Left Behind

September 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Barbara was sure the ritual worked. She stood up from the pentagram as 5 wicks slowly swirled their smoke in the room. The weather seemed angry—lightning flashed and roared through the coastal home, and suddenly the lights went out.

“Damn the power. Let him come” she thought to herself as she calmly went downstairs in the dark. She prepared some tea on the stove, and waited.

As her chamomile steeped, she again thought about how unfair it had been to take him so soon, only 8 years old. Sure, things hadn’t always been easy, but… she had put the bottles away. Things would be different, now.

She heard three distinct knocks at the front door. Excitedly, she ran to swing it open, only to find no-one there. She left it open as a welcoming invitation. Knocks from the back door drew her to the spot, only to find that doorway empty as well. She left it open, too, mist from the rain collecting on the tile floor.

As she was about to take a sip, she felt a presence behind her. He was here! She whirled round to see her boy: his face was obscured by shadows, but his brown shaggy hair and favorite flannel shirt marked him well enough. She ran to hug him and found he was incredibly heavy, much heavier than she remembered him only a few weeks ago.

“Hello Mommy,” said Michael.

“Oh! My boy! Things will be so different, so much happier, now that you’re here! Do you want—”

“I want to play a game. Mommy.” Michael interrupted. There was something unnatural in the tone he used for the word. “Why don’t you run… and hide. I’m going to catch you! This will be a LOT of fun.”

“Are you sure you—”

“DO IT,” his voice boomed through the house. Uneasily, she agreed as Michael began to count. She was going to hide in the pantry when she heard a growling noise, like the low rumble of a distant earthquake. She realized it was coming from Michael. As he counted, she realized she may have made a mistake.

“15, 14… you better hide better than that, Mommy. Some things are better left as they are. But I’m here, now.” His boyish voice became more and more tinged with that horrific, low grumble. The sound of a blade pulled from the kitchen butcher block alerted her ears to danger. Yes, this had been a mistake. Intense claps of thunder blocked further sound as she raced upstairs to the master bedroom, and locked the door. Like a child, she cowered in the closet and waited.

“10, 9, 8… I don’t know why you’d want me back, Mommy.” She heard his words as leaden feet ascended the stairs. “You weren’t nice to Michael. 7, 6, 5, 4…”

She started to cry frantically, curled in the corner of her closet. She was trapped. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe as the locked bedroom door easily sprang open.

“3… 2…”

Silence. She listened as the storm calmed outside and a whisper emanated from directly behind the closet door: “In fact, Mommy, Michael hates you. That’s why he left you behind… and sent me instead.”

The door flung open and a bolt of lightning illuminated rows of jagged, glinting white teeth crowding Michael’s mouth like a shark’s jaw.

The storm subsided. Her tea grew cold.

Credit To – Skyla2186

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Solar Influence

August 29, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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“Don’t look at it,” Kerryn whispers, tugging on my sleeve. “Leela, don’t!” I glance down at her, noting the concern in her baby blue eyes. She’s just a child, she doesn’t know what she’s saying.

“Don’t worry, Kerryn,” I whisper back. “Nothing bad is going to happen. It’s just the sunset.” I pry her fingers loose, closing my hand around hers and pulling her along gently behind me. “It’s beautiful,” I tell her. “I saw one in a picture once, when I was about your age.”

We walk up the grassy hill, leaning against the steep incline. The wind buffets us from all directions, trying to push us back, but I’m determined. I’m leaving tomorrow, and I want to share this with my little sister before I go.

“Leela,” Kerryn begs. “We’re not supposed to look at it! The man on the news said it will make us blind!”

I snort, dismissive. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” I say. “Trust me, Kerryn, it’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. The colours are amazing, all red and orange and gold. It’s magical.” I breathe heavily, struggling up the hill. I’m not as fit as I was the last time I made this trek. It will be worth it, though. One real look at the sun before I’m sent underground to fulfil my duty. One last taste of freedom.

We reach the crest of the hill, and I stop walking. Kerryn stands at my side, staring at the ground and shivering. My gaze is captured by the landscape in front of me, the city spread out below us, sunlight glinting off the windows. Behind each one is a family waiting for the light to die. I shake my head at their ignorance. How could something so beautiful scare them so much?

I lift my eyes and my breath catches in my throat. The sun has just touched the horizon, spreading a blanket of golden light over the dull city, bringing it to life. The clouds capture the colours, painting the sky red, orange, pink… It is breathtakingly beautiful.

“Kerryn,” I whisper, squeezing her hand. “Look.”

She whimpers and steps closer, shaking as she leans against my side. I glance down at her to see her eyes squeezed shut. With a sigh I crouch down in front of her, making sure I’m blocking the sun.

“Kerryn, it’s okay.” I reach up and sweep her blonde hair away from her face. She whimpers. “Come on, open your eyes. I’m right here,” I coax. She shakes her head violently. “Come on, honey, I’m right in front of you, you won’t even see it until you’re ready. Just open your eyes.” Slowly, so slowly, she opens her eyes. She peeks out at me through slitted lids, uncertain. I take both of her hands in mine and give them an encouraging squeeze. “See? Nothing to worry about.” I smile at her encouragingly.

“I’m scared, Leela,” she whimpers.

“There’s nothing to be scared of, honest. I already looked at it, and I’m fine, aren’t I?”

She hesitates, searching my face, then nods.

“Okay, as long as you hold my hand,” she says.

“Of course I will.” I squeeze her hands again, smiling at her reassuringly, then shuffle to the side so she can see the sunset spreading out behind me.

Her eyes go wide, and her jaw goes slack, and for a moment she just stares in wonder. She looks just like she did the first time she saw our puppy, Jock. I can’t help laughing at her.

“It’s so beautiful,” she whispers, her voice breathy. A grin splits my face.

“I knew you would like it,” I say.

“We should go to it,” Kerryn says, smiling serenely. My heart stutters, and I frown at her.

“What? Kerryn, what did you say?”

“Shhh, you’re too loud. It wants us to be quiet.” Her hands go limp in mine, and she takes a step forward.

“Kerryn, stop it,” I hiss. “This isn’t funny.” Images flash through my mind, the warnings thrown at us on the T.V., the posters all through the streets telling us not to look at the sun. But they’re all wrong, aren’t they? I looked at the sun and I’m still perfectly fine.

“It’s so pretty…” She takes another step and my hands go cold.

“Kerryn, stop it. Stop it right now!” I wrap my arms around her and hug her close. What the hell is she playing at?

“It’s okay, Leela. Just let me go.” She takes another step, and I am shocked at her strength. She jerks forward, freeing herself from my grasp. What is going on?

I scamper around in front of her, clasp my hands around her face, trying to block her view of the sun. She stares straight past me, blue eyes glazed and glittering. Her pupils are dilating and contracting at an alarming rate, and her mouth hangs open. Oh my god, what have I done?

She pushes me away and I stumble backwards, watching in horror as she glides straight past me. It looks almost as if she is walking on air. But that is impossible.

“Kerryn!” I yell, reaching out for her. “Kerryn, come back!” Tears well up in my eyes and spill over. In an instant I am sobbing, crawling madly towards my sister who is walking above the ground, ignoring my existence. “Kerryn, please!”

My eyes slip past her, drawn towards the massive glowing orb slipping beneath the horizon as slowly and surely as my sister is slipping away from me.

My body goes slack, and my mind goes blank. What was I so worried about? It is beautiful. The golden light spills forth, coating everything. Its edges pulse, rough and pointed like a child’s drawing. The red and orange and pink fall from the clouds, following the sun in its demise.

I stare into its golden depths, captivated by its beauty. It is glorious. The red in its centre expands, calling to me. The dark sphere at its heart pulses steadily, expanding and contracting and expanding again, growing inexorably larger with each cycle. I can feel my heart beating in time to its rhythm.

My limbs tingle as I get to my feet. I take a step forward.

Why did my mother warn me not to come here? Nothing bad could possibly happen with the sun watching over us.

Its light warms me. I tilt my head to the side, focusing on the glint in the centre of the massive orb. Funny, if I didn’t know better I would think it had teeth.

I am vaguely aware of someone screaming, yelling my name and someone else’s. They are sobbing. Why? What is that tugging on my arm?

I flick my wrist, wishing the pest away.

“Leela!” She screams. My mother’s voice? “Leela, what have you done?!”

The sun opens wide and I am compelled to go to it. The glittering teeth call me forward and I follow. They are so beautiful. Look how they shine! I can’t believe I didn’t come here sooner.

“Come, child,” It whispers. “Come home.”

It is all-encompassing. There is nothing else.

I hear a horrible wet, tearing sound. I feel a vague tingling in my arms, in my legs. My chest grows tight. Should I be concerned?

“Leela! Kerryn!” My mother’s keening fills my ears.

Kerryn?

Oh my God. Kerryn.

I come back to myself, eyes wide with horror. The beast is all around me, drawing me in. Kerryn, where is Kerryn? What have I done? What have I done to my sister?

“Kerryn!” I scream. My body is rigid with fear. There is darkness all around me. It is inside me, too, I can feel it.

My skin burns, as if I am swimming in acid. I can feel my flesh bubble.

“Kerryn!” I am sobbing now, uncontrollably.

“Shhh, child.” Something strokes my face. “It will all be over soon…”

The razors dig into my flesh and I scream. The darkness forces itself down my throat, choking me.

What have I done?

Credit To – Jo

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The Little People

August 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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For as long as I can remember, strange things have happened to me. When I was young, my mother and I lived in my grandmother’s house; a big, drafty Victorian beast of a thing squatting in the middle of acres and acres of hilly country land. My grandmother was old and couldn’t take care of herself, and I often heard my mom whispering to her friends about how crazy she was and how she couldn’t wait to put her in a home and get on with her own life.

Me, being only three or four at the time, didn’t understand. I thought my grandmother was the most wonderful person on the planet, as little children do. She told me stories about “the little people” that lived in the hills around the house, and how long ago, when she was only a girl, she’d made a pact with the little people that allowed her to live on their land. My mother once overheard her telling me one of these stories and forbade Grandma from ever telling me anything like that again, claiming she’d just scare me. I wasn’t scared – I loved fairy stories. That’s what I thought they were – Fairy stories, and I didn’t understand why Mom was so upset. She’d grown up in that same house listening to Grandma’s same stories, right? But every time I tried to ask her about them, she’d shush me and tell me I’d get in trouble if she heard me and Grandma talking about the little people ever again.

Mine and Grandma’s closeness never set well with Mom, and as a child, I never understood the reason. I knew Mom and Grandma didn’t get along, and never had, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t press the subject; I loved my Grandma and I loved her stories. My mother, who was serious and dark-featured, took after my Greek grandfather more than anyone, while I looked like my grandmother. We shared the same awkwardly big ears, fair freckled skin, and thick red hair. I remember she would often stroke my hair and sigh, saying my mother would never have been prepared for the responsibility of having red hair, so it was passed down to me. I always thought she was making some sort of joke, but her face was a little sad when she said it, so I never further questioned what exactly she meant.

When I was six, Grandma died. She’d been sick all my life, always fragile in health, and one night she went to bed and never woke up. Though I was only a child, I usually helped Grandma get ready for bed – Brushing her long, still vibrantly red hair and braiding it, helping her into her nightgown and tucking her in. Mom always got angry, saying a boy my age shouldn’t have to do those things, but I enjoyed any time spent with my Grandma. The night she died was like any other, but as I tucked her in, her thin hand suddenly grasped mine in a vice grip.

“The pact is up, Gearoid.”

My name is Garrett, but Grandma always said it the traditional Irish way, Gar-roid, her lilting accent making my name seem special to me instead of the name of three other boys in my class.

“The pact is up.” She repeated herself, her voice sounding more intense than I’d ever heard it. “I’m sorry, Gearoid. There is nothing I can do. You must go from here, so they cannot find you.”

I was confused, and a little scared then, being only six. I held her hand close.

“Who will find me, Grandma? What’s wrong?”

She only clung my hand tighter, her voice a steadfast whisper. “The little people, Gearoid. The denizens of the hollow hills. The sidheóg. You must go from here.”

I wanted to ask her more, but her hand relaxed in mine, suddenly, and she was asleep. She looked peaceful, and I felt like I almost imagined the strange conversation we’d just had. I figured I would ask her more about it the next morning, but the next morning she was dead.

Grandma had left all her money to Mom in her will, but the house and surrounding land to me. Since I was too young to even think about owning a house, Mom decided we’d live there until we found better prospects. As a single mother with hectic hours at her job, a free house was too good to pass up.

I went to school, Mom went to work as a nurse, life went on. I continued to play in the hills and woods surrounding the house as I always did, despite Mom’s insistent warnings I did not. I thought she was afraid I’d fall in a ditch or accidentally get shot by hunters during hunting seasons, and my six-year-old bravado thought I was above this.

One day, on a warm August afternoon just before school started again (I must have only been eight or nine) I came back from the hills covered in scratches and bruises. She thought I’d fallen down the biggest hill leading down to the woods in our backyard until I told her “the little people had hurt me”. She didn’t believe me at first, who would? But I continued to tell her about the little people, how they came out to play with me ever since Grandma died, but they were never nice. They pinched me and scratched me and told me to leave, or else.

My mother turned white as a sheet and put down a lease on an apartment in town the very next day. Within a week we were moved out of Grandma’s house in the hills, surrounded by asphalt and car horns.
When I ask Mom about the strange things that happened to me in childhood such as this, she claims not to remember. But she always changes the subject, and her mouth gets in a tight little line. I know she remembers.

Moving into the city didn’t stop the strange things from happening to me. On the playground, I saw eyes in the bushes, watching me; I would blink only for nothing to be there. Walking home from school I would hear strange music on the breeze, music that jolted me to my bones and made my head hurt. It always sounded wrong, as if it was out of tune or played on broken instruments. Once I asked a friend if he heard the music, and he called me a freak and never walked home from school with me again. As I lay asleep in our small apartment, I would see lights bobbing just outside my window, lights that were definitely not from any of the neon signs of the inter-city. When I was ten, I wrapped myself up in my blankets and followed the lights, which seemed to whisper my name the way I remember Grandma saying it, Gearoid. My mother found me a five-minutes walk away from our apartment, about to take another step over the edge of a steep ditch. She never saw any lights, and made me an appointment with a psychiatrist the next day. I learned to keep what I saw hidden after that, and not to follow any strange lights that whispered my name.

Keeping the weird things that happened to myself didn’t stop them from happening, unfortunately. They still did, even into high school. By then I had learned to ignore them, to convince myself it was all in my head, just like my psychiatrist told me when I was a child. I never tried to figure out what was happening to me or who the “little people” were. Would you really want to know?

I was seventeen and an early senior, falling asleep in my literature class as my teacher droned on about speculative fiction. It was only when she said a word, sidheóg, that snapped me back into awareness with the force of a kick to the stomach.

“The sidheóg, in Irish folklore, are what we common people would call faeries. They have plenty of names, the Fair Folk, the Fey, the Shee, the little people. They’re not as we think of faeries today, small women made of flowers that grant wishes, but something between an angel and a demon that isn’t entirely of this world. They are cruel and delight in trickery, and can be vindictive and sadistic, particularly when their land is threatened. Most mortals, that is, you and me, can’t see them unless they’re born with the Sight. Ways to have the sight naturally were considered being the seventh child of a seventh child, or being born with red hair.”
She said more after that, but I wasn’t listening.

Little people. Between an angel and a demon. Their land. the Sight. Born with red hair.

The bell rang, and I almost fell out of my seat. I was breathing so hard and must have looked so pale that my best friend, Sarah, put her hand on my forehead to check for fever when she came to stand by my desk.

“Jesus, Garrett, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

No. Much worse, I wanted to say, but didn’t. I just shook my head instead. “Fell asleep. Bad dream. You know how lectures get.”

She laughed, and we walked off to our lockers, with Sarah asking if I was still going to spend the night at her house that night. I said sure, and left for my car feeling like a husk with everything sucked out of me. I felt watched.

When I got home, I cursed myself for saying yes to Sarah’s offer. We hung out almost every weekend, but always at my house – A larger apartment my mother had bought further inner-city when she got a promotion a few years back. Sarah lived in a big farmhouse on the edge of the hills, and it reminded me too much of Grandma’s house for my comfort. I always made excuses on why I couldn’t come, but I’d been too distracted today to say no.

I finally knew now what had been stalking me all my life – little people, Fair Folk, whatever you wanted to call them. My grandmother’s stories suddenly made sense to me. Her father had built their house, unknowingly, on fey land. The faeries had probably tortured them and pestered them until Grandma, the only one able to see them, somehow made a pact with them to let her family live on their land unharmed for as long as she lived. When she died, it left my mother and I at their mercy. I had no clue what sort of pact Grandma had made, as she’d never said. I remembered her asking about it, but she would always pat my hand and say it was a story for another time. Now I almost didn’t want to know.

As I was waiting for Sarah to come pick me up, I heard the tapping.

At first it was faint, and I thought it had begun to rain and hit against the windows. I checked my phone, but there was only light rain scheduled for much later in the evening. I brushed it off, but it continued. It sounded as if someone were standing outside my window and slowly, rhythmically, tapping on the glass with one finger. I turned around to look at the window the tapping was coming from, and it stopped – Only to sound as if it were coming from further into the apartment. I must have spent five minutes running all over my house like a crazy person trying to find the source of the tapping, only to have it come from a different window each time I investigated. I was near angry tears when Sarah beeped her horn outside, jerking me out of my frenzy. Never had I been so happy to leave my house as I scooped my overnight bag off the floor and locked the front door behind me.

As I jogged to Sarah’s car, I chanced a glance into the bushes outside the window where I first heard the tapping and froze. There was a shadow in the bushes – The shadow of something huge and looming, gnarled and twisted. I felt the breath go out of my lungs as the shadow began to move – Away from me, further into the few trees planted around my complex. I don’t know how long I just stood there, staring into the darkness between the trees, until Sarah laid on her horn and stuck her head out the window.

“Gar-rett! Come on, you lazy-ass!” The sound of her laughter broke my trance, and I turned and ran headlong to her car, almost slipping on the pavement as I lurched into the passenger seat.

“Whoa. Are you okay? Are you sure you want to do tonight? Cause you looked pretty sick at school, and you look pretty sick now.” Her voice was almost worried, which was uncommon for loud, brash, unafraid Sarah.

“I’m fine. I just thought I saw something in the bushes – A dog, probably. The shadow freaked me out.” You’ll never know how much it freaked me out, I thought.

She shook her head as she put the car into gear. “You watch way too many horror movies, Garrett Carter. Now let’s go. I stole my dad’s Netflix password so the internet is our oyster.”

I forced myself to grin back as we pulled into traffic. I chanced a glance over my shoulder at the trees – Nothing. No shadow. I still kept my eyes on the spot until we turned a corner, and I could see it no more.

By the time we’d driven out to Sarah’s old farmhouse, the rain had begun. Sarah was annoyed, claiming her internet shorted out every time so much as a drop of rain fell from the sky.

“I guess that’s what I get for living out here with my family in the middle of nowhere,” She sighed as we unloaded the frozen pizza and french fries we’d picked up to make for dinner later.

I checked my phone to see what the weather predicted for later, but I had no signal or WiFi. Figures, as it was like she said, we were in the middle of nowhere. Her nearest neighbors were at least half a mile away.

We put dinner in the oven and set up her Xbox so we could watch Netflix, but as she said, the internet wouldn’t connect. She about threw her controller through a window but I suggested we just play video games instead, which calmed her down. We were trying to find a vampire in Skyrim when Sarah went to check on dinner, and I heard it again. The tapping. It sounded louder this time, but I figured it was just the rain until I remembered it had been raining for almost half an hour and it hadn’t tapped on the window like that once. I swallowed the panic in my throat and tried to ignore it as I fought off wolves and bandits in the game, but the tapping continued, and I realized Sarah hadn’t come back from the kitchen yet.

I called her name, no answer. But that wasn’t too odd, Sarah had a large house and if she’d gone upstairs or towards the back of the house she probably wouldn’t be able to hear me. I paused the game and stood up, intending to go look for her, when the tapping suddenly stopped. I’d been hearing it for so long now that the absence of its sound was almost louder than the sound itself, and I froze in my tracks. I was trying to psych myself up for taking another step when thunder suddenly rumbled deafeningly, shaking the glass in the windows. I’m ashamed to say I yelled, startled, as the power suddenly clicked off.

I was suddenly alone in Sarah’s dark living room when I heard my name being called. Not in Sarah’s cheerful voice, but in a hoarse whisper that sounded like a bow being sawed across violin strings that were drawn too tight. Gearoid, it whispered. Gearoid.

I managed to talk around the lump in my throat as I fumbled my phone out of my pocket, clicking the built in flashlight on. “Sarah? Sarah!”

There was no answer but the continuous whisper of my name, and I knew I had to find the source. I somehow willed my legs to move and navigated towards the voice, my flashlight illuminating the dark halls. The whisper became louder as I neared her parents’ bedroom, which I remembered too late had the largest window in the house; A big picture window with a window seat we used to sit on and read when we were in middle school. As I slowly opened the door, thunder rumbled again and my flashlight winked out. I thought I might have hit the off button with my shaking hand, but as I raised my phone to my face I saw it had died, even though the battery had been at 92% when I arrived at Sarah’s. As I stood on the threshhold of the master bedroom, my eyes squeezed shut against the darkness, the whisper became almost deafening, and I felt a cold, stale wind blow around me.

I had to go in, and as I stepped forward into the room, the door slammed shut.

As I opened my eyes, I fought the urge to run back through the door and leave, but I knew I had to find Sarah. There, at the picture window (which was open, despite the fact that it only opened from the inside and I knew her parents would not have left it unlocked) was a creature out of my nightmares.

Its shape was large, towering almost to the top of the eight foot high window, and it was crouched in the side garden like some monstrous toad. I had expected my first sighting of the shadow from the bushes to look like some sort of Eldritch monster, but this creature looked more natural than I could imagine. Its hide looked like bark, its long, wizened arms like tree branches, the hair hanging lankly around its head like moss. It would have almost looked like an enormous stump if not for the face, which was huge and pointed with a long, witch-like nose, and a mouth full of broken, green, grinning teeth.

“At last,” the creature said in a voice like groaning trees and snapped violin strings. “We meet.”

I had been frozen solid upon first sight of the creature, but I somehow found my voice upon hearing it speak. “What the hell did you do with Sarah? Why are you here? What are you?”

The creature looked at me, simply, as if it were appraising me, then laughed. Its laugh sounded like wind shrieking through the slats of an unkempt house, and its voice was slow, as if it had all the time in the world.

“Some call me the Old Man of the Crossroads. Some call me the One Who Answers. Some call me troll.” It grinned, as if this was amusing to him. “We have come for payment. The land, the land, the land. Caoime made the pact. The land, the land, the land was hers. But no longer. It is yours, and we have come for payment.”

I stared at the thing, uncomprehending, until it dawned on me. My grandmother’s name was Caoime, and she had made her pact for the land when she was seventeen – My age. After she died, the fey waited until I was of age, and came for me. For payment. For the pact.

I kept my distance from the window. “That doesn’t answer all my questions. Where is Sarah?!” I yelled over the howling wind, but the creature just chuckled its shrieking wind laugh.

“The girl, the girl, the girl. Perhaps she is under the hill. Perhaps we shall keep her there until the payment is made. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.”
I felt my blood turn to ice. These things had Sarah, my best friend, and they seemed to have no intention of giving her back.

“What do you want? I don’t care about the land, take it. Just give Sarah back and leave me alone!”

The creature sighed, as if it were thinking. Its earthen, hulking body shivered as it scratched its chin with one long, gnarled, tree-branch finger.

“You are a strong one. So was Caoime.”It chuckled, heaving another sigh as it settled its body further into the side garden, releasing a smell of overturned earth and damp moss.

“I will extend to you the same challenge I extended Caoime. For the land, the land, the land. And for the girl, the girl, the girl. Should you beat me at my own game, the land, the land, the land, and the girl, the girl, the girl, are yours. Should you fail…” The creature trailed off and grinned, its leathery face splitting in two as it showed all its broken teeth. “You are mine.”

I felt unable to speak, unable to move, unable to breathe. The thing – the troll was going to take me, my best friend, and most likely my mom to god knows where to do god knows what to us if I didn’t accept his challenge. I didn’t know what to do.

“Well, boy, boy, boy? Is your silence a refusal?” The creature ran one gnarled hand over the windowsill, and something dawned on me.

“If you want me so bad, why don’t you just come in here and take me?” It was a foolhardy thing to say, but I figured I could run from it – It moved slower than Christmas.

My question seemed to anger it, and its mossy eyebrows met in a snarl. “I cannot come inside unless you invite me, boy, boy, boy. Your friend was kind enough to come outside to me.” It grinned then, and chuckled. My anger reignited. I needed to get Sarah back.

“Fine. I accept your challenge, whatever it is.” At that exact moment, lightning cracked across the sky and for a split second I saw the creature in its entirety, which nearly made my heart stop. It was bigger than I imagined, its back humped and covered in fungi and moss, reaching nearly to the roof of the house. I swallowed.

“Delightful. I shall ask you three questions, boy, boy, boy. If you answer all correctly, the land, the land, the land, and the girl, the girl, the girl, is yours. We shall leave you alone.” It’s cracked smile didn’t falter. “But if you answer a single question wrong…” It trailed off, one wizened hand sweeping a grand gesture. I didn’t need it to elaborate.

I nodded, not sure I trusted my voice to speak as I sat on the edge of Sarah’s parents’ bed, staring at the creature, backlit by the storm. It rubbed its gnarled hands together in pleasure.

“Wonderful. It has been so long, long, long since one of your kind accepted my challenge. Now.” It paused, as if deep in thought before beginning, its voice a low, almost melodic rumble.

“My tines are long, my tines are short. My tines end ere my first report. What am I?”

I almost felt like laughing with relief when I heard the riddle. Grandma and I would spend hours telling each other riddles back and forth when I was a child, and I had gotten so good at them I would even leave her stumped and come up with answers to her hardest mind-benders. Whenever I asked her why she was so interested in riddles, she would just stroke my hair and say, You never know when they’ll come in handy, Gearoid. You never know.

I knew now. I wondered if Grandma had told me all the riddles trying to prepare me for the troll to come and ask for payment, or simply to keep her mind sharp. There was no time to think about it now as I mulled over the troll’s question.

“Well, boy, boy, boy? Do you give up?” It sounded pleased, thinking I was so easy to break. I glared at it.

“No. I was just thinking.” I glanced past the troll, just as a bright flash of lightning forked and hit a tree not far from Sarah’s horse pasture, and my eyes widened.

“Lightning. You’re lightning.”

The troll’s eyes narrowed, and I could tell he was surprised at my answer. “Very well.” He readjusted his bulk, his contorted fingers resting on the windowsill.

“Never ahead, ever behind, yet flying swiftly past; For a babe I last forever, for adults I’m gone too fast. What am I?”

I swallowed, my eyes glued to the floor to keep away from looking at the creature in front of me. I thought of how it must have waited all this years, watching, and how the rest of the fey hated me for being on their land; for being able to see them. I thought of the strange shadows I’d seen melting across my bedroom floor at night, only to disappear when I turned on the bedside lamp. The strange laughter and broken music I heard on winter nights, always out of reach when it swirled in on the freezing wind. How many other children had made fun of me for screaming that I saw squat, froglike creatures with sharp teeth grinning at me from the woods around the edge of the playground. How I nearly drowned one summer swimming in the lake on Sarah’s property when we were barely in sixth grade, because I felt webbed fingers latch onto my ankle and try to drag me down into the darkness.

“Childhood.”

The troll’s semblance of a smile twisted into a scowl, and I allowed myself the faintest of grins. I thought of my grandmother standing in front of this same beast at my age, terrified, but willing to go to any lengths to protect her family and friends. It made my smile wider.

“You are a clever boy, boy, boy, I see. Not clever enough for my final riddle, I know you are not, not, not.” Its deformed hand raised, and though it couldn’t get into the house, its shadow stretched across the floor and sent a bolt of panic through my chest.

“The thing that all things devours; Birds, beast, tree, flower. Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones down to meal. Slays kings and ruins towns, and beats the highest mountain down. What am I?”

I took a deep breath, my fists clenched against the quilt on Sarah’s parent’s bed. My smile had faded as the troll told the riddle, it was one not even my grandmother had alluded to. I refused to let the anxiety show on my face, but as I sat there staring at the ground, trying to think, the troll laughed. I had been silent for several minutes, and the storm was getting worse. Every second I delayed Sarah was stuck under the hill, and I had no idea what they were doing to her. They could already have my mom for all I knew, and I wondered how my grandmother did this. How did she live her life knowing there was a secret world all around her, and everything in it hated her? That she had to risk her and everyone she loved’s life just to keep them from mortal harm? She was stronger than me. I didn’t know how I was going to handle day-to-day life if I got out of here alive.

“Do you give up, boy, boy, boy? It is a difficult riddle. Do not be ashamed to admit defeat.” His green teeth showed as he grinned, and I could hear the violin strings snapping and branches creaking in his voice.

“No. I don’t give up. I just need more time.” I tried my hardest to keep my voice subdued as the troll shifted to its full height, fingers unfurling.

“Time was not in the bargain, boy, boy, boy. Either you answer or you do not.”

My teeth gritted as I opened my mouth to say god knows what, but I stopped. It was as if Grandma was sitting next to me, stroking my hair and shaking her head. The answer was right in front of you, Gearoid, you’re just too impatient to see it! She’d always say that in the earlier days of our game when I’d give up in a snit after taking too long to answer a riddle.

I knew the answer.

“Time. Time is the answer!” I stood up off the bed and grinned.

The troll scowled harder than I’d seen it, opened its mouth, and howled. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before in my life, a cacophony of broken, screaming instruments and wailing animals and crying women; As well as wind ripping through trees and ocean waves crashing against rock. The window slammed shut with a crack, a few panes of glass shattering and falling onto the window seat. The power flickered on and off crazily, the lights dimming and brightening as the troll howled.

Then, as soon as it started, it was over.

I opened my eyes from where I’d taken cover behind the bathroom door, and the troll was gone. The only proof of its existence was the faint smell of moss and lichen blowing in from the cracked window, and what I knew had happened. Sarah’s parents arrived home not long after, and found me sitting under their window clutching an iron poker from the fireplace, and their daughter missing. I think I passed out when Sarah’s mom started screaming. I don’t remember much after that.

They found Sarah later the next morning, about three miles away from her house. She wandered into a neighboring farmer’s barn, claiming she’d been abducted by strange women with deer forelegs and hooves and men with ribcages for torsos. She told the police they forced her to answer riddles to avoid them feeding her strange food and hurting her, but wasn’t able to answer all of them – The bruises all over her body attested to that. But the police didn’t believe her story. I didn’t think they would, but I knew better. She didn’t. She was new to this, she told people.

Her parents sent her to a psych ward for three months. I visited her almost every day I could, and I told her I believed her. She cried, usually, and told me about how food had no taste and she was hungry all the time, and she couldn’t sleep because of the strange music and voices calling her name. The day she was released, she looked terrible. She was skinnier than ever, with dark shadows under her eyes and hollow cheekbones. She hugged me tight, though, and told me she was sorry with tears in her eyes.

I wasn’t sure what she meant until she vanished out of her bedroom that night.

When her parents let me in her room to see if I wanted any of her things, it smelled like moss and lichen. When I left, I saw a hulking shadow under her window, and I thought I heard laughter like creaky branches and storm wind on the breeze.

Sarah never came back. I’m not sure if I should be happy or horrified that she didn’t. Her time spent under the hill changed her, made her a different person. Maybe she was happier there, now that she was one of them. I didn’t know. I’d never know, thank God, though I felt terrible for thinking it.

I had Grandma’s house torn down, even the foundation. I refused to sell the land even though I had everyone from farmers to developers begging me for it, offering me a king’s ransom for the rich soil. I wouldn’t put anybody through that. I wouldn’t will it to my children, as if I would have any. When I died, whenever that was, the pact would die with me.

I still hear the voices, the music, the whispering. I still see shadows out of the corner of my eye and I still won’t swim in natural bodies of water because water fey are notorious for trying to drown people. I still hear them calling, though I’ve gotten better at ignoring it. I won’t go to them, and I won’t listen to them.

On late winter nights, when I’m up in the wee hours trying to write another chunk of whatever it is I’m working on before my publisher’s deadline, the call is the hardest to resist. Sometimes I find myself out of my chair with my hand on the doorknob before I remember Grandma, telling me to be strong, calling me Gearoid. I remember the troll, thinking he’d won. I remember Sarah, how vibrant and full of life she had been before the hill took her. It’s enough for me to lock my doors tighter, put my headphones on and drown out whatever it is I hear.

I know they won’t ever go away, won’t ever stop trying and reaching for me, and I know no one will ever believe me. But for as long as I can remember, strange things have happened to me. And they’ve probably happened to you too. So next time you hear an unexplained noise in the middle of the night, or see a mysterious light just beyond the hill, don’t go searching for it. Don’t follow it.

Close your eyes, walk the other direction and be glad you can’t see the things that I can see.

Credit To – herchansen @ twitter

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Skip This Creepypasta

August 25, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I don’t have much time to explain. You have to hear me out urgently, it’s very important that you do so. I have, for the past couple of weeks, heard of something being passed around on the internet. A simple message that you will stumble upon when you least expect it. According to the people that have been passing around the rumours, when you receive this message you will die soon after reading. Frozen with an intense look of horror upon your face, staring with clouded eyes at whatever attacked you. As any sane person would I believed all this to be nonsense, as you do.

According to rumours the message is similar to a virus. Unlike its more devious counterparts the message spreads one thing, death. Apparently it’s quite structured and concise, seemingly innocent. Some have even hypothesised that the message has a consciousness, as odd as that sounds. That it is an entity roaming about the internet looking for human prey. It can take many forms, a post on a social forum, perhaps being read out in a video. It may even be posing as an innocent story intended to entertain or scare readers.

What’s so brilliant about this message is the fact that you rarely realise when you’ve stumbled upon it. It lures you in like prey, tricking you by conveying a feeling of trust. Creating this immediate partnership with the narrator, that they are looking out for you. This is not the case. You may be a quarter of the way through the message already and not even realise it. And even when you do finally catch on to what’s happening you won’t leave. You can’t leave, because there is some fundamental belief in humans that these things can’t be real. That these ‘demonic entities’ only exist in the imagination, in movies and horror films. Even those more switched on than the rest, those who catch on quickly will still remain regardless, despite the warning signs.

The ‘entity’ has adapted itself to the human world you see. It has listened, watched and taken in everything around it. Regarding the behaviour of its prey, what do they fear? What do they seek? What are their weaknesses? An attempt to form the greatest means of killing humans it can muster. And it succeeded. The internet. What better place? Millions of people tune in everyday, on their phones, computers, laptops. And humans are stupid as well. Stupid because they won’t believe in such things, they have be raised in such a way to regard anything paranormal as make believe. Like fools they will pass around the demonic message to each other, showing their friends how ‘weird’ or ‘cool’ it is. After all, why should you fear something if you do not believe in it?

It would blend in perfectly as well. Think of it, a message that has comments like all the rest, perhaps even a rating. A post that has likes from humans expressing their enthusiasm for it. A video that perhaps seems like any other, with a narrator that is unwittingly dooming listeners and themselves. The prey will idiotically create the perfect disguise in this way, aiding the demonic entity in its efforts.

The message itself even uses language devices to attract the prey. Similar to how a carnivorous plant may draw a fly to its death. Devices such as reverse psychology are used in the title. The fact that the narrator feigns fear or panic in the first opening sentences to intrigue. As the message continues the humans will realise that the narrator is in fact the malicious entity they had heard about.

You must have realised by now that this is the message. Will you leave the page? No, you won’t. That’s what’s so fiendishly brilliant about it. A little bit more to go and you’re all powerless to leave, powerless to stop your eyes passing from word to word. You see there’s no way humans can resist the urge to find out how this message will conclude. Even afterwards you may still refuse to believe, will still cast away any fearful thoughts. This can’t be real. These things are never real. It’s just designed to frighten me…

You’ve been occupied now for approximately three minutes. During that time you have licked your lips subconsciously once. Wiped your brow, even scratched an itch on the back of your neck. You didn’t notice you had done all this. But I did. How? Because I have left out one big gap in the story. What is it that kills you? The message itself? Oh no. The message is a distraction. You don’t notice things when you are so captivated by something. Your scratches and itches are one thing, but did you not see your door open briefly? Did you not hear that rustle as something slid into your room? It has already moved into position, just out of sight, and has been watching your movements for a while. You have until you turn off your computer, then it will attack.

Oh, and feel free to warn others about this. Not that they’ll listen. Seeing a warning that reads ‘leave the page now!’ will just spark further curiosity.

Credit To – Meek

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When Gods Blink

August 24, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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On the 25th March, at 14:57GMT, the world stopped for 27 minutes and 54 seconds. No-one noticed at first. Those that eventually did were ordered to keep quiet.

——————————————————————————————–

There was no sudden jolt, no collapsing into unconsciousness, no transition into utter darkness and back again. Nothing.

For everyone, time had appeared to pass as normal, one second moving uneventfully into the next. Birds flew, people talked, the wind and the rain blew and fell respectively – nothing had occurred to indicate that anything untoward or unexpected had happened to the inhabitants of the Earth.
Only those who looked beyond our planet and its ring of constantly chattering satellites now found that the rest of the universe told a different story.

NASA and related space agencies noticed first. Signals to ongoing missions beyond those in orbit around the Earth were all off by almost 30 minutes. Frantic investigation revealed that the same time discrepancy was occurring for all incoming signals. Naturally they came to the conclusion that the problem must therefore lay not with these external elements, but with the computers on Earth. But this led to a bigger question – one computer glitch was possible, but all of the various space agency’s computers across the globe showing the same failure at exactly the same time? Naturally, a virus or a sophisticated global hacking attack was the next obvious answer. An international team to investigate such a large, well-coordinated cyber-attack was being discussed when the first calls of alarm came in from confused and concerned astronomers, and the true significance of what had actually happened became known.

Using data retrieved from telescopic arrays at Jodrell Bank, Palo Alto, Mount Pleasant and others across the world, confirmed against existing stellar records and computational models of the local galaxy and beyond, it became apparent that for twenty seven minutes and fifty four seconds the Earth had somehow been out of sync with the rest of known time and space. In essence, the world as we knew it had winked out of existence during this period, and then returned as if nothing had happened.

For all intents and purposes during that short window of time, we had ceased to be.

The international investigation team was repurposed, a blank cheque written giving it it’s pick of resources and the best minds in their fields, all to investigate this one event and all sworn to the utmost secrecy. None of them needed to be told the panic that would ensue if this information
became public before a suitable, and hopefully reassuring, reason could be given for the event. Those that couldn’t keep silent were quickly and quietly silenced themselves.

Despite the various project names assigned to the sub teams, those involved began referring to the event in a half joking manner as ‘…the day God blinked’. In casual conversation between project members this was eventually shortened even further to just ‘the blink’.

——————————————————————————————–

After six rings, Ben finally answered the door.

“Mark! What are you doing here?”

“You invited me remember?”

“Did I?! How odd? Well, I probably had a reason at the time. It’s still good to see you anyway. Come on in!”

I’d known Ben since childhood. We attended the same schools for a while, before his crazily high IQ led him onto a fast track of higher education and beyond. We kept in touch though; his parents were sensible enough to realize he needed some grounding in the real world, and encouraged our friendship with the usual sleepovers and camping trips. Their smarts lay in forcing Ben not to let his social skills atrophy completely like a lot of very intelligent kids were wont to do. As a result, whilst he was frequently side tracked and forgetful, he still functioned in normal society with a degree of
success.

After our respective schooling had finished we both moved into the IT industry, although at vastly different levels. For myself I now worked in tech support, mostly maintaining insurance systems for a range of small independent companies. Boring, but it paid well and allowed me to travel. He on the other hand was self-employed and preferred working from his ‘Apartment of Solitude’ as he called it, referring to himself as a ‘Consulting Technician’ (he’d gotten the idea from watching re-runs of ‘Sherlock’). His work was a lot more varied and advanced, and whilst he never openly admitted to hacking, he certainly had enough technical knowledge and experience to have been employed in the past by such names as Google, Microsoft and IBM when they needed someone to test the all new, unhackable security they’d just put in place, or track down those that had subsequently been able to breach their all new, unhackable security. He preferred the latter work he told me; it added the
‘thrill of the chase’, plus it usually paid better.

What was even less well known was the work he occasionally did ‘off the books’ for such groups as the Department of Defense and the NSA. He admitted his working for them was twofold: one, they wanted his expertise and brilliance, and two; it allowed them to keep tabs on his expertise and
brilliance. He didn’t mind this as he explained:

“Well, it keeps them happy knowing where I am and what I’m doing. Or at least what they THINK I’m doing.”, and then he’d grin and pass me the latest decoded email he’d intercepted. He didn’t do anything with the stuff he found, he just enjoyed the challenge.

To be completely honest, sometimes it was hard to pin down just who Ben was and what his motivations were from one moment to the next. I’d just grown up accepting him and his eccentricities, quickly coming to the conclusion his life was a complex pattern of impulses and ideas, woven together from threads that were as much madness as genius.

There was his belief that every time someone said ‘Abracadabra’, an angel lost its wings, or that the common cold existed as a vast, hive mentality that avoided detection by its elements constantly hopping from body to body. Mad crazy shit like that. Half the time I thought he was joking; for the rest I just hoped he had enough common sense to rein it in when in public.

Then there were the times he did and said things that ended up on the opposite end of that, when what he said made absolute, unnerving sense. On those occasions he spoke with a lucidity that seemed to cut through all the crap humankind had built around its certainties and beliefs, as if he’d
touched on some universal truth we should all by rights know. All I could do at those times was marvel at how someone with such a kaleidoscope for a brain, entertaining such a maelstrom of contradictory thoughts constantly, could suddenly bring all those elements together to produce those single blindingly white lights of truth.

Then he’d suddenly go off on a tangent, accusing his neighbours of being CIA agents trialling neurotoxins on the local cats and we’d be back to normal.

Still, I came at his summons. Despite the crazed theories and odd habits, it was definitely the most entertaining conversation around, plus his library of illegally downloaded films was truly a wonder to behold. That and he was my friend.

It was during a piece of work for NASA, idling through their secure systems looking for proof of Area 51 during his off time, that led him to first discover, and then piece together, all the facts concerning March 25th and the ‘blink’ found by the international team so far.

Being his only close friend he’d decided to fill me in on this ongoing conspiracy, mainly so he could show off his talents once more, hence the invitation. As he spoke he appeared completely oblivious to how my face was gradually growing more and more incredulous. He described what the
world’s space agencies and astronomers had discovered, and how a secret scientific think tank was now investigating what had happened. Physicists, Quantum theorists, Mathematicians…the whole spectrum of sciences, all focused on this one problem and the questions associated with it: what had
happened, why it had happened, and most importantly, was it likely to happen again, and if so, what was the risk of it being permanent.

He told me of the total news blackout and how any amateur astronomers or similar who now came to the same conclusions were to be either brought on board, treated as cranks, or disappeared with extreme prejudice. Their biggest fear was a mass panic he said, or the world’s religions taking
credit on behalf of their respective Gods and several genocidal wars kicking off as a result. As he said:

“There’s nothing more disconcerting I guess then not being able to trust your own reality. We’ve been raised in a world where it’s fine to distrust your government, your employers, even your family, but your own entire existence?! Definitely a recipe for chaos.”

“Places like CERN have been placed on almost permanent hiatus. The governments of the world have no proof experiments like the ones they were doing there are the cause, but then I suppose they had to point the finger somewhere until more evidence showed up. There’s a lot of theoretical
work being done now, but pretty much zero practical. I guess it’s only a matter of time before they get the scriptwriters in from Doctor Who to brainstorm a possible cause.”

He sighed at this, sat back in his swivel chair and span round, gazing at the ceiling seemingly lost in thought, then he slowly came to a stop and returned his gaze to me, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes:

“Then on the other side, you have all the religions…”

At this he paused again, looked around his cluttered desk, and then started building what looked like a tower of various bits and pieces. As it slowly grew in height, he continued speaking:

“Remember our bible classes? I liked the stories, if not the morality. I especially liked the story of Babel….”

The rising structure of books, hard drives, chocolate bars, magazines and other random items his hands could find in reach had risen to a height just below his chin. He added a few more items, adding to the precarious sway it already had. Pausing again, his hands not touching it but spread wide on either side ready to stop any imminent collapse; he attempted the voice of an old English vicar delivering a sermon:

“Man in his hubris decided to build a tower to God, so he may converse with his creator! God though, in his glorious wisdom, decided man should not be allowed to do this and took steps to rectify the situation. So he cursed mankind with the gift of many tongues!”

He smirked at this, his eyes never leaving his tower, and returned to his normal voice.

“Well, many a project, plan or peace has been ruined by the inability of people to understand each other. It might be that humanity is over reaching itself again. With the final proof of the existence of the Higgs-Boson, maybe God’s decided we’re getting too close again, and he’s selfish about his tricks. Time for another lesson perhaps?”

At this he slowly closed his hands into fists on either side of the precarious edifice he had created, then with a single finger gingerly pushed it near the top. With a crash, his metaphorical tower scattered across the table and the floor. He waited until the sound of the books and rubbish
falling had died away before speaking again, this time in a thoughtful voice.

“Maybe the ‘blink’ as they call it was God giving us a heads up, a warning to stop encroaching on his intellectual property, else risk the consequences.”

Then he grinned, his tried and true atheism once more reasserting itself.

“Personally, looking at all the facts so far accumulated, I believe the answer lies even further afield.” he said, a knowing smile on his face.

I took a comfort break at this point, shaking my head at this new conspiracy theory. When I got back, he’d moved on already, his head now buried in the side of a PC tower case now perched on a different desk he reserved for ‘mechanical endeavours’. It was quiet for a while, broken only by
his humming as he fiddled inside the case whilst I looked for somewhere reasonably clean to sit. Then abruptly he spoke again, his voice oddly masked by the case.

“As I was saying, I believe the answers they seek lie further afield. I have statistical proof in fact.”

“Statistics?! You?”

He’d often laughed at statistics in the past, and blamed them for 78.65% of the world’s ills (in his mad pedantry, he had indeed worked out a formula that he said proved this figure). That being said, he told me once he could destroy the world with a single spreadsheet, and in my more fatalistic moments I honestly believed him.

“I accept, statistics in all their perceived infallibility, are the most fallible things in the world.” he mumbled from inside the case, reaching aimlessly for a screwdriver on the desk next to him with a hand coloured orange and black from a mix of grease and Cheetos.

“Take a work of fiction and add numbers to it, and suddenly it becomes non-fiction. Add a pie chart and a graph and it becomes an inviolate truth.”

“Bollocks” said I, only half listening as I lounged on a large dirty bean bag littered with wrappers and the odd wire.

He’d then retracted his head from the case, looked me in the eyes and said with a devilish glint in his own:

“Pass it to the right people in the right places at the right time, and it becomes law.”

“Hmmm” I replied, deciding not to entertain his paranoid fantasies further in favour of a magazine I’d just found on the floor amongst all the other junk haphazardly discarded as part of his less than ordered, less than sanitary, lifestyle.

He grunted at my lack of enthusiasm for continuing one of his favourite topics, and buried his head back in the tower case once more before continuing anyway.

“However, in those cases I am referring to your basic, biased marketing, pressure group and political statistics. Now pattern recognition, that element within the field of otherwise exploitable statistics,
THAT I do have time for.”

Extracting his head again, he looked around the desk the case was on, shifting papers this way and that as he continued, partially lost in thought:

“You’ve heard of SETI of course….”

“Hold on…if we’re heading into alien territory, you can kiss my ass right here and now.”

He fixed me with a glare, and I threw my hands up in the air in resignation, muttering:

“I’m sorry, please continue oh knowledgeable one!”

“Thank you. SETI, the search for extraterrestrial life, one of their jobs being the analysis of signals bouncing in and around our local galaxy.”

“Of which they have never found any conclusive proof of intelligent life.” I reminded him pointedly. He ignored me.

“What if the patterns they’ve been looking for are wrong? What if you could analyze these seemingly random signals another way. What if there is a pattern, but its spread over a longer period so you don’t even see it as a pattern. Ah ha!”

Triumphantly his hand came out of a pile of books clutching a pad of post-it notes, scattering the books across the desk in doing so. Fishing a pen from his trouser pocket, I saw him scribble ‘To Do’ on the top note and slap it on the side of the tower’s case, before turning around to face me with an excited grin on his face.

“Have you been watching the Discovery Channel again? Is there a UFO special on this week?” I asked knowingly.

He looked at me indignantly, though I noticed he quickly closed a TV guide that had been open on his desk amongst the mess.

“What if I told you I had written my own pattern recognition algorithm? What if I told you that I had found a message in those signals?”

“Bullshit.” I said quietly, suddenly a lot less sure of myself, now more than a little shaken by what this meant if he had indeed succeeded in discovering a message from an alien race.

“Well, it wasn’t easy” he continued, feigning an air of false modesty, “…and I do have the NSA to thank. Although if they discover I’ve been running this algorithm in the background on their decryption
supercomputer, then I may have to leave abruptly, or apologize. You never can tell what mood they’ll be in one day to the next…”

“Ben. What about the message?” I said firmly, cutting him short, standing to face him.

“Oh. That.”

He went quiet, looking around evasively. My doubts quickly returned.

“What was the message Ben?”

“Well, it was short, and it is really rather impressive decoding anything like this obviously…”

“Ben!”

He paused, and then said abjectly: “Hello. Are you content?”

There was a few seconds silence, before I started laughing uncontrollably, mostly out of relief. Ben looked indignant.

“Well, I think it’s a very poignant message. Better than ‘Prepare to be annihilated’.”

“Oh god….hold on a sec….I can’t breathe! You had me shitting myself for a moment there!”

“I take it then you don’t believe what I’ve found is a message from an alien race? Would you PLEASE stop laughing!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Ahhhhhhh…..Ben, you’ve got to admit, if you were to imagine contact from another species, I think I’d be looking for something a little more, I don’t know, profound? I mean, we’ve sent out a gold disk giving a snapshot of the human race and our knowledge. Music, mathematics, you name it. And what do the hyper intelligent aliens send back? The equivalent of ‘Have a Nice Day!’ ”

“You don’t think it’s from outer space then?” he reiterated.

I looked at his pained expression and answered in a more reasonable voice:

“Look Ben, I’m sorry. I think your algorithm found a pattern that wasn’t there, and extrapolated meaning from it.”

Turning, I returned to the bean bag and my perusal of the magazine.

He stood there a few moments, and then he turned and flopped down in a large, comfortable swivel chair behind another desk, this one littered with laptops in various states of construction and destruction, connected by an array of cables in what appeared like haphazard fashion. Pressing the on switches of three of them, his face was illuminated in the telltale glow of their screens. His focus flitting between the screens and his fingers dancing across the keyboard in front of him, he had nevertheless decided to continue, and began outlining his newest theory.

“I disagree. I’ll go even further and state that this is an alien species with an interest in the human race. A species directly involved in the evolution of mankind.”

“Here we go. Are we really back on the ‘Engineers’ theory once more? Has Ridley Scott been sending you secret messages in his films again?” I muttered, not looking up from the page I was now reading.

He ignored this and continued:

“Think about it. The human body is an amazing machine. It regulates itself, heals itself, and has the ability to create more of itself through reproduction…”

“I thought you only believed in things you had experienced for yourself?” I asked; peering over the top of the magazine at him, my voice now openly amused. I saw him scowl before he continued with his monologue.

“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, the human body is an amazing machine. And that is exactly what it is. A piece of technology, built using biological parts rather than mechanical ones. It is not however, a perfect machine.”

“What do you mean?” I asked despite myself.

“Well, think about it. It has its own defensive capabilities in the form of white blood cells to ward off illness, the ability to heal wounds, etcetera, etcetera. Occasionally though, this excellent piece of machinery goes wrong; it functions incorrectly. It overreacts to certain stimuli. It has a
faulty piece of code if you will.”

“And what’s that?”

“Why, cancer of course!”

“What?!” I asked, shocked despite myself. It was only another crazy conversation with Ben, but the word ‘cancer’ always sent an involuntary shiver down my spine. I’d seen enough of its effects on friends and family to be adverse to even its mentioning. Ben though, oblivious to my discomfort, had continued:

“Cancer is the body performing incorrect actions, creating cells where it does not need to. It’s not an attack from an external source causing this, but rather an internal failure of the biological system. A
mistake nothing more.”

“We have in essence, a design flaw, and if our God or Gods are supposedly infallible, then logic dictates we were not built by a benign omnipotent being, but rather are constructs of more fallible ones. Action should have been taken to rectify these errors. To complain if you will.”

Despite myself, I took another look over the magazine at him; nervous now for a reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on:

“What. Did. You. Do?”

“Why, I sent a message back telling them this of course!”

——————————————————————————————–

I hadn’t seen Ben in six months. Work had kept me busy in London, and he wasn’t one for texting or casual telephone conversations to catch up. Then one day he called me up suddenly to come visit.

By this time, snippets of information about ‘the blink’ had begun to leak out onto the internet, on even some of the more respected sites and journals. Most normal people saw it as just another mad conspiracy theory. Having spoken to Ben before though when he’d outlined all the data, the fact
that other sources were now relaying the same information sent chills through me. It was one thing for it being just another of his crazy theories, but quite another when a growing number of external bodies were now seeming to confirm the event’s existence.

This time when I rang his doorbell he answered on the first ring, but I wasn’t ready for the sight when he opened the door. He was haggard and tired, like he hadn’t slept in days, and his clothes were rumpled and dirty, even more so than normal. As I stood there I caught a look in his eyes. They were bloodshot and there were large, dark circles under them, but there was a calm I hadn’t seen before, which was echoed in his voice as he welcomed me in. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, but then it dawned on me; I had seen and heard this kind of response before in those who were in the
final stages of terminal illness: acceptance. I felt my body prickle with unease; that chill that ripples across your skin when you stop thinking in the past or the future and all your attention is suddenly focused on the NOW because you know the world you’re used to is about to change in some
fundamental way.

I paused in the doorway, and looked him in the eyes. Then without thinking I drew him into a massive bear hug. Ben had never been one for physical contact in all the time I’d know him, but he accepted the hug without question, and I felt some of the tension release from him. We parted after a
short while and I asked him sincerely:

“Are you okay? Nothing wrong with you?”

“No…No…Nothing physically at least.”

“Good. Good, because you look like shit.”

He laughed weakly at that, and then quieted. We stood there silently for a few moments, before the thought that had been nagging at my mind since he’d invited me forced itself out:

“I’ve noticed on the web there’s been a lot of noise about this ‘blink’ thing you mentioned last time. I was wondering…did you get an answer?”

He smiled weakly, ignoring my question, inviting me in and simply pointing me to the large bean bag for me to sit, as I had done so many times before. If anything his apartment was even messier than the last time, but somehow the impression of organized chaos was gone. This was just mess that
had been left to accumulate, like the owner no longer cared.

As I sat down, he went over to a desk and fiddled with a laptop, moved some random items on the desk, almost like he was stalling. Then turning to face me, resting himself against the desk, he asked me in a vague voice:

“Do you remember what I was talking about the last time you visited?”

“You mean the alien thing?” I answered, trying to make my voice sound light, the smirk on my face forced and obviously fake. I’d given in to his suspicions and he knew it. Before he would’ve rubbed this fact in my face, but today he didn’t. Such things didn’t seem to matter to him anymore,
which made my voiceless fears even greater.

“Not just humanity, but all life on Earth, has been engineered. An external source created it, and maintained it. It is my belief…”, at this he uttered a dry, mocking laugh at his use of a word he had previously despised.

“It is my belief now that the Earth has experienced various ‘stages’ of life. There have probably been several of these stages, back from when Earth was first formed, up to and including today. Of these earlier ‘versions’ we have no substantial evidence of. The last one before us though, we do have several indicators lying around.”

He left it hanging, waiting for my mind to catch up. It didn’t take long, although I was surprised at how easily I was accepting what was possibly another one of his eccentric theories.

“You mean the dinosaurs don’t you?” I said quietly; his restraint somehow infecting me as well now.

A small smile arranged itself on his lips again, though the sadness never left his eyes.

“Indeed. Those big stumbling sods before us. For the sake of clarity, I’ve classed them as Version 5.0 of life on Earth. We are Version 6.0 I now have reason to believe.”

“What about your message, did you get an answer?” I asked again, a bit more impatiently.

“Not just my message. The Earth’s been sending radio signals and more out for quite a few years now. If we can find their signals as I’ve proven, they can certainly pick up ours, even the unintended ones.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“That they got our messages, and they took action.”

I tried to swallow now in a dry throat.

“What action?”

“You work in technical support. What is usually your first recommendation when something stops working correctly?”

“I don’t know…usually turning it off and back on again does the trick in the majority of cases…”

At this my voice trailed off as I realized what he was implying, what this said about March 25th and the lost 27 minutes and 54 seconds.

Ben started laughing, trailing off into a sad cough as he saw what he’d said take hold in my mind. Then he suddenly went off at a tangent, just like the old days, and I listened despite the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at what I was now thinking.

“Chariots of the Gods! Chariots of the frigging Gods! Imagine that. Aliens coming down to teach ancient civilizations new tricks. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe Version 6.0 was still under warranty at the time and part of that warranty included on-site maintenance. Hell, my money’s on the Greek gods actually being extraterrestrial consultants sent down to fix bug problems. Makes you wonder which fucked up piece of code triggered Pompeii!”

“SHUT UP!” I suddenly raged. Maybe he was in one of his mad phases again, but I knew that he wasn’t. The sane, logical part of me didn’t want any more truth; knew I couldn’t handle any more.

I looked up, and Ben was staring at me, not in anger, but in sympathy. He settled down next to me on the bean bag, passing me a beer he had obviously just fished out of the small fridge he kept behind his desk. I took a long swig, let my breathing settle, and then passed it back. Taking that as a
cue to continue, he did, but quieter this time, less tinged with the hysterical note that had appeared to be emerging in his speech earlier, like he’d reached the peak of his madness and was now trailing off the other side.

“It would explain why so many people believed in pantheons of Gods back in the day. Alien engineers popping down to fix ‘the system’ whilst we were still covered. Just like Microsoft ending support for older versions of Windows though, maybe we just passed the date where Version 6.0 of
life on Earth was covered, so they stopped coming.”

He took a swig and passed it back, his voice now wistful, his eyes unfocused, trying to look across the unfathomable void to where he imagined our progenitors resided:

“And now, in this age of radio and microwave signals, the people of Earth are finally sending messages and emails that can be picked up by their ‘Gods’, bemoaning this and that failure with their bodies, their families and the world around them, demanding answers, and these messages
tumble out across the ether of space, picked up by some backwater tech support desk in some forgotten nebula. The number of messages reaches a critical mass, a statistical point where action must be taken, and some alien equivalent of a high school dropout named Gary checks a scrap of paper on his desk for the instructions to an age old piece of software…”

He downed the rest of his beer.

“…and then turns it off and on again.”

Silence reigned for a few minutes, during which he stood up and made another trip to the fridge, this time bringing back several more bottles. He settled back down on the bean bag and passed me one before he spoke again.

“I got a message back you know.” he said simply.

I looked at him incredulously, and then demanded:

“Jesus Ben! What did it say?!”

His eyes were dark, pausing a long while before reaching into his back pocket and slowly unfolding a piece of paper, mumbling something about ‘decryption software’, ‘language analysis’ and ‘Word auto-formatting’ before passing it to me. It read:

—————————————–

Dear EARTH,

Thank you for replying in regard our recent query as to your ongoing happiness with your software. We passed on your multiple concerns to the relevant technical support helpdesk.

Unfortunately ongoing support for your current version of LIFE 6.0 has ended. The initial reboot of your hardware/software attempted previously appears to have not resolved your issue(s). Therefore we will be refreshing your system to previous stable release LIFE 5.3.

Your contract does not include backup/restoration of existing data, so all current data will be wiped post version LIFE 5.3.

Thank you for using LIFE and please contact us if further issues occur.

Best Regards.

—————————————–

“Refresh?” was all I could mutter, confusion and dread dulling my senses.

“Using the version numbering as a guide, my guess is that would be resetting the Earth back to the late Jurassic period.” he murmured thoughtfully, taking another swig of beer.

“I sent a message back of course, asking them not to do anything. I even couched it in the proper terms: ‘We have decided to continue with our current installation, please do not reboot nor refresh the system. Please ignore all other bug reports unless forwarded by me. Ben Glover, Sysadmin of Earth’. Hopefully they got it in time.”

“Bug reports?”

“Prayers”

“Oh.”

Then I looked at him again, the look of disbelief obvious in my eyes.

“Sysadmin of Earth??”

He didn’t meet my gaze, but rather sheepishly kept his eyes locked to his beer bottle.

“Well, I had to sound like I was in charge didn’t I?”

“Do you think they got your message?” I asked hopefully after a pause.

“I honestly don’t know. We can hope though. By my calculations we’ll know in the next couple of hours or so. It’s why I invited you over I guess. So we can watch the end together. Then again, we might just wink out of existence…” his voice trailed off.

Silence reigned again, broken only by our occasional sips. There wasn’t, in all truth, very much else to say.

After a while he finished his beer, rested it gently down next to him, and then yawned expansively, leaning back on the bean bag with his hands clasped behind his head and said matter-of-factly:

“Well to be perfectly honest, I don’t think the dinosaurs were given a fair enough crack of the whip the first time round. Only right they should be given another go.”

I turned in disbelief to argue with him at this irresponsible attitude, and then saw the barely suppressed laughter in his eyes. When all was said and done, what was there left to do but wait and see what happened, and laugh at the absurdity of it all? He started, and I joined in, till the tears were rolling down our cheeks.

And there we sat, laughing and drinking beer until our world ended… maybe.

Credit To – Charmingly Shallow

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What the Wind Blew In

August 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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“HURRICANE WARNING – A hurricane is expected within 48 hours. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately”.

I never really took those warnings seriously. In the tropics, a little category 2 Hurricane is no big deal. When I first moved here, I made sure to head to higher ground and heed the warnings given to me by the local TV station, but after returning home with minimal damage to the surrounding area, I realized it was just a waste of time. Better to just board up the windows and wait it out.

So Hurricane Gloria rolled in one August afternoon. It started out the typical way, the wind slowly began to pick up and all the last-minute shoppers raided the local supermarkets looking for batteries, generators, water bottles, and food stuffs. I was content with my candles, flashlights and the canned soup that I was usually able to cook up on my gas stove.

The wind picked up a little faster than usual, I guessed that Gloria was going to pack quiet a punch rather quickly, which was fine since those kind of storms had a tendency to roll by faster. I was hoping to get back to work as soon as possible, since all the stores were closing before she came in.

So I stayed home watching the news as it began to get dark and the wind really began to pick up. The quiet whistle slowly started to turn into a roar and the wind whipped by the bending palms. As expected, the power went out after a few hours of this. I was already prepared with flashlight in hand, and began lighting the candles in my living room. It was around 8 o’clock, and still too early to sleep, so I made myself some soup and decided to catch up on some reading via flashlight.

By the time I searched all the boxes for my old books, cooked up my soup and ate, the streets outside were already flooded. Since my home is elevated, I was not too concerned, but to venture out into the night would mean trudging in water up to my knees. Thankfully I had all I needed in this tiny little house.

I decided to sit in my favorite chair and get to reading. I must have fallen asleep because I was awoken, book in lap and flashlight dead on the floor, by the roaring of the wind and an odd sound coming from outside. I was a bit startled, because the wind was beginning to sound dangerously loud, more than I had expected. It also sounded like something was banging into the outer walls. It was circling my house, banging into each wall and then coming around again.

I was worried at this point, thinking that maybe I should have listened to the reports and got to higher ground. If my house takes too much damage, I would have to dredge through the deep flooding to my neighbor Alice’s house, which was nearly 15 yards away. The old lady lived by herself, and has seen her fair share of Hurricanes, so I knew she would be sticking this one out as well.

The banging would continue, stop for a while, and then continue in the same pattern again, always accompanied by a scratching sound. All of a sudden it banged hard against the window. I nearly died from fright it was so loud, and I heard a crack. It did not sound as if the glass shattered, but quite possibly put a crack into it.

Fearful that something was caught in the wind and causing damage, I decided to open the front door to see if I could peer out and see if anything had gotten caught up on my house, likely fallen branches or something similar. Since the flashlight was dead, I just decided to use my cell phone for light until I could find more batteries.

I went to the door and braced myself since I knew the wind was heavy. It blew the door right open, but I was able to get a handle on it. I looked to my left towards the window, and could see a large crack down the center. Though it was cracked, the window was still boarded well enough that I felt it would hold. I went to turn to my right, to see if anything else was damaged, when I see a large, black, hairy thing clinging to the corner of the house on the far side. I was only able to get a quick glimpse of it, because as I turned and looked, it rolled along the side of my house out of view. I wondered if this was what was causing the entire ruckus out there. It was about the size of a small to medium animal, but I thought it could not have weighed very much because it was high above the ground near my roof. The wind had to have carried it to that high of a spot, because there was no way any animal or heavy object could cling to the side of the house like that, at least none that I have ever seen.

I must admit, when I saw it I got a little freaked out, but put it out of my mind because weird things are always flying about in the heavy wind. It could have been old man Seamus’ wigs, all wet and tangled in mud for all I know.

I went and sat back down in my chair. It was almost 1:00am now, but I could not get back to sleep. I just lay there, listening to the roar outside. The banging started up again. I listened as it started at the front of the house, moved around to the side, scratching and banging its way along, and to the back of the house. Then a huge CRASH; something smashed through the back bathroom window. I must have forgotten to board up that window, since it is small and slightly protected by high bushes.

I get up, walking in the direction of the noise, using my cell phone for light. I can hear the whistling of the wind through the open window. The door is open about 6 inches, so I push it open, and see something lying on the floor in the dark. I notice that I am stepping in murky water; the thing is dripping wet and it created a pool of water on the floor. It is half-way behind the shower curtain which had gotten ripped off but I can see dark, feathery and matted looking hair poking out. Is it some kind of animal?

I was afraid to get close to it, and with my cell phone, the only way I could get enough light would be to stand next to it, so I decided I would try to find batteries for the flashlight instead. I run into the living room, pick the flashlight up off the floor, pull the AA batteries out of my TV remote, and stuff it into the back of the flashlight. I turn it on and inch my way back to the bathroom.

I turn my flashlight towards the thing, and see nothing but broken glass, the torn shower curtain lying besides sticks and mud. It was just gone. At this point my heart sinks into my chest and I begin to feel very afraid. It was definitely not old man Seamus’ wigs, because if it moved then it is alive. I try to calm myself by thinking “maybe it was a raccoon or something, and it crawled back out the window”?

I decide that this is all too much for me, so I make the decision to go to my room, lock the door, and do not come out until daybreak—no matter what. The darkness is probably just playing tricks on me, and I will probably find Seamus’ wigs tucked behind the toilet tomorrow, likely carried there by the wind and the puddle of water that filled the bathroom floor.

As I make my way towards my bedroom I notice that my bedroom door was closed. I do not remember closing it, but I suppose I just forgot with all the freight. I open the door and look around the dark room. I don’t see anything out of place, until I see it. A large floor-length mirror stands across from the open door I am standing in, and behind the door I see the figure of…this thing – It was standing in a crouched position looking at me through the crack in the door. I spin around and can see its hideous eye, a huge oversized muddy-red bloodshot eye staring at me, opened wide like a predator that had just spotted its prey.

I immediately ran for the only other room with a door, the bathroom, and I slam it and lock it. Within moments I heard it barreling after me, and it began pounding on the door. I know the door will not hold, and I can hear the wood beginning to crack. I turn, and see the open window. I knew at that moment, my only chance is to make a run for it.

I managed to pull myself up on the window and clumsily fall out, sinking into the water that is nearly up to my hips now. It is muddy and full of debris but I am slowly able to pull myself through it in the direction of my closest neighbor. Alice might be an old woman, but she is tough, and since she lives on her own, I know she keeps a shotgun with her. If I could only get there, I know I would be safe.

I am almost a quarter of the way there when I see my front door fly open. The wind had significantly died down, so I know that it was pushed open from the inside. I do not stop to see what comes out, because I am pulling through the water with all my might. Moments later I hear a splash, and I know it is coming after me.

I am nearly there; the house is only about 12 feet from me when I look back. It is under the water, only a few feet behind. I can see a big black blob through the murky water, and it is gaining on me. I start screaming for Alice, but I am not sure if she could hear me since the wind is still rather noisy.
Then I feel something wrap around my ankle. I don’t have time to think, I just pull away from it, continuing on. As I yank my foot away I feel tremendous pain and a moment later I see blood coming up from the depths. I keep moving, yelling for Alice, when I see her looking out of the small window on her front door.

Soon, I am near her front porch, and she opens the door for me. I am crying and push past her, collapsing inside of her doorway. She looks shocked to see me, wet and covered in mud. I try to tell her what I saw between my sobs, and I could tell she did not know what to make of my story. She looks outside and tells me there is nothing out there. I try to convince her that some THING was chasing me, and though she doesn’t believe me, she goes to get her shotgun at my constant requests.

With the door closed and locked, I look through the little window. The wind is still strong, but I can tell the storm is almost over. “Oh my goodness” Alice says, “what happened to your leg”? I had forgotten all about it. I look down and see a huge tear in my leg, a round row of puncture marks, which is wide but not deep and bleeding badly. It looks almost like a bite. “Let me clean that up for you” she says.

She goes to get her first aid kit and starts to clean it up. “Hmm,” she says “what in the world is this”? Out of my leg she pulls out a large white object, like the size of a penny. She goes to the sink and washes it. “Well, look at that. Looks almost like a shark tooth. These storms really do carry in some strange stuff”.

Credit To – B. Paige

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