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I Am Black Dog

July 1, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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I am eternal. In a universal sense, I always have been and always will be here, though I did not always walk amongst you humans, nor even have need to walk at all. At first I simply was here to do the bidding of a harsh God, and He named us Archangels, that we might rule over mankind in all sorts of ways. Metatron, who you might call God’s mouthpiece, I think once said it best. As he led the holy prophet Moses through the Seventh Heaven he remarked on me and told the man, “This one is Samael, who takes the soul away from man.” But little did he or I know that soon that very soul would be damned.

At first there was Lilith- you may never have heard of her, or certainly not with honesty. She was the fair and cunning consort who I took in after Adam, God’s much-loved first “man,” deserted her for another. As the world was forming and I took to my task of delivering those souls of men both good and wicked, I also laid with Lilith, and for this a fool was I, for I let the wretched she-devil bear me sons.

Of course when He found out the Creator was furious, for He feared our offspring might destroy all of humanity itself, but naturally who did he curse more cruelly? It was I. He took away my strength and sent me hurtling down to forever be tormented in the Lake of Fire as a demon, even as my sons were left to walk the earth. If this isn’t evidence enough of an angry and unjust God then it’s no use trying to convince you further. All I have is my tale- and let it be a lesson.

I am a fighter. It was many, many forlorn and excruciating human years before finally, triumphant, I broke through the surface of your world and took the shape of man. It was a populous and dark place where I was first born human, near the area called Dublin, and my name was Olocher. I might have now finally had a chance at some room to breathe, some place to call my home, but the hours upon hours upon hours of unceasing torment had burnt upon my very spirit an evil stirring within me. I thought of Lilith, she that had caused my downfall, and I thirsted for the blood of harlots.

I took pleasure in the pain and terror on the farm girl’s face as I mercilessly ravaged her only to strangle her when the deed was done, and just like that, I was an agent of death again. I waited until nightfall for the innocent and weak to sate my blood lust. But man is so petty, so very compelled to follow what God passed down as law, and so I was branded a murderer and rapist of women, sentenced to a dungeon far better than the ones I had seen in Hell. Black Dog Prison, a curious name I thought, and ironically I was condemned to die not long thereafter.

I am unafraid of death; after all, once I had come into a mortal being, I had the ability to move, to change. As my sentries at the prison were particularly irritating to me, I took great pleasure in hanging myself to rob them of their execution just hours before its time, and I went aloft in search of another vessel. I suppose I might be sentimental, or just truly enjoy a turn of phrase, because I became a loathsome, black dog-like beast. Now free, I terrorized the maidens of the city, snarling and biting at them with snorts of excitement and thus was hunted as a great black hog. Oh, it truly was a sight to behold, those men who thought they were so brave take up pitchforks and wooden clubs, and beat down any pigs, boars or black beasts they could find, all while I hid myself inside a cave and waited for the inevitable- for my beast self to be declared defeated, at which point I decided to move on.

My new host would be one much more beloved by man- a true black dog, small, and with a countenance of such sweetness and charm that a fortunate family ferried me across to bountiful England. I accrued so many new names while lying low in those early years- Barghest, Black Shuck, Dip, Church Grim. Humans have such a fascination with names. I never took any particular notice of the ones I came across, until I entered the city of London and found a man there who took me aback.

This man, a doctor by trade, was the son of a son of many other sons, of my OWN. God had NOT made my efforts all for naught- my ancestors still lived! I realized that with some of my own blood flowing within him, I could control this unhappy man, in a sense. Even as a mongrel fading into the shadows of the rancid gutters and curling up at night I held sway over this mortal son. And I too became miserable- Whitechapel was nothing more than a disgusting set of alleyways overflowing with debauchery and filthy sinners of the flesh. Once I had taken power over a man’s body again, and felt the life flow from a woman just as her blood dribbled out onto the streets, I knew that I could not go back to mere foolishness and cheap scares again.

I am ever the adventurer. The affair in London inevitably had to end, as I had no plans to become imprisoned further, and so I shook off the dog’s form and briefly took hold of an immigrant bound for sweet, plentiful America. Once again good fortune struck and another one of my blood descendants presented himself on a street in Chicago as I again roamed a canine. Inside his body I shivered with thrill as the women screamed with no one else to hear them, sealing them into rooms and later opening and studying their lifeless husks, as it gives me joy to see God’s beautiful work so barbarically undone. Again my spirit was restless, and it fled the city on four legs in search of another son, who himself was truly demonic.

I relentlessly pounced on the innocent women and panted with excitement as I sacrificed their bodies, still wriggling and crying to escape me, to fearsome alligators in a swamp. That was another time I was quick to flee, as the police were onto me, and so in my haste I shot myself to avoid capture, and although I mourned the loss of yet another son of a son of mine, had no choice but to move along elsewhere to one of my dear black dogs. There I was free to roam the countryside and seek my next target, my next beloved son, a tortured young man I found on the wide stretching plains of Wisconsin.

I am always the curious hobbyist, and in search for new thrills I wished to better understand the female anatomy, perhaps to see all the ways in which they beguile and damn the souls of men, as well as all the ways that I might pay them back, in pain and in blood. It seemed now that humans paid much less attention to the abuse of corpses, so I would often wander out at night to retrieve the freshest from the graveyard and… experiment. It truly amuses me how useful, say, human skin can be, or even the tiniest of bones or fingernails. But as all thrill-seekers eventually do, I suppose I began to lose interest.

After all, I was taking nothing from these women other than fragments and bits- they had no pain to give, no blood, no suffering, and so when they locked my curious mad scientist up for his little nighttime “excursions,” I resolved to seek out the one thing humans seem to prize the most- love and companionship. If I could find it, then I could destroy it, and revel in its annihilation. Even now one of my greatest joys is having never been caught for my next round of slayings- sneaking up on the weakest and most naive of couples in the prime of romance, only to cut them down in a year of carnage I reveled in with wild abandon. I even began a campaign of correspondence with the police investigating, for it gave me a certain glee in knowing that I would never truly answer for these murders. Alas, one is bound to get bored, and so I once again decided on a change.

I am nostalgic. I longed for a simpler life, maybe a decade or so of rest to settle the fire in my figurative belly, and so I once again assumed the form of man’s best friend, living quietly with an everyday sort of human. You can imagine my surprise, then, when a rather pitiful vessel of a man came along. Descended from my own blood, he was one so weak as to be nearly possessed by my mere presence. And so I waited to see with this strange man, and by scarcely doing more than speaking to his mind, sending dark messages through the core of him, the man took to the kill.

Again, I targeted love- and soon every young couple in all the Burroughs of New York were stricken with fear over this mysterious shooter and his deranged ramblings. I suppose the latter was much of the reason why, after a time, the man was arrested and I gave it up for a while. After all, it isn’t very often that a human, the man named Berkowitz, not only recognizes my true nature but also KNOWS the demonic force that I am.

And so for now I watch, and I wait. But don’t rest on your laurels, mankind- for I am simply calculating my next move. Searching day by day for yet another special son. And when that day comes, you will think nothing of the havoc wreaked by the human who knew of my true self- the one they call “Son of Sam.”

Credit To – TheJinx

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That Night (Quella Notte)

June 23, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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My mom is a terrible storyteller. She is a great conversationalist, a wonderful, sympathetic listener and quite articulate in two languages and her native Calabrese dialect; yet she is absolutely unable to narrate an event, personal or not, with any degree of conviction. She states the facts, but in an offhanded fashion. One such example: “Oh Yes, Cousin Rocky is OK. The transplant went well.” “Transplant? What? What happened to Rocky?,” I stuttered. “Oh Well, Greg gave him the kidney, and he’s fine now. Thank God.” “Uh, Ma, could you please be a little less specific?,” I deadpanned, knowing full well I’d get a pretty short explanation of what I later found out to be the near death of my cousin followed by a emergency transplant of the kidney of his brother, Greg”. That sort of thing. Yet, as banal as my mother may seem, I found out last week that she’s been hiding something BIG from us. And now suddenly, a whole lot of the stuff we grew up with make a lot more sense.

My mom and dad are getting older, so when they sold their house and bought a small condo about a mile from me and my husband, we were quite relieved that I could keep a closer eye on them. It wasn’t easy for mother to make the move as she stated, “I just got the house as secure as possible, and now we’re leaving.” She was insistent, adamant, even, that the condo they bought must be in a large development, on the ground floor with as many people around as possible. My father knew after fifty years of marriage to not even attempt to budge her from this decision. He also knew that there’d be webcams, burglar alarms, and double and triple locks on every door.

It was cute at first when we moved from a crowded Brooklyn tenement to the house in Cortlandt and my mom absolutely freaked out about the backyard being, “Too damn dark”. My dad had to install motion detector lighting (then very new and very costly) and lights in the driveway on a timer, lights on the sides of the house and she insisted that the attic (which she would not enter or even allow us to explore) have its own timer lighting from dusk till dawn. Still my dad adores my mom and he did it all, in resignation. That’s love… Anyhow…..so back to the attic.

It was bolted shut. Always was. We kids went absolutely nuts about that. There was a whole other floor up there that we could not access. My father went up there, twice, three times a year to change the lighting, but the door was shut behind him and locked from inside. Once he was done, the door was re- locked and the padlock replaced. He’d do this when weren’t around, but I recall being home one time and hearing footsteps above my room. I raced to the top of the stairs and pounded on the door asking to be let in, but he’d start cursing in Italian about “Una donna di quarant’anni che ha paura del buio!”, “A forty year old woman afraid of the dark”. I did get in the attic that time for about a hot second and there was absolutely nothing up there, no Christmas decorations, no boxes nor old furniture…just plain white walls and those light fixtures. The windows had locks and nails driven into the sashes so they couldn’t be opened from within or without. It was pretty odd; our little neighborhood never saw break-ins and why bother double locking a third floor window that offered no access in or out of it? Another of my mother’s quirks.

Sometimes I’d hear my mom talking to my old aunt in Bari in the very difficult dialect that she would not teach us children and I could make out words here and there about something that had happened when they were both young. Even when our aunt, Zia Maria, came to visit a few times, she would speak standard italian to us and only shared the dialect with my mom. I wish I could have understood more of their conversations, but Baresem is different enough that you sometimes you could get the gist of the conversation, and sometimes not. It was the gaps that I filled in that scared me more. What ‘thing’ came into their room? Was it a person? Did someone molest them? I could never understand. Any questions went unanswered. Even my dad was close-mouthed about it.

Living in the suburbs was great, especially in the summers. We’d be out all day, swimming in Mohegan Lake, going to the Mall, hanging in any one of our friends’ basements and generally waiting for something interesting to happen. There was some blackout once and the Carvel near the Mall was giving out all the ice cream free before it melted. Random happy childhood memories; that was big for us.

It was also one of the nights that we saw a frightened childlike side of our mother. She kept asking the neighbors if anyone had a spare generator (they didn’t) and we certainly did not. My dad was on business, and although the phones were working (think pre-cellular days!) he told my mom that he’d have to stay a couple more days as the airports were closed due to the power outages. My mom was a bit shaken, and even though she put up a brave front, we knew that the darkness was not her friend. It was hot that night, swelteringly so, and we made our way up from the lake with our flashlights back to our darkened homes.

Mom was on the porch, smoking cigarette after cigarette and told us that we would all be sleeping in the living room that night. She made my brother and I pull the long sofa across the front door and despite the heat, every window was closed and locked . Another quirk I suppose. Around 3 Am or so, there must have been some lightning or some car noise outside and my mom woke up screaming in a mix of Barese and Italian. Next thing you know we are all in the car, in the driveway with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning blasting. It was a lot more comfortable than the living room, but morning could not come soon enough. We knew enough not question Mom. Though sweet and lovable there were things you didn’t talk about with her. Not regular parent stuff like sex; my parents are pretty liberal and didn’t even bat an eye when I came out as gay and were relieved when I married my Italian (Thank GOD!) husband. But silly things. We didn’t talk about my mom’s fear of the dark. Or all the locks, or all the lights, or the fact that we didn’t go on vacations to the country, but stayed home and drove to the city for an afternoon or two…or how we couldn’t join Boy Scouts or sleep away camp, or stay over anyone’s house or any one of a number of things that were annoying to a kid.

So here I am now, clearing out the last few boxes from the house; my parents closed on the condo, and were already in it, but they had left a few small boxes behind which i volunteered to get. “Take the keys, too, Alex, “, my Dad said. “Which Keys, Dad? I’ve got the front and garage door.” “No. The attic. I almost forgot, unlock it and leave the keys in the lock.” I could barely contain my surprise, “Sicuro…non te ne preoccupare, Papa’”, slipping into italian, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll bring the boxes back here tomorrow.”

I had intended to go to the house later that day, but I got my brother on the phone and told him that I had gotten “The Keys”. I didn’t have to specify which keys. He knew. He actually called in sick to work and met me over at our old childhood home. We bounded up the attic stairs, and could barely fit the keys into the lock. We were finally getting in there, even if it was just for a final goodbye to a space that we had barely seen.

There was a box in the center of the room, which was strange because that room was normally barren. “What the hell, bro? What is in that old dusty box?” It was marked in childish handwriting, which I honestly didn’t recognize.”Open it up, Alex” The tape had long ceased to adhere to the carton so I was able to open the package quite easily. It was a sheaf of drawing paper. There were what appeared to be children’s drawings of my mom’s and Zia Maria’s….and then something bizarre. Lightbulb shaped black figures with enormous cat like eyes drawn standing near my mom and Aunt, near what looked like to be a child’s drawing of a bedroom. Maybe a bedroom in Bari?

An attic bedroom?

And then writing beneath it, “Quella notte che ci hanno preso”, “That night they took us.”

And it all made sense.

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Dionaea Muscipula

June 16, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Martin looked somberly into the murky gold of his lukewarm scotch. He hated these kinds of functions. Not only was he not particularly good at large crowds, dancing, loud music, and general social interaction, but it only became all the more painful when you combined a room full of people with his same weaknesses and demanded that they play the roles. It was a professional conference, he bemoaned, but he was the only person with the seeming self-awareness to feel abject discomfort at the whole evening’s proceedings. He slumped glumly in the stiff reception chair, his body depending on the unsteady table to keep him upright and appearing engaged. The white table, stained with leftover dinner crumbs and a spilt half glass of red wine, had been empty for what felt like an eternity as his dinner companions—strangers in nice suits and dresses who prattled on as if they were 25 again—had given themselves over to the open bar and dance floor.

He glanced at his watch. Surely after two hours of such nonsense his dues were paid well enough to warrant sneaking back to his room for some sleep and relaxation. Others might jest that he was a stick in the mud for retiring so early, but he would not make a fool of himself as his colleagues were so wont to do.

Gathering his tired dinner jacket and room key, Martin froze. From across the room, he spotted a gorgeous woman slicing through the crowd. There was something predatory in the way she walked. An utter lack of self-consciousness as she strode through the flailing bodies in the crowd. There was a look in her eyes, evident from half a room away, which showed she knew she stood on a level above all those around her. She had the look of a sated wolf prowling amongst unguarded sheep, utterly disinterested in their bleating. Her hair flowed in sheets of shining black as deep as the moonless sky, waving with disdain as she cut her own path through the writhing masses around her. Almost instinctively, the way parted for her, bringing her directly to Martin’s table.

With indelible grace, she swept a glass of red wine from a passing waiter, holding the delicate glass in her soft fingers. She smiled, pearly white teeth flashing between plump red lips. Her eyes were brilliant green, reflecting Martin’s dumbfounded gaze right back at him. The lovely scent of flowers encapsulated him as it rolled off her body. It was far more intoxicating than the mild drinks he had been nursing all night. Martin felt as if he were being drawn into her web, but he had no will to fight it.

“Annalise,” she breathed. For a moment, Martin was unsure what to do. All he knew were that those syllables were the most heavenly sounds he had ever heard. He would endure pain, torture, war, strife, poverty, illness, and any worldly ill if only those three syllables would replay again and again. To have those lips speak such beauty!

She smiled again and his mouth snapped shut from its gape. “M-Martin,” he stammered as he collected himself, shamed by the coarseness of his own voice.

She reached out a slender hand to touch his arm. “So nice to finally meet you.” Martin felt his heart begin to thunder. She knew of him? She wanted to meet him? What crazy fever dream had he slipped into? “I won’t keep you, as it seems you are leaving, but I just couldn’t miss the chance—”

“No, no. Not leaving,” he interjected, eagerly grabbing his chair and planting himself into it. “Just was, uh, getting a better view of things, you know.” She laughed and Martin prayed his ears would ring with that delightful sound for the rest of his life. He would go deaf to the world if only to hear her laugh.

“Then may I join you?” she asked, somewhat hesitantly, betraying the assured confidence Martin had seen so clearly moments ago. He could not imagine having such an effect on a woman, especially not one like her. Martin sat up a little straighter in his seat; keeping his dignity tonight might actually pay off for once, he mused. She must like a serious, intellectual man. Well, by God, she had found her man then.

“Where are you from, Annalise?” He was so smooth, he congratulated himself. Those words flowed like butter.

“Please, I didn’t come all the way over here to talk about me, Martin! Tell me about you,” she purred, her hand falling gently on his forearm as she moved closer. As close as he was, he felt himself absolutely adrift in her marvelous scent. She smelled of sweet flowers opened brightly to the summer sun, and Martin was content to collapse into the field.

So talk he did. Martin regaled her with stories of his groundbreaking work as she eyed him with pure wonder. He shared about his glowing academic career, the awards and showcases that had chosen to honor him and his work in his brief career. He spoke in heartfelt about his calling to the field, the passion and the reward he felt from doing such work. She played her role well, smiling at the right parts, laughing at his clumsy jokes and sighing in awe of his humble victories. Martin felt his chest swell with pride as he prattled on about his meager life, finding his own ego reflected and doubled in her searching green eyes.

After a while, she smiled and squeezed him arm softly, interrupting him mid-flow. It was amazing how easy it was to talk to her. He found himself divulging so many things to her, almost as if he had known her for half of his life. It was just her soft presence, the comforting aroma of flowers, and the focused interest pouring from her eyes. It made his tongue loose in a way no person or substance-induced state ever had. He froze in silence, suddenly feeling the ache of his throat after so much talking over the din of the music.

“I’m having trouble hearing you over all of them,” she said, rolling her eyes towards the mass of drunken hooligans who would don suits tomorrow and nurse hangovers through the scheduled sessions. “Do you think we could go somewhere more private?”

Martin was flummoxed. In all his years, he had never expected to catch the eye of such a woman—of any woman, if he wanted to be honest with himself. He had even less expected to find such a beautiful groupie for his relatively dull research. And now, this surprise of all surprises revealed another layer of amazement. She was trying to seduce him! Martin smiled. Perhaps he would let her.

“My room is just down the hall from here,” he spat out quickly, his eagerness spilling over his words. She gave him a reassuring and understanding smile.

“That sounds perfect.”

Martin stood from his seat, his legs wobbling uncertainly. He could remember college years and first dates with similar weakness of the knees, only this seemed even more extreme. A goofy smile drifted over his face; he was drunk on her presence, and there was no use in denying it. Every system he generally kept so well controlled was flying by its own rules, freed by her enchanting smile and intoxicating scent. He offered her his arm, and the two floated from the room. Martin’s legs seemed to belong to someone else, carrying him confidently out of the room. The doors swung shut behind them, effectively muffling the raucous music still pouring from the banquet hall. At this rate, his colleagues would be stumbling into the first session still decked in their party finery.

The sounds of the others faded as they walked along the hallway until Martin realized he and Annalise were shrouded by a heavy covering of silence. Anyone else in the hotel had long since gone to bed, and the music down the hall had faded quickly. He supposed it only made sense that the place would have good soundproofing for such an event. The silence was surprisingly intimate. He could hear her soft breath, the air moving over the swell of her full lips. Her feet sunk lightly in the plush carpet, whispering softly in the hall. In contrast, he heard his heart racing in his chest, listened to the uncoordinated and irregular pace of his own steps dragging through the carpet. He was a love—or perhaps more accurately lust—struck mess.

He fished the little plastic card from his wallet, and the door gave its friendly beep as the light flashed green. After shoving the door open, his arm flailed about in the darkness seeking the light switch that always seemed to be two or three inches higher or lower than he remembered. With a click, the lights hummed on and bathed the room in a harsh and artificial glow. Despite the generally terrible effects of such lighting on people, Annalise still appeared radiant as she stepped into the room. She was commanding as she entered, and he felt as if perhaps they had unwittingly entered her room rather than his, given her comfort. But no, his shirt and slacks hung pressed in the closet, his battered suitcase tossed unceremoniously on the second twin bed. She simply possessed an air of belonging wherever she went.

The smell of flowers carried him along in her wake, and he stumbled into his own room behind her, coming up short as she paused in front of him. Her eyes were smiling as she turned to him. “What a wonderful evening,” her words drifted into the silence of the room as she fell softly against the crumpled bed spread, her red dress a stark contrast with the dull white sheets.

“Uh, yes, it has been—“ magical, enchanting, impossible, miraculous?“—quite the night,” he finished weakly, standing uncomfortably in the entryway to his room looking around. He felt his eyes lingering too long in hers, drawn in by their brilliant spell. The heavy presence of flowers in the air made him feel woozy, and he nearly stumbled as he broke his gaze from hers.

“Martin, what if I told you that I have been thinking about my lips on you since I first laid eyes on you?” She whispered haltingly, her eyes betraying the innocence on her lips.

Flabbergasted, Martin sat in silence. Now he knew that this must be some kind of ruse. Or perhaps someone had spiked his drink and he was hallucinating. The drink—had he had more than he thought? Would he wake up groggily to some ancient troll in his bed? Could he have fallen asleep at the table, and now this goddess was his sweetest dream?

Before he could reach a final conclusion—brain tumor?—her lips were on his, her body pressed against him. His shock had prevented him from seeing the speed with which she pounced from the bed, catching him in her arms and drawing him back to the bed. No matter what doubts he might have, he could not deny the reality of the experience happening in that moment. He swam in the warmth of her limbs around him, the taste of her soft lips, and the scent of her lithe body. In that moment, all he knew was that his lips and hers were dancing together now, their tongues meddling somewhere in between. She pushed him back on the bed, her lips following his steady descent down to the stiff hotel bed. Martin’s heart was a metronome in his chest, trying to keep pace with his flying thoughts. He pulled her close, kissing every inch of that beautifully pearly white neck and face that he could. She laughed and smiled as she playfully pinned his hands down on the bed.

“You know, Martin, there is something delicious about a body excited.” Her tongue snaked its way into his mouth, those brilliant red lips melding with his for a brief moment. “And our bodies tend to respond the same to excitement and fear,” she whispered, coming up for breath. Every word she spoke sent waves of excitement across Martin’s body, just to feel the gentle ebb and flow of her breath across his skin.

“Me, personally,” she smiled, leaning to kiss along his neck, “I prefer the taste of excitement.” She ended this with a soft nip at his earlobe. Martin felt a slight stir of discomfort at her choice of phrasing, but brushed it off. Just a turn of phrase, he reminded himself, finding himself again drowning in her green eyes and the soft scent of sunlit flowers.

Her fingers played with the silk knot at her waist, carefully untangling the ribbons so that flashes of marble skin slipped through. She turned her back to him, letting the dress slowly fall away to reveal her perfectly sculpted body. Martin’s eyes grew wide as she spun, but his pleasure gave way to terror all too quickly.

Her chest was a tangle of intertwined flesh, a traumatic knot of scars and blood. In the time it took Martin to make sense of it, the knot began to writhe, petals of flesh slowly unfolding to reveal a gaping maw of teeth where her stomach should have been. Her once bright green eyes were now dull and dead, any hint of life yanked from them with the reveal of this monstrosity. Where the aroma of flowers had so allured him, now he could only smell the sickly odor of rot. A scream, initially frozen in disbelief deep within his gut, slowly clawed its way up to his lips, breaking through the air with a brief cry before those yellowed, broken teeth closed around his head.

The room echoed with the muted crunch of bone, the moist sound of blood and flesh abandoning their respective domains and mingling in a blender of jagged teeth. It gulped, Annalise’s whole body quivering with the effort of ingesting the body of her momentary paramour. The sheets were stained with blood, matching the brilliant fabric of the discarded dress. However, it was not interested in waste. Most of the blood flooded its gullet, Annalise’s ivory skin warming and brightening with the fresh flood of still-warm liquid.

Sweet iron filled the room, its scent nearly overpowering. The now lifeless body of Annalise flopped about as the creature neglected grace in favor of speed. Her head lolled onto her chest, drifting dangerously near the still gaping teeth. A thick, coiled tongue snaked out of the mouth, slithering across the bed to gather whatever remained before it could fully soak in to the cheap hotel mattress. With a shake and an odorous sigh, the creature sat back on the bed. Slowly, Annalise’s eyes began to change, drifting from their brilliant green to a steely blue. Her hair fell out like leaves shaken by the wind, short cropped salt-and-pepper strands replacing it. Her arms and legs lengthened, then thickened. After a moment, the creature stood, a perfect copy of Martin, but imbued with a very different spirit.

It considered the new body, then reached into its mouth to retract a thick pair of black glasses. For a moment, it held them to its new face, considering the advantages of such eyewear. Ultimately, it discarded them and watched as they shattered at the base of the wall. Unlike Martin, the creature walked tall, shoulders back and eyes up high. It smiled charmingly as the skin of his face stretched with the unusual gesture. While Martin certainly did not have sculpted abs or a youthful body, there was at least minimal evidence that he had taken good care of himself, resulting in a relatively slender and strong physique. The creature turned Martin’s head side to side, looking itself up and down in the mirror across the room. It was far from perfect, but with a dash of charm and some newfound confidence, it would certainly do. “Nice to meet you, Martin,” he said, his voice starting with the lilting soprano of before and then taking on a confident baritone that filled the room.

After pilfering the clothes hanging in the closet, the creature looked at the mess it had made and smiled. Martin slipped into its new costume, and walked strongly towards the door. His hand hovered over the light switch, gaining one last glimpse at the bloody masterpiece now staining the cheap room. Then, he plunged it into darkness and made his way back to the festivities.

The night was still young.

Credit To – Katherine C

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Darkwatyr

June 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Being shackled beneath the moonlit waves, still breathing, still screaming, is an odd sensation. I know that’ll be my fate soon, if I don’t act quickly. So, I want to get my story written before that happens.

I’d always been a swimmer. It was just something that I enjoyed. I was on swim team at school, went to the indoor pool even when it was freezing outside, and treasured my family trips to the beach. I didn’t ever think that it would get me in trouble; well, not this kind of trouble, anyway.

I had a summer life-guarding job when I was seventeen at the local beach. It was relatively uneventful, as people were surprisingly safety-conscious. I remember my first rescue very, very clearly. I suppose that’s mostly because of It.

A little girl, maybe six or seven, had been playing on a sandbar with her mother when an unusually large wave had pushed her into the current. I remember sprinting into the water, running against the pull of the waves, and eventually diving beneath the water. The child was afraid, and had swallowed some seawater, but she was otherwise unscathed.

I had just returned to the shore with the girl and her mother when I heard the noise. It sounded like some kind of underwater explosion, though no one else seemed to take notice of it. I looked around frantically, searching for the source of the noise. That was when I heard It.

Its voice was like that of a thousand people, speaking every language at once. Somehow, though, I still heard, very clearly, the following:

“YOUR INTERFERENCE IN FATE HAS CREATED RESONANCE. YOU WILL ASCEND BEYOND THE CONFINES OF YOUR FLESH, OR BE DESTROYED.”

It was an almost female voice that spoke these words, at a volume I could barely tolerate. I was understandably panicked, and quickly found the other lifeguard on duty to tell her that I was going to have to take the rest of the day off.

After I drove myself home, I tried to forget about the strange things I’d heard. It had to have been some prank, some live event…maybe it was the stress of performing a rescue. To distract myself, I decided to check my email. I had only one new message, from a recipient I’d never seen before. I was simply going to delete it, when I realized that it might be from work.

To: Tobias Fletcher
From:
Hello, Mr. Fletcher. I understand that Master has chosen you as Its latest disciple. This is a tremendous honor, let me assure you. I know that this all might seem very confusing, but I ask that you remain calm. For any questions you may have, please email me back or see the attachment.

Sincerely,

Ricardo Allen
664th Disciple

How’d this guy get my contact info? What was “Master?” Curious, I opened up the attached file. It was an image that made me nearly break my phone, as I flung it into the air out of sheer terror.

The creature was massive and monstrous. It looked ancient; great clumps of algae sprouted from what I could only guess were scars on what I assumed to be Its face, which was covered in an almost rock-like armor. Five indigo eyes stared at me from beyond the phone, two arranged on either side of the center of Its “armor,” and one above. Two yellowed tusks protruded from Its massive, crooked maw, and all on the head of the thing were a multitude of barbed spines. By all accounts, this thing was unbelievable.

My hands shaking, I responded to the email with only, “Please remove me from your contact list.” I thought that was the end of it, though I still quit my job as a lifeguard about a week after the incident.

As senior year started, my thoughts were plagued by the monstrous thing Ricardo Allen had sent me. I found solace in my schoolwork, and generally was content, as long as I kept myself occupied. Everything changed, though, when Iris arrived.

Iris Laterom’s family had just moved to California from Oregon. Iris was a bit taller than me, had a thin build, and sported shoulder-length hair that was dyed a minty green. She was a senior, and ended up with a schedule identical to mine. Like me, she also worked hard in her academics. We quickly became good friends.

It was about halfway through the semester when some weird things started happening. I started having terrible nightmares featuring all sorts of hellish disasters—cities burning to the ground, innocents being swallowed up by tidal waves and dragged out to sea, and orphaned children dying of starvation in the ruins of developed cities. All of these dreams were dominated by an almighty roar, followed by soft whisperings of an innumerable number of voices. I knew that they came from It.

Iris and I were working on a project for our Government class when she suddenly asked me, “Do you know anything about the Darkwatyr Cult Killings?” I replied that I’d never heard of them, to which she explained that, in the past nine years, three people aligned with a cult dedicated to the worship of a forgotten god had disappeared, only to be found a few months later, their corpses mutilated beyond recognition. She said that she’d been researching noteworthy crimes in the area for an extra credit assignment in Psychology, and that this one stood out to her. I wasn’t so sure about the validity of that statement.

Four days later, I received a strange email, like the one I’d gotten in the summer.

To: Tobias Fletcher
From:
Dear Mr. Fletcher,

My name is Silvia Nichols. Master has commanded me to give you important instructions, which you must not disregard as you did 664’s. As your immediate predecessor, I must inform you that failure to comply with your orders will result in immediate destruction.

Isiroremtal is an ageless, immortal being of great power and light. It is our Master, and bestows great gifts to Its obedient Disciples. It selects individuals with whom It resonates. You are the 666th of our order, which has spanned all of time. With the advent of heightened technology, Isiroremtal has had more opportunities for resonance than ever before.

What you must do on the preordained date is this:
1. Return to your location of resonance. It will be a watery place.
2. Enter the water of the place of resonance.
3. Cry out the name of our Master, Isiroremtal, the Sea-Darkener.
4. Be rewarded with the ultimate gift: ascension from mortality into an Aghlärghu, the species of the Master.

Failure to perform the required actions will result in your destruction. A Disciple is rewarded every half-year. My time will come in two days. You have six months after that date to prepare.

I wish you luck.

Silvia, 665th Disciple

I was so shaken up by the email that I completely forgot to print it out the next day, to show to Iris. The day after that, I took the printed email to school. Iris looked at it, and told me, very seriously, to meet her behind the cafeteria after school was over. To my utter shock, she didn’t come to any of her classes that day.

When I went behind the cafeteria, I found Iris curled up underneath a bench, facing away from me. I went over to make sure that she was all right. When I tapped her on the shoulder, she rolled onto her back, limply. I screamed. Her face was gone. In its place was the face of Isiroremtal. It sprung upward at an impossible speed, swung Its hand to my lips, and hissed, “STAY SILENT.”

I blinked, and Iris’ body was gone. In front of me sat a semi-translucent form of a massive creature. Its front arms were almost humanoid, except that they ended in massive, hook-like structures, and Its lower torso was comprised of gargantuan tentacles. The face that stared down at me was identical to the one I’d seen in the 664th Disciple’s email attachment. I looked up at It and asked, “Isiroremtal, the Sea-Darkener?”

It stared back down at me and made a strange, almost purr-like noise. “YES,” it said, with its thousand voices, Iris’ the most clearly heard. “I HAD TO DECEIVE YOU TO JUDGE YOUR WORTH. YOU ARE WORTHY OF BEING MY KIN.”

“I’m not going to let you turn me into…well, whatever you are! I’m not getting turned into that!”

Isiroremtal looked down at me, almost in sadness. “I DO NOT WISH TO DESTROY YOU. YOU WOULD MAKE A VALUED COMPANION. MY SPECIES WAS DESTROYED AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS WORLD. MY DISCIPLES WILL REBUILD THE AGHLÄRGHU.” It turned away from me, its tentacles shifting its position gracefully. “IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY, I WILL SHACKLE YOU TO THE SEAFLOOR. YOU WILL BREATHE BUT WILL NOT MOVE. YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE BY MY HAND. INSTEAD, YOU WILL DIE FROM THIRST.”

With that, Isiroremtal’s projected form faded into nothingness. I almost pitied It, though my instinct to survive overruled my pity. Both of those things were overruled by fear that night.

I had another nightmare, though this one was the most disturbing of all those I had experienced. It was a first-person dream. I was standing in my room, when, suddenly, the walls fell away. I was at the seafloor, and, to my surprise, I could see everything around me. It wasn’t distressing at all, as I could breathe, and wasn’t cold, until I turned my head to the right. I saw a creature like Isiroremtal, though it looked far younger. Its face was armor-less, exposing its blue-green flesh. Its eyes were bright orange, and pierced the haze of the water disturbingly well. I tried to run from it, but my feet would not move. When I looked down at them, they appeared to be fused into the sand beneath me. The Aghlärghu turned to me and said, softly, “DO NOT BE AFRAID, TOBIAS. IT’S ME, SILVIA.” I stared at the thing in shock. In response, it seemed almost to smile. “THERE IS NO REASON TO FEAR US. WE ARE NO LESS HUMAN THAN YOU.” After saying this, Silvia swam away. I tried desperately to free myself from the sand, but to no avail. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, I screamed and screamed, praying that someone, somewhere would hear me.

Every night since then, I’ve dreamt of the seafloor, except that there is no Silvia to comfort me. Last night, however, the dream changed. I was free to move in the ocean, my vision enhanced. The waves and currents did not affect me. I felt liberated and powerful. Isiroremtal appeared to me in Its physical form, and we danced among the waves, all the while telling jokes and stories, as Iris and I used to.

I know now what I must do. I stand at the beach where I used to be a lifeguard, and as my life as a human comes to an end, my life as an immortal Aghlärghu begins.

Credit To – Hermit Extraordinaire

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The Culling

June 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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The Culling

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
See also: Livestock culling

The Culling is the bi-monthly occurrence whereby between 1,000 and 6,000 human beings are rendered mute and unmoving for several minutes, have their bodies float out into an open space, and then move straight up into the atmosphere until they disappear from the sight of others.

First witnessed and reported on as a phenomenon in March of the year 2015, The Culling was widely agreed to be the occurrence of the Rapture (from Christian theology) whereby a group of people is left behind on earth after another group literally leaves “to meet the Lord in the air.” Although many writers and thinkers still utilize theological language and rationales when discussing The Culling, evidence of the arrival and departure of extra-terrestrial travelers to Earth timed to coincide with these mass disappearances has led most to conclude that non-Earth inhabitants are taking humans for some unknown purpose.

Contents

  • 1 Origin of the term
  • 2 The phenomenon
    1. Floating stage
    2. Moving stage
    3. Departure stage
  • 3 History
    1. First Culling
    2. Reactions to Culling events – 2015
    3. Identifying alien objects
    4. Attempts to interact with objects
    5. Attempts to destroy objects
  • 4 Impact on life attitudes
  • 5 Victims group vs. supporters debate
  • 6 Views on rationale

Origin of the term [edit]

The word culling comes from the Latin colligere, which means “to collect”. Historically, the term was applied broadly to mean sorting a collection into two groups: one that will be kept and one that will be rejected. The cull is the set of items rejected during the selection process. When done with intent, the culling process was repeated until the selected group was of the proper size and consistency desired. “The Culling” (used capitalized) was coined in early 2016 by Richard Farnsworth, then President of California Institute of Technology, when he and his team of Astrophysicists reported to the public that alien space travelers had been visiting Earth twice monthly. Used in this more recent context, it is unclear why some individuals are selected and others are not, and unclear whether the individuals taken or the individuals left behind should be considered the cull.

The phenomenon [edit]

Victims of The Culling experience three known phases, the initial floating stage, the moving stage, and the final departure stage. Mankind does not yet know what happens to the victims of The Culling after the departure stage.

Floating stage
During the floating stage (also referred to as the levitation stage), victims stop breathing and their hearts stop beating. Body position, facial expression and degree of eye openness remain as they were before. Previous activity (i.e., verbalizing or running) ceases immediately. Unless constrained by another object, victim’s bodies typically levitate immediately between three and four inches (just under nine centimeters) from their original location. Despite repeated testing, it is unknown to what extent consciousness remains. The floating stage lasts between 16 and 19 seconds. Biometric devices previously attached to victims during this stage indicate no cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, or digestive system activity. Low level nervous system and endocrine system activity has been recorded (specifically in the Cerebrum, Thalamus, Hypothalamus, and Thyroid Gland), leading many to conclude that victims have not fully died.

Victim Kevin McDougal experiencing floating stage. Image taken May 6, 2016.

Moving stage
During the moving stage, when it occurs, victims’ bodies move from their original, levitated location in a direct path to the nearest open space at which the open sky is above. While some of the victims’ bodies move only inches or feet to get out from under tree branches or a building overhang, others move hundreds of feet to get out of buildings, subway tunnels, or caves. During this stage, bodies have been consistently measured to move at 3.1 miles per hour or 4.55 feet per second (5.0 kilometers per hour or 1.39 meters per second), equivalent to the average speed at which humans walk. This rate of movement does not change when additional weight is added (i.e., when a loved one jumps on their back). Body position, facial expression and eye openness remain constant during the moving stage.

If a victim’s body is unable to access an open space because it is in a closed building or vehicle, then it will experience up to six attempts to exit the space. These attempts involve 1) a reorientation of the body such that the feet are pointed in the direction of windows or doors and 2) steadily faster ramming movements into the windows, doors or walls. Attempts to leave a building or vehicle begin at the same time as most other victims experience the departure stage. While some victims exit the building after one attempt, many (especially during the first several months of The Culling) experience six attempts to leave. Six-attempts victims often suffer significant bodily damage as they are repeatedly forced into windows, doors and walls. Lower bodies and torsos are often crushed during the process.

When the 6th attempt does not lead to atmospheric access, victims remain crushed where they are, though no longer levitated. If a door is not opened during the subsequent Culling, then the body will again experience the floating and moving stages and the six attempts, damaging the body beyond recognition. (It is claimed that Aleksei Yesipov’s former body experienced the greatest number of 6th attempts – 68 – locked in a nuclear power plant outside of Minsk, though his body was no more than cellular pulp when emergency exit doors were opened in 2017.) If a door or window is opened during the subsequent Culling, then the body will move outside and experience the departure stage at the same time as do others. Opening a door or window in between Culling periods will not lead to any change in the movement or positioning of the victim body. Victim bodies can be moved in between Culling incidents, though alteration of the body’s integrity (i.e., though cremation) does not alter The Culling activity they will experience at the next full/new moon.

Departure stage
During the departure stage, victims move directly upwards, accelerating to a recorded speed of 213 miles per hour or 312 feet per second (342 kilometers per hour or 95 meters per second). Biometric devices previously attached to victims during this stage continue to indicate no cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, or digestive system activity. Nervous system and endocrine system activity has been recorded at stronger levels during this stage than was true during the floating stage, though scientists have questioned the reliability of their measuring devices as they travel at high rates of speed several miles up in the atmosphere. Three-dimensional GPS tracking devices, developed soon after the identification of alien space travelers, have indicated that victim bodies travel on a path directly perpendicular to their Earth departure point until they reach the edge of the atmosphere (known as the Karman line – an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the Earth’s sea level, representing the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space). Beyond the Karman line, it is believed that victim bodies move straight toward one of eight waiting alien space ships.

In seven known cases, relatives have clung to victim bodies during the departure stage for more than thirty feet. In each case, the relative died due to injuries sustained in their fall back to Earth. During the 24-hour period after The Culling has ended, clothing and items stored in clothing (i.e., wallets and cell phones) have been found falling/drifting back to Earth. Medical devices (i.e., pacemakers) and body cameras from victim bodies have also been found back on Earth.

History [edit]

First Culling
On Thursday, March 5, 2015, at 18:07 GMT, at least 2,934 human beings left Planet Earth in a manner previously unknown and unrecorded. The distribution of this first set of humans mirrored that of the world’s population, with the most victims coming from China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil. Given the simultaneity of the occurrences, losses were documented in the daylight and the nighttime. Lost humans included children as young as four days old (Charlotte Evers) and the elderly as old as 93 (Xiao Lu). All major racial, ethnic, religious and sexual/gender identity groups were represented among those lost. While two pregnant women were taken, no unborn children were. No non-human life forms have been known to be taken. Video images and sound from several dozen episodes were recorded by families, friends and strangers (i.e., see the documentary The First Culling). By the end of the next week, a list of the names of these individuals was collected and printed by the New York Times, London Telegraph and China Daily. During early March of 2015, only one reporter (Sven Lundquist from The Copenhagen Post) noted the “coincidence” that The First Culling occurred at the same exact time as the full moon.

Responses to these incidents were described at the time as both horrified and confused. Family members, friends and neighbors frequently reported their efforts to grab and hold on to victims during both the initial floating stage, the moving stage, and the final departure stage. Multiple reports described individuals whose bodies were thrust through windows and doors, causing damage to buildings and vehicles, before they were swept up into the atmosphere. In several hundred incidents, First Culling (initially referred to as “First Departure”) victims could not access the open air from inside planes, cars and buses after six attempts to break through the physical material/structure impeding them.

The Second Culling occurred on Friday, March 20, at 9:39 GMT and corresponded with both a total solar eclipse and a new moon. At least 5,038 humans left the planet on this date. For a complete list of all Culling dates and times, see The Culling dates.

Reactions to Culling events – 2015
By the end of the Third Culling, it was generally understood that Departure Events (as they were originally called) occurred at both the full and new moon. Anticipating the Fourth Culling on April 18th, many people actively planned to avoid leaving Earth by sheltering in a place with limited access to the outdoors. Interior rooms in buildings, buildings without windows (i.e., 33 Thomas Street in Manhattan), bomb shelters, and caves requiring transport via elevators became popular destinations for those hoping to stay behind. As the phenomenon of the six attempts became more widely known and studied, it was generally agreed that having your body repeatedly smashed against walls was not a desirable end-of-Earthly-life occurrence and was heart-breaking for friends and family to witness.

By the end of the Fifth Culling, reliable statistics were being kept regarding the number of victims worldwide. It was estimated that an average of 3,200 people experienced a Departure Event roughly twice per month. Given a world population of over 7 billion, it was estimated that each individual human has a one in 100,000 chance per year of leaving our planet. Compared to the entire world’s mortality rate, on average, humans are 100 times more likely to die from other causes than they are due to The Culling. Mortality rates for young (under 40) and healthy humans are similar to the annual rates at which young people were falling victim to The Culling.

In April of 2015, members of the media, social scientists and many others began to catalogue the qualities and characteristics of those who were lost. Individual names, birthdates, birthplaces, horoscope signs, personality types, religious affiliations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, criminal records, the existence of tattoos, “records of sin,” and recent activities (including travels, writings and interactions with others) were all evaluated in some fashion. Numerologists, astrologists, theologians, and even fans of professional sports teams began to make claims that they could characterize those who were departing and/or predict those who would be departing. The World Veterinary Association analyzed the biological and biochemical differences between humans and other animals to assess why other mammals were not departing. These evaluations of who had been lost in an attempt to assess why they were lost intensified significantly when it was learned that extra-terrestrial travelers were involved.

In November of 2015, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decreed that all commercial air travel would cease twice monthly to correspond with the occurrence of Departure Events and to avoid instances when passengers’ bodies were repeatedly being flung against airplane doors or windows (i.e., see Ira Morgenstern). Soon thereafter, calls were made by civic and religious leaders to voluntarily end the use of all motor vehicles at Departure Event times to avoid collisions, property damage and the additional loss of life.

In December of 2015, social and traditional media outlets reported heavily on “Departure Parties” or “Departure Gatherings” (later called “Culling Parties”). Groups of people large and small gathered to celebrate their camaraderie, shared interests and their “shared humanity.” Doors and windows began being left open to avoid damage from six attempts. Just prior to The Culling time, many people assumed a body position selected as being memorable, dignified, and/or humorous during the Moving Stage (see Jim Carey). While some gatherings offered traditional party activities (i.e., music, dancing and alcoholic beverages), others included a shared activity (i.e., nature hikes, art-making, or sexual intercourse). Culling Parties have since become a bi-monthly, worldwide tradition for people to spend time with friends and family (in one location or connected digitally), engaged in activities seen as significant, life-defining and/or worthy of “My Last Act.”

Beginning in late 2015, Departure Grief Support Groups (later called “Culling Grief Support Groups”) were formed by relatives and friends of victims. Loved ones were/are mourned and remembered in these groups, many of which meet at every full or new moon (depending on when the person was lost). It is common for support group meetings to be offered free meeting spaces, counselling services, memorial messaging (i.e., print, radio, bill board, and television), and food by sympathetic area vendors. These groups often raise funds through Kickstarter and other social media sites for the families most impacted by the loss of breadwinners. A number of bereavement publications and websites have been created focusing on the unique emotional and community needs of victim families/loved ones.

During 2015, Culling/Departure events had little significant effect on international politics or business. While most national leaders openly acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding these events, discussed their concerns, and prayed for the victims and their families; small numbers of other officials 1) disavowed that their citizens were affected (i.e., North Korea), 2) claimed that God had chosen their citizens only (i.e., Pakistan and Indonesia), or 3) argued that their citizens were being victimized by United States and/or Israeli forces (i.e. Iran, Yemen and Syria). Many regional and national political leaders established support funds (some of them tax-supported) that offered financial support to the immediate families of those who had been lost. Other than bi-monthly closures of international stock markets (beginning December 2015), voluntary bans on travel, and increases in spending on both entertainment (i.e., movies, music concerts and “high-end dining” prior to full and new moons) and “My Last Act” activities/related-merchandise, international commerce was largely unaffected.

Between March 2015 and January 2016, as over 65,000 total people were being carried bi-monthly into the atmosphere, much of the world’s attention focused on the notion of the Rapture. Rapture is a term in Christian eschatology which refers to the “being caught up” discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, when the “dead in Christ” and “we who are alive and remain” will be “caught up in the clouds” to meet “the Lord in the air”. For much of 2015, historians, theologians and many others deepened their studies of (and focused their media stories on) those who originated pre-tribulation rapture theology (the Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather) and those who popularized it (John Nelson Darby, Grant Jeffrey and the Plymouth Brethren in the 1830s and the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century). Theologians bolstered their arguments in support of the rapture with the “evidence” that the six attempts represented 666, the “number of the beast” or the devil. Those who argued that the Christian Rapture was occurring struggled to explain why the leadership of various Protestant denominations (i.e., Anglican Communion, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Council and Lutheran World Federation), the Pope and all Catholic Bishops did not “ascend to the heavens.” (In fact, during all of 2015, it was reported that only four Christian Clergy members, five Rabbis, three Muslim Imams, three Buddhist Monks, and one aide to the Dalia Lama were among those taken worldwide.)

Identifying alien objects
On January 13, 2016, Richard Farnsworth, then President of California Institute of Technology, called a press conference intending to “further mankind’s knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the mass human departures” that had been occurring. Joined by a team of eight scientists and six technicians from the Palomar Observatory, Farnsworth provided an overview of the data they had collected since April of 2015 “proving” that “multiple non-Earth-based objects” had been arriving just outside of Earth’s atmosphere at times that coincided with both the full and new moons, and with the instances when humans were levitating in the direction of outer space. Although no objects were visible to the scientists, stars and distant galaxies were lost from sight of the Hale and Samuel Oschin Telescopes in a manner indicating that objects were blocking the incoming light. Data collected indicated that at least four of these unknown objects were arriving at “Earth’s doorstep” directly above set positions, as if they were in Earth’s orbit. The Cal Tech team estimated that these objects became positioned at between 70 and 80 miles from the Earth’s surface (between 115 and 130 kilometers) and were positioned there for approximately eighteen minutes.

Data later collected by other observatories around the world indicated that the number of unknown objects was actually eight and that they were positioned at just over 78 miles above the equator’s sea level, (126 kilometers – with correspondingly higher or lower altitudes depending on the heights of mountains and the distance from the equator – see Equatorial Bulge.) The size of these objects as they face the Earth is estimated to be approximately 100 feet by 50 feet (30 by 15 meters – roughly the size of a basketball court). It was also learned that the eight objects were not spaced evenly into octants, as first assumed. Instead, as observed by MIT Human Geographer Arnold Spitz, the objects were spaced such that equal numbers of humans lived underneath each of them.

At this first press conference, Farnsworth refused to “venture a guess” whether the light-blocking objects contained or were controlled by “alien beings.” He did, however, offer his conclusion that humans were being taken away from Earth by “some force within these objects, as if in some kind of Culling.” He offered no explanation for why humans were being taken or what happened to them once they left this planet. He ended his comments by saying, “I’m not sure we will ever understand the reasons behind The Culling.” As has been widely commented on by the media and various blogging communities, Richard Farnsworth would later become a victim of The Culling on October 16, 2016.

After the January 2016 recognition that “non-Earth-based objects” were involved in The Culling events, international politics and business were impacted significantly. Over a series of five months, 193 United Nations member states agreed unanimously 1) to convene an ongoing special session and to keep their delegations in New York until the “threat has been averted” – February 2016, 2) to cooperate fully with a “Communications Committee” tasked with messaging the alien beings and attempting to discern their motives (see below) – March 2016, 3) to “apply all available resources” towards the goal of understanding The Culling events (including the biological reactions of victims; the physics of the floating, moving and departure stages; and further assessments of the qualities and characteristics of those who become victims) – March 2016, and 4) to share both rocket engine and guided weapon systems knowledge, along with launch pads and airspace, to prepare for the possibility that missiles might need to be sent to “attack Earth’s invaders” – June 2016.

During the first nine months of 2016, many employers began to implement bi-monthly “Culling time-off” for employees to be with their families. Major cultural and sporting events such as “March Madness” playoff games, Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, and television’s Emmy Awards show were rescheduled to avoid full or new moons. Universities avoided scheduling classes and hospitals avoided scheduling surgeries during Culling times. Governmental agencies organized “Buddy Up & Open Up” campaigns encouraging people to not be alone, and to keep doors or windows open and accessible during the twice monthly Culling Timeframes.

Attempts to interact with objects
In February of 2016, NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, and the China National Space Administration, supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists, began making both navigational and tasking adjustments to 23 of the 1,100 active satellites orbiting the Earth. Satellites were selected based on their proximity to previously known orbital locations for the unidentified objects and on their ability to collect electromagnetic (or any other signaling) data coming from the objects. Other than confirming that “non-Earth-based objects” were temporarily positioned above the planet, authorities have indicated that “no currently understandable data” have yet been gathered. Without offering any explanation as to a cause, authorities have also reported that five of the satellites used for this purpose have cased functioning. Some members of the media (i.e., Dana Priest from the Washington Post and Matt Pearce from the Los Angeles Times) have claimed that scientists and leaders have learned more from these satellite studies than has been shared with the public.

After Elizabeth Bleacher wrote a March 2016 editorial promoting the idea in London’s The Sunday Times, individuals began purchasing and utilizing body cameras at the full and new moons. On the chance that the body camera owner became a victim of The Culling, the goal was to record both video and sound that would document the event. Loved ones left behind would have a recording of the victim’s last moments on Earth and scientists would have additional data they could comb through to better understand the phenomenon. The wearing of body cameras has been credited with the discovery that most victims are quietly humming/moaning during the departure stage. Regrettably, it’s been found that some form of electromagnetic interference ends all body camera signals soon after victims end their perpendicular trajectory and as they begin their movement towards alien ships. Body camera debris has been found among victim clothing/belongings that drift back to Earth. In December of 2017, the President of the People’s Republic of China declared that all Chinese citizens would be required to wear a body camera twice per month.

In March of 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media in Russia, and an additional 78 governments agreed that “every organization broadcasting audio or video content via any electronic mass communication medium must allot “every minute of the three hour time overlapping full and new moons” to a series of Welcome to our planet messages.” These messages, in the language of the sending country, attempted to introduce the human race and also describe humanity’s “peaceful intent.” In the 16 weeks that these messages ran, they became increasingly desperate and hostile, ending in August of 2016 with some version of the following: “Because you have not responded to mankind’s repeated attempts to communicate with you, we are left with no choice but to assume that you represent an invading force. We intend to respond accordingly.” (See “Final Message.”)

In May 2016 through June of 2017, NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, and the China National Space Administration combined forces with the commercial firms Virgin Galactic and SpaceX to send a series of probes to the region just below low Earth orbit (LEO) in an attempt to gather more information than had been gathered by existing satellites. These probes were specially designed to gather any and all signals that might be coming into or out of, and to transmit visual images of, the unknown objects, and to transmit them back to Earth in real time. They were also tasked with assessing the direction from which, and speed at which, the objects arrived and departed. Because the unidentified objects locate at an altitude that has proven to be impossible for man-made satellites to establish sustaining orbits (Sputnick orbited at an altitude 55 miles higher), scientists found that locating their probes at the proper altitude was problematic. As occurred with the satellites, the probes (named Culling One through 14) confirmed that “non-Earth-based objects” were temporarily positioned above the planet but did not provide any “currently understandable data” for scientists. Reports that three probes were destroyed “by external forces” (see Miami Herald and Houston Chronicle) have neither been confirmed nor denied by the authorities.

Attempts to destroy objects
In February through July 2017, several attempts were made to destroy the unidentified objects. The Laser Weapon System or LaWS (a directed-energy weapon developed by the United States Navy in 2014) was reportedly deployed first from the USS Ponce (an Austin-class amphibious transport dock) and then from a specially-designed platform at the rear of two different Antonov An-225s. The US Navy and US Air Force reported that in the firings from both the USS Ponce and the An-225, the targets were further away than LaWS was designed to strike and that the power of the beam was weakened by the distance it had to travel. (Note that the An-225 flies at a maximum altitude of 36,000 feet or just under seven miles, leaving it about 70 miles away from the targets.) It is not known if the laser beams directly hit or had any noticeable effect on the objects. Note that there are currently no known operative orbital weapons systems, laser or otherwise, based on a functioning satellite. The United States, China and Russia each claim to be developing such systems.

According to leaked reports, at least seven attempts have been made to date to destroy the unidentified objects with Tomahawk Missiles, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), or similar non-nuclear weaponry. Although the United States, British, Israeli, Russian and Chinese governments are not responding to requests from citizen groups and the media for further information, officials from Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Raytheon have indicated that the directional precision of each of their respective systems was not built anticipating strikes on small objects (roughly 5,000 square feet in area – 450 square meters) located miles outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Self-propelled guided missiles were typically built to navigate within the atmosphere and are targeted through use of radiation, radio waves and/or visual contact, all of which have proved problematic for these targets. ICBMs were built to travel outside the atmosphere, but the accuracy of their strikes was intended to be based on available geophysical information related to the Earth’s surface (i.e., GPS) and not to target on air born/space born objects. Some in the media have questioned these claims of “missile incompetence.”

To date, no nuclear warheads have been used against the unidentified objects. Political and military leaders, members of the media, and bloggers across multiple nations have engaged in fierce debate regarding both the efficacy of, and the dangers involved in, using nuclear weaponry. Until recently, most arguments against “going nuclear” have included concerns regarding the potential for worldwide radioactive fallout and the fear of retaliatory strikes from aliens. As of late, more and more people have argued against attacking the objects by putting forward what some have called “fatalistic” claims that the alleged alien beings are unstoppable in their pursuit of human victims and/or are taking “sustainable” numbers of victims. Groups such as “Supporting The Culling” compare the 75,000 to 80,000 people who become annual Culling victims to a yearly net world population gain of 70,000,000 and argue that The Culling phenomenon is helping to mitigate this planet’s significant over-population challenges. Other groups, such as “Avenge The Victims,” have argued that “every possible military option” should be applied in order to “destroy the evil beings who have perpetrated these crimes against our species.” (See Victim group vs. supporters debate, below.)

Impact on life attitudes [edit]

It is generally agreed that mankind’s perspective towards life has been altered significantly by The Culling. After the collective initial experience of confused, fearful and angry reactions, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP) recently reported on studies that fully one-third of Americans and Europeans have both “accepted” the ongoing nature of The Culling and are either supportive or neutral towards its occurrence. After spiking dramatically in 2015 and 2016, instances of panic attacks and a broad category of Culling-related anxiety disorders have now been reportedly decreasing.

Given the continuing uncertainty regarding an explanation for The Culling, human use of protective charms, amulets and concoctions has become widespread. Many forms of jewelry, clothing, items located around the home, food, drink, and inhaled vapors have been claimed to protect the owner from The Culling. Some so-called “protective” items have been found floating/falling back to Earth (see Mjolnir or Thor’s Hammer), thus discrediting their efficacy.

In the three plus years since The Culling first occurred, participation in religious life has increased at the same time that the acknowledgement of secular/humanist world views has increased. In the United States, for example, social scientists (see Jane Ebel) have documented how the 70% of Americans who had previously described themselves as belonging to or being raised within one specific religious denomination (i.e., Catholicism or Methodism) were more likely to attend church/synagogue/mosque on at least a weekly basis than was the case prior to March 2015. In the same studies, Ebel found that the 30% of Americans who would have previously described themselves as being atheist, agnostic, a religious skeptic, or religiously unaffiliated were more likely to “admit to friends and relatives” their beliefs.

At first, The Culling was not being discussed in most of the world’s elementary and middle schools. Educators indicated that they did not want to frighten the children and that they wanted to respect each family’s right to present the facts and discuss the theories within the context of their unique values. Now, the National Education Association (NEA) and World Education Research Association (WERA) have each issued statements arguing that young children should be taught about The Culling, that they should not fear it, and that they should “endeavor to live a life rich with knowledge, connections and experiences” on the chance they may fall victim.

Despite “Supporting The Culling” claims that human losses due to The Culling have mitigated population increases, birthrates have begun to increase within the past year, especially within western societies, due to concerns regarding the potential loss of “only children.”

Victims group vs. supporters debate [edit]

Media and Culling bloggers have focused much attention on the debate between Lucy Lawson, Spokesperson for “Avenge The Victims” and Thomas Ortega, spokesperson for “Supporting The Culling.” Lucy Lawson is a Pasadena, CA (USA) lawyer who lost her daughter Rebecca to The Culling in April of 2015. Thomas Ortega is a sociologist at The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM – National Autonomous University of Mexico). Contentious and overtly personal at times, this debate between these two individuals can be summarized by the position statements of each group.

From avengethevictims.com. “It is with horror that we regularly witness our loved ones being taken. Mankind must fight back to both avoid further loss of life and to avenge the innocent lives that have ended so abruptly. We urge our political and military leaders to use every possible military option to destroy the evil beings who have perpetrated these crimes against our species.”

From supportingtheculling.org/english. “While the loss of human life that has occurred during The Culling is tragic, it is clear that the alien beings are taking sustainable numbers of victims, are utilizing technologies far advanced to what mankind possesses, and are capable of causing much greater damage than what has already been witnessed. We believe that aggressive military action against the aliens will not prevail and will, instead, create incentives for them to kill more of us or even destroy our planet entirely. We believe that a peaceful human response will be more likely to lead to benevolent alien behavior.”

Ms. Lawson has argued that she would rather see all of humanity die in a battle with the aliens than see them continue to “steal away with victim after victim after victim.” Mr. Ortega has maintained that human life has been “shocked but also enhanced” by the steady loss of victims, given that “the threat of random, imminent death has motivated people to live life more fully, seeking stronger connections with each other and aggressively pursuing meaningful and memorable activities.”

Views on rationale [edit]

Many scientists, writers, political and religious leaders believe that human bodies are being taken by alien beings to be used in some unknown fashion. Given our inability to communicate with these aliens, it is impossible to understand why this has been occurring. Theories have included 1) food for the aliens, 2) test subjects for alien medicines, 3) the harvesting of specific bodily parts (i.e., the Cerebrum, Thalamus, Hypothalamus, and/or Thyroid Gland), 4) the harvesting of DNA, 5) bodily incubators for alien babies, 5) fertilizer for alien crops, and many other hypotheses.
While the majority of people polled indicate that they do not want to become a victim of The Culling, roughly 12% of survey respondents in the U.S. and European Union indicated their hope that they will “be chosen.” Instead of considering them as Culling “victims,” these “Chosen Activists” believe that those who leave Earth have been chosen for some “higher” though unknown purpose. Given this perspective, people lost during previous Cullings are revered, studied and imitated. Instead of using protective charms, amulets and concoctions to not be selected, these people pursue techniques and make lifestyle decisions that they believe will lead to their being taken.

Many Culling commentators ask questions that are driven by philosophical and spiritual disagreements, uncertainty, and/or a search for an unambiguous “meaning of life.” These questions seek to explain how The Culling fits into or alters an individual’s or a group’s previously held beliefs on the topic. For those who have concentrated their discussions on the individually-focused question of “What is the meaning of my life?” The Culling has invigorated attention on personal fulfillment, consciousness, and “doing your own thing.” For those who have concentrated on the collective question of “What is the meaning of human life?” (i.e., a “higher meaning”) The Culling has raised many questions on which religious and spiritual leaders have struggled to agree. While Secular Humanist group leaders have reported being emboldened by The Culling, several leaders of traditional religious groups have admitted to “significant struggles” trying to understand and explain The Culling within the framework of their beliefs.

One key element in all Culling rationale discussions is whether people are chosen or whether their “selection” is random or based purely on luck. Social scientists, members of the media, and many others have offered numerous theories on the human qualities and characteristics that increase the likelihood that someone will become a Culling victim. For every promising quality that is identified, multiple examples of disproving cases are then found. The Gallop Organization (United States), Angus Reid Strategies (Canada), and Allensbach Institute (Germany) have each completed public opinion polls that document significant increases in percentages of respondents who indicate that Culling Selection is random.

Some theorists have likened The Culling to the human breeding, slaughter and consumption of livestock. In these arguments, as is the case for farmed cattle, hogs, and turkeys; human beings (the “victims”) are unaware that their lives, the length of their lives, the circumstances that lead to death for some members of the group, and their actual deaths are dictated by “controlling beings.” In many of these discussions, human existence on Earth has been referred to as “free range.”

Credit To – Bob Gielow

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The Burned Photo – Part 2

June 3, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Part one can be read here.

My aunt took Shane to school the next morning. Mom didn’t want to tell him about Grandma until after he got home, so she’d have some time to sleep and cope with her own emotions and figure out a tactful way to explain death to a five-year-old. She planned and re-planned the speech she’d give her son over and over and still didn’t have it down by the time Shane’s grandfather – my dad’s father – dropped him off at the house at 2:30. So she simply said what she felt, unsuccessfully holding back tears.

Shane stared at her, empty-eyed.

“Oh, okay,” he said. “Artie’s outside. Can we play now?”

Mom lost it.

“Are you kidding me?” she screamed. “Grandma’s dead. And you can seriously think about playing right now?”

Shane frowned. He seemed to grasp that his mother was upset, but not quite understand why. His confused expression calmed her a little bit. He’s processing, she remembered thinking.

“Fine,” she said, more tempered. “But today, tell Artie I’m driving him home and having a talk with his mother. He’s over here a little bit too much, and I’m not sure he’s a good influence on you. We’re going to talk seriously about some time apart.”

Shane didn’t react. If his mother threatening to take his friend away affected him emotionally at all, he didn’t show it. If anything, the look he gave her was one of pity. Not devastation. Just boring, inconvenient pity. The pity inspired by a homeless man begging for change. Wordlessly, he went to the back door and let Artie in. Then, single-file like soldiers, the little boys strode into Shane’s room and closed the door.

Mom sat down on the sofa to cry. But finally, the physical and emotional turmoil of the last 24 hours hit her, and she was too tired to squeeze out tears. So she leaned back and closed her eyes for a minute. For another minute. For…

Her eyes snapped open. The room was dark. She looked at the clock on the VCR; it was past 6:00. She’d been asleep for nearly three hours. Something had woken her – a crash or a thud, some noise from a short distance away. The boys?

She went to Shane’s door and turned the knob, cracking it slightly. She could see Shane sitting cross-legged on his bed, angled away from her. He was talking in a low voice to someone sitting on the other end of the bed, out of her line of sight. She opened the door a little wider, revealing a blue-clad knee. The child giggled. It was Artie, of course. Who else?

CRACK!

She whirled around. There it was again, and it definitely wasn’t being caused by the boys. It seemed to be coming from the direction of the laundry room. She turned around. She heard Shane’s door click shut.

“Jim?” she called out. Though she knew it couldn’t be my dad – he had left for the airport around midnight the night before.

THUD… THUD… THUD…

She was getting scared. She considered calling 911, but didn’t think loud noises possibly coming from the basement would be enough to justify police involvement. Instead, she checked the front door and then the back. Both were locked. There was only one door to the basement and no external entrance, so if anyone was down there they would have had to sneak past her as she slept on the couch. The floorboards creaked; she’d often been awoken in the middle of the night by Jim or Shane getting a glass of water from the kitchen.

She tiptoed to the laundry room door. She took a deep breath, turned the doorknob, and switched on the light.

The room was exactly how she had left it – a basket of her scrubs and Shane’s and Jim’s jeans on the floor by the washer, a detergent bottle on top of the dryer with the lid unscrewed. She looked down at the trapdoor that lead to the basement. It was closed, and the latch was set.

The latch was set. The trapdoor had been locked from the outside.

Mom felt a wave of panic, turned to run, then caught herself. Even if an intruder had managed to sneak past her as she dozed on the couch, he couldn’t possibly have gone down into the basement and latched the door behind himself. So it was probably just rats.

Rolling her eyes at her own baseless fear, she unlatched the door and lowered herself down. When she had both feet on the landing that divided the stairs, she pulled the cord that turned on the light. A dim, piss-yellow glow illuminated the messy cellar.

Artie stood at the foot of the stairs.

Mom cried out and stumbled, managing to catch herself on a railing. Artie’s blue eyes glowed; his iridescent skin seemed to possess its own luminosity. The little boy was staring at her. Staring at her with that same twisted, inhuman, hate-filled glare she’d seen when she followed him home the day before.

“Artie! Sweetie, how did you…” she stammered, her voice high-pitched and quavering.

His glare softened, melted into a smile. The biggest smile she’d ever seen on a little boy. A first day of summer smile. A Christmas morning smile. Except there was nothing angelic about this smile. There was only malice in his eyes.

Then my mom came to a realization that made her legs weaken and her stomach drop.

If Artie was down here, then who was Shane…

Mom ran. Up the stairs, through the open trapdoor, out of the laundry room, to the bedroom of her child. She threw open the door.

The room was empty. Everything was exactly as it had been before Shane came home from school. The only thing that indicated recent occupation was two small, child-sized indents in the comforter.

She threw open the closet door and peered under the bed. She opened the window that overlooked the backyard and screamed her son’s name. Then, trembling and drenched in sweat, she stumbled back to the laundry room. This was a joke. She was seeing things. The boys were playing a trick on her. The basement door was still wide open, and the light was on. She threw herself into the rectangular aperture and whirled around on the landing.

Artie was gone. Or he was hiding. She ran down the steps to the concrete floor. Her foot landed on something small and hard, and she nearly fell headlong. A small wooden cube ricocheted off a molding cardboard box.

One of Shane’s blocks. She knelt down to examine the thing. It was the “U.” Unicorn, umbrella, unicycle, unibrow.

There were more blocks, all scattered around. They may have spelled something before she’d tripped over them. Seven of them in total. E, I, O, N, M, W, U. Like a child playing with Scrabble tiles, my mom sat cross-legged on the floor and stared at the letters.

NO WE… I, N, U
NOW U ME… I
WON ME… I, U
UNEM… W, I, O

Nothing. In frustration, she picked up two blocks – the U and M – and threw them at the ground. They bounced and clattered in opposite directions. Near tears, she rolled onto her stomach and crawled to retrieve them. Then she noticed something.

The U had landed upside down. Like a lower case “n.” The set of blocks had only one of each letter. Shane or Artie or… she shuddered… had turned it over and used it as a second “N.” Shaking like a scared animal, she lined up the blocks and started over.

She figured it out in a second.

MINE nOW.

She screamed. Calling Shane’s name over and over, she destroyed the basement, throwing boxes aside, knocking over furniture, scouring every inch of the space. When that failed to uncover anything, she tore apart the rest of the house. She opened every door, looked under every piece of furniture, ran out the back door and made two rotations around the property, crying out for her child into the darkness.

Finally, she called the police. They sent a patrol car over, and she told them everything. The cops were sympathetic and understanding and, within an hour, five more cars were casing the area for any sign of the boys. They’d find her son, they told her. Two little kids couldn’t have gone that far. When she said she’d never once met Artie’s mother, the cops seemed surprised, but assured her they’d check out the unkempt white house he’d disappeared into.

The officers offered Mom a ride to her mother’s house to stay with her sister. She could rest tonight, then come into the station to answer questions in the morning. In the meantime, they’d continue searching the streets and keep patrol cars outside the house, in case Shane returned. He probably would, they told her. He and his little friend probably had some fantasy of running away to Sesame Street, and would come back as soon as they got hungry or scared of the dark.

The next morning my father, who had been rushed back to Miami, arrived at the house. One patrol car was still there. The two cops assigned to keep watch told him that if he needed anything, grab it now, because in about 30 minutes his home was going to be an active crime scene.

He never came out. The cops didn’t hear him scream.

My mom was sitting in an interrogation room with the sketch artist when she was arrested. The artist had finished a drawing of Artie. It was quite good, but there was… something missing. His eyes weren’t quite right, and she found she could not describe his smile. That evil, twisted smile. They cuffed her right there at the table.

Bonnie Ibanez, you are under arrest for the murder of Shane Ibanez.

The next few hours were a blur. She was booked, fingerprinted, photographed; all while sobbing and screaming and begging for someone to tell her what was going on. Finally, she ended up back in that same interrogation room, this time with her hands cuffed behind her back, across from a stern-looking police officer. He demanded, she cried, he yelled, she – through his threats and attempts to intimidate her – pieced together what had happened to her only child.

Jim Ibanez, her husband, returned home at approximately 10:30am. The police officers there, after checking his ID, allowed him 15 minutes to take what he needed from the house. Thirty minutes later, when he didn’t reappear, they went in after him. The door to the laundry room was open, the basement door was open, and the basement light was on. Jim was on the couch. Blood pooled at his feet, around a sharp kitchen knife. He’d slit his own wrists. He was dead.

The cops, after they’d called the paramedics and radioed for backup, had a look around.

In the family’s basement, half-covered by a patchwork quilt in his old crib, they’d found the stiff, ice-cold body of Shane Ibanez. Ten fingers, ten toes, no cuts, no broken bones, no signs of struggle or trauma at all.

Except for the clean, precise cut that had severed his head.

They never found his head.

Time of death was estimated at approximately 6:30pm the night before. The last person to see him alive, besides Mom, was the boy’s grandfather, who’d dropped him off at the house at around 3. It had just been her and Shane, he’d said.

“But…” my mom had stammered, “There’s no way. I looked everywhere for him. You guys were at the house yesterday. He wasn’t there.”

“Maybe,” the cop had said. “But we weren’t looking around that carefully, were we?”

“Artie,” she whispered.

The cop laughed mirthlessly.

“You keep on saying that,” he mocked. “Yet we have no proof this Artie ever existed.”

“But the house,” Mom said. “I saw him going into that little white house I showed you.”

“You mean the house occupied by a Ms. Myrtle Anderson? Widow, 75 years old, lives alone, doesn’t drive. No grandchildren in the state, has never seen a child matching your description.”

“But he…”

“Two nights ago. You told us. She was watching TV in her room at the time, says no one went in or out.”

“In fact,” the cop continued icily, “none of your neighbors seem to know this kid. According to our records, no one named Artie – or Arthur, or any other name that might be shortened to Artie – lives within a mile of your neighborhood.”

“People saw him!” my mom insisted. “My mother baby-sat them all the time. And my husband met him.”

“Both of whom,” he sneered, “are conveniently dead.”

Days went by. The sketch artist’s drawing of Artie was on every nighttime news show, displayed all around Miami, shown to everyone living within three miles of the house. Neither hide nor hair of him was ever found. My grandmother and grandfather and aunts said they’d heard Shane talking about an Artie, but that he’d described him like an imaginary friend. The cops determined he was a figment of the little boy’s imagination, capitalized on by Mom to cover up his murder.

My two aunts put their dead mother’s house up as collateral to get my mom out on bail. She holed up in her childhood bedroom, sleeping with the light on and the door open and trying to piece together how her son’s decapitated body had magically appeared in her basement.

Had some murderous sociopath kidnapped her child, strangled him right outside the window, then returned his maimed remains as soon as she left? No, that was impossible. There had been cops around all night, no one had gone in or out. And besides, she had seen Shane. In his room. Talking to Artie. But it wasn’t Artie, because Artie was in the basement.

Who had Shane been talking to?

And how had Artie teleported into the basement, bypassing the latch? Why hadn’t anyone but her and her late husband and mother and son seen the kid? Those clothes he always wore. Never stained, never wrinkled. The invisible mother. That house he’d disappeared into. And the message in the blocks.

The blocks. She’d taken photographs of the two boys playing with blocks.

She hurriedly took the film to be developed, thanking God she’d kept the used roll in her camera bag, and her camera bag in the car instead of her house, which was now under the control of the police. She paid extra at Sav-on to have it done in an hour; an hour she spent wandering aimlessly around the outdoor shopping center. She could prove it, she thought. Prove that Artie was real. Prove she wasn’t crazy. When the process was done and she had the envelope of photographs in her hands, she waited until she was at her mother’s house, in her bedroom, before opening her little package of salvation.

They found her eight hours later, curled up in a ball in the backyard, self-inflicted claw marks up and down her arms, a Bic lighter and a pile of ashes at her feet.

Mom told me she doesn’t remember a whole lot of the next six weeks. She was confined to a padded cell in a psychiatric ward, mumbling and giggling. They’d had to place boxing gloves on her hands to keep her from hurting herself. She started improving around week three, remembering her name, and then her sisters’ and husband’s and son’s names, and then finally that her husband and son were both dead.

She never told anyone what she’d seen in the photos she burned.

Upon her release from the psych hospital, my mom found herself a free woman in more ways than one. The police had dropped all charges against her, due to two extremely puzzling circumstances.

Circumstance #1: Shane’s body had disappeared. One day, it was under a tarp in a refrigerator in the coroner’s lab; the next, it was gone. In its place was a small pile of grey dust. Neither the cops nor the coroner’s office could come up with a reasonable explanation. Only three people had ID cards that would open the door to the lab; all three were accounted for. The scanner had not recorded any attempts to access the room, successful or unsuccessful. And security footage showed that no one had been anywhere near the lab the night it happened.

Circumstance #2: Her house burned down. Six weeks earlier, the two police officers tasked with guarding the crime scene had smelled smoke. The basement was burning. The flames moved unnaturally fast, soon engulfing the entire house. The cause of the fire could not be determined, but both arson and electrical failure were ruled out. Luckily, the fire didn’t spread. It was a miracle the houses on either side hadn’t gone up, the fire chief said. Probably thanks to the humidity in the air.

It was only coincidence, it was agreed, that the fire seemed to have started at exactly the same moment my mom burned her photos of Shane and Artie playing with blocks.

With no body, no motive, a questionable time line, and any potential evidence up in smoke, the cops could do nothing but free my mom and hide the case away as an unsolved mystery or an act of God. Of course, this didn’t mean she was off the hook. The cops, fearing mass panic, had kept the more inexplicable elements of the incident from the public, including the missing body. So Mom was crucified by the press. My father’s family wanted nothing to do with her. Her own sisters swore they believed her, yet insisted they sell their mother’s house as soon as possible. When it was sold, way below market price, they split the money three ways. Then, almost immediately, both sisters left the state and changed their numbers. Mom hadn’t spoken to either of them since then.

She couldn’t stay in Miami. Even if she hadn’t been attracting dirty looks and furtive whispers, if not open hostility, every time she set foot outside her dingy hotel room, the city held nothing for her. Everybody she’d cared about was gone. She saw her murdered child’s face whenever she closed her eyes, and the sight of his favorite McDonald’s or the park where he’d played as a toddler just served to twist the knife in her heart. She slept a lot, lost herself in trashy soap operas, never turning off the lamp on her bedside table. Beside the lamp she’d set a bottle of sleeping pills. She’d stare at that bottle as she lay down to sleep and when she woke up, sometimes in the middle of the day, and sometimes for what seemed like hours, wishing she could empty it with a glass of water and lose the ability to remember.

But she couldn’t. When she’d returned to her senses in the psychiatric hospital, the doctor had refused her Tylenol for her drilling headache. Because she was eight weeks pregnant.

Eventually she pulled it together, packed up her car, and drove across the country to Ohio. She paid a man for a fake passport and driver’s license under the name Elizabeth Johnson. She found a small apartment for rent. She invested some of her insurance money into starting a photography business, and then I was born, and then we moved to the little house in Cleveland.

“But Mom,” I asked her, “what was wrong with those photographs? The ones you burned – why didn’t you show them to the cops and prove Artie was real?”

At that, she sighed and closed her eyes. Her crow’s feet darkened as the color drained from her face. She looked helpless, like an old woman and a scared little girl at the same time.

“Artie wasn’t in the photographs,” she said. “The bedroom was there, the blocks were there. Shane was there. But the… thing sitting beside him. It wasn’t Artie. It wasn’t human. It was an abomination that shouldn’t exist. Humanity couldn’t… I couldn’t show anyone… I couldn’t…”

She turned away to wipe her nose, tears running down her face. I couldn’t get any more out of her. Either she thought the description of the thing she’d known as Artie would terrify me, or she couldn’t find the words to describe it. I never brought up the subject again. She didn’t let me out of her sight for weeks, and I slept in her bed for two months, terrified now that I knew what she feared. But the thing didn’t find us in La Puente. I never saw the angelic little girl in the polka-dot frock, or the red-headed teenager who couldn’t feel cold, ever again.

My mom died when I was twenty-two. Breast cancer. They caught it late; it had spread, and the chemo didn’t work. I moved all of her stuff into storage. The day after her funeral, I sat on the floor of my storage unit, surrounded by all of her memories, and looked through her photographs. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands.

I rented an apartment, found a job, passed the CPA exam. Four years later, I fell in love with a guy who worked across the hall at an advertising firm. Two years after that, we married and bought a little house in Glendale. And, last February, I became pregnant with our first child. I’m due next month. It’s going to be a little boy.

I’ve never told my husband about my mother’s story, or Shane, or the shape-shifting thing that stalks my family. (Things? Maybe there’s more than one of them.) I’m debating it now, since we’re about to be parents, but… honestly, I don’t even know how I’d go about it. My husband’s not superstitious. He’d probably just assume my mother killed Shane and assure me that homicidal impulses aren’t genetic.

But there’s a reason I’m writing this now. Why I’m putting it out there for strangers to piece through, hopefully strangers who can give me the explanation I’m desperate for. It’s because the thing that took my brother, drove my father to suicide, tormented my mother, and posed as “Katie” and “Zoe” to ensnare me – it’s still here.

Two nights ago, I came home at around nine. My husband was out. As I reached for the light switch, I nearly tripped over something small and hard. Flipping on the light, I saw the unexpected obstacle. Blocks. I knelt down. Alphabet blocks, the sort children play with. The one nearest to me was a “B,” beautifully carved and finished. On four faces were detailed pictures – bananas, a butterfly, flowers, and a little dog (a beagle?).

Holding my breath, I gathered the blocks together. There were eight of them. N, I, U, B, M, A, J, E. All with beautiful pictures, obviously part of a set. Painted blue, red, green, or yellow. Definitely not ours. Thanks to my mom’s story, I figured it out in seconds.

BEnJAMIN.

Benjamin. The name we’d chosen for our son. We hadn’t told anyone yet, not even my in-laws. Heart pounding, I fled, locking the door behind me and locking myself in my car. I sat there for a while, hyperventilating. Racking my brain for a logical explanation. Maybe it was a present from my husband, a surprise. But those blocks. They were exactly like the blocks my mom had described to me. Irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind. Destroyed in a fire thirty years ago.

My phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number. I answered, my voice shaking. It was a Sergio from Rent-a-Box storage. My storage unit, where I kept all my mom’s old belongings, had inexplicably caught on fire. Everything had been ruined. Hands drenched, shaking like a leaf, I drove to the facility. A huge fire truck was parked outside, but the building still stood. According to Sergio – a short, balding security guard – the fire had been limited to my unit. The cinderblock dividing walls had done their duty, apparently.

Confused and terrified, I asked to see the unit. All my mother’s photos – her photos of me growing up – had been destroyed. I stared into the charred-black little room, holding back tears. Then, in the far left corner, I saw it. A small sheet of thick paper.

“That’s odd,” Sergio muttered. “That wasn’t here ten minutes ago.”

I picked up the odd little object. It was a photograph. Relatively old, judging by the quality, and burned around the edges. I got the impression I was only looking at half of the photo; the other half had been reduced to ash. It was of a little boy playing with blocks. Blocks identical to the ones scattered on my living room floor. Blocks that, when I returned home hours later, had mysteriously disappeared, though the doors were locked and the rest of the house was untouched.

The boy was about five years old, dressed in high-waist shorts and the sort of t-shirt popular in the early eighties. His mop of curls, coffee-colored skin, square jaw, and large deep-set eyes bore an uncanny resemblance to photos of me at the same age. He was smiling. Laughing. Looking to his right, at another person depicted in the burned-out portion of the picture. An undecipherable shadow fell across him.

I stared at the photo for a long moment. I knew it was Shane, and I knew the unseen entity next to him was the creature who’d posed as “Artie.” What I couldn’t understand was how the photo had ended up here, as my mother had burned it to ashes thirty years ago, after whatever cast that shadow had driven her to insanity.

The last detail I noticed, before the photo crumbled into dust in my hands, was that the blocks laid out in front of Shane spelled out a word. The numerical “0” and the letters “S,” “O,” and “N.”

SO0N.

Credit To – NickyXX

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