When Death Cheats You

August 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Everyone knows the term “cheating death”: it’s when you get to escape the ending of your life, or the cruelness of how it will end or just the terror itself it carries. But everyone knows that Death will eventually catch up to you. Some people can evade it for a long period of time while others may not have the best of luck. I cheated Death once, and it hasn’t caught up to me… yet. Before I die; before I’m caught, I want people to know his story. Yes, his story, not mine. This isn’t about me. It’s about the one young man that will live a thousand lifetimes more than me. I will die soon and so will my story. His will just fade away to the point where no one will remember. So to keep his story alive, I will tell you everything he told me. As I said before, I, along with few others, may have cheated Death, but what if Death cheats you? Then what? What happens if Death gets the better of you in the end?

Up in the north of Washington, a young man around the age of 19 named Lyle fell ill to Acute Myeloid Leukemia. A cancer that works at a dangerously fast pace and affects the blood in the body. He did not have long to live. Hearing the constant sorrows of his family, he begged for mercy from God. He pleaded and cried out to at least prolong his life a little longer. He wanted to be able to stay with his family; to relive his life and make every second count. However, that was never to be…

A month or so later, the young man was on the verge of death. Lyle passed in and out of consciousness one night. He tried so hard to stay alive and not breathe his last breath. Losing energy, he fell prey to his killer until a shady man appeared before him in his little hospital room. He wore a black suit, black dress shoes, a dark grey dress shirt with a white neckerchief, and a raven colored fedora that shielded his eyes. He watched the young man as he twirled a fancy cane with a blue jewel on the tip in his hand. An unnerving sneer crept across the man’s face. He walked over swiftly and stood beside the bed.

“What do we have here?” A voice so deep, so raspy and so cold sounded from the man’s thin lips, “It appears your little disease is getting the best of you.”

Lyle opened his eyes slightly to see the figure loomed over him, “Who.. are you?”

“Originally, I came here to kill you–.. pardon me.. What I mean to say is that I am a savior.. of.. sorts. I’ve come here to end the agonizing torment. But after hearing your constant begs and pleas, I couldn’t help but answer to your pathetic prayers,” The mysterious and harsh-toned man explained himself. He had such an uninterested look as if being there was a waste of time. Lyle was confused and bewildered. A nonstop flow of questions circled throughout his mind. Who was this man? What does he want? And how did he get in a room that was locked from the inside?

“I understand that you don’t wish to die, so what if I were to tell you that I could make you live a long time? Eh~ would that suit you? I know you’re dying to see your family again– no pun intended,” He said with a deadpanned face. He didn’t even give a slight chuckle to the dark joke he made. The man leaned down closer to the boy’s ear, “If I gave you a chance to live, would you give me something in return? It’s nothing out of proportion, of course. It’s an eye for an eye per se.”

“You can.. save me? Really!?” Lyle widened his eyes in surprise.

The man could see that Lyle was interested in what he had to say and pursued his target, “I’ll give you your life…if… You give me your soul. Sign your soul away to me and I can grant you this one wish. Make a deal with the devil. Keep in mind, though, you can’t back out of the agreement once you’ve signed.”

With a snap of his fingers, a white scroll with a red ribbon wrapped around it appeared out of blue flames. The man grabbed the scroll and flicked it downward. It unrolled itself and the contract appeared. Next to the paper, a feather of a crow levitated in place. The young male looked over the small cursive writing, but was interrupted.

“You don’t have much time, so I would decide quickly. Your hour glass is down to its last, miserable grain of sand,” The impatient and bored man ushered him to sign. Lyle knew that there was something up with the guy. He was hiding something. However, if he didn’t sign the paper now, he would die. Finally deciding his fate, Lyle took the quill and wrote down half of his signature before the man spoke again.

“Oh, I neglected to mention: by signing your soul away to me, I am granted the right to your physical being. In other words; I own you,” The man smiled slightly as the last of the signature was signed. Flipping up the paper, it disappeared into blue flames.

Before Lyle’s very eyes, the whole room was set ablaze by a vibrant blue. The room shook uncontrollably.

“What’s going on!? What’re you doing?” Fear sunk into the mind of the young adult. He was perplexed, scared, and regretful. A black substance that was too thick to be smoke but too thin to be tar slithered its way up to Lyle and started to burn him. The dark substance encased Lyle’s entire body. He screamed as it dug into his skin with a burning sensation. His screams were muffled as the tar-colored slime slowly poured itself down his throat. It made its way around Lyle’s face and started to seep into his eyes, burning them doing so. Lyle watched the man as he disappeared in blue flames, waving as he left. A paper floated down to his bed and hovered over his face. Still in shock at the sudden turn of events, Lyle was unable to read the paper. The dark substance completely blocked out his vision along with his intake of oxygen. He soon fell unconscious. The flimsy paper floated down to the floor with the words “Rest in Piece” staring straight up at Lyle.

Six months later, Lyle was released from the hospital and went into relapse. As he and his family drove down a busy street and into an intersection, another car sped through a red light. The opposing driver rammed straight into the passenger’s side of the family’s car. The vehicle then spun out of control and smashed into a wall that helped elevate a toll road. Both the driver and the passenger, his mother and father, were killed.

A private funeral was later held in his hometown’s cemetery. At the funeral of his parents, Lyle found a familiar face. He approached the man and took him aside away from the few family members and relatives he had left. When out of earshot of everyone else, the shady man announced he had a job for him to do. Not listening to him, Lyle begged the man for help. Annoyed about the situation, the man explained bluntly that he could do nothing for them since it was necessary for his parents to die. The young adult flared up and lashed out at him. He exclaimed profanity and questioned what there was to gain for killing the innocent.

“You’d be better off without them,” The man said with a firm tone. The cruel words echoed in the grieving boy’s ears.

“W-What… No…” He fell to his feet in perplexity and remorse.

“You should be thanking me,” he snapped his head up toward the cruel, calm person that stood before him, “It will make your next job a whole lot easier. Keep in mind, kid, I’m only trying to help your sorry ass.”

Before he could say much more, the man gave an honest explanation.

“I have a job for you, boy,” The man took on an even more serious demeanor.

“What sort of job? Something you don’t want to get your hands dirty with?”

“Heh! Now you’re catching on. With my old state and how busy I am, I need you to do a few permanent tasks for me. Since your soul belongs to me, there is no way you can back out of this. I am Death. No matter how hard you try you can’t outrun me. You’ll be caught eventually.”

“Is that a challenge?” Lyle raised an eyebrow.

“No, it’s the truth. As for your job, you will be what’s known as the G.-R.-A.-E.: a Ghastly Reaping Archangel of Ethnologies.”

“A.. Grah-eh..?” Lyle tried to pronounce the acronym.

“No, you idiot! It’s pronounced like the word ‘grey’! In other words, you’d be a Grim Reaper. No wait.. I don’t like that term. It’s used too much and it’s lost its terrifying connotation since so many people fantasize about them…

“Anyway, you will collect souls from all those who are about to perish. It won’t matter if they are a stranger or a friend, good or evil, male or female, young or old. Your emotions or ties to people, stranger or known, will be void and meaningless. Each person has a time limit and if you don’t collect the soul within the time frame, they get to cheat death. In other words, they will be granted another day or so until the prefect time is right,” Death clarified as he felt badgered by the young man.

“As morbid as this sounds, why can’t they just die then instead of giving an extension?”

“Coincidence. There needs to be an excuse for their death instead of just an unsolvable case of murder. We can’t just go around collecting souls whenever we want. We’re not like those stupid psychopaths out there killing people with dull knives or those miserable creatures causing disappearances. If we do that, we would be unprofessional and even more chaos would reign. People would believe in a mass murderer on the loose. Again. Which is why Jack the Ripper had to go… Heh, we’re more professional than that. We’re practically a business, ” The man paused for a moment. With a flick of his hand, an antique chain watch appeared dangling from his grasp. As he held it in his hand, a blue flame was lit on both clock hands.

“What, are you gonna pawn it?” Lyle joked without amusement.

“This pocket watch is a person’s lifeline. Once the hand starts moving around the face, it will not stop. You have within the time the hand starts moving to when it makes a full cycle to collect the given person’s soul. If the hour hand makes a full cycle, then the flame will disappear and they’ll get an extension. I do not want that to happen, now. I don’t like to give away free days to live. It’s rather troublesome, so be sure to finish the job within the set time.” Death paused for a moment.

“How am I supposed to know who I need to kill? How the hell would I find them anyway!?”

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll know where to find them, and you’ll know the person before you even lay your eyes on them. Your job begins at nightfall, “Death smirked as if he just heard a stupid joke. He turned and walked away, “I’ll be watching to see how you do. It should be … interesting, heheh~.”

After Death left, Lyle sank to the ground. Overwhelmed by the vast amount of information and the sudden change of plans, he didn’t know what to do. When he gathered his thoughts, he headed home and lied down on the couch. With a long sigh, he threw his arms over his face and drifted off to sleep within a matter of minutes.

The sun was down, and the moon illuminated the night sky with silver light. Tossing and turning on the soft couch, heavy footsteps paraded across the flooring. They headed straight for the couch and stopped in front of the sleeper.

“Wake up, you fool. It’s time.”

Lyle shot straight up and looked where the voice originated, “Who’s there?”

There was nothing there but an empty home, and yet he felt that he was not alone.

Without warning, someone took a hold of Lyle by his messy, dull colored, blonde hair from behind and pulled him back. He grasped the intruder’s arm and tried to break free. It was of no use. Lyle felt something cold and sharp at his throat. A knife, perhaps?

“Stop squirming, stupid brat. You’re making this harder than it needs to be.” Lyle opened his eyes and saw Death standing behind him, pinning his head to the back of the couch.

“You! What the hell are you–”

“Tonight is your first night of reaping. To make sure things run smoothly, I’ve taken it upon myself to see to it that you don’t screw up.”

Within that instant, Death snapped his fingers. Lyle looked around waiting for something to happen. His eyes burned for some strange reason. He wiped his eyes and saw a black slime smeared on his hands. He choked and coughed excessively, letting out clots of dark goop from his lungs.

“What did you do!? This is… This is that stuff from before, isn’t it!?” Lyle muttered his words in panic, but Death yanked his head back and injected his boney fingers into Lyle’s eyes.

“Now, now. Don’t move about. It will only make it worse,” He warned nonchalantly.

The young adult let out a blood curtailing scream as the assaulter dug into the eye sockets deep enough to latch onto the inside of the skull and pulled his head upward. His hand receipted from Lyle’s eyes and he focused on the right eye. Death intricately moved his fingers around to get a firm grasp and yanked the eye out of the socket. Blood and black slime poured profusely out of Lyle’s eyes and mouth, burning his skin as it slithered down his face.

“It’s just a precautionary measure. Stop making such a fuss. You can’t die, you know? I won’t allow it!” Death’s voice sounded uneasy, yet it still had that mellow tone to it. He did not enjoy this horrendous torment, but it was necessary.

Death tossed the right eyeball on the ground and watched Lyle for a moment before going after the other eye. He used his knife to slice two cuts across the left eye. Lyle tried desperately to fight back and get away, but to no avail. There was no possible way he could beat the devil, himself.

Death let go of Lyle and watched him as he fell to the floor and curl up in a ball. The young adult held his face in misery. His scarlet, red blood stained the white carpet and covered every inch of his hands. Just when he thought it was over, Death took his knife and held it against Lyle’s throat. He squeezed his jaw with enough force to open Lyle’s mouth. With the knife in hand, he dug the knife into his mouth and roughly and partially cut off his tongue. Death didn’t remove it entirely, but it was severely damaged and would take a long while for it to heal. Aside from that, he even made several cuts around the mouth including the gums and lips.

Unable to escape, Lyle choked on his own blood along with that black substance that continuously poured from his eyes and mouth. Death stood up and allowed Lyle to roll over onto his stomach. He hacked up even more blood and ooze on the snowy carpet. Death sat down on the couch unimpressed and watched Lyle wither in pain.

Lyle couldn’t stand the torture. His eye sight was nearly gone just like his tongue. His skin and the inside of his throat burned. He couldn’t do anything but lay there and wait for the next round of torment. All he could do was moan and mumble shrieks of distress and horror.

What kind of a precaution was this!? What was the point of this!? Why must he be put under so much torture when promised an actual life? Why did it seem that Death cheated him out of an escape from this torment?

Lyle took his focus away from the questions that circulated through his mind. He then remembered he wasn’t alone. He could feel a cold, unsympathetic gaze on him.

“This isn’t something personal. Be happy that you’ll eventually heal…” Death was silent for a few moments before speaking again, “I had to do this… Now that you cannot see who exactly your target is, you won’t be able to show anyone mercy during your rookie years. It’s logical to spare those you know and love; it’s just human nature. That’s why when I first met you I plagued you with Ruin. You know, the disgusting crap you keep hacking up? It’s just making its way up to your mind to help you make decisions when it’s time to do your job. Maybe when you finally heal, you’ll make the right decisions and not screw up.”

Lyle mumbled and gargled.

“Why did I destroy your eyesight and nearly rip out your tongue, you ask? It’s simple, you have to do the job without thinking of emotions or personal interests. Your mouth and eyes are capable of showing your emotions. I’ve taken away all of your abilities of displaying emotion with the exception of body language since you need your limbs,” Death chuckled slightly at his last statement. Atoning for his crime, he took several bandages and wrapped them around Lyle’s eyes and mouth to stop the bleeding, then turned rather serious, “Now that is over with, finish the job for tonight.”

He left without saying anything else. The young adult laid there on the ground in discomfort and pity. The smell of iron flared up his nostrils and provoked him to vomit all over the floor. He tried to open his left eye and saw red and black. He felt around his face gingerly. It was bound with bandages that were poorly wrapped around his face without much light able to pass through.

Out of nowhere, Lyle had this feeling to stand. Obeying himself, he stood up shakily and raised his hand. He unclenched his fist and found an old, decorative pocket watch with a blue flame on the hands. He couldn’t see it but he knew it was there. As he studied the flames, he got a sense of where he was supposed to find the person he needed to kill. It was as if the watch told him what to do. Although Lyle couldn’t see them, the hands moved slowly so he may have enough time to get to the target. He heard something like fabric shift on the ground next to him. Facing toward it, he picked it up and felt numerous objects. Most of it seemed to be clothes, another felt like a pair of shoes and gloves.

Taking a few minutes to change, Lyle dressed in an attire similar to what Death sported: a long, dark, tattered hooded trench coat, a dark grey dress shirt with a striped vest where his watch is now being held, a vibrant, red tie, dark pants and gloves, and black and white, fancy bowler shoes. He looked as if he were a mafia member with blood stained bangs and bandages. When he was done, he held up the watch again. He didn’t waste too much time getting dressed which was surprising considering he was practically blind and light-headed.

Lyle headed off in the direction of his target. He ran out of his home swiftly, quietly and at an inhumanly fast pace. He did not just run though, he seemed to glide across the ground like wandering ghosts. Along the way, he would take out the watch to check the “time”. Lyle could sense the flame become stronger as he got closer to his destination.

About fifty minutes later, he came across an old apartment complex. He checked the watch again and found that he was close. Instinctively, he jumped into the air toward the second story window and landed on the fire escape. Astonished at his new abilities, he shook his head to regain his focus. He pressed his head up against the window to see if he could hear anyone. Lyle heard the sound of someone cough violently. A middle aged man came around the corner and entered the room. He had a lit cigar propped in his mouth. The man looked up and saw the shadowy, well dressed figure in the window.

“What the hell are you doing? Get your ass out of here before I come out and make you myself, you little fucker!” The man threatened.

Lyle could not retort. His mouth was bound and injured. All he did was lower his head and studied the man’s presence. It was him. It was his soul that needed to be taken.

“Hey! I said get the fuck out of here!” The man shouted as he took heavy steps toward Lyle.

Before the man could do anything, Lyle, without a thought in his mind, rushed inside. He smashed the window to small shards upon impact.

There was a thumping sound coming from the floor, “Hey, keep it down up there! There are people sleeping, asshole!”

Both the man and Lyle ignored the complaint.

“You son of a bitch!” The man ran for the kitchen to get his gun, but Lyle was too quick for him. Lyle reluctantly grabbed the man and turned him the opposite direction. He smashed him into the wall and created a large, gaping hole. Adrenaline flowed through Lyle’s veins, but he had this feeling that he did not want to do this. That it wasn’t right. On the other hand, there was a slight bit of excitement in him. It felt… good… to relieve his anger on this soon-to-be-dead man. The man got up and shook his head.

“Who the hell do you think… You…” The man’s voice faltered when he saw the bloodied, bandaged face staring at him. He never realized how the intruder’s face was so badly injured. Horrified by the site, the man dashed out of his apartment, down to the first floor. Lyle didn’t pursue. Instead, he checked his watch. He had more than enough time to do his job. He didn’t even really want to do it. The man may be a jerk, but it still didn’t seem right…

Lyle walked over to the broken window and saw the man stumble outside, coughing and hacking up a storm. Lyle felt pity for the man. He didn’t wish to do this, but he didn’t have a choice. For some reason a little sting in his mind urged him, gave him the need or want, to do his job. He had a horrible feeling that bringing pain to others would relieve his anger at Death. Maybe it was that Ruin Death was talking about earlier that took an affect on him now. His hands started to tremble and he jumped out the window, landing a few yards in front of the scurrying man.

“What do you want from me!?” The man shouted, alerting a few of his neighbors. He took a few steps back before he decided to take his last moments into his own hands. The man lunged himself at Lyle, but he quickly dodged. The two played a sort of game of chase; the man was “it”. Lyle simply toyed with his target. He was indecisive; he wanted to get the job over with, but then he wanted to give the man more time to live.

Not being able to evade the brute any longer, Lyle received a hard punch to the left side of his face. He stumbled a little before the man swung his left arm around and hit him in the temple on the right side. Lyle lost his footing again and knelt on the ground. The man laughed triumphantly as he thought his opponent was just an freaky, pathetic bastard. This made Lyle clench his fists in even more anger than before. He trembled again, except this time it was both of his arms; from the very tops of his shoulders all the way down to his finger tips. The man’s laugh seemed to falter though as Lyle grew more infuriated by the second. The Ruin took control.

“What.. the hell..!?” The man took a couple steps back as the darkness grew all around him. His opponent remained kneeling on the floor looking downward. As he stared at Lyle, he felt something, or some things, crawl up the side of his leg. He looked down and saw an assortment of cockroaches, centipedes, and beetles scattered around him. Moths flew around him and landed all over his body. Extremely disgusted, he smacked them all off and tried to step on them. But, they just kept coming.

“Hehehe…”

The man heard a small laugh and looked up. Lyle’s shadow grew longer and stretched toward the man. As soon as it touched his feet, the Ruin pooled around him. He stepped out of the shadow, but the slime stuck to his shoes and went along with him like he just stepped in a mixture of chewed gum and mud.

“Hehehah.. hahahaha… Hahahahaha! Ahahahahaha!” Insane, gargled laughter came from the bandaged intruder. Blood seeped through the wrappings. Even more horrified than before, the man realized that his efforts to get away from the bugs, slime and the ever growing darkness were futile. What possessed this guy to start laughing like a maniac choking on blood-he didn’t know. One thing he was certain of was that he needed to get away.

Lyle cupped his hands over his face. He stood up and looked at them. He bled again. His mouth dripped red, staining his clothes as it flowed down his neck. His eyes were no better off either. They never had enough time to heal even a little and they started to bleed in vast amounts. Lyle’s furious demeanor got the best of him. His arms and hands shook even more uncontrollably. He slowly cupped his face again and scratched slightly at his bandages which caused them to slightly come undone.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Freak!?” The man was discombobulated. He was so frightened at Lyle’s actions that he lost all thoughts about the bugs crawling on him.

Immediately, after the man spoke, Lyle ceased his laughter. He slowly brought down his hands to reveal his ruined face. Vibrant teal and black veins ran all over the areas of his body that were visible. The bandages over his left eye moved and a glowing, piercing red showed through. The man turned and ran away in terror. Lyle watched his prey scurry away like a frightened mouse. He was angered beyond belief and he wanted to relieve that fury. He was so furious, his body just shook while he remained set in place until he was finally able to slowly walk toward his target.

As the man continued to run, he looked back and saw his pursuer following at a close distance. But… Lyle only walked the whole time… How could he have caught up so fast?

Darkness shrouded the man’s sight and something grabbed his leg, causing him to trip and fall to the asphalt. He turned over and saw something he would never be able to unsee: a transparent, brightly and faintly colored, teal specter. Its face was distorted and decomposed and had vibrant, red, quarter sized dots for eyes in the sockets. Its boney arms had rotted looking flesh. Its legs weren’t even present. Instead, it had a tattered, cloth-like body. The phantom wheezed and gasped, staring at him. It crawled closer and closer to him. The man looked around and saw multiple other phantoms surround him. Horrified at the grotesque monstrosities, an ear-blasting cry of fear erupted from the man’s vocal chords.

“L-.. Leave.. LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” The man shrieked with tears formed in his eyes.

The poltergeists swarmed around him; bugs crawled all over him. He opened his eyes slowly and saw a figure walk toward him.

“S-Stay back! Stay the fuck back!” He warned.

A slight chuckle came from the figure. Right after, it lunged into the air and came straight down on the middle-aged male. The man jumped up and pushed through the ghosts to get away just in time to escape a large, curved blade with a chain attached land in the spot he was just in.

Lyle was having fun. Too much fun… He summoned the souls to mess around and tease the poor man. He obtained so much pleasure, he didn’t realize how childish and cruel his thoughts were.

Lyle raised his arm straight out to the side and smokey substances enveloped his hand and lower arm. The substances started to form into something long like a staff. The curved blade and chain were dragged back toward Lyle and attached itself to the smokey substance encasing his hand and arm. As the smoke faded away, a solid object that was the same length as its owner was in Lyle’s right hand. Lyle looked at his new weapon, and wondered how he knew that he could do such a thing. He studied it and realized that it was his perfect murder weapon: a scythe, just the thing for a traditional reaping.

He chased the man down on the empty street and cut him off. He was literally inches from his face. The man stared into the red eye that tracked him. The horrendous face haunted him. Lyle took his bloodied hand and touched the jawline and neck of the frightened man. His face started to deteriorate, his muscle mass shrank, his stomach caved in, his eyes sank into the back of his head, his skin rotted, and his bones nearly tore through his thin layer of flesh. He was losing his life and he desperately needed to escape. With the last of his strength, he smacked Lyle’s hand away, and slowly ran from him in exhaustion, yet again. His body returned back to its original state within a few seconds.

Within that moment, two lights lit the both of them up. The darkness and phantoms disappeared and the man was finally able to see that he was back in the middle of the street. There was a sound of an engine headed toward them. A car going at a rather fast speed barreled through the street. Without a warning for the man, the vehicle rammed right into him. The impact was so brutally strong it sent him flying through the air. He landed on the asphalt with tremendous force and skidded across the ground. The impact of the car along with the ground destroyed most of the man’s body. The car sped off as the man groaned in pain and shock. Somehow he was still alive. Probably due to the fact that it was Lyle’s job to finish him…

The lights went on in the apartment complex. Within seconds, people would be flooding the street. This brought Lyle back to his senses. He used this spare moment and stealth of the darkness to finish the job. He walked over to the man who’s body and the area surrounding him was covered in blood, his face was a mutilated mess, his ribs were shattered and one of his legs bent in a way that would be unnatural for a human to do. The pathetic brute was hardly recognizable. Lyle prepared his scythe. He could hear the neighbors, the sirens, and the dying male.

“W-…why…?” The man questioned with his last dying breath.

“It’s just business,” Lyle answered in a voice that was hard to comprehend because of his injuries.

With a sigh, Lyle raised his scythe and struck down fast and swift through the man’s chest, over his heart. He cut straight through him, red crimson spraying in the direction the scythe sliced across the victim. Lyle held his pose for little while longer. His body was trembling, his eyes were wide. He never killed anyone before. It felt… Exhilarating. He hated it. He hated the fact he became a killer. But it’s his job now, and it’s better to accept it then try to fight a fight he will never win in a thousand lifetimes. Yet at the same time… He liked it. He finally had something to take his anger out on. If he could do so, Lyle would be … smiling…

A glow appeared over the man’s chest where his heart would be. A bright, vibrant, teal orb rose from the chest. It was a soul. Lyle took it in his grasp, and clenched it until it was no more.

“What’s going on over there!?”

Lyle turned and found several people started to make their way into the streets. They all headed in his direction. He turned away from the crowd and looked back at the body. The corpse’s large gash in the chest was gone, but the blood was still there. It was as if he only died from the car accident. A perfect cover up.

Lyle ran down the street and into an alley to get away from the crowd. He climbed up the fire escapes to the top of the roof and knelt on the ledge to watch the scene from afar. He could hear the reactions of people as they laid their eyes over the twisted corpse. Screams of disgust and horror could be heard. People frantically called ambulances and police cars to assist the dead man even though a couple police cars were already arriving due to noise complaints. But of course there is nothing they can do for him.

Lyle suddenly heard someone’s footsteps heading towards him from behind.

“Well done,” The figure said whilst clapping slowly, “I expected nothing less of you.”

The figure came into the light and revealed to be none other than Death, himself. He looked over at the site where the crowd gathered.

“Oh lovely… It seems you stirred up quite a bit of trouble. You weren’t really supposed to spark up a scene.” He chided in a scornful manner and turned his cane around in his hands, “Nonetheless, you got your job done. Not bad for your first time. Looks like you had fun, though. … Maybe a little too much fun.”

Lyle flinched at the last sentence. It made him feel cruel and sick. He wanted to say something, but alas his face was not healed enough to speak well.

“I know, you wish to be able to talk right now, but I don’t really want to hear your gargled, irritating voice.” Death paused for a moment to study Lyle, “Heh, I understand you’re angry with me. I was the same way when I had to take over this job. But of course, you aren’t alone. There are several others in the same position as you.”

Death turned and started burning up in flames of blue, “Remember, you aren’t the only person who’s been through this. So long… Grae.”

“It’s Lyle,” Lyle spoke harshly, with his hard-to-understand voice, correcting him with a hint of disgust on each word.

“Not in my book,” The aloof man’s smirk bore into Lyle, “Oh, your next assignment should be up soon. Have fun. Oh, and uh.. Dont’ overdo it.”

Lyle turned back to the crowd and saw the paramedics take the man into the ambulance. He turned away and held his head down. What has he become? What was that sensation he felt before? Was that really pleasure? And where did all those… abilities come from..? They were so strange and disturbing. Lyle grew distraught as he thought about it more and more. Either way, he didn’t like this at all. The new name he was given didn’t help the situation either. But he can’t do anything about it. All he can do is his job: being the Grim Reaper, the G.R.A.E., that steals the souls of lives that are on the brink of death.

….

Hours, days, months, and years passed and Lyle grew more and more engrossed in his job. He took it seriously and an abundance of deaths appeared in either the news headlines or in the newspaper death notices, the obituaries. Each death was claimed to be linked to a sort of brain damage or heart attack if it wasn’t already caused by something else such as a car accident, illness or injury. Each death, however, contained an odd, splattered line of blood over the corpse’s chest where the heart would be. No investigator could link the death to anything in reality. No forensics scientist could understand how the person’s blood could end up on the outside of the body without a single scratch of the skin. No one could identify this as murder, illness, or accident, and possibly, no one ever will. Many believe it’s a serial killer’s doing, while others believe it may be God’s doing. Since no one could identify a motivation to kill, a lot of people came up with the idea that it was the Grim Reaper’s doing.

…Well.. they’re not wrong. In fact, they’re all correct. It is a serial killer’s doing and it is the work of some God-like figure in a sense. It could be the Devil that created the killer. Despite what everyone believes… it is the Grim Reaper harvesting souls. It’s him that’s doing the mass numbers of peculiar deaths. Rumors of meeting the dangerous figure and surviving developed after this notion surfaced to the public. The internet did a good job making sure those rumors spread throughout the world.

Then there was me; the one person who actually did see, meet and escaped the Grim Reaper, himself. Or as he prefers to say, “G.R.A.E.” Unlike everyone else, though, I call him by his given name, Lyle. His name is all he has left. He doesn’t remember his past too well prior to his meeting with Death and he’s starting to forget about that, too. So at least calling him by his real name could bring back his memory a little. Obviously, I feel sorry for him. He never wanted this and never deserved it. But of course, there are thousands who would disagree considering his actions. I don’t care, I sympathize with just about anyone. Of course, that isn’t always a good thing, but no one is perfect.

I’m waiting to meet with him again… I know he will come for me and take my soul. And this time.. I can’t escape him. Haha, it’s funny, I remember everything after cheating him..

For some reason, before he left, he asked me, “You know, I’m curious. If you were about to die by my hand right now, what would your last words be?”

Thinking long and hard since I would never get this opportunity again, I was inquisitive as to who he really was.

“I’m not sure… But… what happened to you, or what did you do, to become this way?”

I stared him in his one good eye. It didn’t seem bored or angry, but sorrowful. Reluctantly, he told me just about everything he knew.

I am pretty much the only person he ever told his story to and will be the only person for a long while. That is why I’m passing the tale to whoever reads this so that they know who the Reaper, Grae, or whatever you want to call him, really is. I know for a fact that he was not always a bad person, or I guess, being. It’s not his choice anymore.

It’s funny. For so long after meeting him, I still remember those, piercing, red eyes, the odd, vibrant, veins all over his body and face, the messy, bloodied hair and his unsightly, pale skin… But the one thing I remember the most is that phrase he said to me before he was about to extinguish my life.

“It’s just business.”

When Death Cheats You

Credit To – Annie Reagan

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Why Sarah Never Sleeps

August 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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There were too many doors in the upstairs hall. Sarah told her parents, but they couldn’t see it. They told her not to worry. They told her there was nothing there. But there was an extra door, at the end of the upstairs hall. An extra yellow door, and it didn’t belong.

It was the color of disease, jaundiced and infected, with spidery black veins across its face. One perfect silver knob gleamed in its center above a shadowy keyhole, and it didn’t look right. The doorknob shone with a mirror’s finish, and caught the light from any angle, begging for Sarah to look its way. Sarah did her best to ignore it, but the door knew her name, and it whispered it when she drew near.

“Saraaaahh . . . ” the door would rasp with a voice like dried leaves as tiny claws scraped against the other side. Tears would well in Sarah’s eyes as she’d hurry past, her arms laden with everything she’d need to get ready for the day.

“Saraaaahh . . .” it would call again before she’d shuffled out of range and closed the bathroom door, cutting off its paper-thin wails. When she’d creep from the bathroom to head downstairs, the door’s voice would follow her with a furious flurry of scraping claws and tormented howls. They lingered and gnawed in the back of her mind as she’d rush through breakfast so she could leave the house a few minutes sooner.

School became a blessing, an excuse to be someone somewhere else. At school she could forget the door. At school she could pretend her house was like everyone else’s, with the right number of doors and no eerie whispers. But at the end of the day it was still waiting for her at the end of the upstairs hall, with it’s mirror-ball knob and yellow face. She hated coming home and knowing it was there, but even more than that, she hated going to sleep, because in her dreams, she opened the door.

Every night, she stood before it, fighting the urge to reach out. Dread knotted her belly in anticipation of pain when her hand rose anyway, to grasp the silver knob. Some nights it burned her like the driest ice. Other nights it seared like a red hot iron. Very occasionally, it did neither, instead turning and turning without ever opening the door, and she couldn’t stop turning it until she woke up.

When the door did open, it revealed a swirling vortex of shadow and sound, with a thousand voices crying in the darkness. The voices curled around her, crawling through her hair like spiders. She thrashed and swatted at their skittering whispers, but the words still tingled across her skin.

She never should have listened.

“He sees . . . ” they said. “He hears . . .” they moaned. “He hungers . . .” they wept, and burrowed in her mind like worms. “The Hollow Man, the Hollow Man,” they echoed in her mind and screamed to her from the gaping vortex. “The Hollow Man . . . he hunts!”

Sarah shot up with a scream, gasping and sweating, but alone in her bed. The clock’s crimson face said midnight had passed, but not by much. Darkness enveloped her room, except where a vestigial nightlight illumined the corner by her desk; it wasn’t a lot, but it made her feel better.

She covered her face with shaking hands, and pushed away the chitinous echoes. “I’m fine,” she swore. “It’s just a dream.”

“Sarah?” Someone whispered.

Sarah froze. Tears welled in her eyes.

“Sarah? Are you Sarah?” It was the voice of a girl, not at all like the voice she usually heard from the door at the end of the hall.

“Who . . . who are you?” Sarah whispered back.

“My name is Lizzie. Are you Sarah?”

Sarah rose from her bed slowly, clutching the sweat-damp shirt she’d worn to sleep, and moved toward her bedroom door, moved to where the yellow door waited. When she stood before it, her stomach lurched, and for a moment she couldn’t tell if she was going to vomit, or faint.

“Please,” the door said in a young girl’s voice. “Please, are you Sarah?”

Sarah opened her mouth to respond, but her voice crackled when she couldn’t find the breath to speak. Shaking all over, she struggled to calm down enough to answer. She pressed her palms to her cheeks and smeared away the tears as she forced herself to take a breath and speak.

“Yes,” she said at length, her voice tremulous and weak. “. . . I’m Sarah.”

“Please, let me in!” The door’s silvery knob shook violently, rattling as if locked, and jostled by someone on the other side. “Let me in, Sarah, please! I can’t stay in here, please help me! Let me in!”

Sarah stared at the door in shock, backing away a moment before her knees buckled and she fell to the floor, where she screamed.

Level with the shadowy keyhole below the rattling knob, she stared directly into a very human eye. Wide and white with fear, it darted around, as if searching through the hall, but seemed not to see her. Tears shimmered in the other eye, as they shimmered and spilled from Sarah’s. Then the silver knob stilled, and the keyhole became shadow, and Lizzie began to cry.

“Please, Sarah,” she pleaded. “He’s almost here.”

“The Hollow Man?” Sarah whispered as a chill slithered up her spine. Lizzie sobbed quietly. Sarah scooted closer to the door, fear allowing room for tentative concern when the girl from the other side failed to respond. “Lizzie?”

Silence came without warning, and concern became sharp fear again.

“Lizzie?!” Sarah sat up on her knees with both hands braced against the door. She trembled under the weight of growing horror as not even a sniffle or a whimper came from the other side. “Lizzie, please answer me!”

Sarah’s head and heart ached, each throbbing painfully through her tension, and the world was a little fuzzy around the edges; it was getting hard to focus.

“He’s here . . .” Lizzie whispered at last. Her words were barely audible, and came as though her lips pressed tight against the keyhole. “Please, let me in . . . .”

Though she still hesitated, her hand was upon the silver knob before she even realized it.

“Please, Sarah . . . .”

Rising from the floor, she turned it.

The door opened noiselessly beneath her hand, gliding open without resistance. As it did, she cautiously peeked around the edge.

A lonely expanse of normal wall inched into view, and she felt sick. She worried at her thumb in confusion, and extended a trembling hand to touch the wall behind the door. It was solid. As solid and as normal as the wall at the end of the upstairs hall should be, but her stomach churned.

Something wasn’t right.

She closed the door, which issued a soft click as the latch sprang into place, and waited. She hardly dared to move or breathe as she listened to the night, waiting for the door to speak again. When her muscles ached, and her eyes were heavy with sleep, she finally relented. Fatigue sucked at her limbs — she hadn’t realized how exhausting fear could be until the last traces of adrenaline had finally bled away–, and though she didn’t look forward to her dreams, she simply had to sleep.

The crimson clock was broken when she rolled herself into bed, its face declaring 12:16 AM to a room that only vaguely felt familiar, but she couldn’t bring herself to care when her eyes and body felt so heavy.

“Sarah . . . ,” Lizzie whispered. But it couldn’t be a whisper.

“Sarah,” Lizzie whispered again. “Sarah, don’t wake up.”

Sarah groaned a little. Don’t wake up? But she hadn’t even fallen asleep.

“Don’t wake up,” Lizzie said, her voice echoing in Sarah’s mind.

Sarah frowned, and rolled on her back. She didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to sleep! Don’t wake up, don’t wake up. Lizzie didn’t need to tell her not to wake! It was the furthest thing from her mind!

For a long time all was silence, and Sarah began to drift toward the strange warmth of sleep.

“He’s here . . .” Lizzie whispered at last. “Please, don’t wake up . . . . ”

Who’s here? Sarah wondered as sleep pulled her further down.

“His hollow face, an eerie mask. With hollow voice at doors will ask. To be invited in to bask. Above his favored midnight task.”

A strange tingling worked its way up her body as Lizzie recited the haunting rhyme in a disconcerting monotone. Clarity inched its way toward Sarah, slowly melting away the fog of sleep. Wasn’t she still dreaming?

Something was wrong.

“He’s waiting inches from your face. To be the first thing your eyes grace. But keep them shut, or else embrace. A hollow shell to take your place.”

Cold dread seized Sarah’s heart with each new stanza, and she trembled with the weight of her mistake. For a moment, she swore she could feel the air stir above her, stale and strangely warm against her cheeks. Don’t wake up! Don’t wake up! She squeezed her eyes closed extra tight to keep them from opening, slowly surfacing from her vivid night terrors at last.

“The yellow door, you always keep. He follows you to where you sleep. Into your room he then will creep. Your life and dreams for him to reap.”

Lizzie’s voice became little more than a breath within Sarah’s mind, and a pressure lifted from her chest when the air cooled around her. What had she done?

“The Hollow Man, above your bed. With hollow eyes, deep slumber fed. His hollow dreams may fill your head. But never peek, or you’ll be dead.”

Everything was wrong.

Distantly, Sarah registered the sound of her parents screaming in their room, and felt tears sliding down her cheeks. Why did they sound so far away?

“. . . Mom,” Sarah whispered, the sound paper-thin. “Dad,” she rasped with a voice like dried leaves. “Lizzie?” She thought, probing for her presence, but Lizzie did not respond.

Silence fell over the house and Sarah knew nothing would ever be right again.

From the hall outside her bedroom door, Sarah heard the soft click as a latch sprang into place, and waited.

Several hours passed before she felt safe enough to open her eyes. Sunlight peeked through the curtains, and the crimson clock said it was 7:45 AM. The yellow door, with it’s mirror-ball knob, stared at her from the wall at the end of the upstairs hall.

And Sarah knew she would never sleep again.

Credit To – Death_by_Proxy

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The Truth About the Lake

August 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Albanie put her bare feet in the water and leaned back on her arms. She had her jeans rolled up to her knees. The night sky sparkled with a billion stars above her. She couldn’t imagine a more perfect moment. She was so happy that she decided to take this trip by herself, even after everyone else bailed out. They were worried about the rumors about the lake, and she knew it. They all used excuses, like needing to work or a sister’s birthday party, but she knew. She wasn’t afraid though. She wasn’t afraid of anything.

She wasn’t even startled when she heard twigs crackling in a nearby bush. She looked over at the shrubbery and watched it, expecting to see some form of wildlife, but she didn’t see a thing. If it was a timid animal, she assumed she should make a noise. Aloud she told it, “I guess you and I are sharing the lake tonight, huh?”

At first she was met with silence. Nothing ran away. Nothing came forward. She guessed she startled it into a camouflage mode, where the creature would stay still and hope she went away. She shrugged and looked out across the lake. The waves came up and brushed the backs of her rolled up jeans, but she didn’t care. She had a fresh pair of pants in her tent after all. Who wouldn’t want to relax in this water?

From the hidden shoreline, shrouded by bushes and trees, something splashed in the water. Albanie frowned at the deep ripples that drifted her way from the impact. Maybe it was the creature she scared. It could have been anything. It could have been a little perch for all she knew. She watched the water for a while, to make sure nothing was sneaking up on her feet, then tilted her head back to look at the stars.

They were softly twinkling in the sky above her. They reminded her of how great it was to be there. She didn’t get this sort of thing in the city. It was always go, go, go. There was never any Albanie-time. She was getting that time now, all to herself.

At least she thought she was. In a matter of seconds, she felt a hand on her ankle and it gave her a yank. She screamed as she slid through the pebbles along the water’s edge. Her arms gave out from under her and that she fell back against the rocks. By the time she stopped moving, the waves were teasing the tops of her shoulder blades with cool water. She kicked at whatever had her ankle and tried to sit up to look at the culprit as she tried to get away.

As she rose onto her elbows once again, her legs thrashing wildly, her eyes caught a terrible sight. In the water, holding onto her leg with a web-fingered hand, was a creature unlike one she had ever seen. It had huge black eyes and a wide mouth. All she could see of it was its torso, arms, and its head. It hissed at her, revealing its pointed teeth. She screamed again as she fought harder to get away.

“Share the lake tonight,” it mimicked her in a raspy, under-used voice. She screamed again and started to cry as she twisted and kicked at it. Its skin was cold and slick, like a fish. Louder it yelled at her over the sound of the water flailing around them, “Share the lake tonight!”

“No! No!” Albanie screamed in absolute terror. The thing had a firm hold on her ankle. It ignored her thrashing, even as she kicked him. It just stared at her with its mouth just barely parted. Its teeth gleamed out at her. It yanked at her once again, pulling her deeper into the water and causing her to fall. She screamed again, spitting out water as she did. She thrashed about again, and her leg touched something odd, the lower part of this thing was basically solid. She didn’t feel any legs. She forced herself to rise up again. She looked at it with tears blurring her vision and it calmly looked back at her. She pleaded, “I don’t know what you are, but let me go. Please let me go!”

“We share,” it told her, mimicking her pleading tone. “We share. We share. We share.”

“No please, no,” She pleaded, her face wet from tears and lake water. “No.”

The creatures face twisted angrily. It demanded, “Share the lake tonight! We share!”

“I just want to stay on the shore,” she cried. “Please, I can’t swim well.”

“Swim?” the thing asked. Slowly, it started to pull her out. She could feel something like a flipper or a fin brushing her calf.

“No! No! I can’t swim! I can’t swim!” She objected. She pushed her hands into the pebbles beneath the water and tried to stay up right. She knew how to swim well enough that she could go in shallow waters. She just didn’t want to go in with this thing. She wanted to go home, far away and never come back. This thing, whatever it was, seemed to listen, sort of. She hoped to get it across to it that she wanted away before it dragged her under.

“Can’t swim,” It repeated. It blinked at her. It seemed to be getting it. It mouthed the words as if it was sinking in. Finally, its eyes lit up with a sense of knowing. As it yanked her further and further into the water, ignoring her screams as it chanted loudly, happily, “Can’t swim. Can’t swim. Can’t swim. Can’t swim! Can’t swim!”

She thrashed around, trying to tug her legs away from it and scrambled to keep a hold on the shoreline as it pulled her out deeper and deeper. She struggled to keep her head above water. Sometimes she would go under and she would have to fight to get air. Every time she would go beneath the surface, she would come back up spitting water. She knew this would be the end of her. She was going to be murdered by some creature in the lake that wouldn’t stop chanting “can’t swim”. She was still so young yet! How could this have happened to her? She saw her life flash before her eyes, and by the time the show was over, they stopped moving.

All of the sudden, the thing let go of her ankle, she fought to stay above the water’s surface. She couldn’t feel the bottom and the shore seemed far away. They were out in very deep water. She heaved for air as she bawled. Right in front of her, the thing watched with its enormous black eyes. Its raspy voice was much softer now as it chanted, “Swim, swim, swim.”

Swim was all she could do as it began to move away from her and said, “Share lake. Swim.”

It ducked under the water, and a second later she saw a tail moving away just under the surface. It looked like a seal’s tail or something like that. She didn’t wait around another moment. She swam as fast as she could towards shore. Her technique was lacking and slow in comparison to someone that knew how to do more than paddle along. It took her a little while to get to the water’s edge. As got into shallow enough water to stand, she trudged towards shore.

The going was slow, but she quickened her pace as much as possible when she heard from somewhere nearby, “Swim. Swim. Swim. Swim!”

She let out a cry and moved as fast as she could. She could hear something move up behind her as she moved up on shore, onto the rocks. She didn’t stop running until she was in the grass. It was only then that she was brave enough to turn back and look. At the edge of the waves, the creature sat with its arms on the rocks and its gray tail glistening in the moonlight. The look in its eyes could only be described as wounded and angry. It was then that it occurred to her that this thing was what all the rumors were about in regards to this lake. There was supposed to be some monster fish here and a ghost. The fish was massive and it was impossible to catch. The ghost would watch partiers and campers from the brush near the water. They were all wrong. It was this thing.

She stared at it in wonder, and it looked like a child that couldn’t have a toy. It reached out to her and she backed away quickly. Albanie kept backing away until she ran into the side of her tent. She slide down the side and her foot landed the wrong way on a stick. She yelped and looked longingly at her shoes down by the water’s edge, near the creature. The thing seemed to visibly sigh before turning back towards the water and slithering out into the waves. Albanie was left to grab a few of her things and hike back to her car without any shoes to cover her feet. There was no way she was going near the water again.

Credit To – Nixie B. Vilda

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Clip-Clop

August 12, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I knock on the door for the third time, the noise of my fist banging hollowly off the door and into the house beyond me.

I wait. No answer.

It’s weird. My father told me that he and my family would be here for when I got home. We haven’t seen each other for over a year, as I was at school halfway across the country. There is no note on the door explaining their absence, they haven’t sent an e-mail. Maybe they were planning to jump out and scare me … But I don’t think they would do that. They know how I feel about that kind of stuff.

I knock one more time, losing my patience with every passing second.

“Hello?” I shout. There’s still no answer. Maybe they all fell asleep and they’re sleeping through my constant, obnoxious knocking … that seems a little unlikely.

I decide to look for a spare key. My mother always keeps one, but constantly changes its position. She is terrified of the idea of somebody getting into our house, and always leaves the door locked.

After looking under the door mat, under the porch and in the head of a garden gnome on the front lawn, I peer into a potted plant that hangs just before the door. Inside is … dirt; and plants. Great, I think, now I’m stuck here!

I pace the porch several times, pondering how I could get in. I could go and see if a neighbour has a spare key … but I don’t want to bug anybody this late at night unless it’s an absolute emergency. And I don’t think my mother would give anybody outside of the family a spare key, just in case.

I suddenly go for the door to try and open it. I didn’t want to have to break in, and frustration forces me to try to open the door, even if I know that it won’t open.

But it does.

I stand there surprised for several seconds. That’s very unusual. Normally my mother keeps the doors locked, no matter if somebody is home or not. I step cautiously inside. The house is completely dark. I flip on the light switches that lay beside the door. The lights flicker to life, though that doesn’t help the unease that is mounting over me, creeping up my insides.

“Hello?” I shout again. “Is anyone home?”

There is no answer. The night now seems completely silent. I can here myself breathing.

I turn and close the door slowly, and the clicking noise of the door meeting its frame makes me jump. That’s when I realize: the chain lock on the door … it’s broken. It’s broken … Not as if somebody had cut it. It was broken as if somebody had opened the door with such force that it was pulled into pieces. As I step backwards, I step on something small on the ground, causing a tinkling sound. I look down at my feet. Pieces of the chain lock are strewn across the floor. The fear is growing on me. Was there a break-in?

“Hello?” I shout again, my voice sounding more fearful than I intend. They should be home. I saw the car in the garage.

I walk down the hallway that is immediately adjacent to the front door. To my right is the staircase that leads upstairs, and to my left is the den.

Past the hallway is the kitchen. I flick on the lights. Nobody’s there, but the remains of what looks like tonight’s dinner is on the counter, uncleaned.

I turn around and hear a small thump upstairs. Sounds like someone’s up there

(somebody …)

waiting for me to come upstairs, or getting ready to come down. So I walk slowly back down the hallway, my footsteps sounding unbearably loud in the distracting silence.

As I reach the end of the hallway, I hear the thump again. It’s still very faint. I’m not sure what it is.

I take a left and begin to ascend the stairway. The wooden stairs beneath my feet creak angrily with age.

Upstairs is darkness. Complete darkness. I enter a curve in the stairs and emerge into the top floor. I begin to search for the light switch and can’t find it. I find it very weird how I’ve memorized the entire upstairs floor – I could walk around up there with my eyes closed – but I can’t find the light switch.

Thump.

There it is again. That sound. It seems to be coming from my parent’s bedroom, straight ahead, down the hallway.

I shuffle my way down the dark hallway, feeling along the walls for the light switch.

Thump.

Somebody is in my parent’s room.

Thump.

(Somebody is in there …)

It sounds like somebody bumping into something … like a desk or the floor.

As I shuffle further down the pitch-black hallway, the sound increases. It becomes louder. It breaks the deadly silence of the house, and my stomach sinks in nervousness.

I approach the door. I don’t want to open it. I’m not sure what’s inside there, and something tells me I don’t want to know. But something else forces me to step forward towards the door that leads to my parent’s room and beyond, to whatever is inside.

I reach my hand out slowly towards the doorknob –

Thump …

I feel like I can hear my bones creaking –

Thump …

I grasp the doorknob –

Thump …

Something’s in the room –

Thump …

I twist the door knob –

Thump …

The door creaks loudly as I open it slowly …

I peer in, and see something. I can’t quite make it out. But my eyes adjust to the darkness straight away. I stifle a cry and a scream. I see it. My family – hanging from the beams on the ceiling from their necks. The thumping –

Thump …

It was their bodies swinging and slamming into the wall behind them.

Their bodies are soaked with blood, and their eyes are wide open with fear. My parents, my brother and my sister – they are all dead. I can’t process this. It can’t be.

I start hyperventilating, and a weird, repeating noise is expelled from my mouth. Is it crying, whimpering, or a stifled scream? I can’t tell. All I know is that somebody was in this house and killed my family.

(Was?)

(Is …)

I run back down the hall, leaving my family’s bodies there. I start to panic, and I reach the stairs and run down, almost tripping and falling. I sprint down the first floor hall and into the kitchen. There’s the phone: on the kitchen counter. I run to it and pick it up, dialing 911 as I do so. I wait. There’s no ring. Why isn’t it ringing?

I try again – still no ring. The more I try, the more fear builds upside of me. It won’t work.

Then I see something that makes me freeze completely. The phone cord – it’s been cut! I can’t make any calls on this phone.

And then I notice it, and I go stone cold: the lights are all off again.

I walk towards the light switch for the kitchen and flip them on. There’s no light. I flip them on and off again. The light doesn’t come on. I stare around. Everything has been switched off. The digital clocks, the lights, anything that runs on our electricity.

The power has been turned off.

It can’t be a coincidence. I find my family dead and the power turns off. Whatever was

(is)

here has turned off the power. I’m terrified now. I can barely comprehend what’s happening. I turn my head from side to side helplessly, as if looking for someone to help me. And then I run to the door. I need to get to a neighbour’s house. Hopefully one of them will help me. Hopefully someone in the neighbour hood is awake.

I run to the door and turn the door knob. I pull; it’s locked.

How could this be? I didn’t lock the door when I came in …

I pull and pull and can’t get the door to even creek. I finally resort to slamming against the door with my shoulder after pulling and yanking and shaking with all of my might. The door shudders as I slam into it, and my shoulder begins to hurt more and more with each time I hit it. I slam into it so many times that it the constant banging noises start to turn into a rhythmic beat inside of my head. But the door still won’t budge.

That’s when I remember the sliding glass door at the back of the kitchen. I sprint back down the hallway and into the kitchen, panicking in the darkness.

I’m at the end of the hall, staring into the kitchen and the dining room. Straight ahead of me is the sliding glass door. I run over to it and yank back the beige curtain. But outside, there’s nothing. Everything has disappeared. There are no lights from other houses. There are no other houses. I should be able to see the back yard from here.

Then I here another sound from upstairs; it accompanies the thump … thump … of my family’s bodies slamming against the wall. But this sound isn’t a thump … It sounds like …

Clip-clop

What is that?

Clip-clop

I hear it … it’s moving up and down the hall upstairs, as if someone was pacing …

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It sounds like … hooves?

Whatever it is … I don’t think I want it to be here.

I’m not sure if I want to know what it is, but instinct drives me to see what it is, the steady clip-clop covering up my timid, slow footsteps. I reach the stairs. Now I’m climbing them. There’s someone

(something)

in the hallway. I can feel coldness from upstairs. I’m terrified right now, but that’s not what I feel in my gut. It’s something more insidious than that. It’s like knowing somebody is going to jump out and scare you, but you don’t know from where. The feeling is slowly overwhelming me to a point where the creek of the stairs over the clip-clop of the hooves above makes me jump.

Upstairs is my dead family, and

Clip-clop, clip-clop

someone

(something)

is in that hallway. It’s waiting for me.

Clip-clop, clip-clop

I can feel it.

I’m on the last step of the staircase. I close my eyes as tears of fear well up inside of them.

Clip-clop, clip-clop

The noise … it’s getting closer. It’s coming towards me.

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It’s getting louder; the feeling inside of me is ready to burst.

CLIP-CLOP, CLIP-CLOP

It’s right there. In front of me. I know it is, even though me eyes are closed tight. I don’t want to open them. But I know I have to. So I do.

And nothing’s there.

I know I should feel relieved, but now, if it’s possible, I feel even more terrified than before.

All the way down the hallway I can see my family’s bodies, swinging from the nooses around their neck.

Thump …

I begin to cry. They’re gone. That’s starting to process in my mind. I can’t believe it. I’m stuck in here, with no way out, all alone

(or am I alone?)

And my family is dead. I can’t use the telephone … but one of my family member’s bodies might still have one.

I don’t want to have to do this … but it’s the only way I’ll have any contact with the outside world.

I run down the hall, tears streaming down my cheeks. Each one of my footsteps scares me. I think I can almost hear the

Clip-clop, clip-clop

I’m in the room now. My family is hanging in front of me. I don’t want to look at them, but I have to. I need to find a phone and call for help.

I put it off for as long as I can by pacing up and down the room, but eventually I realize that I have to. I go up to my father’s hanging body, whimpering as I do so. I check his pockets – there’s no phone.

Next I check my mother’s pockets. I can’t find her phone, and now I’m all-out crying. I check my sibling’s pockets and can’t find their phone. Now I’m terrified, I’m filled with despair.

(my family’s dead, why, why, why -)

I collapse into the corner of my parent’s bedroom, right beside the dresser. I cover my eyes and begin to sob. Tears stream down my face. I try to keep quiet, though, as I even the noise of my familiar crying is scaring me in this silence.

I force myself to look up at my family again.

Thump …

Their shirts are soaked with blood, and are torn open by claw marks

(claw marks?)

I get up shakily and walk timidly over to my brother’s body. I painfully pull a strand of loose fabric from his shirt and it reveals claw marks. Not as if a person had scratched him, but … I couldn’t explain. They just weren’t human. And no human could cut that deeply with their nails. Blood pours profusely from his wounds. And now that his shirt isn’t soaking up the blood, it drips to the floor with a steady and haunting

Drip, drip

I back away, even more fear bubbling inside my stomach. I want to throw up, but I can’t. I’m too scared. I now notice similar claw marks on the rest of my family. I start to back away into the dark hallway again.

Clip-clop, clip-clop

There it is again. But it’s not on the upper floor … it’s coming from downstairs. I think it’s in the kitchen.

Once again, I walk slowly down the stairs, fear overcoming my tears. I have no idea what is happening. All I know is that someone

(something)

killed my family and is in the house. But that doesn’t explain the claw marks, the hoof-noises, or how whatever it was seemed to have disappeared when I opened my eyes to look at it.

I’m on the stairs now. They creak underneath my feet. I feel for every stair before stepping. My eyes won’t grow used to the dark.

Clip-clop, clip-clop

I’m at the bottom of the stairs now, after what seems like hours of treading carefully downwards.

Now I stand just before the hallway. I can’t see all the way down. The kitchen is pitch black. I just stand there and take in all of the surrounding sounds.

Drip, drip

Thump …

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It all seems to be coming together, like some twisted orchestra, or a clock that won’t stop ticking, trying to make me lose my mind.

Clip-clop

I take a gulp of fear and take slow, timid steps down the hall, like a small child greeting his uncle’s new dog for the first time.

I can see the kitchen more clearly now. And the beige curtain in front of the sliding glass door. As I step closer I see something – at least I think I do – through the curtain.

Something’s behind the curtain. I know it’s whatever was walking around the hallways, because the clip-clop has stopped.

I’m approaching the curtain. I want to find out who has

(what’s)

done this.

Thump …

Drip, drip

I’m choking on my fear now. I’m trying to stifle whimpers. I reach my hand out and I’m ready to yank the curtain away to confront whatever is stalking me.

But then I feel it on my neck: a cold wind. No, it’s not a wind. I can hear it behind me. It’s a raspy, breathing sound. It’s like somebody with strep throat, breathing heavily after a long run.

But it doesn’t feel like breathing. It’s too cold. It feels lifeless. But I know that this person

(thing)

is behind me.

I close my eyes and take a sharp, shuddering breath. I open them again. I want this thing out of my head.

(house)

I swing around abruptly, terrified of what will be standing there. But there’s nothing. But it can’t be nothing. I know that something is in the house. He’s here. I can feel its eyes on me. I can feel it smiling, grinning widely at my fear. It’s watching me.

Now I snap.

“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”

I close my eyes, and kneel down with my face on the floor. I hold my head, and I stay like this for some time, until I’m answered by the shattering of glass. I jump at the sound and fall back. I’m staring down at the hallway. It’s still dark, and I can barely see down there.

Thump …

Drip, drip

I suddenly know what’s been broken. It’s the mirror that lies along the wall of the hallway.

I get up, and I feel like I’m shaking uncontrollably. I walk, still timidly, into the hallway. I expect to see a face come out of the darkness, or feel a clawed hand grab my shoulder. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, I stand in the middle of the hallway, alone

(not alone)

and vulnerable. I hear the crunching of glass beneath my feet and look at the mirror on the side of the hallway. It’s cracked, but not smashed. I stare at the cracks in the mirror, terrified about what did it. But with a startling realization, I see that the cracks in the mirror made … letters; Words. What the hell is happening?

I look closer. The words say:

I WANT YOU

My eyes widen in fear. He

(it)

has answered. It wants me. Why? What did I do to deserve this?

And just as I think these words I feel that cold, insidious feeling, coming from my left – the kitchen.

I turn, and I can just see the kitchen, and the sliding glass door with its beige curtain. And there is something behind the curtain again. I know it. I can feel it. But I can also see it. As I stare more closely, I see them: claws. Bloody claws protruding from the small gap in between the two beige curtains, and the bloody claws leave a stain on the curtain, which are slowly being drawn apart, ready to reveal the thing behind it.

I don’t want to confront it anymore. I want it to go away. To leave me alone. To give my family back. But it won’t. It wants me to feel this way.

I run. I run as fast as I can back up the stairs and into the second floor hallway. I’m crying again as I run, and as I run, I fall. Now, I’m here, crouched on the floor, sobbing. My face is to the hard wood floor, and suddenly the rush of adrenaline disappears and the whole house seems silent again. Nothing stirs. And then I hear all of the sounds again, all working together to taunt me, to scare me, and eventually to kill me.

Thump …

Drip, drip

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It’s coming again -

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It’s in the hallway on the first floor -

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It’s coming up the stairs -

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It’s on my floor -

Clip-clop, clip-clop

It’s getting closer -

CLIP-CLOP, CLIP-CLOP

It’s almost here -

CLIP-CLOP

I feel it standing over me. It’s breathing on my neck again, as if it’s crouching just behind me. I think I hear a hoarse, strained giggle, but I’m not sure. I only hear three sounds:

Thump …

Drip, drip

What’s that last noise?

The breathing.

The last sound I ever heard.

Credit To – Graham

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Primal

August 10, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The “paranormal” world is composed entirely of the nightmarish delusions of terrified and insecure humans around the world, enriched by centuries of cowards and uneducated bumpkins; people who would rather take stock in the undefined hullabaloo of “beings”, the metaphysical, the demons of their own minds, as opposed to the rationality and cold, hard truth of science and contemporary knowledge. None of that actually exists, there is nothing that we cannot explain or understand.

The primal human mind can be a powerful and terrifying entity.

I can say with utmost certainty that I am the most down-to-earth person you could possibly encounter. But after what I have seen and felt with my own eyes and body, I’m writing this more for my own sanity than anything else; perhaps there may be some kind of twisted solace for me in these words. But if there is indeed an underlying purpose for this document, some “moral” that may be conveyed to the rest of the world, it is to confirm that there are truly some things in this world that we humans, the supposed epitome of rational thought, have not yet understood, nor would we ever want to understand.

Reader, let me ask you now; what really terrifies you? When you read a scary story, is it really the words on this screen that scare you, the integration of several choice “spook” sentences into an otherwise rather bland and cliché narrative about a boy alone in the woods with a tall, faceless monster waiting to jump out from behind a tree?

Or is it something more.

Something intensely psychological, beyond the words that make you nervously check over your shoulder, peering through the darkness at the ajar closet door; when your perception of the physical world begins to turn on you. Something malevolent steals control of the synapses and signals firing off in the recesses of your brain, toying with your emotions. You are helpless. Primal hypersensitivity and rapid breathing take over. And sitting in the suddenly abnormally still, silent, cold darkness of your bedroom, you realize that you really are not as safe as you believe yourself to be. This is the insidious, cold realization, percolating down your neck in tendrils of pure frozen nerve sensation, that you may be in very real danger. Sitting alone in the silent darkness of your once-familiar room, the pale artificial light of a computer screen reflecting on your face, and God knows what else.
Maybe that is what this is to you; simply another scary story, isn’t it?

You could not be more mistaken. I could not be more serious.

I am a boy of nineteen, a teenager in all the various connotations of the word; a University engineering student with a penchant for alcohol, intelligent debate, and women.

Several days ago, I was at a house party with a buddy of mine, and as usual, we got to drinking and fraternizing with much mirth. Being the self-proclaimed intellectual I am at heart, however, I eventually found my way into a small group of individuals who were having a debate about ghosts, entities, demons, and the general subject of the paranormal and otherworldly in a rather inconspicuous corner of the room. In retrospect, it is possible that these fellows were even more drunk than I, because there is no other way that such a subject would arise so naturally in normal conversation in such an environment, and be spoken about with such excited and feverish fervor. There is also no other way that we could have so carelessly set off the events that shook me to my core and destroyed the rational world I had clung to for so long.

As I mentioned before, I had been raised to take no stock in anything that I could not see, touch, feel, or otherwise explain through rational thought and observation. As such, my automatic alcohol-fueled reaction to the conversation of this group of paranormal worshippers was to completely put down and argue against their stupidly misguided bullshit stories and beliefs. And, since I wasn’t the only one drunk and preaching my beliefs in that group, I got a lot of retaliation and threats. Nothing truly malicious though.

Until one guy stepped up to my face, alcohol permeating every word, and amidst the din of the party challenged me to step into the unlit restroom, stare myself in the eye of the sink mirror’s reflection, and “summon Satan in my own place.” These are the words he said to me.

Now, you may think that there’s some kind of chant or mantra that you’re supposed to utter to make something like this happen; it brings to mind the classic party gags of “Bloody Mary,” or the “Butcher in the bathtub,” or whatever. But this was not it.

What I was told to do was to look into a mirror and simply concentrate on the intention to summon something from the other side, in my own place. Whatever that meant, I knew not then.

I am sorry to say that I know now.

I of course agreed, with much jeering and cheering, if only to prove a point. I was ushered into the designated bathroom, and the door was quickly shut behind me.

Instantly my world shrank into a claustrophobic and pungent box of muffled amped radio pop, regurgitated svedka, and the sounds of sex-crazed teenagers; my brain shocked my body into an instant of panic as my physical world changed so suddenly. But after that instant, I was calm. My eyes adjusted quickly. I perceived a toilet that would no doubt be filthy if illuminated, but in this combination of blurred atmosphere and alcohol it appeared to me merely as a blob of gurgling yellow porcelain. The wallpaper peeled in a pool of sickly light from a dirt-stained window. The sink was directly opposite me.

I stepped up to it, leaning my weight on my hands as they grasped the wet metal of the sink’s handles, and stared into my own reflected eyes with a sigh. My thoughts wandered as my physical eyes locked with identical metaphysical ones in the mirror. It was too dark to see any real emotion or intent in them, but I stared into those shadow eyes anyway. At this time, I felt no fear at all.

I, of course, do not recall exactly how long this continued for; nobody ever would be able to in a situation like this. It seems to me that, in moments of high adrenaline and rush, sense of time becomes distorted and in retrospect, only the jarring moments of euphoria or horror of an experience are vividly recalled without any reference to any sort of chronological flow of events. Not to mention that I was very drunk and very sleepy; probably shouldn’t have downed that eighth shot of Grey Goose so greedily.

That is why I do not recall exactly when I felt it, or exactly when I saw it; I only recall the sensation of panic and shock I felt when it happened.

…reader, do you know what true fear is? Do you really know it? At that moment, I did.

My reflection, face covered in shadow except for my lips and nostrils, was still my own. But it was not me. It was my nineteen year old frame, but not dressed in the flannel, jeans, and drink-stained frat shoes that I remember seeing in the mirror seemingly moments before.

It was my naked body, completely naked; every inch and section so familiar to me, down to the small pockets of fat and muscle. But its face was something that only the darkest, most twisted mind could possibly comprehend, and even then, not to entirety. It was an image of me that was deeply violating, deeply disturbing, primal and terrifying. Its lips had been curled back into a leer that penetrated my core with a nerve-deadening cold. And its eyes, cold and dead as they were in that lightless place, bore into my own with an illuminated, deathly, supernatural intelligence far beyond my own mortal one. It knew me so well, the depth of its knowledge seemed to transcend anything I was capable of understanding; I felt absolutely powerless.

It was not me. Oh God, but it was me. And it wanted me so badly. It wanted to possess me. To murder me and take my place.

The sight of its pale, familiar form and those God-forsaken eyes scared me, yes.

But what actually instilled pure terror in me was the knowledge that this thing was, indeed, me… a perfectly flawed, primal version of myself.

It is this that stood before me, long before its time, long before it should have had its brief instant in our world, but still in the mirror. And the sensation that rocked my body in undulating waves of panic and despair, standing alone in that dark bathroom; that is what I call true fear.

My brain wanted to throw my body back, away from this thing in the mirror, but I instead involuntarily pitched forward sharply and vomited explosively into the sink; I saw my naked body in the mirror mimic my motion, but instead, it simply dry retched. No alcohol left its lips because it had no physical body to put the stuff into.

It was only then that my knees gave, and my body slumped to the ground; I had one last fleeting view of the thing as it also buckled, falling in a sickly slumped motion to the ground, its dead eyes locked onto mine, before my chin connected with the hard marble of the basin edge and I hit the dirty ground of the bathroom. I lost consciousness instantly, the terror of the moment still sharp. It was such a horrible feeling.

I woke up with my buddy peering down at me, a sea of faces reflecting expressions ranging from amusement to mild concern. The music had been turned off. The group that had issued me the challenge in the first place was regarding me from some distance. I began to sob. It was too much for me.
I believe after that, the paramedics were called and the party disbanded as the house was bathed in the flashing of emergency vehicle lights and the car headlights of concerned neighbors.

It has been a week since that night. I am no longer afraid, but I am still very shaken. I have thought deeply about the experience, and it is from these ruminations that I have come to the conclusions and theories of what I saw in that mirror on that night; but then again, there are many other factors and forces at play here that I doubt I can possibly understand in my still weakened state of mind. I still use my bathroom normally, and I do not fear my reflection; I am far too rationally-minded and sober to be so silly.
The human being is really a self-centered specimen. Beneath the guise of society’s standards, virtues and commandments we dictate ourselves to strive for, there will always be a moment where a truly ugly version of ourselves comes out; a primal, evil being that we are terrified to acknowledge. It is a presence of its own, something we desperately bury deep within ourselves for the entirety of our brief existences, and scream to stay away from us, to our dying breath, when it finally can claim us for just a moment in our death throes before our consciences depart and the body becomes a home to nothing at all.

We live our lives trying to be good human beings, to accomplish wealth in both familial relationships and financial security. We just try to be the opposite of bad. I’ve come to believe that, in a sense, it becomes our pursuit in life to deny this creature possession of our body until the moment we die, when we simply cannot deny it anymore.

“The ‘paranormal’ world is composed entirely of the nightmarish delusions of terrified and insecure humans around the world, enriched by centuries of cowards and uneducated bumpkins; people who would rather take stock in the undefined hullabaloo of “beings”, the metaphysical, the demons of their own minds, as opposed to the rationality and cold, hard truth of science and contemporary knowledge. None of that actually exists, there is nothing that we cannot explain or understand.”

For nineteen years, this has been my attitude towards the paranormal.

I do not trust in these words any longer.

Credit To – SD

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Faith’s Game

August 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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((The following passage was found on an abandoned jump-drive two miles outside of Philadelphia. Though a somewhat longer passage, it has been passed on to, edited, and submitted by K.B. Miller. Original sources refused to disclose the exact location where such jump-drive was found. Therefore, certain names and events have been changed or redacted.))

****

I can’t believe I’m doing this.

Let me begin by saying I’m not sure how much time I have. I’ll try keep it short, to be as detailed as possible. The cowardice inside screams for me to get away, to not just sit here. But the author… she wants this written down, almost like a final verse in this sick play. All I just know is that the world needs to understand. They need to know the secret behind Spring Grove. I’m not good at writing this kind of thing. The more I speak of it, the more ridiculous it’s going to seem. But please. Just listen to me…

… I guess I should start where it counts: are you a fan of children? I was. I was never really fond of newborns, but any child beyond the state of toddler held a certain weakness of mine. Their deep, vibrant eyes, constantly sweeping the world; but nothing fascinated me more than their mind. Their minds are the image of purity, blank as a white canvas until our vile black paint stains it like poisonous ink. I witnessed that tainting. Right before my very eyes.

****

Preparations

My whole reason for getting myself mixed up in this crap was for a project, one that would assure my graduation from Art Institutes. It was simple enough: a short, meaningful documentary on a subject of our choosing. I was a film student, you see, and was no stranger in approaching random people and asking for a moment of their time in front of the camera. But I wanted to branch out. I wanted to be different, to be brave. I wanted to do something that no one else thought about looking into.

My brother had recently picked up his Play Station 4. All the better, since he hadn’t shut up about it since it was announced. A few weeks in, and he discovered that Red Barrels had posted a free download of Outlast, a horror game whose gameplay I couldn’t get enough of on YouTube. As I sat quietly in a corner after begging to observe his reactions like it was a staged comedy, I turned my attention to the game itself. Man, places like Mount Massive Asylums got a bad reputation through media like this. I had never truly entered an asylum myself. What could be the harm? Things like this were victim to Hollywood bull.

That’s it. I can expose an asylum for what it is. I could do more than present this as a project; I could pull a Steven Spielberg and publish this baby straight to Netflix.

Being the spastic, excited fool I was, I immediately began research for my first blockbuster. It had to be someplace close, since my car had a tendency to chew out my savings every tire rotation. They would also have to be comfortable in front of the camera. Avoiding lawsuits and invading privacy wasn’t exactly my forte. Any psychiatric facility would do. I didn’t ask for much.

Of course, all asylums in the immediate area refused any and all requests to even an interview. I never asked questions, and it never crossed my mind any of them had anything to hide. They probably figured I was still a student, and places like that could be dangerous for those without proper training. Yet, so were prisons, and I’ve seen plenty of cameras in places like those. I just flowed with whatever rolled my way, and one day… it paid off.

****

The First Day

Spring Grove Hospital Center was what they called it. I could care less of what it’s called, now. To me, it was Hell on Earth. But not then. Then, I was ecstatic that they even considered me, and I grabbed the first opportunity I had to begin my trek to suburban Baltimore. The drive was unpleasant, but the views were astonishing. I had only before experienced the great city, but Spring Grove’s campus was a breath of fresh air.

I swore at first I was driving to have a meet with a queen before pulling in. The buildings were spread and massive, almost medieval with a touch of modern technology. In fact, it almost resembled a few college campus’ that I had previously visited. But I knew better. This asylum was going to provide more experience than any education would. Speaking of which, I was quickly put in my place for even mentioning the word ‘asylum’. Apparently, I had to use the term ‘psychiatric hospital’ at all times during my stay, but whatever. Being politically correct is irritating as it is. A woman stood waiting for me at the door, as though my arrival was that of some kind of celebrity.

“You are Jacobson, yes?” She addressed me formally, with a broken accent I couldn’t exactly put my finger on. “Come. We show you around. You film camera whenever you like.”

She took me into the bowels of the building. Well, I can’t call it the ‘bowels’, exactly. It seemed quite pleasant at first, with plenty of light and fresh air amongst the living space. I was already having my doubts on this whole assignment. I was expecting medieval torture and massacres. This place was downright comfortable. Maybe it was just bias getting in the way. Filming this place as it was, whether it’s insane or a sanctum, was my mission. The truth. I took out my camera and already began getting some footage. The thought nagging at the back of my mind was that this was going to be a bit of a letdown back at the Institutes. Maybe I should just film a horror attraction instead, if that’s what they expected.

“Spring Grove was established in 1797. Is second oldest operating psychiatric facility in the nation.” The woman explained to me. “Is known for its research in schizophrenia.”

It wasn’t far into the asylum before she wanted to turn back. I knew in my gut we hadn’t seen the whole facility, and I hadn’t gotten nearly enough information for my documentary. She disregarded any attempts to go further, stating that was all she had to show me. I researched for days, drove for hours, for only ten minutes worth of material? It was NOT going to end like this. My college education (and my portfolio) were at stake.

So, I devised the ultimate plan: before we journeyed back to the entrance, I excused myself to the restroom. There, I waited patiently, faking whatever bowel movements I could, before I could slip out undetected.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, until it slowly began to dawn on me that the patients were becoming more and more scarce. I knew I was in the woman’s wing. About where we started, patients were pretty common, aimlessly roaming the halls or simply lounging outside their quarters. Save the occasional nurse or assistant, these halls were barren. It was somewhat unsettling, but not nearly as so when I came to a sign that read “Violent Patients” above an archway in the middle of the corridor. I had the distinct feeling in my gut that I had gone too far. I turned to begin my walk of shame back to the entrance…

“NO, NO, NO! MY GAME! PLAY THE GAME! PLAY THE GAME!”

At least, that’s what I thought she said. It was unholy shrieking like I’ve never heard before. It sounded much closer than it really was, as though the bloody wails were right next to my hear, blasting my eardrums to dust. I whipped about frantically, and found something not so dissimilar to a gremlin sprinting toward me. My first instinct was to take flight, but something rooted me to the ground. The creature stumbled and scrambled on the slick linoleum, foaming at the mouth and clutching something in the claws of her left fingers. As it slipped, it left a trail of blackish mucus behind it, like aged blood. It didn’t take long in my panic to notice that this was a young, hairless girl, no more than 5 years old, dressed in only a slim robe. I felt my heart pound in my chest, the blood pulsating in my skull. Oh god! Keep this creature away from me!

Though I swore she was mere feet from my face, employees tackled her a good ten yards down the hall. She fought, raking her razor sharp nails across the faces of her assailants and dropping the little device on the ground. It flipped open, revealing the duel screens that I recognized belonged to a Nintendo DS. She screamed at the top of her lungs, and I finally mustered enough strength to take a step back. One of the employees scooped the thing up, and pressed the others to return the patient to her quarters. I took the moment to wrench myself away from that place. I whipped around, turning the corner and trying to wipe the terrible images from my-

“What are you doing?!” I almost jumped from my socks. I had nearly forgotten about my escort. “You must leave! NOW!”

But I held my ground. I pleaded. Why did I plead? Perhaps the simple change in direction had knocked my brain stem loose. My mind was now hellbent on finishing this documentary. “W-What about her?! Can I see her?! Please?!”

“You leave! NOW!”

I was pressed out the door before I had a chance to take a second breath. The woman barred the entrance. I never even got her name. All the better, I didn’t care. I was angry. I was promised more than information, I was promised truth. This crap I picked up on my camera was nothing; I didn’t even get footage of the hairless girl. When I reviewed my results, any and all footage of her was obstructed and replaced with static. I figured in my panic I must have hit a button or some kind of bull. Everything I had traveled here for: gone.

I didn’t take my leave right away. In a fit of rage, I placed another dent in my otherwise ramshackle car. How could I have been so damn stupid?! There was a reason no one tread these kinds of waters: it was a complete waste of time and money! I took up my camera and shoved it back into its case. To hell with it! I wasn’t going to waste another moment in this fucking ‘mental hospital.’ I’m just going to go home and avoid trashing my cash on some gross hotel room. I got behind the wheel, nearly tearing my door handle off its hinges as I slammed it shut. Ugh, come ON! My keys fell to the carpet floor. I twisted myself in the most awkward of positions before hooking it on my finger.

As I rose, there was a loud KNOCK KNOCK of glass on boney knuckles. I startled, once more letting my keys escape my grasp. I sat there a moment with an exasperated sigh, before giving in and rolling down my window slightly.

“Ms. Nicole Jacobson, am I right?” The woman extended her hand in greeting through the window. It took a moment before I acknowledged and shook it. “I couldn’t help but notice what keen interest you have in our little asylum away from home.”

I perked up somewhat. “You use the word ‘asylum.’ Why?”

“It doesn’t much matter what we call it. It’ll always be home to the insane.” As ridiculous as I found it to keep the right terminology, her nonchalant attitude put me on edge. “How’s about you step out of the car and we talk about getting you the footage you want.”

I didn’t budge. “And just who are you?”

She smirked. It wasn’t a playful or devilish smirk. I couldn’t tell what it was. “The name’s Doctor Denise Waters, Clinical Director and Chief of Staff. So. Do you want that footage or not?”

****

The Second Day

It was a rock and a hard place. That night, Dr. Waters directed me to stay on campus in dorms normally reserved for medical students in training. It wasn’t very inviting, I must say. The dorms were poorly kept, and cobwebs dominated the corners of every room. I swore I caught a whiff of mold or mildew. Considering my other options, however, staying on campus was the only one that didn’t reek of failure, or rather, burn a hole in my wallet. The night was rough, nonetheless. As I lay with my gaze piercing the singular window, I could not shake from the back of my mind the creature that bed not a mile from me. The creature that I would have to face again come dawn.

The blood red sun had barely begun to peek over the horizon by the time I met Dr. Waters once more by the same building. I wasn’t fond of mornings, but then again, you can’t wake up early if you never slept. I shut my driver’s side door before I turned to get my equipment from the back. Waters held up a finger, halting me.

“Not today.” She bluntly stated. “She must get to know you first.”

“’Not today?’” I repeated in disbelief. “How long do you think this is going to take?! I only need an hour’s worth of film!”

“Six.” She said. “Days. No more. No less. You must prove to us, to her, that you are who you say you are.”

This woman was crazy. What do I have to prove?! They’re the ones who need to prove something to me! And there was no way that I was going to stay here for another five days! I turned around, ready to hop in my rusted Nissan for the long journey back home. No documentary was worth this.

“Remember, Ms. Jacobson!” Dr. Waters yelled after me. I wasn’t sure why her words had me freeze the way I did. It was though I was silently desperate for there to be a reason to stay. A reason… that would make the difference in everything I stood for. “If you run now, the world will never truly know what lay beyond these doors! You’re the final hope for this girl!”

“Or else what?” I glanced over my shoulder.

She needn’t answer me. I could tell by the mere dullness of her soulless eyes what fate await that young, innocent girl. Were these people really willing to stoop that low? Was the girl truly that dangerous? And… how was I being here going to change that? I had too many questions to ask at once. I did my usual thing, kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open, as she once more took me past that forbidden sign that read “Violent Patients”. Into the jaws of the beast. What have I to lose at this point? She was lucky that I had a week to spare during spring break.

I followed closely behind, head down, as I began to stride lightly. Pleasant wooden doors were slowly replaced by iron behemoths that could take a nuclear strike. Whatever the stoic guardians kept at bay did nothing to shield the sound that came from within: quite often we passed patients in the middle of their tantrums or inconsistent muttering. Some doors were solid; others held heavy viewing glass or barred windows. It was almost like prison in my eyes, and every step felt more and more like the corridors of Mount Massive Asylum. I took my eyes off my surroundings for one second to see the lonely door at the end of the hall… the one that held my destination.

My heart leaped into my throat. My collar had been grabbed onto, and wrenched to the side. My head met cold hard metal, the metallic noise echoing through my skull. Untrimmed nails raked into my neck. The woman’s warm breath seeping into my mouth and nose like smog. By the time my vision leveled, Dr. Waters had taken a hold of my shoulders, dragging me back in the opposite direction. It all happened so fast, I stumbled before regaining balance and looking my assailant dead in the eye. I didn’t even have a moment’s notice to scream.

“Don’t GO!” The patient shrieked, clawing the metal through the iron bars. Dr. Waters helped me to my feet, giving me a moment to compose myself. She began to walk me to the door, though my ears staggered behind. “The cursed child lives! She lives beyond that door! That cursed child! That CURSED child!”

Her voice gradually muted as we passed through the door, leading into a small transition room with yet another door. Dr. Waters fussed over me, checking my head for any signs of injury. “I’m terribly sorry about that. She’s one of our advanced cases of schizophrenia. Patients like her are the reason we don’t often let guests back here.” She gestured to the door. “Come, through here. This is the transition into the nursery.”

Nursery? I never thought of an asylum housing a nursery before. It was like any other, only with a little more padding. Nurses were constantly on watch in every corner of the room. Every toy, play thing, or activity was completely impact resistant, with little to no blunt edges whatsoever. Even the wallpaper was designed with air pockets, like entire sheets of bubble wrap were plastered to the walls. It was pretty spacious, and gave the children plenty of stimulus. The children themselves were all around the age of 10, though didn’t seem to have the mental capacity of a child over 8. Even with a scant amount of observation, I could tell that they were getting the best care possible here.

“Why is this room in the Violent Woman’s Wing?” I asked as the thought struck me. “I see both boys and girls here.”

Dr. Waters strode past me, gesturing for me to follow. “We believe that the presence of children are more soothing for the women here. Sometimes if they show enough good behavior, they can visit this room under heavy supervision. They are much safer here than in the Men’s Wing. Usually maternal instinct kicks in, and the children are quite safe.”

She took me to the far corner of the room. It wasn’t until now that I spotted it-… no, her… huddled by some blankets with her eyes locked on her Nintendo DS. She was pale, like her skin never knew sunlight, and frail like she never knew a good meal. A couple other children were sat immediately behind her, their focus only broken by our arrival. They stood, their intense eyes boring into my flesh, before trotting past to look for something else to do. The girl, almost instantly noticing the absence of her audience, took a glance around before looking up at her new visitors. Her eyes were bloodshot, but sparkled like none others in this godforsaken place.

“Faith…” Dr. Waters addressed her. “This is Ms. Jacobson.”

Faith’s eyes never left me. It was though she was sizing me up, or completely awestruck by what I was. I couldn’t think of anything else to do but smile. Maybe throw in a little finger wave. When she finally broke the searing visual contact, her gaze swept immediately back onto her hand-held. Her fingers didn’t resume their usual pattern over the buttons as I anticipated. Instead, her fragile palms lifted in my direction, presenting me with her greatest treasure.

“Play the game?” She asked, in a sweet, delicate voice.

I halted. Images from the other day swamped my mind. Was this really the same girl? Without so much as a hesitation, I put my hand up, grinning nervously. “Um, not today, dearie.”

She didn’t budge. In fact, she pressed the DS towards me more firmly. Before I had a chance to say anything more, Dr. Waters intercepted. “Ms. Jacobson is going to be your new friend and play with you for the next few days.”

“I am?” I frowned, only to pick the act back up when I saw the heartbreak in Faith’s face. I didn’t sign up for this. “I mean, yes, I am.”

Faith shut her DS and put it to the side. Somehow, this made me more comfortable. She spoke in a voice that sounded much older than it should. “So you’re here to replace Ms. Annabelle?”

“No, no.” Dr. Waters cut in again. “Not replace. No one can replace Ms. Annabelle. She’s just going to keep you company. Now, we’ll be right back.”

She took me back into the transition room, careful not to let any children slip through the cracks. I took a fleeting look back over my shoulder, half expecting Faith to scoop her device back up and resume whatever she was doing. But she didn’t. Her eyes never left me, and even as I saw her smile for the first time, I was not reassured. I could already tell this girl was going to test me in every way she knew I feared. It was not a sinister look. It was merely the look every student gave their substitute teacher. After the door was shut, I let the doctor see clearly my irritation.

“I came to make a documentary, not babysit!” I can’t remember exactly how this conversation went, let alone everything else, but this interpretation comes close.

“This is our deal, Jacobson. Take it or leave it.” Waters grew firm. “She is our youngest schizophrenic case we have ever received. You’re lucky to have even gotten a glance at her, let alone the interaction I’m giving you!… Look at it this way: you document her. You try to understand her. And while you do that, I believe you can help her!”

“How?! What can I do?!”

“That’s for you to figure out!… We’ve done all we can, Jacobson. She’s become a danger to herself. If Faith doesn’t make a breakthrough soon, her suffering may cause her to do something beyond harmful… maybe even fatal.”

“Isn’t it your job to make sure that doesn’t happen?”

Waters shook her head, prepared to put this dispute to rest. “This is different, Ms. Jacobson. You might not understand now, but this child is beyond our control. You either take this chance, or walk away now. Any questions?”

Too many, I thought. None of this made the least bit of sense. How did simply getting a few more minutes of footage plunge me into this? Every argument I had against this woman was null and void with my sense of humanity. I was too kind. I wanted to help Faith more than anything. How I was going to do that, I really had no idea myself. If the professional couldn’t help her, how could a film student? I wasn’t even really sure what my goal was. How was I to know if I had ‘helped’ her or not? Why was I asking myself all these hypothetical questions never to be answered? I don’t know. It was all bullshit.

“Well?” Waters growled. “Questions?”

I scoffed in frustration, grabbing a random thought from the back of my head. “Her DS. What is that for? She’s the only child who has one, it looks like.”

“That game thingy?” The doctor was somewhat confused at first. “I’m not really sure what it is or what she does on it. A nurse brought it in from the lost-and-found. One of the students left it behind.”

“So why does Faith have it now?”

“Well before, Faith was a very cold and spastic child. We figured all she needed was interaction with other children, but they were afraid to approach her, and she wanted nothing to do with them. When the nurse let her see the game, she calmed down, focused on it. She was made approachable by the others. So we figured, what the heck. Let her keep it. Since then, her outbursts have slimmed from constant to once every few days.” Waters turned with a flip of her brunette hair. “Now if you don’t mind, I have more important things to attend to.”

“You’re just going to leave me here?”

“Of course. I was called to a conference in Washington last night. You’ll be fine. There are many trained nurses around to lend a hand if need be. I wish you luck on your documentary, Ms. Jacobson.” She said, opening the door. Before slipping out, she turned back one final time. “You may or may not like what you find…”

… And that’s it. Thus would end as much as I can recall to that point in time. It’s somewhat scant, but so are the memories. It doesn’t help that every word I type builds on my rapid heartbeat. Thankfully, I don’t need to remember every detail. I thought ahead. After the second day drew to a close, I scrambled to grab whatever spare paper I brought along. I may not be a reporter, but I knew how to organize my thoughts like one. I found a small, clean notebook hidden among my knapsacks, and jotted down as much as I could on that every night. A log. I guess at the time I had figured I would use it as a narrative for the documentary-never-to-be. Now it’s just a hellish chronicle of the real horrors that lie beyond their doors.

And I’m about to share every word of it:

———-
- April 14th, 2014. Today was the first day spent with Faith.

- Shortly after being left to my own devices by Doctor Denise Waters, I joined her in the nursery. The first few moments were spent sitting there beside her, silently, observing her play on her Nintendo DS. I recognized it almost immediately, as I am a proficient gamer. It was one of the first games I ever played on DS myself. It was Kirby Super Star Ultra, and I must say she was pretty far into it for someone her age. She was already tackling the consecutive boss battles in the stage known as ‘The Arena.’ That particular stage took me forever to complete myself.

- After watching her get taken down by the boss Wham Bam Rock, she finally turned her attention to me and said, blunt as a stone: “I don’t like you.” I asked why. “You’re here to replace Ms. Annabelle. I liked Ms. Annabelle.”

- I had heard this name a few times now. My curiosity spiked. “Who is Ms. Annabelle? What happened to her?”

- Faith closed her DS and looked away somewhat wistfully. “He got hungry the other night. She fed him.”

- I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that. I’m guessing that when Ms. Annabelle took her leave, she mentioned to Faith that a pet of hers at home needed feeding. I settled on that theory, considering the fact that I couldn’t get anything more from her.

- Faith is a classic schizophrenic case. Luckily, I have brought my laptop to conduct research when I can. Unable to sleep last night, I searched up schizophrenia on Google to give myself a quick rundown. Like what I saw, Faith wasn’t exactly the most focused individual I’ve spent time with. Sometimes, it was thought she wasn’t even speaking to me. She was somewhat spastic, and constantly changing the subject to something random, most of the time having to do with that game. I was at least glad I knew what she was talking about; I’m sure anyone else in this hospital who managed to speak with her couldn’t hold a conversation about King Dedede’s hierarchy or the fundamental basis of the Heavy Lobster. She’s a smart kid, given her mental state.

- She began to take more of a liking to me after these conversations on her game started. At first, she was fixated on one thing and one thing only: getting me to play it. I held my ground and refused every time. I wasn’t very familiar with schizophrenic cases, and I was afraid of the consequences for touching her DS too long. Perhaps she may forget she lent it to me, and attack me to get it back. She certainly wasn’t too fond of the nurses taking it away from her the other day. Whatever the case, (as so many scenarios ran through my head), I wasn’t about to take a chance with this child I barely knew. She was persistent, but once she knew I had some kind of knowledge of the game itself, her pleads all but melted away.

- Even though she was through most of the game, she often asked me for tips on how to get further. Her whole world transfixed on this game. It seemed to be the only thing giving her life meaning, connecting her to those around her. The other children were fascinated by this little device that made her a local celebrity. I see why it is so dear to her.

- Once we got comfortable with one another, we began to do more together. A simple game of catch with a plush ball proved entertaining to her; somewhat surprising, considering the kind of stimulation she gets from her game. I suppose it wasn’t the game itself she craved, it was companionship. Maybe this is what Dr. Waters meant when she said I could help her. To be a filmmaker means to keep an open mind. It meant persistence and hard work, with little bias behind it. She might have made the right choice, calling to me. The rest of the day was spent doing random activities about the nursery, and soon, she even forgot to mention the game at all.

- I took it very slow, to the very end. By dusk, Faith was even sad to see me go. I didn’t find out much about her, but at least she is more comfortable with me now. She’s not who I thought she was. Unlike the other patients, she’s smart. She’s level-headed. She appears more and more… human, every second I spend with her. She knows what’s going on. She’s not mad like they say. She’s a child, like many I’ve seen before. Something seems out of place here… and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.

****

The Third Day

- April 15th, 2014. Two children were missing today when I got to the nursery.

- And that wasn’t the only odd thing to happen right at dawn. Last night about 1 PM, there was a severe power outage that lasted until noon the next morning. The wind hardly blew, and rain has been nonexistent since I arrived. I didn’t bother getting out of bed to ask how it happened; I just wanted to steal a single damn moment of sleep. Despite having made myself more comfortable in Faith’s presence, sleeping in the dorms still waft a feeling of dread. So, I lay there, motionless, until the sun finally sliced through the darkness.

- I decided to walk to the building today. The morning was crisp, and after all the bull I’ve had to put up with in the past few days, I needed some fresh air. The hospital campus is beautiful, after all; nothing like rest of Baltimore. As I strode over the lush green moor, I noticed a construction crew nearby, working around the clock to bring the grids power back online. Even from a distance, I could see they were in the process of hauling away a transformer, to replace it altogether. As the workers moved aside, I saw the extent of the damage like it came straight from a Spielberg film: it was though something had ripped straight through the center, like great claws had taken hold of it and raked through it like butter. Though I walked by without hesitation, it left me dumbfounded. No natural occurrence last night could have done that.

- When I walked through the front doors, I headed straight to the front desk and asked if they knew what caused the outage, taking note that the power was already restored in this building. The man behind the desk merely stated that there was a construction accident that caused one of the grid’s lines to be severed. Lies. All lies. Not only did I see the damage myself, but I ventured all over campus the other day. Not once did I see any construction taking place whatsoever. I turned away without another word. What do I know? It could have been just some fluke incident they were trying to cover up.

- When I made it to the nursery, I instinctively looked over in the same corner Faith was in the other day. There she was, fixated on her DS. Unlike yesterday, however, she perked up the moment I opened the door, as though she was expecting me. I smiled. It made me feel loved to have made a new friend. For her to drop everything and greet me was astounding from what I saw just a few short hours ago.

- It was then a nurse approached me with the grave news. Many cameras were set up along the corridors and positioned in every room, something I took note of but never really felt the need to point out. It WAS an asylum, after all. According to the nurse, the cameras naturally went offline during the outage, and in the short period of time spent getting the auxiliary power online, two children mysteriously disappeared.

- “I don’t understand it.” She said to me. “We kept such a close eye on them while the cameras were out. We don’t know if they slipped out on their own or if someone took them or what.”

- All she told me was to keep an eye out for them at all times, like everyone else was instructed to do. They two boys were brothers, as I could tell from the photos she showed me. Even Faith took a look a the photographs, but didn’t give any indication she knew who they were, at first. It was only until the nurse left that she spoke up.

- “They played the game with me.” She said. “But they didn’t really like it.”

- That was it! Those were the boys that were looking over her shoulder yesterday. Knowing this didn’t do me any good on finding them, but it still felt good to know.

- I finally got the chance to bring in my equipment today. I hadn’t even set up my tripod before Faith began pestering me once more. “Play with Marxie! Play the game! Please?!” She would say. I wasn’t as strongly opposed to it as the other day, but I still rejected. I still didn’t trust Faith enough to touch her DS. She did, however, add Marx to the plea, or ‘Marxie’ as she liked to call him. For those of you not Kirby-savvy, Marx was a prime villain in Kirby Super Star and Kirby Super Star Ultra, the game she had now. I guess she wanted me to play Milky Way Wishes, the stage he was on. By the time the camera was set up, Faith finally gave up once again.

- She was less fixated on the game today, and more interested in spending time and doing things with me. Of course, even though she didn’t focus on it directly, I could tell her thoughts on it were latent. In the midst of having some fun, she grabbed two foam noodles from the toy box. She hand one to me, telling me that I was Kirby and she was Meta Knight. We were basically reenacting a battle from the game. I thought nothing of it, really. It was typical fan-girl hysteria, being a fan-girl myself. Our playtime even attracted the attention of the other children, and it wasn’t long before every child in the room was armed with a foam noodle, much to the dismay of the nurses who had no sense of fun. Our shenanigans lasted about an hour, and it wasn’t long before most of the children were tuckered out to the point of a nap.

- Faith, however, was a never ending wad of energy. She’s quite honestly the most fun I’ve had with any child her age. I even forgot at times that I was neck deep in an asylum. While helping the nurses clean up noodles, I was ambushed by her as she climbed onto my shoulders. She was surprisingly light.

- “You know, Faith…” I said to her then. “You’re a very fun girl. Why didn’t you want to play with the others before you got your Gameboy?” It was around this time I also discovered she liked calling her DS a Gameboy, something I myself do at times.

- Faith grew somewhat down-trodden when I mentioned that. “They thought we were weird. They said I looked weird.”

- I’m pretty sure she said ‘we’. I’m not really sure why. “Why do you think they said you look weird?”

- She began rocking back and forth. She normally does that when she gets nervous or uncomfortable. “Because I got rid of my hair. I used to have really really pretty and long black hair that went down to my butt.”

- I grew even more puzzled. I never thought about her hair before. I initially thought it was somewhat rude to ask about it. “Why’d you get rid of it?”

- She stopped rocking, with the most matter-of-fact tone. “He thought it looked dirty, so he told me to pull it out.”

- I stopped whatever I was doing. I took her off my shoulders delicately to stare her straight in the face. As much as I tried to squeeze out of her, she wouldn’t tell me anything else. Each time, she merely said it was her ‘friend’ that was telling her to do this. I took her to the other children, and asked her to point him out, since at least I know he’s male. She shook her head and refused. She didn’t want him to get in trouble.

- I’m not sure why this made me as furious as it did. I suppose I’m growing attached to Faith, or something like that. The thought that some bully was telling her to put out her own hair while the nurses sat back and did nothing made my blood boil. It was the maternal instinct, I guess. As the day drew to a close, I told one of the nurses about it, and asked her to keep an eye on whichever boy may be the culprit. Faith’s self-esteem was bad enough. She didn’t need this.

- Oh, and I didn’t get ANY footage today, as if my luck couldn’t get any worse. When I went to turn my camera off and stop the recording, I found the entire thing had just shut off. When I took it back to the dorm, the batteries were FRIED. That afternoon was spent running into town for more, along with a couple of other things. On the bright side, I’ve never really spent time in rural Baltimore, and enjoyed finding a strip of window shops. We never really had a lot of those where I lived. After I found my pack of batteries, I took some time to take a look around.

- I wasn’t going to write this down, but I suppose since it’s about the asylum, it’s relevant. I walked into a medium’s shoppe during my small vacation, since I’ve never been in one before. I mainly wanted to check and see if she had any incense; I enjoy the smell. When I walked in, she immediately looked up and greeted me.

- “Everything is half off today.” She informed me. “You looking for a souvenir?”

- It took a moment for me to process it. “How’d you know I’m not from around here?”

- “Normally, people who come in here don’t browse. They either have questions or know what they want. Tourists browse.” She tried to make small talk. “What brings you to Baltimore?”

- I listened as I found the incense I was looking for, and began sniffing the boxes to find the best smell. “I’m doing some work over at Spring Grove Mental Hospital. Filming.” I felt the woman stiffen up, and looked over when I didn’t get a response. “Why?”

- “Hmm…” She looked a bit uncomfortable. “The air about that hospital has grown thick over the past few weeks. I visit my sister there every once in a while.”

- I asked the medium about her sister. Turns out, it was the same woman who gave me a concussion just the other day. Though both sisters were mediums, she explained, only one was unfortunate enough to catch the trait from their schizophrenic grandfather. Her sister has been in the hospital for nearly five years.

- “They treat her well.” She told me. “But the air, I tell you… It’s unlike anything I’ve felt before.”

- “Well,” I suggested, taking care to watch my terminology, since she may be offended if I said her sister was in an ‘asylum’, “it is a mental hospital. Some patients may have died there.”

- She shook her head. “No. This is different. This is VERY different. It’s like something just manifested out of thin air.” She took my incense, bagging it before coming around the front desk and flipping the front sign to ‘CLOSED’. “I wouldn’t spend too much more time there, dear. Don’t spend too much more time.”

- Then I came back to the dorms to begin writing. I’m not sure what the medium meant exactly. I’m an open mind, but I don’t think spirits are the answer to anything happening at the asylum. I’ve heard too much between asylums and hauntings, and I’m not about to let media bias get in the way. She has stroked my curiosity, though. My mom and I used to watch shows on the Discovery Channel about hauntings. I’ll probably watch a few episodes tonight while I work on some artwork on my computer.

****

The Forth Day

- April 16th, 2014. Maybe I should consider spirits here at the asylum. I saw some creepy-ass stuff today.

- It started when I woke up. When I woke up. I haven’t got a wink of sleep since I got here, and all of a sudden I fall asleep while working on a piece of artwork. I guess I did a bit more in my sleep than just art, because when I woke, my web browser was up. I don’t remember, but apparently I was Googling pictures of Kirby characters. A Google Image search of Marx was up. I closed it out, and got my stuff together. Now that I have new batteries, it was the mission of the day to get more footage.

- When I made it back to the nursery and set up my equipment, Faith didn’t barrage me with pleas to play her game like she normally did. She openly sees me as a friend now, and even apologized for the day she said she didn’t like me. We resumed our usual playtime, only today I tried to make the documentary count. Between our activities, I asked her meaningful questions.

- “Do you like it here?” “It’s okay.”
- “Do they treat you good?” “Yeah.”
- “What about the other children?” “They’re fine now.”
- “What’s your favorite thing to do?” “Play my game.”
- “What do you like most about your game?” “The other kids like it too, sometimes.”
- “How high can you count?” “To twenty.”
- “Can you count for me, please?” “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen… f-f-fourteen! Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen… nineteen, twenty!”
- “That’s really good! Can you read, too?” “I can read stuff on my game a little. He helps me read.”
- “Who helps you read?” “My friend.”
- “One of the boys?” “Yeah.”
- “Can you point to him?”

- That’s when I finally got the gist of what was going on: when she pointed, she pointed at nothing. So that’s it! She had an imaginary friend! This was the friend that was talking to her! That was the friend who told her to pull her hair out! It all made sense! There are plenty of schizophrenic cases that involved imaginary friends, since patients have trouble identifying what’s real and what’s not. I finally worked a goal out in my head. She’s probably to the point where she channels her inner thoughts through her ‘friend’. She uses him as an excuse, to justify things like pulling out her hair. I’ve finally figured it out!

- I asked her to tell me more about her friend. She told me he was very nice to her, even before when the other kids found her weird. He was always coming up with goofy ideas, and was always hungry. He loved her very much. Even when she made friends, he stayed with her. He liked it when she made friends. She even told me that he like ME a lot. That was good news. At least that way, I know that even in her subconscious, she considered me a friend. I’ve gained her trust.

- But then she said: “He thinks you’re useful.”

- I wasn’t sure what that meant. Maybe she knows I’m helping her. With that, I knew I had to push the boundaries. With some persuasion on the nurses behalf, given I was Faith’s current guardian… I took her out.

- Allowing her DS to tag along, I took Faith across campus. I knew this was the first time in so long that she had seen sunlight; she was scared to even step out the front door, as though the asphalt road was going to swallow her. When we got out there, she began covering her eyes and complaining about the sun. I thought fast, and she went the rest of the day wearing my sunglasses.

- By the time we reached the dorms where my car was, she was riding on my shoulders. It had been such a long time since she walked so far, stuck in that nursery. I let her down, and opened the trunk of my car. It still had a lot of the supplies I had planned on taking for Spring Break. I took out a soccer ball that I hadn’t messed with for years. Careful not to startle her, I carefully rolled the ball over in her direction. Putting her DS carefully to the side, she picked it up. First thing, she squeezed it.

- “It’s not soft!” She said excitedly. “It’s not puffy!”

- I showed her how to play soccer; how to kick the ball around with the inside for your foot, how to aim where you wanted it to go. We even used the space under my car as a goal, which wasn’t really well thought out considering every time she got it under there, I had to crawl under to fish it out. The excitement of the new game fueled her, and we played until the sky turned gold. I’ve really grown fond of her… I almost can’t believe why she’s here in the first place. Around me, she’s a person; not a number, not a patient, not a case. She’s a child, like all the children I’ve seen before her. I came here to make a documentary… but… I think Waters was right. I’m here for another reason.

- “So.” I said once we were out of breath, laying on the lush campus grass. “What did your friend think of that?”

- Faith smiled. She was enjoying the fact that I was including her friend more. “He had fun watching us. He likes it when I’m happy, and he likes games.”

- She had grabbed her DS and joined me on the ground. She took off my sunglasses and gave them back, claiming it was dark enough now for her eyes. I lay there, drifting off somewhat. She began rocking back and forth again as she looked up at the sky. She had always been so straightforward and pushy about it before, but this time, it was like she was nervous. When I opened my eyes again, she waved her DS above my face.

- “Y-You…” She said tentatively, “You want to play the game?”

- I sat up, not really sure what to do this time. I had rejected her so many times out of fear… but now, I’m not scared anymore. I trust her completely. So, I grabbed my laptop and brought up the DS Capture program I used in my days as a YouTuber, and found among my bag of tricks the USB to hook the DS to my computer. I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to record it… but I’m glad I did. I guess I wanted to find a place for it in the documentary, though I’m not really sure where it would fit. I just wanted to make her happy.
———-

… Looking back on this part of my notes is painful. If only I knew how this simple act was going to turn my world upside down… What the hell was I thinking? I guess it doesn’t matter anymore… All that matters is that I finally played the game.

———-
- When I booted up the system, it immediately went to Milky Way Wishes. It startled me at first; a bit creepy it didn’t even show the title screen. But whatever. The stage already looked near-completed, the planets having already been visited. I guess Faith had done it for me. I started recording, and headed for the Galactic Nova. There, I watched a cutscene I had seen time and time again. The dialogue was a bit different from what I remember. I never completed the entire game myself, (the True Arena stage is brutal), so I couldn’t be sure. It was when the cutscene was over that caught my attention. It skipped across the mission where I had to take out Nova, and went straight to the next cutscene. Odd. It looked like I was fighting Marx straight away. Sadly, I had only the Bomb Ability, which I sucked at. I scrambled around a few minutes, trying to remember all I could, before the game glitched out.

- I sat there, a bit dumbfounded, and listened to the strange noise coming out of the speakers. It sounded a lot like the sounds my old Gameboy Color made when a cartridge was taken out before turning it off. Unlike my Gameboy, the DS wouldn’t turn off for the longest while. It was a full minute before it finally cut off on its own.

- Then it got really strange when I handed it back to Faith. “Sorry, Faith. I think it’s broken.”

- “No it’s not.” She said, before turning it right back on, the system starting up perfectly like it should have in the first place.

- Afterward, I took her back to the nursery. I gave her a ride in my car the short way, since both of our feet ached. She had never ridden in a car before, she told me, and bounced in the seat the whole way. When we walked inside, I immediately noticed that the hall leading to the right (the Men’s Wing) was blocked off with sliding metal bars and police tape. Two security guards belonging to the hospital itself stood on watch. I asked them what happened.

- One shrugged. “Not sure, some incident in the Male Wing. Even if we did know, we don’t have the authority to tell you. And quite honestly, I don’t think I would even WANT to know.”

- But I wanted to know. When I looked down the corridor through the iron bars, I wasn’t sure what emotions were suppose to run by me. A door was ripped off its hinges. Lights were busted and flickering. A winding trail trickled down the linoleum and onto the opposite wall. There, though it was carved into the concrete with a knife, dripping with fresh blood:

“YOU WILL BELIEVE IN ME”.

- I turned Faith away before she could look at it. I could barely look at it. The guard was right. As much as I would like to know what happened in there, I would much rather walk away and never see it again. The metallic stench was already assaulting my sensitive nose. I hurried Faith down to the nursery and dropped her off for the day. Before I left, the woman that once attacked me, the medium’s sister, called out to me.

- “Please…” She cried. “I’m sorry… You need to leave, child… You need to leave now!”

- I let her mutter. When I came back to my dorms, I opened my computer and played back the footage I captured from Faith’s DS. I listened to the sounds toward the end. They were just… too odd. I searched up the dialogue for that particular cutscene as well. I was right in it wasn’t correct. Where Marx should have said: “Well, I want to rule all of Popstar!” Instead it read: “Well, well… I was wondering when you’d show up…” This is some scary stuff right here. The game DOES look a bit screwed up, though. I’m going to go ahead and give it the benefit of the doubt.

- In the meantime, I’m sending the video to a buddy of mine out in California. After playing the recording over and over, I concluding there’s something off about the background noise. It sounds too rhythmic to be static. I’m hoping my friend could help me find out what that’s about. She works the soundboards for big movie deals like Dreamworks and Sony Entertainment. Hopefully, she can play with it and find something out.

****

The Fifth Day

- Oh god! Jesus Christ, a boy is DEAD!

- Oh god, I can’t write this down. I’m crying. I’m hanging over a wastebasket. Every time it tries to wriggle into my mind, I can’t hold down my guts. I can’t think of it, but I’ll never forget! I can’t write this down, but I have to write it down! Dear god, help me. Dear god, protect me. I went in this morning and a crowd of nurses were blocking the door. I could only open it slightly at first, but the moment I heard that first bloodcurdling scream, I had to get in. I had to see if Faith was alright. I pressed the door open as hard as I could, and knocked a few of the nurses out of the way. I fell on the floor. A few of the children rushed past me and into the transition room, banging on the door. I looked up. Jesus Christ, I looked up. I’ll never forget.

- The boy was just standing there, facing the wall. But god, all the blood! The wallpaper was ripped away. There was nothing left but solid concrete. His face was just digging, just digging into the concrete! You couldn’t see his face! It was all blood! All of it! The skin was ripped away, the nose was gone, it was just nonexistent! It had been smeared across the concrete wall with his blood! The front of his skull just caved! But he just. Kept. Going.

- I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything but just sit there and watch the damn horror again and again! Right when you expect the boy to collapse, to just be done for, to just die already, he pulls back and slams his face into the wall again and again. He wasn’t doing this. He couldn’t have been doing this. He was a lifeless carcass. There’s no way in hell he could have been doing this! He was dead!

- And that’s when I looked beside him. Why did I look?! What possessed me to look in that direction?! Of everything that was going on right in front of me, why did I look away?! It doesn’t matter. The moment my eyes moved in that direction, I saw him. If only for a split second, it was like something in my screwed up nightmares from the days I was a prominent gamer…

- I SWEAR TO GOD, WHOMEVER IS READING THIS, BELIEVE ME! I SAW MARX!
———-

I wrote this while I was in my car, while the memory was still fresh and burned into my mind like a brand. It was the last of my notes. It had all escalated so quickly. I was already set, packed up and on my way out. No way in hell I was going to hang back. Not after that. The description isn’t as thorough as I want it to be. That’s why I’m writing this down to fill in any blanks. With every fiber in my body screaming to let it rest, I can’t let it rest. I need to let the world know. But to be honest… I’m not sure what I saw. My eyes screamed that it was Marx, the jester from her godforsaken game. But I don’t know what it is. Whatever it is, the bastard is using Marx as a veil. It’s using an image we know.

But what it did to that image… it’s just sick. I only saw him for a split second, his smile curling into a toothy sneer. He had been waiting for me. He wanted me to see this. His soulless, black eyes bore into my own. He wanted to watch every moment of my terror. This wasn’t Marx. This was a monster. Claws extended from his signature brown leather shoes, like a hawk. These claws protruding from his left shoe wrapped about the boy’s head, digging into his skin each time his skull was pulled back before plowing once more into the concrete wall like a grater. I watched in utter horror as, in some kind of sick finale, he raised the tip of his wing, placing it on the boy’s throat. Where there were once the images of hearts tipping his wings, there were spires sharp as a knife. I watched it slice through the boy’s neck. I remember every… single… detail.

I can’t remember if I screamed afterward. The next moment, I was rushing down the corridor like a madman. I can’t remember if the medium’s sister said anything. I can’t remember if any of the children ran out after me. I just had to get out. I didn’t even think about Faith. I was blinded. The only second my eyes were open was when I reached the front door. There: that woman. It was that woman from the first day, who escorted me halfway down the hall. She grasped in each hand a suitcase, and had pulled on a coat like she was prepared to leave that place forever. Seeing her like that, at a time like this; it was pure hatred.

I grabbed her scruff before she slid out the door, and pulled her to the side with the demand. “What the hell is going on?!”

“Please! Let me go!” She pleaded. But I didn’t let her go. I screamed in her face like nothing I’ve done before. I can’t remember what I said. I held her there as she cried like a infant, until she gave me all I wanted. “She had a friend! Before she got game thing! SHE HAD A FRIEND!”

My rage grew by the second. “What’s that suppose to mean?! TELL ME!”

“I don’t know!” Tears were actually streaming down this woman’s face. “She always talk about friend! She got game! Things start to happen! That’s all I know!”

It made me stop a moment to think. This was suddenly sounding so familiar. My mother and I were always fascinated with anything paranormal, so we pride ourselves in what we know. I suddenly began to take the medium’s warnings seriously. I shouldn’t have been so close-minded about this. I’m sorry, to the medium AND her sister. I didn’t believe them at first. I should have left. I shouldn’t have provoked this demon to this point. Demons feed of of that! Yes! They feed off of fear, off acknowledgment!

… Acknowledgment… “What was her friend’s name before she got the game?!”

I already knew the answer, I was just praying to god it wasn’t true. “Marx.”

… You idiots! You goddamn idiots! Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!

The day Faith was given that damn game was the day she was convinced Marx was real! It was the day he was given an image! It was the day whatever demon, whether attached to the game or Faith herself, got some kind of acknowledgment! Oh my god… that was what he wanted. That bloodied message from the other day: “YOU WILL BELIEVE IN ME”. It all makes so much sense now! Dear god… and I’ve given him what he wanted. I played the game.

I left the asylum that day. I left straight for the city of Baltimore, and got the first affordable hotel room I came across. I stayed there the entire day, through the night. I didn’t even leave to find some kind of food. I felt as though the moment I opened that door, Marx was there waiting for me. I believed in him. I believe in him now, and there’s no changing that. Seeing is believing, and I cannot unsee something like… that. I spent the day pacing, trying to calm myself down, drowning my thoughts with television, distracting myself with my artwork. But it never went away.

I suddenly got an email from my friend over in California, the one I sent the footage from the DS Capture.

—–

OT: cheetahcubz101@gmail.com
Subject: WTF?!!

Message: Wtf r u messing with, Nicky?! Is this some kind of prank? Whatever u r doing, its not funny! I found this at the end of ur crazy ass recording!

Attachment: record_edit.WAV

—–

When I first listened to this, I didn’t believe her. Though it didn’t make any sense, I wanted to believe she was pulling some prank of her own. But she wasn’t. I never once told her about Spring Grove, or what I was doing there. It took me time and time again to make sure what all I was hearing was clear as day.

He spoke to me.

“Such a smart girl.” He/she/it says. “Such a… curious girl. To have come all this way to uncover a secret that’s not… Yours. Curiosity comes with a price, and rewards. So… Is this reward worth it? Are you willing to pay the price, and discover the truth behind Spring Grove Asylum? Because you’ve found it. I hope you’re happy. I hope you enjoy our little game. Because you can span the earth ten times over before you realize… once you play the game… there’s no escaping when the game decides to play with YOU…”

How the hell something like that came from the original recording, I had no idea. My friend was the sound expert, not me. But I swear it: comparing the before and after, there were a couple sounds I KNOW weren’t there before. Nonetheless, the recording didn’t terrify me like I expected it to. If anything, it made me angry. That THING was back at the asylum, right now. That murderous demon was still there, and so was Faith.

But what could I do?

****

The Sixth Day

I had fallen asleep with my artwork again. Doodling on the GIMP program was a pastime of mine, and I used it to calm down. This night was no exception, only when I woke up… there sat an image in my art style that I had no recollection in drawing whatsoever:

Faith's Game

It was him. Marx.

It was noon by the time I decided I had to go back. Whether he was planning to hurt Faith or not, I wasn’t going to take any chances. Both she and the innocents at the asylum were in danger. And I loved Faith. I would do anything to make sure she was safe. I knew in the pit of my gut that she was still there. She had mentioned Marx loved her very much, something I knew was only half true. What he really loved, I know, was the attention she got him. Almost like an incubus. The more people she got to play the game, the more people would know the name Marx, a name he adopted. But I had to hurry. I’m not sure how many of the nurses actually saw his ghastly image. Every one that did was in danger. I wasn’t sure what I was planning to do, but I had to do it fast. Either he had hid himself to this point on purpose, or he had grown in strength since I arrived.

When I reached the asylum merely an hour later, clouds had rolled in and blocked the sun. I was really hoping that coming this time of day meant more daylight, being the wuss I was. I liked to convince myself it gave me an advantage, when really it gave me a shred of peace of mind.

I entered the asylum. My worst fears were realized right when I stepped through the door, which I noticed was ajar in the first place. There was no man behind the front counter. The bars that once protected the Men’s Wing was ripped from place, and the message still bled at the end of the hall. It was like walking straight into Mount Massive Asylum itself. I wanted to turn back. Every fiber in my being wanted me to turn back, but I couldn’t. I had to get Faith and get out.

The hospital wasn’t in as bad as a condition as you thought it would, with a bloodthirsty entity roaming its halls. It just seemed… barren. It was though the nurses had just abandoned ship. When I made it to the Violent section of the wing, some of the patients weren’t even scathed, just quiet. Before I entered the nursery, I turned to check on the medium’s sister. When I poked my head through the bars, I braced myself in case she made a lunge toward me again. I pulled out for a completely different reason. There she sat, in the corner… her throat slit.

Fearing for Faith’s life, I rushed into the nursery. My eyes immediately went to where they did the day before, and they weren’t disappointed: though the body of the boy was gone, the wall was still dyed a deep crimson red. The children were gone. The nurses were gone. I had to search around frantically before I heard the little voice:

“Ms. Jacobson!”

Thank the gods! I turned around as Faith met me, curled around my legs in a hug. I scooped her up in my arms. I hugged her and cried. But it wasn’t over yet. I pulled back and told her we needed to leave, NOW. She asked me if her friend could come. I told her no, he couldn’t. She was upset, as I hobbled down the hall towards the front door. She was confused. She began to threaten that she wouldn’t go with me if her friend couldn’t come. I told her no again. I told her we were going on a little trip, and we would be right back. I told her to leave her friend here until we got back. I stopped. I turned around. I swear to god I heard a light bulb short-circuit down the hall. I began running. Faith looked over my shoulder. Her friend was following us. He wasn’t going to let her leave.

When we got outside, out to the parking lot, I quickly strapped her into the back seat. The moment I clicked her seat belt, however, was the moment my heart stopped. There, grasped in her little claws, was the Nintendo DS. Despite the horror that I knew was at my heels, I hesitated. Marx didn’t manifest out of nowhere. This demon had to be attached to something, I thought. It was 50/50. He could be attached to Faith… or he could be attached-…

“Faith, honey,” I begged, “I need to see your Gameboy.”

As I reached for it, she snatched it away. “No!”

“Faith, please! I need your Gameboy!”

“NO!”

I turned around as I felt a quick gust of wind. The front doors were open. Though I couldn’t see him, I felt his eyes boring into mine. I felt his anger as the air grew thick. I could sense his ghastly image hovering over my shoulder. I only had one shot. Mustering every bit of strength I had left, I relaxed. “Faith, can I play the game again?”

I could see she was prepared to deny me again. But she didn’t. I knew she couldn’t deny me, and she wouldn’t. Because that’s what her friend wanted: to play the game. She slowly handed it to me. When I took it, it only took me two seconds to lock and close the car door. I heard her screaming behind me, banging on the window, but I didn’t listen. I needed to face this. So, in a quick move less than graceful, I flung the DS at the asylum wall. I didn’t stay long to watch it shatter, breaking apart into two separate screens. He hadn’t got to me. Not yet. He was as bewildered as she was, I know. I leaped into the driver’s seat, and tried to start up my car.

“Marxie!” Faith’s voice cracked between tears.

The car sputtered. It roared to life, but not without effort. Before I even had a chance to put it in drive, I heard the deafening screech of scraping metal. I didn’t let it faze me. I punched the gas harder than I ever have before. And so… with Faith squealing in the back seat… I left the campus of Spring Grove Asylum forever.

I wasn’t sure where I was going at first. I decided ten minutes into the drive to just head home. There was really no where else to go. Besides, my family was away this week, on a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge. I’d have a day to rest before taking off again. I remembered Marx’s warning. He wasn’t going to stop. We had to keep running for now.

I tried speaking to Faith on the way. It took minutes for Faith’s voice to grow weak from her wails. It took hours for her to stop crying. She hates me, I thought. After all that’s just come to light, I still felt bad for ripping her away from the one being that gave her love before anyone else dared, even if that love was fake. I tried speaking to her, trying to explain that I couldn’t let her friend hurt anyone else. She wouldn’t listen. I eventually put on some music, and tried to forget. It didn’t feel like it was over, but I was going to pretend it was. It took nearly two hours to get home.

When we made it home, I was unsure whether or not to let her out. She had been so calm up until now; it was a bit unsettling. I got out of the car, first taking note of the huge scrape across my left front wheel, as though something dug into it with his massive claws. I disregarded it. When I reached her window, she didn’t look at me. I opened her door. Thank god, she was still strapped in. I almost expected her to make a charging leap out of the car. We just… stood there a moment. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point, but thankfully, I didn’t need to. She looked up at me, and began crying. I knelt down and unbuckled her for her to throw her arms around me. I carried her inside, and tucked her into my bed.

Then I sat down and began typing. Even though my inner instinct screamed to keep moving, I just sat here, and typed.

As I sit here, pouring out my heart in as much detail as I can, I realize how absurd this all sounds. I mean, wouldn’t something like this make some kind of news? It’s been nearly two days now since Marx killed that boy, and I’ve checked Spring Grove website. Nothing. In big red letters on their front page, it reads: “AS OF APRIL 18th, 2014, SPRING GROVE HOSPITAL CENTER IS CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE”. Bull. I checked the staff roster. There was no Doctor Denise Waters to speak of; looks like someone’s in trouble. The damn hospital didn’t waste a moment’s notice in covering their tracks. I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the first time they had an incident like this.

But there’s something else… something I didn’t really consider until a few moments ago. If Marx had the freedom he did, then why was I still here? It didn’t take the drop of a pin for him to murder those children, those nurses, those patients. The moment they knew his image, his name, they were as good as dead. What made me so special? Why keep me alive? Why hold back, when I was the one closest to his precious cargo? Why was I, the one who was digging, also the one who was spared? WHY ME?

… Well, maybe it’s because I’m his goddamn puppet. Maybe I heard a sound in the other room. Maybe I went to check on Faith. Maybe she was standing there, her eyes lit up like stars, a smile on her face, as she held a perfectly functional DS in her hands. Maybe, for the past hour, I’ve been forced to type every single word as a knife I cannot see digs into my neck. Maybe, as his claws pierce my bloody shoulder blades, I’ve begged him not to let this document see the light of day. WHY? Maybe it’s becau

mAyBE He waNtS tHeM to bEliEvE. MaYbe He wAntS THem tO plAy tHe gAme.

Credit To – K.B. Miller

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