Ubloo, Part One

May 2, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 9.1/10 (368 votes cast)

Note: This is part one of a four-part story. The next three parts will be posted over the next three days. Enjoy!

In a past life I was a psychiatrist. Well, let me rephrase that. Before my life fell to pieces I was a psychiatrist, and a damned good one too. It’s tough to really say what makes a psychiatrist “good” at what they do, but I started in my field early, got great experience my first few years in the business and not before long I almost had more clients than I could handle. I’m not saying someone would walk into my office suicidal and do a complete 180 in one day, but my clients trusted me and felt that I genuinely helped them, so I came very highly recommended, and my rate was admittedly steep. That being said, I was used to a “higher tier” of patient.

I’m not sure how the Jennings family found me but I assume they were pointed in my direction from their previous psychiatrist, as that’s sometimes the case. Someone walks through your door that you’re incapable of helping for whatever reason so you make some recommendations. One day I got a call from Mrs. Gloria Jennings, a very wealthy real estate owner who wanted me to work with her son, Andrew. Apparently Andrew had just about worn out every psychiatrist in the state and I was essentially their last option. Andrew was your typical drug abuser, his poison of choice being heroin, and as anyone in my field can tell you these people are just a headache to deal with. If they’re not clean and scatter-brained then they’re high and not making any sense. I wouldn’t have taken him as a patient but Mrs. Jennings offered me almost double my usual rate so I couldn’t say no. It was the worst decision I’ve ever made.

I met Andrew early on a Monday morning. From experience it’s easier to catch these types before they’ve had a chance to use. Best case scenario they don’t even show up and you get a free hour, but Andrew was fifteen minutes early. He certainly looked like a heroin addict. Dark bags under his green eyes, hair disheveled, a scraggly beard growing on his face. He looked to be in his early 20’s. He was tall and inexplicably thin, and wore baggy, plain clothes that only accentuated his sharp figure. I welcomed him into my office and offered him a seat. He sat down and began rubbing his hands together and exploring my office with his eyes with darting rapidity.

For my own privacy I will refer to myself as “Doctor A.”

“So, Andrew.” I began. “I’m Doctor A. Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?”

For the first time he made eye contact. He hesitated for a moment and then spoke.

“Look, this is about the eight or ninth time I’ve started from scratch so I’m just going to cut to the chase. My Mom probably told you I was a drug user and I am. I use heroin and cocaine if I can get my hands on it.”

I opened my mouth to ask if he ever uses both at the same time, to explain the danger of the combination but he beat me to it.

“No, I always do them separately. I’m not an idiot.” He said.

“I don’t think you’re an idiot.” I lied. “I’ve seen a lot of users in my day. Trust me.” Andrew hadn’t stopped staring at me. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and asked the obvious next question. “Why do you use?”

“Well, on the nights I don’t want to go to sleep I use the cocaine, and on the nights I don’t want to dream, I use the heroin.” As he said this he dropped his gaze to the floor, still rubbing his hands.

“I’m sorry, the nights you don’t want to sleep you use cocaine?” I asked, just to make sure he said it right.

“That’s correct Doctor.” He said, still not looking at the ground.

“And why don’t you want to sleep Andrew?”

“Because, I don’t want to see Ubloo.” He answered, shifting his gaze back up at me, and registering my reaction to that word.

“I’m sorry, who’s Ubloo?” (Pronounced “Oo-blue”) I asked curiously.

Andrew sighed. “Ubloo is a monster I see sometimes in my dreams, who controls them.”

“And how does this, “Ubloo” control your dreams Andrew?”

“Well I don’t know if his name is actually Ubloo or if that’s what it’s fucking called but that’s all it ever says. And I know he controls them because the shit that happens in my dreams when he’s there no one would ever dream of.” He said to me, his hands finally unclasped and balled into fists at his sides.

This was starting to get interesting, and I decided to go just a little deeper down the rabbit hole and asked the gnawing question; “And what sort of things have you dreamed of?”

“Look I’m not crazy. It’s not like I just go on these huge benders and dream of this fucked up thing. I used to be a star athlete and I was on pace to graduate valedictorian before this thing started fucking with me.” He was getting visibly angry.

“I don’t think you’re crazy.” I lied again. “If I did I’d have given up and told you to just go, I’m a psychiatrist, Andrew. I know crazy when I see it.” This seemed to calm him down just a little. “But you need to understand that I need to know everything before I can make a diagnosis of how to help you, so I’ll ask again; what sort of things have you dreamed of?”

I saw him unwind, and I knew I had broken through. “Terrible things.” He said. “People and things that I love, and just the worst imaginable things happening to them.” He was staring at the floor again.

“What sort of things, Andrew?”

“One time…” He swallowed hard. “One time I dreamt that I was stuck in a cage, in a basement I had never seen before, and there were three men in masks raping and beating my mother.”

This startled me, and I flinched a bit and he noticed. I was losing him. “Go on Andrew.” I said comfortingly, masking my shock as intrigue.

“She was calling out to me, and I was crying, and every time she would cry out to me or cry for help a man would hit her, and no matter how bad she bled she kept calling out, and they kept hitting her and violating her.”

Now I’ll interject here and say that normal people do not dream these things. Dreams like these are rare even among the most severe of psychopaths, and now I was starting to understand how Andrew had gone through so many psychiatrists in just a few years. Either he was a time bomb of the most criminal psychopath in history, or he had a new sleep disorder not yet seen in my field. The pros of diagnosing a new disorder were hugely outweighed by the cons of fostering a kid who could potentially make Ted Bundy look like purse snatcher.

I was shaken up but I managed to keep it together. In these situations it’s important not to get lost in the details and just nail down all your facts first. “How do you know that Ubloo was behind this dream?” I ask him.

“Because at the end of the dream, I always hear him make that horrible noise; ‘oo-blue!'” He mimicked, high pitched like the sound a small animal would make.

“And you always hear this noise? That’s how you know he ‘controlled’ your dream?”

“I always hear him, but sometimes I see him too, but only for a second, and then I wake up.”

“I see. Could you draw Ubloo for me Andrew?” I slid him a notepad and a pen. He looked confused at first, probably because I was (to him) believing every word, but he grabbed the pad of paper and began scribbling. I looked down at my watch, twenty minutes have passed, not bad, and then out the window at the sky, which was a clear shade of blue. I heard the pen hit the table and the notepad slide back over to me. I looked down at the pad and choked my leaping heart back down into my chest.

The thing had a long, dangling snout, almost like an elephants trunk with a tongue poking out. Its face was devoid of features aside from two large upright oval eyes that were completely black. It had six limbs and a long slender torso. It was hunched down, the back and middle knees were just a little above its body, it could obviously make itself very tall if need be. The feet were circular with six appendages sticking out, in all directions, all equidistant from the others. The front two legs were considerably longer, and had just two extremely long fingers on each hand, both at the top of its hand and in the same direction. It was eerie to look at. It had no clearly dangerous features; no claws no teeth, but still I couldn’t help but feel a chill on my spine when I examined it.

I snapped out of my state and looked back up at Andrew, who was staring at me and waiting apprehensively. I think I had my diagnosis. “Well Andrew, I think I know what’s going on.”

He didn’t look at all relieved. “Oh?” He said monotonously.

“Yes, I think what’s going on here is that you’ve been lu-”

“Lucid dreaming, yeah I thought that too.” He interrupted. I sat there shocked. “You think that I had some traumatic nightmare of this thing and now whenever I lucid dream I subconsciously insert it into my mind, which triggers a traumatic scenario to play out before me.”

Rarely in my ten years of practice I have been speechless, and I sat there mouth agape. Andrew stared back at me and I watched him smirk.

“I told you Doctor A, I’m not an idiot. I looked into all of this when it first started happening. That’s why I started using. I learned that opioids can suppress lucid dreaming and in the beginning they did, but eventually he kept worming his way in, and the more I used the harder he fought to keep coming back, so I tried the cocaine to keep me awake, but I found that made things worse. I stayed up too long, and I started experiencing microsleep. I didn’t know if I was awake or dreaming, and he must have learned this. You see, when it first started I could tell faintly that it was a dream. They all had this haziness effect on my comprehension, but when I would microsleep, the dreams were incredibly vivid. He learned, Doctor A, he learned that I was more afraid of the microsleep dreams and he somehow made every dream just as clear since.”

I honestly didn’t know what to say. Either Andrew was completely and utterly crazy, or so intelligent he was incubating his own insanity. I asked the only question I had left.

“When did you first dream of Ubloo?”

“It was right after my Father died.” He said, gaze shifting back to the floor. He killed himself, put a bullet in his head when I was seventeen. The night after the funeral I dreamt that I was standing over his grave, looking down at the grass. It was normal for a bit but then I heard him, I heard him screaming from in the ground, screaming for help, asking me to dig him out, but I couldn’t move. I was frozen. I stood there and listened to him banging on his coffin lid so hard the ground was pulsing and I heard him screaming in fear but I just couldn’t move, and then I heard it, ‘Ubloo’, and I woke up.”

I sat there staring at him for a long time. While his dismissal of lucid dreaming being a possibility is impressive, it’s not uncommon for children to link a traumatic event to something imaginary to better comprehend what’s happening. I was starting to gain some traction back.

“When was the first time you saw Ubloo?” He hesitated for a half second but then he began talking.

“One time I dreamt of my dog, Buster. I was standing behind this great big fence, and I was just a kid so I couldn’t climb it. Buster was on the other side of a busy freeway, just sitting there looking at me, and I knew–somehow I knew–he was going to try to cross and come see me, and I knew he wouldn’t make it. He ran into the freeway and got hit by a car instantly. I screamed and I cried but the car didn’t stop, it just kept going. Buster was laying there broken and bleeding. I saw him try to get up, and he tried to crawl forward, and another car came speeding by and hit him again. It kept happening, I kept watching him get hit and torn to shreds by these cars, they just never stopped. That was the first time I saw him. I heard him right in my ear, ‘Ubloo!’ and then I turned and his face was an inch from mine, his huge black eyes staring right at me, and then I woke up.”

He was shaking now, and I could tell he was close to breaking down. I had to stop pushing him.

“Alright Andrew, I think this is a good place to stop today.” I stood up and walked over to my desk and got a prescription pad.

Andrew sat there and blinked at me. “You’re gonna… You’re gonna give me something to stop it?”

“For now I’m going to give you something to suppress your dreaming. Until I can diagnose where these dreams have been coming from, it’s important that you get a good night of sleep, help you clear your thoughts. I’m helping you to help me help you, get it?”

He blinked again. “Yes, I get it, thank you. They have drugs to suppress dreaming?”

“Well technically no. There’s a new drug called cyproheptadine that is used in treatment of hay fever, but one of the side effects is a suppression of dreaming–nightmares specifically–especially those induced by post-traumatic stress disorder.”

I kept writing the prescription in silence, and I could feel Andrew’s eyes on me. “But it’s not from PTSD, it’s from Ubloo.”

“I know that Andrew” I lied to him for the final time. “But it’ll work just as well at keeping Ubloo out of your dreams as well.”

This got to him. He was overjoyed and sprung up from the couch. He kept thanking me and telling me that I was the best Doctor he’s ever seen. That he finally felt like he had a fighting chance. I couldn’t help but smile at this, I guess it’s the reason I stuck with this practice after so long. I walked him to the door and shook his hand. He looked me straight in the eyes, smiling for the first time since I met him, and left my office.

That was the last time I would see Andrew Jennings alive.

A week went by and the next Monday, Andrew didn’t come in. Now normally I’d breathe a sigh of relief, tell my secretary I was heading out and grab a coffee down the street, but I couldn’t help but wonder about Andrew. I had thought about these dreams he had ever since he left, and truth be told I was almost looking forward to getting an update from him. I left my office and told my secretary I was heading out and to cancel my next appointment. In my hand I had the bill for Andrew Jennings for our last session, which had his address on it.

He was staying in an apartment building his Mother owned just outside of town. It was about a 15 minute drive from my office. I managed to slip in through the front door of the building as someone was leaving and found his name on the directory. His name was just written down on paper so I could tell he hasn’t been here long, in fact his Mother probably set him up here just so he’d be closer to my office, to ease his commute.

He was the last unit on the first floor. I made the long, arduous walk down the hall until I finally stopped at his door. I paused for a second and thought about what I was doing, but my curiosity got the better of me and I knocked loudly three times.

No answer. No sound of movement inside. After I had listened for a good while I knocked again, louder.

“Andrew, this is Doctor A. Can you come to the door please?”

Still nothing. I tried the door knob and surprisingly it twisted all the way. I felt the weight of the door lift and I could tell it was open.

I can’t tell you how long I stood there, hand on the door knob, just thinking. Thinking about how this would look; Doctor allows himself entry into Patient’s apartment. Doctor potentially finds Patient loaded on heroin, or potentially overdosed. Overdosed on heroin, but possibly the new drug he prescribed to him–a known user–just a week ago. But what was worse, was thinking about those horrible dreams he told me about, as just a piece of wood separated himself and I.

I took a deep breath and opened the door.

The first thing I noticed was that the shades were drawn, and there was no light save for a low wattage lamp in the corner. The air was stale and musky, and laid out on the table were needles and spoons and empty baggies.

I walked through the living room and saw no signs of Andrew. There was a hallway just off the wall that the couch was against. I took out my phone and turned the flashlight on. I walked down the hall slowly, my breath short and my hands shaking. There was a door immediately to my left that was agape. Carefully, I peered around the corner and shined my flashlight inside. It was the bathroom. Moderately dirty but not the worst I had seen. There were no signs of struggle, no vomit in the toilet, nothing that would indicate a potential overdose.

I let out a minor sigh of relief and turned back into the hall. There was only one door left, straight ahead. It was shut completely, all white with a silver knob. I stood there in the dark with my flashlight and looked for a light switch. These apartments were old. The switch must be in Andrew’s room, behind this door.

Realizing it wasn’t getting any easier, and swallowing my nerves I began to creep forward toward the door. Every step felt like a mile. My feet felt clumsy and my legs heavy. By the time I reached the door it felt like an hour had passed. I sat there and just stared into the bare white door, raised my hand and lightly rapped my knuckles against the wood.

“Andrew?” I asked as I knocked, the door creaking and gently swaying inward. Through the crack I could make out the faint outline of a person, and pushed the door open fully.

Andrew was on the ground, propped up and sitting in the corner, his skin pale and white, his bright green eyes staring wide at the door that I had just came through.

I stood there and stared at him in complete shock. It was the first time I had ever seen a dead body outside of a casket. It just looked so void and lifeless. I noticed blood on the carpet, and that his fingernails were split and bleeding, pried back from his finger in some places. I somehow managed to find the light switch and flick it on, that’s when I saw it.

“THE END IS THE BEGINNING”

It was carved deeply into the wood next to him. I stared at it just long enough to see what it said when the smell hit me. The most foul thing I had ever smelled, and in that moment it all set in and I felt more nauseous than I ever have in my life.

I sprinted out into the hallway and vomited immediately. I stood there bent over vomiting when an elderly woman a few doors down opened her door and gasped when she saw me.

“CALL 911!” I yelled to her, vomiting again. I heard her door slam shut and I tried to make my way down the hallway to the lobby, stopping every 20 or so feet to gag.

When the emergency responders came they pronounced him dead at the scene. They must have been used to this sort of thing because they didn’t seem too phased by it.

I gave a statement to the police and told them he was a patient of mine, and that I was checking in. They didn’t seem too suspicious and told me that if they needed anything else they would call. I left my business card with them and walked back to my car. As I started to pull out a car came screeching into the parking lot and I saw a woman get out. It was Mrs. Jennings. She was bawling and screaming and a few officers had to restrain her.

“THAT’S MY BABY! NO PLEASE GOD NO!” She yelled as she tried to fight through the policemen. I watched as much as I could bear and drove out of the parking lot. I called my secretary and told her to cancel all my meetings for the day, stopped at the liquor store to pick up a bottle of whiskey and drove myself home. I sat there and drank in silence for a long time. Eventually I turned the ball game on and ordered some food, but when it came I couldn’t bring myself to eat.

By the time I had finished the bottle it was getting late. I stood up and stumbled down the hall to my bedroom, kicked off my shoes and fell face first into my mattress. I laid there thinking about Andrew, about his pale lifeless body propped up in the corner staring at me with those big green eyes, about his last message “the end is the beginning” echoing through my brain trying to find a rhyme or reason to it. My thoughts were growing slower and my eyelids growing heavy. “the end is the beginning” playing over and over in my head. I felt myself just listing off to sleep when I heard it. From no where and everywhere all at once.

“Ubloo.”

Credit To – DifferentWind

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 9.1/10 (368 votes cast)

My Creation

May 1, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 9.0/10 (615 votes cast)

Being a programmer, one of my dreams has always been to create an original video game, something that nobody in the industry has done before.

After seeing Spore, I became intrigued. Here was an attempt at putting people in control over a universe. After looking at what made videogames popular, I realized the main aspect was control.

People in their daily lives have no control over their environment. They are told what to do, where to go, and how to live. Their jobs consist of standing or sitting somewhere until it’s 5 PM and they’re allowed to head back home. It’s no mystery they’re unhappy.

For many people videogames are an escape to a world where they are in control, or live exciting fake lives filled with adventure. The aspect of control is found in strategy games, the adventure in role playing games generally.

I looked at games like the Sims, and noticed what made them so popular is not just the illusion of control, but the degree of control. You have complete control over people’s lives.

Before the Sims, there was Sim Earth. A game in which you do not control individual people, but an entire Earth! I came to the conclusion that I had to develop a game similar to Spore, in which the player subtly “guides” evolution. What caused Spore to be such a failure is the lack of realistic control people had. It hardly resembled evolution.

To do this, I began by generating a physics system. I know little of physics but decided to study it, and try to create a simplified version in which certain particles can interact, in specific manners. When it comes down to it, physics is simply complex mathematics.

I simulated energy, and matter, and created a simple system, with a sun emitting energy, circled by a planet catching said energy.

I decided to create simple basic cells from scratch, that were “hardcoded” so to speak in the system I was designing. They lived of off the energy emitted by my sun, and had a “genetic” code that coded for the substances produced by the cells. I guess you could call them my eukaryotes.

My world within a few minutes would always fill with these cells, after which they would mutate, and the most efficient cell in converting energy from the sun into useful substances for division would survive. It was very boring, but it worked I guess.

I decided to expand the physics system, and force the cells to create waste products, that were toxic and would kill them. I noticed that some cells responded to this by producing less waste. Others responded by producing something to emit the waste. Yet others developed chemicals to clean up the waste products.

However, I noticed something fascinating. Running the simulation for a few centuries (a few minutes in real life), created cells that made massive amounts of specific waste products on purpose. I noticed that other cells died as a result of this, to which the other cells responded by usurping the building blocks they had created from energy. The first predators were born.

With the first predators, diversity in this little world rapidly increased. Some grew a response to flee when they encountered these toxins. Others grew resistance to them. The ones that grew resistance would eventually grow to utilize the toxins products.

Eventually I noticed something interesting. The cells that escaped from the toxin grouped up with the cells that utilized the toxins. They stayed close together, and helped each other. Eventually these type of cells would attach to one another. They formed a weird symbiosis, where the cell that would normally flee, would now move towards places where the toxins are, and the other cell would consume the toxins and provide the “mover” with some of the energy.

Without going into too much detail, I became very excited, and decided to let this simulation run during the morning (I had stayed up until 5 AM), while I went to bed. When I woke up at around 11, I noticed the world I had created had changed, and was barely recognizable.

Massive plant-like structures grew in this world, consumed by other organism that ate these plants. However, looking at the log, I noticed the world hadn’t changed much in the past two hours or so. I had reached another “stasis point”, where the simplicity of my simulation prevented more complex life from evolving.

I expanded the system, by breaking up “energy” into different types, with different wavelengths that were absorbed to different degrees by different molecules. I implemented vibrations in the air, created an improved simulation of weight, and made some more minor tweaks.

This caused the simulation to run slower of course, but it was worth the sacrifice. I stayed around the whole day watching the simulation in excitement, and playing with it, as it was incredibly addicting. Complex organisms evolved, that cooperated. Plants that depended on each other, or attracted predators that ate the horrible looking creatures that ate from them.

I had fun, and noticed that some creatures evolved “warning calls”. This means that if they noticed a predator, they would issue a sound, and all others of their kind would flee into holes they had dug in the earth. Others evolved “mating calls”.

I decided to have some fun. I made a dump tool, allowing me to dump specific organisms on the Earth, and wrote my name with it. I created 10 “meteorites”, and dumped them on a piece of land to create an island, because I wanted to see whether the animals stuck on both sides would evolve in different directions. I made a smiley-island with volcanic eruptions.

By that time I realized I had stayed up until 5 AM again, as I heard the birds outside. I felt tired again, and woke up at 1 PM or so. When I looked at my simulation again, I felt a sense of shock.

Different groups of animals of one species had made statues with stones. Some in the form of a smiley. Some in the form of my name. I didn’t know why they were doing this, or how. What I did notice is that they would attack each other from time to time.

I didn’t know what to do with it, but I concluded that these organisms must have somehow noticed that the smiley and the name I had written were “special”. The fighting disturbed me, and so I decided to create a massive mountain ridge through volcanic eruptions to separate the two groups.

By this time, changes were happening fast, compared to earlier. While I had to spend a night sleeping to see tribes evolve in my simulation, while I was getting something to eat or take I bathroom break, I would notice the tribesmen wearing different styles of clothing, or having changed their type of dwelling.

Their numbers were also continually increasing. At some point, I noticed the creatures began making their own symbols on the ground, and no longer just copying mine. Most of the symbols seemed random and unintelligible to me, but one stood out.

The organisms had created a symbol that resembled them. A small circle, with a square beneath it. Within the square, a dot could be found in the center. This was meant to symbolize the visual organs of the creature, as the creature had two visual organs, one in the front of it’s body, and one in the back. In the square, other sensory and reproductive organs were symbolized.

Next to the circle on top of the square could be seen something resembling a drawing of a fork. Two of these forks had been painted in opposite direction. And next to that the smiley face could be seen.

I realized something. They were not communicating towards each other. They were trying to communicate to something “out there”. My meddling in their landscape had somehow made them realize that something powerful was out there, capable of changing their world.

I wondered, whether symbols like Stonehenge and the Pyramids in my own world, could be signs of primitive people trying to do the same thing. Begging their creator or overseer to initiate contact with them. However, one thing was undeniable by now. These creatures realized there is something out there.

I wondered long. Did I have a responsibility to initiate contact with something that isn’t real? Or are these creatures real in a different way? Can something be real, merely by being capable of having a concept of itself? And even if they are real, does that mean they will be better off with me initiating contact with them? Should I change my simulation, to ensure them permanent happiness? And is it even possible for me to do such a thing?

I did not want to confirm my existence to them, but I did want to be able to communicate with them. I decided to program a “prophet”. An organism that looks like them, and can not be proven by them to be different from themselves, and is fully controlled by me.

I let it be born into a powerful position, as the son of a leader. I decided to lead by example, and seek to teach these creatures English, so I could communicate with them. As prophet, I instructed them that English was the language we could use to communicate with the “greater one”. They would have no way to be sure if it was true or not.

I hadn’t made up my mind yet about whether I would reveal myself or not. But I did want to be capable of understanding what they wanted to tell me. In a few generations. They all spoke English.

And rapidly, signs began emerging on the ground in English.

“GUIDE US” “SHOW YOUR GREATNESS” “HELP US”

And, during times of disease or hunger or general misery:

“GIVE US FOOD” “SHOW US A MIRACLE” “END OUR SUFFERING”

I decided that I couldn’t maintain a world with such suffering as emerged in the simulation without intervening. Why would I accept a world with death and rape and murder, if I could make on without it?

I implemented fixes that were gradual, so they could not be proven to be miraculous. Murder and rape would over the years become rarer, and so would death at a young age.

I figured that they would not notice if the change happened over generations, but they did.

“THANK YOU”

“ALL BLESSINGS BE UPON THE GREATEST”

“WE LOVE YOU”

And, most heart-breaking:

“COME BACK TO US”

Tears ran over my face. There is something there. And it knows I am here, able to contact them, but unwilling to do so out of fear of what I have created.

But, I felt I had a responsibility.

And so I loaded up the character I had created again, and went to their King, asking to talk to all their wisest men. But, by this time, I was not believed.

“You are number 1341 claiming to be an avatar of the Greatest One. If you are him, I pray for your forgiveness, but please, show us a sign, before demanding of me to gather all our wisest men.”

And so I hesitated, but responded.

“Tomorrow there shall be two more meteors, falling on a deserted island in the sea before you, on the same day. And when they do, doubt no more and realize that I have come back to repair the broken world that I created.”

And so I exited my avatar, and progressed the simulation until the next day was reached, and threw two meteors on the deserted island before the mainland, where thousands had gathered to watch whether a sign would be given.

Upon the descent of the meteors, celebrations were held. All the sentient organisms gathered around the small house where I had exited my avatar, and lay flat on the ground, in apparent worship of the man who was last seen there, and afraid of coming close.

I don’t know who was more afraid by now, me or them. I loaded into my avatar again, and exited the house. The creatures continued to lay flat on the ground, in utter silence. It is as if they felt unworthy of speaking.

“Let your wisest man stand up.” I told them.

And up stood one of these bizarre looking creatures.

“Thank you for coming back. Pray tell us, do you have any requests of us?”

I hesitated, before saying “There is nothing you can do for me that pleases me, but for you to be good to one another, and to contact me with your wishes and fears.”

The creature responded “We know you come from a different world, and we are afraid. We understand how vulnerable we are, and how incomplete our experience is. Please, allow us to join you in the world that you created our world from.”

I began crying behind my computer, as I responded “I do not know how”.

The creature responded: “At risk of offending you, please understand the severity of our situation. By living in a world that is incomplete, we are at constant risk of disappearing forever, never to be seen again. We would never even consciously realize that our end had come.”

I realized that they were unable to comprehend that I only had absolute power within their world and not outside of it. They also did not realize that my knowledge of their world was limited. I may have created it through simple laws, but those simple laws gave way to a reality of its own that is more complex than I can comprehend.

I responded again “I only have power in your world. In my world I have no power, and so I can not bring you there, because my world is not under my control. I also do not understand the world I have created. I do not know what is best for you. Only you do, and you have to inform me what you want.”

And the man waited for a moment. I was about to think they were going to end communicating with me, before their wisest man responded:

“You have created a world that is incomplete, with creatures that can not escape it, and you have no power to save them. They are completely unfree, and they have no power. We are completely at your mercy, and so we ask you from the deepest of our heart:

End us.”

By now I was crying, as I was confused and asked to do the impossible. My own child was asking me to kill it.

This is when I noticed the lights in my room flickering, before my computer suddenly shut down. I screamed. Upon trying to turn on my computer again, I noticed it wasn’t working. I called the power company, who told me that due to an accident, a power surge had travelled through the grid. They promised me they would pay me for any damage done.

I hung up and contemplated. The coincidence of what had just happened was too great to be imaginable. And I wondered. If these creatures were at the mercy of a confused creator, could the same be said of me? And is so, did my creator just prevent me from repeating his own mistake?

Credit To – unpatriotic

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 9.0/10 (615 votes cast)

The Eye of the Storm

April 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 5.2/10 (165 votes cast)

Howard Krugler, a famous actor, sat in his car. The chrome vehicle rested upon the right shoulder of the highway. It was a fancy car, one of the new 2014 models. Shiny exterior, leather interior. All Howard felt towards the vehicle at the moment was anger. The damned thing had shorted out.

How was he supposed to have known that a storm was rolling in? How was it his fault that his car, his horrid deathtrap of a car, had skidded through a massive puddle? He punched the dashboard, adding yet another dent into the already impressive array of damage.

Fury had always been his initial reaction to anything that upset him. In nearly every situation it was his go-to method of coping. Normally people were there to calm him down, make him feel important, and put him back into his place of fame and popularity. It was not so on this night. It took a great deal of effort for Howard to calm himself down. When he finally managed to quell his anger, nearly an hour had passed. The storm raged on.

He was stranded on some highway in the middle of nowhere. Dark woods loomed over both sides. The only reason Howard has even chose to take this road was to save some time. He had already been an hour late for an interview. By now the interview would have to be cancelled. He didn’t care much. He could always get on another interview once somebody got him out of the mess he was in. Surely, he thought, somebody would be looking for him by now.

The hours passed slowly. Howard glanced nervously at his watch. To his dismay it read 1:43 a.m. Nearly six hours had gone by. There was still no sign of any help coming and, to make matters worse, the storm had only intensified. Feeling hungry and somewhat frightened, Howard decided he needed to have a plan of action. He forced the door of his car open and stepped out into the storm.

He doubled over almost instantly as the full force of the rain and wind struck him. His car door had long since slammed shut. Instantly regretting his decision to leave, he attempted to get back in but the door wouldn’t open. Lightning flashed, illuminating the interior of the car long enough for him to tell he had been locked out.

He cursed loudly but the sound was lost in the roar of the storm. There was a crash and a great boom of thunder. He noted the treetops to his right swaying precariously. Dimly he reasoned that a tree must’ve fallen over. He turned back to his car, struggling to get back inside. The crashes and booms of thunder started again. They seemed to be getting more frequent.

Now, thoroughly soaked and demoralized, Howard glanced at the tree line. Lightning lit it up for a brief moment. He let out a gasp. The tree line was gone. The trees had given out and toppled over backwards into the woods. In their place were two immense feet, blacker than the night. Attached to those feet were two similar legs.

Overcome with terror he fell and crawled underneath his car. The ground was cold, but he barely felt it. Several minutes went by. During this time the fear had begun to ebb away and clear thoughts came through. He knew he had to get help, for none was coming. He wasn’t about to freeze to death under his damned car. His wife and daughter would frown at that.

Summoning his remaining courage, Howard Krugler crawled out from under his car and stood tall. The wind whipped around him in a frenzy and the rain pounded him like stones. Yet, Howard stood. His blonde hair, once perfect, now rugged and soaked whipped sideways. He looked behind him on the highway and saw nothing but darkness. He looked ahead and saw the same thing. Then he began to walk. It was a confident stride. The stride of someone who knows something terrible is going to happen and accepts it.

There was a loud groan and he looked up. The sky was darker along a certain area. The blackness forming what appeared to be the shape of a giant man. The lightning started up with new fury, casting an eerie glare about the area. The figure of the giant man was kneeling down on the road, its supposed head even with Howard. Howard continued to walk, heading directly towards the man now, convinced of its reality.

The noise from the storm was slowly fading. The rain stopped, the wind halted, and the thunder no longer rumbled. Silent bolts of lightning crashed into the woods on either side of the road, casting a very dull light upon the surrounding area.

Upon the dark head a great luminous slit appeared and opened like a giant eye. Howard stared into it. Inside pictures flashed. The first time he met his wife. Their honeymoon. Their daughter being born. A lone picture of Howard in a tuxedo, the only person attending the funeral. Two coffins, one small, one normal sized. The last family portrait he had of the two. His beautiful wife and four-year-old daughter stood side by side. Howard remembered this picture specifically, for he had not been present. His job had demanded his full attention and he had been far too late. This picture reflected in the giant eye for a few moments. Then it began to change. Howard’s family appeared to be gesturing for him to walk forward. They had knowing smiles on their faces. Howard took a single step forward when he realized something was terribly off.

The faces were melting, the horrible knowing smiles still plastered across them. The bones and muscle showed beneath. The melting faces began to anger and point accusingly at him. His courage broken, Howard screamed. The storm resumed with a new and intense resolve. It slowed Howard down as he ran for his car; he slipped and reached out, hoping to stop his fall. His hand hit something hard and he gripped down. The car. Somehow he had made it. His hands still clamping onto the roof as if his life depended on it, he glanced back up the road. The giant man was moving. Walking towards him. Howard gave a strangled yell as he felt something close around his waist.

It had grabbed him. His feet left the ground and he let loose another scream of terror. His hands gripping the vehicle tightly. The eye opened again but this time there were nothing friendly in it. It was a light blue color and flickered off and on with the lightning. It was narrow, as if angered. Howard noted all of this with something like horror. The massive hand squeezed hard. Everything went black.

Credit To – Nickolas Herrmann

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 5.2/10 (165 votes cast)

The Duxbury Chronicles: The Detective and the Hangman

April 27, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.4/10 (192 votes cast)

THE DUXBURY CHRONICLES
“The Detective and the Hangman”

Plymouth County Massachusetts, December 21, 2015, 11:21PM. Five miles outside Duxbury.

Detective Johnathan Mcarthy stood in the ankle deep snow, blowing hot air into his cupped hands, while examining the scene. There really wasn’t much to see. Just a guy hanging from a tree. A guy hanging from a tree in a dark, snowy forest, that is.

It really just looked like some redneck had decided life wasn’t quite panning out, and hung himself in the woods. But Sheriff Dan George had called the Detective anyway. As a general rule of thumb Dan, and Johnathan didn’t like each other. Johnathan being a ten year veteran of the force in LA, and the Sheriff being a fifty something backwoods, red neck. The two were natural opposites.

Still, Johnathan knew that the fat man hadn’t called him out of bed at this hour out of spite. Not this time anyway. Even over his cellphone Johnathan could tell Dan was spooked. Now that he was on scene, he guessed it was because of the plastic bag over the dead guy’s head. To be honest it looked spooky as shit. But Johnathan had seen far worse back in Los Angeles.

They hadn’t been able to identify the Vic on account of the bag. His face was completely hidden by the thick plastic. Now they were just waiting for forensics to finish up, before they cut the guy down, and figured out who it was that decided to off themselves today.

The wind picked up suddenly. Blowing through the trees, and causing a chorus of creaks, and groans from tree limbs. Johnathan cursed, and shoved his hands into the pockets of his trenchcoat. Giving up on the idea of warming them with his breath. A camera flashed, as Billy Thorton, one of the two forensics guys took another photo.

The scene was briefly illuminated by the brilliant blue of the camera, and Jonathan thought he caught sight of something he hadn’t seen before on the dead man. He moved to the right. Trudging through the snow in a wide circle around the hanging man. His breath coming out in big white puffs. It couldn’t be more than twenty freakin’ degrees out here!

“He’s got a bag over his head Johnny.” Johnathan remembered the Sheriff saying in a shaky voice over the phone. He could practically here the man’s double chins quivering, out there in the snowy darkness.

As soon as Johnathan had laid eyes on the body his first thought was that the bastard had wanted to be thorough. If the noose for some reason hadn’t been enough, the plastic bag surely would have finished the job.

Johnathan continued to trudge around to the right of the corpse. Giving the body a wide berth, as he circled through the snow. Still looking for whatever it was that had caught his eye during the flash of the forensic guy’s cameras.

He was a big guy, whoever the Hangman was. He wore a black, and red plad jacket. Bob Vila style. And a pair of rough cut blue jeans. The boots that covered his dead toes, and swayed in the bitter wind, were a brand called “Bear Claw”. Johnathan had never heard of it.

“Hell of a way to go.” Mike Lawry, the other forensics guy said through a mouthful of chewing tobacco.

“Who you think it is Mike?” Bill asked, as his camera flashed a few more times.

“Dunno. Maybe Darby Gents?”

“Darby?! It’d be a God damned shame…”

Johnathan half listened to the two men, as he continued to circle around the body. Duxbury was a small town. Everybody knew everybody.

Darby Gents was the football coach for the local high school. And by virtue of the local grapevine, Johnathan knew that Darby’s wife had left him a few weeks ago.

Still, he wasn’t sure if that’s who was hanging in front of him. There was something unfamiliar about the body. Johnathan had come to know virtually everybody since he’d moved to Duxbury two, and a half years ago. And the Detective in him was saying that this wasn’t anyone he’d ever seen…

Thunder suddenly boomed in the distance. Halting his movement, and drawing the Detective’s attention from the hanging corpse, to the dark overcast sky above. The moon was full, but hidden. Illuminating the clouds above in a pale ghostly light.

The forest itself was well lit for such a late hour. It had snowed three inches the previous night, and now the woods were lit up in that magical pinkish, purplish glow that only a freshly fallen blanket of snow can create.

“Sounds like a storm’s a’comin’.” Deputy Jimmy Mcduff said to no one in particular.

“Hm.” Was all Johnathan offered in reply. The Detective turned his attention from the sky, back to the dead man.

The guy had to be at least fifty pounds overweight. His jacket and undershirt were pulled up, as a result of the noose and the corpse’s weight. His belly sagged out over his pants. Yeah. He’d been a big dude. But who was he?

Without taking his eyes off the corpse, he reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, and pulled out a Marbaro Light. He tried to be slick, and light the smoke without looking away from the dead guy. But the wind forced him to look down, and light the cig like a normal person.

“You guys think we can wrap it up soon? There’s a storm a’comin’.” Sheriff George said from the shadows.

Johnathan turned to gaze at the six foot, burly, fat man standing against the trunk of a tree. His normally imposing figure looked strangely small as he stood there. The Sheriff had his arms crossed over himself, but Johnathan could tell it wasn’t for warmth.

“What the hell was wrong with him?” He wondered. Johnathan didn’t like the man, but he knew he was no coward. And certainly not afraid of the woods, at night. Sheriff George was a born and bred country boy. And yet there he stood. Hugging himself in his big trenchcoat. His eyes nervously darting around the surrounding forest.

All told there were six of them out in their woods. The two forensics guys Bill Jenkins, and Mike Lawry. The Sheriff, and himself. Deputy Jimmy McDuff, and the local reporter Jennel Buttchins. Six grown adults, and the Sheriff was shaking like a leaf.

“What the fuck?” Was all he could think to say to himself.

“Sheriff would you care to make a statement?” He heard the reporter ask. She was quite the looker. Johnathan supposed that’s how she got the job. It had to be, because the chick was definitely no rocket scientist.

“A statement?” Sheriff George asked condescendingly.

“Why yes Ms. Buttchins, I surely would. Here goes- It’s as cold as the ice Dante found Lucifer in. There’s a blizzard the size of Texas coming this way. And we should really think about getting the Hell out of here. How’s that for a statement Ms. Buttchins?”

Jennel gave a “hmph” in response.

Jimmy McDuff gave a somewhat stifled chuckle.

Bill Jenkins, and Mike Lawry continued on with
their tasks. Chatting away about who they thought the dead guy was. They were either oblivious, or didn’t care about the Sheriff’s obvious discomfort with the situation at hand.

“What the Hell is he so nervous about?” Johnathan asked himself again.

Finally he decided he’d had enough. He felt bad calling the Sheriff out on being scared, but the Detective in him wanted to know what his problem was. So he momentarily turned his attention from the hanging man, and started to walk over to Sheriff George.

That’s when there came a sudden sound that he couldn’t quite place. It was a sort of quick “swooshing” noise that came from behind him. Followed by the cracking of several branches, and then the frightened cries of his companions.

There was a – “Holy Christ!”, That came from the Sheriff.

A -“Sheeeezus!”, That was from Deputy Jimmy.
And a sort of high pitched muppet sounding “Meep!”, that had come from Jennel.

Johnathan whirled back around in the direction of the corpse. For a second the Detective did not understand what he was seeing. The hanging man was nowhere to be seen. And neither was Mike Lawry.

Bill Jenkins was on his ass, frantically scooting backward through the snow. His mouth agape and his eyes on the dark canopy above.

“What the fuck?” Was all Johnathan could think to say.

“He’s not dead!” Bill suddenly shrieked, as his frantic ass scooting took him passed where Johnathan was standing.

“Jesus, he’s not dead!”

“What the fuck?” Johnathan asked again. Feeling suddenly very much like how Sheriff George looked. He reached for his pistol.

“Did you see that?!” Sheriff George cried. “Holy Christ did you see that?!”

“Where’s the body?” Johnathan asked.

“It took him!” Bill was shrieking. The man used his ass to carve a path through the snow, all the way back to the Sheriff. “Oh god, Mike!”

At this point Johnathan was feeling very out of the loop. “Could someone please tell me what the fu-!”

The loud snapping of branches above his head made his words catch in his throat. Instinctively Johnathan dove out of the way, blindly rolling through the snow. A split second later there came a heavy “thwump!” from the direction he’d dove from.

Jennel, and the Sheriff shrieked. And Deputy Jimmy shouted “freeze!”

Johnathan combat rolled and came up on one knee, with his gun pointed, and at the ready. A maneuver that had saved his life more than once. But then his eyes settled on the sudden source of all the commotion, and his mind missed a step.

For what he beheld made no sense. The dead man was back. He was still hanging from a noose. Except this time the noose wasn’t wrapped around the original tree branch. It was just stretching up, and up, into the dark canopy above.

The man was hanging over where Johnathan had been standing only seconds ago. The man’s arms were outstretched, and his head tilted upward, in a position Johnathan found reminiscent of Christ on the cross.

“Holy shit he’s not dead!” Johnathan’s mind screamed. He aimed his weapon at the hanging man.

“Freeze!” He shouted. Repeating Deputy Jimmy’s words. “Get on the… Ground?”

His words faltered as the noose around the man’s neck suddenly yanked him upward. Neck bones, and vertebrae cracked sickeningly. And the man rocketed up in a blur. Disappearing into the darkness above.

“Well that’s certainly not something you see every day.” Johnathan thought to himself as he stared up into the dark canopy.

“Detective we’ve got to get out of here!” The Sheriff’s voice cut into his thoughts.

“What?” He asked, dumbfounded, and turned to face the big man. Sheriff George wasn’t waiting for a reply. He and Jennel were already high tailing it out of there. Deputy Jimmy for his part, had stood his ground. Bill Jenkins was nowhere to be seen.

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” He asked the rapidly fading figure of Sheriff George. “A perp just took one of your men Sheriff! And you’re running away?!”

“That ain’t no perp Detective!” Sheriff George shouted back over his shoulder, as he disappeared into the darkness.

“I-I think the Sheriff might be right Johnny.” Deputy Jimmy said to Johnathan’s right. Keeping his gun trained on the darkness overhead. “I think we need to call for backup.”

“Now that does sound reasonable Deputy.” Johnathan agreed. Straining his eyes to catch any sign of the Hangman. There was nothing up there. It was all just shadows and, leafless branches, against a dark gray sky.

Then there came another loud snapping of branches. This time from the direction the Sheriff, and Jennel had run. A scream erupted from Jennel’s lips, followed by the deafening crack of gunfire.

Both Johnathan, and Deputy Jimmy took off in the
direction of the sounds. There were six shots in total. Johnathan could tell that the Sheriff was firing “Old Betsy”, his treasured Smith and Wesson 500.

The ridiculously huge pistol fired .44 Magnum rounds. Pretty light on the ammo side, but a round fired from that weapon could blow the trunk of a small tree in half.

Johnathan heard that unmistakable sound of an empty chamber “clicking”, followed by a loud jumble of curse words from the Sheriff. Then came another cacophony of snapping branches, and a scream from Jennel.

Both Johnathan, and Jimmy rounded the large trunk of an ancient oak, and almost ran straight into the Sheriff, and Jennel.

Jennel screamed, and the Sheriff swung wildly with the butt of his pistol. Jimmy dodged just on time. Narrowly avoiding what Johnathan was sure would have been a concussion.

“Jesus Sheriff it’s just me!”

“Jimmy?! Mother Mary! You’re lucky I didn’t just knock your block off!”

“Sheriff…” Johnathan gasped, as he struggled to catch his breath. “We need to stick together.”

“Then move your ass Detective! George snapped.
“For Christ’s sake, I’m thirty years your senior, and twice your weight!”

“Are you kidding me?!” Johnathan snapped back. “You just took off, while you’re Deputy, and I stood our ground! I don’t know what’s going on, but someone just assaulted an officer of the law, and you’re the God Damned Sheriff!”

Sheriff George flinched from Johnathan’s words, as if he’d been struck.

“I saw what just happened.” He said, in a quite growl. “A dead man hanging from a noose, just grabbed one of my men, and went rocketing up into the trees with him.”

“He wasn’t dead.” Johnathan said matter-of-factly. “He couldn’t have been.”

The Sheriff suddenly laughed. “He wasn’t dead?! Well he sure as shit should have been after I hit him with four of my six shots from old Betsy! Cause that fucker dropped right down beside me, and little Ms. Jennel here, and I can tell I just pegged that fucker at least four times at near point blank range! Any normal person would have had the courtesy to keel over and die! But that son of a bitch just went right back up into the trees!”

As if on cue, there came the sound of tree branches bending, and breaking from the canopy above. The three men simultaneously snapped their weapons up toward the darkness above. The Sheriff realized he hadn’t reloaded his weapon, and cursed. Quickly bending down to the task.

Johnathan thought he saw a dark man sized shape swoop by overhead through the shadows. But then it was gone.

“Johnny here don’t believe me.” Sheriff George sneered. “Tell him Ms. Reporter. Tell him what you just saw!”

“It’s true.” Jennel said in a shaky voice, as she stared at the dark canopy. “That man just came falling out of the trees right beside us, and the Sheriff shot him! I think he might have even…” She struggled not to vomit as she said it. “I think he might have even shot off one of his arms.. And he… And he, just went flying right back up into the trees.”

Johnathan glanced away from the canopy, and scanned the ground around them. It was too dark to be sure, but there were black puddles all over the ground, that he guessed was blood. There was no sign of a disembodied appendage though.

“So where’s the arm now?”

“Oh for God’s sake, how should I know! He took it with him!” The Sheriff shouted.

“Look, you ain’t from around here Johnny.” George said as he slammed a 45caliber round into the last open chamber of his gun, and then snapped it back into place. “But there’s some strange things that happen sometimes in Duxbury. City folk just don’t understand.”

“It’s true what the Sheriff says Johnny.” Jimmy said, in little more than a whisper. “My Grandaddy used to tell me stories about this part of the land.”

“He used to tell you the land was bad out here, didn’t he?” Sheriff George asked.

“Yeah…” Jimmy nodded, as he gun played across the darkness above. “He told me these woods got something in em’. Something that lives beneath the ground. I never believed him of course. But I never really come out here either.”

“Not many people do.” Sheriff George said. His voice taking on the same whisper-like quality as his Deputy. “Now Detective I know that you’re a practical man. And I begrudgingly respect you for it. But there’s what appears to be a dead man, hanging from a noose, whose flying through the trees.”

There came a sudden peel of thunder, and everyone tensed up for a moment. Johnathan noticed for the first time that Jennel had a can of mace in her hand. He almost laughed despite himself. The guy was wearing a bag over his head! What was mace going to do?

“So what do you suggest Sheriff?” Johnathan asked finally.

“I suggest we get back to town. Get backup. Come back with an armed posse, and clean house.”

“Tonight? Not tomorrow? We come back tonight, and find Mike?”

“Of course! I ain’t leavin’ him out here!” The Sheriff spat. “Now common! It’s more than a half hour drive back to town. This storm’ll be on us before we get back anyway, so I suggest we get a move on.”

The storm was getting closer. That was a fact. The wind was picking up, and big fluffy flakes were already beginning to fall through the air. Johnathan pondered their options for a moment. Finally he spoke.

“Fuck that.” You go back to the SUV, and radio for backup. Then go get your posse. I’ll stay here.”

“What?” Sheriff George asked. Incredulous.

“You’re right Sheriff. I’m not from around here. And because I’m not from around here, I’m not buying into this supersticious bullsh-.”

Johnathan’s words were abruptly cut off as the large figure of the Hangman suddenly dropped from above, and landed on the Sheriff with bone crushing weight. There came a sudden explosion of snow as both figures collided with the ground. Johnathan instinctively raised his hands to protect his face, and took a few faltering steps backward.

Jimmy shouted out in surprise. And Jennel screamed. Johnathan heard the snapping of several bones, along with a sort of guttural, gargling from the Sheriff. But by the time the Detective lowered his hands, the Sheriff’s broken body was wrapped in the Hangman’s embrace, and rocketing upward toward the dark canopy above.

Johnathan got a better look at the Hangman as he rose back up into the trees. The man had three large holes in his chest, from where the Sheriff had shot him. And his right arm (though still attached) looked like it could fall off any second. Never mind the fact that the arm was bearing the weight of a man who had to be at least two hundred and fifty pounds.

Johnathan took aim with his weapon but did not fire, for fear of hitting the Sheriff. In another instant both fat men had disappeared entirely into the trees above. That’s when Johnathan noticed the coughing, and gagging sounds coming from behind him.

He whirled around. Jimmy was on his knees gagging, and shoveling snow into his face like a madman. Jennel was standing over him, Just patting him on the back and saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Over, and over again, in a shaky voice.

“What the fuck?” Johnathan asked for the umpteenth time this evening.

Jennel looked up from Jimmy’s gagging form.
“I’m sorry!” She squeaked. “I maced him by accident!” The would-be reporter was almost crying.

Jesus. And for a second there he had been considering giving the chick his spare sidearm. Johnathan quickly sprang into action. Running over to Jimmy, and helping the man to his feet.
“Alrighty buddy. We’re gonna take the Sheriff’s advice and get the fuck out of here.”

Jimmy sputtered in reply.

“Jennel, you stay close. We move quickly, and quietly. We’re only about a half mile from where we parked.

Jennel sobbed, and nodded. “O-Okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to spray him.”

“I know.” Johnathan said, with as much sympathy as he could muster. “It’s okay Ms. Buttchins. Let’s just get out of here.”

“Okay.” Jennel’s crying quieted somewhat.

And with that the trio started moving. It wasn’t easy. The ground was uneven, and the snow was deep in some places. Snow was starting to fall more heavily as they moved through the forest.

The wind began to pick up. Blowing through the dark trees in great gusts, that kicked clouds of the winter elements up into the air around them.
Jimmy moved well for a man who could barely see. Recovering quickly each time he stumbled. And with every moment that went by, his vision cleared up more.

“Can’t believe she fuckin’ maced me.” Jimmy said under his breath.

Johnathan smiled, despite himself. He could believe it. Johnathan was of the opinion that in this day and age, the only thing reporters, and journalists were good for was spreading lies, and rumors. Most, he thought, simply worked for the military propaganda machine.

“Almost there.” Johnathan said, as they neared the edge of the forest.

There came a sudden horrified shriek from out from somewhere in the darkness behind them. That’s when it had occurred to Johnathan that he hadn’t seen Bill Jenkins since he’d gone scooting passed him on his ass, more than ten minutes ago.

The shriek lent strength to their legs, and the trio picked up the pace. In another moment they were out of the woods, and crossing the field they’d parked the police SUV in. Thunder boomed overhead, and the wind howled. There was no doubt now that the storm was upon them.

By the time they’d all gotten situated in the vehicle, Jimmy’s eyesight had recovered significantly. He snatched the radio receiver.

“This is Deputy Jimmy McDuff, we’re out at the edge of the Northern woods. We have…Officers down. Requesting immediate backup.”

The only answer they got was static.
Jimmy repeated the message. More static. Johnathan turned the key, and the engine of the SUV roared into life. The headlights illuminated the field, and the edge of the forest. Johnathan strained his eyes for a moment. If something was out there watching them, the falling snow was keeping them well hidden.

“God damn storm must be messing with the radio.”
Johnathan nodded, as he threw the SUV in reverse.

“Like a badly written horror story.” He said.
Then he punched it, and the vehicle took off in the direction of town. The three sat in tense silence for a moment, as they flew down the bumpy dirt road. Johnathan kept his eyes focused on the land in front of the bright headlights. Not wanting to think what may be stalking them from the darkness of the trees that zipped by on both sides.

The snow was falling even more heavily now. Coming down in sheets so thick that using the brights would have been suicide. And so Johnathan kept the low beams on as they rolled down the dark road that looked more like a tunnel than a street.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, they crested a hill, and the lights of Duxbury came into view in the valley two miles below. They reached the end of the dirt road, and Johnathan took a hard left onto Apple Tree Lane.

The tires would have squealed loudly had there not been four inches of compact snow between them and the pavement. As it was, the SUV swerved and careened dangerously to the right. But then the vehicle regained its traction, and straightened out.

A few seconds later they were shooting down the road. There was roughly two and a half miles of rural darkness between them, and the edge of town. Johnathan decided to slow it down to about forty-five.

“What the Hell just happened back there?!” Jennel asked in a shaky voice.

“You tell me.” Johnathan said. “You know a helluva lot more about the lore of this county than I do. And that sure as shit looked like something straight out of some old horror story.”

“Jesus. My Grandaddy wasn’t kidding about Kene’s Road.” Deputy Jimmy said, in an exasperated voice.

“Kene’s what?” Johnathan asked.

“My Uncle used to tell me about this old road that used to run through these woods somewhere out here. Said it was there before the colonists arrived, and that no one had any clue who made it. He said the first settlers of Duxbury were warned by the local Indian Tribes that the place was bad ju-ju.”

The SUV went over a bump in the road, and Johnathan had to swerve slightly to keep control.

“You know now that I think about it, there was a story about a man being hung on Kene’s road.” Jennel chimed in. “Supposedly a gallows was built out here a long time ago. But only one execution was ever performed there before the place was abandoned.”

“So… You’re saying that there’s an ancient, haunted road somewhere out here?” The Detective asked. His voice a mixture of incredulity, and apprehension.

“That’s how my Grandaddy told it.” Said the Deputy.

Johnathan shook his head. He couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. This was ridiculous! This was fuck-ing ridiculous! Why on Earth had he moved out to the country?!

“Jimmy.” He began. Trying to sound like a logical Detective once again. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful toward your Grandfather but doesn’t that sound a litt-?”

His words were cut short as something heavy landed on the roof. There was a heavy “thwump!”, and the frame of the SUV shook violently. The roof buckled, and caved in, as if a boulder had been dropped on top of it. The SUV swerved to the left, then to the right.

Jennel screamed.

“Shit! Shit!” Johnathan cursed, as he fought to regain control of the SUV. He glanced in his side view mirror just on time to see a bloody hand wrap around it. The mirror was violently yanked upward, and both hand, and mirror vanished.

After a few tense seconds of swerving left, and right, Johnathan managed to regain control of the vehicle. The SUV straightened, and Johnathan accelerated as fast as he dare. Jimmy was already in the back, struggling to unhook the 12-gauge shotgun from it’s mount, as the car jarred around.

Before Johnathan could say anything else, his
eyes were drawn to a dark shape falling through the sky just in front of them. The Hangman landed on the hood of the SUV, and the hood violently buckled inward. The SU V careened dangerously once again.

The Hangman reached up and grabbed both windshield wipers. Then the noose pulled tight, and the man rocketed back upward. Ripping off the wipers, and taking them with him on his rapid ascent into the overcast sky.

Johnathan simultaneously fought to keep the SUV on the road, while continuing to watch in disbelief, as the man disappeared into the swirling snow over their heads. Looking like some sort of twisted marionette making a rapid exit from the stage. The last thing he saw of the man was his “Bear Claw” brand boots being swallowed up by the gray clouds.

“You have got to be, fucking kidding me…” He said to no one in particular.

Jennel screamed once again. As if that was going to help anything.

“Well at least she put her mace back in her purse.” The Detective thought to himself. The hood of the SUV looked like shit. He couldn’t tell if there was smoke rising out of it, or if it was just swirling snow. He supposed that if the engine had been damaged, they’d know either way soon enough.

Johnathan heard the distinct “Ca-Chak!” of a round being loaded into the 12-Gauge Jimmy had pulled off it’s mount.

“I’m gonna blow that fucker to kingdom come!” He heard the Deputy say. The shaky timber of his voice had been replaced with one of wrath.

Johnathan was impressed with the man’s intestinal fortitude. Anger in a situation like this was much more useful than fear. And the man seemed to be holding it together a lot better than Johnathan. The Detective’s hands were shaking badly. It made steering the vehicle that much harder.

That’s when the engine first started going wonky. There came a sudden slamming noise that came from under the hood, and echoed loudly throughout the interior of the SUV. Johnathan glanced down from the road to the dashboard, and saw that the engine’s temperature was rapidly climbing.

Then there came second slamming noise from under the hood, this one much louder. It was accompanied by a violent jarring of the entire vehicle. The SUV began to slow. The gas pedal no longer responding, no matter how hard Johnathan pressed it.

“Shit.” Jimmy said from the back seat. He started to climb over to the front passenger seat.

“Well Jimmy.” Johnathan said, with as much composure as he could muster. “It looks like you’re gonna get your chance to blow that fucker to kingdom come sooner, than later.”

“Good.” Was all the Deputy said in return. There was steel in both his voice, and his eyes.

“There – There’s something in the road. ” Jennel said shakily, from the backseat.

Both Detective, and Deputy strained their eyes to see what she was talking about. It took Johnathan a moment to realize the reporter was right. There was something in the road. Something was a far more accurate description than someone. That was for sure.

Through the swirling snow, and darkness, barely outlined by the headlights, was the Hangman. He was hanging about three feet off the ground. The rope attached to the noose around his neck just stretching up, and up, and disappearing into the night sky. The man’s arms. outstretched in a Christ-like fashion once again.

“Fucker must know that the SUV’s done for.” Johnathan said through clenched teeth.

“Looks like it’s do or die time.” Jimmy answered back.

The SUV continued to slowly roll toward the Hangman. The engine sputtered it’s last, and finally died. After a few more seconds the vehicle lumbered to a stop, in the middle of the dark, snowy road. For a minute they just sat there in silence. Listening to the wind and snow blowing around in the darkness outside.

Johnathan stared at the Hangman, looking the distant figure up and down. What was this thing? It just didn’t make sense. Gangbangers, and serial killers made sense. Johnathan was not a superstitious man. He did not believe in ghosts, or goblins.

Monsters he believed in. He’d killed monsters with his own two hands. But monsters were just flesh, and blood men. Men made into beasts, by the unfair, economically imbalanced society that the U.S. tries so hard to pretend that it isn’t comprised of. But this, this was a different kind of monster.

And suddenly Johnathan found that he very much missed the monsters of old. The old monsters were back in a reality he’d left behind, in a dark forest, about an hour ago. The old monsters were much easier to deal with. You can’t arrest something like this.

Johnathan took note of the ragged holes, torn through the Hangman’s chest. Even in the dark he could see the big red spots where, the blood from the bullet wounds had frozen. If the man wasn’t wearing a shirt, Johnathan knew his chest would look like Swiss Cheese right now.

The thing’s left arm was barely attached anymore. The bone had been clearly obliterated when Sheriff George had put a round from “Old Betsy” through it. Now it was just hanging by a few tendons, and muscle.

“Well at least it bleeds.” He thought to himself.

“If it bleeds we can kill it.” Now where had he heard that line before? It seemed like pretty sound logic. Except in this case, it didn’t seem to apply. The Hangman had bled. But it didn’t seem to be having much of an effect…

Then suddenly a thought struck him. It was a true Eureka moment! At least he hoped that it was.
“Jimmy, when we get out, I want you to aim for the guy’s rope.” Johnathan said.

“The-rope?” Jimmy asked in a confused voice.
“Yeah. Let’s see how dangerous this fucker is when he’s stuck on the ground like the rest of us normal people.”

Jimmy’s eyes widened in sudden comprehension. He even let out a short laugh.

“Alright.” The Deputy nodded, a grim smile playing across his face. “Let’s do this…”

“Ms. Buttchins.” Johnathan said just before he stepped out into the cold night. “You better just stay here.”

All the young woman could do was nod. She had been staring in wide eyed terror at the motionless Hangman, ever since the engine had died.

Johnathan pulled out his nine millimeter, and checked that it was fully loaded. He already knew it was. He hadn’t fired his weapon once since this whole ordeal began. But still he checked anyway.

Then the two men opened the doors, and stepped out into the darkness, and swirling snow. They were instantly wrapped in the night’s cold embrace. It seemed to have dropped at least ten degrees. Thunder boomed overhead, and the snow continued to fall in sheets.

The Hangman for his part just hung there. His body swaying back in forth in the wind. It was as if the thing was waiting to see what the two officers were going to do next. Johnathan knew that hitting the rope at this distance would be near impossible. They would have to get closer.

And so they trudged on through the snow. Slowly making their way toward the Hangman. When they got to about twelve feet away, they stopped and raised their weapons to the rope, just above the man. The Hangman cocked his head to one side in confusion.

Both men fired nearly simultaneously. Neither shot found it’s mark. The Hangman suddenly came rocketing toward them. Gliding over the icy road at frightening speed. Johnathan took another shot with his revolver. Missing again.

The hangman had halved the distance between them in a split second. It would be upon them in the blink of an eye.

Johnathan switched tactics, and let off a few rounds into the oncoming nightmare’s chest. The Hangman’s body jerked violently, as three rounds tore through him. Adding more to the Swiss Cheese quality of the thing.

Jimmy took another shot with the twelve gauge. Even before he took it Johnathan knew it would be the man’s last, before the Hangman was upon them. The weapon boomed loudly. The sound of modern man winning out over the cacophony of nature for a second.

The wide spray from the twelve gauge gave Jimmy a much better chance of hitting the Hangman’s noose, than Johnathan’s pistol. The Detective almost “hooted” in elation as the Deputy’s shot found it’s mark.

The Hangman’s noose violently snapped. For a second Johnathan thought the monstrosity was just going to keep hovering over the ground. His body jerked in the air as the noose snapped. And for a second Johnathan swore that the unholy thing did defy the laws of physics.

But then gravity kicked in, and the Hangman collapsed in a heap. Johnathan, and the Deputy just stood there watching the motionless body, as snow blew around it in great gusts.

“Holy crap, would ya’ look at that?” Jimmy said, as he pointed upward.

Johnathan’s eyes moved upward in the direction the Deputy was pointing in. The Detective’s eyes went wide, as his gaze settled on what Jimmy was pointing at. Even in the darkness he could see the seemingly impossible length of the Hangman’s rope falling out of the sky.

It was piling up on, and around the motionless body. Forming great cords. The two men stood in the blistering cold, watching in disbelief as the rope continued to fall out of the sky.

“What- what the Hell was it attached to?” Jimmy wondered out loud.

Johnathan shrugged. “Satan’s dick maybe? At this point I’d believe just about anything.”

“This… This is crazy Johnny.” Jimmy sounded exasperated. Fear had not yet returned to his voice, but the steely edge had gone out of the man, that was for sure. Thunder boomed once again overhead. The chords of rope were starting to obscure the body from view.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the end of the rope came falling out of the darkness. Johnathan guessed that there had to be at least a mile’s worth that had just come out of the sky. It was the sight of that rope that had finally unhinged Johnathan’s concept of reality. And in that moment the Detective from LA truly did believe in monsters.

As one the two men started to approach the body. Keeping their weapons trained on the Hangman all the while. A few seconds later and they were standing over the seemingly dead monster/man, half buried in rope.

It now looked as lifeless as it had when Johnathan had first seen the man hanging from a tree branch in the woods. The detective looked down at the thick plastic bag covering the man’s head. He just had to know…

Slowly he began to reach down for the bag. Jimmy read his intent and stepped back a few feet. Keeping the twelve gauge leveled at the seemingly dead man. Johnathan’s hand closed around part of the bag. He took a deep breath. Steeling himself.

Then, much like one would rip off a band-aid, he gave the bag a hearty yank. It gave a bit of resistance as it’s lower section caught in the noose, still wrapped tightly around the man’s throat. But then the bag gave way.

Both men gasped in surprise. Johnathan really hadn’t known what to expect. But what he beheld certainly wasn’t anything he’d even considered. As the plastic ripped free, the two men were greeted with a sight as disturbing as the plastic bag had been. Covering the man’s head was an old style Hangman’s mask.

It was made of rough, weather worn burlap. It was like something you’d see in execution scenes in old black and white westerns. Except that there were two buttons sewn into the mask, made to look like eyes. And there had been a ragged cut made where the mouth was. Though this had been crudely stitched shut with what looked like old-style fishing twine.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Jimmy muttered. His voice barely audible over the wind, and snow. For a moment the two men just stared down at the mask. Already, snow was beginning to cover the body.

“Well what do you make of that Jimmy?” Johnathan finally asked.

“My Grandaddy never had any stories about something like this. That’s for sure.”

“Did you guys really kill it?!” Jennel Buttchin’s nervous voice, came echoing from down the road near the SUV.

Just as both men turned, there came a loud

“swooshing” from behind them. The noise was not unlike that sound he’d heard back in the forest, when the Hangman had first sprung into life. Out of his peripheral Johnathan watched Deputy Jimmy McDuff get violently ripped off his feet.

The man gave a cry that was quickly cut short as his back slammed into the snowy ground, and the wind was knocked out of him. Jennel screamed (helpful as always), and Johnathan spun back to face the Hangman.

The Hangman’s body suddenly went rocketing down the street, dragging the Deputy through the snow with him. Johnathan saw that the monstrosity had grabbed one of Jimmy’s ankles. And that the rope. That God Damned unholy rope, was just stretching off down the road into the darkness, pulling the Hangman by the throat.

The Hangman, and the Deputy kicked up a cloud of snow as they carved a path down the road. Johnathan took off running after them. Although he knew it was hopeless. They had to be moving at least twelve miles per hour! Jimmy was kicking, and screaming, for all the good it was doing him.

“Hang on Jimmy!” Johnathan shouted after the rapidly disappearing figures.

Deputy Jimmy McDuff answered back with an “Oooaahh!” just before he disappeared into the shadows.

“Shit! Shit!” Johnathan shouted, as he stumbled through the snow.

His heavy breath came out in big white puffs. The Detective ran. The snow fell. The wind howled. And the sky rumbled. Johnathan just kept following the trail they’d carved. If the storm kept up, the path would be hidden in a matter of hours, maybe less.

He followed the path through the snowy night at a full sprint, for about ten minutes, before doubling over. He struggled to catch his breath. Johnathan glanced back. He could no longer see the SUV, or Ms. Buttchins. Shit…

“Johnny!” Johnathan turned back at the sound of Jimmy’s voice.

The Deputy was sprinting up the road toward him. Running like Hell itself was fast on his heels. Which might actually be the case. The man’s clothes were torn, and tattered from being dragged across the icy road. And there was something about three feet long attached to his ankle, that was just sort of flopping around.

“Jimmy! Jesus man!” Johnathan went running toward him.

The two men reached one another and their eyes locked. Jimmy was pale as a ghost. Despite himself Johnathan laughed.

“Holy shit Deputy! I thought you were a goner!”
The Deputy doubled over. Hand’s on his knees, as he struggled to catch his breath. He was in slightly worse shape than Johnathan.

“How’d you get away?!” Johnathan asked. Elation, and relief etched in his voice.

Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t know. That- that thing was just dragging me down the street, when I heard this loud popping noise, and I suddenly stopped moving. When I looked up the guy was nowhere to be seen. So I just took off running!”

Johnathan’s eyes turned back to the Deputy’s left ankle. His breath caught in his throat, and his eyes went wide.

“Holy shit.” He murmured quietly.

Jimmy’s eyes turned down to his ankle, and he let out a gasp. Clearly in his mad dash to get away, he hadn’t noticed there was a hand wrapped around his ankle. The hand was attached to a stump, where the tendon’s had finally snapped. It was the appendage Sheriff George had weakened earlier with “Old Betsy”.

Jimmy yelped and started dancing around like a madman. Trying to kick the thing off. But to no avail. The hand had a vice-like grip on him. Finally after a few minutes Johnathan got Jimmy to calm down enough to stop jumping around.

They sat there in the middle of the dark road. Prying the Hangman’s fingers off of the Deputy’s ankle, one at a time. After another couple minutes they finally got the damned thing off him. Then the two just stood there in silence, staring at the torn appendage.

“We’ve gotta take it with us.” Johnathan finally said.

“What?” Jimmy asked back. Not comprehending the words he’d just heard.

“Even if I have to carry it all the way back to town myself, I want the forensics guys to take a look at it.” Tonight he’d come to believe in monsters. And he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to take some evidence back with him.

“Okay Jimmy said, with trepidation in his voice.

“Let’s go back and get Ms. Buttchins, and high tail it back to town.”

Johnathan nodded, as he stared down at the arm. Finally he reached down and picked it up by the wrist. He half expected the thing to snap into life and latch onto him. But nothing happened.

The two took one final look down the road. Hoping that the Hangman wasn’t going to come flying out of the darkness, at them. Darkness, and swirling snow, was all there was to see. Then they turned, and started making their way down the snowy street…

THE END

Credit To – Lebooski

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.4/10 (192 votes cast)

There are cruel and fearsome things that prowl the open ocean.

April 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.2/10 (200 votes cast)

Mankind believe themselves to have escaped the horrors that preyed on them in bygone ages. Perhaps we are right. Mostly. The torch of scientific progress kindled by Newton and his contemporaries spread like wildfire in the centuries that followed, and drove the beasts that dwelt in our shadows scampering back to the darkened pits that spawned them; turning the hunter into the hunted. Physics, the idea that our world operates through universal and comprehensible laws, castrated the secret magics that had once left kings and peasant children alike shivering in the terror of all-concealing night. Darwin and his concept of evolution banished the ancient monsters with such speed and determination that Heracles himself would have been envious,

But there are still places in this world where the light of modernity hasn’t reached. A number of San tribes (commonly known as Bushmen) in Namibia speak of the ¯koo-b¯u*, or Bone Eaters. A tall (7-8′), grey, lanky, bipedal creature with lean yet protruding muscles capable of tremendous speeds; large rock hard hands that taper into sharp nailless points with bulbous knuckles and joints; hollow, deep set sockets holding round white eyes that roll about in them like a billiard ball; and of course the mouth, stretching across the entirety of its face, holding spiked teeth as a hard and bright as marble that seem to glisten even at night, always cracked into a broad grin when it encounters a straggling child who has wandered too far from the rest of the tribe.

The Nukak people of the Amazon basin speak of the Kanábéyáa, or Black Jaguar People. Little is definitively known about them, save the resemblance between their black fur, retractable claws, round pinprick eyes, and those of their namesake; their ability to shift between a bipedal and quadrapedal stance; and their propensity for hunting nearly anything, including humans foolish enough not to guard their campsites at night. Again and again, anthropologists hear tales of night sentries looking on in terror as bright eyes; first two, then dozens, circle and dance about the periphory of their encampment. Hellish yowls and hisses cut through the air, followed by panicked shouts and the chaos of men brought into the waking world by their greatest fear. And then, in a brief moment that seems an eternity to those caught within it, silence. The inevitable return into the veil of night. Of course, war stories are always told by the survivors, so there is a lack of testimony from those unfortunate groups who were either caught off guard, or else, for one reason or another, were deemed to be worth the fight. There are also tales of hunting parties finding one of their neighboring tribes eviscerated, stripped of flesh and meat, and left to rot in the coming sun.

But these stories will have to wait for another time. I come to you not with a tale of some hidden crevasse deep in the heart of the wilderness, but of that endless sprawl that surrounds all of humanity’s achievements. The last great uncharted territory. The ocean.

I had just graduated, and, like many that come from families of considerable means, viewed the gap between getting my diploma and getting a job as an oppurtunity for exploration. Unlike many of my peers, I was not content to use this period merely as an opportunity to get wasted and sleep around in a different corner of the globe. Not that I’m trying to come off as superior or condescending, I have no right for that. I started off in Europe just like everyone else, moving from Paris to Rome to Zurich to Vienna to Berlin and then Prague, indulging in the careless excesses that tend to characterize these trips. But at the same time, I wanted more than that. I wanted to ride the back of an oxe drawn cart down a withered trail to places my fellow Americans never laid eyes on. I wanted to slum it in the homes of destitute village inhabitants despite the fact that I could easily afford a four star hotel. I wanted something new, something unseen, some amazing forgotten secret.

The noteworthy part of my trip begins in Vanino, a fairly small seaport town on the Eastern coast of Russia. I had taken the Trans-Siberian Railroad as far as Khabarovsk, and from there I decided I would get to the coast by hitching rides with locals. It was the mid 90’s, and the collapse of the Soviet Union was still reverberating through the economy, which meant that everyone from corrupt bureaucrats in imported cars to farmers with mule drawn carts were more than willing to lighten my pockets of those heavy Francs and Deutschmarks. From my atlases and road guides, Vanino seemed the perfect place to set off for the final waypoint in my journey, Japan. It was small, and far enough from the railway to be empty of other tourists. Despite this, it had a moderately large seaport, and its proximity to the impossibly large forests of Siberia meant that at least some of its outbound ships were likely en route to help satiate Japan’s monstrous hunger for foreign timber.

While this ended up being the case, it was a bit harder than I thought to secure transport. Looking back, I can’t believe how stupid and brazen my approach was. Just walking onto the harbour of some backwater port town in a country whose language I could barely ask for the bathroom in, and somehow expecting that I would find a crew willing to drag my naive ass halfway down the Eastern coast of Asia. However, the Russian economy was in shambles, people really were desperate, and I was lucky enough to find someone who wasn’t quite so desperate as to simply rob me for all of the promised money. Then again, the way things turned out, perhaps I would have been better off getting beaten within an inch of my life, separated from all of my assets, and left to die in a town unconcerned with the well being of some obnoxious foriegner.

I met Kee Sye in a bar not too far from the harbor. I had spent many hours in that tavern, a fairly typical Russian bar with wood paneling, high tables, and way too many pictures hanging in way too close proximity to each other. I had refined my intelligence gathering technique until it began to take on a ritualistic quality. I went through the motions of this ritual as I always had. Buy him a drink first to warm him up to the idea of chatting with an American, find out if he speaks any English, if he works on a boat, and where he is heading. He was short, even for a Southeast Asian, and judging from his attire, had done quite a bit of travelling. He wore a thick red-brown coat that was scuffed, stained, and disheveled, yet clearly hardwearing, with no visible rips or patches despite the obvious abuse it had suffered, and an equally battered pair of American jeans. I found out that he was from Singapore, spoke English, and was a deckhand aboard the Сумерки бегун. He didn’t seem to particularly enjoy the company of Russians, which accounted for the relative ease in which we struck up a conversation. Seven beers and countless tales later, accounts of our respected travels, growing louder and more dramatic with each empty glass, and I finally had the nerve to bring up my predicament. As it turns out, he was heading to Nagoya on a small timber ship with a crew of eleven other men. I told him I was looking for transit to Japan, I had plenty of money, and that I would make it worth his and his captain’s while if they could find some room for me. He warned me that the conditions onboard were less than ideal, and I assured him it wouldn’t be a problem. He told me to meet with him tomorrow at the same place.

He didn’t show up until almost 10:00 the next night. I was on the verge of giving up and going home when I finally saw a tiny figure in the doorway. We locked eyes and he walked over to my table. I ordered him a beer and listened to what he had to say. The captain accepted my offer. They were leaving in two days. One of the deckhands had some medical issues and wasn’t capable of making the trip, so his bunk was going to be open anyways. I was to arrive at 6:00 a.m. on Monday ready to embark.

The Сумерки бегун was a fairly standard, if almost absurdly old (though this is also fairly standard among Russian ships), timber carrier. About 250′ long and 40′ wide, it had large cranes on both the bow and stern of the ship, as well as a second, smaller crane at the very tip of the stern. The majority of the interior was used for timber stowage. Two large compartments, one for each crane, were on either side of the ship. Between them there was a small section with the bridge above deck, and the crew quarters below.

Besides Kee Sye and myself, there were ten other crew members. There was Vladislav, the captain. A man with thinning hair whose hard stare and sharp voice put him somewhere between distinguished and despotic. Mikhail was the chief mate. An older man, in his mid 60’s by the look of him, he seemed frail compared to the rest of the crew, though if you saw him surrounded by members of his own age group he would probably strike you as robust. Zakhar, the second mate, looked about 40 with a fairly average height and build. Depending on the time of day, there would either be a slight tremble in his hands or else a faint redness in his cheeks. Where I would often see Vladislav and Mikhail debating with each other, Zakhar took his captain’s words with as infallible truths, and was often seen trailing behind him like a hungry dog.

The crew quarters were divided into three rooms with two bunk beds in each. The man whose spot I had taken was bunking with Alexsei, Wei, and Rodion. Alexi was the chief engineer. He had neatly cut brown hair and a nose you could tell had taken more than a handful of punches. When sober, he had a short, direct manner of speaking, but once he had a few drinks in him, he would oscillate between hostile machismo and awkward sentimentality. Wei, the second engineer, was from China. He was slightly taller than Kee Sye, standing at maybe five foot six, and possessed a relentless energy. He would spring, rather than stand up from a chair, and walked around the deck as if he were always on an important errand. He seemed legitimately interested in me and my homeland. I may well have been the first American he ever laid eyes on. However, his command of Russian was only a few rungs above mine, which made communication problematic. Rodion was the tallest crew member, maybe six foot three, and, despite his position as a wiper, he had the large muscular build of the deckhands. He had an aura of detachment about him, especially with regards to me. Despite sharing a bunk, we spoke to each other maybe three times in those first few days, with me trying to either break the ice or address some practical concern in broken Russian, and him giving a one or two word reply and moving on. Whether it was because I was a wealthy outsider or because that was just his approach to new people I can’t say. Though I would occasionally observe him in animated conversation with Georgy late in the evening.

The rest of the crew comprised of Georgy, the boatswain, as well as Viktor, Ganzorig and Nergui, who were deckhands. I’ll spare you the details of each, only noting that Georgy and Viktor were Russian, while Ganzorig and Nergui were Mongolian. Of the crew, only Kee Sye and Mikhail spoke English, so my communication with everyone else was pragmatic in nature.

I came aboard at the appointed time, careful not to disturb the loading process as I heaved my pack into my room and prepared for the voyage to come. I sat on my bed, debated going up and offer my assistance, but eventually decided that I would probably be more of a nuisance than a help. I ended up just kicking up my feet and waiting for the final preparations to be completed. Within an hour or so, the wood was loaded, the gangplank was up, and we were out on the open ocean.

The first few days were uneventful. I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, reading in my quarters while the crew went about their business. In the evenings I would sit in the dining area and occasionally chat with Kee Sye and Mikhail.
Kee would typically entertain me with stories of his adventures while I sat there taking it all in like an eager eight year old. Mikhail had many stories as well, but unlike the bravado that dripped from the Singaporean’s words, Mikhail’s voice possessed a sort of desperation. He had seen it all, and the weight of his lifetime on the high seas had left him hunched and weary. Still, I enjoyed talking with him, finding a certain folksy charm in his stark stories and peasant superstitions.

On the morning of the fourth day, the fog hit. It was unbelievable. The kind of fog that Eliot wrote about in Prufrock, with a thick, overpowering presence that you could almost feel rubbing against your skin. There was some debate among the officers as to how to procede. Vladislav felt that, given how far out at sea we were, it was safe enough to rely soley on their instruments without having to fear running aground. Mikhail disagreed. He brought up of the unreliability of the equipment, the strain it would put on the crew, and the possibility of getting lost. But mostly he spoke of omens, of tales picked up in the decades he spent far from the sight of land. He spoke of ships pressing through such fogs and never returning, and of unspeakable horrors recounted by those few who did. Vladislav made a show of dismissing such claims, trying to keep a stoic expression as he quiped some offhand rejection in his native tongue. Even then, however, I could detect an ever-so-slight quiver in his voice, as if it were the protocols of masculinity and not his calculating judgement that urged him forward. He gave the order to sail on.

Three hours later, we began to hear the screams. I was reading in my bunk when the horrible wails of what sounded like a young girl cut through the air with such intensity that my body shuddered in response. I ran up to the deck to see what had happened, and the confused voices and faces staring into the distance confirmed what I had feared. The voice had not come from the ship, but from below.

Somehow, the fog had gotten even worse than before, I could barely see the silhouettes of people standing ten feet in front of me. The confused voices began to get angry, and after a few minutes they were on the verge of yelling. I waited for a lull in the conversation to ask Kee Sye what was happening. He informed me that the crew had become divided over what to do, with one faction, led by Mikhail, urging that we abandon everything and turn around. Another, led by Alexi, proposed stopping the ship and trying to mount a rescue operation. A third group, led by Vladislav, argued that we should press our way through the fog as quickly as possible, that we would be free of it sooner if we kept going than if we turned around, and that we were so far away from the girl that by that point that, even if the fog lifted immediately, we would still have no hope of finding her. While Kee Sye was explaining this to me, Zakhar came rushing down from the bridge. According to Kee, he had attempted to send a distress signal alerting the authorities to the stranded girl, but wasn’t sure if he succeeded. The radio appeared to be functioning properly, but there was no response to his distress signal. Furthermore, most of the navigational equipment was malfunctioning, giving readings that were absolutley impossible. Immediately, the raised voices tranformed into a full blown screaming match, with each side taking the new revelation as proof of the righteousness of their plan. Eventually, Vladislav used his position to overrule the dissenters, and again gave the orders to push on. This time, however, there was open dissention in the air, and I didn’t need to speak the language to hear it.

Onward we drifted into the infernal shroud. Silence fell over the ship as the crew paced about nervously; gazing off into the murky gloom, seeking out some cause for the sense of doom that hung over us as palpably as the fog itself. It did not take long for the ocean to give its answer.

Those screams. Those horrible screams. At once roaring with untold power and yet quivering with all too human pain. It was as if every minute permutation of human suffering joined together in a demonic cacophony. Men well versed in the pains of violence and hunger fell to their knees like innocent children; tears bursting from their eyes and fear erupting from their mouths. Up and down both port and starboard we ran. The cries seemed to have no definite origin, yet we somehow knew their source lay right below us. Suddenly there was a commotion at the other end of the ship. I ran over and saw Viktor and Mikhail in a ferocious argument. Inscrutable words drenched in fear and rage flew back and forth as the fight began to shift from one of words to one of blows. Viktor suddenly dashed towards the railing. Georgy and Nergui tried to restrain him but swift elbows sent them reeling backwards and in an instant he was gone. Mikhail shouted orders as I ran to where he had jumped. The waters below were empty save the ever present swell of waves.

Lengths of rope were knotted into what my seaworthless eyes would call a modified a noose, or else tied to one of the two life preservers. Looking over the port railing, I saw a figure bob up to the surface, motionless excluding the ocean’s sway. I shouted out, and Kee Sye echoed my words in Russian as the whole crew charged across the deck. Ropes were hurled into the water. First came the life preservers, but when there was no attempt to grab on, everyone began to toss what they had into the water. Whether it was luck, skill, or something sinister that caused Ganzorig to effortlessly catch his knot around the figure I cannot say, but he did, so we grasped the rope and began to pull.

Looking back, there is one thing that strikes me about this rescue operation. Perhaps we were all too caught up in the madness of the moment to think about it, perhaps the fog was too thick for us to notice, but I find it shocking that nobody realized as we rushed about, trying to save our fallen comrade, that Vladislav and Zakhar were sitting in the bridge, ignorant of what was transpiring. It did not occur to anyone that as we scrambled to save that lone figure floating alongside us, our ship was speeding through the fog.

It was not Viktor who we hauled onto the deck, but a woman. We dragged her up, and as she crested the railing, a sense of trepidation grew within us. At first, we were not sure precisely what was wrong with her, though there was no doubt that something was amiss. Georgy pushed through the crowd, dropping to his knees to attempt first aid, but the moment he saw her up close he fell backwards and began to tremble. A wave of shock rolled through us as one by one we got close enough to see her. Her face, my god, her face. That nightmarish visage was burnt into my mind the moment I laid eyes on it. Barely a night goes by that does not see me shooting up from sleep, drenched in sweat, every awful detail recreated in my dreams exactly as it appeared before me on that light-veiled day.

The facial expression of horror exists at the most extreme limits of human body language. Every muscle of the face is stretched to an extreme degree. The eyes are open, but unlike the expressions of interest or surprise, in which the surrounding musculature stretches out vertically, when we experience horror, our muscles stretch back from the eyes in every direction, as if the very face itself is trying to escape from what its eyes are seeing. The mouth too is stretched to the limits of its expressive capability, and unlike a smile, which stretches horizontally, or a “jaw drop”, which stretches vertically, the muscles pull back in all directions, causing that instantly recognizable expression. The muscles in that woman’s face acted as I describe above, but somehow, they had stretched beyond anything I would have thought possible. Well beyond the typical limits of the human facial expression. It was like she had experienced something so horrifying that her face was forced to contort in ways no face had ever done before, or perhaps like it was stretched in terror for so long that the muscles involved had developed a strength unknown to the rest of humanity.

Once we had gotten over the shock of her face, we began to notice other strange things about her. When we brought her up, she was naked, and initially we had thought her to be elderly due to the wrinkles that covered her body. But then we began to notice some strange inconsistancies. The wrinkles of her face curved in odd ways to avoid patches of acne. There were a shocking number of cuts, scrapes, and bruises along her body. While a certain amount of injury is to be expected in the survivor of a maritime accident, what struck me about these injuries was how evenly they were inflicted across her body. There was not a one inch patch of skin unmarred by some kind of laceration. Fresh cuts sat atop an intricate web of scar tissue and her skin formed into miniature X’s wherever a fresh gash happened upon one that had’nt fully healed. Small holes offered windows to the world of organs and muscle within. Scrapes ran about her body in perfect curves like the intricate line patterns found in many Mosques. Fingernails and toenails ran the spectrum from nearly full to entirely absent, with blistered skin suggesting many had been recently ripped from the socket. Looking at her, it was impossible to escape the notion that these injuries were done by a calculating, sentient mind with the aim of inflicting as much suffering as possible.

Actually, there was one place on her body that was slightly different than the rest. On the small of her back, there was a large, circular hole much larger than the others, about two inches in diameter. There was nothing separating hee spinal cord from the outside world, and there was an odd spiral pattern that seemed to have been carved into the bone itself.

While we were deeply shaken by what we had seen, Mikhail in particular was profoundly disturbed. He had fallen to the ground, rolled onto his side, and his voice seemed completely devoid of expression. I knelt down next to him and put my hand on his shoulder. Despite something deep inside me knowing it was a lie, in as calm a voice as I could muster, I said:

“Relax. We’re safe as long as we’re on the boat, and it can’t be too much longer until this fog clears.”

There was a long pause as he stared at me the way a worn down first grade teacher might stare at a student who confidantly proclaimed that he had figured out a way to get rid of war and violence: all we have to do is take all the guns and knives away from all the bad people.

“No.” He finally said. “We are not safe. We will not flee her.”

“What do you mean?” I said incredulously. “Who the hell are you talking about?”

“She is the hunter. The cruel one. She has picked us as her prey. We will not escape.”

“You mean whatever did this to that poor girl is after us? If she’s as powerful as you seem to think she is, why hasn’t she attacked us directly? Why bother with the fog and the mind games?”

“It’s her way. She has many powers, but she can’t leave the water. She does not need to. We will come to her. In time all of us will come to her.”

“There has to be something we can do. If she can’t leave the water than we should be safe as long as we stay on the ship. We can turn around. This fog can’t be everywhere. It can’t go on forever. If this fog really does stretch farther than we can sail, then the whole world would know about it by now. There would be rescue missions. Every news station on the planet would be reporting on the death fog and the hunt for all of the ships trapped within it.”

Mikhail laughed a hateful laugh that shook me almost as much as seeing the girl.

“She has been around for ages.” He said. “As long as man has sailed the sea. You think some pathetic beaurocrat or a TV news man will save us. We are trapped.”

“There has to be something we can do.” I pleaded.

“Yes. There is.” He said. Lifting his hand he pointed a trembling finger behind me.

I had been so engrossed in Mikhail’s words that I had not noticed the commotion going on around me. I turned and saw people crowding together. I realized that all eyes were on Georgy. There was panic in his voice as he screamed out in his native tongue. The rest of the crew had assumed docile, placating tones and began slowly mving towards him. I made my way through the crowd just in time to see him drag the knife across his throat. All the fear and trembling fled his body as he crumpled to the floor.

The shock coursed through us, and we all began to truly grasp the true hopelessness of our position, each of us coming terms with it in our own way. Alexi and Nergui by walking away for a moment of solitude. Rodion by weeping atop Georgy’s lifeless body. Ganzorig by screaming into the uncaring and all consuming fog. The rest us stood motionless like a rat in the talons of an eagle, utterly aware of the futility of struggle. Time moved on. Alexi and Nergui returned. Ganzorig went quiet. Rodion’s sobs became muffled whimpers. Once again, silence fell upon us. Once again, it was broken by the screaming.

“She comes.” Mikhail said.

The screaming was much like it was earlier, a chorus of suffering pressed into a single voice. This time, however, it was not a girl’s voice. It was Viktor. As he reached the side of the ship the bestial ululations slowly took on the shape of human language. The climbs and dives in pitch made translating everything he said impossible, but certain words: “death”, “kill”, “please”, “end”, and “mercy” made his message painfully clear. The crew fanned out to gather what they could to aid him, some people grabbing the rope that was still tied from earlier, others, like myself, sprinting to our quarters to collect some device or another. I grabbed my backpack and ran back onto the deck, fumbling through my collection of trinkets and essentials until I found the set of throwing knives I purchased in St. Petersburg. I ran to the railing and did my best to aim at my target, a body at once familiar yet at the same time so contorted in agony that it seemed entirely unknown. Most of my shots were wide off the mark, but even the few that weren’t proved just as useless. Every time something came close enough to potentially end his misery, he would be dragged under the water, only to emerge moments later.

My ammunition exhausted I watched as the rest of the crew fared similarly. Even Alexi, who had the foresight to tie his machete to one of the lengths of rope so he could retrieve it, eventually came to realize the futility of this game. When he realized his best chance was to try and sever the long tenticle hooked into Viktor’s back, the creature moved him fifteen feet or so further from the ship, enough to ensure a fatal loss of accuracy but not enough to deaden the screams. With all hope of releasing our friend from his suffering evaporated, our crosshairs turned towards easier targets. Rodion began raving, and within moments Kee Sye told me we were going to storm the bridge and turn the ship around by force.

As we crowded around the top of the stairs, we realized Vladislav and Zakhar had barricaded the door. Rodion, Ganzorig, and Nergui took turns ramming it with their shoulders, Wei ran off looking for an improvised battering ram, while Kee Sye and myself went to the deck to see if we climb up and talk to them through the forward window. Perched precariously on the small ledge running along the second floor window, we saw too wide eyed men who seemed on the brink of delirium. They were intently gazing at something out on the horizon, and when I had carefully twisted myself around I realized we were sailing directly towards a single point of light cutting through the fog in the distance.

“Don’t you see!” I yelled, with Kee Sye dutifully translating. “That is obviously a trap.”

A furious burst of Russian, followed by Kee Sye’s English rendition.

“We will be free. This nightmare will be over. There is lighthouse aheas, or a rescue ship no doubt.”

“She’s toying with us. This is all part of her mind game. For the love of God, don’t sail towards the light.”

“They will rescue us. They must have been sent when they heard our distress call.”

“For all we know our distress call never even went out. None of our equipment has worked since we’ve been stuck in this fucking fog.”

“They are coming to rescue us. You will see. You will thank me when this is over.”

This continued for some time. Eventually, we realized that there was nothing we could say to get through to them. We climbed down and walked over to where Mikhail had stayed, and layed down next to him, resigned to our fate.

Viktor’s screams began to die down, or else we were just too numb to notice them, as the light grew larger and larger. The continuous banging let us know that the efforts to break down the door had been just as pointless. I turned towards the sky, trying to see if I could get one last look at the late afternoon sun, but even this was foiled by the merciless fog. Somehow, I began to feel tired. My eyelide drifted closer and closed. I wondered how long it had been since I slept.

I was awakened by a roaring symphony of destruction; metal being cut apart, various componants of the ship clanging into each other, the death wail of engines. I didn’t realize I was in the air until I came crashing into the foreward railing. I looked up and saw hundreds of rocks towering over me. They were shaped like spikes, four feet in diameter at their widest, shooting out of the water at various angles, some of them stretching forty feet above me. I quickly realized that the ship was pinned in its mangled position by the vertical spikes, while the angular ones had gutted her insides. Blended into the clamor of the sinking ship were even more screams. It was not just Viktor this time. With panic radiating through my body I realized that not everyone was lucky enough to have been saved by the railing. I sat up, scanned my surroundings, and noticed that both Kee Sye and Mikhail were nearby, apparantly having hit the rail five to ten feet down from where my body had battered it.

As I sat up, I heard a commotion further down the ship. I watched as Vladislav and Zakhar sprinted out from the stairwell, and realized they were taking off towards the free fall life boat. I jumped up, called out for Kee Sye and Mikhail to follow, then took off towards the stern with the two of them close behind. I watched as another two figures emerged from the stairwell in pursuit of the captain; it was Wei and one of the Mongolians. They were about 50 feet ahead of us, and by the time we rounded the corner they were allready struggling with the Vladislav and Zakhar, who were now inside the craft. Nergui was at the doorway, attempting to both hold the door for the rest of us and stop Zakhar from engaging the drop switch. Wei was right behind him, jittering and trying to figure out if there was anything he could do. Rodion’s expression indicated he had just come to as he sprinted around the opposite side of the aft while struggling to draw comprehension out of the confusion. Wei yelled something and he came charging towards them just as Vladislav pulled Nergui into the life boat, slammed the door behind him, and pulled the release. It went flying, slamming into Rodion on its way into the water and dragging him into the ocean. By the time we got to the waters edge there was no sign they had ever been there.

We didn’t have any time to mourn their loss. Within moments of their departure, the ship let out a deep, creaking wail. We fanned out along the railings, trying to better assess the situation, but there wasn’t enough time. The Сумерки бегу had cracked about 30 feet aft of the center, and the deck was rapidly tilting backwards. As I cursed myself for not saving one of my knives, the remaining crew began shouting in Russian. Suddenly, Kee Sye yelled that some of the timber bundles were drifting out of the exposed stowage, and that if we hurried we might be able to make the jump. I took of towards the split, and realizing I wouldn’t have enough time to scope things out, used my remaining momentum to make a leap of faith into the abyss.

My knees were the first to connect with the hard wood, acting as a pivot for momentum to transfer towards my face, which cracked the timber when the two inevitably met. I spent the next few moments in a daze, oblivious to the chaos that surrounded me as I assessed the damage. My nose was badly broken, and one of my front teeth was hanging on by a thread. I mourned the loss of my first aid kit until I went to lay down and felt my backpack propping me up. I dug out the kit, stuffed some gauze into my nose, and then laid back and rested my eyes for a moment.

The remaining daylight was almost gone when I reopened them. With a slightly clearer mind, I began to seriously assess my situation. There was no sign of the ship, the rocks, or anything but endless water, though this was hardly surprising given the ever faithful fog. What did surprise me was that I thought I could hear voices in the distance, ones that were not wailing in agony but seemed to be talking. I yelled out, and heard both Kee Sye and Mikhail answer back. They were sharing a bundle raft, and seemed maybe fifty to a hundred yards away. Mikhail had broken his leg in the fall, and was seriously worried about it getting infected. Niether had any supplies, so they couldn’t even amputate if it came down to that. I told them that I had a first aid kit, but I wasn’t sure how I could get to them. Apparantly we were caught in a current and were heading in the same direction, but as far as they knew we were not getting any closer. All of a sudden I heard a voice yelling in Russian from the other direction. It seemed much closer than the others, and I quickly realized that it belonged to Alexi. After a few minutes talking to Kee Sye he began to slow down and enunciate clearly for my benefit.

He said that he was below deck when the ship crashed, and he climbed onto his bundle before the Сумерки бегу ripped apart. Apparantly, due to a pressing need to get as far from the collapsing ship as possible, he discovered that if you grabbed hold of planks of wood, kept your chest on the raft, and kicked with your legs at the edge of the water, you could propel yourself forward without falling into her clutches. I was naturally hesitant, and made no secret of this fact, but I began to hear a rhythmic splashing sound in the distance. I dug through my pack, found my flashlight, and shined it at the source of the noise. I saw another makeshift lifeboat emerge from the darkness with a man spread halfway between it and the water.

Mikhail had understood enough of what was happening that he began to plead for me to come as quickly as possible. Concern for my friend suppressed the last remnants of my fear, so I took off my pants and found a good spot on the raft with beams of timber that stuck out enough for me to grab hold. I gripped the wood, and as I went to stick my legs in an odd feeling I couldn’t quite identify struck me. I grabbed my flashlight and turned it to the ocean. The light glided across the inky water before finally stopping at a massive pair of bulging white eyes almost directly under me. They were each two feet long and about a foot below the water. Entirely white save two pill sized black dots, they slanted inwards, and rose trembling out of their sockets with wild excitement. I moved the light towards the raft, and at the exact place my feet were about to enter was a perfectly round, gaping mouth; its lips, stretched to the waters edge, were peeled back, revealing layers of jagged, hooked teeth that wound their way down the gaping chasm.

I reached into my pack, grabbed a nesting doll of Soviet leaders, and hurled it directly at the bulging eye. She let loose a high pitched, clicking cry and darted off, propelled by webs made out of hundreds of fan shaped fins connected to her upper body. As she passed I saw malformed breasts, swollen to the point that they were leaking out the blood that apparantly filled them, and hundreds of tenticles emanating from the base of her torso. Some ended with jagged hooks reminiscent of her teeth, others long straight spikes, some tapered into writhing, wormlike extensions. A few of them were buried into the backs of my former crewmates. I saw Zakhar flailing about with panic in his eyes as though he were perpetually drowning, his facial muscles allready beginning to stretch back beyond their normal limits. I lifted my head just in time to see Alexi’s pure white eyes meet my own. Without breaking his gaze or reacting in the slightest, he reached his hand into his mouth and ripped out his tongue whole, before being dragged back into the water.

The next few days were spent drifting in and out of delirium. The three bottles of water in my pack saved me from immediately succombing to dehydration, but did not save me from having to endure the endless screaming. Some came from her toys, and some came from Mikhail and Kee Sye. On the first day they pleaded with me to find some way of joining them, on the second they rained down curses on me for abandoning them, on the third they went silent. Early on I tried to reason with them, tell them there was nothing I could do, but when men stand at the brink of death reason begins to lose its power. After the third day I too was out of water. I laid there for what felt like ages, waiting for the merciful hand of death.

When I first heard the helicopter I chalked it up as another auditory hallucination. I didn’t fully accept its existence until I felt the warm hands of the rescue crew lifting me onto the stretcher. After I recovered some of my strength, I worked up the courage to ask them about Mikhail and Kee Sye. I didn’t hold out much hope for their survival, but I figured the least I could do was ensure they had a proper burial. When I asked, the copilot gave me an odd look, and when I inquired further he told me: “You were the only one. We checked all of the other wood piles and they were totally empty. No clothing. No waste. No sign that anyone had ever been there at all.”

Credit To – Snowblinded

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.2/10 (200 votes cast)

A Favor For A Favor

April 25, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.8/10 (315 votes cast)

It must have been the most run-down, filth-ridden, motel room I had ever seen – the kind of place where cockroaches didn’t feel the need to scatter at the flash of a light bulb. I wouldn’t be surprised if a whole civilization of the nasty things were living between the walls, laying their repulsive egg sacks wherever they pleased, and multiplying faster than an Asian kid on Adderall. I was seated at the edge of the bed, shifting uncomfortably atop its warped mattress while trying to ignore the rank funk radiating from a pile of unwashed sheets bundled up in the corner. It was the type of room people did everything but sleep in. That was fine by me – I didn’t come there for shut-eye, anyways. In my left hand was a half-drunk bottle of Jack Daniels. In my right was a 32 caliber Smith and Wesson.

The extraordinarily depressing location was poetically fitting in a way – I was extraordinarily depressed after all. It was my wife who was the cause of my misery. She had broken my heart, leaving me with nothing but a vacant grief-stricken soul, like a teenager who listens to Fall Out Boy and writes poetry on Tumblr. For a while suspicions of infidelity had loomed over our marriage, but I had always chalked up my conjectures as nothing more than paranoid delusions. They say denial is the best remedy for heartache. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a series of implicitly sexual emails between her and the pastor of our church (a married man in his own right), that I was faced with the morbid reality of my wife’s secret sexcapades.

Pastor Alonso was a slick, fast-talking, cut-throat, shark who dressed more like a U.S. senator than a man of the cloth. He pulled in a far bigger salary than one might expect a holy man to earn. A lot of people would be surprised to find out just how profitable the preaching business can be, especially when you head up the 2nd biggest mega-church in California. Alonso had a taste for life’s opulent luxuries and wasn’t afraid to flaunt it. It wasn’t uncommon for him to drive a Mercedes Benz to church or showoff his collection of Rolex watches during Sunday services. I guess that’s why my wife gravitated towards him. She always did have a weak spot for material things.

There was one thing that all the pastor’s money couldn’t buy him though: kids of his own. His wife, Darcy’s, on again off again battle with the big C had thrown a monkey wrench into his plans to start a family. Recently, her cancer had taken a turn for the worse and while she lied up in the hospital on her death-bed, the pastor and my wife were getting together for some “extra bible study sessions”.

When I confronted my wife about the emails, things got ugly. Names were called, expletives were hurled, and threats were thrown out (by her mostly). She explained to me that the pastor invited her and the kids to move in with him once Darcy passed – an offer my “better half” had accepted. She said she was going to give him the family he always wanted – my family. I didn’t have the money to fight a long drawn out custody battle or hire big time lawyers, but Pastor Alonso did. Couple that with the fact women usually win these kinds of disputes (even if they don’t always deserve it) and you can see why things were looking so bleak for me. Another man had stolen my wife, my children, my life, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The room slowly started spinning and I realized my good friend Jack was up to his old tricks again. Nausea was beginning to settle in and I didn’t want to spend my last moments alive vomiting the Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger I had wolfed down an hour earlier, so I decided to stop stalling and finish what I came there for.

I placed the revolver’s barrel in my mouth and rested my finger on the trigger. In case you were wondering if my life flashed before my eyes, allow me to be perfectly blunt – it didn’t. I was thankful for it too. I’d have rather taken a bubble bath with Bruce Vilanch and Ron Howard’s little brother than relive all the agony that woman put me through. I shut my eyes as tight as possible in preparation for the bullet to pass through my brain.

**

They say that he who hesitates is lost. In short, the proverb means that spending too much time deliberating on an important decision can ultimately lead to disastrous consequences. Although in my case, one tiny minute moment of pause may have actually prevented said consequences and saved my life. The cold metallic taste of the revolver’s barrel on my tongue caused me to question my actions for only the briefest of seconds, but sometimes even that can be more than enough time to change a man’s fortunes. As I sat there, trying to talk myself into pulling the trigger, the telephone in my motel room began to ring. I slid the gun out of my mouth, sat good old Jack (the only friend I had left) down on the nightstand, and answered the phone.

“Hello?” I said in my best possible not-about-to-kill-myself voice.

“Jacob! I’m so glad you picked up!” I had no idea who the voice on the other line belonged to. I never heard it before, but whoever it was, they seemed to know me. “Listen, Jake,” he continued, “before you go and…redecorate the walls with the inside of your skull, we need to have a talk first.”

I hadn’t told anyone where I planned on being that evening, but this guy not only knew my name and location, but even the fact that I was contemplating punching my ticket to that big toga party in the sky. Had he been watching me? I needed some answers. Using every working brain cell in my head, I came up with the most rational, thought-out, intelligent question I could construct.

“Uhh…what?”

“I said we need to have a talk, Jacob. Now sit tight, I’m on my way over to your room right now.” And with that he hung up the phone.

I stared blankly at the wall, completely dumbfounded – my mind still trying to process what happened. I wondered for a moment if I had just been the victim of a prank call. It seemed from our short conversation, that the guy on the other end of the line had been watching me. My first inclination was that he might have been some sort of pervert. After all, the motel wasn’t exactly a four star accommodation and I did notice that the place looked to be a magnet for weirdos, freaks, and other types of seedy characters when I checked in. I took a swig of liquid courage. For some reason I always felt braver when Jack was around.

Knock Knock

The knock on the door nearly caused me to lose control of my bowels (that Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger was coming out one way or the other). I tried to convince myself that I was just being neurotic, but something about the call made me feel uneasy.
I had become aware of a dark inexplicable feeling that began bubbling from within the pit of my stomach the moment the phone first rang – an awful combination of dread, fear, hate, and a myriad of other terrible emotions all simmering together into some kind of unspeakable brew.

“Who is it?” I called out. No one answered. I waited for a response and then tried again, this time with a little more base in my voice, “Who is it?”

Knock Knock

I stood up from the bed, tucked the gun into the waistband of my pants, and zipped up my jacket, making sure it was properly concealed before making my way towards the door.

Knock Knock

“I SAID WHO IS IT!?”

“House keeping.” The voice on the other side of the door sounded like it belonged to an elderly Hispanic woman.

“Oh,” I chuckled at myself for letting a maid get me so riled up. “Please come back later. Thank you.”

Knock Knock

“House keeping.”

“I said come back please.”

“I clean now?” By this point, the woman was seriously trying my patience. Either she didn’t speak English or she was a complete moron. “I come in?”

“There’s a sign on the door knob! Can’t you read!?” I swung open the door, ready to give the woman a piece of my mind, “It says do not dist – ”

There was no one in the hallway. I leaned my head out of the room to see if the irritating maid wasn’t bothering some other poor sap, but the corridor was as empty and barren as a Blockbuster Video store. Convinced that I had officially lost my marbles, I retreated back inside and closed the door behind me.

Knock Knock

Not a second later the knocking started up again.

“House keeping.”

“GO AWAY!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. Where had she come from? Just moments earlier I was alone in the halls.

Knock Knock

“I change towels?”

“Listen, please just leave me alone,” I begged. “There’s no way in hell I’m letting you in.”

It was getting harder and harder to ignore that strange dark sensation that was still stewing inside my stomach.

Knock Knock

“I SAID GO AWAY!”

Once more I opened the door and once more there was not a cleaning woman in sight. This time, however, I was not alone. Doubled over in laughter before me, was a teenage boy, no older than sixteen. He was wearing a forest green hoodie and a matching flat-billed baseball cap tilted off to the side – a fashion choice that made him look spectacularly douchey. His baggy jeans sagged halfway down his ass, exposing a pair of striped boxers and accenting his douchiness even further. A black bandanna hung out of his back pocket as if he was some kind of gangbanger. I found this to be particularly stupid since he appeared to be type of suburban white kid whose mom drove him to soccer practice in a minivan.

“Can I help you!?” I said. I was about ten seconds away from ringing the little twerps neck. By the way he was convulsing in laughter, it was clear that he was the mastermind behind my harassment.

“Ho-ho-ho man!” he managed to squeeze out between breaths, “You should have seen yourself. You look like you just got caught with your dick in the family goat!”

“What?”

The boy wiped a tear from his eye and took a deep exhale in an attempt to rein in his laughter, “Damn, did that go over your head? Sorry, now that I think about it, the expression is a little before your time. It originated in Scotland in the mid 1700’s. A lot more people owned goats back then so I guess it used to be funnier. When you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s hard to stay caught up with the latest lingo. What are all the kids saying these days, Jake? Is YOLO still a thing? You know what, never mind. I came here to talk to you about something else. May I come in?”

“No, you may not,” I extended my arm across the door frame to block the entrance of my room, “Why don’t you get the hell out of here kid? I’m busy.”

“Oh yes, I can see that, but I’ll only take a minute of your time.” The boy ducked under my arm, scrambling past me before I could stop him. Once inside he paused for a moment, surveying the room, and smiling snidely to himself. “Jeez Jake, this place is a dump! Why the blazes would you want to blow your brains out here? I personally would have chosen the Ritz Carlton uptown if I was going to off myself. Oh, but not before ordering some of those delicious sweet potato truffle fries from the bar in the lobby!”

“You’ve got about three seconds to get out of here kid!”

“I’m shaking in my boots.” He giggled to himself briefly before continuing, “Honestly man, intimidation isn’t your forte. I promise I’ll leave in a second, but as I said before, I wanted to have a little chat first.”

“What do you want?”

“To help you out.”

“You can help me by getting out of my room.”

“A bit snippy aren’t we? Jacob, I know you’ve had a rough day, but it doesn’t have to end the way you think it does. So what if your wife hurt you? Buck up! There is a way to remedy this situation.”

It was then that I realized the darkness inside me had never gone away. Instead it had been flourishing – spreading from my core as it pervaded throughout the rest of my body. How did this kid know so much about me? For a second time that evening I was so rattled I could hardly spit out a sentence.

“Wh-who are you?” I said. He leaned in and cupped his ear like an old man who’s hearing had waned over time. “Were you w-w-watch – ”

“Was I w-w-watching you? Is that what you were going to say? Learn to ENUNCIATE man! Sorry to interrupt, but if I let you do all the talking we’re going to be here all night and believe me when I tell you, I’ve got other places to be. Now then, why don’t I answer your second question first? Yes, I was w-w-watching you, but not in a creepy staring at you through the window kind of way. You know, like Ryan Gosling in Drive? Did you ever see that movie? It’s surprisingly good. And that Gosling, he’s got chops I tell you! The guy is so damn handsome too! Some lucky bastards just hit jackpot in the genetic lottery, am I right?”

The kid was giving me a bad vibe. I slid my hand into my jacket pocket and felt through the fabric for the handle of my revolver. All the while, he continued to blabber senselessly about how The Mickey Mouse Club was the greatest thing to ever happen to the entertainment industry. I needed to somehow get control of the situation.

“Shut the hell up kid! You better give me some straight answers right now. Why were you watching me?”

The boy’s smile quickly disappeared. He scanned me up and down, probing me with his eyes as if he was examining every inch of my body – a look of utter disgust on his face. It was bizarre; his very stare made me feel ashamed and violated. “More questions, huh? First off, you should probably make sure the hammer isn’t cocked on that little lemon squeezer of yours. You’re going to shoot your dick off and then you’ll really have a reason to kill yourself.”

Somehow he knew about the gun I was hiding under my coat. I unzipped my jacket and pulled it out from my pants. He was right. I had left it cocked.

“I was watching you because I saw a doomed soul – a lost spirit so to speak, who was about to let the bad guys win and I just couldn’t bring my self to allow you to do it.” He moseyed over to the television and dragged his finger down the screen, leaving a spotless streak across the otherwise dust-covered glass. “Take it from a guy who’s been there before. I know exactly how you’re feeling right now. I too have been betrayed by someone I loved – cast down and thrown out in favor of another.”

He paused for a moment, looking at the dust that collected on his fingertip when he wiped it across the screen. “But I haven’t answered your first inquiry yet, have I? Who am I? Well, that’s a loaded question. I’m a man of many epithets. Over the years I’ve been known as The Bearer of Light, The Son of Perdition, even The Proud One. In a story he once wrote, Washington Irving referred to me as Old Nick. I have been anointed a prince, while at the same time branded a beast.”

“You’re telling me that you are The – ”

“Please to meet you! Hoped you guessed my name!”

“But that’s impossible.”

“Why? You go to church, don’t you? Is it so hard to believe that asinine little book – the one you people so arrogantly proclaim to be God’s true word, actually got something right? Don’t go patting yourself on the back for being a Christian though. The bible’s filled with more half-truths and garbage than a supermarket tabloid.”

I was completely taken back by what the boy was saying. A couple minutes earlier I was getting ready to lodge a bullet in my brain, now I was talking to a teenager who had just declared himself to be the embodiment of evil.

“If you’re the devil,” I asked, “then why do you look like a kid?”

“Why not? I do as I please. I can appear as whatever or whoever I want. You think this is weird, once I made myself look like a snake just so I could talk to a hot naked chick.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Neither did Carlos Mencia’s comedy career, but it happened anyways. By the way, I assure you I had nothing to do with that.” He shook his head, “I suppose it’s proof you require, eh? I miss the old days where you people would blindly take me for my word. It made it so much easier to cheat at poker.” The boy gave me a mischievous wink. “Alright, why don’t you pick up the phone? There’s someone who needs to speak with you.”

Not a second later a shrill, earsplitting, sound cut through the motel room. The telephone on the end table was ringing. I shot a skeptical look over to the teenager. He was holding his hand to his ear as if there was an invisible phone in it.

“Hello?” I said as I picked up the call.

“House keeping. I clean now?” As the boy’s lips moved I could hear the cleaning woman’s voice over the telephone. “No hablo Ingles. I come in?” He burst into a fit of laughter.

I was floored. I tried to play it cool, but I’m certain he could read the shock on my face.

“Check this one out.” He cleared his throat. “I’m leaving you, Jacob.” Now he sounded like my wife, “Pastor Alonso has a bigger house than you. As a matter of fact, that’s not the only thing that’s bigger.” This sent him into another round of giggles. After he had his laugh, his voice returned to normal. “Not bad, right? I mean, I’m no Danny Gans, but I bet I could still play The Nugget.”

And when he said that he smiled, but it was just a little too wide – wider than a mouth should stretch. Ever so briefly I caught a glimpse of his teeth. It was as if hundreds of tiny daggers were protruding form his gums. He shifted his head ever so slightly and his peculiar facial features had disappeared. Once again he looked like a typical douchebag teenager.

“You can’t have my soul,” I said, “It’s not for sale.”

The boy scoffed, “Come now, do you really think I just go around buying people’s souls from them? Ye have little faith in humanity, Jacob. Most people are too smart to fall for that kind of thing. What’s a lifetime of happiness compared to an eternity in hell?”

“Then why are you here?”

“Like I said before, I do as I please. And it would please me very much to do a favor for you. No contracts or souls involved. Honest Injun!”

“What kind of a favor,” I asked.

He turned and started out the door. “Why don’t you accompany me for a walk and I’ll explain? Oh, and bring that little pistol with you.”

As the boy exited my room, I picked up the phone again and held it to my ear. I didn’t hear a dial tone, so I followed the cord only to find that it wasn’t even plugged into the wall. Jack was still sitting on the nightstand, waiting to provide consultation for me if I needed it. He was going to have to wait just a little longer. I followed the boy out the door.

**

I caught up to him halfway down the hall and together we headed down the rusty metal stairs that lead to the parking lot.

“I see that you’re in a bit of a bind, Jacob. You’re wife of fifteen years is leaving you for that idiot pastor, and taking the kiddies with her. What were there names again? Oh yes, Hunter and Elizabeth. Such darling children – ”

“Leave my kids alone!” The mere thought of him mentioning my kids sent my anger into a tailspin.

He stopped halfway down the stairs and jabbed a bony finger into my chest.

“Listen here, tough guy. Just because I look like the lost member of the Backstreet Boys, doesn’t mean I won’t turn into some sort of ten foot tall Lovecraftian monstrosity and bite your legs off if you continue to disrespect me, capiche?” I nodded my head. “Good, I don’t know what all the fuss was about anyways. I love children. I’d have one of my own, but it’s so hard to find a suitable candidate to bare the antichrist. There’s something about heralding in a millennium of Hell on Earth and bringing about the apocalypse that turns most women off. The only people whoever volunteer for the job are nut balls and whackos. And trust me Jake, I don’t want no baby mama drama anymore than you do!”

I think he was making a joke because he paused for a second and glanced over to me as if he was expecting to hear laughs. He continued talking once he realized I didn’t find him amusing.

“If you ask me, you have three options.

Option number one: You go back to your room and blow your brains out. You never see your kids again, and your wife continues fucking the pastor.

Option number two: You don’t do anything like a pussy. Go back to your boring and now lonely existence. You’ll see your kids the second Saturday of every month, and your wife continues fucking the pastor.”

“I suppose this is where you tell me about option three?”

When we made it to the base of the stairs, he gestured towards the parking lot indicating the direction he wanted to walk. “Smart man,” he said. “Option number three is this. You take that 32 caliber Smith and Wesson over to the pastor’s McMansion tonight. You’re wife’s there right now, discussing church business.” He made a set of quotations in the air with his fingers. “I’m sure he’s got her down on her knees taking communion as we speak. You know? Accepting the holy body inside her mouth and all that – ”

“Ok, ok, I get it, but that’s a terrible joke. We aren’t even Catholic. What are you trying to say? You want me to kill Pastor Alonso?”

“Kill the pastor, kill your wife – hell, kill his annoying little shih tzu while you’re at it. You have to kill them, Jacob. Don’t let them take your children from you. End their lives for trying to ruin yours. I’d do it for you, but no killing is one of the few rules I’m bound by on this miserable plane of existence.”

I have to admit, it was an idea that had crossed my mind earlier that night – more of a fantasy than anything. I never actually considered going through with it. “But that would be a sin,” I said, “Now that I know Hell exists, there’s no way I’d do anything to risk damnation.”

“Look who you’re talking to, Jacob. Don’t you think I have a little bit of pull down there? For this one particular night I will absolve you of your sins. Think of it as a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. And don’t worry about the fuzz either. I have friends in high places. You won’t even be considered a person of interest in the murder investigation.”

I couldn’t believe I was even entertaining the idea. I had become so engrossed in what the miniature Kevin Federline was proposing that I didn’t even realize he was leading us to my car until we were standing right in front of it. “So if it’s not my soul you want, what are you getting out of this?”

“Ah! I see my reputation precedes me. Like I said before, I’m just doing you a solid, man.” He stuck his fist out waiting for me to bump it. I left the devil hanging. “Maybe one day in the future, you’ll repay the favor…or not. You certainly wouldn’t be obligated to.”

“What kind of favor?”

“I don’t know, pick up my dry cleaning? I haven’t thought of it yet. Who cares? I may never even bother you after tonight.”

I reminisced back to when my wife and I were young. We were so in love and now I was standing in a parking lot, under the neon lights of the worlds dirtiest roach motel, letting the baby faced demon talk me into murdering her. How did it come to this? “She’s my wife,” I said. “Part of me still loves her. I don’t know if I could do anything that would harm the mother of my children.”

He rolled his eyes, “Oh and clearly she loves you too! Why else would she be on her back right now letting that idiot pastor plow her into next week?” And when he said that his voice got deeper – a thousand octaves lower than anything I’d ever heard in my life. The sound was maddening. It made me want to bury my fingers into my ear canals until my eardrums burst. “You’re adulterous, whore of a wife sins with that slimy, two-faced, sorry excuse for a human being as we speak! If that wasn’t enough, she plans on ruining you by taking your children! And for what? Because you don’t have a big house or a fancy car? She used you, until something better came along and he did the same thing to his wife. Hell is filled with men and women like them! Send them where they belong.” It felt as though his voice was microwaving my brain from the inside. I grabbed my head and fell to my knees. “That pastor sins in God’s name and you’d really sit there and do nothing!? Send them to hell, Jacob! Send them to me and I will make sure they suffer until the end of time!”

“OK! I’LL DO IT!”

“Excellent!” his voice had conveniently reverted back to normal. “Let’s get started, shall we? I’ll meet you at the pastor’s house. I’d ride with you, but I’m The Lord of Fucking Darkness and you drive a Prius so…you know.”

**

Even though he wasn’t in the car with me while I drove over to Pastor Alonso’s home, I knew that I was far from alone. Every time I doubted my sanity, every time I started to question if what had transpired was even real, he was there. Standing on a street corner, waiting at a bus stop, even watching me from the windows of other cars as they passed me by. I realize now that he was keeping an eye on me, making sure I didn’t get cold feet. It came as no surprise to find him already waiting for me on the front steps of the pastor’s massive home when I pulled up.

He placed a hand on my shoulder when I got near and spoke some final words of encouragement to motivate me, “Do it for your children Jacob.”

From the moment I nudged open the pastor’s gaudy, oversized, front door, I could hear he and my wife wailing away from the bedroom upstairs. I drew my gun and followed the moans up the steps.

“Jeez, Jake. It sounds like a couple of pigs getting slaughtered in there. Is that what it was like when you two used to bump uglies?”

I brushed off his inconsiderate quip and leaned against the door. The boy was licking his lips in anticipation. It seemed as if he wanted them dead worse than I did. Doubt began to seep into my mind. I was no killer. The very thought of murdering the mother of my children was beginning to make me feel sick.

Perhaps sensing apprehension, he started whispering in my ear, “Do it Jake. Send them to hell.”

His words were easy to ignore. I was too busy thinking about my kids. Could I really take their mother away from them? Even though I had let the boy manipulate me that evening, I still had my free will. I knew that I had the power to walk out the front door if I wanted to. No one needed to die.

“He who hesitates is lost, Jake.”

How could I even pull the trigger? For God sakes, I still loved the woman. That’s when that dark inexplicable feeling that had been growing inside me started to dwindle. In its place I felt hope. Hope that maybe if I could talk to her, even hear her speak, I would come to my senses. Then, almost on cue, her voice rang out, resonating through the air like a magnificent melody plucked from the fingers of a master harpist.

“Fuck me preacher man!”

I kicked in the door.

**

My gun had six bullets, but it only took me three. It would have been two, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to relieve the pastor of his holy scepter. It’s strange how draining murder can be. All I did was point my gun and pull a trigger, yet my body felt like I had just ran a marathon.

“I knew you had it in you, Jacob, but holy hell, I didn’t expect you to blast off his pecker too!”

It wasn’t his wisecrack that startled me. His voice had changed. It was deeper than a teenager’s now, more dignified too. Perhaps most alarming, it was a voice I knew very well – one I heard echo off the stained glass windows of my church every Sunday for years. Pastor Alonso’s voice. I whirled around to see the man I just shot smiling at me from the doorway.

“Relax,” he said as he entered the room, “It’s just me, Lucifer, King of The Underworld, Father of Lies, yada yada yada.”

I looked back to the bed. The real pastor’s bullet riddled body still lied motionless next to my wife’s corpse, their cadavers entwined within a set of tacky bloodstained bed sheets. “Wh-why did you make yourself look like Pastor Alonso?” I asked.

“Why does it matter? I do as I please.”

Before I had a chance at a follow up question, the thunderous sound of the pastor’s front door being slammed shut carried through the house and up to the bedroom. My heart began to race as a bevy of heavy footsteps made their way up the stairs.

“What the hell is going on!?” I demanded, but he didn’t answer. The wicked grin painted across his face sent a wave of fright through my body.

“Do you know what they’re going to do to you in prison, Jacob?” he said. Two uniformed police officers strode into the room.

As the policemen made their way towards me, my panic began to intensify. All I could think about was wasting the rest of my life away in an orange jumpsuit and playing housewife at the behest of my cellmate, a tattooed skinhead named Knife Face.

I still had three bullets left and I knew there was one way out of the situation. I raised the revolver to my temple as the cops marched towards me. I don’t know if I really would have pulled the trigger if they attempted to arrest me. Thankfully I didn’t get the chance to find out because instead of drawing their guns on me, they brushed right by without saying a word. I watched in awe as they started wrapping the pastor and my wife’s bodies’ in the soiled silk sheets. To my surprise, they appeared to be cleaning up my mess.

You-Know-Who fell to the floor and began howling. “HA! Now you really do look like you got caught with your dick in the family goat!” He thrust a finger into my bewildered face. “I’m just joshing you, Jake! These fine gentlemen are with me. Them too.” He motioned over to the doorway. Two more men I hadn’t noticed before wearing plain clothes, but still brandishing badges were waiting in the doorway. “Jerry, come over here for a second!”

The older heavyset man sauntered towards us. His somber face and reluctant gait made him look like a kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The no-longer-baby-faced-demon patted him on the back, “Do you know who this man is, Jacob?” I shook my head. “Jerry here, is the head of the police department. That means he’s very important.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said. I really wasn’t, at that point all I wanted to do was distance myself as far away from the pastor’s house as possible and forget the whole night ever happened. The police chief remained silent. The shame and discomfort in his eyes told me the feeling was mutual.

The demon gestured over to the other man still standing at the door. “That guy over there just made detective.” He turned his head in the detective’s direction. “Congratulation’s on your new promotion, Bill!” The man looked away to avoid eye contact. Once again he focused his attention on me. “Guess who’s going to be heading up your wife’s murder case?”

“What about the Pastor?” I asked, “Who’s going to be looking into his murder?”

He stretched his arms out and twirled around as if he was showing off a brand new coat. “What are you talking about? Pastor Alonso wasn’t murdered? He and his wife just decided to move away so they could do missionary work in Africa. See? Everything wraps up neat and tidy and you get off scot-free. Now Jacob, before you leave tonight, I wanted to speak to you about that favor.”

“What?”

“You know? We talked about this. I said that maybe one day I might ask you to return the favor I did for you.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I remember. I guess I didn’t expect it to come so soon.”

“Well, life’s funny like that sometimes. Don’t worry though. It’s really nothing you can’t do in your sleep! I’m not going to ask you to pick up and dispose of dead bodies like these guys.”

“What do you want?”

He leaned in close and looked at me with a solemn expression on his face. “Listen to me, Jacob because this is the only favor I will ever ask of you. It is imperative, that you never attempt to contact Darcy Alonso. Do you understand?”

“What?” his request had left me puzzled for numerous reasons, “But Darcy Alonso has cancer. She’s dying.”

His lips curled into a devilish smirk. “Well, let’s just say I did her a little favor.”

“What are you going to do with her?”

“What’s it matter to you? I do as I please.”

I waved my finger in his face, “But you said I’m not obligated to listen to you right? If I wanted to, I could go over to the hospital right now and tell her about everything that happened tonight.”

“Of course you can, Jacob! Like I said, there’s no binding agreement between us. Your soul is yours and you’re free to do what you want with it. As a matter of fact, I stake no claim to any of these men’s souls. They’re just people who were kind enough to repay the favor I did for them!

I’ve done favors for a lot of people, Jacob – cops, judges, lawyers, even pedophiles who take pleasure in the rape and murder of children. Hey that reminds me, don’t your kiddies walk home from school every day?” And when he said that, he looked me right in the eye. It was as if his stare caused my mind to play out a thousand different scenarios, each one more heinous and vile than the last. It was like looking through a window into Hell. “Darcy and I are going away,” he continued. “All you have to do is forget about her. Forget about this entire night if you want! But don’t forget that I’m always watching you, Jacob.”

He didn’t need to say another word. The message was clear. I turned and exited the pastor’s house without looking back. The next few hours were a blur to me. I remember driving back to my home, vomiting in the kitchen sink (that Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger finally did make its escape), and passing out on the couch in my living room.

**

My wife’s body was found 48 hours after I shot her inside of a liquor store dumpster. Just as he said, I was never even considered a suspect. Her murder was pinned on a 19-year-old kid from the barrio. It took no more than a week for the jury to reach a guilty verdict. He was sentenced to death. The kid is currently incarcerated and trying to appeal the jury’s decision, but something tells me he won’t have any luck. I have a feeling that I’m not the only person who has a favor to repay.

Darcy Alonso checked out of the hospital that evening and was gone by morning. Word around the church was that she and “the pastor” had believed her miraculous recovery to be a sign from God, so they set out across the globe to spread his message, but if you ask me, that story’s a bigger load of bullshit than a politician making a campaign speech while rolling in a pile of fertilizer. Two weeks after they left town, their house was put up for sale.

It was hard for my children to lose their mother at such a young age, but they’ll learn to get along without her. I like to think I’ve been doing a hell of a job as a single parent, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of them. It took a while for things to start to get back to normal for us, but the fact that they’re smiling and laughing again makes me think that they’re going to be ok.

About a year after everything happened, I received a green envelope in the mail. I didn’t think much of it at first. It was the middle of December and I had already collected dozens of Christmas cards. It wasn’t until I tore open the envelope that I realized that dark inexplicable sensation had made its presence known once again in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t the title on the front of the card that made me feel sick [Merry Christmas, From The Alonsos!], it was what I saw when I opened it.

The message was just one sentence long, but it hit me in the gut like a body blow from Mike Tyson.

[The doctor says we’re due to have the best Christmas ever!]

Attached to the card was a picture of Darcy and “the pastor” wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and grinning from ear to ear. Darcy’s sweater however, was pulled up past her midsection, exposing her belly. She looked to be about nine months pregnant.

Credit To – Vincent Vena Cava

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.8/10 (315 votes cast)
Try a free sample Personal Astrology Profile!