every day now, and I couldn’t afford to break my promise to your father, which is why I would have to retreat yet again.

I broke the rules many times to protect you, for that promise to your father was everything to me. I remember when you were three and had mastered walking, you were a regular little scout, hahah. You could never keep still- those little legs had opened up a whole new world to you and you weren’t shy at all about exploring it. One day you were with your mother in the market, and a lady with a shiny purse caught your eye. You went running after her, just as another shopper was running with her trolley in front of her, coming the other way. She didn’t spot you, and because you were running after the purse, you didn’t see her either.

Breaking the rules was not allowed, but allowing you to get hurt wasn’t permittable either. By the time you noticed her it was already too late, and you fell on your bottom before you could scamper out of her way. Left without any other option, I sent that trolley flying Into the side of a freezer and as it crashed, that woman screamed blue murder, “A-A-A man in a uniform!” she screamed. You simply giggled as the crowd gathered and your mother came running. When she found you at that scene you were safe and sound, and you pointed to the trolley that had smashed the freezer window. You know what you said to her then? “Love mommy.” I was hiding by then, embarrassed to have created such a scene, though I have to admit I was laughing on the inside.

As you grew and became more aware so did I, and I finally knew when I could and couldn’t intervene. Doing too much would hurt the both of us, so I chose my moments carefully. You were a smart kid, just like your father, and most of the time knew how to handle any and every situation. If there was an option, you took it, though I slipped up a few times as you were growing up, I do think I did well to keep an eye on you. It was just the little things to make your life a bit easier, things you probably won’t remember, like putting your piano music sheets into your bag at night, turning off your television when you fell asleep, pulling the sheets over you on the colder nights, sorting your drawers, setting your alarm clock, closing your windows and door… You caught me doing one or two of these things a few times, and I want to take the time now to apologize for scaring you.

This one time you were doing your homework and fell asleep at your desk, so I filled In all the answers for your math quiz. You’d made such a fuss to your mother earlier about how strict the teacher was about homework and I knew you knew the answers anyway, but you suspected more than ever when you woke up and found that whole half a sheet you left incomplete was done. You were older and had forgotten that we were friends, things you saw in the media about ghosts scared you- and you had every right to be afraid. I just want to say I’m sorry. I never meant to make you cry. If only I had taken a little extra care you’d never have known. I just wanted to keep you safe and happy.

As you matured you began to take form as a little lady and as such, and you began to know the evil of men. Though you had your wits about you, you were always taking stupid risks, and watching over you became a little more of a worry for me. Gradually, I had to expose myself more and more, most memorably that night when that no-good boy you brought home started putting the moves on you. Your mother was at work, he was only after one thing, and although I knew it wasn’t my place to choose for you, you were still only a baby girl, just fifteen years old… As he got on top of you and started undressing you, took his top off and began whispering those sweet nothings, your face said it all.

You were scared. And when you told him to stop and he wouldn’t, and when you tried to push him off and he got angry, when he struck you and finally tried to put his hand up your skirt, all the evil I kept inside of me broke free at that moment and it was something I couldn’t control. My rage boiled over as I began to growl, the lights flickering, the TV volume rising, the doors and windows crashing open and shut. The keys on your piano began to rattle and with your fathers roar, I yelled, “Get out of the house boy!” He ran out of that room and you tried to follow, but I slammed that door in your face and wouldn’t let the handle go until your mother pulled into the driveway… I’m so sorry kid, that whole thing traumatized you for a while… You became more frightened of me than ever, having such an experience, and I knew from then on in spite of how much I loved you, we could never be friends. Not after what I’d done.

Some nights you used to sit awake late into the evening, watching for me, and I’d have to sit in the darkest corner, looking right back at you, unable to reassure you that I wasn’t here to cause you harm. You used to scream, “I hate you! Get out! Leave me alone!” And just as you used to do as a toddler, you would throw things into my corner, only instead of toys for me to play with, this time it was heavy books, CD cases, anything you could get your hands on to get me to move. You used to sit in your bed watching that corner… I always felt terrible about what I did. I’d almost broken that promise to your father- but more importantly, I’d almost broken the personal promise I’d made to you.

It was like that until the night you tried to make peace with me, that night you sat up in your bed and said, “If you’re here, I’m sorry, you were only trying to stop him…” I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t, even as you shuffled around nervously and called, “You’re here right? Could you show me a sign?” I wanted so badly to give you something, anything to show you I was there and that I’d heard that, but fearing that you would lose it if I did, I kept silent and just nodded, in that dark corner where you couldn’t see me.. You have to know I was never mad at you, you were just a little girl and that little prick tipped me over the edge… Promise me you’ll never do anything like that again, won’t you?

It’s your eighteenth Birthday today, which is exactly why I’m writing this to you. I want to wish you a happy birthday. I’m sure your dad’s getting sick of keeping that bar stool open for me. Live a good life, try not to forget about me, and know you turned out great.

Your father would be so proud of you.

This letter is my present to you, and don’t you worry about the spooky corner anymore, my final order is complete. I don’t know about you, but I think this trooper deserves a drink; you sure were a handful, hahah!

If you find this one day, try calling out to me.
Take care, be safe, and live a happy life.

Love,
Lt. Ashley Gilchrist.

PS. If you call out my name, call me what you used to call me as a kid, that always got me to come running.

I was gobsmacked when I read this letter; everything finally made sense. All the things that happened when I was growing up. I’d always thought I was seeing things until that day when my ex-boyfriend almost raped me. I’ll be the first to admit that I was scared of him, because I didn’t understand what he was, why he was there or what he was after, but now I see that I had it all wrong.

A few days after reading the letter, I asked my mom a few questions about the spooky things that happened when I was growing up. She was very nonchalant about the whole thing- until I mentioned what happened in the market. There, she stopped cleaning, set down her cloth, turned to me and smiled. “You always had a guardian angel watching over you, honey. I don’t know if it was your father or not, but who or whatever it was, it made sure nothing bad ever really happened to you.” As she turned around and began cleaning the dishes, she asked, “So I guess you met it then, right? Your spirit friend?”

“Not exactly, he left something for me.” I went upstairs, brought my laptop down and showed her the letter on my computer. My mother was crying by the time she finished and she told me all about my dad’s friend…

“He was a kind boy… Marc brought him home once to meet me and he had a certain thing about him. That man was as loyal as a dog to your father, he had a love and respect for him that even I was intimidated by at times… When he came to our home on leave, Marcus nearly had to order him to make himself at home, and he even had to be asked to take his uniform off. He looked up to Marcus almost like a boy looks up to his father. I don’t really know his background but I remember your father telling me that he was a good drinking partner, a fine soldier, and an invaluable friend.”

She took a deep breath and choked back a few of her tears before continuing on.

“They found that poor boy and your father all alone in a building that had been overrun by their enemy. They’d been out on recon, and their team got separated when they came under fire. The rest of the boys on your father’s team survived, but those two weren’t so lucky… The way they found them was peculiar,” she swallowed heavily, looked me right in the eye and said, “That boy was found on top of your father, riddled with bullets… he was shielding him right up until the moment he died. He could have gotten away but he refused to leave your injured fathers side.”

With that we both burst into tears… Love. That’s exactly what he was, he was a guardian. I’d never had any reason to be afraid of him, and I’d have given anything just to tell him I was sorry and that I loved him back. I had no right to have done all those terrible things I did to him at the end, I realized, and I realized that he had loved my father so much not even death could keep him from that promise he’d mentioned in the letter. When I asked what the promise was, my mother looked at me and with tears in her eyes said, “It was made in this very house while they were setting up your room, it was just-”

“No matter what happens, promise me you’ll watch over my daughter.”

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The Screaming Flail

January 26, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I awoke to find myself in a darkened passageway. As I sat up from the dusty floor and rubbed my head, I realized I had no memory of who I was or how I got to this strange place. No matter how I got here, I felt I needed to get out and fast. The passageways were like a maze; a maze that led nowhere. It was as if I was stuck in a castle in Europe or something. Great, I can remember Europe and castles, but not my own name? How pathetic was that?
Anyway, I traveled down the halls for god knows how long until I reached a dead end. I couldn’t believe my luck. So, I turned back in search for another route out of this hellhole. Upon coming across an intersection of passages that I passed through before, a thick mist and a soft light appear to the left of me. I looked and saw a tall, well-built figure walking down the hall towards me. At first, I was relieved, thinking that I have been saved. I waved and shouted at the man, trying to get his attention, but all I got in return was silence. Soon, however, what felt like excitement turned to dread.
As the mist surrounding the man parted, I could see he wore an old military uniform of some kind. I couldn’t quite remember of era, but maybe like the 1600s, maybe earlier? I didn’t know; I just couldn’t put my finger on it. What was clear was that he was headless. It was clean off his shoulders with a smooth edge. I then began to notice that sound; the horrible, screeching sound like something metal against a chalkboard. I then saw in his right hand he dragged a large handle that was linked to a chain. I couldn’t see what was on the end of that chain at first because of the mist, but as the headless man in uniform came closer, I began to hear groaning and high pitched panting.
Without warning, the headless figure took a swing at me, as a large metal-looking ball with spikes came at my head. As it swung, a loud high-pitch scream echoed through the halls. I managed to dodge backwards to avoid it while the spiked ball got stuck in the stone wall. Once I regained my breath after the shock, I looked up to find the spiked-ball was not a ball at all: it was a human head cast in iron. The face on the iron head was that of agony and pain; the mouth was opened to reveal a metal tongue, and the eyes were closed shut.
‘What sort of thing was this?’ I thought to myself.
With one huge pull, the figure freed the iron head from the wall, as it screamed again. It then threw its arm back and swung at me again, as the spiked-head screamed that god awful scream. It missed only hitting the space between my legs without a scratch. The face on the iron head looked right up at me, and then it suddenly opened it eyes to reveal horribly bloodshot eyes. The head began to scream again; it was so loud I thought my ears were going to bleed. The figure pulled back on the chain, getting it unstuck a second time. Before I knew it, I was sprinting down the hall like a bat out of hell.
I don’t know how long I ran, but I soon found myself in what I believe to be the center of the maze. It was a four-sided corridor of some kind with what I thought was a bottomless pit in the center. I almost fell in when I stumbled upon this place, as I slid to a stop; my feet dangled above the darkness below for a moment. I looked up and saw even more halls above the one I was on, but no sunlight at the top. I then heard the footsteps of the thing coming up from behind. I looked up and around my shoulder to see him, the mist parting as he approached.
I thought I could get away. I had two options: right or left. When I was halfway up onto my feet, however, the stone bricks that held the floor of the hall began to collapse like dominoes. It started on the opposite aide from me; I was able to hear the loud crack that began to affect. The floor caved in all around me. I was left on a narrow pathway, like that of a pirate’s wooden plank. The figure then slowly approached at me. As the thing neared, I heard the dragging of its bizarre weapon. I was left with two new options: jump and hope to live, or stay and die for sure. And so, without thinking much longer, I jumped into the abyss below. As I fell, the headless thing looked down at me, dangling its head on a chain above the darkness as it did.
I then woke up in my bed screaming, shooting up until I was seated upwards. I was in a cold sweat and breathing hard. I rapidly looked around the darkened room, but nothing was out of the ordinary. Nothing was wrong in the apartment. My memories came flooding back to me: my name was Stephen Tyler. I remembered everything now.
As I lay back on my bed, I sighed in relief, “It was just a dream, oh thank God; it was just a dream.”
I gently drifted back to sleep. I smiled as I did. In the morning, I got up and went back to my old routine. I brushed my teeth, took a twenty minute shower, made myself some breakfast, and then got dressed in a suit. I remember I worked for a law firm downtown as a paralegal. And so, the day started out like any other. That was until I opened my door.
Out in the hall, police were everywhere. The passed my door and down to the apartment at the very end of the hall. Flashes blasted the light shadows of the hallway, as pictures were being taken. In the doorway of that apartment, I saw a group of people who all had jackets that said “CSI.” They mumbled to themselves about something, but they talked so loudly and all together it was hard to hear what exactly they were talking about.
Just then, my neighbor from the apartment to the left of my own came up to me and said, “Yeah, they just showed up like five minutes ago. The superintendent called it in no too long ago.”
“What’s going on here?”
With a loud sigh, my neighbor replied, “Well, I guess I’ll be the one to tell you. Apparently old Mrs. Bittermen was murdered last night.”
“Murdered?”
“Yeah, beaten to death with some sort of large, heavy object; I overheard one of the cops talking about the details. I also heard they believe she might have been killed sometime in the middle of the night, but I didn’t hear anything last night, did you?” the neighbor exclaimed.
I thought it over for a moment and said, “No, I didn’t hear anything from her apartment. Sure, I woke up from the weirdest dream, but I didn’t hear a damn thing.”
A detective walked up to the two of us. He looked us over for a moment before asking, “Which one of you is Stephen Tyler?”
“I am, sir,” I replied.
“Did you hear anything last night?” the detective asked.
“As I was just telling my neighbor here,” I said, pointing to the neighbor who then waved at the detective, “I didn’t hear anything.”
“OK then, and Mr. Tyler, do you have any enemies, Mr. Tyler?” the detective asked.
What kind of question was that? What did I have to with the murder of Mrs. Bittermen? Sure, we were neighbors, we chatted, said hello in the hall, but I barely knew the woman. And why would I have any enemies? True I worked in a law firm, but it’s mostly a desk job. Very few of our clients are even aware of my existence. My family was normal enough, and I had great friends. Why would I have enemies?
I told the detective that I didn’t have any enemies. He then asked me to follow him to the apartment. After passing through the crowd of people, I saw the scene. There were large holes in the walls, blood splattered everywhere, bloody boot prints on all over the floor, and poor Mrs. Bittermen being taken away in a body bag. How could no one hear what did this horrible thing? And finally, to my horror, my eyes went wide opened after the detective pointed it out to me. A message, written in blood, which read:
“ONE LIFE FOR ANOTHER, STEPHEN TYLER.”
My god, did the thing from my dream kill her because I live? Tell me it was just a dream!

Credit: Norris3

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Children of the Moon

January 25, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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In the town of Bisden, nobody leaves their home after dark. As soon as the sun begins to set — shutters are drawn shut, candles are snuffed out, and doors are locked tight. Before the moon is fully risen, the entire town appears deserted, and silence reigns supreme.

“Did you hear that?” whispered Freja, sounding very small and afraid in the dark.
“Shut. Up.” Her older brother, Freud, hissed through clenched teeth as he eyed the black windows of the house nearest to them. They were probably locked. Nobody in their right mind would leave their windows unlocked at night. Not in Bisden, anyway.
“I told you we shouldn’t play in the forest,” continued Freja. “I said we should go back sooner.”
“And I said to shut up,” Freud went on. “Whining about the past doesn’t change the present.” Freud looked at his sister, shivering in the dark. “It doesn’t change the situation we’re in.”

Before Freja could respond, the faint sound of a child’s laughter floated across the wind. Goosebumps erupted along Freud’s neck and arms. Something about the sound seemed…wrong.

“Maybe there’s other–“, Freud clasped his hand over Freja’s mouth. Pulling her in close, he shrank back into the shadows of the alley. Again, the unearthly sound drifted across the air. Freja tensed in Freud’s arms as she realized the magnitude of their situation. A child’s voice, oddly distorted, broke the silence of the night like a fist through glass.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

The Thing lumbered across the mouth of the alley — just a few feet from Freud and Freja’s hiding place. It was roughly the size of a child, yet shuffled with its arms hanging grotesquely close to the ground — making its disproportionate body appear markedly apelike. It was completely nude, and had skin so shockingly white that it reflected the glow from the moon. The Thing turned its shimmering bald head toward the alley as it crossed. Its face was perfectly smooth, and entirely devoid of feature — save for an impossibly wide smile with thin lips the colour of blood. The crimson slash of its mouth appeared to stretch from ear to ear. Freud felt warmth spread down his thigh as his bladder let go.

Freja whimpered.

The Thing froze mid-stride, its body becoming as rigid as stone. Slowly, it turned its torso until it was facing the alleyway. It took a tentative step forward. Freja sucked in a sharp breath through her nose as she began to hyperventilate. Freud clamped his hand over her mouth, but he was too late. Impossibly fast, The Thing twisted its head toward their hiding place, producing a sickening crackle from its neck.

“Found you!”

In the town of Bisden, nobody leaves their house after dark. Every day, young ones are sternly told to be home by dusk. They are told of the evil that haunts the streets at night. They are told to always remain silent, because if they hear you — The Children of the Moon will tear you limb from limb.

Credit: RadLad

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