Don’t You Just Hate Car Trouble

January 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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All too often, my nights would end with a freezing walk to the nearest payphone to reach out to a friend for some help. My car was a piece of shit. To be brief and spare you the mechanical jargon, it had a nasty habit of dying on me. Being a native to mountainous regions of Montana, this was a death sentence come winter. The snowy roads that cut through the American wilderness had long distances between cities. You could drive for miles and miles without ever seeing a sign of another human being. If you were unfortunate enough to experience some car trouble along the way, you’d have quite the long, and potentially treacherous walk before you reached any civilized portion of the landscape.

Luckily for me, I was located in Baker, a small town with a great community, and everything you’d need to get by: a gas station, schools, and even a few stores, so I didn’t need to drive around much anyways. Baker is a quaint little place where people tired of the mundane city life dream of vacationing. The beauty of the rural Montana landscape could fill a thousand art galleries. Great as this town is, it’s just great as a vacation destination. Being such a simple place, Baker doesn’t offer its residents much. For me, growing up in a small rural town wasn’t all that I could have ever hoped for. I wanted to see towering skyscrapers, colossus stadiums, and experience the spectacular flashy lifestyle of big cities like Los Angeles and New York.

I was stuck in Baker though. I was 22, and working in an oil field. I didn’t have some promising job that would send me all over world, or even out of the state for that matter. College was a no-go since my parents were of the working class, and the nearest college was hundreds of miles away from Baker. Things seemed bleak for me, until just a few weeks ago when an old childhood friend of mine, Dave had reached out to me. Somehow, Dave had made it out of Baker, put himself through school, and through some kind of business venture, had done quite well for himself. Now financially established, he was going to open a small diner in the much larger city of Billings, Montana. I couldn’t believe it. I can still vividly remember our childish conversations around the Nintendo 64, about the experiences we were going to have once we got out of Baker. At the time, our naïve promises held no real weight, but Dave stuck true to his dream, and he made it happen. Beyond that, after all of this time, Dave hadn’t forgotten about me.

The diner was set to open in less than a week, so Dave invited me to travel to Billings as soon as possible. Although it was a crappy fry cooking job at an even cheaper wage than I was getting paid at my current job, the prospect of traveling to a big city to work with an old friend was not a proposal I was about to wait on. After all, Billings had colleges, and so much more people to meet. The probability of finding an actual career or even finding someone to start a relationship with was an actual possibility now. I understand how wishful my thinking was to anyone who hadn’t come from a similar background, but coming from a place where opportunities like this were far and few, this was the break I had been dreaming of.

Since Billings was a little over 220 miles away, I thought it would be a good idea to ask a local friend to drive me there, instead of risking it with my own beat down car. He agreed, although a little bitter out of envy that I too had made it out of Baker. Later on that night, my ride Jacob, some family and friends, and myself had a little get together; a “going away party” of sorts. As the party died down, Jacob and I sat together on my front porch. He confessed to me that he didn’t want me to go. Even though we didn’t hang out much anymore, I understood. Good friends were hard to come by in a little town like Baker, and I would have been salty about it too if things had been the other way around.
The next morning, I knew that the next conversation between Jacob and I would be pretty awkward on account of the whole sappy, alcohol induced, “I’m gonna miss you.” talks we exchanged with each other. Regardless of all that, my anticipation for new life experiences overshadowed my apprehension, and I gave Jacob a call around 4pm. I expected Jacob to be just getting off of work, but to my surprise, he was still seemingly drunk from last night. He started to berate me, and put me down. “You’ll be back you fuckin’ loser. You’ll come back and I won’t be here for you.” I slammed the phone back on the receiver, and went to my room. I was so angry at my friend’s selfishness that I rounded up my things and threw them into my car. I didn’t care if my clunker could made it or not, I was at least going to try to get out of here. With all of my belongings packed up and ready to go, I started my car and began my 220 mile trek to Billings, Montana at around 5:30p.m. Since the sun sets about an hour earlier than that in the winter, it looked like I was going to make this drive in the dark. The thick snow that blanketed the surrounding landscape only further contributed to the riskiness of the situation.

After about 20 minutes of driving in my calculated, angry state, I settled down and recalled that this was a turning point in my life, and as such should be welcomed with a pleasant, peaceful journey. I put my anger behind me, reclined my seat a bit, and put on some soft music. Suddenly, the trip became a therapeutic godsend. I wasn’t even thinking of the new, exciting opportunities that awaited me in Billings, I just sat down, shut up, and appreciated the tranquility of it all. Before I knew it, I had arrived in Forsyth, Montana to fuel up and get quick bite to eat. I left home in such a hurry that I hadn’t gotten the chance to eat something before I headed out. Satisfied from a nice hot meal, I hit the road to tackle the remaining 100 miles or so left on my trip. Conditions were decent, and my car was performing much better than I ever could have hoped for. After driving uphill for quite some time though, that was no longer the case.

The weakened sound of my waning engine snapped me out of my euphoric state and brought about the gravity of the whole situation. Instantly, I processed all of the factors. The snow, lack of an emergency cell phone, and the immense emptiness of my surrounding area. My mind raced as I racked through my thoughts to remember the last time I had even seen another car: Not since Forsyth about 40 miles back. Not a single car or person since then. My stomach dropped, revealing the surprisingly deep void in my gut. Immediately it had all come to me, this wasn’t some insincere teenaged statement you make to your parents by running away, just to come home a pathetic 20 minutes later. This was a full scale, absolute, life threating situation. There was a very real potential that I could die out here. My terror escalated as I counted all of the possibilities, to the point where I found myself again afraid of childhood fears like the dark, and of monsters.

A mere 8 miles after my epiphany, my car let out a thud, and then sputtered to a slow winding death. There me and my car sat, in the middle of the road in a blackened forest. The gently rhythmic pitter patter of the snow pellets appeased me into a hypnotic state of shock for a minute, maybe more. Gradually, the creeping cold that began to envelop me awoke me from my episode of comatose. Pellet by pellet, it came back again: reality. The danger. The fear. After some time had passed, I realized that I didn’t have time to be frozen by fear anymore. The time had come to establish goals, and act on them. My first goal was to clear my car off of the road. The visibility was quite terrible by this point, the last thing I wanted was for some innocent traveler to smash into my obstacle of a car, and render the both of us helpless out here. I removed my seat belt, grabbed my jacket, and hopped out of the car.

Upon examination of the scene, I saw I was on a slight incline, so negotiating this maneuver in the snowy blitz would prove to be quite difficult. I placed my car in neutral and began to slowly guide the car towards the side of the road. The weight of the vehicle and slipperiness of the sleet-laden road caused me to begin to lose my footing. Now running backwards at nearly full speed, I stumbled and lost my shaky grip of the car. I fell to the ground on my back, and quickly sat up to turn and witness what would become of my vehicle. In the darkness, all I could see was the reflection of the moonlight on my car’s glossy white exterior. The car bulldozed on and continued to accelerate down the slope until finally being swallowed whole by the darkness of night. I heard it continue to wind down the hill until the violent sound of a distant impact haunted my ears. I got up and ran over to the grizzly site. With the aid of my flashlight, I found that my vehicle had ended its ride at the trunk of a large tree.

In my survivalist state, I did my best not to dwell too much on the carnage that I had just witnessed. My next move was to gather my most essential supplies from the vehicle, and establish a safe way to wait for a passerby. I must have known in the back of my mind that my car wouldn’t make it because I had brought tons of water, hand warmers, flashlights, a magnesium fire starter, rope, you name it. I tried to pop open the trunk, but the wreckage had destroyed it, so I moved inside the car to gain access via the backseat. I folded down the backseat and reached my arm through the opening and retrieved my backpack of survival gear. Amidst this terrifying trial I was facing, I managed somehow to appreciate the surprisingly decent job I had done in preparation. Everything was neatly contained, and readily accessible from this one bag.

Since I was alone, and with relatively few supplies, I knew that staying inside the car was a bad move. The snowfall was getting worse, and I knew that nobody would ever find me if my car got completely engulfed by the snow. My best course of action was to wait outside my car and try to stay warm until I could flag someone down. And that’s exactly what I did. For over 2 hours I sat in the blistering cold and waited for any sign of another person. Not a single living creature passed me by. This land was completely vacant. I was losing hope, I couldn’t sit here and wait for much longer. I can’t say that I was surprised, I knew as soon as my car had died that I had made a fatal mistake, and that this was going be a fight for my life. But I have got to say, it’s a frightening thing to see your car begin to vanish right in front of you little by little. If I had foolishly chosen to stay in my car for this long, there’s a chance that I never would have made it out of that vehicle alive.

I was done sitting. It was time to move on, if nobody was going to find me, then I was going to find them. I decided to head back toward Forsyth, because I thought that I had seen a small rest stop just about 6 miles up the road. Making that kind of a hike for me would have been difficult in the best of conditions, and given the current circumstances this was destined for failure, but it was much better than just sitting there and waiting around to die.

The first mile was easy. I was in full on survival mode, I couldn’t be bothered by any other thoughts, I was only thinking about what I needed to do next. I needed to trudge on, and find some way of contacting a loved one to come to my dire need of rescue. But my transition from survival mode back to normal scared and worried mode was coming through in waves. Terrified for a brief moment or two, then the horror would be cast out by my unconscious in order to make a productive effort at survival.

Nearing the second mile, I found myself again at the “terrified” end of the cycle. The adrenaline had departed far sooner than I was comfortable with. The expansive darkness that I found myself in was so unlike its daytime counterpart that it seemed to be an entirely different world. As a result, I found myself like a baby, scared of the unknown qualities of an unfamiliar new world. In the daytime world, I knew that monsters, ghosts, and all things supernatural did not exist, but under the veil of snow, and shrouded by the intense absence of light, I just didn’t know that with certainty anymore.

Walking down the absent street, I swayed my flashlight from left to right. First checking the foreground, then pushing my sight as far back into the brush as my flashlight would allow. From left to right I repeated this process for three and a half miles, with nothing to occupy my thoughts but stories of ghosts, zombies, killers, and other staples of the horror genre. Each time I brought my flashlight to the opposite side, I flinched in fear of what my eyes might meet. After about three and half miles down the road, I had seen nothing, until finally my eyes laid upon an amazing scene. About 300 yards off the side of the road sat a small, dimly lit cabin. The billowing cloud of smoke that rose above the house’s chimney was such a sight for sore eyes that I could almost feel the warmth from this far away. In utter excitement that my trip could potentially end over two miles sooner than I had projected, I made a mad dash for the cabin.

As I drew nearer to the small structure, details that were unseen from afar began to come increasingly visible. The house was in a pretty advanced state of disrepair. The home was slouching to one side, and its wood was heavily distressed. I was beginning to fear that house was abandoned, but then I remembered that the house was lit, someone had to of been inside. This realization frightened me even more, because whomever or whatever was dwelling in the house was obviously not the owner. No homeowner could allow their house to become so crippled with neglect.

I was just scaring myself, I needed to pull it together. My next hope at finding someone was over two miles up the road, and I didn’t know how long I handle the freezing weather. I pushed my fear and doubts deep down inside me, and mustered up the courage to knock on the door. Knock! Knock! Kno- I shuttered in pain as a sliver of the decrepit wood splintered into my fist. I shut my eyes tight as I attempted to pull the fragment from my hand. After a few seconds of gnawing, I opened my eyes and realized that the door was creaked open. I was sure that nobody had answered the door, surely they would have said something. Seeing the decaying state of the home, I realized that I may had accidentally broken their door. Balling up my fist in my sweater for protection, I proceeded to knock on the much sturdier door frame this time, and got to work conjuring up an apology for damaging the door. Much to my surprise, nobody came. Seconds turned to minutes, knocking turned to pounding, and calling became pleading. I walked around outside the home investigating to see if there were any other signs that someone was there. But still, nobody responded to me. The house was empty.

Within 30 minutes of arriving on the property, I was beginning to contemplate just walking in. If someone were to stumble upon my home in similar circumstances, and them getting inside could have meant the difference between life and death, then I would understand, I would have to. Besides, “Just look at this shitty home” I said to myself, “the person staying here probably doesn’t even belong here. What’s the difference if I squat here too? At least long enough to get myself warm, so that I can make the long trip to the rest stop.” I continued to ration with myself. 5 minutes later, I just couldn’t resist anymore.

After announcing, “I’m going to have to come inside, it’s an emergency!” I carefully pushed open the creaky door and stepped in. Immediately, a wall of warmth embraced me, and not long after, so did the smell. This place certainly was abandoned. It smelled like the people who lived here before had gone without clearing the fridge, or taking their pets with them. My face contorted in disgust, and I scrunched my nose in an effort to ward off the putrid stench. I swung my head from side to side, searching for the source of the grotesque odor. My slow, methodical footsteps came to a standstill when I realized the horrifying environment that I had found myself in. The shack in which I was residing was obviously occupied by some kind of dark summoner. Sacred jewels and pendants were abundant amongst the coffee table. Mysterious patterns of blood droplets filled pages scattered throughout the room. At the farthest wall opposite the front door stood a large shrine with an indecipherable character at its peak. Candles, pages, and other offerings accompanied the perplexing altar. Taking in the scenery, I tried my best not to theorize where the aroma might have been coming from; I really didn’t want to know. My knowledge of the occult, witches, and all things supernatural was limited to what I had seen in horror films, and those silly, late night History Channel specials, but I was absolutely certain that whatever had been going on in this house was not something that I wanted any kind of involvement with. Standing in the middle of the small room, I peered around for a phone. Along with the horrifying scene of bloody manuscripts and other cult paraphernalia, I observed that the house was only lit by the fireplace and candles. I concluded that it would be foolish to continue my search, as the house most likely did not have running electricity. I didn’t complain, I was just glad that I had yet another excuse to get the hell out of there. By this time, I had more than enough justification to turn around and freeze my ass off in even the worst of blizzards.

Suddenly, I heard a loud slam. I jumped. My heart pounded faster than I knew it capable of, and I whipped my head around to see what had caused the noise. The rhythmic crunch of feet on the snow scurrying away from the door filled my ears. I tensed up and attempted to process what was going on. Immediately, I realized that I didn’t need to know what was going on, I just needed to run. I threw my body around, and sprinted for the exit. A sensational feeling of satisfaction overwhelmed me as my shoulder reduced the feeble door to pieces. Keeping all of my momentum, my body flew out of the dreadful dwelling. In an instant that feeling was replaced by pain and terror as a hand emerged from the home and clutched a vicious hold on my head. The sharp, brittle nails buried themselves deep inside my scalp and extracted a handful of hair and tissue. The creature’s tearing jerk on my head pulled me back and caused me to lose all forward momentum. I fell to my back, striking the porch staircase with such force that all wind was sucked from my body in an instant. Panicked, I shot up to my feet, turned around and threw a punch with all of the vitality I had left in me. In the small window of time before my strike reached its target, my eyes caught a glimpse of the horrifying beast. Its body type was similar to a tall woman, about equal to my height, 6’1”. Its hair was matted and thrashed about, partially obscuring its face. The creature’s arms were unproportionally long for its already tall body. Its hands too, were long and thin, and dripped with blood from the havoc it had just wreaked on my scalp. The being did not wear clothing, its naked breast, and waist shape supported my inference that this monster actually used to be an ordinary woman. Although I only saw the abomination for a mere fraction of a second, my ability to recount its details is a testament to just how shocking its appearance was. Finally, my fist clashed with the creature’s face, and threw the monster to the floor. The unknown nature of this mysterious beast’s abilities convinced me that I shouldn’t stick around to find out. So immediately after impact, I turned around, and ran back to the road that I had walked in on.

I ran with such vigor, and determination that I almost didn’t recognize myself. Even in dire circumstances of life and death, I don’t think anyone else has ever dug down as deep as I had that night. I maintained a full sprint for the remaining two and a half miles until arriving at my destination, a small rest area with a gas station and a diner.

Upon arrival, both places were closed, as it was probably around 1am by now, but I was able to place a call to my parents back home at a payphone. They answered with a swift, “Hello?” after just a single ring. They were worried that I hadn’t called them by now, and felt that something had gone wrong. After my intentionally brief explanation that my car had broken down and that I was stranded, they told me that they were on their way. “Drive safe mom, love you.” I murmured before hanging up the phone. It was so hard to withhold my full experience from my mom, but I decided not to tell her. Not out of fear that she would think I was crazy; I really didn’t care what anybody believed, but because I didn’t want her to make a dangerous rush on the way over. The last thing I needed was for her to be so worried that she drove recklessly and got in an accident. I made it this far to reach my rescue, and I wasn’t going to let anything impede on me getting home safely this time.

For an hour and a half, I sat completely still at the bench next to the payphone. I wasn’t bothered. I wasn’t freezing. I wasn’t exhausted. And I wasn’t scared. My mother pulled the car over nearby, and my father retreated from the vehicle and ran up to me. “What the hell are you doing sit right out in the snow? You’re gonna…” he exclaimed, my strong embrace interrupted his more than appropriate statement. I must have held him for too long, and too hard, because normally, he would have pulled away within a few seconds. But he didn’t. My mom exited the car, and I shared a passionate hug with her as well. Wiping my tears, I motioned them into the vehicle, and we pulled away from the rest stop.

The car ride home must have been incredibly difficult for my parents. The scenes that I painted, and the horror that I described was probably unlike anything they had ever heard before. I told them first about the car, then I told them about my walk to the shack, and finally, I told them about my experience with the witch-like creature. They must have thought I was crazy until I showed them the horrible mess that my head was. My mom nearly slammed on the brakes, and exclaimed that we needed to get to a hospital. I pleaded with her to keep going, I wanted to get far away from this place before we stopped and did anything. To my mom’s credit, she listened; we drove for an hour before I was comfortable with looking for a hospital.

At the hospital, they explained the dire situation I was in. I was suffering from blood loss, hypothermia, and frostbite on the skin where the monster had attacked me. And now I’d like to retract a statement that I previously had made, I actually did care what the doctors believed, so I decided not to tell them my story about the creature that had attacked me. These people actually had the power to institutionalize if they thought I was insane, so I told them that I had gotten attacked by a mountain lion. Somehow, I convinced my parents to give the same story if the doctors asked.

Upon awaking after hours of treatment, a nurse informed me that a fragmented nail of the, “mountain lion” that had attacked me had been removed during reconstructive surgery. My jaw dropped. The possibility that I could have some real life proof of whatever that thing was, was staggering.

“Can I keep it, please?” I shouted.

The nurse gave a puzzled look and said, “I’ll check with the doctor, but I can’t see why not.”

Minutes later, she returned with the foreign material in a clear canister, and handed it to me.

“You sure that’s from a mountain lion? I have seen a few mountain lion nails in my days, but none of them ever looked like that.” said the nurse.

“No, I guess I must have been wrong, it was so dark out there, you know.” I replied.

“Whatever that thing was, you’re lucky to be alive.” she said.

“That’s one thing I can say for sure…” I said under my breath.

Back at home a few days later, the pain was subsiding, and I had a lot of questions that needed to be answered. I didn’t really know where to start, though. Even in a big city I’d imagine it’s quite difficult to find good information on this kind of thing. Not having much to go on, I set out for Susan’s house. Susan was the town nutcase, at least, that’s what her reputation was. My mother always told me and my friends to stay away from her when we were kids. I never thought that all these years later, she would be the person I needed to see the most.

I arrived at her front porch, and hesitated to knock. The last time I knocked on an unfamiliar door it ended with a monster tearing away at my scalp. However, I recalled that if I didn’t get in contact with this woman, I might never find out more about what I had encountered, or if I was in future danger. Like I said, my lack of knowledge on the vile creature left me unsure of its true ability. If I was ever going to have a chance at peace of mind, then I needed to talk with Susan.

I quivered, and proceeded to knock on the door. Knock! Knock! Knock! A few moments passed, and then I heard the sound of the door unlocking. An old woman creaked the door open some, and peered out through the opening.

“Yeah?” said the old woman.

“Um, are you Susan?” I replied.

“Yeah, why? Who are you?” responded Susan.

“Susan, you don’t know me, but I’ve been living in Baker a long time, and recently I had a very strange experience that I think you might want to hear.”

She didn’t say anything back. Fearing that she would shut me out, I pleaded with her.

“Susan please, I hate to waste your time, but I have some questions to ask, I’m afraid for my life. You are the only person I could come to.”
With that the old woman shut her door and walked away. I was not about to give up though. I extended my arm, ready to knock on the door again. Just as I lifted my arm, I could hear footsteps again growing closer to the door. This time, Susan unlatched the door and welcomed me in. As soon as I entered her home, she made a command to stop with a motion of her hand, and I heeded her direction. From a nearby shelf, she produced a thin incense stick, and a small bottle that appeared to be some kind of potion. She handed me the container.

“Do not sip. It is bitter.” said Susan as she motioned me to drink.

I halfway thought she was kidding, but I was so desperate for answers that I didn’t mind the humiliation, I took the shot of liquid in my hand and swallowed it. The taste made me cringe. Susan then proceeded to take her stick of incense and blow in wisps at my head, heart, and each of my hands and shoulders.

“This is for my protection, not yours.” she explained.

I gave a nod in respect, and allowed her to continue on with various ritualistic gestures. When she had completed, she invited me to sit at the couch across from her.

“Tell me, what have you experienced?” asked Susan.

“On a trip to Billings, my car broke down and I was stranded in the woods a few nights ago.” I explained, “In an effort to find aid, I stumbled upon a peculiar shack that had ritualistic items like bloodstained scrolls, pendants, and a candlelit shrine. Upon realizing that I was in danger, I tried to leave, but a woman with long arms and sharp nails attacked me. I was able to escape, but I fear that this is not over. I am afraid she will come back and haunt me, or even worse.”

“How long ago was the attack?” Susan replied

“About three days ago.” I answered

“So you have been experiencing hallucinations, and other paranormal phenomena then?”

“No, I haven’t, but the fear that I am not out of danger keeps me awake at night.”

“Young man, you had an encounter with the Amwisak.”

“What is that?”

“The Amwisak are a group of dark summoners. They were once members of the Native American Chippewa tribe here in Montana, long ago. When a great snowstorm fell upon this region over 200 years ago, many children and infants within the tribe did not make it. Angered and desperate, a small group of tribeswomen prayed to the dark gods to revive the young ones who were lost. Their results were potent, and the children were miraculously revived. When the rest of the Chippewa tribe discovered the truth about how they were saved, they killed the children, and cast out the band of dark women. Now isolated from their former tribe, the women honed their craft and expanded their mystical capabilities. They used their powers to transform themselves into fearsome creatures that haunt, curse, and even kill. You have experienced firsthand how wicked they can be. Young one, though it may appear that my knowledge is omnipotent, do not be fooled, for I am puzzled.”

“You are?” I questioned. “Why?”

“People who are attacked by the Amwisak rarely live to tell about it, and above that, those who survive suffer curses and haunting dreams for the rest of their lives. But you tell me that you do not encounter the same hardships. How can this be?”

I racked my mind for reasons why I wasn’t having such challenges. I almost wanted to give myself the credit, as it was my determination and strength that helped to ward off the foe, and get back to safety. I quickly checked my ego, and rejected this idea. I couldn’t possibly be stronger than a group of women who transformed themselves seemingly through magic.

“Tell me.” she continued, “Did you take something from the beast. A sacred necklace? A scroll?”

“Certainly not!” I replied hysterically. “As soon as I understood the danger of the place I was in, I tried to leave.”

But then I remembered that I had taken something from the creature. Even if not purposefully, I had in my possession one of its own talons.

“Wait…” I muttered as I reached into my coat pocket.

My hand touched the clear plastic container that encapsulated the monster’s nail given to me by the nurse at the hospital. I retrieved it from my pocket.

“What is it?” Susan inquired with wonder.

“They found this in my scalp during the surgery,” I said, “I think that this is its nail.”

She looked surprised. I began to open the container when suddenly Susan stumped my action with a quick swat of her hand.

“Stop!” she exclaimed. “You mustn’t handle it. There’s no telling what mysterious powers this fragment can hold. One thing that is clear though, is that you must keep this piece safe with you forever. This claw is what saved you from her. Without it, she is incomplete, and therefore powerless.”

Suddenly it was all coming to me, Susan was right, this nail is what saved me from her. It helped me to find the strength to deal a shocking blow to the creature. It helped me to run the long distance to the rest stop with incredible quickness and endurance. It aided in calming me on my wait at the payphone, when normally I should have been consumed by fear and pain. And it saved me from being cursed or haunted for the rest of my life like the others. All of this I explained to Susan.

“It’s apparent that even after being severed from its keeper,” said Susan. “This object still possesses supernatural powers. Although I cannot prohibit you from experimenting with its energy- for you have righteously earned it, allow me to provide you with some sage advice: Beware things in which we do not fully understand.”

I left Susan’s house with a new sense of power, and peace of mind. All of my questions were not answered though. What was the shelf life of the witch’s nail that I possessed? Would it fade away in a matter of weeks? Or would it last forever so long as I did not touch it, and use its powers as my own? Although I understood little about its mystical qualities, I felt a sense of confidence that I was going to be okay. The Amwisak were scattered all over Montana, that’s a fact that I now had to live with, but I was convinced that as long as I kept this fragment in my possession at all times, the Amwisak could not harm me.

While my experience at the shack in the middle of nowhere undoubtedly changed me, it did not leave me crippled, haunted, or living with intense paranoia for the rest of my days. It helped me to experience a sensation that I’ve never had before: absolute power, endurance, and will. In the moment, I experienced relative numbness, but looking back, I feel proud at what I had accomplished. Having conquered this most extreme of trials, I was ready to continue on with my plans to head to Billings to create a new life for myself, now unafraid of what challenges I might face.

Credit To – Frankie Navarro

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The Devil’s Perfume

January 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Growing up in the south, in a pretty religious family, folklore is always around. Being Mexican to boot, these stories were always a constant reminder to be a good child. My grandfather believed in this, wholeheartedly. He loved telling us that if we didn’t behave El Cucuy was coming to get us.

El Cucuy was the boogie man. Just like La Llorona was a woman who wept to lure children to the river to drown them as she had done to her own children. How were these age appropriate stories? My grandfather insisted that he saw La Lechusa – a witch turned into a large white owl – roaming in the backyard once.

I started to keep track of when he mentioned one of these names. If my cousins and I were too loud, El Cucuy was coming. If we ran around outside, Le Lechusa would take us away.

In my grandfather’s last few years of life, he never spoke of any of these ghastly creatures anymore. Albeit, we were older and less noisy around him. We would laugh as we’d recall him yelling at us, all the while my grandfather remained silent. Before his health started to decline, he would speak in hushed whispers about things… things that scared him.

What I remember most during his last year was that he was always afraid of the dark. He spent his nights pacing the house. He would call relatives at 3 – 4 am to see what they were doing. Like clockwork, he called my parents house.

3 am phone call. 4 am phone call.

One morning in the summer he didn’t call. He didn’t call because he said he smelled something. The story he told my grandma is one that is hard to believe…

He was walking the house, making his rounds. A slight shuffle in his house slippers over the tiled floor. Ssst ssst ssst ssst. He never really picked up his feet. Ssst ssst ssst ssst. He was moving from the kitchen dining area to the front living room. Sometimes when the street light is on, you can see the street from one side of his yard to the other. Cars lining the streets in front of houses where people were sleeping. All but one person.. or so he thought.
He heard something he wasn’t sure of. Was it talking or mumbling? Maybe it was humming? No one should be awake at this hour. My grandfather shuffled to the front door. That’s when he saw… Her.

A woman, dressed in dark clothing, walking down the middle of the street.

Ever curious, my grandfather opened the door. He stood behind the screen door in silence as the wind picked up and he smelled it.

In an instant, he smelled something foul. A wall of sulfur. And just like that, it was gone, leaving only a lingering smell of roses. He didn’t say anything, didn’t move. Then She turned to him.

An old woman, small in stature, with no real facial features he could recall. A darkness covering her face although she was within the beam of the street light. She was wearing a black veil, lacey, framing her oval shaped face. She looked right at him as she tried to get near. Her feet shuffling toward the edge of his driveway.

Ssst ssst ssst ssst.

Immobile with fear, my grandfather stood at the door, the smell of roses growing stronger as She approached. Her face beginning to compose features. Eyes, dark and set deep under her brow. Small mute mouth. Sunken cheeks that seemed to tug her face even more into an oval shape. Too elongated to be real.

As She approached the driveway, She stopped. The humming was back. Was she talking? Was she singing to him? My grandfather watched as She tried to step onto his property. She struggled. Something was preventing her from walking up the driveway.

Seemingly forced to remain on the street, She stopped humming. Her face was that black hole. The eyes… were they glowing? Was the jaw that far stretched down into a snarled howl shape?

The sulfur smell was back. She, this creature, was unable to cross over onto my grandfathers property. And with a screech, She moved back into the middle of the street

Ssst ssst ssst ssst.

This creature began its humming down the street, seeming to vanish in the darkness that went beyond where the light street could reach.

This went on, every early morning, for several weeks.

My grandfather never told a soul the first few nights. Who would believe him that he saw the Devil in the street at 3 am? The sulfur rose smell lingering in his nostrils so much that he began to overly use his nasal spray. He used these menthol inhalers, one every month. After his visitor’s appearance, he was using one a week until he was placed into ICU on his deathbed.

That holiday season, my aunt saw a woman, walking the streets at night when she went to the kitchen for water. She heard a song that she didn’t understand, with the smell of roses. When she approached the door, the woman stood at the driveway and sulfur stained the air. My aunt was too afraid to get any closer to the door and went back to her bedroom.

February of 2009, my grandfather laid with monitors hooked up to him. Delirious from pain medications and his body deteriorating, he began to say he could smell the Devil’s perfume. He was adamant of that rosy sulfur smell in the air. That She went roaming the streets, singing to people to take; sings to them to walk out of their homes. He said the creature would come out of the walls at the foot of his bed in ICU to visit.

This was the first time my aunt heard of someone else speaking of the woman walking the streets, smelling the roses and sulfur. This was the first time something this far-fetched was ever uttered aloud within the family. Everything was always some folklore story. But this? This happened to two different family members.

March of 2009, my grandfather passed away. I had to fly in thinking I wasn’t able to say goodbye, but he held on for me. When I heard the stories of this Devil in disguise, I shrugged it off with a smirk.

‘Oh right, like that *really* happened? Pfft!’

‘No, it’s for real, I saw it…’ My aunt loved to exaggerate but the look in her eyes made me skeptical.

That night, I dreamt of the story, as if I was there. I could smell the roses, the sulfur. I saw this small, frail woman walking the street under the street light. When she turned to me in my dream, her face was a black void.

At my grandfather’s funeral, the priest spoke of life and how in death we’re reunited with our loved ones and are at peace. I couldn’t shake that feeling of my dream. At the cemetery, by a crooked mesquite tree off in the distance, there was a woman. Small in stature, skinny….

Where were her feet?

Was she looking at me…. How? I couldn’t see her face…. It was broad daylight and I couldn’t see her face.

I smelled roses.

The wind whipped up and it was warm… and briefly, I smelled it. I smelled the sulfur. There was nothing around but empty fields. Where was this sulfur smell coming from?

I looked around and then back at the tree, but she was gone as was the smell.

Every now and then I hear a sound, like shuffling feet… ssst ssst ssst ssst…. and I smell roses…. ssst ssst ssst ssst…. if I close my eyes, I can see that small figure in black…. ssst ssst ssst ssst…. I open my eyes before She looks at me… ssst ssst ssst ssst….

Is that the Devil’s perfume I smell….?

Credit To – My grandpa, Senor Gonzales

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Express

January 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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By the time Kevin made his way down into the subway station, there was no one else there but a solitary old man, sitting on a bench, using his cane to help him sit up straight. Kevin squinted at the schedule on the wall. From behind, he heard a grizzled voice say, “Whichever one you’re waiting for, you’re at the right station. They all stop here.”

Kevin turned to see the old man watching him. “Even the A6?” he asked.

“They ALL stop here,” repeated the stranger, who appeared to be dressed far too warmly for the season.

“I can’t believe the A6 stops here this late on a Tuesday.”

“Young man, this station is a major transfer point, and I’ve been taking these trains for many years. Believe me when I tell you, all the trains stop here.”

As if in answer, the sound of an approaching train came from deep within the tunnel. It sounded like it was coming too fast to stop. In fact, it sounded like it was running faster than subways usually do. It was only a moment before it went rushing past. But that wasn’t the shocking part. All the cars were jet black, but it didn’t look like they were painted, just…made that way. Every car was covered in the most indescribably horrific graffiti. Wild splashes of red paint decorated the windows. It was paint, wasn’t it? The lighting inside was very dim. All the passengers were shadowy figures who stood, unmoving. None of them were seated. Kevin couldn’t make out any of their features. So why did he feel like they were watching him?

“What the hell was that?” Kevin demanded as the mysterious black train disappeared into the opposite tunnel.

The old man hung his head, almost in shame. “I’m sorry I wasn’t completely honest with you. There is actually one train that doesn’t stop here. Only one.”

“Where does it go?”

“Pray you never find out.”

Kevin stood in stunned silence before the old man added, “By the way, if you’re taking the A6 you need to be on Platform 3.”

Kevin could barely gasp the word, “Thanks,” before walking quickly away.

As he was leaving, he heard the man call after him, “Also…”

He turned to see the man fixing him with a steely gaze that let Kevin know the stranger was about to give him the most important warning he would ever hear in his life.

“The next time you see that train. It WILL stop. Don’t get on.”

Credit To: E. Alan Rahn

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I’m No Fool

January 5, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“Daddy, there’s a monster in my closet.”

“No, there isn’t,” I reply in my half-asleep state, “we’ve been through this already.”

Now my wife is awake too. “Shouldn’t you at least check? It seems like ever since she got back from the hospital, all those bodies started turning up around the city. There was another one last night. It was in the paper.”

“Yeah, I can’t tell you how broken up I am over all those dead pimps and drug dealers. Somehow, I don’t think whoever’s taking them out is after our kid.”

“Just humor her, please.” She turns to Kayla. “Did you see the monster?”

Kayla nods. “He’s really tall and has long fingers and a big mouth with sharp, shiny teeth. He hides in the closet and peeks around the door. He says he’s coming for me real soon, and his name is Goregrinder.”

Now, I’m pissed. I throw off the covers and jump out of bed.

Susan grabs my arm and leans in close. “Would you please have some patience with her?” she hisses, “My God, she just made a complete recovery from a disease that kills children her age. It’s a miracle we even have her here to inconvenience you in the first place.”

“I know. I’m going already,” I growl back. I storm into her room and turn on the light. Nothing. The closet creaks open slowly. I throw it open. Nothing. Oh wait, I’m doing it wrong. I turn off the light and let the moon illuminate the room. There he is. So tall he would have to duck to come out of the closet. Wearing a coat that covers most of his body. It looks like it’s made of bearskin or something. His arms crossed over his chest, with his wrists bent and his impossibly long fingers pointing downward. Warty skin that looks tougher than leather. A mouth that looks too wide for his head, filled with steely blades for teeth.

I shove him against the wall of the closet and follow him in to make sure my wife and kid can’t hear me. “I already paid you with a fresh one last night, you bastard! You don’t collect her unless I’m at least a week late. That was the deal! You scare my kid one more time and I’ll kick the shit out of you!”

He grins, delighted by my righteous indignation, his mouth stretching extra wide. Even in the dark of the closet, I can see his bladed teeth glistening. He knows I can’t make good on my threat, but he doesn’t scare me either. He’s bound by the same rules I am.

I back out of the closet and he comes after me slowly, grinning defiantly. Whatever. I shut the door in his face. Then, I wait a few seconds and open it again. Gone.

I head back to our bedroom. “Okay, sweetie, the monster’s gone.”

Susan puts a finger to her lips. Kayla is curled up against her, sleeping peacefully, as if she knows how safe she is, and that I’ll do anything to keep her that way. Anything.

Fine. She can stay, but just for tonight. I squeeze into bed next to them, with what little room the girls have left me. I’m still too annoyed to sleep, not just at Goregrinder, but his master. Does he really think I’d sign a contract in my own blood on a parchment made of human skin without reading it first? How stupid does he think I am?

Credit To: E. Alan Rahn

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Blue Robe

January 4, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Long ago, there was a Buddhist priest named Kaian Zenji who always wore a blue robe. He spent his days travelling around Japan, meditating, praying and trying to help those who were in need. One evening, he came to a village called Tomita.

As soon as the people there laid eyes on him, they began shouting and screaming. The women and children fled, screaming and wailing, falling over each other in their rush to get away. The men grabbed their weapons and came running towards him.

“Kill him!” they cried in alarm. “Kill him before he kills us!”

“What’s wrong?” asked Kaian as he put up his hands. “You have no need to fear me. I don’t mean you any harm.”

When the men saw his frightened face, they threw down their weapons and laughed nervously.

“Sorry,” said one man. “We thought you were somebody else.”

“Yes, we apologise for the confusion,” another man said sheepishly.

“It’s because of your blue robe,” said another.

One of the men introduced himself and invited Kaian to stay the night in his house. He said he was the village blacksmith and offered him food and drink.

“When we saw you coming, we thought you were a demon,” he explained.

“Why would you think that?” asked Kaian. “Do I look like a demon?”

“Well, it’s a horrifying story,” replied the blacksmith gravely, “but I might as well tell you. On the mountain above this village, there is a temple and the priest who lives there wears a blue robe just like yours. This priest used to have a reputation for being highly intelligent and kind-hearted. He visited all of our houses and he was always nice and polite. The people trusted him.”

“All that changed last spring. The priest went to another village to perform a baptism. When he came back, he had a young boy with him. He was a very good-looking boy, about 12 or 13 years of age. The priest spent all his time with the boy and it was almost as if he was in love with him. Everyone thought this was very strange.”

“Then, the boy was struck down with an illness. His condition became very serious and a doctor came from the city to take care of him. Sadly, it was no use and the boy finally died. The priest cried and cried until he couldn’t cry anymore. He wailed and wailed until his voice gave out. Strangest of all, he refused to allow the body to be buried or cremated. Instead, he held the boy’s corpse in his arms and clutched his hand and caressed his cheek as if he was still alive.”

“We didn’t realize it at the time, but the priest had gone stark raving mad. One morning, some of the villagers visited the temple and what they saw made them run away screaming in horror. The priest was eating the boy’s flesh and licking his bones. They said the priest had become a demon.”

“Ever since then, the priest has terrorised our village, coming down from the mountain night after night and digging up the graves, in search of more corpses. When he finds a fresh one, he eats it. We’ve all heard the old stories about demons and the people live in fear. Every house is tightly boarded up at sundown and word has already spread throughout the area. People are come here anymore. Now you see why we mistook you for him. What can we do to stop him?”

“Strange things happen in this world,” exclaimed Kaian. “There are some people who are born as humans, but something goes wrong and they do evil and immoral things. This causes them to turn into demons. It has been happening since the beginning of time. In one case I know of, a woman turned into a snake. In another, a man’s mother became a ghoul. I know of another man who liked the flesh of children and secretly kidnapped youngsters in order to have them steamed and served as food.”

“A friend of mine who is a monk was passing through a village and he stayed the night in an old woman’s hut. It was raining and the wind was howling. He lay awake without even a lamp to comfort him in his loneliness. As the night deepened, he thought that he heard the bleating of a sheep and soon afterwards, something came sniffing around him to see whether he was asleep or awake. Quick as a flash, he lashed out with his stick and struck hard. The creature screamed and collapsed on the floor. The old woman heard the ruckus and came in with a lamp. They found a young girl lying unconscious on the floor. The old woman, begged him not to kill the girl because it was her daughter. What could he do? He left and went on his way, but later, when he came back to the village, the people were gathered around watching something. When he asked them what was going on, they told him they had caught a young girl who was a witch and they were about to bury her alive.”

“So what do you think happened to our priest?” the blacksmith asked.

“I think it has something to do with the young boy,” replied Kaian. “This priest’s weird and unnatural attachment to the boy led him down a sinful path and transformed him into a ghoul. Now that I know what we are dealing with, I may be able to help you and rid your village of this wretched demon.”

“If you can do that for us, all the people in this area would be eternally grateful,” said the blacksmith.

“I will just need one thing,” said Kaian. “A wooden staff with a long, sharp blade hidden inside.”

So, the blacksmith worked long and hard. Finally, he presented Kaian with the peculiar weapon he requested. It looked just like a wooden staff, but when you twisted the top and pulled, out came a long, sharp blade.

With the staff in hand, Kaian set out on his mission. By the time he had hiked up to the top of the mountain, the sun was already setting. The temple looked deserted and the gates were tangled with thorns and brambles. Spiders were spinning webs on the statues and the altar was covered in moss and bird droppings. The whole place exuded an eerie feeling of rot and desolation.

Kaian walked up to the door and knocked. For a long time, there was only silence and then, from the darkness, a man emerged, snarling and drooling and gnashing his teeth.

“Why have you come here?” he croaked hoarsely.

Kaian backed away cautiously, keeping a safe distance between himself and the ghoul.

“This temple is deserted and the people have fled,” he said. “In desolate places like this evil things sometimes happen. The people tell me it is because you have become a demon. They say that night after night, you go down to the village and feast on human flesh. Nobody feels safe.”

The priest was advancing towards him, growling like a feral dog. Saliva dripped down his chin and he looked like he was ravenous. Kaian kept backing away.

“What they say is true,” snarled the priest. “Human flesh is what I eat and tonight, I shall use your flesh to fill my stomach.”

“What if I told you there is a cure for your condition?” said Kaian.

The priest was surprised. “A cure?” he asked, eyeing Kaian suspiciously. “If you know of a cure then tell me now so I can escape my horrible fate.”

Kaian removed his blue hood and threw it at the vile and beastly priest.

“Put this on,” he said.

The priest snatched the blue hood off the ground, then sat down on a flat rock in front of the temple and placed it over his head.

“Don’t try to trick me,” growled the priest. “I can still see you, so keep your distance. If you don’t, I will be licking your bones by dawn.”

“Solve the following riddle and you will be freed from your misery,” said Kaian. “Listen carefully…”

He began to recite the riddle:

“Upon the water the moonlight glows,
Among the trees the wild breeze blows,
Throughout the night the darkness flows,
And why this is nobody knows.”

The priest pondered the words for a while.

“Can you give me a clue?” he asked.

“No clues,” said Kaian. “You must concentrate hard and meditate on it, no matter how long it takes. Eventually, you will understand its meaning and find freedom from this horror.”

The minutes passed and the hours ticked by and as the priest sat thinking and thinking, Kaian began inching closer and closer. He moved almost imperceptably, shifting his weight from one leg to the other and sliding each foot an inch nearer to where the priest was sitting.

The night was coming to an end and a grey light spread out across the sky as dawn arrived. The priest sat motionless on the rock, murmuring in a thin voice, no louder than the buzzing of a mosquito:

“Upon the water the moonlight glows,
Among the trees the wild breeze blows,
Throughout the night the darkness flows,
And why this is nobody knows.”

Kaian watched silently, his hand firmly grasping the tip of his rod. He inched closer and closer until the priest was within arm’s length.

He heard a cock crow in the distance.

“Well, have you found the solution to the riddle?” asked Kaian.

“Not yet,” replied the priest

“That’s because there isn’t one,” said Kaian and with a gutteral cry, he pulled the long, sharp sword out of the wooden staff and swung it with all his might.

The sharp blade went straight through the priest’s neck like a hot knife through butter and sliced off his head, sending it rolling down the mountainside. His decapitated body toppled over and fell, lying prostrate among the weeds.

Kaian cleaned off his blade and slid it back inside the rod. Then, he set out on the long journey down the mountinside to tell the villagers their nightmare was at an end.

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Crimson Fangs

December 31, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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“I’m so cold.”

This was the first thought that entered into Amber’s dazed consciousness. Her eyelids flickered open to see nothing but hazy darkness around her. Moaning softly, she struggled to raise her body from the prone position she lay in, wrapping her bare arms around herself in response to the strange chill that permeated the air. She blinked several times and brushed a wisp of dark hair from her face as her eyes began to adjust to the ethereal aura that filled the cold, empty room.

“What… Where am I? How did I get here?”

She pushed herself up on one knee and shuddered. The room was cold… so cold. She had no memory of how she had gotten here; no memory of the past few hours.

Slowly, Amber stood and looked around. “He-hello? Where am I? Is anyone here?” she called out, her tremulous voice echoing slightly in the bare room. Her normally active mind was in a blur she attempted to discern what was happening to her, and in her confusion, an icy fear began to grip her. “What’s going on?” She shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself again. “Come on Amber, think; what’s the last thing you remember?” She rubbed her eyes. “Eric… A bookstore… No, I can’t remember!”

Amber peered around again. A strange, faintly luminescent mist writhed about her, giving off just barely enough light to see the shapes of her surroundings. It was by this cold light that she noticed the door and a chill ran down her spine, although whether for excitement or dread she did not know. Amber walked cautiously over to the door and reached out to grasp the cold doorknob. Her mind burned with a strange fear that absorbed her thoughts as she held the handle. “What’s behind this door? What if it’s locked and I’m trapped here? Why am I even here? This room is so cold.”

Her heart pounding, Amber braced herself and gripped the doorknob tighter, slowly twisting it and pushing the door open. To her relief, it gave way; and yet, to her surprise, it made no sound. No squeaking of the hinges, no soft jingle as the doorknob turned in its socket. Just silence.
She swallowed the lump of anxiety in her throat and bit her lip as she pushed the silent door wide open and peered outside. She stepped out of the doorway and looked around. It was a hallway, stretching for many yards on both ends. It reminded her of the halls in those old Victorian mansions, except this one was totally bare. No pictures, no statues, no houseplants, not even wallpaper; just dark, cold walls and doors. Dozens of doors lined either side of the hallway, each one identical and each one as dark and silent as the one she had just stepped through.

Amber shuddered and ventured again, her voice still shaky, “Um… hello? Is… is anyone there?”

There was no answer except her voice reverberating along the dank walls. She clutched at her arms and hugged herself tighter, her heart racing. “Should I try to open one of those doors?”

Taking a cautious step further out, she reached towards the doorknob opposite her. However before she could grab hold of the handle, she froze, and a chill of pure terror rippled down her spine.

A sound had emanated from behind her in the room that she had just exited: a low, sibilant hiss.

A small whine of apprehension trickled from her throat and she turned, her eyes widening and her face turning pale. She began to shiver uncontrollably as she stared into the dark room. At first she saw nothing, nothing but the same cold blackness that had surrounded her. She continued to stare ahead, not daring to turn her eyes away as she waited.

Then it was there.

A tall, lithe form stood, almost as dark as the room it occupied, vaguely humanoid in shape, but otherwise indiscernible in the darkness. Amber slowly backed away from the door, every instinct in her body telling her to flee, and yet she could not. She stood transfixed, gazing back at the shadowy creature in the room.

The low, hissing breath wreathed out from the murky chamber… and it smiled. The darkness smiled, with two rows of long, glistening, crimson fangs.

Amber’s senses were suddenly awakened as a scream tore from her throat and she ran. Her mind became numb with fright, her body bent on survival as she raced down the hollow passageway. She could feel it behind her; it was so cold. Rows upon rows of doors flew by her as she ran, not caring or thinking about anything but flight… and the fangs. Her vision began to blur as her mind raced frantically. “There’s got to be a way out, there has to be some way to escape…”

She could hear the serpentine hiss echo around the halls. It was following her.

The hallway ended abruptly, bending sharply to her right. With no time to slow her acceleration, Amber slammed into the wall and staggered back, not even daring to look behind her as she turned down the other passageway.

Still the hissing followed.

Sweat had begun to drip down her forehead, mingling with tears of terror as she felt the overwhelming sensation of hope and energy draining from her. Her run slowed to a stagger, her mind blazing with a strange, hazy pain. Still she continued on, driven by fear. As she rounded another corner, she saw the unexpected.

A single, desperate ounce of hope sprung up within her at the sight of the small but bright light at the end of the dark hallway; she felt as though it were the first light she had seen in ages. Amber didn’t care where it led, as long as it took her away from here; away from the cold hissing, and from those glistening crimson fangs. With renewed energy Amber began to sprint towards the light.

The hissing continued.

Before she knew it the window of light stood before her, glowing brightly and proving a stark contrast to the dank, gray walls around it. Mustering every last bit of energy within her, Amber leaped, hoping to pass through the light and into freedom… but her hands slammed into a wall of glass.

She gasped and hit the window again, but it did not budge.

The hissing drew nearer.

She pounded at the window, murmuring frantically under her breath. “What’s going on? What is this?!”

It was so cold.

Her brain cleared long enough to notice something behind the window. It was a man, and he was looking at her. Her heart leaped for joy when she recognized him.

“Eric!” she screamed. “Eric, it’s me! Please open the window! Help me!”

But there came no response. Her fiancé simply sat staring at her, his expression one of grief, his eyes slightly misted with tears.
Amber smashed her fists against the window, pleading desperately, “Please, Eric, help me! It’s coming! Please… please help me!”
Still he made no reply.

The hissing…

Amber slumped to the floor, her fingernails scraping against the glass as she slid down the window. Tears streamed down her face and her heart raced like a locomotive as she curled up and wept. “Please, Eric… Save me…”

The hissing drew nearer.

~~~

….beep……beep……beep……

Eric sat in the bright hospital room, listening to the never-ending heart monitor and staring solemnly at the still and quiet body of his fiancée Amber. She lay on the bed, her once beautiful and intelligent blue eyes glazed over in a state of comatose.

It had been nearly four hours since they had found her lying unconscious on the floor in the back room of the old Eldridge Bookshop, her eyes wide open in shock, and a small book resting in her hand. No one had any idea of what had happened to her. The shopkeeper said that she seemed perfectly all right when she had entered, and that she had been perusing through a collection of antique books that they had just received before she suddenly just dropped without a sound.

Of course, there was that book that she had been clutching; that small, strange book simply titled “Crimson Fangs”. What was so strange was that no author or publishing year was listed anywhere on it, not to mention the fact that the pages were totally blank. But then again, Amber liked those kinds of oddities. She was always collecting those rare misprints and old books that were only published for one month back in the 18th century. She was funny in that way. Eric sighed and once again grasped her hand. It was so cold.

For all of the past four hours he had sat patiently by her bedside, staring into her blank eyes and often talking to her, reminiscing about their times together or about her favorite stories; anything to wake her from her state. But nothing helped. The doctors were puzzled about the fact that, other than being in a coma, her body was healthy. Her breathing and heart-rate were normal and there were no signs of a concussion, cardiac arrest, a stroke; anything.

Eric reached out and tenderly brushed a strand of dark, silky hair from her face. She was so beautiful, even with her face frozen in a still, emotionless stare. He wanted to see her smile again.

His thoughts were interrupted when the door opened. The doctor walked over and placed a gentle hand on Eric’s shoulder. “You’ve been in here for a long time. Perhaps you would like a break?”

Eric swallowed back the dryness in his throat and stroked Amber’s cold hand. “Y-yes, of course. I just can’t stand for her to be like this, all pale and…” He closed his eyes and shuddered before standing up. “You’ll let me know if anything happens to her, right?”

The doctor smiled warmly. “Certainly; now go get some rest.”

Eric nodded and turned, with one last long gaze at the motionless form of his beloved Amber before walking out the door.

~~~

Amber sat by the window, staring up into the despondent face of her fiancé. She sobbed and reached up to weakly grasp at the sheet of glass that separated her from the one person that she loved and trusted most. So near, and yet so far.

“This has to be a dream. Wake up, Amber… Please wake up!”

Then he moved. She whipped her head up and stared with wide, desperate eyes as Eric stood and looked at her sadly before-

“No. No, it can’t be! He’s leaving me! He’s walking away!” She leaped up and screamed frantically, slamming her fists against the window, trying to get his attention, for him to finally notice her and save her. “No… No, please! Eric, don’t leave me! Please, don’t leave me!”

But he was gone. The window was empty.

Her breath heavy and her eyes hazy with tears, Amber once again slumped to the floor. Eric, her closest and dearest friend, the one person she could always count on to keep her safe, had abandoned her. Every last bit of hope had deserted her. She was alone; all alone in this cold, dark hallway. It was then that she noticed something was different about her surroundings. The hissing was gone. That horrible, chilling sound… there was nothing. Nothing but cold silence.

Amber held her breath, slowly turned her head…

And stared into the crimson-fanged grin.

~~~

A calm silence filled the bright hospital room, only broken by the steady beat of the heart monitor.

….beep……beep……beep……

Amber’s body lay, staring ahead blankly just as she had for the past four hours.

….beep……beep……beep…..

She blinked. Her eyes slowly shifted to look at the monitor.

….beep……beep……beep…………beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

She sat up, her black silky hair draping around her head like a nest of dead snakes. With one quick, stilted motion, she pried the oxygen mask from her face before her gaze turned to the door. There were the sounds of voices and footsteps outside. The light in the room flickered as a dark, ethereal mist began to writhe up from the floor. The doorknob rattled as it opened.

A low, sibilant hiss rasped out from Amber’s throat… and she smiled, with two rows of long, glistening, crimson fangs.

Credit To – Josh

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