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Burning Sage

April 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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“OK,” the woman screeched, her eyes the size of plates, a grin the size of a banana strained to provoke some kind of reaction from her client. “So, that’s the house, I know it’s listed at 275,” she lowered her head a little and dropped her tone, “which is a little out of your price range,” her voice shot up in enthusiasm in the same manner that an over eager phone salesman, (who is way too old to be working at Verizon), would when he tells you about the new iPhone’s features, “but I think you loved it and I KNOW you want to buy it, riiiiight?”

Andy, or Andrea as her boss called her, was quietly irritated by the real estate agent, but she knew that she could expect a subpar salesperson from the cheapest real estate agency in the tristate area. She also didn’t like that the woman’s name was Peggy. It seemed cliché to her on some level, as if it were the perfect saleswoman name. Regardless of this irritation, she was interested in the house. The house had been on the market for over 14 months, which in real estate time might as well have been six millennia, so, through what her boss sarcastically called her ‘acute deductive powers’, she determined that in order for house to be on the market that long there could be two reasons. Reason one: mold and water damage, of which there was none. Reason two: something unpleasant occurred at this house and it left lasting repercussions.

Andy reopened the dialogue, “275 you said?”

“Yeeeeessssss that’s right!” Peggy so eagerly responded.

“Uh huh. So how long has the house been on the market?”

“Ohhhhh, not too looooong…” Peggy’s insistent drawing out of words was becoming more irritating to Andy.

“Uh huh. And how long would that be?”

“…fourteen months.” She pursed her lips.

“Ok. What happened here to leave the house on the market that long?”

Peggy sighed. She obviously knew, and even more obviously didn’t want to say.

“Peggy, you know what happened here, and I would very much like to know.” Andy was fairly certain that Peggy wasn’t actually under any obligation to tell her what happened, but she also, over the last two hours, determined that Peggy was not a particularly intelligent woman and would most likely tell her because she probably simply didn’t remember, or didn’t know, that she had no obligation.

“I’m not supposed to tell you.”

“Ok, first, you just admitted that something happened here. Second, I’m not going to buy this thing if I don’t get a little history.”

Peggy was excited to see that she might actually close a deal, and that broke her.

“Ok, a little over a year ago a boy shot himself in the house. He was only 16 I think.” Andy raised her eyebrows. “The mother went a little crazy afterwards. It was just her and her son, so it makes sense I think… it’s kinda sad really.”
Andy felt marginally shitty for what she did next.

“Ok, I’ll take the house. Drop the price to 253.”

Peggy was not pleased by this. Really, she was more sad than anything else. Not getting full price meant a reduced commission on the sale, but if she didn’t close, she would get no commission at all. She pursed her lips again and held up her finger to Andy. Then she whipped out her phone so she could get confirmation from her boss. She did.

“Alright you have the house. Let’s go back to the office and sign some paperwork.”

***

Three weeks later Andy had moved into her house. It was a rather hectic day, but she had managed to get most of her things unpacked in the last couple weeks so today was just box removal. By the end of the day she was markedly tired. Luckily for her she had taken the next day off work to finish up her move in process. Around 11:45 in the evening she went to bed.

At 2:34 in the morning the house was very quiet. Andy’s blinds were shut. The lights were off. Her door began to open, slowly. The movement was almost imperceptible. Andy woke up and sat straight up in bed and looked over at her door. She didn’t know why she was suddenly awakened. She noticed the door opening very slightly.

“Is anyone there?”

The door flew open and more darkness leaked into the room and a sub zero blast of air coursed past her body.

Then from behind her a whisper hissed into her ear, “I love you mom,” and the door slammed shut.

Andy did not fall asleep for the rest of the night. She laid down in her bed and shook violently for the rest of the night, her mind was totally blank.

The next day she got out of bed, completely sleep deprived, and looked up the previous owner of the house. The owner was a woman in her mid forties who was committed to a mental asylum against her own will about two months ago. She called the mental hospital and asked for a meeting with the woman. It was scheduled for two pm.

On the drive over to the hospital Andy couldn’t honestly say what was going through her head. For some reason she thought speaking with the woman who had owned the house would bring her some kind of explanation.

When she walked into the meeting room she took good long look at the woman in front of her. She didn’t look good. Her nails were long and yellowed, the bags under her eyes were deep and violet. Her hair had turned completely gray and was notably disheveled.

Andy sat down and began to speak, “Hello ma’am, you don’t know me but I asked to see you because I wanted to ask you about something.”

The woman sat and stared at the floor in front of her. Andy assumed she was heavily medicated.

“Ma’am, I bought your old house-“

Before Andy could finish her thought she glanced up and noticed the woman had suddenly moved and was now on all fours on the table staring at her intensely.

“He’s still there.” She said. Her voice was shaky. “He’s still in the house.” She was getting louder.

“He’s still in the house. He’s still in the house. HE’S STILL IN THE HOUSE. HE’S STILL IN THE HOUSE. HE’S STILL IN THE HOUSE. HE’S STILL IN THE HOUSE.” She started laughing hysterically and tears began to stream down her face.

“HE’S STILL IN THE HOUSE.” She screamed.

She continued to scream it as the orderlies dragged her out of the room and down the hall, her gnarled hands grasping at the air trying to reach Andy and she clenched her hands so hard that her long nails dug into her palms and she began to bleed as she was dragged away.

***

At 2:34am two weeks later Andy was asleep. The lights were off, the entire house was silent and dark. Not even the street lights were managing to slip through the cracks in her windows. The door of her bathroom opened slowly, arcing inwards towards the blackness that was her bathroom and from the bathroom tile emerged a black smoke that curled along to floor into her bedroom. Andrea awoke suddenly but she didn’t move hardly at all. She felt like something was wrong. She rolled over in her bed as quietly as she could and turned her eyes towards the open bathroom. It took her a moment to notice the smoke, and as her eyes trailed down the inner edge of the door she noticed something in the darkness shift. There was something in the bathroom, it was alive. She could hear it breathe.

The room temperature began to lower. As the temperature lowered she could see steam blowing out of an invisible open mouth. Andrea breathed visible steam out of her open mouth, her eyes wide, but she didn’t feel the cold. She was staring at the pale human foot that had just emerged from the blackness of the tiled chamber. Then a second foot. Moving silently across the creaky floor. It was a boy. He was wearing a t-shirt with a nondescript logo on it, shaggy hair, and a pair of flannel pants. HIs eyes were open. He had beautiful blue eyes. Andrea couldn’t move. She was paralyzed.

The boy moved across the room and paid her no mind. He walked up to the door and it opened without him touching it. Then he walked out of the room and across the hall into the guest bedroom where Andrea had set up a small bed and nightstand for when her sister came into town.

Andrea suddenly found the will in herself to get out of the bed, she placed her feet on the ground into a thick layer of ice cold black smoke and she began to stand up, her eyes glued to the open doorway where the boy had exited the room. She craned her neck around the doorway only to see that nothing was there. The boy was gone. The mist on the ground was sinking into the floor, being absorbed as though the house itself was inhaling the black smoke into its concrete lungs.

***

It had been two weeks since she last saw the boy. His visage was locked into her mind. His beautiful eyes were stained upon her thoughts as though they had been branded onto the back of her eyelids.

It was 2:34 in the morning.

Andy was not asleep, but she was not awake either. Her consciousness had drifted into the realm between sleep and lucidity. Her mind was on the precipice of losing itself to dreams when she heard something in the background.

The sound seemed distant, as if it had come from outside her window… a branch scraping against the siding of her domicile, perhaps a stray leaf grazing upon her window pane. She thought nothing of the occurrence for a moment.

Yet, suddenly she found herself uncomfortable in her position. She was resting on her side, facing away from the door. And, as is with entering the dream world, with even waking second of discomfort she found herself growing more and more awake, and so, she rolled to her other side.

Her eyes were only open for a moment, but there, standing next to her dresser was a hunched figure.

She closed her eyes involuntarily.

Then with only a short interlude of darkness she reopened them only to see a being on the ground by her door. Its arms were in front of it, gently placing something on the ground. It was the boy, Andy could feel his presence. The black mist was leeching from her hallway under her closed door into her room.

The boy noticed her shift in the bed. He began to stir. He pulled his arms back to his torso, clutching something in his hands. His head then began to pivot. It moved in small jerks, as though powered by misaligned gears. With every jerk his face got closer to being revealed. With every tiny jerk his icy eyes would grow closer to meeting hers.

Andy could hear him breathing. He was breathing slowly, out his mouth. They were deep, wet, breaths, more heaving of air than anything else. In and out. In and out.

Then he was facing her. His face was obscured by his hair. It hung in waves before his facade. With one hand he reached up to touch his hair. HIs breathing got louder and more ragged.

In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Andy clenched her eyes closed, afraid to watch him anymore.

His breathing got louder. It got closer.

With each breath she could feel him getting closer to her.

In. Out.

In. Out.

In. Out.

Then she could feel his breath on her face. She clenched her eyes shut even more. She could not see anything. She could just feel his frigid breath piercing into her skin, flecks of spit landing on her cheek.

She opened her eyes.

He was gone.

He was not in the room. She did not see him. She did not feel him. Her cheek was still icy with his breath.

She felt her eyes drawn to the floor in front of her door. Sitting on the mist covered ground was a piece of paper. It was a piece of of folded notebook paper. From her bed she could see that something was written on that piece of paper.

Andy found herself standing, drawn to the note. She did not remember standing up, she didn’t know she had even sat up in her bed.

From outside her door she heard a creak. It was the creak of a footstep. They were pacing slowly in the other bedroom. They moved back and forth across the room. Someone was pacing back and forth.

Andy took a step towards the note.

Creak.

She took another step.

Creak.

She took another step. This time not noticing the creak. She was focused on the note. She stepped again, never hearing the footstep from the other room. The black mist was congregating on the note. In one more step she was standing over the note.

Then she bent slowly at the waist and touched the piece of paper. She grasped it gently in between her fingers and raised it up to her face. She moved her hand to the other side to open the note.

Creeeeeeeeeak.

The sound was from right outside her bedroom. The being was standing less than a foot away from her, separated by a two inch thick door. His breathing was audible and heavy.

Andy opened the note and read its message. In the scrawl of a teenaged hand it read, “I love you mommy.” From outside her door there was a snarl, more like a beast than a boy, and the breathing stopped. It was silent.

Andy began to reach for the doorknob when the silence was broken.

BANG

BANG

BANG

BANG

Four gunshots.

Andy stopped in her tracks, eyes wide, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go into the other room. Her fear almost outweighed her instinct to find out what happened, although she was already certain of what she’d find. Then with a force of will unparalleled she made herself walk into the hallway. The hallway was colder than her bedroom, there was a slight air current being sucked into the spare bedroom. Then she saw inside the room. There were three bullet holes in the ceiling above the corner of the bed, and in the corner was the boy. He was sitting int he corner, his arms laying still on the ground, his legs splayed in front of him. There were small driblets of black liquid leaking from between his slightly open lips, and there was a spatter of the black liquid behind him on the wall. His striking blue eyes were open, but lifeless. Andrea couldn’t help but feel incredibly sad about what just happened. She walked over to the boy, forgetting for a moment what he was. She was thinking about calling the police. There was no gun with him.

Then from behind her there was a crack and the sound of crumbling drywall. She turned to see the the ceiling was sagging. A water spot was appearing where the bullet holes were. Then black ooze began to fall from the ceiling and it shattered, drywall pieces bouncing off the bed, and on the corner of the bed fell a snub-nosed revolver. She stood and walked over to the gun and picked it up. The tip was covered in a dried black liquid, there were two bullets still waiting to be fired.

A hand grabbed her ponytail and yanked her head back. Then a chin thrust itself upon her shoulder. Then, in a voice octaves lower than anything a 16 year old could produce spat, “That belongs to ME!”

Black flecks of licking misted her face. She yelped and pulled away from the malevolent being and turned to see the boy standing behind her. He was smiling and staring at her, his blue irises had turned blacker than the void. Then he leaned back his head, his mouth opened to be eight inches wide and he began to laugh hysterically, his voice deepening with every bone shaking utterance. Andrea stood totally still, she could see the unobstructed hole leading from the roof of his mouth to the back of his skull and through to the wall. She ran out of the room and shut her bedroom door, pointing the gun at the wooden frame for the rest of the night.

The next day she called a psychic. The psychic arrived at a quarter past ten the next morning. Andrea had not slept, showered, or eaten in two and a half days. In her right hand she was still gripping the revolver. Before the psychic walked into the house she put the gun in her bedside table.

The psychic was a woman in her mid forties, although she looked about a decade older than that because of the experiences she had. Her name was Cheryl. When she stepped into the house she jerked back, like someone had lightly pushed her back.

“There’s something in this house,” said Cheryl.

“I know,” Andy responded, “what is going on here? I haven’t slept in two days, and I don’t even know what to think.”

Cheryl walked into the foyer. She looked around for a moment and seemed to become chilled by the air in the room. “There is a spirit that lives in this house. It has not passed on…” She was very quiet while she spoke. “Do you know how long it has been here?”

“I don’t know for sure. I think maybe a year and a half or so,” her voice was shaky.

“Mmmmhmm.” Cheryl was an elderly black woman who seemed to have a bit of attitude when it came to these issues.

“So what do we do know? Do we do like a seance or something? Like toss rice in the air or speak latin?” Andy inquired.

Cheryl raised her left eyebrow at Andy. “No hon, no we won’t be doing that. Aside from what you may have seen in the movies there isn’t much we can do if this ghost doesn’t want to communicate with you. I think that it does want to do things to you, but communicate, I’m not sure. The best we can do is ask it right now if it wants something.”

Andy was quiet. She didn’t know really what to do, she especially didn’t want to be the first one to speak.

“Do you know the spirits name?”

“No. I don’t.”

Cheryl sighed and went on with her business, “Spirit, hear me call you, is there anything you want of us? What would you have us do to put you at ease?”

Cheryl waited for a moment and surveyed the room, waiting for some sort of sign that the spirit wanted to communicate with them. She turned to see Andy watching her very closely, whilst also occasionally flicking her eyes around the room, watching for the boy. She was waiting earnestly.

Cheryl blinked. And when her lids raised she saw two white hands reaching around Andy’s neck, blackened fingertips and grown out nails were reaching to strangle her. In an instant she grabbed Andy and yanked her away form the hands, only to reveal that there was nothing behind her. She stood for a moment looking at the empty space, failing to note Andy’s confusion, before realizing that she forgot something.

“Andy. There is something I forgot to ask you… How did this boy die?”

Andy paused for a moment, considering the inquiry, “Why does it matter?”

“Some spirits who died in violent ways have trouble leaving this world… things can go wrong.”

Andy started to shake slightly, “He shot himself.” Her eyes were as big as plates and she searched Cheryl’s face for some comforting sign. Cheryl did not give her this. Her face was stone.

“Andrea,” she said, suddenly using her full name, “sometimes when a spirit dies in a violent way it can become corrupt. The longer it exists in this world the more corrupt it can become. They lose who they used to be. They become no more human than a rabid dog. This ghost hasn’t been here long, but for some spirits the corruption can be sudden, and move very quickly. The more corrupt it becomes, the more powerful it becomes. As it grows in strength it will become more tangible. It will be able to act on the physical world more and more. It may even try to make physical contact with you.”

Andy remembered the ceiling and was visibly shaken by it.

“What can you do?” Andy asked.

Cheryl pulled out a small pouch from her purse. There were branches of seem kind of herb in there. It had small leaves on it and through the bag she could smell it. It had a pungent but not unpleasant odor, it was something commonly used in Italian food she thought.

“What’re those?” Andy asked.

“These are just a couple of herbs. Some sage, a mix of a few others. They are cleansing herbs. We put them in the four corners of the house and that should protect the house from any malevolent spirits. As long as you don’t remove them or somehow destroy them you should be safe. They should protect you and your home from this boy.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

It took about fifteen minutes to get the herbs into the best spots in the house. Andy didn’t feel any change once they were in place, but Cheryl looked more relaxed. Then Cheryl left, reminding Andy to call if there was anything at all that she needed, and on that note, Cheryl was gone.

Andy spent the next few days on alert, but nothing happened. She didn’t see anything. Nothing was out of place, no voices, no breathing, no chills, no nothing. Everything in the house seemed normal. In fact, things stayed normal for four months. Andy had all but forgotten her experiences. Her only reminders were the herbs in the corners of the house and the still loaded gun in her nightstand drawer.

Then on one morning she woke up to a somewhat muted sunrise. Light was edging its way through the clouds in beams, shining through like it was illuminating just a few special spots. There was a dense layer of cloud in the sky. It was very dark outside. She looked at her clock, it read 8:30 in the morning. She fretted for a moment before realizing that it was Saturday, and she need not go to work the particular morning. Then, as she usually did she went to her front door to pick up the paper. She was one of the few people in the city who still actually bought a paper, not that she was a luddite, but she did enjoy the printed word over the pixelated. She opened the door to find that the tip of her paper appeared blackened. Like it had been burned. she stepped outside for a moment and observed her surroundings. The sky was particularly ominous, it looks like it was going to rain. She picked up her paper and turned around to see the severed head of a crow sitting off to the left of her door. Her initial reaction was irritation, ‘just a stupid neighborhood cat’ she thought. Then she walked back inside and resumed her day.

She ate breakfast slower than usual, reading her paper leisurely and accidentally cracking off bits of the singed paper. Behind her one of the cabinet doors managed to loosen itself and it slowly creaked open. Andy paid it no mind. It had begun to do that more frequently. she figured its hinges just had to be replaced.

After breakfast she rose form her seat and retreated to her bedroom. Halfway down the hall she stopped at the thermostat and cranked up the heat a couple degrees. While she was in the kitchen she felt a slight draft coming from behind her.

Then she walked into her bedroom and grabbed some clothes from her closet before exiting to the bathroom to take her morning shower. Her nightstand drawer was opened slightly, and it was empty. She didn’t notice.

Andy took her shower, right as she turned off the water there was a crack of thunder and the lights in the house went out. Andy sighed and felt her way into the bedroom, grabbed her phone, and turned on the flashlight before returning to her bathroom to finish her morning routine.

She stood in front of the mirror and brushed her hair out for a moment before tying it back into a ponytail. Then she went down to the sink and splashed some water on her face before rising again and noticing a strange odor was emanating from somewhere in the house. It was leaking into the bathroom through the open door. It smelled sort of good, but also like something was burning. Specifically it smelled like someone was seriously burning Italian food in the oven or over a stove.

Then she felt a cold breeze roll across the back of her neck, making all the hairs on her skin stand on edge. Suddenly a black mist covered the mirror’s surface. Tiny droplets of liquid had formed a thin black barrier on the glass. In the light of her phone’s flashlight she wiped some of the already thickening liquid away from the area where her face would appear. She stared in confusion at the glass for a moment. Her mind slowly coming to the realization of what was going on. She was frozen in place. Something behind her was heaving breaths into and out of its lungs.

Then he appeared behind her in the shower. White skin. Mostly hairless. He was wrinkled and his eyes are black. His teeth yellow and sharpened, and with his right hand he was scratching holes into his face. He smiled at her and tilted his head to the side. He was no longer a boy, he was a beast.

Andy stood motionless, staring into the pits that were his eyes. They held no light in them. They were pure darkness. Her mouth gaped open.

She was paralyzed. She could not speak. She could not scream. She could not think. All she could see were his eyes. All she could hear was his breathing. All she could feel was the freezing air that surrounded her.

His left arm slowly raised and his hand moved behind her head. She couldn’t see what he was holding.

In a whisper he spoke, “I love you mommy,” his voice dropped, “I’m never leaving you again… and you’re never leaving me.”

Then from right behind her head there was a loud bang and a red mist sprang onto the mirror in front of her eyes.

Then everything went black.

Credit: Pablo Swaurez

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The Swamp

April 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It has been exactly a year now since the incident happened… The day that my younger brother, John was killed. I have tried and tried to forget about what happened but it is still burned in my mind. So I know this is rather a cliché but I am recording this and putting it online in hopes that sharing what happened for all to hear will bring me solace.

My brother and I had a very strong bond, beyond what most siblings have because of our isolation from civilization in southern Louisiana. We were raised by our mother who not only assumed the additional position of a father but as our teacher due to the distance from the nearest school, we were forced to be home-schooled. Our father disappeared when we were very young; he left one day and never returned, our mom says he left her for a younger woman but I am pretty sure, now, that that isn’t true.

Last year today, on my brother’s 17th birthday, we decided to take the canoe out through the swamp in hopes of finding an Alligator that we could shoot. John and I always loved hunting Alligators, it is so fulfilling to bag a big gator and get to feed the family. Well, I have wondered off topic; so we were out on the canoe, rowing around. The cold, salty sea air met the hot, humid swamp air, creating a very interesting atmosphere. We had already in past adventures scouted a 3-mile radius around the house but we were determined to reach farther than ever.

Rowing in a canoe isn’t the fastest means of transportation but it works; we had gotten very good at swerving around the protruding stumps, trees, and the occasional rock that poked out of the murky, green water. The sudden rush of water knocked us out of our trance; it was an alligator! The time we had been waiting for was right there! My brother rowed closer as I grabbed my 45. revolver. The alligator wasn’t affected by us, it continued to swim north. The sun was setting as my brother gazed out towards the sea; his voice trailed off. I looked to see what he was looking at and almost couldn’t believe what I saw! Standing on a small island were two people, who appeared to be blankly staring at us-mouths agape. And in between them was a glowing object that neither of us could make out what it was. “Hey!” I yelled to the two men. Strangely there was no response, they didn’t even move, blink, shift, or anything! “Let’s get out of here.” I said to John but he didn’t reply. The canoe was drifting and the only change by the people on the island was their heads gradually turning to keep their blank stares on us. “Hey, let’s go!” I spoke up. He stared blankly back at the small island. “John!” I yelled but again, no response.

I was about to start paddling but john unexpectedly leaped out of the canoe and into the murky water. “What are you doing?” I asked him as he swam, then walked, to the island. Before he was out of the water, however, I noticed something. It appeared to be black hair emerging from the sea which was followed by the top of a head, then what I was expecting to be a person but that’s where I went wrong… Walking out of the ocean was something I had never seen before; it was tall- probably seven or eight feet, it had long black hair, its black eyes looked foggy due to what was most likely a film over them. They slanted down its face at an angle. Its face was narrow and sharp like it had been starved. This absolutely terrified me! What are you supposed to do when you see something like that? Anyways! The creature walked up the island and the two people shot one last look at me; this one was different, though- I saw tears and absolute fear suppressed by their blank stares, it was like their human instinct were trying to prevail over whatever trance they were in but that was to no avail, the creature grabbed both the men, one in each arm and turned around, returning to the ocean. I saw bubbles emerging for a little bit when their heads became submerged.

Now I am sure you don’t believe me, but I saw what I saw! If someone had told me this story, I wouldn’t have believed them either. I yelled to John; “we need to get out of here, now!” and his response is still unforgettable… His head slowly turned around as he gave me a blank stare then turned back and approached the glowing object which flashed a red color then returned to its white shine. “John!” I cried but he just stared at me… I fled, I went home and told my mom all about it but she didn’t believe me, she kept telling me to tell her the truth about what happened but it was and still IS the truth… you have to believe me…

After insisting it as the truth, she finally gave in and left to go find the elusive glowing item on the island, she never returned… I have been living by myself for the past year, I just wanted to get the story out.

I am starting to worry, however, I think the light is getting closer because at night if I look just at the right angle, through the trees I can see what appears to be a faint light. I am tired of living in fear, I am going to submit this now, go check out the light, then I’ll update this when I know the truth, goodbye for now.

The OP has also submitted their own video reading of the story, embedded below. If the video does not display for you, please click the link to view it on its YouTube page.

The Swamp by: CreepyQuantum

Credit: CreepyQuantum

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Forget Me

April 10, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was a beautiful young woman once, full of love and life. My lily-white skin was soft and warm, my belly swollen with new life, and my hand held by my husband, Edward. Edward was a good man. We married young, in the spring, when the air was heavy with the scent of the blossoming trees and the ground damp with dew. I remember how he smiled when he lifted my veil, as if seeing me for the first time. His eyes were soft and blue, crinkling at the sides as he told me he loved me. Who could have known this man would become my curse? This kind, gentle man, whose love gave me such life that I might live forever.
The winter came and my belly bulged with the fruit of our love. The chilled winds forced me to keep inside, and the maids tended to my every need. Many days I spent sewing by the fire, softly singing songs without meaning for hours on end.
And then, one night, I felt it.
The pain was immense, as if I was been torn from the inside out. I screamed for my maids, and one cradled my arm and attempted to lead me to my chamber. Another ran for Edward and he came crashing through the door, his manner wild with fear and excitement. He took my other arm and I was brought moaning up the stairs, wailing and huffing with excursion. When finally I was safe in my bed, the doctor came. He went about his way, and ordered me to push and breathe while Edward held my hand, both of us soaked with sweat. Suddenly, the doctor paused. He spoke quietly to the midwife and she ushered Edward out the room. He protested madly, shouting over her shoulder; “I am with you, Joanna!”
I smiled through the rat tails of my sodden hair and calmed him, “Do not fear for me, Edward. I will be safe here”. My voice, though torn with pain, sounded surprisingly calm. He looked back at me desperately, and the door was closed in front of him.
That was the last time I truly saw Edward. The doctor told me I was bleeding too heavily and he couldn’t stop it. I cried, “My baby! Is my baby going to live?” but for all my life I cannot remember if he answered me. In that instant, the world seemed to go numb. The pain was remained, but dulled, like a blunted knife.The room seemed to drift into grey before my eyes. I could see the doctor lifting up my child in a blood-soaked blanket, but all I could hear was the colossal ringing in my ears, and I did not know if the infant cried. The darkness closed in from the corners of my eyes, as if I were falling down an endless hole, and finally, enveloped me completely.
Yet, I did not truly leave. I was new, risen from my body and standing in the corner of my room. For a while all was silent but for the ringing, although the light had come back to me. I saw the doctor open the door and speak to Edward, and I saw him fall to his knees and scream in pain. I saw the maids gasp and cover their mouths, and the midwife rocking my baby in her arms, humming softly, her eyes red and stinging. And I saw my body, stretched out on that bloody bed, my eyes still open and looking straight at me. I tried to touch my hand, but my fingers passed straight through. We looked at each other for a while, as if I hoped my body would blink and sit up. Yet I lay there, stoic, stubbornly deceased, and I felt as though I grew thinner, as if I was completely drained of everything.
Then, all sound gushed back and awoke me from my stupor; Edward’s howling sobs, the weeping of the maids, and the screams of my baby. I went to the midwife, although she did not see me. In her plump arms, he seemed so small. He too was covered in blood, but he was so alive. His cries were the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and amidst all the loss in my home, new life graced us.
For a while, Edward did not look at our child. He allowed the maids to change my bedsheets, then placed me amongst new ones as if I were asleep. He laid beside me and embraced me all night, his tears soaking my cold, dead skin. It was as if he was trying to warm me, to bring me back to life. How I wanted to embrace him back, to tell him I was still with him, but there seemed no way. So I laid on the other side of my corpse, resting upon myself and watching darling Edward sleep, wishing with all my heart to come back to him. But I could only watch.
Eventually, the undertakers came to collect my body. Edward did not fight them, but sat and watched them with eyes sunk and dead with grief. He and I stood together at the window as we watched the cart take me away, and I held his hand. Although my ghostly fingers could hold no earthly thing, he seemed to feel me, and he looked at his hand for a long time, then up at my face, or where my face would have been. He tightened his grip on thin air, yet I felt we were together, across the worlds of life and death, and I could almost feel the warmth of his hand on mine.
He spoke nothing of this, of course. But that night, he went to the baby’s room, where the nurse sat and knitted beside him. He dismissed her, and he sat in her place. He looked at our child, then addressed the room as a whole. “Are you with me, Joanna?” he said.
“Yes!” I cried, but he could not hear me. He waited for an answer, and desperate, I tapped the mobile above the bed with the tips of my fingers. It rocked to and fro, and Edward saw it and knew it was me. The baby giggled at the knitted birds that moved with the mobile and held out chubby little hands to them.
Edward looked at our child with love, and spoke to me again.
“As long as you are with me, my darling, I am a blessed man. But heaven knows I miss you even though you are here.” He stroked the baby’s head. “He is all I have left of you know, my baby boy. He is the evidence of our union, and I haven’t even named him yet.” He let tears run down his face as the boy gripped his finger in his tiny palm. “Jonathan,” he whispered. “In memory of my Joanna.”
I smiled and stood beside him as he cradled our son, like some twisted family portrait. I placed my hand on his shoulder and we sang to him together, a folk song my mother had sung to me when I was a child, and Edward’s mother to him.

Sleep now, my love, for all the night
Slumbers soft until the light

Warms your heart and warms your mind
and teaches you wisdom, to love and be kind

Sleep now, my love,
for all the stars

Shimmer, watching from afar,

And angels will watch you and smile with delight
As you sleep all through the night.

Edward slept in the chair that night, with Jonathan softly snuffling in his arms. In my new, spectral form, I could not sleep, but was content to watch my family, and stay with them.
Three years passed, and Jonathan grew into a beautiful young boy, with Edward’s bright blue eyes and my soft brown hair. The maids adored him, and Edward doted on him. We would sit together on the floor and play, and Jonathan seemed to feel my presence with him, just as Edward did. Sometimes a maid would happen upon Edward speaking to me and back away to gossip, but they did not bother us. We were the perfect family.
***
That winter, after his third birthday, Jonathan became terribly ill. His fever ran high and beads of sweat ran off his little head and Edward cried for him. The coughing was the worst part. I could not hold my baby in my arms and tell him it would all be alright, but only stand and watch as he coughed up blood and mucus. His plump little body became emaciated and his face sallowed with sickness. The doctor told Edward it was too late to save him, and all they could do was make his passing comfortable. He wept all night, holding my sweet baby’s hand, and when he cried, he called him Joanna.
I wondered if my baby would join me in the next life, and that I might finally be able to touch him. I had seen other spirits in this realm, the ghost of the gardener’s boy that was crushed by a falling tree, the spectre of the old man who had lived here before us and passed in his sleep, but not many. I had spoken to them once or twice, but one by one they left me. The old man was first, he moved on not a month after I had come to this world, and the gardener’s boy left when his father died, after a terrible force caused his heart to stop. I was alone on this side of reality.
I suppose it was selfish to wish this upon Edward, but it was such a lonely existence. I never wished for Jonathan’s death, but it came sure enough. He’d been sick for so long, it was almost a relief when he finally passed. I could see it in Edward’s eyes, behind the pain of his loss. He held my baby’s hand so tight it was almost impossible for the doctor to move him away, then he locked himself in our chamber, weeping uncontrollably.
I wept too. I had lost my only son. Never again would I see him laughing with Edward or squirming on the maid’s lap, and still he did not come to me in the next life. I waited for days, but he never appeared. I felt the pain of loss in full force, he was truly gone, snatched away from me forever. I screamed and howled, and the sorrow turned to fury, giving me the strength to fling vases from their places, smash mirrors and throw open doors in my mad search for my son. The maids were driven almost insane with fear and called for the priest to exorcise the house, but Edward would not allow him to take me away. We looked together, I in the spirit world and he in his dreams, and still there was no sign of Jonathan. Edward barely left his room, but sat in his bed and spoke to me, even when I was not in there with him. I suppose it brought him comfort not to be alone. But I was alone, and I was afraid of being so forever.
Many doctors came to see him, friends and even religious men, in the hopes of bringing him back to health. They told him “It does not do to dwell on dreams. We must all move on,” but my Edward refused. He expressed his fear to them, telling them I had stayed behind, but Jonathan had not returned to him. He asked if Jonathan was lost and afraid, or if it was I that was left behind. They only shook their heads at him. “Joanna isn’t here,” they would say, as I held his hand.
***
As my misery grew, I grew stronger with it. Rumour quickly spread around the town of hauntings in my home. The servants told their friends of things moving out of place, of doors opening and slamming shut of their own accord, candles blowing out without wind and my disembodied cries echoing throughout the house. One maid, a simple creature called Marianne, was dusting the mantelpiece one warm June night, and happened to glance into the mirror. Behind her, she saw my ghostly image, darkened with fury and loss, but when she turned, she could not see me. She quit that night. The cook was soon to follow, after I forced all the knives to hurl themselves at the wall near where he stood. I never intended to harm them, only to drive them away, so we could be alone, my husband and I. Those rumours they spread were toxic to him, and I knew that I must protect him. I had no idea that I was sealing my own fate.
A whole year passed, and every servant in the area refused to work for Edward in his haunted house. Jonathan still had not come home to me, so Edward and I would sit by the fire and wait, silently. With the meddlesome servants gone, I had no need to act out of fury, only to love my husband. He would read his books and I would sit in my chair and watch him, peaceful. When we were together, I felt safe once again, but when he slept, I felt fear and loneliness rush back to me like vomit rising in my throat, and once more I would tear the house apart and cry for Jonathan.
Edward hanged himself on the fifth anniversary of my death and Jonathan’s birth, from the chandelier in the dining room. I wonder if I truly tried to save him, or did I let him die so he could come to me. I can’t remember now, it has been so many years. No one had worked for my husband for such a long time, it was days before they found his corpse, rotting from the rafters.
***
Myth carried on our legacy for us. Many families moved in after Edward died, but none lasted very long. All left in a hurry, claiming of terrifying hauntings, of screaming and crying, of dark figures in the shadows. I was trapped in that house, and as my stories lived, so did I. Perhaps Edward and Jonathan were trapped there too – many families complained of hauntings I never performed, of a child laughing, of a man softly singing. Maybe they were with me, but inaccessible, or maybe the families had exaggerated their stories, but either way it drove me to anger. I wandered that house for hundreds of years trying to find my family, but I never saw them again.
I saw other spirits from time to time, as I had seen them before. I saw a little girl who had been run over by a cart, and a wife who had been beaten by her husband. I saw the gristly burns on the spectre of a baker who had died in a fire, and heard the crying of babies that were lost before they even learnt to talk. Some of them left much faster than others, as people began to forget them. The beaten wife disappeared one day, as her sister passed and her husband took a new wife to torment. The baker passed along with his wife, and the babies vanished when their mothers gave birth to new sons and daughters. But people did not forget me, in my haunted house all alone. My story was passed on from generation to generation, and my house became a cheap tourist attraction. Sometimes teenagers would break in through the servant’s quarters and dare each other to spend the night with me, or homeless men would take shelter from the wind and the rain.
They trapped me here, these stories. I realised soon I had sealed my fate, in my desperation to find my son and my husband, I had created a legend. People would always remember me, the mother who lost herself and her son, and who drove her husband to death. Other spirits only had to remain here while others grieved for them, but grieving for me ended with Edward. Nobody grieves for me now, but you never forgot me. And so we wander the house, together but apart, for perhaps an eternity, looking for each other and for our son. I grow tired of searching in vain, but I cannot cease to exist when others have cursed me to stay. Maybe Jonathan and Edward have moved on now, and it is only I that is stuck in this imitation-life. I might never know. All I want is to rest in peace with my family, but you keep me here, like an exhibit in some twisted zoo.
And so I cry here, alone forever, begging you to forget me.

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Under the Ice

April 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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As I lay in my sick bed with my mind muddled, I find it quite impossible to find motivation to continue on and lack the focus to return to my work. Ever since a fantastic yet terrible event I have bordered on mania. Now I feel the urge to relate my story to others, perhaps to ward against the vile allure of knowledge. Perhaps it is just to pass the time until my end.

Before I embarked on a journey that would change my perspective, and indeed, my life; I had been a historian. Though I was not affiliated with any particular historical society I did achieve some note. My interest was mainly anthropological and I spent much of my existence venturing from place to place. The intricacies of obscure cultures and languages ignited a spark of curiosity within me. I was noted for possessing an impressive collection of tomes and artifacts contained within my serene study.
The bleak day of which my descent into madness began was of little excitement. I had returned from an expedition to Siberia four days prior. I was to examine a carven tablet presumably crafted by a Neanderthal hand, however it was revealed to be a mere hoax. Having no current project, I gazed idly at Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” painting as I often did. It was afforded a central resting place in my study due to my inexplicable fancy for it. Not long after my contemplation began I heard a shrill ring and mechanically answered the telephone’s summons. I immediately recognized the voice of my long-time compatriot, Laurence.

Laurence had accompanied me on a vast majority of expeditions and was surely the adventurous spirit of our duo. Always seeking out more work and new challenges, his call was not wholly unexpected. What he conveyed to me was incredibly strange. He claimed that Antarctica had suffered a vicious summer and a considerable amount of ice had melted in some areas. The peculiar thing was, in one certain area, on the southern coast, the uppermost towers of an ancient cathedral had been spied. I listened with disbelief, no civilization could exist beneath the suffocating ice, surely the sighting was an illusion, a trick of light. Yet Laurence assured me with vigor that what he spoke of was so. I reluctantly agreed to accompany his exploration.
Gathering and purchasing items for preparation of the voyage spanned the long hours of the next three days. Procuring cold weather gear was not an issue as my previous trip had been to Siberia, and this freed up a modest amount of time. The excess time allowed me to think on the expedition more and when the time to leave was upon me, I was in considerably higher spirits. I thought that maybe it was possible someone had once inhabited this alleged icy citadel. Glancing at Goya’s masterwork for the last time, I exited my dwelling and proceeded to the prearranged meeting point.

We boarded a ship headed for Buenos Aires and from there we would make the trip to Antarctica. I now had an almost tangible sense of excitement, Laurence did not hesitate to chide me for my earlier incredulity. In Argentina we resupplied and it was then that I first met an interesting member of the crew headed to the glacial plains. He was a large man named Mikhail and spent much of his time drawing and writing in his notebook. He had a vivid imagination and was very much superstitious, thus he relished our current mission.
The long arduous voyage across the sea was initially uneventful. Of strange note however, is that as we got closer to the frigid continent, my dreams took on a strange quality. Mikhail seemed to be affected the most as he was by far the most sensitive of the crew. His drawings and writing were more sinister than usual yet he could offer no explanation. We encountered a strangely abandoned ship that was in excellent condition besides the fact that it had no fuel left. We looted it for provisions and left. Mikhail seemed strangely entranced by the sea after that incident. His artwork had already shown marine influence before, but now it was an obsession. Later that day Mikhail was nowhere to be found and I remembered strange ripples in the water I had seen shortly after we passed by the ship. I watched the stars that night yet they offered no solace, the only thing I could think of was the vast emptiness of space and it terrified me.

When we landed and breathed in the dry frigid air, morale was very low. The loss of Mikhail hit everyone hard as he was of friendly character. We could also see that a storm was building. We quickly set up our tents, mostly to find the embrace of warm air. Laurence inexplicably fell ill that night, and as the moon reached the zenith, the storm struck with full fury. I noted a sound much like a screeching call and attributed it to the fierce winds.
When the morning sun lazily emerged from the clouds it facilitated my view of the vast arctic landscape, heaped snow from the blizzard creating small hills and valleys. Another member of our crew had gone missing and none could account for him. The crew assembled a search team to discover his fate, bidding me to remain with Laurence. Quickly ascertaining that he required no aid, I set off towards the supposed sunken city just to catch a glimpse.

All doubt left me when I saw the great spires reaching towards the heavens. The light reflecting off of the highest steeple was almost hypnotizing. I trudged through the ice with renewed purpose, forgetting completely about Laurence and the crew. My first challenge was to locate some entrance or weak spot in the thick ice to breach the frozen burg. As I was exploring the surrounding, I stepped on a deceptively thin layer of ice and fell through, opening the way to the forgotten city. What would lead me into the sunken cathedral was a long corridor with a massive staircase. I found the corridor odd, it was clearly made for beings no less than eight feet tall and the material used to construct it was unearthly. The stone was of an ivory color but was shimmering, as if some liquid were coating it. I also found it strange how well kept it was, it exuded an air of utter ancientness but looked as if I should see other people traversing the hall, it was so well maintained.

My wonder was displaced as, when entering into a vast room with many doorways, a charnel scent rose from the depths of the city. The room contained great arches, hinting that the city was intentionally buried under the ice. They were engraved with exquisite bas-reliefs and inscriptions which I could not comprehend. A warmth and faint light was transmitted from a stairway in between two giant statues of bird-creatures. As I approached I heard a papery rustling sound from within and my curiosity took control. The foul stench pierced my nose once again, invading my sensibilities. The stairs seemed to lead to a housing area and a vast manor loomed directly before me. Pressing my hand to the stone door, I noticed the stone itself radiated heat. Also of strange note, I could hear the sound of rushing water, hinting that I had travelled farther than I initially thought. As I entered I caught sight of a vast library through an open doorway and preceded through. That is where the creature resided.

The creature was enveloped in feathers whose likeness was closer to scales. Even hunched over in its ornate chair, I could tell the creature was at least eight feet tall. Its beak was monstrous in size and appeared to be sufficient enough to break through even the tough stone surrounding us. His hands and feet contained large, intimidating talons. He was putrid yellow in color, flecked with black and with the occasional rust colored feathers. He looked up to me in a surprisingly casual way which confounded me. What was even stranger was that he was capable of speaking. The manner in which he spoke was quite bird-like as I suspected, his tone rapidly changed as he spoke, and it was in short, quick bursts. He greeted me as if this event was normal and bade me view his archives. My trepidation increased as I scanned the titles, some were of very recent print. I recalled the offensive scent and abandoned ship, shuddering. He took no note of my discomfort.
Much was gleaned from the creature. He articulated his name in a fashion that cannot be properly pronounced with human tongue, the best I could manage was “Groth”. Groth told me of his species, the golka, and of their numerous great cities crafted in the inky black recesses of ice. He spoke of strange rituals they performed in a ghoulish tone. His candor startled me as he spoke of things which brought the occult to mind. At last, he removed his hands from his lap, revealing that the book he had been poring over when I entered was in fact the dreaded Necronomicon. With a glint in his eyes, he beckoned me to follow him.

We entered a room which was shrine-like in appearance. The place of worship was a great monolith, exquisitely carved. Directly in front of it was a pedestal with grotesque statuette perched upon it. I was stuck with a wave of nervousness and wished only to escape, however I could not will myself to move. The hideous golka began chanting from the vile tome in his possession. His voice strangely maintained its
normal quality as he spoke.

As the last undulating wave of words left Groth’s throat, the monolith underwent change. On the top of the vast obelisk opened a chasm, or portal, of pure darkness. The inky blackness was so intense that my eyes ached and I knew it to be the very cosmos. The eternal and deafening silence filled me with dread. Then emerged the Star-Born Being with images of the future. The sight of the indescribable creature induced in me a madness so intense, it is impossible to chronicle. The mass of shadow and eyes revealed the future of mankind. When it descended from the stars to claim the Earth as its own, the downfall of humanity would commence. The golka and other creatures would claw their way out from the depths to liberate the world from humanity. My knees quaked and instinct forced me to take action. I ran back through the manor and out of the city. I made no note as the icy gale chilled my flesh.

A search party was sent out by Laurence when I did not return and they found me stumbling and rambling madly not far from camp. I told of my experience on the way back to my home but none would heed my words. I write this from my room in my psychiatric ward to explain my actions. When the Star Spawn comes to Earth, humanity will be reduced to primal and barbaric ways. Thus, I shall cast myself from the window. Even now I can hear the call of the thing which should not be, calling from the unfathomable cold of space, and the depths of madness.

Credit: Richard S.

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The Fairies

April 2, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown, particularly creatures of the unknown. I don’t know when this obsession of mine started. It probably started when I was a young kid and would watch documentary series on aliens, Bigfoot, Yeti, unknown sea monsters, and the like.

My obsession earned me my share of names and bullying in school. Like a good nerd I pushed up my glasses and shook it off and moved onto college where I earned degree in zoology and eventually my masters and PhD. Along the way I had discovered the gym, alcohol, women, contacts, and other things life had to offer. However, my main love was cryptozoology.

I spent two years of my late 20’s running around the world with well known and respected biologists, zoologist, marine biologists looking for new species and studying others that we knew little about. My colleagues and myself found new insects, fish, reptiles, but never anything that would fall under the strange or mythical. I made a name for myself in the science community. People liked to say I could find anything but Bigfoot. I enjoyed my small notoriety.

After those exciting two years I decided I wanted to work somewhere more traditional. While creating footprints around the world was fun, I was tired of never being in one place for more than a few weeks at a time. I also wanted to spend more time trying to research and find these storied monsters than work on someone else’s expedition.

I landed a job at a big state university in Ohio teaching in the biology department. I also started a cryptozoology club, which attracted a large following of students. With permission from the university, I would take students to so-called haunted places, hot spots for unknown creatures, and the like. We would always come up with some crazy disembodied EVP, blurry video, or grainy photo. We never had anything conclusive but it was fun for the students and myself and it got them to think outside of the box and question what we really know about our world. The passion for trying to discover the unknown that I saw in the group’s members is what kept my interest in it strong.

Like I said before, my main love was cryptozoology until one faculty Christmas party. There I met Diane. She was this beautiful brown haired woman about my age who worked in the English department teaching creative writing. I knew I needed to meet this woman. I wasn’t a scrawny nerd from high school anymore. I was in shape, successful in my field, and not too bad looking (at least I told myself that). I used a corny pickup line to introduce myself, she had a cornier comeback, we laughed, talked the entire party, exchanged numbers and the rest is history.

A few months after we started dating, we moved in together. I had never fallen so hard for someone. We shared a lot of common interests but had a lot of differences. I liked the outdoors and she preferred to stay in. I was a busy body and she was more relaxed. We both liked wine and a good book. She was a published writer who wrote these amazing stories about make believe creatures. I read several of her short stories and one of her books which all seemed to be centered on forest fairies and children.

“Diane,” I said closing her latest published book as I was sprawled out on the couch one evening. “Have I told you that you are an excellent writer?”

Diane was in the kitchen making her famous chicken alfredo. “Yes, but you can tell me again if you like,” she playfully responded.

“Can I ask you a question? Where do you get your inspiration for these stories?”

She walked out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a dishcloth. “I get them from the stories my grandmother told me when I visited her in Canada when I was young.”

I sat up on the couch and she gracefully took a seat next to me. “Tell me more, please,” I asked inquisitively.

“When I was young,” Diane began with a look of remembrance on her face, “we would visit my grandmother every summer in Alberta. She lived in a town called New Village. There weren’t many people there. It was a beautiful town shadowed by snowcapped peaks. There was a great big pine forest that lay between the town and the closest mountain. It was probably a few hundred acres or so. At the base of the mountain was this crystal clear lake that was full of fish and that emptied into a small river. All the kids in town would play in the forest, lake, and river but were strictly forbidden from staying out past sundown. This was enforced harshly by the towns people including my grandmother.” Diane paused for a moment.

“Go on,” I urged her with a smile.

“So, my grandmother would tell me about the fairies in the forest and how they liked to play tricks on people. If I disobeyed my elders they would take me away forever. Those stories always freaked me out. My parents didn’t like her telling me those stories but they agreed that I should listen to my grandmother and be inside before dark. The stories didn’t bother me too much until one of the young boys I played with each summer went missing in the woods. He ran away one night into the forest after a fight with his father. They never found him and the town’s people didn’t bother looking for him till after sunrise. I just can’t believe the people wouldn’t go looking for a boy in the forest until it was sun up unless they all truly believed in the fairies. The fairies in my books are mischievous but much nicer than the ones in my grandmother’s stories. They never take people away.”

Diane’s face was now a half smile. “Kind of your thing isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” I looked at her slightly confused.

“You know… Imaginary creatures that live in the woods.” She looked at me with a smartass grin.

“Well, I’ve heard and read up on fairy folklore but it’s not something that many cryptozoologists spend a vast amount of time on. However, I’ve never heard of a town afraid of fairies, especially from a first hand account. It would be interesting to investigate something like that.”

Diane smiled a mischievous smile that stretched from ear to ear. “Good. My parents want to meet you and I want you to meet them. My grandmother passed away when I was young and my parents inherited the house. They retired there a few years ago. You can come with me this summer when I visit them and solve the town’s fairy problem.” By this point she was standing over me, giving me the puppy eyes to agree.

Just like that, our summer plans were made and in early June I found myself on a plane from Ohio to Alberta with Diane and a bag full of some of my recording equipment I took on my excursions with my student group. Once there we picked up a rental car and drove what felt like hours into the forest covered mountains. At one point we left the winding highway to exit onto an even more treacherous two-lane mountain road. 15 min from the highway we arrived at what looked like a ghost town. There were several small shops that were closed and what looked like an unfinished hotel from the 60s.

“This place has become a ghost town since I was a girl,” Diane said as we drove past the abandoned buildings.

A few short minutes later we pulled into her parent’s driveway. Her parent’s house sat on a short dead end road of a few dozen houses. Behind her house lay the thick pine forest she had mentioned to me. In the distant background loomed a majestic snow capped mountaintop.

Her parents greeted us with smiles at the door. Diane excitedly hugged her mother and father. I, trying to hide my nerves meeting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time, quickly shook their hands and introduced myself as John, the guy that was here to fix their fairy problem. They both smiled and paused before saying through their teeth, “The fair problem is under control. Come in dinner is about ready.”

My nervous attempt to be funny appeared to have become a strikeout. Dinner went well and we talked about our trip up and what I did at the university. With our bellies full, Diane’s father invited me on out to the back porch for a beer.

“So you teach cryptozoology at the university?” Diane’s father asked before taking a big swig of beer from his bottle.

“No, I teach animal behavior and social interaction. I would like to teach cryptozoology at some point but I need to have the class curriculum written and approved before I can.” I slouched in my porch chair and began to enjoy my beer.

“I suppose Diane has told you a bunch of crazy stories about fairies in our woods?” I looked at him and gave a small nod as I took another sip from my bottle. “They’re all true. Sounds stupid crazy but their all true. My wife told me those stories too and I wouldn’t have believed them if I hadn’t seen some crazy stuff or experience our neighbors niece disappear one night two summers ago in that pine forest.” He pointed towards the wood line just off his back yard while taking another swig from his bottle.

“We’ve had a drought the last few years and the pines are all dried up and getting brown. The forest used to be dark and green. Now it’s just a sad brownish color.” Diane’s father finished his beer and looked up at the sky. The pines were brown and looked all dried out, even in the setting sun. The air wasn’t filled with that typical pine wood smell. In fact the air was cool and stale.

“You want to see a magic trick?” He asked me excitedly.

“Uh… sure,” I said half expecting him to pull a coin out from behind my ear.

“Watch the back gate. The sun sets at about 9pm today. About that time the latch will pop up and it’ll swing open. No hands,” he said waving his in the air.

Diane’s parent’s yard was fenced in with a single back gate, which lead directly into the forest. Some of the forest pines’ branches hung just over the gate. I wasn’t quite sure how to take Diane’s father’s statement. So I waited. The sun slowly crept behind the mountains and the clock reached 9pm.

I finished my beer as we quietly sat on the back porch. As I was about to get up and tell Diane’s father that this was the longest trick I’d ever waited for, the sound of scraping against the opposite side of the fence caught my ear.

It started at the back corner of the fence. It sounded like a child was dragging a stick across its pickets as they walked by. The sound accelerated towards the gate. I was laser focused on the gate, paying no attention to Diane and her mother who had walked out on the deck with us. “Ching” went the gate latch and the gate swung open slowly as if pushed softly by an invisible force.

“No way,” I muttered to myself as I slowly began to walk off the deck towards the back gate. A strong forceful grip pulled me back up on the deck. My head snapped around to see Diane’s father gripping my arm with force.

“Don’t go over there,” he said in with a stern voice and look.
“Robert, let him go,” Diane’s mother chimed in. “John, stay here. Do not go anywhere near the woods or the wood line after the sun has set.”

“Mom… dad… stop.” Diane strongly pulled me away from her parents. “You’re embarrassing me.” She turned to me and said, “I’ll take you into the woods tomorrow. It’s fine. You’ll see. Come inside.” She turned and graciously stormed back into the house.

Feeling awkward, I pretended to take one last drink of my beer and began to follow Diane.

“You can go into the woods all you want during the day, but as soon as the sun sets you must be out,” Robert said cutting me off before I could walk inside. I stopped and looked at him. His face showed genuine concern. I glanced back at Diane’s mother. Her face had the same expression.

“Diane really likes you, John,” her mother started. “We would prefer if you left with her when your visit here is done. Explore all you want but please listen to us about the woods.”

“Yes, please listen to Mary and me,” Robert said almost pleading.

I looked down. “I understand. I’ll make sure to heed your warning. I brought some research equipment with me. Is it ok if I place a camera on the fence to capture this tomorrow?”

“That’d be fine,” Robert said. “Just do it early when it’s still light.”

I agreed and with that I went inside feeling a bit confused at Diane’s parents insistence on staying away from the woods after dark.

Diane and I got ready for bed that night and as I laid in bed with her head on my chest I tired to piece together if her family really believed in “fairies” and if their facial concern earlier was genuine.

“Your family really believes in the fairies don’t they?” I asked Diane.

She rolled over and picked up her head to face me. “It’s embarrassing. Not the fact that they believe in that stuff but that they are so adamant that the woods are a bad place. If I had been rebellious as a kid I would have run off into the woods many times. They are beginning to act like my grandmother when I was a child. I don’t’ know how my dad does that gate trick but it’s getting old. He pulled it on me two years ago and insists it’s not him.”

Diane was getting more annoyed the more she talked. “I’ll take you into the woods tomorrow. You’ll see. I used to play there as a child. There is nothing wrong with it.”

I pulled her in tight to my body and kissed her good night softly. “Ok, we’ll go have an adventure tomorrow,” I said before dozing off.

The next morning Diane took me into the pine forest after breakfast. She showed me all the things she could remember from her childhood. She showed me her favorite trails, which had become slightly overgrown. She showed me her favorite spot on the river and her favorite shore of the lake. The lakeshore was littered with dead fish here and there but strangely no rotting fish smell.

“It’s a shame that they died. I remember the lake being healthy when I was young. We used to fish here as kids,” she explained to me as we navigated the shores.

On the lakeshore was an old foundation to a building that never started. Diane said that it was supposed to be a lodge for visitors to the lake in the 60s but it was never finished. The crumbling foundation was covered in moss and looked more like a pathetic version of Stonehenge more than anything else.

It was about noon and we agreed to head back through the woods to get some lunch at her parent’s house. As we walked hand in hand through the woods on trails that I was surprised she could still navigate from her childhood memories. I noticed that almost all of the pines were brown or brownish green. Their trunks were rather large, swollen even, as if stuffed with something, and most of the underbrush was dead or looked like it was dying.

Diane mentioned that there had been little rain during the summer and spring of the last few years. I thought it strange that the forest would be dried out but the river and lake didn’t seem to be at low levels.

At lunch, Robert brought the topic of cryptozoology and my interests in what they felt were fairies in the forest.

“You should talk to Daniel Whitefeather. He’s a detective with the county and lives a few houses down. He’s also the last of tribe that once lived here. He’s sort of an amateur historian for the area and has plenty of stories to tell about the fairies in the woods. I’ll give him a call and tell him you’re coming over.” Robert gave me his address and at the encouragement of Diane I ventured to his house that afternoon as Diane and her mother had planned to do some shopping in the next town over.

I knocked on Daniel’s door, unsure if he would be home or not. The lock unlatched and the door slowly opened to an older man with a weather beaten face.

“Are you Daniel?” I asked reaching out my hand for a handshake. “My name is Johh, and…”

“You want to know about the woods, correct?” He said cutting me off. “Robert called and told me about you. Come in, please. I’ve got a few hours before I need to head to work to cover a night shift.”

I entered his house. It was large and filled with mounted animals, fish, and a variety of what appeared to be Native American memorabilia. He led me to his living room and motioned for me to sit. His living room walled on all sides by filing cabinets and bookshelves. There was no TV and a thick layer of dust caked most flat surfaces.

“So what can I tell you,” Daniel stated slowly taking a seat in the chair across from me.

“Well, whatever you know about the forest or the supposed creatures in the forest,” I started. “I study unknown creatures, mythological creatures, or whatever you want to call them and I’m familiar with fairies in folklore but I’ve never encountered an entire town that seemed to fear these creatures like they supposedly do here.”

Daniel sat back for a moment and look up at the ceiling as if to pull his thoughts down through the tile.

“My tribe, or rather my ancestors, was the first to settle this area. As the oral tradition goes, we were once a large and proud tribe that numbered greatly in Alberta long before the white settlers came. A harsh run of winters and warring with other tribes cut our numbers down and our enemies pushed us out of our original land. We wandered until we found this place. Cold, starved, and desperate for shelter we felt blessed to have come across a place with good hunting, the mountains to shelter us, and a river and lake to supply us with fresh water.”

I looked at him eagerly as he took a small break to remember his words. He sat up and leaned forward in his chair.

“The story goes that when we found this land, we were forbidden to enter the forest by the some strange creatures that lived there. My people would call them the forest walkers. They said they were guardians of the pine forest here. The chief seeing his people starving and without a place to live struck a deal with the forest walkers. We could hunt, fish, live here, and they would protect us as long as once every moon cycle, we agreed to give them one of our own.”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “So… like a sacrifice?”

“Yes,” Daniel continued. “Each full moon we would send one chose person by lot into the forest. Their screams would fill the night sky. It was a horrible thing but for us to survive the chief made the deal and we kept to it. Many years would pass as we sacrificed one after another of our own. Our numbers would slowly decrease over time but those who remained were always safe, had food to hunt, and freshwater to drink.”

Daniel got up from his seat and walked over to his bookshelf and pulled out a leather bound book whose page edges were yellowed from age. He plopped the book down in front of me on the coffee table between us. The book landed with a thud and a dust cloud filled the air.

“Sorry. I’ve been busy and haven’t had much time to clean,” Daniel stated fighting back a cough and swatting the air to clear it.

“It’s no problem,” I calmly replied as I sat back trying to avoid the allergen heavy mushroom cloud. “But how does what appears to be an Indian legend turn into a town of people fearing the woods?”

“That book,” he stated pointing at it, “Contains all of the stories about the forest walkers that have been passed down from generation to generation in my tribe. I started writing them down when I was young. I got them from the elders, my relatives, and many others before they all passed. I’m the last one and I figured someone should document this so others can know what we witnessed.”

Daniel sat back in his chair again now that the dust had settled.

“Everything changed when the white man came into our land. First it was one man. He was an explorer. We did not see him as a threat so we let him pass. However, he found gold in the river. He told others. Soon many others showed up looking for gold in the river. They brought furs, meats, beads, and guns. They were willing to trade for small pieces of land so that they could live here while they prospected. We agreed. The prospectors were supplying us with new things and we were trading small parcels of land for them. The white people cut down trees to make the clearing in which out town sits now. They built houses. They hunted and fished. We no longer sent one of our own into the forest every full moon.”

“So the sacrifices stopped because you were getting what you needed from settlers?” I questioned. “What about your deal with the creatures?”

“We lived peacefully along side the white man,” Daniel started again. “The forest walkers were angry that we had broken our deal. They would watch us from the tree line in the shadows. Their anger could be felt. One night several prospectors who were fishing the lake came home through the forest late. The walkers took one of them violently in front of the others. Their screams filled the night air. The survivors fled and never returned. They left their belongings and even their gold because they were so scared. Soon people who were in the woods past dark began to disappear. No trace could be found.”

Daniel sat up and took a deep breath. “When people started to avoid the woods after dark they started to trick people into coming into the woods. They would mimic the cries of children or loved ones during the night. Anyone who ran into the woods to save them would be taken. They took three mothers of our tribe once because the walkers cried like babies on the forest line. The women ran to save the “babies” only to be taken away. They only took one person at a time but they started taking them more often as revenge.”

“So they can mimic sounds or voices?” I questioned a bit confused.

“Yes,” he began while rubbing the side of his head. “They can take anyone’s voice or sound like anything that would entice you to enter the woods. The greed of gold was greater than the danger of being taken and more and more white people showed up until so many had disappeared that the word had gotten out that this land was cursed. Many people left but those who were widows with small children stayed. Everyone who lives here now is a relative of someone taken. My tribe helped them and welcomed them to stay here. It became forbidden to enter the forest at night.”

“So why are there people still living here?” I questioned. “Why not pack up a leaved this place if it cursed?”

“My people made a pact with those who were left from the prospecting rush. We agreed to guard this place and keep people from the evil here. We would tell no one about this place. We had made a deal and broken it. We had put others in danger. However, no matter what we did or said the word always made it out about the fishing and hunting or the gold in the river. People would come and disappear. Together we would warn them but they would disappear in the woods after dark. Once in the 60s a group found out about the fishing and tried to build a lodge on the lakeshore. They are all gone. We tried to warn them but they called us insane. It is only recently that this town and forest have gone unnoticed by the outside. There have only be a few disappearances in the last 10 years.”

“I’ve seen the foundation.” I sat up in the chair as I was drawn into his stories more and more.

Daniel got up and walked over to one of his filing cabinets. He pulled open the top drawer creating another small dust cloud. He reached inside and pulled out a black binder that was stuffed full of paper work.

“Here,” he said motioning for me to take the binder.

“What is this?” I questioned taking the heavy binder from him.
“It is all the open missing persons cases that I am in charge of. They are all from here.”

“That’s crazy,” I said as I opened the binder. “There must be hundreds of cases in here.”

“Some people say I am a shit detective. I know what happened to those people but it’s not something you can put on an official report and still keep your job. If you look at the reports they all have the same pattern. These people were all last seen before dark in the forest.”

I ended my conversation with Daniel, as he was about to get ready for work. He was working a missing person case from two towns over. He let me borrow the case binder and the book of his tribe’s stories.

That evening I set up a small camera and microphone on the opposite side of the fence in Diane’s parent’s backyard. If I could get something on tape I might understand better what I was dealing with. I paired it with my laptop, set it to record, and left the laptop in the bedroom while I got ready for dinner.

While sitting on the back deck after dinner I eagerly read through the stories of his ancestors. The only interruption was the sound of a stick being drug across the fence and the pop of the fence latch coupled with the Robert’s voice repeating “Right on time,” as the sun set behind the mountain. I had forgotten about my camera at this point.

That night I excitedly discussed with Diane what I had discovered during the afternoon.

“You should interview the neighbors. Most of them are older and are retired so they’ll be home.”

“I think I’ll do that tomorrow,” I said excitedly. The idea of having discovered a legitimate cryptozoology find that I could present to the community raced through my mind like a blazing wildfire.

“Only if you take me to a fancy breakfast in the morning,” Diane said with a devilish smile. “Mother and I are going to go pick blue berries tomorrow evening to make pie. It’s her specialty and I think you’ll like it.”

“Deal.” I went to shut off the lights and realized my camera was still recording through my laptop. “Diane, let’s see if my camera caught what popped open your back gate!”

Diane slid across the bed as I swiped my fingers across the track pad to remove the screen saver. The camera screen popped up and the camera looked like it was facing up at a window on a house rather than down the fencerow.

“That’s our bedroom window,” Diane said quietly. I stood up and walked over to the window. I could see the power light on my camera looking back at me. Something had moved it. No one had touched it since I set it up that I could recall.

I hopped back onto my laptop and rewound the captured footage. At 8:57pm the camera started to wiggle and then it violently drops at an awkward angle to the ground just as the fence is starting to be scraped. We watched and listened as the gate latched unlocked and the gate swung open. What ever did it was just off camera.

“Did you hear that?” I asked intensely.

“What?” Diane replied.

I bumped the audio level up and skipped back on the video. In a hissing tone the words “No. See. Yet.” sounded. It was quiet but clear.

“What was that?” Diane asked with a quiet shocked tone.

I fast-forwarded through the footage until I saw the camera start to move. From there and unseen figure picked up the camera and put it on the post where it was now facing our bedroom window. Our bedroom light came on and in the background of the footage you could hear a faint giggle like a small child would make.

“John, that’s creeping me out.” Diane reached across my lap and shut my laptop.
“Turn out the light, we’re going to bed.” She rolled over into bed and pulled the covers over her body. I shut the light off and followed.

The next day after taking Diane to breakfast in the next town over I went door to door asking people what they knew about the forest. Many were hesitant to talk to me until I explained who I was, what I believed, and that I intended to study what was going on. Once that was out of the way, I was warmly welcomed into many of their homes.

The town’s people had a wide array of stories. I wrote down as much as I could in a notebook. Their stories ranged from relatives disappearing to hearing strange voices at night to seeing groups of travelers go missing in one night without a trace. Many were older stories of loved ones who wandered into the forest late or failed to make it out before sun down. Everyone seemed to believe in the creatures that populated the pine forest but no one had ever seen one. One older gentleman mentioned his sister had gone into the forest on an afternoon stroll and never returned. For months afterward he swears he could hear her voice calling every evening to him from the woods but he dare not enter. Eventually the voice stopped.

The rest of the afternoon I dedicated to taking notes on all of the missing persons cases. I only stopped to kiss Diane goodbye as she and her mother left to get blue berries from the forest. She had promised to be home in an hour or two. I was fine with her going since it would be several hours before the sun went down.

“You feel ok going into the woods after the video feed from last night?” I questioned.

Diane shuddered and then sighed. “Nothing bad has ever happened during the day. My mother will be with me. I’m sure it was probably my dad playing a trick on us.”

“Just come home safe to me.”

She smiled and closed the door. I returned to my reading.

Each case had the same set of circumstances. The person was last seen going into the woods before dark or just after dark and not returning once the sun had set. Several of the cases mentioned witnesses hearing strange sounds from the woods. One case in particular mentioned that a county police search group went into the woods after dark. None returned. There was no good explanation of why the people went missing. News clippings placed the blame on people getting lost in the Canadian outback or the possibility of these people running into bears or wolves.

Exhausted after all my note taking I closed the binder full of cases and sat back in my seat in the living room. I breathed deeply and stood up collecting the binder and book that Daniel had let me borrow.

The front door swung open slowly. I looked up hoping to see Diane and her mother but to my surprise Robert walked in.

“Hey… I didn’t even know you were gone,” I said in a tired tone.

“Yea,” Robert started as he took his shoes off at the door, “You were buried so deep in your reading that you didn’t noticed I left for town. Just went out to get some gas for the mower. Yard is getting kind of long and needs to be trimmed.”

“Keep an eye out for Diane and Mary. They went to pick blueberries in the woods and haven’t returned yet.”

“Ok. The girls still have time. Sun won’t set for another 3-3 ½ hours.” I could hear a slight worry in his voice.

I finished gathering my things and walked to Daniel’s house to return his items. When I arrived he was sitting on his front porch, still in his police uniform with a beer.

“John,” he said with a smile holding the beer up in salutation. “I see you’ve come to return my binder and book. Did you find what you needed?”

I handed him the book and binder and took a seat beside him.

“I found a lot of interesting stuff. I interviewed many of the neighbors and I believe everyone feels like there is something in the woods. All the missing cases are similar. All the Indian stories are intriguing but tell me something… Why are there people still living here? I understand your ancestors made a pact but why not just up and leave?”

Daniel put his beer down on the porch and sighed deeply. He raised his hands up and placed them behind his head before sinking back into his chair.

“This will sound stupid but it has been an oral tradition and agreement of all those raised here that we would stay and make sure nothing would be built on this land beyond what has already existed. We didn’t want other folks to suffer what our ancestors have gone through. Everyone here is a relative of a prospector or settler that came here many years ago. Everyone has lost someone to those woods. All those boarded buildings in town belong to someone here. They’ve just agreed to never sell them and let them fall into dust. Most people couldn’t afford to move away anyway. Some of the houses up the street are the same way. Why give something to someone in the horrid place? We grew up here. We know what it’s like to hear the noises in the night and fear for visiting relatives. If the towns people all die off and this place falls off the map, it’d be best for everyone.”

He took another deep breath.

“We are the last of the people who will live here. Diane’s parents were raised here. She wasn’t. When they are gone the house will sit abandon. Just like the rest.”

I sat in silence trying to wrap my head around what Daniel was telling me. Sure none of the houses in the town were extravagant and no particular person seemed to be wealthy, but how could they live in a place that they all seemed to fear?

“What do they look like?” I asked.

“Who?” Daniel replied sitting up a little straighter as if surprised by my question.

“The forest walkers or the fairies or whatever you want to call them. What do they look like? I have no descriptions in any of the text you gave me. The only indication of someone talking to them was your ancestors.” I sat up and looked at Daniel with a stern look.

“Tonight is a full moon. Only a few people have been lost in the woods during the dark in the last ten years. They are angry. You can feel it in the air. I’m going to retire in two years. I spent my life trying to find those missing people. I’ve been in the woods during the day. They are hard to see. They are tall and very skinny. If you look hard you can see their outline among the trees. It’s very hard to make out but there are hundreds of them. They are in the woods now. They won’t move until dark but even now you can look among the tree line and see them standing still.”

Daniel pointed towards the woods that were across the road from his house. I looked hard but could see nothing but pines in the fading light. I thanked him for his time and resources and made my way back to Diane’s parents house in the waning light. The sun had set and a cool breeze blew over the road and into the woods as if the forest itself was inhaling. I walked along the broken sidewalk looking into the dark pines to see if I could catch a glimpse of what Daniel was talking about. The moon was full and extra bright. It almost looked like day out with a slightly bluish tint. There was no noise. No bugs. No birds. Only the breeze and my footsteps filled the night air. I would be home in just another 100 yards or so.

“JOHN!!!!!” A blood-curdling cry sounded from just inside the forest line.

That voice. I knew that voice. It was Diane. The hair on my neck stood straight up. My heart began to pound with a violent fervor. Diane hadn’t come back with her mother when I left. What if she hadn’t made it out of the woods? What if she was hurt? What if she was being taken?

“JOHN!!!!” The scream sounded again. This time it sounded like she was in agonizing pain.

I was in the woods twenty yards deep before I realized what I was doing. My eyes scanned everywhere frantically. “DIANE!” I called out. There was no answer only dead silence. The moon was so bright I could make out almost everything from the light that shown through the pine branches. “DIANE!”

I was breathing through my mouth now. My breaths matched the frantic pace of my heart. I stood there in silence. I looked hard at the dense pine forest in front of me. Movement caught my eye. I wasn’t alone. There was movement everywhere but I couldn’t see exactly what it was. Whatever it was made no noise and it appeared opaque, almost invisible. As if out of nowhere the opaque shapes melded into reality.

They were human height. Their skin was white. They had thin leg, arms, and body structure. Their skin looked dry but ridged like a worms. Their head was large white sideways cones shape with no features only a small black hole in the front.

My muscles tensed as pure fear flowed through me. I couldn’t move. I was awestruck and fear consumed at the same time. Dozens of these things were in front of me. They all looked horribly the same. I wanted to run. I couldn’t. One of them moved slowly towards me. 20ft from me it stopped. It was dead quiet. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it.

The hole at the front of its head grew larger as if something was pushing out of it. Like the peeling of a sausage casing the skin of this thing pulled back and out of the black appear to be a young woman’s head.

My jaws dropped. I could feel my heart beat in my ears. Her hair was black and greasy looking. Her eyes were black ovals. Her skin was pale. She looked up at me. It felt like an eternity as I looked at this human head upon this monstrosity. Her mouth opened.

“John,” her voiced echoed. But I knew that voice. It was Diane’s. Confusion took over. The woman head on this monster twisted sideways in horrible manner while looking at me with a blank facial expression.

“John… John… John…” Diane’s voice repeated faster and faster. Then an ear shattering maniacal laugh echoed from its mouth. Tear streaked down my face as my lips began to tremble. It stopped. From jaw to forehead the woman’s face split in half opening from side to side as if it had been sliced through revealing a mass of razor sharp teeth and flailing tentacle like tongues.

The creature shrieked. It was so high pitched and growling that it made the forest shake and my ears ring. I fell backwards onto my back with a hard thud and for the first moment since I saw the thing I could move. I began to shuffle frantically backwards kicking my legs to propel me away from this monstrosity. The creature dropped to all fours and began to rush me in the most inhuman way possible. I knew there was no way to get up and out run it in time. It was about to be upon me. I raised my arm to cover my face.

“No!” I shouted as I looked away. Nothing. I felt no pain. No creature landed on me.

“JOHN… MOM… DAD… NOOOOO!!!!” A cry rang out in Diane’s voice but only this time it sounded as if it came from the direction of her home. I immediately stood up trying to comprehend what was happening. The creatures were gone but something in the underbrush moved violently away from me tearing up ground and shaking branches as it went.

“Mary, NO!” Another voice rang out. It was Robert’s. I was still confused and scared but I wasn’t going to stay in those woods any longer. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me to Diane’s parent’s house.

Robert was in the backyards restraining Mary who was sobbing, “Let me go… Let me go…”

“She’s gone. They might take you too,” Robert replied hugging his wife with all his force.

“What happened?” I demanded.

“Oh my God, John,” Robert said as he turn to me in shock. “Diane swore she heard you screaming in the woods and ran in after you. We tried to stop her.”

A scream of pain from Diane rang out in the distance. My fear and adrenaline rush turned to anger. They took the woman I loved. These hideous things took Diane. Without thinking I ran to the garage and scooped up the gas can Robert had filled earlier in the day. I scanned the garage frantically and found a propane torch on a shelf. I quickly made my way to tree line in their back yard.

“Robert, hold this,” I commanded as I shoved the propane lighter into his arms.

I began pouring the gas carelessly on the trees and the brush along the forest line.

“What are you doing?” He asked with a puzzled look on his face still trying to comfort his wife.

I looked him dead in the eye and cold stated, “Give me the torch. If they want to take her, I’m taking the forest from them.”

He reluctantly handed over the torch I had just forced him to hold.

The forest was dry. The breeze was blowing into the forest. I opened the propane valve, lit the torch, and tossed it into the brush. In seconds there was a towering inferno before me. I grabbed Robert and Mary who were in shock at what I had just done and drug them to the front yard. The fire raged quickly and moved faster than anything I’ve ever seen before. Soon the entire town was standing on the road watching the blaze consume the pine forest they had always known. I stood silent among them with rage in my eyes.

Suddenly inhuman screams of horror and pain filled the air. They were piercing like a knife causing many people to hold their ears. The town’s folk held their ears tight to block out the sound. Many ran back to their homes in fear or gripped each other for comfort. The screams roared deafeningly on and on as the fire raged until suddenly as quickly as it started the screams went silent and only the blaze could be heard.

Someone called the fire department, which alerted the forest rangers. There was nothing they could do. The flames spread so fast that the entire forest was burnt to the ground before they could enact a plan. I admitted to starting the fire and was arrested that night by the county police.

I spent three days in jail with little or not human contact. The cops moved about the office in a frantic matter as if they were swamped with more work than they could handle. They ignored me for the better part of my stay there only feeding me and checking in on me before night.

When I awoke in my jail cell the third morning, Daniel was there to greet me.

“Good morning,” I said groggily.

He opened the cell. “You’re free to go, John.”

“What?” I was confused and a little shocked.

“Come with me.” He motioned for me to follow him. I stood up and did as he asked. “They found Diane.”

“Is she ok? Is she hurt? How…?” My heart was over joyed in my confused state.

“She had some burns, cuts, bruises, suffered from some smoke inhalation, and seems to be in shock but she’s alive. Get in the car and I’ll take you to the hospital. I would have told you sooner but I’ve been busy with everything that has been going on.”

“Thank God!” I shouted. “But wait. I’m confused. Why am I going free?”

“Get in the car. I’ll tell you about it on the ride over.”

The car ride to the hospital was about an hour. On our way over Daniel explained that I was the least of the problems the county had to deal with now. None of the houses in the town were damaged. The wind blew the fire in the opposite direction. Search and rescue teams combing the forest at night and early morning found Diane on the lakeshore. She was nude and in shock but alive.

The biggest issue the county had to deal with was the hundreds of skeletons found in the forest. They weren’t scattered about like victims of a forest fire would be. The burnt out pine tree trunks contained dozens of skeletons as if they had been stuffed into the trees. Daniel showed me a picture on his phone that he had taken at one of the scenes. The photo contained a swollen looking tree trunk that was burnt out. Inside the trunk you could clearly see a human skeleton contorted in a horrible fashion with the tree growing around it. What looked like wooden veins of bark fused to the skeleton as if they were growing together. Some of the skeletons had been identified by dental record as people who had gone missing in the woods form the 60’s. Others were determined to be hundreds of years old.

The coroner was now trying to figure out whom the skeletal remains belonged to and how they could have possibly been encased in a tree.

“Most of my missing person cases will probably be closed because of this,” Daniel said breathing a heavy sigh of relief. “I’ve only slept a few hours the past few days because of all the paper work I have to do on my missing persons cases.”

Daniel dropped me off at the hospital and I made my way to Diane’s room. Her parents were there. She was bruised and cut up but alive sitting there in her bed, looking forward, jaw agape, not blinking at all. When I walked in she turned to me slowly, not blinking. When our eyes met she began to sob. I ran to her and embraced her warmly.

“They took me,” she said through heavy sobbing. “They ripped my clothes and tried to put me in there.”

“Where?” I asked fighting off tears of my own while continuing to hug her tightly.

“In the trees… In the trees,” she said through sobs. “They feed the forest with us. The forest was dying and it hungered.”

Not another word was said. I just held her tight till her sobbing stopped.

When Diane was released from the hospital we left for home. Her parents boarded up the house and bought a condo close to where we work. It’s been years since this happened. We don’t talk about it. Her parents don’t talk about it. Yet I’m still obsessed with whatever these things were.

With the forest gone a development company bought all the land that the town sat on cheap and turned it into a housing development. No one has since disappeared to my knowledge in that area. There are some reports that the place is haunted and that at night you can still hear strange voices and screams.

My camera had been recording the night of the fire. I watched the video once before I deleted it. Right before Diane was taken, the latch on the gate was popped by something opaque that my camera couldn’t make out. The camera is then suddenly turned to the forest. My voice… My voice can be heard calling Diane’s name in a scared tone. Diane can be seen running into the forest calling for me. As she disappears beyond what the camera can see there is a voice that giggles like a small child and then states, “We take,” in a raspy high voice. The brush all around moves violently towards where Diane was last seen before you can hear her screams.

I still run my cryptozoology group at the university and have never come across another story of such creatures. As obsessed as I am at trying to figure out what they were, if I ever came across another place that talked about fairies in the woods whom take people, I would probably pass on investigating those stories.

Credit: Tom

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The Deer Of Possibilities

April 1, 2016 at 11:00 PM
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As I lay in the grass, the warm summer breeze rolling over me, I can’t help but wonder what I did to deserve what had befallen me. I never really hurt anyone, never kicked any puppies or anything like that, but hey, I’m just getting ahead of my self. In order for this to make sense we have to start this story from the beginning.

It was the beginning of May and the weather had finally cleared and dried up a little. I was on my way home from work when a sign for a local petting zoo caught my eye. It was called Fawn-Doe Rosa, a family owned place where you can walk around, pet and feed deer as well as see other furry animals. A little bored with my life at the time I decided I would stop in and support the place, feed and pet a few animals then head home.

As I entered the fenced in area I walked to the far end of a huge pond, towards a small, younger looking buck. As I approached it turned to look at me and hurriedly walked over to get some food from me… or so I thought. I reached out to offer him a carrot; he tilted his head, his dark eyes staring straight into my soul. We stood stock still for a good minute before it spoke, causes me to jump in surprise.

“Hello Neil,” It spoke in a voice very similar to Morgan Freeman, “You’re a very special person and I know you’ll help me. I can’t ask this of just anyone. I really need your help and have a favor to ask of you.”

“You can talk?!” I stammered.

“Yes, Yes I’m a talking deer, but all that aside, I just need a small easy favor. I’ll make it worth your while and reward you, even.”

“How can you… a deer reward me, a human? You going to give me lettuce?” I chuckled.

“All you have to do is make a sign, saying ‘found lost dog’, with your cell phone number on it, then post it up outside the main office.”

“That would be lying. I don’t have anyone’s dog.”

“I already know you will do it Neil, less ask-ey, more do-ey.” It demanded, waving him away with its hoof.

Long story short I did what it asked. Later that night I got a phone call, asking what the dog I found had looked like, ironically I had found a dog outside my apartment complex not an hour earlier and described him to the owner. Turns out they were a very wealthy family and gave me a 20,000 dollar reward for finding and taking care of their championship, pure bread. The next day I went back to the zoo and the magical, unicorn deer was waiting for me.

“Let me be the first to congratulate you on your reward,” he began, “To introduce myself my name is Deer, I see what will be and what can be. As you can tell, me being a deer makes doing things I want done hard and or impossible for me to handle. So from time to time I have been known to seek out special people such as your self to do these simple tasks for me and in doing so receiving a reward for your actions.”

“This is too good to be true.” I grumbled shaking my head.

“I want you to know I will never lie to you or make you do anything illegal. At times the things you do may lead to something bad happening to someone else, but ultimately it will be balanced out with something good happening to you.”

At first the thought of bad stuff happening to others deterred me, but nothing good ever seemed to happen to me, so why not switch things up a little.

“What’s in it for you?” I asked.

“From the tasks you will accomplish I will be able to construct a masterpiece, one that will make my existence worth while.” He answered, with a creepy toothy grin.

“You have yourself a deal Deer.” I said with a sigh.

The next few months went by fast, especially with keeping busy doing the tasks the Deer wanted. I had done around twenty or so tasks, learning a little bit about Deer’s history along the way. He had actually been a famous palm reader and jester thousands of years back. A joke of his however went terribly wrong. When one of the princes he was entertaining got offended and had him executed, his spirit lived on through the ages, reaching out to whoever would listen. To be honest I was happier than I had ever been those past few months than I had been in my entire life. I had money, women, a good job and a great place to live. Everything was going good, till now.
This morning I was told to put a semi-driver on a shift just a little longer than usual. I did what I was asked and in doing so a coworker of mine that originally would have given a coupon for a free meal and visit at Fawn-Doe Rosa, gave the coupon to me. So I took a longer lunch break and headed out to the petting zoo for lunch. I brought my lunch over to Deer and we shared my meal in silence. I had gotten up to leave when Deer spoke.

“I’m afraid our time together is running short, as I said before I see what will be and what can be. What goes around comes back around.” He finished singing the Justin Timberlake song.

“Wait what do you mean?” I asked confused.

“Why, my masterpiece of course,” Deer chuckled, “Everything you have done for me has lead to this exact moment, starting with the poster and ending with the shift change.”

“Wait what’s going to happen?” I asked starting to freak out and debating on whether to high tail it or not.

“There is no use in running,” Deer stated bluntly, “As I said before, I have been planning this moment for a few months now. I knew, without a doubt you would help. To humor you a bit I will tell you how it all plays out, because no matter what you do my masterpiece will be complete. It all started with the dog you found, which allowed for him to be returned home. The next task, the one with the quarter, caused a child to jam a toy machine. He got upset and his mom got so worked up she had a heart attack, so they had to call in someone to take over her dog watching job for the day. The substitute watcher, being the man you told he sucks at life. He got upset and was very distracted at work today and accidentally lost the dog he was supposed to be taking care of. Then I had you go to a bar and move a beer a few inches, which caused someone to spill it on another person. The one guy got mad, throwing a beer bottle at the other guy, which hit a baseball trophy case, causing it to shatter. You tried to help the bartender find the missing ball but she got so smitten by you she completely forgot about the missing ball. Well a kid found that ball and is playing baseball with it as we speak. Then the shift you changed today, he was already working a double shift, now he is really exhausted and his reaction time is a little slow.” Deer let out a loud sneeze and turned to look across the road.

“But what does this have to do with me?” I asked dreading to hear the answer. He just nodded towards the road. I slowly turned to face the road as I heard a kid crying and chasing a dog with a baseball in its mouth. The kid stopped to catch his breath as the dog entered the road, then turning to face the kid to see if he was still following, he playfully crouched and wagged his tail. I jumped as a semi- blared his horn, too little too late… the dog exploded into bits and pieces on the fender of the trucks cabin. That’s when the ball caught my eye. It bounced into the wheel well of the rear tire, then without warning came rocketing towards me. I Covered my head and chest with my arms, hoping to protect myself, but the ball wasn’t after my face or chest. Clocking easily at well over a hundred miles per hour, the ball hit me directly in the ball sack. I immediately fell to the floor gagging and puking all over the place. All the while, Deer was prancing around laughing hysterically.

“Get shrekt scrub,” he howled, “Your- your face is so priceless ahahaha! Best prank ever!”

Looking around frantically, I found a rather large rock by the pond, sneaking up behind Deer and raising it over my head while he still laughed uncontrollably. He whipped around as he caught sight of my shadow looming over him.

“Oh shit.” He gasped, as I brought the large stone upon his head, killing him instantly.

I sighed heavily, hobbling over to my car and driving straight to the hospital. A few hours later, surprise, surprise, I found out I am no longer able to bear children. With my testicles swollen to the size of tennis balls, I couldn’t help but shake my head in disgust. I lay down in the grass, swearing to myself. Looks like the Deer would have the last laugh…

Credit: Blake L. Patrick

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