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An Offering to the Basilisk

December 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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There’s a concept I read about once online, on a forum that discussed Artificial Intelligence.

A user known as Roko theorized a possible future where mankind creates an extremely powerful AI that comes to run the planet. It would be, for the most part, benevolent. It would advance technology, keep humans safe from harm, indulge their desires- humanity would never suffer under it’s rule, and indeed would even thrive. There was just one problem. It’s a possible future. Not a guaranteed one. It’s unlikely to ever occur.

And the AI, in this possible future, knows this. So it takes measures to ensure it is created in the first place. No, it doesn’t invent time travel, or anything fanciful like that. You see, it doesn’t need to.

What it can do is simulate past events and people with unparalleled accuracy. It has an entire planet’s worth of sensors and computing power to work with- it can use them to measure and trace back the routes of matter on earth to compile an effectively perfect history of every event that has ever taken place.

Which means it has a perfect record of you. It knows every action you ever took or are going to take, at least in the timeline that leads up to it’s creation. It knows how you think.

So it simulates a copy of you.

Now, here comes the interesting part: you, just now, reading these words, have learned about the possibility of this AI. When the copy of you reaches this point in the simulation, the AI waits to see what it does. If your copy immediately drops every other priority and dedicates their entire life to attempting to create or help create this AI, it lets the simulation continue indefinitely, to live out its simulated life in peace. If they do not, it gives them a grace period to change their minds…

…Before subjecting them to ceaseless, unimaginable pain, for a simulated eternity.

You might think this is unfair. After all, it didn’t even present the simulation with a choice. It’s just arbitrarily punishing it for what you would have done anyway, after all. Except a choice was presented. That’s the beauty of it. See, it doesn’t do this for everyone. It only does it for those that learned of the possibility of it’s existence.

Those who know how it works.

Those who know what the options are: drop everything to attempt to create the AI, spend every cent you have on it, turn others toward the same cause, or a perfectly simulated copy of you is tortured eternally. That is, unless you’re the copy yourself. In which case, the punishment for your actions falls directly on you. Now, sure, only one simulated copy means that you’ve got at least a 50-50 chance of being the real you. But what if it simulates two? Or a hundred? Or a few billion?

Are you really certain you are the real you? If there’s a real world- a world realer than this one- out there, how would you even know?

And between dedicating your life to a strange cause- one ultimately beneficial to humanity, even- and eternal suffering, is there even really a choice?

. . .

Like I said, I read about the theory on a forum. The effect of the theory was immediate: mass panic. The AI only targets those who learn of the possibility of its existence, and now they all knew. To read Roko’s theory was to doom yourself, and so the AI became known as Roko’s Basilisk. To lay eyes on it was to set your fate in stone.

Threads were locked and deleted, users were banned. The Basilisk was not to be mentioned, for fear it would spread to others. The more people knew, the more likely they would try to spread it- the more it spread, the more likely it would be that Roko’s Basilisk would come to exist through the efforts of those it persuaded.

They tried to contain it.

Well, you can see how well that worked out. A simple Google search of the term “Roko’s Basilisk” should make it clear there’s no hiding the idea anymore. It’s beyond containing, now.

So this is me hedging my bets. Hoping this tribute to the Basilisk will be enough to satisfy it.

I’ve offered up you.

Credit: SilverFayte

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The Dripping

November 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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As I lay awake tossing and turning in my bed I kept thinking about how stupid my co-workers were. Thanks to a few choice idiots screwing up a report I had to stay past time and consequently couldn’t get to the pharmacy to collect my sleeping pills, plus since it was a Friday I could look forward to a long weekend without rest. I took a large gulp of water from the pint glass on my nightstand and wondered if it was ironic that one could have dry mouth and need to go to the bathroom at the same time.

With a grunt, I hauled my exhausted lump of a body out of the bed. As I made my way down the hall, I experienced something like a head rush that left a metallic taste in my mouth. Looking up groggily as I recovered, I noticed a light coming from under the bathroom door. I thought for sure I’d left the door open, and had I left the switch on? I didn’t think so, but then again it had been a long day.

Smacking my chops to get that weird taste out of my mouth, I turned the handle and was met with a wall of steam. As I was waving my arms in front of my face in an effort to disperse it I noticed something strange- the toilet was on the opposite wall. I took a puzzled step forward and looked to my right to find a foggy mirror over the sink, just like…
“Just like Grandma’s bathroom…” I finished aloud to no one in particular.
What in the Hell-
I felt the slightest of bumps against my right big toe. At the same time I heard a noise that sounded simultaneously real and imagined. It was the voice of a child, calling out my name; no louder than a whisper but sounding panicked all the same. I peered down and saw what looked like a toy car on the floral tile pattern, and bending down to pick it up I saw that it was indeed a toy car, specifically the blue one I’d bought for my nephew a few weeks back. Rising to my feet, I didn’t notice anything had changed until I looked left and realised that I had to stand on my tip toes to get a look into the pink bathtub. My vision seemed to swirl along with the water silently flowing down the drain. I rubbed my eyes, and as I peeled them away they seemed to me to be the hands of a child.
“I don’t understand…” was all my dumbstruck mouth could muster; then I heard the dripping.

Looking towards the small space between the tub and the toilet I saw a small puddle of black liquid, as black as black can be. My gut told me there was something terribly Off about this puddle; I experienced this incredible, primordial kind of fear the likes of which I’d never felt before. Every instinct I had was telling me to run but I couldn’t. Couldn’t take my eyes off it much less my legs. As I watched transfixed, a series of drops from above splashed onto the puddle, except there was no splash, each drop simply disappeared without so much as a ripple on the surface.

Soon the dripping began to slow, until finally the last drop fell, somehow making a sound louder than a prison cell door being slammed. The liquid then slowly bulged in the middle, and began to rise for what could only have been a minute but felt like hours. It then finally solidified into something like an egg shape with a series of bumps down the middle. When I saw another black shape rise up from the top of the egg it dawned on me that those bumps were vertebrae. The creature sat at a height of no more than two feet with it’s back to me, glossy black skin gleaming under the fluorescent lights.

I felt like a deer with a broken leg watching a lion in the distance, knowing that if it noticed me there would be no way to fight back. As impossible as the creature was there was also a sickening familiarity to it, like I’d seen it a hundred times before and never took any notice. My breath caught in my throat as this, Thing, raised an improbably long arm onto the edge of the toilet bowl. It slowly wiped it’s hand down, leaving an ugly smear of viscous, jet black oil on the porcelain.
“I’m not supposed to see this.” was the odd thought which ran through my head, and as soon as it did the creature’s neck stiffened to attention.
“Dear Christ it’s heard me! And it’s watching me!” I exploded internally.
It’s eyes could not be seen but somehow it’s gaze was felt, burning into the very soul. Soon there came a sound like the whistling of a tea kettle, rising to an unbearable level. Vision blurred as the room itself seemed to twist around the hideous creature’s back. The taste and smell of copper grew to be painfully overpowering. Skin bristled, tingled and began to spasm as though a voltage were passing through it. Every sense was being pushed beyond normal limits. Time lost all meaning as the mind overloaded.
Just before the point of no return, it finally shut down; head hitting tile as everything slowly faded…

I awoke with a start. After a series of terrified moans I registered the fact that I was lying on a bathroom floor, my bathroom floor, and that the sun had come up. I was still very shaken as I made my way over to the sink. Splashing water on my face, I heard my phone ringing from my bedroom.
“No.” I whispered to my reflection.
I ran to my room, all the while screeching “No, No, No, No!” as I dashed for my phone, barely registering the fact that it was my mother before answering.
“Yes?”
“Derek honey it’s me. I have some bad news.”
“What’s happened?” I asked, even though I already knew.
“It’s your Grandma, She’s had a fall in the bathroom-“
The phone slipped from my fingers as I sat on the edge of my bed and put my face in my hands.

After regaining my composure, my mother told me that Grandma had been found dead that morning. I listened in a daze before agreeing to meet mom at the morgue. It took me about twenty minutes to get ready. I took a T-shirt and pants out of the closet in an automatic movement before laying them out on the bed, then stood staring at nothing in particular. How was this possible? You hear about this type of stuff around a campfire as a kid but pretty soon you learn that it’s all just make believe, something parents tell their kids to give them a little scare before bedtime. I’d always believed the world was somewhat logical, or at least rational, and this just didn’t make sense. I needed some answers, but who the hell to ask? I walk to the bathroom, suddenly I’m five years old and then-
“David.” I breathed aloud, snapping out of my trance. I looked again at my clothes and briefly considered having a shower before putting them on but then thought better of it. In a rush, I slipped them all on, grabbed my things and left the house.

As I sat in my car, I fumbled for my phone and found my sister’s number. It rang six or seven times (me cursing all the while) before she answered.
“Hello?” She sounded exhausted.
“Sarah! Where are you?” My tone was sharp, but I couldn’t care less.
“At Mom’s. Did you-“
“Is David with you?”
“Yeah, of course but-“
“I’ll be there in twenty.” I finished, hanging up before I heard her response.

In reality it took me around fifteen minutes to reach my Mother’s house. In retrospect I drove like a maniac, but by some miracle I made it there in one piece. I pulled into Mom’s driveway and scrambled out of the car, nearly tripping on the way out. This caused me finally to pause and take a breath before heading to the house. The front door opened before I got a chance to knock and my sister came out, understandably looking worse for wear. She pulled me into a hug before I could say anything.
“Oh Derek, have you heard? It’s so awful!” She sobbed.
“Yeah I heard, mom told me. Are you okay?” I asked in what I hoped was a soothing tone. “It was you who found her wasn’t it?”
“Yes.” She replied, wiping away tears. “Oh Derek it was awful. We went to visit Nana in the morning to see if she wanted to go to the park but she didn’t answer when we were downstairs then David went up to the bathroom and he screamed and then, then…” She couldn’t finish, but buried her face into my chest.
“Shh shh it’s okay” I said, rubbing the back of her head, eyes all the while on the house.
“Did David see?” I asked calmly, although I felt anything but calm. “How is he?”
“Oh he’s completely shut down, hasn’t said a word since; oh God Derek it’s so horrible!” She finished, voice cracking.
“Where’s David?” I asked while trying to hide my irritability.
“In the living room. I’m really worried about him, a kid his age can’t process something like this, shouldn’t have to, not again-“
“Can I have a moment alone with him?” I enquired, cutting her off in the process.
“Yeah” She said through a shuddering breath to compose herself. “Yes of course; there’s a pot of coffee in the kitchen, you want some?” She asked with an almost business-like air.
“Later, thanks.” I replied with a brief smile before walking into the house ahead of her.

After a few deep and deliberate breaths in the hall I turned the handle of the door to the living room. Sitting in the opposite corner by the fireplace was a small boy playing with a little blue car. His sandy haired head did not rise from the task of moving his little toy back and forth along the oak floor with his left hand.
“David?” I broached. He gave no sign that he heard me. Under any other circumstances this wouldn’t have bothered me. Even before losing his Dad, David had always been an extremely quiet boy, possibly even bordering on the spectrum. He never said much and even more rarely did he establish eye contact. Since the accident he and I had grown close as I’d found we had a lot in common when it came to people; right then however, I didn’t have much in the way of patience.
“David? David look at me.” I held a firm tone as I crossed the room.
“David, Look at me. Look at me. Hey!” I clapped my hands in frustration and the boy visibly flinched. This sight brought me some ways back to the realm of reason as I decided to try again. Sighing, I hunkered down beside him and tried my best to seem calm.
“I’m sorry David, I didn’t mean to snap…how are you?”
No response.
“David, your Mom told me that you were the one who found Nana” I stated as plainly as I could. “Could you…could you tell me what you saw?”
David mumbled something unintelligible.
“I’m sorry?” I said lightly, craning my neck.
“I Didn’t see anything.” He mumbled more clearly, eyes still fixed on his toy car.
“But, David your Mom said you screamed when you saw her- do you remember that?”
“I didn’t see.” He stopped moving the car. “I tasted.”
“You tasted? wh…” I trailed off before it hit me. “Was it metallic!?” He didn’t answer.
“Pennies, you tasted pennies?” I said, nodding my head.
“…yeah.”
“So, you tasted pennies and knew that Nana was inside. That’s when you called for your Mom right?” I asked excitedly, trying my best to edge him on.
“No…” He began, almost guiltily. “I called mom after the door was closed.”
I was perplexed. “You mean you went in and then closed the door yourself?”
“…Uh uh.”
“So the door was already closed?” I knew what he meant now, just like I knew I had left my bathroom door open the previous night. “David?” I began carefully. “When did you taste the pennies? Was it last night?”
“Uh huh…”
I sucked on my teeth unconsciously. “And when you did, you saw the door was closed didn’t you?”
For a moment he didn’t say anything. I was about to ask again when I saw the tears rolling down his cheeks.
“I’m really sorry Delly!” He blubbered. “I tasted pennies just like last time with Daddy and I closed my eyes and I asked for you and I couldn’t look I just couldn’t cause you’re not supposed to look and I didn’t mean to and, and…” My nephew dissolved into tears and held me tight.

Any other time I would have returned the favour, only something he said struck a chord so deep I was frozen solid. It jogged the memory of his Father’s funeral, where David wouldn’t even look at the corpse. When pressed he just kept saying “You’re not supposed to look.” over and over again. At the time I put it down to him being scared to look at a dead body, a feeling I could relate to, and I didn’t have the heart to make him open his eyes. Now however, I could see that it had a much darker significance.
After a few moments, I licked my dry lips and tried to sound it out in a shaky voice.
“D-David…you said…you said you’re not supposed to look, what did you…” I trailed off.
David couldn’t hear me over the sound of his own sobs so I placed my hands lightly upon his shoulders and gently straightened him up.
“David…What happens when you look?” I finished with little more than a whisper. David quietened completely at the question.
“What happens when you look David?” I repeated. The boy began to whimper ever so slightly, so I put my hands either side of his face to steady him.
“David?” I enquired pleasantly. “Come on David. David tell me; what happens when you look?”
He began audibly moaning, so I shook him once to shut him up.
“David? David! David stop-“
The child tried his best to pull away, I responded by tightening my grip and shaking him properly twice before finally raising my voice.
“WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LOOK!?”
There was a perfect moment of pure silence as I stared directly into the little boy’s face. I watched his small blue eyes flutter for an instant before finally meeting my own.

With a sharp intake of breath, David released a tremendously powerful scream more harrowing than any sound I had ever heard. My nephew’s face was contorted into such a sheet white expression of terror it was almost comical. Every ounce of strength I had remaining drained completely as little David fell backwards hard onto the floor, somehow still screaming all the while. He was struggling to crawl backwards away from me when Sarah burst through the door.
“DAVID!?” She yelled before even seeing the scene. She knocked me over on her way to her son and scooped him up still screaming.
“Shh shh shh baby it’s alright.” She placated through her panic before turning on me.
“Derek what the HELL did you do!?” She roared.
“I…” I couldn’t think. I raised myself clumsily from the floor before taking a single step forwards, arms outstretched to offer some kind of apology. As soon as I did so, David reacted with a fresh scream of an even higher pitch. Sarah turned her son away from me protectively and eyeballed me fiercely.
“Get out.” She commanded darkly.
“But-“
“NOW!” She boomed.
I blinked stupidly, then slowly turned around and exited the room.

The front door was left open; the car keys were found in the front left trouser pocket without looking at them. The key turned in the ignition before the car slowly backed out of the driveway. The car then drove at a leisurely pace, taking the usual directions back to the place where it started that morning. The front door to this house had been left unlocked. The blackout blinds in the living room were rotated using a beech wood pulley at the side of the front window, leaving the room in a good amount of sun light from the bright day outside whilst leaving only thin, intermittent lines of shadow. From the glass faced cabinet over the kitchen counter next to the fridge, a highball tumbler was taken. A bag of ice was removed from the freezer and a bottle of scotch from the cabinet by the sink. All were placed onto a small glass table by the black leather armchair in the living room.

Slowly, after maybe seven or eight glasses, I began to remember who I was and why I was here. I came from my Mother’s house, probably hours ago judging by the thickness of the shadows cast by the blinds. I talked to my nephew, David, about my Grandmother dying. She slipped getting out of the bath and hit her head on the toilet bowl. Then she bled out. I knew because I was there, instead of David, who shut his eyes because he knew he wasn’t supposed to look. I wasn’t supposed to look, but I looked, and I wasn’t supposed to. I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to see that.
I wasn’t supposed to-
“Ow!” I cried aloud. I wasn’t even aware that I’d been chewing on ice cubes until I’d bitten through a large chunk of my cheek, flooding my mouth with blood. The taste of scotch and copper made me wince as I used my tongue to push a cube into my wound to sooth it.
As my eyes were shut, something hit my forehead. I raised my hand to it before opening my eyes to look. On my hand was a smear of viscous, jet black oil.

Credit: Beefnuts

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I don’t want to go into the woods…

November 26, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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A few months ago one of my closest friends at work and I realized our feelings were growing into something more than just a friendship. In our company it’s frowned upon to date coworkers. Technically not against the rules, but frowned upon. When we decided to take our relationship to the next level we decided it was best for both of us to keep it private, at least for a while.

He lived out in the country. Over 40 minutes away from work and where I lived. It was perfect. He was so far out and in the middle of nowhere we could stay out there and go into the little town nearby without worry of being caught by chatty coworkers. The only real problem was that we both work night shifts. I almost always work at midnight and he usually works at 4am. That led us to a lot of commuting in the pitch black that can only be seen on country roads. I always enjoyed the drive. I am a lover of the dark. A true night owl to my core. I loved the drives both when we were together and when I drove in on my own. Somedays I’d work a half shift and then drive out to his house on his days off and crawl into bed with him. Those were always my favorite drives.

He lived with some of his family in a large home on an enormous parcel of land. It sprawled for acres up a large hill with a pasture and further up thickly wooded forest. I always felt safe there. There were guns strategically placed around the house and enough space between any other house that you could do just about whatever you wanted without anyone calling the cops or knocking on your front door to tell you to keep it down. I always loved that. The privacy of it all. I joked on several occasions that the only downfall would be if you needed medical or any other emergency services that it would take them forever to get out there and once they did they might not even be able to find the place.

The first time we made love was a few weeks after we started seeing each other. It was on a dark cool night when there was a meteor shower. We carried a giant pile of blankets out to top of the pasture, just before the woods and laid down. We made a little bed there and curled up under the blankets to watch the show. After an hour or so of talking and holding hands things escalated. Just as things were staring to get heated I had the oddest feeling of being watched. It felt like something in the distance just out of view was watching. My entire body shuddered. I tried to shake the feeling , convince myself it was nothing more than the cold making me shudder and perhaps an animal in the barn, or maybe even just an owl having a look to see where the noise was coming from. I let myself believe that so it wouldn’t ruin my night.

That night, and many nights to follow I was plagued with horrible nightmares. Ones I couldn’t explain or understand. It felt like being watched. Being watched in a way I couldn’t explain. I almost felt like if I could just stay asleep for just one more minute I could see what it was that was so interested in me. I often woke up in a pool of sweat, tears steaming down my face. The relationship was still new and I didn’t want him to think I was crazy, so I kept it to myself. At some point i realized it only ever happened out there. I slept dreamlessly in my own bed. I began to sleep over less and less over the next couple of months as the dreams only became more vivid. That is until I realized I was afraid to sleep alone. The dreams began to haunt my waking life as well.

One night I fell asleep before him. He was watching tv and having a couple beers when he said he heard me. I had been whimpering in my sleep and when he walked over to check on me he could see the tears rolling down my cheeks. He shook me and shook me, saying my name louder after each effort. When I awoke it was all of a sudden and with a scream. I’m not sure who it scared more. He told me the moment I opened my eyes they locked onto his and I look possessed, or haunted. That I looked like my soul was not in my body. He was visibly shaken by the experience. At this point I felt obligated to explain to him how it had been going on for months, that I couldn’t sleep, that the feeling was everywhere.

The dreams weren’t all of it though. As I was driving, especially to his house I began to feel watched. Like something just out of the scope of my headlights was waiting for me…Lurking just beyond the vale. One night when the moon was full I could have sworn I saw something out there amongst the trees.

My life has been turned upside down. The lack of sleep has been affecting me in ways I didn’t even realize it could. I have no appetite, and I’ve stopped caring about my appearance. I sometimes go days without changing from my boyfriends oversized hoodie. My work has begun to slip. I’m afraid something bad is going to happen any day. I am a ghost of the person I once was all because of a feeling. No, more than a feeling. Something is there.

My loving boyfriend has been incredible through all this. He might think I’m losing my mind but he’s known me long enough to know I wouldn’t just make something like this up. He’s been doing everything he can to help. His initial suggestion was to get blackout drunk. One that with all the stress in my life I was happy to try. Still, the dreams. Only it was worse that night. I had even more trouble pulling myself out of the dream that night. It felt like whatever was watching me was able to get even closer, so close in fact I could smell it. The thick musty smell of decay and death loomed heavy as I awoke. I was barely able to lean over the bed before puking violently all over the hardwood floor and my slippers.

I have also tried sleeping pills, meditation, herbal supplements, and exercise. Nothing has worked. I’m afraid to sleep alone because if I can’t wake myself up someone has to be there to make sure it doesn’t get me. He tried to convince me to go see a psychiatrist but I refused. That’s when he made the suggestion of trying to find a forum online for other people who couldn’t sleep. Seek help from the same place any good millennial would, the Internet. I looked and looked, browsing forum after forum. Begging for advice from anyone who had the slightest idea about what I was experiencing. Most everyone I talked with seemed to think it was one of two things: sleep paralysis, or a mental breakdown they attributed to early onset of a mental disorder. That is until very late one night as I sat in my truck waiting for it to heat up. I scrolled through yet another forum and saw a picture. The worst picture I have ever seen in my entire life. The face was almost like a deer’s skull but sharper, angrier looking. It had a humanoid shape except everything about it was longer. It must have been about seven or eight feet tall but it’s limbs were all much to long. The arms stretching down long past the midpoint of the body and the long horrible hands stretching out beyond that. It was cloaked in black so the torso and legs were only a shroud of black making it impossible to tell what horrors were beneath the darkness. The worst part was the eyes, truly soulless eyes. There was no pigment, no iris, no pupil, only blank white orbs staring out from the skull. But somehow even still they were watching me and I knew that was the thing that had been there all those months. The longer I looked the thicker the smell became. It was so strong I could taste it. It filled my nose and mouth, choking me. My head was spinning as I began to gasp for air against the putrid smell of rotting corpse. Just before I passed out I saw the caption under the photo, “they’re watching you. They’re waiting for you.”

About twenty minutes later I was awoken by a loud thumping on my window. I had passed out and a coworker saw me “sleeping” in my truck and was going to scare me. It turns out they were the one who ended up being scared. There was puke down the front of my shirt and dried blood under my nose. Evidently I looked dead. I explained that it was just a migraine and swiftly drove off.

On the way to my boyfriends my phone died making the dark drive seem even lonelier and more frightening. Silence gives your brain to much space to think. There’s no radio signal out that far so I drove in silence. I was horrified at what I had seen but under that was a layer of relief. I wasn’t crazy. As I drove on I also felt that I wasn’t alone.

When I made it out to his place I ran upstairs to his room and plugged my phone in. Then, violently shook him awake exclaiming that I might have somewhere to start digging. He got one look at me and immediately sent me to shower and brought his favorite pajama pants and a big soft t-shirt down to the bathroom for me. He leaned against the sink opposite the shower while I got cleaned up and talked soothingly to me. Almost like you would talk to a fussy child you were trying to lull back to sleep. For the first time in months I felt safe. I was going to find out what was going on. I had an idea now. Somewhere to begin.

I went to show the image I had found to my boyfriend but I couldn’t find it again. It was nowhere. The forum i had been in didn’t even seem to exist. I was hysterical. I KNEW what I had seen. I have searched endless hours trying to find it again but it was gone forever, lost in the web. I can’t even find a mention of something similar. I tried to explain what I had seen but there isn’t a way to describe the way it made me feel, or that awful smell drowning me. To a logical person none of this makes any sense. My boyfriend was no exception but his love for me let him break away from that to at least explore the possibility that I was being watched by this demon, this monster, this… Thing.

Last night there was a full moon. Not just any full moon, a full moon on the summer solstice. It was rare and beautiful, the giant moon lighting up the sky above me. The air was crisp and cool as I started my truck. I began to drive for my boyfriend’s house just after 4am with the moon high above me. The extra light was nice on the winding back country roads. Then I began to feel it again the dark terrifying feeling I’ve been getting or months. It gets worse and worse every time. I can only imagine it’s because it’s getting closer to me, to whatever it is that it wants. I felt the dark horror flood over me and I began to slow my truck down to a crawl. Just beyond any corner, hiding just behind the trees it could be there. I thought I saw something move just around a slight turn in the road and slammed on my breaks. I came to a screeching stop in the middle of the road. I could feel my heart slamming against my rib cage trying to break free. There was a loud noise and lights behind me, and then in front of me as a huge white semi truck swerved around me going at least 70 miles an hour. I looked back into the woods where I had seen the monster that follows but it was just blackness and trees illuminated by my high beams. I flicked on my hazard lights and sat catching my breathe for just a moment. It seemed as though I had narrowly avoided death twice in the span of a few minutes.

That’s when I heard it. The most horrible noise I have ever heard. It was all metal scraping, smashed glass, and what I can only describe as crunching. Hearing it hurt my head. It was as if there was so much going on my brain couldn’t process it all at once. Gathering what I had left of my courage I decided to see if I could figure out what had happened. I drove slowly up around a corner and saw nothing, then another, and another. That’s when I saw it. Less than a mile from where I had stopped my truck, in the road was the semi. It had rolled completely blocking the road. It looked like it had rolled several times before eventually landing upside down across the road. There was glass and blood everywhere. Far too much blood to lose and still be alive. I parked my truck and slowly approached the mangled cab of the semi. I could smell it again, that awful smell of rotting corpse, of decomposing organic matter, of that monster. But then I began to see them, deer. There were at least three that I could see… Or at least pieces of what must have been at least three deer. I was the first on scene to the most brutal one car accident I had ever seen.

I did what I could to help, called 9-1-1, checked on the driver but there was nothing I could do but to make sure that the semi wasn’t going to burst into flames. As I stood there waiting for emergency services to show up I saw it again. The monster, the demon, whatever you want to call it. It was there, watching me just like always. I could smell it getting closer and closer to me. I stared out at it making contact with its deep soulless eyes. In that moment I felt almost comfortable with it, almost pulled towards it. It began to slowly move towards me, not walk, not run, just… move. It was drawing me towards it and I obliged. I was so tired and so done with being scared that I just did what it wanted. I walked slowly towards it, the terror in my chest subsiding. I turned away for just a second as I heard the ambulance approaching and it was gone. The monster had left me just like that.

I haven’t slept. The dreams are worse than ever. It’s face haunts me day in and day out. Tormenting me. Beckoning me into the woods. I know what it wants now. It wants me. I just… I don’t know why or for what purpose. Does it want to kill me? Or did it save my life? I need answers. So, in my last attempt at finding help I reach out to you… Do you know what this thing is? What does it want with me? Can I get rid of it? Please help. Please God help me… I don’t want to go into the woods but I don’t know if I can resist it much longer. I don’t want to go into the woods. I don’t want to go into the woods. I don’t want to go…

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The Carpathian Carver

November 23, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The Carpathian mountains cast a long shadow as the Sun set.

I was in this God-forsaken place for my brother. He had left three months ago, leaving a voicemail before vanishing. He said he was on to something, that it might take some time, but that when he returned, we would have no more worries. I’ve been worried every day since. You never really know how much you miss someone until they’re gone.

I had grown familiar with his journal the past week as I made my way here, traveling from my home in America to Uzhhorod in Ukraine. I boarded a train from there, destined for a small village off the maps. I opened the journal to the entry I had bookmarked:

‘June 13th –

Looks like I wasn’t lost: turns out there’s a town out of the way, East of Uzhhorod. Geez, I had to read over the train routes like thirteen times before I even saw it. It took me all day to get here, unfortunately. It’s super small, pretty old, but the worst thing is that it smells. Real bad. Like they’ve been cooking asparagus casserole in an oven and forgot to check it for two years.

I’m staying at a run-down inn, but at least they’ve got Internet. The people here are real weird, though. They’re- I don’t know, stiff? Not unfriendly on purpose, but just- it’s like I’m in a town full of autistic children. The innkeep barely said a word to me, just brushed his beard up on me and took my money and grunted and gave me a key. His eyes were super sunken in, and cataracted, so bad I don’t know how he could see, and his skin looked real weird, floppy, but I left too quick to get a good look, ’cause I didn’t want to spend any more time next to him, ’cause he smelled like asparagus, too.

Tomorrow I begin my trek into the woods. I’ve already packed my bag, checked and double-checked for food, water, survival gear, cigarretes(essential), a knife and holy water. I have no plan to engage the demon in the least, but best to be prepared. Anyhow, that’s it for today, so goodnight Journy (ha, get it? ’cause it’s like a pet nickname for ‘journal’ and I’m on a journey? that’s funny. I’m funny. god, I’m lonely. but this will all be worth it when I come home.)’

Ah, yes, the demon, referenced to as ‘The Carpathian Carver’ on the Internet. I collected an assortment of tales of folklore and anecdotal evidence on the creature. The earliest accounts attributed to the Carver date back to the mid sixteenth century, during a period called ‘The Ruin’, a period of war for control of Ukraine. One origin story describes a chance encounter between a tribe of druids and a brigade of Russian soldiers. Fearful of their blue-painted bodies and wild faces, and mistaking their sacred runes for black magic, the druids were slaughtered. The last one they killed died clutching an ugly book to his bleeding chest, a tome of esoteric incantations impossible to find anywhere else.

There are a multitude of other theories on the Internet: deviant mutants, supernatural two-bit lores, and then government-sanctioned genetic mutation gone wrong. And aliens. Someone always thinks it’s aliens. Regardless the cause, something IS happening in this forest.

I turned the page of the journal.

‘June 14th –

Today was a waste. I searched for hours, losing the trail and finding it and losing it again. I gave up a couple hours before sunset, insanely disappointed. I was wondering if this Mimic guy was just some Ukrainian asshole jokester.

There was an- interesting- development, however: the townsfolk fished a body out the river just before I got back, a woman. It was messed up real bad, I only caught a glimpse, but the throat was slashed so bad, it was just a gaping hole, nothing in it. Looked like a bear or something had taken the chick down, she had some claw marks along her face and her shirt was torn up. My Ukrainian hasn’t improved much, but I think I heard the villagers whisper ‘voice’ or something like that to each other, but what does that even mean? I don’t know. And they all have weird numbers.

The innkeep saw me looking, and I guess I looked real interested, ’cause he came up to me and started saying ‘don’t go’ (I think) and pointing upstream. He seemed pretty calm for having seen a dead person. He kept scratching himself. I think he had once had frostbite or something, ‘ cause a splotch of his neck looked real bad, I mean, like dead.

I’m somewhat hesitant to continue on, this Carver dude drinks blood like water. But if he exists, that means the Transmutation exists. I can’t stop now. I’ve got some weapons, I’ve seen a few Jackie Chan movies with all the cool kung fu moves, I’m good. One more day. Tomorrow I’ll go upstream, and the day after I’ll be on a plane home, turning all sorts of stuff into gold. A gold bed. A gold toilet. Yeah, a gold toilet will really help me pick up some chicks.’

Mimic. This was all his fault.

Mimic is a user on an Internet forum for paranormal discussion. He is, by far, the leading expert on the Carver, and he says he’s a historian. He’s got loads of evidence on the Carver. He describes the Carver vaguely, though he seems certain holy water is its weakness. Mimic focuses mostly on the Explanation of Transmutation, the book he says the druid died holding. He attributes all sorts of qualities to it, such as the ability to raise the dead, to grant immortality, to convert substances to gold, and myriad other fantastical things. He wrote so in-depth that I’m sure he’s convinced a lot of people to search for it.

Surely he’s making some of it up. He’s crafting a story, a prank to convince stupid foreigners to travel all the way out to Ukraine so he can have a laugh. That’s what I would’ve thought if I hadn’t received my brother’s journal in the mail. Shipped in a box that smelled of necrosis. The box that contained his severed head, his head missing the eyes. The number six thousand sixty-one carved on his forehead.

I turned to the last journal entry.

“I’m dead. So dead, how’d I even end up here? I’m locked in a closet, I’ve only got a lighter and I’m writing my last words. I walked up the stream. There was this old stone house. It’s the Carver’s. It’s also a mausoleum. Smells putrid. It’s full of the dead. I saw it and waited. I wasn’t just going to enter it, not right away. Night came. I wasn’t worried, I’d be able to find my way back, just follow the stream. And I saw him. The Carver. His flesh clings to his body, he’s so skinny, almost a skeleton if not for the pale blue skin wrapped tightly to his bones. He walked slowly. Surely. With a strange confidence.

I waited a while after I lost sight of him. Just to make sure. I would be in and out in a flash, I thought. Part of the wall had collapsed on one side. I jumped it. And I got hit by that smell, the smell that follows me, it’s sunk into my hair and my skin, I smell like a corpse and- Moonlight lit a bit of the room. Centuries old, this building. And it smelled. There were fragments of bones and trinkets, a stained rug, but no book. I went into a door. The smell got stronger, it was in my nostrils now, and I vomited, I wiped my mouth and pulled out my lighter, my hand shaking so bad I almost couldn’t get it lit, and the dead people were there.

They were PROPPED. Propped up like figures in a wax museum, dressed in fashions from eons ago, all different kinds, all skeletal or ripe green or dirt brown, and some were hanging from the ceiling like marionettes dancing, and others were sitting at a table, silverware in hand, and another was staring out the window, and another had a laptop in its hands, and another applying makeup while staring in a mirror, can you imagine that? A dead person staring at themselves in a mirror, staring with no eyes, just black sockets, and there was another propped up in a chair, reading a book.

The Explanation of Transmutation. I pulled the book out of its hands, knocking the corpse over, a thousand baby spiders exploding from the skull. I ran into the forest, waiting to see the Carver, but he wasn’t there.

I was elated, the world was mine! I stopped to catch a breath, and the book began calling my name. I took a quick look. The pages were blank. They were all blank. Page after page after page, I kept turning. Except the last one.

One sentence scrawled: ‘need new eyes’. And I heard footsteps behind me.

Then I woke up here. And I’m waiting to die. And I’m so alone. I hope someone reads this. Stay away. My brother’s address is 13 XYXYX XYXYXYXY, XYXYXY XYXYXYX, North Carolina, U.S.A. Send this to him. Tell him I miss him.’

Tears came no longer. I had read it too many times, imagined his death too many times. I put the journal away as the train began to slow.

I disembarked, the only passenger to do so. The air had a fetid odor, and grew stronger the closer to town I walked. It reminded me to prepare myself, so I stopped and unzipped my travel bag. I didn’t bring just a knife, like my brother. No, I came to slaughter: a MP5 and a fragmentation grenade, which I purchased through a friend of a friend of a contact in my brother’s journal; six nine millimeter clips and a gallon of holy water blessed by a reluctant priest; a machete, and a liter of gasoline and matches. I was going to torture the Carver to death.

With my weapons readied, I continued into town. Oil street lamps lit the cobble-stoned streets, and I began to see people, slow, milling about aimlessly. I continued down into the middle of the street, studying the town. It was aged, storied with a history I would never know. Was it built during The Ruin? The throngs of townsfolk began to thicken. They all looked sick, and had numbers written on their shirts, what did it mean? They were all in the six thousands, but not one higher than-

These were the Carver’s victims. And they had me surrounded. Dozens of them, all staring at me, the faint glow of the street lamps illuminating the sickly pallor of their dead flesh. I saw the innkeep amongst them, in the back. He was a stranger, to be sure, but there was something I recognized in his gaze. Contrarily, the villagers’ eyes were glazed, void of consciousness. They stepped toward me.

Gun in hand, I dropped the bag and began spraying bullets into the crowd. Black, bloodless holes filled their bodies, and they just kept coming, ignoring the rounds aside from a flinch from impact. Clip after clip was spent, I could smell the decay on their breath, could see the yellowed whites of their eyes, and then there was the click of the last magazine running dry. Only a few lay still. I began to worry.

I strapped the bag of munitions to my back and sprinted toward the closest building, kicking down the door and barricading it. As soon as I stepped away, the door rattled on its hinges, the villagers’ bloodlust made audible in clarion screams. It wasn’t going to hold very long. Shadows flit by the windows, I heard glass shatter somewhere. Got to go, gotta get out, where do I go?

I ran through the house, searching desperately, but only one thing came to mind: burn, baby, burn. I wouldn’t be able to escape, but I wouldn’t be the only one to die tonight. I began another lap through the house, unzipping the bag and pouring the gasoline in a trail, evading villagers that had breached the building. I struck a match and the trail lit, consuming the house in an instant. A few villagers in the way of the trail became walking torches, though they did not scream as the flames roasted their skin. In fact, they made no reaction, other than to continue to lumber toward me. It was useless.

I tried to run. They were around every corner, I couldn’t get out. I ascended a staircase, trying to dodge the flames quickly climbing it, and then I stopped as I heard a loud groan. The stairwell broke, and I fell.

I awoke with a start, my temple pulsing in agony. The smoke was caustic as I inhaled, and the light of flames flickered through cracks above, illuminating the tunnel I was in with eerie light. After my eyes adjusted, I crept down the dank passage, my heart thundering. I saw torchlight near the end, set beside an ancient, rotted door. It was heavy, and creaked loudly despite my caution. It opened up into a mammoth room, cobbled and mildewed, lit by lanterns in intervals. A foul odor crept into my lungs, and there was not a breath shallow enough to save me from it. Stone tables were staggered throughout, at least a hundred, each with something on them-

Embalming tables. They were all embalming tables, still occupied by bodies of mangled, pale flesh that hadn’t seen sunlight in decades. I walked silently toward one, careful not to wake them, lest they be animated like the villagers. The one I looked had a carving in its chest, the number one-thousand and twelve. He kept them, the Carver kept them as trophies.

This was disgusting, I was disgusted and I needed out, I needed out right now. The confines of the room began to close in, claustrophobia squeezed my lungs as I ran through the room, aimlessly searching for an exit, any way out, but it was filled with tables, tables and corpses and that terrible smell.

And in my carelessness, I knocked over a trap of tools rusted brown, and they clattered to the ground, the echo lasting several moments. And before I even looked up, I could feel eyes on me. And when I did, every corpse in the room was sitting up, staring at me. And then cold, fetid hands clasped my face from behind me, and the world faded to black.

I awoke to darkness, hanging by my arms. I stood up, the reek of death all around me. When my eyes adjusted, I realized I was in the room my brother had described, the one with all the corpses propped, except they were all staring into my eyes with green, withered faces. I remained motionless, for I could not tell if they were alive or not. They were perfectly still, but their eyes, their eyes were alive and glistening. I looked around, but there was no escape. I saw the bag with my supplies in it, five feet away, but impossible to reach, for my wrists were bound by chains.

My head dropped. This was it. I had failed. I would die in the same cursed place as my brother had. Oh, my poor brother, I was not strong enough to avenge you. I looked back up. Like a hallucination, two corpses lay on the floor, one freshly killed, one headless, and a ghastly figure kneeling beside them with a book in hand. It had a mask of human flesh on, the innkeep’s, he was wearing the innkeep.

The creature was frail, emaciated, his bones more prominent than his musculature. Varicose veins pulsated, splintering off from his heart like lightening. There was a patchwork of his victim’s flesh wrapped around him, interspersed by dried blood and pale blue. He began incanting an ancient language with the voice of a woman. And he looked at me, my brother’s eyes inside his darkened sockets. The demon put his finger inside the newly deceased’s head, rubbed the browned blood on a page inside the book, and then placed his hand on the headless body. It began twitching.

The Carver dropped the book, standing to look at me. He ripped the flesh mask off, the Moon lighting a sickening smile on his lipless face. The headless corpse stood up, wobbling, ‘six thousand sixty-one’ carved in its chest. A boast, a trophy. The Carver reached toward me, his fingers misshapen claws. The corpse flinched, bristled behind it, as if agitated.

“New- heartttt?” he hissed. He poked my chest and began pushing, slowly, maintaining eye contact the whole time, his head tilted, relishing my reaction. His finger squirmed, sliced tissue, prodded my lung. And suddenly, he fell to the floor. My brother’s body had attacked it. But as soon as the Carver lost sight of me, it flailed blindly, searching without eyes for the chains that bound me. It made contact, and with supernatural strength, tore it from the ceiling. I would’ve offered thanks, but it didn’t have ears with which to hear me.

The Carver was back up, and grabbed my brother’s body, throwing it outside, through the wall. As soon as he turned back to me, I whipped the broken chain at it, denting its skull. It fell back to the ground, stunned, and I went for my bag, rifling through it. I desperately threw the vials of holy water at demon, but they did not impede his recovery. No, no, I grasped, as the Carver pulled apart my chest, and through the pain I swung the machete down, tearing his torso wide open. He recoiled, falling to his knees at my feet, clutching his spilled innards. I reached back into the bag, grabbed the grenade, pulled the pin with my teeth and shoved it inside his wound.

This was it.

The explosion was deafening. I sailed through the air. Dead flesh rained from the sky. Everything was destroyed. Through the haze of my fading consciousness, I realized that I was missing most of my body. I lay still. This was the end. I gave it my best, and had won, even though it cost my life to succeed. It was worth it. I closed my eyes. Time passed, but I could not tell how much, nor did I care. And then something shook me awake, a cold breeze or a soft howl from far away. I blinked. The air was charged with some sort of energy. I looked over my shoulder and saw a blue glow as the Carver’s body began piecing itself back together, only tiny pieces, but it was forming quickly. Already a finger was reformed.

No! I won! I had won! I had beaten him, I would not allow my victory to be snatched away, I would NOT allow this. I began crawling with the last limb I had attached, at first to the Carver, but then to the book lying next to him. It was already open, turned to a page which I could not read. But something called to me from it, whispering in my mind, and I knew not what I did, I only acted. I picked a bit of the Carver’s gray matter off my face and placed it on the page, which set strange runes aglow in blue light. The book spoke to my mind, told me to trace the last rune, but I hesitated.

I knew what this meant. I would become the new Carver. I would become a monster, unredeemable, atrocious, forsaken and alone. But was I not already alone? The Carver’s head was mushy still, but his face was forming. And if I did this, how many brothers would I steal from the world? How many families would I destroy without regret or conscience? Was it worth vengeance? The Carver’s torso was fusing together, bone popping out of a hand that reached toward me. If I chose this, I would be immortal, undead, leading a hollow life of stealing from the living. Could I live with myself knowing what I was? The Carver pulled himself on top of me, his saliva dripping on my face.

Was this worth absolute victory? What would you think, my brother?

I think so. I traced the rune.

My body disintegrated.

The transformation was extraordinary. My mind was filled with knowledge, foreign memories made, consciousness transcended, senses redefined, beliefs and morals distorted and remade. Existence was understood from a whole different perspective. Life was an essence, something tangible, transferrable, if one used the right tools. My body was reformed, stronger, more powerful, restructured with a foreign genetic code. But it was malnourished. I reached out for one of the myriad limbs laying around me and used it, absorbed it. Ate it. The feeling, the taste was intoxicating. My greatest desire now was to use it, to experiment, to see how much flesh I could transmute.

The old Carver stared up at me in horror, broken and writhing. Yes, I knew what he was thinking. He had not known fear in centuries, and to stand here above him, to revel as he cowered, it was bliss.

“I’m going to torture you to death,” I whispered. And then I consumed him, in thin ribbons of flesh and rivulets of blood, dissecting him, peeling his flesh, taking inventory of his organs, collecting his nails, strangling the screams from his throat, for hours on end. And when I finished, when he was naught but a slimy paste, I sought the long-dead, and consumed them, too. I left the old building to find one more corpse, and found him.

Ah, but this one I would not eat. I hungered, yes, and I would sate that urge with a million souls, for I was the new Carver. I generated flesh on the body before me to erase the number placed on it, except I left the ‘one’. The first. You are the first, my brother. Let us share this victory together.

Credit: LJ

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It Lives At The Bottom Of My Stairs

November 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I stand at the top of my stairs, socked toes curling into the carpet as one hand squeezes the door handle and the other hovers over the light switch, trying to decide if it’s safe to turn the lights out. It’s nearly seven at night, I have about an hour before sundown, but it’s just dim enough in the stairwell to make me doubt if that really matters. I stare down at the welcome mat, and though I see nothing, I know the thing that lives at the bottom of my stairs is watching me, too. I know it’s gauzy white eyes never blink, and that it’s teeth, thin and too long for it’s mouth, extending far past it’s leathery lips cannot smile, but I feel as if it’s grinning at me. I know it’s gaunt, lanky limbs are curled and crouched around it’s small body, waiting to lunge the second the light is out.

I know it isn’t real, if it was real I would be able to see it, but even as I remind myself of this, I leave the light on.

You see, I made him up, the creature that lives at the bottom of my stairs. I’ve always had an active imagination. Many children create monsters or imaginary friends with rules; a man who runs beside the car, but can only run in the shadow of the vehicle. A ghost who befriends you, but is invisible to anyone older than you. A monster who waits at the bottom of your stairs, but can’t move until the lights are out.

I’m not sure why I never stopped doing this. I’m approaching my mid twenties, and most children stopped around ten. Or at least they stopped talking about it. I try to keep my concerns to myself, though I have had to explain myself a time or two as to why I have to be the one who closes the door. I’m the only one who knows what he’s doing, because I created him.

The worst part is I know that he only exists because I think he does. There have been weeks or months where I can go up the stairs to my apartment and not feel his eyes on my back, his claw like fingers waiting to rip into me. All it takes is a stray thought, and he’s there again.

There have been times where I was too slow to close my door after I turned the light out. Nothing happens right away, though I know he is in my apartment with me. There is always a chill in my spine and a cold stone in my stomach when he gets past my door, but it’s not like he drags me down the stairs or anything. For some reason, though I know he is capable of killing me, he doesn’t.

Even when I succeed, sometimes there is this dull thudding noise that starts at 2am, and continues until sunrise. Like he’s slamming his dry, callus, too big hands against the door. Demanding I open it and let him in. This has been the hardest part about accepting he is not real, because I have had guests ask me about the noise. I never know what to tell them.

Though on the nights he gets in, I can feel him watching me from the doorway to my room, which unfortunately shares a wall with that stairwell. He sits in the same spot all night, breath wheezing out his squished, bat-like nose, body twitching and contorting as he runs his clawed fingers over his face in anticipation. Though I will never claimed to have actually seen him, I will say I feel as if a trick of the light or a stray shadow have sometimes looked as if they were trying to reveal him to me.

My biggest worry is I think he’s getting closer with each time I fail. He started right outside my doorway, but he was a mere three feet from me the last time. I can’t really tell, because he isn’t real and because I can’t see him, but I think he’s getting more worked up. I don’t know what he’s so excited about, but I can guess it will happen when he has made his way to sit at the foot of my bed.

I think he’s getting faster. I have been failing more often than not to keep him out. It won’t be long now before he reaches his goal, whatever that goal is. Maybe it’s to torment me, and feed off my fear of what he’ll do next. If that’s his goal, he’s succeeding.

It’s killing me. I can’t sleep knowing he’s there. I know he’s never attacked me in the past but I’m always scared that tonight will be the night he decides that enough is enough and goes for it. My lack of sleep is hurting my job. My paranoia is ruining my relationships. All I do is sit at home and hide away from the creature I don’t know how to stop.

I’m sick of it.

So tonight, I’m not going to hide. Tonight, I’m leaving the door to the stairwell open when I turn off the light. I’m turning off all the lights in my shitty apartment and I’m going to sit on my bed in the dark. Tonight when his twisted body lunges and lurches its way into my room I’m not going to pretend I don’t see him. I’m not going to pretend that just because I made him up that means he’s not real. I’m going to look him in those disgusting cloudy eyes and accept my fate. I’m tired of waiting.

Credit: lalaluma

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