The Singing House

February 1, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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My friends used to dare me to visit the house at the end of the cul-de-sac. In fact, everyone was daring everyone to do it.

I remember the looks on their faces. How scornful they looked at my refusal. How they all called me chicken and teased me endlessly.

Not anymore. They’ve all done it, and they all regret it. Now they discourage me from visiting that house. The old house at the end of Singing Court. Street number 2104. People were dared to spend a night in that abandoned old house, and of course, everyone came back just fine.

Afterwards they were different. Scared out of their minds. Convinced they’d never set foot near Singing Court again. A simple high school joke gone completely wrong.

I know, people always do stupid things like this, and a few of them come back with ghost stories to liven things up. Get everyone guessing, make people believe crazy things, but this isn’t the average “haunted house”. Everyone who came back from the house swore there really was a ghost, a ghost who had almost gotten them and they barely escaped.

Try the bet, you enter the house, you hear the strange sounds, the ghost finds you, you run, you tell your friends, they laugh. They try it themselves.

They never laugh at you again.

That’s what happened to some of my own close friends at school, if you could call them that anyways. It was high school, and lots of your “close” friends at high school are really just the “crowd” you fit in with, you know? I was like that. My name is Cameron, and I used to go to South Cadance High School. Pretty natural high school. Bullies, jocks, month-long relationships, name it.

I was pretty natural too. I was tall, I had short brown hair, I played football. Except people always said I was a little unique. I was nicer. I paid more attention to people’s pain, their feelings, their stories. Maybe that attribute is why I did what I did. I got really curious about all the stories. I’m a sensible guy, and ghost stories just didn’t really add up to me. There’s no such thing as ghosts, I always thought.

So like a fool, I eventually brought up the subject at lunch one day. I said to my buddies, “You know what? I’ll do it.”

Instantly, Tre nearly flipped out. “No way, man! We were wrong before, don’t go there!”

Josh laughed. “It’ll be your funeral, man.”

“Don’t you remember? Everyone acts the exact same when they come outta there,” Tre continued breathlessly. “And the story’s the same! Ghost in the house, in the yard, on the driveway, somewhere in there, and it almost gets us!”

“Oh, come on! Nobody’s ever stuck around just for a moment, nobody’s ever tried to see who it was? Probably someone playing a prank. Don’t you think?”

“Can’t be a prank,” Tre answered, shaking his head. “Not the way it happens.”

“I know how it happens. You’ve told me eighty or ninety times now. Gets all cold, a weird ringing sound in the air, wah, wah, wah.”

“You ain’t listenin’, man! You could be the very first one that thing finally gets!”

“Gets?” I snorted. “As in kills?” Of course, that’s what some might say about me now. Others might say I was stolen, or trapped forever. That’s not how I see it.

Let me roll back a bit though. Well, as you expect, my friends all kept trying to convince me to stay away from 2104 Singing Court. The more they did, the more curious I got. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was definitely going to visit the place. Tonight. It was Friday night, the best night. Against my friends’ wishes, I decided it was happening.

So that evening, after I and my parents ate dinner, watched the news and did all the other boring things that parents will do, they went off to bed. I kissed my mother good night. Then I tiptoed upstairs, picked up my spare backpack I’d filled with a little gear, and snuck out.

I made it easily to 2104 Singing Court in no time. The road was less than a five minute walk away. When I got there, the house looked just like it always did, old and peeling yet sturdy. Not much creaking and cracking. You could feel safe under that roof in a storm.

Tonight, something was different. I’d never actually seen the house at night. Was that it? I wasn’t sure, but something about the house seemed to draw me in further. That night I finally crossed the line I’d never crossed before, and started up the hill driveway.

The door opened easily. There was no lock in it. I entered, right into a small living room. Taking out my lantern and switching it on, I saw a pile of sticks in the corner closest to me, undoubtedly from the other visitors. I turned into a small hallway. There wasn’t a single cobweb around. I guessed, at the time, that everyone had knocked them down. I know different now of course, but at the time I was still naïve about the whole thing.

The next room was the kitchen. It looked like any ordinary old kitchen in the darkness, just without anything set up on the counter. There was even an old refrigerator sitting against one wall, with a stove on one side of it and a microwave secured above. Too bad there was no power. I could have brought some reheatable food if this house was still connected to the wires. I’d have to make do with the sandwiches I’d packed.

I chuckled to myself. “Everyone was right about this place. Sure is spooooooky,” I teased the house. There wasn’t anything interesting in here yet.

Then suddenly I felt something odd. It passed by so quickly, I couldn’t even tell what it was after it had gone. For a moment, I stood there wondering, and then I felt it again.

The floor! It was vibrating! It felt like something had just switched on. I wasn’t sure what it was. The vibrations crept up my legs, and I shivered, taking a step back. Then the noise came, blasting from out of nowhere, right in front of me. The ringing!

I reached into my pocket and yanked out my screeching cell phone. I swiped the caller icon and held it to my ear. “God dammit Tre, you scared me to death!” I cried in a harsh whisper. “If anyone sees me in here, they’ll call the-”

“Dude! I just hadda know if you actually did it. You’re in there? Right now?”

“Yeah, I’m here. This place is boring, man. It’s a little cold around here. I’m starting to think I might just take off in a few minutes.”

“Good, man, get outta there. Don’t stay! You really should leave, I mean like, right now!”

“I’m not falling for it. Nothing’s tried to attack me here. Unless the whole school’s in on some joke I don’t get, you’re all delusional.”

“I don’t care what you’re thinkin’. Just get outta there!”

“See ya, man.” I hung up with him still protesting at the other end, then started to laugh quietly. Imagine, everyone scared of this—of what?

Of shadows! There was nothing moving here but shadows. Everything else was deathly still. I looked around the kitchen one last time, then made my way back to the living room, where I’d put my bag. I changed my mind at that moment—I’d stay a bit. I had brought snacks, after all, and a book to pass the time. Mainly, I just wanted to stay long enough to encounter this “ghost” so I could tell everyone how crazy they were.

About an hour, that’s how long it usually took for them to leave. So I decided I’d stay two hours, and if nothing happened, then for certain I’d be going then. No reason to stay otherwise. I opened the compartment with the sandwiches and pulled out the little lunch bag I’d packed them in. I stopped short as I unzipped it.

There were two sandwiches. I’d packed three in there. But I shook away strange thoughts, realizing I’d probably left the last one on the counter at home. I’d get it later tonight after I went back. I pulled out one of the sandwiches—my favorite kind, mayo with cheese and cold turkey, Frank’s hot sauce, onions and spicy peanut sauce. Yeah, yeah, I know it sounds weird. Sue me.

I took a bite and opened up my favorite classic, Summer of the Monkeys.

I’d just gotten past the fourth chapter when I started hearing the sounds. Real sounds this time. Scratches against the side of the house, from the back yard.

I wasn’t afraid. I picked up a stick from the corner pile, switched on my lantern, and headed slowly for the back door. I wasn’t scared, but I also wasn’t an idiot or a daredevil. I held the stick out right in front of me, and moved about two miles an hour. This could be anything—maybe even a lurking animal. I had to be ready to defend myself.

I swung open the back door. Instantly the sounds grew louder. They were right outside the door, just around the edge of the door jamb. If I took one more step, the thing making the noise would be instantly to my left. I took a deep breath and my heart, I realized, was actually beating a little fast. I turned left, sidestepped out the door and raised the stick—

An instant before I saw what was there, the sounds faded and the tiny little white light that had apparently been there moments ago faded. Just like a flashlight shutting off. But even as I panted hard, struggling to keep a cool head, I realized that there was nothing in front of me. Nobody was hiding in the darkness, having just turned off their light—there was absolutely nothing.

“All right, that’s it,” I called out to the darkness. “Get out here!” Nothing stirred. Now I wasn’t only scared, I was angry too. I stepped quickly down the few crumbly brick stairs and took several steps out into the back yard.

I heard it again.

Scratch, scratch…

Now it was more like a shuffling sound. Not the sound of fingers scratching against the side of the house. More like footsteps, several feet out of my lantern’s range of sight, padding softly around in the grass.

Around… around…

Then it stopped. And it started again, and this time they were padding toward me.

The ringing sound started up slowly. The footsteps were close by, getting nearer, right in front of me, but the person, or thing, wasn’t close enough for my light to see them yet.

“H-hello?” I whispered, no longer feeling brave in the slightest. I saw something small floating in the air in front of me, just a few feet away. After a moment, as it came just a little closer, I realized it was fingers. A hand. A small hand reaching out for me. Slowly getting closer.

It was so pale. The ringing sound grew louder. It changed tones, shifted up and down, almost as if, could it be? No way.

I felt the sudden urge to throw my lantern at this figure, turn around and run back in as fast as I could, snatch up my bag and go. But I told myself I wasn’t like the others. They’d always told me I was different, and now this was the time to prove it! I wasn’t going to be frightened by something like this. I couldn’t run away—I had to figure out what this was! If I didn’t, I’d spend the rest of my life wishing I’d waited just one more minute, wondering forever, and it would destroy me, not knowing.

“Hello?!” I called, my voice a tiny squeak. I felt silly sounding like that, but under the circumstances I’m sure it was understandable.

The ringing slowly shifted tones, pitch wavering up and down…it grew louder…was it really? It was.

It wasn’t ringing—it was a voice. A singing voice!

The voice of a young girl. “Laaaaaaaaaa, laaa laaaaaaaaaa laaaaaaaaaa – laaaaaaaaaa laaa laaaaaaaaaa…”

My voice caught in my throat. Not fear—it wasn’t fear this time. I wanted to cry.

She sounded so sad. So dejected. As if she were crying for help, and nobody would listen.

The fingers slowly lowered. The padding sound began to back away. Everyone else ran away by now, I realized. I haven’t run yet. I’ve surprised it. The sound shuffled away slowly, and the soft singing voice began to fade into a shrill ringing again as it slowly left me.

“Wait!” I cried.

The sound stopped receding, and then the voice came back. “Laaaaaaaaaa, laaa laaaaaaaaaa, laaa laaaaaaaaaa, laaaaaaaaaa…”

Such beautiful sounds…

It slowly came closer. This time it didn’t have to reach out. I raised my hand to it, and after a few seconds of hesitation, I felt the softness of delicate fingers sliding into mine, another hand gently gripping mine. I held it. And then the rest of the ghost came into view.

A girl about my age. Almost as tall as I was. But she was like nobody I’d ever seen before. She was so pale, and so beautiful. Her eyes were blue and shiny, and her hair was long and white-blond, and as a breeze blew it gently toward me, it tickled my face with the softness of silk.

Whoa. She was already that close. She stared at me, gazed into my eyes, as if studying me. But she looked so scared. Why was she scared? It’s not like I was going to hurt her. Could anyone even hurt her?

“Please,” she whispered, her voice coming with the wind and just as soft.

“Wh-what?” I croaked, trembling all over.

“Please don’t run away,” she pleaded. And then she started to cry. “Please.”

And suddenly, just like that, I understood everything.

I gently squeezed her hand in mine. “Never,” I promised her in just as soft a whisper. Her tears still flowed, but she managed to stop crying just for a moment, and looked at me again.

She really wasn’t sure if I would run away or not.

After all, hadn’t everyone else already run off by now? All run away, when all she needed was the presence of another human being, someone to talk to? Someone who would listen to her…

“You’re different,” she managed through her tears.

“I know,” I responded. Nobody else had considered she might be more than some haunting phantom. Everyone always did say I was different. Kind. Always there to listen to and sympathize with someone’s pain. Even with the ghostly terror she had initially given me, I realized it was just a test. Just to make sure I was the right one. If I could stay there through the fear, then I certainly could stay forever.

Forever?!

Yeah, I know. You probably don’t understand. But with the way she begged me, I really couldn’t resist. “Please stay with me,” she pleaded. And the way she begged me, the way she pleaded with her eyes, I knew she did mean forever.

“Always,” I promised her. She fell sobbing into my arms and laid her head on my shoulder. I held her, comforting her through her tears, her pain, and when she finally stopped crying, she looked up at me. Her face was tearstained, but she was beautiful no matter what.

She held my hand, and slowly led me further into the back yard. Further away from the rest of the world.

As I left with her, I kept thinking about the other guys at my high school. I remembered their scornful, laughing faces. How they teased me, called me afraid.

Yes, I remember them laughing. And then I remember them looking much different, stone-cold, terrified. But not once had they looked sympathetic for the ghost. They weren’t like me. They had always told me that.

To this day, I still don’t regret that I was different from them all. Because I cared, while they simply ran from fear. Because they just didn’t know.

They say she was a ghost, a scary thing trying to get them. But all she wanted was…was the right person. Now she knows she’s found that person—she found me. And nobody else ever knew what happened to me. Nobody knew where I’d gone, why I disappeared.

I don’t care. They ran from her. They all ran from Sammy (that’s her name). Because none of them knew, poor fellas.

They didn’t know…

They didn’t know she was just lonely.

Credit To – Kroney-2 (William)

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The Swiss Apartment

January 31, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Hello there, I’m writing this all down to try and warn international students about the dangers of studying abroad, and no, this is not some information piece about how you shouldn’t keep too much money on you or not taking rides from strangers. This is a warning of accepting deals that look too good to be true, and the consequences that can come with it. Now, I don’t mean to frighten any future or current international students, I just believe it is important to be aware so nothing like what happened to me that year abroad will ever happen to anyone again.

It was 10 years ago, in my second year of university. I had managed to pull off exceptional grades and was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of an international study program that was stationed in Geneva, Switzerland. To say the least, I was excited. Before my brain could catch up with itself, I was already packing my trunk and saying goodbyes. The travel and schooling arrangements had all been made but the program called for one job on my part. I had to find a place to stay. It was supposed to be part of the “living abroad” experience to be able to find and choose where you wanted to live, so long as you could afford it.

My family was a run of the mill middle class family, so this is where my friend Matt comes in. Matt and I had been friends since the first day of university and we were both taking most of the same classes. He had also been invited to Switzerland and was in the same financial boat as I was. Realizing we had to find somewhere to stay, it only made sense that we roomed together wherever we decided on so we could get a nicer place and just split rent. This is when we came across the apartment. It was just a 15-minute tram ride from the main train station in Geneva and had more than enough space for the two of us. Interestingly enough, the price of rent was the same as many smaller apartments in the area but we figured since it was listed as an old building, we would maybe just have some small “old building issues” to deal with and thus the lower rent.

Matt and I decided this would be our home for the next year, and with that we signed the contract. It wasn’t long until we were both on the 8-hour flight to Switzerland, the plane was cramped and the food wasn’t great so I was relieved when the plane finally touched down in Geneva. I remember the hot summer weather hitting me like a brick wall when we exited the airport. Matt and I grabbed a cab through the city centre and on to the area our apartment was in. The driver was a bit lost for a while but we managed to get our point across in our broken French to tell him where to go.

We found the apartment building among a long line of residences, this particular one looking more dated than most of the other ones in the row. This made me believe that the “old building issues” I had been thinking about was now coming to life. The landlord had sent us two keys, one for the each of us, in the mail prior to leaving. They were those old fashioned keys, like the ones that prison guards used to keep on a ring attached to their hip. Matt was the first into the building and deduced that there were only three apartments per floor, meaning that our apartment (number 6) was one flight of winding stairs above us. The key fit into the solid oak door of our apartment with a satisfying click and with a strained push, the heavy door opened.

The apartment was nice. There was one bathroom, one large bedroom for us to share, a full kitchen near the front of the space. It was surprisingly big, bigger than Matt and I had been expecting, but for the price we were renting it for, it couldn’t have been better. The bedroom had a bunk bed for us to rest our heads in, it brought me back to the time when I was young and had to share a bunk bed with my older brother. Matt won the coin toss and claimed the bottom bunk for himself since it was easier to get into after a night at the bars. Leaving me no other option, I quickly set up my sheets on the top bunk. About a week later, Matt and I had to start classes at our new school for a year. It wasn’t long until we found our routine and began our lives as temporary Swiss citizens.

It wasn’t long until everything went to hell.

One afternoon after our classes ended, Matt decided he was going to stay and study in the library with a local girl he had met. Not being one to break the bro code, I knew it was my time to leave so they could hangout. I decided to head back to the apartment to get some work done, mid-terms were coming up soon and I needed to get cracking on the homework that had built up. When I entered the apartment, the late afternoon sun had just begun to bathe every room in a warm golden light. I sat down at my work desk in the bedroom and before I knew it, it was time for me to make some dinner. The sun had gone down at this point and the darkness certainly didn’t take its time consuming all the light in the apartment. I turned on some of the lights and decided to make a box of Kraft Dinner for myself. This was a big deal since you couldn’t get it anywhere Europe.

As I stood at the stove stirring, a strange feeling washed over my body like I had just been drenched in ice-cold water. It was the feeling of being watched. It felt different though; this wasn’t the same feeling as when your friend stares daggers at you in class to mess with you. This felt angry, evil. It felt like something did not want me in this apartment. I spun around at the stove and sure enough, there was nothing in the kitchen with me. Being the paranoid man that I am, I checked each room of the apartment, the awful feeling following me everywhere I went. Of course the search yielded no explanation, I was alone in the apartment as far as I could tell. Feeling stressed and a bit silly, I went outside into the corridor of the building for a smoke. I didn’t smoke often but Matt and I would have one to celebrate every once in a while.
Matt came home not more than 15-minutes later to me listening to music in the outside corridor. He asked why I was out there and I just made up some story of needing fresh air and the open-air hallway seemed like the perfect spot. I followed Matt in once he opened the door and oddly enough, the awful feeling was gone. Matt could smell the KD I had cooked and was visibly jealous, that’s when I remembered I hadn’t actually eaten it because I was busy with my apartment investigation. A quick zap in the microwave fixed the KD and we both chowed down. I casually asked Matt if he had been enjoying the apartment, to which he responded with an enthusiastic yes. I then asked him if he had experienced anything strange while in the apartment to which he responded with a thoughtful no. So he hadn’t felt anything like I had tonight, maybe I was just tired from school and freaked myself out. On the other hand though, the experience had genuinely frightened me, and I knew what I felt was real.

Over the next couple of weeks, the feeling came back, more than once. I figured out the only times that I would feel the gaze of something that wanted to hurt me was when I was in the apartment alone, once Matt was in the place with me the feeling would soon vanish. I had stayed late at school one Friday night to study, I had been trying to avoid being in the apartment unless necessary as much as possible, when I received a phone call. Matt called and asked when I would be home; when I asked why he responded saying he was just curious. I told him I’d be home as fast as possible. Matt must have felt it.

When I arrived at the apartment, Matt asked me to step outside for a smoke. While we were out there having our smoke he brought up our conversation from before.

“I think I know why you asked me if anything strange has happened to me. I felt this evil presence following me throughout the apartment, it freaked me out man” he shakily said while taking a drag of his cigarette.

My blood ran cold, so he had felt what I had felt. What could be the source of all this? Ghosts? I was never much of a believer but Matt was shaken up, we decided to not leave each other alone in the apartment for as long as it takes to figure this all out. During the next week, things got worse. Now the malefic gaze would be on us even if we were just in different rooms in the apartment. Just entering the place would send feelings of dread throughout my body. One night as I passed the full-length mirror just outside of our bedroom, something moved out of my peripheral vision and out of view. It looked like a gaunt, black shape slinking in the reflection of the family room, but alas when I did a double take, the figure was gone. I was starting to think the apartment was making me loony.

Things kept up like this for a couple months, Matt and I were frightened of what was happening in our home away from home, yet we were determined to stay as the rent was low and the apartment itself was quite nice. I also had made a discovery in the mean time. The presence was especially strong in the walk-in closet that was attached to Matt and I’s bedroom. Matt even swore he heard a quiet growling within the closet. We shrugged that off however, because the building was so old it probably had a rational explanation such as old pipes.
We were so naïve. Stupid really, we should have left after that discovery. Yet we stayed, torturing ourselves, and ended up putting ourselves through the worst kind of hellish experience one could ever imagined.

One night, around 2am, I awoke in my bunk feeling very groggy. The air in the bedroom felt heavy and ominous, like some impending doom was on the horizon. Suddenly, I felt uneasy and became aware that the presence was there. Even with Matt in the room, who was just underneath me in the bottom bunk. I worked up the courage to lift and turn my head toward the room, looking for the source of this presence who I felt would love nothing more than to kill Matt and me. My eyes felt drawn toward the walk-in closet on the opposite side of the room. My instincts were telling me I was starting to home in on our unwanted guest. I took a long hard stare at the closet door, which was slightly ajar.

What I didn’t expect was for the closet to be staring back at me.

Between the door and the wall was a single eye, devoid of any iris or pupil, making eye contact with me. It was like a white void piercing the dark abyss. A lump rose in my throat as I tried to scream but just as I found my voice the door closed. The door closed. As in some outward force had shut it. Matt awoke with a startle when he heard me scream.

The closet was the home of the evil and whatever I had seen was the evil presence that Matt and I had been afraid of all these months. During a Sunday afternoon, we entered the closet with armed with crowbars and paint-scrapers; we were going to tear this room apart until we found some answers. The walls revealed nothing but old wooden walls that were a bit rotten in places.

The floor was the final straw for that cursed apartment.

We tore up the floorboards and exposed a small hole in the floor, one big enough that we could fit down it one at a time, assuming we actually wanted to go down there. By this point the sun had set and the apartment was starting to get dark. I couldn’t help but feel sick when I looked at that hole, my body and mind were screaming at me to leave now but I needed to see this to the end. Matt and I psyched ourselves up and entered the hole. The drop was probably 7 feet, but a rickety wooden ladder we found in the laundry room fixed that problem. Matt went first and I followed after as soon as his feet touched the dirt floor below.
The smell was the first thing to hit me. It hit me like a truck full of bricks as soon as I took the first ladder rung down. I knew what rotten flesh smelled like, and this was intense even for that horrible of a scent. It was nothing short of a miracle that it never penetrated the apartment. Matt was already retching on the floor as I managed to bring my shirt over my nose. The hole turned out to be a small room. We needed a source of light to properly see our surroundings and thankfully Matt had brought a flashlight. After turning it on we could finally see what we were dealing with. Truth be told I didn’t want to know what we were dealing with.

The flashlight flickered to life. My eyes were instantly assaulted by images of rotting animal corpses, strewn about the room as if a predator had made its home here. Ancient runes adorned the walls, I couldn’t tell what they meant or what they were supposed to do. In the centre of the room however, was an etched pentagram on the floor. I knew enough about the occult because of the supernatural research I had been doing on the side for the past few months to know that this was a demonic symbol. As Matt approached the middle of the room I got the feeling that something was very, very wrong. We were never supposed to see this. The evil presence was here and so strong it felt like a physical being inside the room. I told Matt we were leaving this room now and we started to ascend the ladder. I knew why something felt so wrong, even more wrong than the disturbing scene we discovered beneath our apartment.

Our apartment is on the second floor.

Matt and I reached the top of the hole and opened the closet door into our bedroom.

Where it was waiting for us.

The creature I had seen in the mirror, the one staring at me from the closet, the thing that was scaring Matt and I with its presence for months, was now right in the middle of our room. It stood at about 6 feet tall; its gaunt, black body had arms of the same length that twisted into menacing claws. Its shapeless face had two, unblinking white eyes that seemed to stare daggers through your very soul. The demon had two slits instead of a nose and below it there was a massive mouth; filled with razor sharp teeth and contorted into a hideous smile.

We were both frozen in fear; I felt tears well up in my eyes as I heard Matt whimper a single, helpless word.

“Fuck.”

We slowly backed toward the door and the creature got down on all fours and began to move with immense speed. Its joints cracked sickeningly as they moved. Matt and I took this as a cue to get the lead out and we bolted out the bedroom door, slamming it behind us. I could hear the thing slashing at the wood as we both clambered out of the apartment. I locked the heavy oak door at the entrance to keep it trapped inside. As I threw the key off the edge of the building, I could hear its raspy breathing from inside the apartment followed by a quiet cackle as it slinked back into the confines of its cage. As we waited for a cab to pick us up outside, I took one last look at our apartment. Sure enough, the creature was sitting in the window staring down at us with its disgusting smile. Matt and I got in the cab and never looked back.

We got a moving crew to collect our things for us, there was no way we were going back in that place. Of course they never found a hole in the closet, the only thing that was out of the ordinary was our bedroom door, one worker said it was if one of us had taken a scythe to it. We moved to a house that was up for rent across town, and I did my research on the place before moving there. All was fine for the rest of the year and Matt and I completed our year abroad. We are still good friends to this day except we made a pact. To never talk about what we saw that day. Even thinking about it now could give me nightmares.

I had half a mind to go back and torch the place after. I never do though because getting near that place on its own is asking for trouble. I can’t imagine that any poor bastard that moved in after us made it any longer than we did. Whatever was in that apartment was pure evil, summoned from god knows who or what.

I believe it’s my duty to tell people who plan to study abroad to DO THEIR RESEARCH. If something feels like it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If something feels off with your new home, it’s probably not just your imagination. There are evil things in this world, things that want to frighten, maim or kill any mortal within their grasp.

And sometimes all it takes is a really good deal to put you in grave danger.

Credit To – Spencer Slaney

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Restless

January 29, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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You woke up to a faint clattering noise, wondering what it was. For a moment, you pondered just sleeping through it, but considering it awakened you it could be a better idea to check it out – and rid yourself of a potential cause of insomnia in the process. Putting on your slippers, you made your way to the light switch. The harsh change of atmosphere drove any leftover drowsiness from your head as the bulb in the center of the room flickered to life.

The tapping and clanging continued as you listened to it, trying to identify the source of the noise. It seemed to be coming from somewhere below. Is there someone in my house? you wondered while your heart started to pound. Careful, trying not to make a noise, you grabbed the broom – the first thing to come to mind – from in the corner of your room. It was firm and rigid in your hands and would surely make for a decent weapon.

With every step you took, you were worried the next stair would creak. With every step you took, you were once again relieved that it didn’t, while slowly making your way down. Your foot touched down on the carpet in the hallway, having cleared the most risky obstacle. Cautiously, you snuck towards the living room. The noise got louder and louder as you came closer, leaning slightly towards the door, ready to take a peek and see whether someone was rummaging through your belongings.

The moonlight shone into the room, illuminating someone sitting near the display case, trying to get to the adornments and jewelry inside. The case was still closed, much to your relief; the thief hadn’t had the time to open it up and steal any valuable belongings before waking you up. A sudden reflection of light alerted you to some tool the stranger seemed to be holding. Tap. Tap. Tap.

With the burglar preoccupied, you considered your chances and tightened your grip on the solid broomstick. It was well within your right to defend your own property and, having made up your mind, you quietly snuck in. While lifting the broom above your head, you must have made a noise since the intruder, aware of the danger, suddenly turned around to face you.

CAW! CAW! A flash of reflected light blinded you, making you cover your eyes and stumble backwards. You caught a glimpse of something, but it wasn’t the tool you expected to see – what was it? You stepped back through the door, into the hallway to create some distance between the intruder and yourself before opening your eyes again. What you saw in front of you upon doing so wasn’t human; one half of its face was concealed in darkness but the other was illuminated.

A magpie’s head, made from a dark –almost black – metal, looked at you with eyes made out of gemstones. The metal had many seams and crevices, causing it to move in an innapropriately natural manner as its head tilted. The rubies in its eye sockets, a bloody shade of red, didn’t seem dead or inanimate. Instead, a maleficent intelligence seemed to house behind them, not at all associated with the human body wearing the monstrous piece of armor.

The magpie spread its arms and you recognized the scraping, clanging noise you heard earlier. All kinds of necklaces and jewelry seemed to hang down from the bird’s arms, making it look as if the creature had wings – an intimidating sight, as it slowly stepped towards you. Its beak opened itself, giving birth to a horrific noise. CAW! It reached for you, trying to close its hands around your neck.

Suddenly coming to your senses, you smacked it on its head with the broom, as hard as you could. The wood broke on the hard metal and a painful feeling shot up through your arms, making you drop the useless remains. You ran away, towards the kitchen, reaching for a knife, while the magpie with its ringing metal wings chased after you. Grabbing the largest knife you could find, you turned around. There the creature was, in all its vile glory. You reacted quickly, driving the knife into the vulnerable area of the chest, right under where the metal ended.

For a moment, all seemed lost as the creature didn’t even stagger and instead pecked at your face, determined to cut it up. Slowly, however, the massive metal bird began to collapse, sinking to the ground. One last time it looked at you with deadly intent but then the presence in its eyes faded away, escorted by a loud brattle as it fell.

Relieved, you let go of the dangerous utensil and sat down on the floor, as far away from the dead body as you could. Letting go of your bated breath, you glanced back at the bird, suddenly noticing something was wrong – its metal parts were melting!

You were all too late with your keen observation as you suddenly felt a freezing sensation on your skin. The cold steel agonizingly slowly flowed up your back, over your shoulders, up your neck. You tried to wipe it off, but it stuck to your hands and continued its way to your face. You screamed, yelled, begged of it to let go of you, to leave you be. You rolled over the floor, kicked and clawed at the pearly droplets creeping towards you; all in vain.

The liquid reached your eyes, forcing its way in between your eyelids when you closed them; the cold metal poured into your mouth and filled your ear tubes until you could hear nothing but your own heartbeat, see nothing but darkness and taste nothing but the unpleasantly cold metal folding itself around your teeth. You tried to breathe, but you couldn’t get air. Slowly, your consciousness slipped away, leaving you in a dream-like state as the world around you became visible again in a contemptuous shade of red and a hunger awakens within you – one that can only be satisfied through the most precious of valuables.

That is your story. It has become part of ours now, like you have become part of us. We stand on the rooftop as our wings jingle in the wind and a raw, victorious chant echoes over the city, striking fear into the hearts of the wealthy: we are the magpie; beware our greed.

Credit To – Kay

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The Seer of Possibilities

January 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Sometimes, otherworldly beings find interesting ways to try and contact you. They might use a Ouija Board, or maybe come to you in a dream, or sometimes they speak through another person. They each have their own style and preference that’s particular to them. The one who contacted Jack spoke to him through his computer, or, I guess you could say the communication was through onscreen text. The first time it happened, Jack had been sitting at his computer playing Solitaire. A blinking red light from the router indicated that his internet connection was down again. This was at least a weekly occurrence, and Jack was getting used to this spotty internet service. As he moved his cards, the game faded into a solid black screen and the red text appeared.

“Hi Jack, I need a favor from you. You’re a very special person and I know you’ll help me. I can’t ask this of just anyone. I really need your help.”

Jack paused for a second. The router light was still blinking red. “Is this some sort of joke?” He couldn’t help but wondering.

Several moments later the message continued, “Yes Jack, I know this is weird for you. But I don’t want you to worry. This is just a small, easy favor I need. I’ll make sure you’re rewarded.”

Now nearly in a panic, Jack reached around and pulled the internet cable completely from the wall.

“Still here, Jack. I don’t want to waste any more of your time so I’ll get right to what I need. Tomorrow when you go to work I need you to move the large potted plant that’s next to the elevator on the ground floor. All you have to do is pull it out three inches from the wall. If you do it at 8:17am nobody else will be in the area.”

Jack sat there, refusing to respond, still trying to figure out what was happening.

The writing continued, “Look Jack, I’m asking you because I KNOW you’ll do it. You won’t let me down. You’re special. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Jack pulled the power cord from the wall and the computer went blank. “Did that really just happen?” he thought.

Still shaking from the experience, he took a warm shower and got ready for bed, convincing himself that he’d either had some crazy dream or that is was just some elaborate joke. But who would play that kind of joke on him? He didn’t really have friends, or enemies.

He woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. Work would start at 8:30am, and Jack was never late. He pulled into the parking lot at 8:10am. Normally he’d just go right in, but the message had told him to move the plant at 8:17am. Was he really going to do it? Overnight, Jack’s fear had turned into curiosity. Let’s say he moved the plant, he wouldn’t be doing anything wrong or illegal, right? In Jack’s mind, the most reasonable course of action was to move the plant. He’d do it, nothing would happen, and he’d be able to put this whole crazy matter behind him. One minute before 8:17 Jack left his car and walked towards the building. He entered the foyer at the exact time he was supposed to. The message was right, nobody else was around.

“Odd,” Jack thought. The building was normally busy this time of morning, but this temporary lull had been accurately predicted.

“Fine! Let’s see what happens,” Jack muttered to himself.

He walked up to the large potted plant placed firmly between the two elevators in the lobby of the ten story building. The plant looked like it was fake, a decoration people passed every day without really noticing. It was heavier than Jack realized. He put some might into his effort and pulled the plant out three inches to his best estimate. He stood back and looked at the plant, then looked around the lobby. People were coming in behind him now and the lobby was starting to fill up again. Nobody seemed to notice the plant was in a slightly different location, nothing seemed different at all. Jack skipped the next elevator and waited, waited for…something. But nothing happened. Finally Jack entered the elevator and made it to his 7th floor cubicle, on time like always.

If you ever asked Jack’s coworkers to describe him, you’d hear words like polite, quiet, respectful, and competent. And while those words were all accurate, they gave little indication of the truth, the truth that Jack really didn’t like most people. That’s not to say he disliked them, just that he had very little interest in getting to know them or being their friend, save for one. Allie, the girl who sat two cubicles down from him, was the only person he wanted to know more about. With her big smile, blonde hair, and beautiful figure, Jack was very interested in learning all about her. Despite his lack of success with women in the past, he was actually doing a fair job getting to know her. Every morning as he passed her cubicle, he’d stop for a chat. The chats were one minute at first, then two minutes, then several minutes. Jack was surprised that she actually seemed to like him.

On this particular morning, their daily conversation lasted only a couple of minutes. As they exchanged their morning greetings and talked about Allie’s wild night out, the elevator doors opened up behind them. Out hobbled James Bentley, the boss of both Jack and Allie.

James’ loud complaining could be heard throughout the office, “My damn foot!”

“What happened, James?” came the mumbled queries.

“It’s that damn plant they have in the lobby. I ran right into it and twisted my ankle.”

“James, you can barely walk. You need to go to the hospital,” came Allie’s concerned reply.

“Can’t do it now. I have meetings all day. Too important to cancel. I’ll just have to tough it out.”

Jack, feeling stunned, left Allie’s cubicle mid conversation and sunk down into his chair. It was his fault, he was sure of it. How could he have been so stupid and careless? Still, no use in worrying about it now. A twisted ankle would heel, everything would be alright.

Upon his return home, Jack went immediately to his computer and turned it on. As soon as the computer booted up, the screen went black and a new message popped up.

“How was your day, Jack?”

He sat there, staring at the screen, not knowing how to answer. The message on the screen continued, “Actually, I know how your day was, but never let it be said that I’m not polite. You’re wondering what’s going on. You want to know why James Bentley had to twist his ankle. Well Jack, this chain of events isn’t done playing out. I don’t want to tell you too much too soon, but this will all make sense to you in short order. Just go to work tomorrow like you normally do. Don’t worry about a thing Jack. You’ll be rewarded. You’re special. Talk to you tomorrow.”

Jack sat back in his chair. What was going on? Who was this was sending him messages? Jack’s curiosity was fully engaged, and he was almost a bit excited to see what would happen next.

The next morning at work started off as any ordinary day. Jack noticed that the plant had been pushed back fully against the wall, probably by the night cleaning crew. James Bentley showed up shortly after lunch, hobbling into the office on his one good foot.

“Man this foot is killing me,” Jack could overhear him say, but apparently James still had a meeting he didn’t want to miss. It wasn’t until around 3 o’clock that Jack saw him again. James, who always seemed to prefer Allie over others, came limping up to her cubicle.

“Allie, you’re not doing anything right now, are you?”

“Um, no. Nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow I guess.”

“Good, could you please drive me to see my Doctor? I probably should’ve gone yesterday, but I just couldn’t get away. This pain is just killing me right now and I don’t think I can drive myself, I barely made it here this morning and I don’t think I can even push the gas pedal right now. We can take my car if you want.”

“Yeah that’s fine James, I don’t have a problem taking you.” Turning to Jack she said her goodbye, “See you tomorrow, Jackie.” She put on her coat and slowly followed James as he struggled down the hallway. She gave a half turn and a shrug in Jack’s direction, with a little smile as she walked away. Jack felt even lonelier than normal when she was gone.

It was ten minutes later that they all heard the crash. It was preceded by the loud horn of an 18 wheeler and screeching brakes. The collision itself was a sickening thud of two large metal object colliding. Even on the 7th floor it was loud. The office workers gasped and ran to the windows.

“Is that James’ car?” One of them asked.

“Hard to tell from up here,” someone responded, “It’s so banged up.”

The horrifying implication of what’d just happened came to Jack immediately.

“No, no, no,” he though. “This can’t be true.”

Shaking all the way, he ran to the elevator and went to the ground floor along with several others from the office. Some of them were crying. As they joined the growing crowd around the scene of the accident, Jack could hear the far off sound of emergency sirens. Looking past the gawkers, he could see that the 18 wheeler had hit James’ car broadside, its driver had been thrown out onto the pavement where he lay motionless. James was sitting in the passenger seat of his car, motionless but with a surprised look on his bloody face. Jack couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead. The driver’s side, where Allie was seated, had taken the hit. The space she’d been occupying had been compacted to a third of its original size. Allie’s head was smashed open and her twisted body was broken and battered. The crowd was stunned. Tears, screams, sirens; that was all Jack could hear. Without going back inside the building, Jack ran to his car and drove home, angry and sad.

He made the journey home and to his computer. There the machine sat, he wanted to turn it on, but was afraid of what he’d find out. Was he really the one responsible for Allie’s death? The whole chain of events had started with him. He knew he was to blame. Jack reached for the power button, and then pulled his hand back. Finally, after several minutes, he found the mental strength to turn it on. The screen flickered and then went black, and the familiar text started appearing on the screen.

“No Jack, it’s not your fault. I know you’re blaming yourself. But all people die eventually, some just sooner than others.”
Jack stared at the screen. He resisted the urge to throw the monitor to the ground.

After a moment, the writing continued, “Jack, I’m going to tell you something, and I really need you to seriously consider everything I’m about to say. You thought you were in love with Allie. The truth is, you just wanted to fuck her. And please excuse my language, but every once in a great while it’s best to be blunt. Jack, she wasn’t the one for you. She would’ve made your life miserable. Yes, you would’ve eventually found the courage to ask her out. She actually was interested in you. She thought you’d make a good “project.” Sad really, for her, not for you. I want you to think back to all the things she told you. Why did her last boyfriend break up with her?”

“Because she cheated on him,” Jack mumbled under his breath.

“Because she cheated on him, Jack. The same thing she would’ve done to you. She would’ve made you happy for about 2 months, and then miserable for the next 4 years. Sneaking around, laughing at you behind your back, spending all your money. Once you finally got rid of her, you would’ve been so jaded that you’d never date again. This is true Jack. I see all future possibilities, the ones that come to pass and the ones that don’t. You’ve seen how she really is Jack, but you let your lust for her blind you to the truth. Together, you and I have made sure you avoided that path. One more thing Jack, this isn’t done playing out yet. There’s more to come.”

“No! Fuck you! You killed her!” Jack screamed and threw the monitor from the desk. It landed on the floor and sparked out.
Jack got barely any sleep that night, and the next day he wasn’t sure he wanted to go to work, but the last words he’d been told had piqued his curiosity, and his anger had somewhat subsided. No work was done that day at the office. The company brought in grief counselors, people shared their thoughts, they cried, they hugged. James had actually survived the accident, but was in a coma. The doctors thought he might recover eventually, but nobody was really sure.

Late in the afternoon, Jack was approached by Diego Salbara, the head of the division. Diego was blunt and upfront, and he offered James’ position to Jack. Technically it would be a temporary promotion, but James wouldn’t be back any time soon. Diego promised him that the promotion would be made permanent once enough time had passed.

“Let’s keep this low key for now.” Diego told him. “I know it might seem quick, but the Lancaster project James was working on can’t be stopped. It’s too important to the company. I need someone in charge right away, this can’t wait.”

Stunned, Jack accepted the promotion. He left work with a strange mixture of feelings, not really sure how he felt about anything. On his way home, he stopped at the electronics store and bought a new monitor. He made it home and powered up the computer. Once again the writing came on the screen.

“Jack, I want to be the first one to congratulate you! I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

Jack stared at the screen.

“Jack, I have to ask your forgiveness because haven’t introduced myself yet. I’m called the Seer. Like I told you before, I see what will be, and I see what can be. It’s a very powerful gift I have. But you know what, Jack? For all my power, I still can’t do anything corporeal. I can predict, I can see, and with enough effort, I can even communicate. But I don’t have a body, that’s something that was taken from me a long, long time ago. That’s why I need you Jack. I’m an artist of sorts, an artist of human manipulation. You’ll be my paintbrush and my canvas. I want you to work with me Jack. It’s all very simple, just perform simple tasks for me, from time to time.”

Jack was becoming more and more curious.

“And Jack, before you give me an answer, I want you to know a couple of things. First off, I’ll never lie to you. Secondly, I’ll never ask you to do anything which, taken by itself, is wrong or illegal. Yes, bad things will result, and sometimes people will die. But they’re going to die eventually anyways, right Jack? And the bad will always be balanced out by something good happening to you.”

Jack winced at this last idea, but he fought the urge to turn the computer off. The Seer was right. Everyone would die eventually, why not let something good come of it? And what about never lying to him? If he’d known at the time that Allie was going to die, he’d have never gone through with the original favor. But as he thought more about it, he realized The Seer hadn’t lied to him, but had only withheld information. Still, Jack wondered if he could trust The Seer.

“Work with me Jack, together we’ll make incredible things happen. I’m just asking you to perform little tasks from time to time. Oh, but these little tasks will have great consequences! They’re going to be beautiful Jack, and they’ll always end with a reward for you. That’s the beauty of my art, one single task produces something bad and something good. Oh, one last thing Jack, I can see you’re having trouble with this. If I stopped talking to you right now, it would take you about two weeks to decide to join me. But you know what Jack, you WOULD join me. That’s right, you’re going to say yes. So instead of waiting, why don’t you just say yes to me now? Let’s get started Jack. And when all this is over, you’re going to thank me. I promise you.”

Jack considered what The Seer had just said. His initial feeling of revolt was slowly fading. He paused, and then for the first time, he placed his fingers on the keyboard and responded directly to The Seer. “What do you want me to do next?”
_____________________________

As years passed, Jack did every favor the Seer asked of him, and as the Seer had promised, Jack was rewarded for his actions each time. The rewards often came in unexpected and interesting ways. One of the more memorable experiences for Jack happened about 2 years after he first agreed to help the Seer.

“Jack, I need you to go downtown tomorrow,” the Seer requested. “Enter Garmin’s Liquor at exactly 12:37pm. A man will ask you a question. The answer you’re to give him is ‘twenty seven.'”
As always, the Seer’s instructions were simple and direct, yet mysterious. The next day, as requested, Jack entered the store. In front of him, a burly construction worker was at the counter filling out a lottery playslip.

“Let’s see here,” said the construction worker, “My birthday, that’s the 15th, my wife’s birthday, that’s the 24th, and my kids’ ages, two, ten and thirteen.”

The man scratched his head and looked around, zeroing in on Jack, “Hey buddy! I need another number. Ya got one for me?”

Jack smiled, “Twenty seven.”

“Really? I was thinkin’ bout playin’ thirty five. But ya know what? I like your face, let’s go with twenty seven!”

With that, the man completed his slip and paid for his lottery ticket. “See ya, pal!” he said happily and he patted Jack on the shoulder on his way out the door.

Jack tried not to put any more thought into what would happen to this man. “Just let these things play out, Jack. You’ll never guess how things end up, so just let yourself be surprised,” the Seer had advised him. Still, it was impossible not to wonder about these things from time to time. He knew, considering the way the Seer worked, there was no way possible that he’d actually helped this man. But giving him a losing lottery number? That was too simple for the Seer. And he couldn’t imagine he’d actually given him a winning number. So that’s how Jack was surprised, when two weeks later, he ran into the same man again, this time at the grocery store.

“Hey buddy! It’s you! I remember you! Check it out, I won!” Indeed, the man looked like a million dollars. Wearing new clothes, a new gold watch, and a big goofy smile, the man walked right up to Jack.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again, but I’m glad you’re here. I coulda never won without you. Hey, lemme buy these groceries for you. No wait, that’s not good enough for you, you’re my good luck charm. Always gotta treat people right, that’s what my mom says.”

Reaching into his pocket, the man removed his checkbook and promptly wrote Jack a check for ten thousand dollars. “It’s the least I can do for my good luck charm.”

After thanking the man, and feeling a bit confused by the whole thing, Jack raced home to his computer. After turning it on, the Seer’s writing appeared on the screen. “Well Jack, how does it feel to be ten thousand dollars richer?”

“It feels good. But I can’t help but wonder, we’ve never helped anyone before. Why are we starting now?” Jack asked that question with a tinge of guilt. He never liked to admit that people were being hurt by his actions, but in this case his curiosity overwhelmed any latent feelings of guilt.

“Oh Jack, we haven’t helped anyone. Yes, that man is happy now, but he’ll have lost every last penny within two years. You saw it for yourself, he just gives money away. Old friends, lost relatives, they’re all going to come asking him for money. And there will be some very bad investments as well. The stress of losing everything is going to cause his wife to leave him. She’ll take the kids too. He’ll be alone and broke, a ruined man who would have been much better off if he’d never won. You needn’t feel bad Jack, it’s the man’s own stupidity and greed that will do this to him.”

Jack felt some regret, but the Seer’s rationalizing, and focusing on his own reward, always put him at peace in the end.

Through the years, no two tasks were ever alike. Sometimes the effects of his actions were direct and easy to see, other times they caused a chain reaction so complex that he simply could not follow it.

“Go to the County Administrator’s building, park in space number 43 at 4:47pm.” came one such request. Jack did so, and two months later he met Donna, with whom he fell in love and ended up marrying. He wouldn’t have even known the two events were even related if he hadn’t asked the Seer about it.

“Jack, when you parked in that space, you caused the person who would’ve parked there to park in a different spot, but she bumped the car next to her. She barely made a scratch, but she called her insurance agent anyway, causing him to leave the office late. He missed his train home, and while waiting for the late train, he was mugged and stabbed, he’ll never fully recover. The muggers took his credit cards and used them…..and Jack, I could keep going with this, but there’s another twenty three people involved. Sometimes these favors are going to be very complicated, but let’s just say your action ultimately caused Donna to be in the exact right place for you to meet her.”

Jack’s relationship with the Seer grew. Though remaining mostly mysterious, the Seer divulged enough information over time so that Jack could get a generalized understanding of the Seer’s history. From historical references, Jack knew the Seer was thousands of years old. When still alive, the Seer had been a powerful fortune teller and artist, who foretold future happenings through paintings. A foolish king, who misinterpreted the Seer’s prediction and lost a battle as a result, had the Seer executed. Unencumbered by physical senses, and existing in a lonesome void, the Seer’s abilities expanded exponentially. Finally learning to communicate with the living, the Seer began reaching out to those who would respond, including Jack. And of course, the Seer knew everything about Jack. In all, it was as much of a friendship as one can have with a dead person. And Jack was grateful to the Seer too. He had a nice job, a nice house, a beautiful wife, and people respected him. He was happy, which is something he never really felt before the Seer contacted him.

Twelve years in total passed, twelve good years for Jack. Task after task was completed, usually about one every month. Jack, sitting in the office of his large rural house, was contacted by the Seer once again.

“Hi Jack, I have a favor to ask of you. This one’s the easiest yet, you don’t even have to get up. Call Riago’s Pizza in exactly two minutes, let the phone ring three times, then you can hang up.”

Jack smiled, nice and easy. He no longer wondered about how these tasks would play out. He trusted the Seer and simply did as he was told. Jack made the call, exactly two minutes later.

The quietness of the household was broken 30 minutes later by the ringing doorbell. “That’s odd,” Jack thought. Neither he nor Donna were expecting anyone. Jack looked out the peephole and saw a pizza deliver boy. The logo on his cap said “Riago’s Pizza”.

Jack opened the door. “Here’s your pizza,” said the boy as he thrust it into Jack’s hand.

“But I didn’t order this.” Jack argued.

“Look, I don’t give a damn if you ordered it or not. Mr. Riago told me to take it here, so that’s what I’m doing.” the delivery boy argued, as he looked increasingly annoyed and spat in the bushes.

Jack looked at the boy in front of him. He looked to be about seventeen years old, but the most noticeable thing about him was his size, he was huge. Probably about six and a half feet tall, and very muscular.

“It’s already paid for by credit card, just take it, because I’m not driving it back.” The boy put out his hand for a tip.

“I, I don’t have any cash on me.” Jack told the truth.

“Whatever,” came the disgusted reply. The boy looked past Jack into the house, then turned and walked slowly to his waiting car, looking over his shoulder as he walked.

Jack closed the door and took the pizza to the living room, where Donna was watching TV. After explaining what had happened, he excused himself to go to his office, promising to return shortly.

Donna opened the pizza and took a piece. “Come back soon sweetie, this pizza’s got all your favorite toppings on it.” Donna giggled as she took a bite.

Arriving at his computer, the Seer’s words appeared on the screen. “Confused, Jack? Don’t be. Your neighbor down the road ordered the pizza. Mr. Riago told that boy the correct address, but a ringing phone made it difficult for him to be heard clearly. Still, give the boy credit, he got the street right at least.”

“So my reward is a pizza?” Jack typed, a little confused.

“Yes Jack, your reward is a pizza, and also the chance to spend a little time with your wife. Go down there, share the pizza, enjoy it. When you’re done, make love to Donna. That’s not one of your tasks, that’s just some advice I think you should follow. Oh, by the way, your neighbors who ordered the pizza are arguing right now, over the silly fact that the pizza didn’t arrive. Some of the things people argue over amaze me, they really do. Their fight is going to get very heated, but you don’t need to worry about that. Go, enjoy your night.”

Jack followed the Seer’s advice, cuddled with Donna as they enjoyed their meal, then made love to her on their big, comfortable living room couch. Donna fell asleep on the couch shortly after 11:00pm. Jack lay there awake, this latest favor, it just felt odd. Carefully extracting his arm from under Donna, Jack left the living room and headed upstairs. Sitting down at the computer, Jack typed, “Are you there?”

“Yes Jack, I’m actually always here. I’ve been waiting for you to come back. That pizza delivery boy. He’s quite a specimen, isn’t he?”

Jack looked quizzically at the screen.

The seer continued, “He’s a horrible employee. He was hired only three days ago and already Mr. Riago wants to fire him, but as a physical specimen, he’s strong, fast, and VERY observant. For example, he noticed that you didn’t lock the front door after he delivered your pizza.”

“What?” Jack said aloud as he started to get up.

“Sit down Jack. I need to tell you something important, and locking the door now won’t change your situation.”

Jack slowly took his seat again at the computer, looking behind himself as he did so.

“You see Jack, it’s true that I never lied to you. Everything I’ve ever told you is 100% honest. But yes, I’ve withheld certain facts. You see, I told you that every task causes something bad to happen to someone else and something good to happen to you, but there’s a third thing. There’s an ultimate goal that each task was working toward. Remember Allie? Of course you do. What you probably don’t remember about her is that she was helping to pay her brother’s way through college. When she died, he had to drop out. He was going to be a great psychologist, but now he works in a factory instead. That’s really too bad for our pizza delivery boy, he could’ve used a good therapist a few years ago, but that good therapist wasn’t there for him, instead he got some Freudian quack. And remember our lottery winner? Yes you do. He was a neighbor to our pizza boy, after he lost all his money of course. He beat the boy senseless after the boy jumped into the street in front of his car. Quite a traumatic memory for our young lad. And his mother didn’t care about that incident, didn’t protect the boy at all. She couldn’t, not after using all the drugs given to her by her boyfriend, who happened to be one of the muggers who robbed that insurance agent. He bought the drugs with the money he made from the robbery. Do you see now the scope of my artistry?”

Jack sat, glaring at the monitor. He wanted to get up, to check on Donna, but he was too scared to move.

The Seer continued, “Jack, you’ve done over a hundred tasks for me, and each one has served an ultimate purpose, to psychologically destroy this boy, turn him into a monster, and to bring him here tonight. Don’t you see Jack? This involved tens of thousands of people, and billions of possibilities. If you had failed to complete even one of the tasks, the whole chain would’ve collapsed. This was orchestrated by me, and set in motion by you. Together we’ve done something wonderful, this is a masterpiece of human manipulation. Our masterpiece. And it all begins and ends with you, two perfect points in time. Tonight, wrong address, no tip, this poor boy finally snapped. He’s downstairs right now. He’s slitting Donna’s throat, at this exact moment.

Jack could hear a short, muffled scream coming from the living room, followed by a gurgling noise.

“No!” Jack screamed and stood up, starting to run downstairs.

“Jack, stop!” The voice startled Jack. It was inside his head. For the first time, the Seer was talking to him directly. It was a pleasant voice, a feminine voice. “You can’t do anything, she’s already gone. He’ll be coming for you shortly, and you can’t stop him.”

“But why?” Jack cried with tears welling up in his eyes.

“It’s not an artistic masterpiece if it doesn’t begin and end with you, Jack.” Her voice was soothing. “I want you to appreciate the fact that I’m talking to you directly. This requires all of my energy, and as a result, I’ll have to rest for several years before I can contact anyone again. That’s how special you are to me. Please don’t feel bad about this, Jack. I want you to take a moment and enjoy our accomplishment as much as I do.” The voice paused briefly, and then continued. “Do you know what Jack? If I’d never contacted you, you would have lived for eighty five years. Eighty five boring, meaningless, and bitter years. And when you died, nobody would’ve been at your funeral. I gave you twelve great, meaningful years. You were happy, and together we did something beautiful, something unique.”

Jack paused a minute and considered his twelve years of happiness, and his tears of sorrow mixed with tears of joy. He turned and looked at the computer, while behind him, the massive hulk of the demented delivery boy appeared in the doorway, a bloody knife in his left hand.

On the screen, the last words from the Seer appeared, “Don’t you have something to say to me, Jack?”

Jack wiped his tears, and absorbed everything the Seer had just told him.

As the hulk started stepping closer to him, Jack said mouthed his final words, “Thank you.”

Credit To – Thomas O.

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The Ocean’s Cool Air

January 25, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I stared up and into the heavens. Stars dotted the evening sky like little white splotches of paint haphazardly splattered across a black canvas by some wannabe artist believing himself to be the second coming of Jackson Pollock. It reminded me of the type of piece one might find in a terrible, surrealist art gallery. One where pretentious hipsters sip Two-Buck Chuck out of plastic cups, all the while hoping their idiotic interpretations of each exhibit will make others think they’re more intelligent than they actually are.

On a nearly moonless night the tiny twinkling specks of light were the only things illuminating the darkness brought on by dusk. I had grown to look forward to nightfall. The days had become unbearable due to the constant bombardment of UV rays that I had been forced to endure. The evening’s cool air tended to my damaged skin and gave me reprieve from the daily beatings I took from the sun. The night also provided constellations, which had become a welcomed distraction. The stars told stories – stories that helped me forget – forget about the decrepit old lifeboat in the middle of the ocean that I was stranded in.

I barely noticed the commercial fishing boat as it approached my dinghy – a testament to how far-gone my mind had become from the weeks of isolation out at sea. Even to this day, I don’t know how they managed to spot my tiny boat shrouded in the vast darkness of the open ocean.

“Hey there! Are you ok?”

The young man was looking down at me from the bow of the ship. His piercing blue eyes almost glowed in contrast to the black sky behind him. Upon further inspection, I could see the whiskers that had begun to sprout from his face – a result of going days without shaving while out on the water. As he scratched his stubbly chin, more of the crew crowded around the front of the boat to take a gander at me. I suppose a half-dead man marooned out at sea was the strangest sight they’d seen in quite a while – an honor I would hold for only the briefest of moments.

“He’s alive!” one of the fishermen shouted, “Let’s get him up here now!”

As I watched the crew frantically buzz around the ship’s deck like a bunch of worker bees, trying to figure out how to bring me aboard, a laugh escaped my mouth. Not a loud bellowing one, mind you, just a tiny giggle. It was the irony of the situation that I found comical. Perhaps that last little chuckle was the humor center of my brain finally fading from the weeks of emotional agony I had sustained. Going out not with a bang, but with a whimper – just a tiny giggle.

It started with a loud crash across the starboard side of their boat. The fishermen struggled to retain their footing when the powerful impact caused their vessel to rock onto its side, nearly capsizing it. Shouts and expletives streamed from the mouths of the startled sailors as I watched them desperately try to make sense of what had just occurred.

Another thunderous CLANG rang along the side of their ship and this time it tipped. The once silent ocean air was now filled with the sounds of chaos as the trawler smashed across the surface of the sea, flipping completely upside-down, and sending the men toppling overboard into the cold, murky water. I struggled to lift my head in order to peer over the side of my dinghy at the anarchy taking place around me.

The fishermen barely had a chance to breach and catch their breaths before it began pulling them back down into the abyss. Their panic quickly intensified as one by one, they started to realize their crewmates were disappearing into the deep, dark sea. You’ve never truly experienced pandemonium until you’ve heard a dozen grown men screaming for their lives in the middle of the ocean. The young man who had first greeted me from the ship’s bow thrashed and kicked through the water, urgently trying to make his way towards my lifeboat. With salvation mere inches away, he flailed his arms wildly, reaching and grasping with reckless abandon, attempting to grab on to the side. I watched the hope in those piercing blue eyes of his turn to hopelessness as a black, sludge covered tentacle wrapped itself around his ankle and yanked him back down under with one quick jerk.

It was the fishing boat’s turn now. Still submerged, the sea-beast easily crumpled the already twisted hunk of metal, before sinking it down to the watery graveyard at the bottom of the briny deep. There it would join countless other vessels that had shared a similar fate.

Without warning, the massive creature erupted from the surface of the sea. I wondered briefly if the salty taste of the water that splashed my face when the beast made its appearance stemmed the ocean itself or the blood of the men who had died in it. I shut my eyes, hoping not to catch a glimpse of its horrible features. The sound of water trickling around the leviathan’s body as it waded towards my lifeboat caused me to wince in fear. Though my eyes were clenched tight, I could still feel its awful presence as it closed in on me. I gagged and choked as the rancid smell of its hot breath forced its way into my nostrils and down my throat. With a thud, it dropped a mangled human limb across my lap – one of the fishermen’s arms to be precise.

It spoke only one word. The same word it had said to me many times before and the same word it would repeat many times after.

“Eat.”

And with that it slithered back into the sea, leaving me to myself again. I opened my eyes and stared down at the mutilated piece of flesh lying across my sunburnt thighs. For a moment I was tempted to throw it back overboard, but thought the better of it, fearing retaliation from the creature for not listening to its commands. For whatever reason, it seemed to want me alive, but I wasn’t about to test its patience. I sunk my teeth into the skin and tore a chunk of muscle from the bone. It had been a week since I had last eaten. The hunger pains in my stomach helped to subdue the horrors in my mind and made the atrocity of cannibalism slightly easier.

I let out a sigh and looked back up to the starry night. I was alone again, and once more only silence reigned over the ocean’s cool air.

Credit To – Vincent VenaCava

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Lucky

January 19, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I was never a superstitious person: the idea of unknown forces affecting my life never was one that appealed to me. Personally, I thought the idea to be utterly ridiculous, and I scoffed at any fool who believed otherwise. Avoiding black cats, never crossing someone on the stairs, not stepping on cracks in pavements lest the earth should be knocked off its axis, what is this mysterious force that people seem to attribute to such a large part of their lives? All of this seemed like nonsense to me.

This is why, on the 23rd of November, when one particularly humorous subordinate of mine decided to buy a rabbits foot for me as a gift, I burst out laughing. I thought I was laughing with her: I had always been clear in my beliefs about the supernatural, so surely such a gift could only be meant in jest, until I saw the solemn look of sincerity on her face. I stifled my guffaws into a quiet chuckle and attempted an earnest “Thank you”. She continued to hold a sombre expression, regarding me with oddly concerned eyes, as she spoke to me in a quiet whispering voice that was so ludicrously dramatic I nearly burst out laughing again:

“You shouldn’t be so sure of what you know.”

Unsure of how to respond to this supposed epiphany without laughing, I thanked her again. She stared at me in silence a moment longer before turning away and leaving quickly. At first I thought her swift departure to be another show of amateur dramatics, then I realised that it was past five, and swiftly departed myself soon after attaching the rabbit foot to my key ring. I did this not because I liked it, but rather ironically. Also, she was a quiet, simple woman and seeing her gift on my key ring may help her feel that I was grateful even though, in truth, I wasn’t: neither for the rabbit’s foot or for the one line of wisdom that she had probably attained from some toilet-cubicle door on her various journeys of enlightenment. She was only a secretary after all; I doubt she even read anything unless it had colourful pictures and bold headlines.

The drive home left me feeling rather put out. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened, just the usual five o’ clock rush hour traffic. But about half way home I started to get the feeling that something was behind me, I found myself checking the back seat of my car every few minutes, as if someone would be sitting there. Of course there was no one. My Mercedes has central locking, you see, I was perfectly safe. However I could not disregard the feeling that I was being watched, and I even felt a prickle rise on the nape of my neck at one point. I told myself that this was just nerves being stimulated by some stray hormone, a chemical mix up, undoubtedly the remnants of an old evolutionary instinct to watch one’s back for approaching predators, but this did nothing to change my actions as I persisted in checking the back seat. I even felt some relief in stepping onto my driveway when I arrived home despite knowing that beside myself there was no one in the car, and I was greatly irritated to find that I was gripping the rabbit’s foot, now damp with sweat.

It’s safe to say I felt somewhat drained after the unnecessarily strenuous drive and decided that a large supper was in order. As I cooked I began to feel more like myself, and deplored my earlier actions, not least because I had a strain in my neck as a reminder of my own stupidity.

That was when the kitchen door creaked open.

I was stood over my cooker oven, facing away from the door to my cloak room – that is, the room by the front door for clothes and shoes, in case you don’t have one yourself, I know that some people don’t – so when I heard the creak I automatically assumed that it was this door that had opened. It’s heavy oak, you see, with an antique handle mechanism that will push the door open if not closed correctly. I enter the house through this door so I assumed I must not have closed it properly. But this was not the door that had opened. It was the kitchen door to my left, the one that leads into the main hallway. This door is somewhat more modern, and had been closed since I left the house. Only now it was opening. Slowly.

I found myself frozen on the spot, spatula in hand, fillet steak spitting. The sound of the cooking oil hissing had been very loud until now, now it seemed to fade as all I heard was the steady creak of the door opening so slowly I could hardly see it moving. I stood gawping, hardly breathing; until the sound of the door creaking seemed to be so loud it was deafening me. I moved around the corner of the kitchen units and raised the spatula like a disturbed chef, gripping the handle tightly as I prepared to swing at-

There was nothing there. Of course there was nothing there. The house was empty, I know because I had locked the front door and there was no sign of any forced entry. I must have left the door slightly ajar and a change in air pressure, presumably a sign of incoming adverse weather, had opened it. I laughed to myself again: how that secretary had affected me! I made a mental note to myself to mention it when I returned to work on Monday, I’m sure she would be delighted to know that her little joke had worked so superbly.

After my supper, the fillet steak significantly burned due to my latency with the opening door (oh how she would laugh) I had a shower and decided to settle in and read a book. The shower was okay. Other than the odd neck-prickle and imaginings of things waiting behind the steamy shower screen it was uneventful. I did decide to take my key ring with me, the one with the kingly gift of a white rabbit’s foot attached to it, only to ensure that if there actually was an intruder they would be unable to steal my new Mercedes. Less than a year old, you see, quite desirable.

Oh. There was a moment where the screen popped open whilst I showered: I suppose I knocked it, and at the bottom of the glass I thought I saw a paw print in the steam, but this was only a fleeting fancy: I must have rubbed one of my toes against the door in an odd fashion as I moved, thus creating the said “paw print”, even the long “claw” marks surrounding it. As I dried myself in the shower room I went so far as to imagine that I could see wiry brown animal hairs on the floor by the screen, even a few in the shower drain, but getting old is a bizarre process: one doesn’t just turn grey, one’s natural hair colour, blonde for myself, can change altogether. Even the way that the hair grows can alter. This is demonstrated often by young children whose hair will often transform as they grow up, from curly and ginger to straight brown in just a matter of years. So you see, these wiry brown hairs must have been my own. How incredibly interesting, the way the mind can draw such fantastical connections, from toe marks to ageing hair.

I retired to the living room to read: nothing particularly enthralling, I can’t even remember the name of the author it was so bland, but it was a nice distraction. Well, I write distraction, there was nothing to actually distract from, but I’m sure you understand my meaning. I was rather tired of all these day dreams, these imagined occurrences. I once again chose to have my keys with me, the keys and the rabbit’s foot, just in case I should realise that I had left something in the car. Not that I would be so absent minded as to do something like that: this was simply a precaution.

Now. I mentioned before that the book was bland, I confess this to be a gross understatement on my behalf: it was downright boring, mind-numbing, even. It must have been. Normally I find myself completely engrossed when I read, utterly disconnected from the physical word and lost in the thoughts of Shakespeare or some great and complex philosophy. However, this time I found I could hardly concentrate as my mind continued to conjure diversions. The day had waned to night, and I could hear strange noises coming from the hallway, a sharp tapping sound, like a nail on glass. The front door leads straight into the hallway, I hardly use it as it is further to walk from my driveway and there is no cloak room, it’s another heavy wooden door with two vertical rectangular windows built into the top half, and now something was tapping one of them. At first I ignored the sound, assuming it to be a fly or moth trying to find a way to the light of my home. But then the tapping moved to the window behind me. My long settee rests parallel to the rear external wall of my living room, and along the length of this wall there is a window and two large expensive curtains. This is where I heard the tapping move to, directly behind my head. Again I found myself unable to move. I tried to fight off this clammy paralysis: “It’s just a fly. Some insect trying to get to the light” I repeated to myself over and over again as I listened to the sharp steady tapping. It was a slow, steady sound. Deliberate. “Or maybe it’s just an animal trying to get to the heat. Maybe it’s hungry”.

Suddenly the tapping stopped. I breathed a sigh of relief, released the grip I had on my novel, and relaxed back into the settee, “Only a fly after all. Probably just trying to-“

A heavy thud in the hallway, right outside the living room door.

This time I was able to move, but I didn’t rush: I felt almost dream like. I stood and smoothly crossed the living room, feeling light and half-there, as if part of me was missing. I stood by the door for a few moments, then slowly turned the handle and opened it.

There, in the middle of the hallway, a few feet in front of the front door, lay the body of a rabbit. Its front right paw was missing, severed, and blood seeped from its stump and open mouth, caking its grey fur in thick, clotted lumps. It lay on its side, its feet towards me and its head pointing in the direction of the door to my right. I stood staring, my mouth agape. It wasn’t dead, as I had first perceived: it was taking rapid shallow breaths, and with every breath it gurgled forth more crimson blood that ran from its mouth in a line along the wooden floor. I approached the rabbit slowly, and as I crouched down its eyes turned from the door to meet my own. They were wide and startled, bulging. It looked as if it might have myxomatosis, but the eyes weren’t swollen shut. Though the rabbit breathed in perfect silence, its eyes were screaming. And they were staring right at me with absolute terror. Then the rabbit turned its gaze to my hand, and I realised that I was holding the rabbit’s foot. I don’t remember picking it up, but there it was, in my clutched fist. As I tried to work out at what point I had decided to bring the foot with me, the rabbit gargled loudly, it back legs kicked furiously, and then it was still, it’s eyes glazed upwards, maintaining that look of horror even in death.

I sat on my haunches, still in shock, when a thought dawned on me: She had done this. She had planned this all along to punish me for ridiculing her beliefs. That stupid fucking secretary, that meddling bitch with nothing better to do with her time. She was stood in the doorway, looking in through the glass, laughing at me, probably with a few of her bitch friends brought along for the show. A deep red rage bloomed inside me as I turned full body to the door, jaw clenched, rabbit foot gripped firmly in my hand. I looked up slowly, preparing to see their ridiculous faces pressing in on me. And then I wet myself.

It wasn’t the secretary. She wasn’t stood there laughing, she wasn’t there with her friends, she wasn’t there at all.

I wish it was her. But it wasn’t.

Something else was there, stood in silhouette in the right hand pane of glass. I felt the warmth spread about my pelvis and legs as my mind tried to conceptualize what it was being shown. It was the black silhouette of a hare, a long, slender hare. I could see its ears going back from its head, could see the slim shape of its midriff. It was standing on its back legs, must have been, because its head was nearly at the top of the large doorway, over 6 foot, it towered over me. I could see no other details in the darkness.

As I watched, it slowly extended one of its front paws into the glow of the hallway light so that I could see its wiry brown fur, its bent, limp wrist, and one long, black claw, raised like an old man’s pointed finger. I had never heard of a hare with claws like that. I stood, struggling to keep my feet, as it reached forward and slowly tapped the glass. It tapped three times, and then the claw moved downwards slightly, as if indicating something. I followed the direction of its movement and saw that it was pointing to my right hand: the rabbit’s foot.

Without thinking, I approached the door. I felt unable to stop myself from stepping forward, despite the icy fear that gripped me. I stopped just in front of the creature; it stood above me like a totem, unmoving. I could feel its shadowed eyes regarding me as I lifted the letter box and pushed through the rabbit’s foot, keys and all. For a moment nothing happened, then I saw the claw disappear into the darkness, the silhouette dropped back, lowered, and was gone.

I remained in the doorway for a while, in shock, before retreating back to the kitchen. I threw my clothes into the sink and splashed my face with cold water to wake myself up, so as to make sense of the situation. Leaning over the taps, shaking, I replayed the night’s events in my mind, trying to comprehend what had happened. Should I call the police? Would they believe me?

I stayed that way for a long while, my mind reeling, feeling like I was going to pass out. None of it seemed real. It couldn’t be. How was I going to… there’s no possible way that something like that could…

Then I snapped my fingers, looked up at my reflection in the kitchen window, and smiled. Of course! She had drugged me somehow, with a substance slow to be absorbed, something that the rabbit’s foot had been soaked in. Maybe it was an inhalant, secreted by that absurd gift. Yes! That was it! She must know some chemistry, that sly imbecile, or maybe she just likes to get high on weekends and thought it would be funny to see what the boss does when he’s “tripping”. Oh very droll, my dear, we shall see who’s laughing when you’re without a job next week. I bet when I go back into that hallway there will be nothing there. Not even a mark.

So I ran back to the hallway, and yes, it was empty. No dead rabbit. Nothing but me, naked and elated. Now that I had created some distance between myself and that blasted foot I could think straight again. I turned for the kitchen with a smile; I deserved a good stiff drink after all this.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

I stopped dead, frozen in fear only for the briefest of moments as the drugs tried to take hold again before my logical mind started up again and reminded me that all these noises and sights were just part of some sort of hallucination. I turned and there it was again, the Hare, silhouetted and imposing. Only now it was pressing against the glass with a paw that was clawed and five fingered, almost like a human hand, but much longer. In its slim lengthy palm sat the small rabbit foot, pressed against the glass, but now it was covered in blood, thin red streams dripped down the glass. Then the paw pulled back, dropped the small white foot, and with one extended claw, tapped on the glass three times.

“I know you’re not there” I said with a smile that felt more like a grimace “You aren’t really tapping on my glass. You aren’t anywhere but in my mind. And you won’t be there for long, just until this hallucinogen wears off.”

The beast paused, it was as if I had stumped my own hallucination. Then it tapped again, and made the same downward gesture as before. I looked down at my right hand, feeling my blood run cold, first in my arm, then all over.

“You’re not real” I whispered “You’re not real and I gave you the rabbit’s foot. I don’t have it”

Three more taps, this time simultaneously from the living room and kitchen windows as well. The hare turned its head to the left, as if looking for the source of the new sounds. I felt the room began to whirl again as I tried to maintain my grip on reality. What had she given me? Then the Hare tapped again, with urgency, it pointed to my hand, and was gone.

So. That was my night. Quite eventful, I’m sure you’ll agree. There are some powerful drugs out there, you see. It’s been a few hours since I was stood in the hallway. I decided that the living room was best. There haven’t been any dead rabbits in here and the settee is comfortable. Comfort can help the brain think by reducing unnecessary stimulus, did you know that?

I think they like human hands. I couldn’t see their faces but I know that they have teeth; I could hear the bones of my fingers snapping and crunching like dry twigs. I thought that would make them happy, but they came back, and now they just point at the middle of me. It’s quite tedious, actually.

I have been thinking about what the secretary said to me when she set this funny little joke in motion, and I think I know what she was actually trying to tell me. Although I believe her limited IQ may have prevented her from completing her own thought, I may have succeeded in deciphering what she meant. I shall try to tell you, be patient with me though, it’s difficult to type with one hand:

You shouldn’t be so comfortable in what you know. The things that you know can’t hurt you. It’s those things that you don’t know that you should beware of. Knowledge is just a lantern in the dark. You can feed the flame, increase the light, but no matter how bright your lantern grows, no matter how safe you feel, there is always darkness beyond. And in this darkness there lurk beings that you cannot comprehend, ancient and malevolent. So tread with caution, as you light your lantern in the dark, for these beings have eyes. And they are watching.

Well, if you believe that sort of thing.

Credit To – Jimmy V

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