Just a Joke

June 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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They laughed. The group has just arrived at their dorm from another night of ghost stories. They weren’t afraid. At least, they wouldn’t show it. They were, after all, men.

“Holy shit, today’s stories were just insane. ‘I know you’re awake.’ What. The. Fuck. That got me,” Joshua said through his laughter.

“Guess who’s not sleeping tonight?”, Jeff forced through his grin.

“Quit being such pussies,” Luke said, “They’re just stories.”

They took a curious glance at Luke. His quaking voice made it painfully obvious that his false bravado masked unbridled fear.

“What? Stop looking at me. You know what? Fuck you guys. I’m gonna piss.”

Luke flicked on the lights, took a cautious look inside the bathroom, then slipped in. Jeff and Joshua could barely suppress their laughter. An idea popped into their heads.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Fuck yeah.”

Jeff closed the translucent sliding door on their bathroom and held it in place, while Joshua silently turned the room’s lights off.

“Ready? Go.”

Joshua turned the bathroom lights off. It was quickly followed by a scream. They could almost imagine Luke, dick in hand, spraying piss everywhere while he screamed.

It took a few moments before Luke started banging on the doors.

“Let me out of here goddamnit! Fuck you guys! LET ME OUT!”

They could see his hands every time they made contact with the plastic door. They laughed.

Strangely, Jeff noticed another pair of black hands pressed up on the plastic door. They were small, as if belonging to a child.

“Hey, Luke, what the fuck are those black hands?”, Jeff said over his friend’s screams.

“What? Just let me ou— OH GOD, HELP ME. SAV—”

Silence. Jeff quickly slid the door open.

All they found was an empty bathroom and a broken window.

Credit To – Urich Victorino

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The Cat in the Hat Strikes Back

June 11, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So she sat in the house
All that cold, cold, wet day.

She just sat in a chair
All alone, by herself.
As she watched the paint dry
On her brand new bookshelf.

Too wet to go out
And too cold to play ball.
As she sat in the house,
And did nothing at all.
And then
Something went BUMP!
How that bump made her jump!

She looked!
Then she saw him step in on that mat!
She looked!
And she saw him!
The Cat in the Hat!
And he said to her,
“Why do you sit there like that?”

“I know it is wet
And the sun is not sunny.
But we can have
Lots of good fun that is funny!”

“I know some good games we could play,”
Said the cat.
“I know some good tricks,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“A lot of good tricks.
I will show them to you.
Your mother
Will not mind at all if I do.”

She sat there and she
Did not know what to say.
Her mother was out of the house
For the day.

But her fish said, “No! No!
Make that cat go away!
Tell that Cat in the Hat
You do NOT want to play.
He should not be here.
He should not be about.
He should not be here
When your mother is out!”

“Now! Now! Have no fear.
Have no fear!” said the cat.
“My tricks are not bad,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“Why, we can have
Lots of good fun, if you wish,
With a game that I call
Let’s get rid of the fish!”
Then the cat chased the fish
Until she was caught.
And the fish hit the Cat in the head
With a pot.

“STOP!” Yelled the girl
“You do not have to fight
Either leave her alone or
you’re leaving!” “Alright”
Said the cat. “I’ll let the fish be.
Besides, there is something
I want you to see.”

And then he ran out.
And, then, fast as a whirl,
The Cat in the Hat
Came back in with a girl.

She was a cute girl
With eyes that shone bright.
With a sweatshirt and jeans
And teeth that shone white

Then he introduced her
With a tip of his hat.
“Here’s someone I’d like you to meet,”
Said the cat.
“She’s a sweet little girl
I will show to you now”
And the girl gave a twirl.
As the cat took a bow.

“Here’s a sweet little girl
And she wants to play
She can bring you some fun
On this cold, cold, wet day.
She is just like you are,
And I call her Thing One.
Would you like to shake hands
I’m sure you’ll have fun”

She was so bored and
She needed some fun.
So she went to shake hands
With the girl called Thing One.
And as they shook hands.
Her poor fish said, “No! No!
These two should not be
In the house! Make them go!

“They should not be here
When your mother is not!
Put them out! Put them out!”
Said the fish with the pot.
“Have no fear little fish,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“For she’s a good Thing.”
And he gave her a pat.
“She is tame. Oh, so tame!
She has come here to play.
She will give you some fun
On this wet, wet, wet day.”
“Now why don’t you two go and play,”
Said the cat.
“Just be on your way”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“No! No do not go!”
Said the fish with the pot.
“Do not leave me alone
With this cat. You cannot.
Oh, I do not like cats!
They scare me, I admit!
Oh, I do not like this!
Not one little bit!”

But she went anyway,
She ran down the hall.
With Thing One, hand in hand,
They went to play dolls!
Hand in hand they went
To play dolls down the hall.

And left in the room
Was the fish and the cat.
The fish with the cat,
Well, she did not like that.
The fish was afraid
Of the Cat in the Hat.
He looked like a cat
But he smelled like a rat!

The cat said to the fish
With a gleam in his eyes.
“You know, we cats eat fish
This fact can’t be denied”
The fish shook with fear
As she attempted to run
But it’s not just Thing Ones
That want to have fun.

The cat won in the end,
The fish was no more.
“Well she didn’t put up much of a fight
What a bore.”
Then who should come back
But the girl and Thing One?
And the Cat in the Hat asked
“Did you two have fun?”

“We did” said Thing One
“But now she’s dried out
She’s no fun anymore”
Said Thing One with a pout.
“Well that’s the entire idea”
Said the Cat
“Now you’ll take her place”
Said the Cat in the Hat

“We’ll go house to house
All over the world
Taking the life force
Of each boy and girl
While their parents are gone
And it’s too wet to play
We will show up
And take them away
The best time to drain them
Is when their having fun
Then they’ll all be replaced
With Thing Twos and Thing Ones”

“Now take her outside”
Said the cat to Thing One
“Soon she’ll be nothing,
Just beams in the sun.
Then come back inside,
There’s work to be done
We’ve so much to do
We’ve only begun.”

Thing One went outside,
The girl trailing behind
Lifeless and slow
Not a thought in her mind.

Then the cat said “What fun
So much fun to be done
When the world is made up of
Thing Twos and Thing Ones
No more boring kids
Just moping about
For my Things will find fun
Of this I’ve no doubt”

Thing One came back in
In the clothes of the girl
“Are you ready to take her,
Place in this world?”
The new girl gave a nod
And the Cat said, “Then that’s that.”
And then he was gone
With a tip of his hat.

So, she sat in the chair
All alone, by herself.
As she watched the paint dry
On her brand new book shelf.
When her mother came in
She said “What did you do?”
Well, what would YOU do

If your mother asked YOU?

Credit To – Ivy Witch (and obviously inspired by The Cat in the Hat)

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Red Eyes

June 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Like all small towns, the one I grew up in had its legends. In my town, there’s one particular legend I’ve heard since I was a kid. The people telling it, though, never agree on the details.

They like to talk about some “thing.” Some say it is takes the form of a man, others say it’s a demon, or an alien. They all agree on the glowing red eyes. The last thing you see before you die. This legend makes no sense, of course. If these eyes are the last thing someone sees before they die, how could they have told anyone what they had seen? Besides, legends of “the last thing you see” exist all around the world.

So what are those two red glowing dots I see in the distance? I see them, in the trees on the other side of the field. It’s pitch black, there’s no moon. The only light is coming from those eyes. They’re pointed away from me. Does it know I’m here?

Is this a trick of my imagination? I look away, then look back. It’s still there. Shit. Will it hear me if I move? Where would I go? Even if I made it back to camp, would that help me? Would the other guys be able to do anything, or would they just… would they even be able to help me?

I can’t see whatever it is. All I can see are the red, glowing eyes, moving back and forth. Darting around, like it was just some animal moving about in the woods. Is it just some animal? I can’t tell, I’m no woodsman. Maybe there’s a logical explanation.

I step backwards, slowly. The leaves make a soft crunch. I don’t think it heard anything. The eyes didn’t stop or jerk. I move backwards one more time. The same soft crunch. The eyes still haven’t seen me.

I turn around and start walking, slowly, through the trees. At first, treading as lightly as I can. Eventually, I feel a little safer and start moving a little faster. A little louder, but still conscious of what’s behind me. I look back every once in a while, but the eyes are out of sight, masked by trees.

I keep moving forward, towards camp. No idea what to make of what just happened. I’ll find my buddies, get into my tent, and just forget everything I saw. Holy shit! What just passed by in front of me?

Two glowing red dots sped across my path. How far away was it? It was close enough that I could hear the rustling of the leaves as it ran by. I stand still, frozen. Not even breathing. It can’t have seen me. I look around, but see nothing. There’s complete silence.

Why did I come out here? Can I even find my way back to camp in this darkness? Do I have any chance of getting away from it? I hear something rustle. I look in the direction of the sound, but I see nothing. Just pitch black.

I breathe as quietly as possible, listening into the silence, but hearing nothing. I creep forward, slowly. Still listening, but only hearing myself. Then I feel it. It’s right beside me, but I don’t dare turn my head to see it.

I bolt forward, into the black, running into trees, through sticks and branches, getting cuts and scrapes, but not feeling any of them. I’m running for my life. I don’t even know which direction I’m going in.

Then I fall, knocked down. I face the ground without seeing it. All I see is the same blackness that’s all around me. There’s nowhere to go. It has me. But I knew there was no getting away from the start. It was pointless to even try running. There’s no way out now. Except to finally lift my head, and look into the glowing red eyes.

Credit To – David Mein

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Repossession

June 7, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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I can clearly make out a hospital ward. It’s probably mine, since I’m in its bed. It’s a private room, and my low bed faces the wall. I see no windows. I turn my head–wait. I suddenly notice restraints digging into my arms, legs, across my chest, and fixing my head into place.

I realize that I can’t remember anything. I don’t know why I’m tied up. Though I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to, but I strain at my bonds, making a futile effort to get free. No matter. A doctor or nurse will come eventually. I’ll ask them why I’m tied up like this. There’s probably a good reason for whatever is happening. I wait.

I don’t think whoever I was had been especially good at sitting around and waiting. I feel a fear within me, as if it were inherent. It’s a fear of where I am, of what’s going to happen, of who I am. My breathing slowly becomes more erratic, the uneven hissing of my breath becoming louder and louder until all I can hear is the whistle of air entering and escaping my lungs.

I lie there, and wait, my fear growing with every passing moment.

I hear the swish of air from a door swinging open behind me. I should have felt relief as I heard the footsteps of one entering the room, yet I couldn’t. Instead, my feeling of dread heightened to one of raw terror. My heart jackhammered, and I felt a clammy, cold sweat begin to trickle down my forehead. I struggled, my whole body undulating under the thick straps fettering me. The bed barely budged. I was completely trapped.

The reason for my hysteria, whatever it was behind me, walked with the rhythmic, clicking footsteps of an average man. What set me off was its breathing. Its breaths were the scratchy growls of a crazed animal, intermingled with a laboured panting, as if it were holding itself back from something.

Or someone.

I strain even harder, pulling every muscle in my body. The veins in my neck bulge, my eyes pop. Nothing.

I hear the clanking of metal objects, and then slow, deliberate footsteps approaching me. I tremble, filled with fear. What is he holding?

A shadow falls over my face, blocking out the light streaming from the unknown light source above. I can’t see him. He’s right above me, and I can’t move.

I scream. The breath I didn’t realize I was holding rushed out of my lungs. A hand had entered my peripheral vision. A wrinkled, ashen claw. Human, but just barely. It was holding a tube, with a needle at the tip. It glowed despite the brightness of the room around it.

Struggling was futile, I know, but I couldn’t help but writhe and scream as I felt the sting of a sharp point push its way into my arm. Behind me, an audible click sounds, and I watch as my blood slowly streams out of my body, my eyes following the dark red line to where it disappears from my line of vision.

Dark red.

Blood.

I’m assailed by a flash of memory. It’s a memory of blood, dark red and flowing.

I suddenly realize who’s behind me, and who I am. I know why I am afraid.

I am a thief. I had a thirst, and I took this man’s blood. I drained him.

Laughing, I stop struggling.

He’s merely taking back what’s his.

A slow, but powerful lethargy washes over me, and I black out.

Credit To – Bryce Tan de Guzman

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The Vigil

June 5, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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“What is sleep but the image of death?”
-Ovid, “Amorum”

***

Mayet sat in the big chair and looked out the window. The curtains were drawn, so there was nothing to see, but she looked anyway. She could hear them talking in the next room. They’d left the door open, so they must have wanted her to hear. “She doesn’t sleep,” Mayet’s mother was saying. “Not more than a few hours at a time, and even then only if I’m in the room with her.

“Last week I left for a minute to make tea and when she woke up and found me gone she started screaming. I’ve never heard anyone scream like that.”

The doctor cleared her throat. “How long has this been going on?”

“Weeks.”

“Has your family physician seen her?”

“Yes. He even prescribed something, but she won’t take it. That’s why he told us to call you. Can you help?”

“We won’t know until I talk to her. I’ll go introduce myself.”

“Should I come with you?”

“It’s better if you don’t. But you can listen.”

“If you’re sure…”

“This is what I do, Ms. Bautista. Let me work.”

Mayet heard footsteps on the carpet. She sensed, without turning around, the doctor’s presence just behind her, and her mother hovering in the doorway. She said nothing. The doctor sat on the floor next to her chair. “Hello Mayet,” she said.

Mayet raised a hand in a half-salutatory gesture.

“It’s nice to meet you. I’ve been talking to your mother and some of your friends; a lot of people are worried about you. They think I can help. If we talk a little we can see if they’re right.”

Mayet fidgeted with her fingers; they were feeling sluggish and tingly. It was something that happened whenever she was going on the third day with no sleep. She licked her lips before speaking: “Are you a psychiatrist?”

“No. There’s not really a job title for what I do. You could call me a kind of counselor. I work with teens who are refusing conventional treatment for their problems.”

“You’re here to make me take the pills.”

“I’m here to find out what’s bothering you, and hopefully find a way to fix it. I’m not here to make you do anything you don’t want to. So can we talk a little?”

Mayet shrugged.

“Why don’t you tell me why you’re afraid to sleep?”

“I’m not afraid to sleep. I’d love to sleep. It’s all I can think about.”

“That’s good.”

“I’m afraid to wake up.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Because of the man who watches me.”

“…what man?”

Mayet shook her head. The light coming through the curtains was hurting her eyes, though there wasn’t much of it. “He’s not a man, really. He doesn’t even look like a man. He looks like some kind of…dead animal. And he comes into my room and watches me sleep, unless someone else is here.”

“I see. And what makes you think this?”

Mayet turned to look at the doctor for the first time, to give her a disgusted look. “Because I wake up and find him here. And because I’m not the only one. My friends…he got them all.”

The doctor frowned. “Tell me about it?” she said.

Mayet shrugged and turned away again. “I’ve already told everyone. I guess I can tell you too; it won’t make any difference.” She sighed. “It started with Brianne.”

“Your mother mentioned her. She was your best friend.”

“Not really. Not for a while. But we still talked. She was the first person to tell me about it. It was a kind of ghost story, you know? She read it on the Internet. About a…thing, that comes into people’s homes.”

“And does what?”

“Nothing, really. Just watches you. People will wake up and see it there.”

“Then what?”

“The stories don’t say. Sometimes it hurts someone, but other times it just watches. But they say that’s actually the worst part. That when you wake up and find it there, and you know that it’s been watching you, you’re never the same.”

“Sounds scary. But people have always told stories like that.”

“That’s what I said. Brianne was freaked about it though; it’s almost all she would talk about for weeks until we told her to shut up about it already. That story really scared her, you know?”

“Who is ‘we’?”

“Me and Jan.”

“Jan. Your mother mentioned him, too.”

“I’ll bet she did. Anyway, Brianne was all worked up about this story for a while, and then she dropped it. Or we thought she did. Then she missed a few days of school, and when we saw her again she looked like shit. We thought she was sick, but she said no, that she just hadn’t been sleeping. Because she said she saw it.”

“It? You mean the creature from the stories?”

“Yeah. She said she woke up and found it sitting on her bed, just like people said. She said she screamed and it crawled away, and her parents woke up and the police came, and nothing was there.

“But then the next night, when she woke up…”

“It was there again.”

Mayet nodded.

“Did you believe Brianne?”

“No. It’s a stupid story, and the fact that she’d been talking about it for so long before it supposedly happened? We thought she just wanted attention.”

“Hmm. Your mother says she thinks Brianne was into drugs. Is that why you two weren’t such good friends anymore?”

Mayet bit her lip.

“I see. Did you tell anyone about this?”

“We didn’t have to. Brianne told everyone. She said she needed someone to help her, but she didn’t know who, or how. The entire school thought she’d lost her mind. She was missing class, fighting with her parents, staying up four, five days at a time. Not because she was scared to sleep, but because she was scared to wake up.”

“How did you feel about this?”

“Fucking embarrassed. How else was there to feel?”

“And how long did this go on?”

“A month? Maybe a little longer, I don’t really remember. By the end Brianne wasn’t talking to much of anyone. She’d given up.”

“Do you remember the last time you spoke with her?”

“Her parents asked me to talk to her. To help them make her come around. I didn’t want to, but they were so upset I couldn’t say no, so I went to her room. She was sitting by the window, staring at nothing. She was all skinny and pale, like a ragdoll. I sat next to her and I told her to get help. I begged her.”

“What did she say?”

“She told me…” Mayet stopped, flinched, then started again. “She said it was too late. She kept saying something like…’It’s because of his eyes. When I wake up and look into those eyes, I know things.’ And I asked her, ‘What things?’ And she said, ‘Terrible things.’ And then she just lost it. She was crying all over me. I hugged her and we cried for a long time.”

“You two must have been very close before all this.”

Mayet said nothing. The doctor paused for a respectful moment before going on.

“So what happened after that?”

“Things got a little better. Her parents thought I’d actually helped her. I was relieved.”

“And then?”

Mayet looked away. “She snuck into one of the locker rooms after school. They found her…hanging from a showerhead.”

The doctor squeezed Mayet’s hand, once.

“We thought that was the end of it, you know? But then Jan started.”

“Jan was your boyfriend?”

Mayet shook her head.

“Your mother says he was. She said he was another thing that came between you and Brianne. That you’d fought over him.”

“My mom says a lot of things.”

“All right. What happened with Jan?”

“He was pretty out of it after Brianne died. Everyone was, but he took it the worst. I spent a lot of time at his place; his parents are never around, and I didn’t want him to be alone.”

“Was he drinking?”

“Mom just never shuts up, does she?” Mayet sneered. “Yeah, he was drinking. So what? Who wouldn’t? That wasn’t the part that worried me.”

“…he started seeing it too, didn’t he?”

Mayet nodded. Then she began to cry. She smothered her face in the back of the chair, so that her voice was barely audible. “He came to me after the first morning. He was a wreck. He told me, ‘It’s all true. We should have believed her.’ He felt guilty, you know? Like we made it happen by not believing her.”

“Is that why he thought the creature came to him? As a kind of punishment?”

Mayet looked at her hands for a while. “He didn’t say so. But it makes sense.”

“Did you tell anyone that Jan was troubled?”

“A teacher. I wouldn’t, normally, but I was scared he’d do the same thing as Brianne.”

“Did he?”

“No. I don’t think so. He just disappeared.”

“Disappeared?”

“He ran away. After a week he couldn’t take it anymore, and he sent me an email telling me he was going. He said he didn’t think he could get away from whatever it was, but he had to try. And he said…” Mayet stopped talking. In the corner, the old clock ticked a minute off. Mayet’s mother quietly sobbed in the doorway. Eventually, without prompting, she went on. “He told me he was scared for me. Scared…that it would come for me next.”

The doctor’s expression gave nothing away. She drummed her fingers against the carpet, in time with the clock. “And did it?”

Mayet shifted in her chair. “For a while, I would get emails from Jan. Never very long, just telling me he was all right, that he was keeping moving. Then one day they stopped. I haven’t gotten one in over a month now.”

“What do you think that means?”

“I don’t know. But I do think that it was following him. And that whatever was happening to him, it’s not anymore. Because the same time he stopped writing…” her voice cracked, “was the first time I saw it.”

She turned and looked the doctor fully in the face for the first time. Her eyes were red; from crying, and from never sleeping.

“It was three o’clock in the morning, and I don’t know what woke me up, but he was sitting right there, right next to where you are now.”

“Here? Not on the bed?”

“Not that time. Not yet. He was naked, and rocking back and forth. He looked like he was hurt or something. He’s all pale, like one of those blind fish that live in caves. And there’s something wrong about the way his arms and legs and neck move.”

“Did you see his face?”

“Not the first night. The first night he just crawled away. And I sat there in bed, hugging my sheets, and I cried and cried. I cried because I’d never believed it, and now I’d seen it, and I couldn’t stand what that meant.”

“Did you tell anybody?”

“No. I knew what they’d think. Because it was exactly what I’d thought, you know? At first I just hoped that it would go away.”

“But it didn’t.”

“No. I woke up the second night and he was standing right next to my bed. His back was still turned, but he was standing over me. And the night after that I finally saw him face to face. And Brianne was right: The eyes are the worst thing. Once you’ve seen those eyes…oh God, the things I saw…”

Mayet’s mother sobbed louder, and then she walked away, crying. Neither Mayet nor the doctor watched her go.

“After that I knew there was no getting away. Brianne tried to get help and Jan tried to run, and neither worked. So the only thing I could think to do was just not sleep.”

“Because he only comes when you sleep.”

“Yeah. So if I never sleep, I’ll never see him again.”

“But you can’t stay awake forever.”

“I know. It’s not a very good plan, but the way I figure, it’s just like dying: You know it’ll happen someday, but you just try to go as long as you can. Someday I’ll fall asleep again and there’ll be nobody around and then I’ll wake up and he’ll be there. Even if I went to the hospital or something, I think he’d still find me, and he’d find a moment when nobody else was there. You have to be alone sometime, right? I can’t stop it. But I can put it off for as long as I can. I can do that much, right?”

The doctor didn’t say anything.

“So that’s why I won’t take the pills. And I won’t go to sleep on my own. That would be giving up. And I’m not going to give up.”

“Because you owe it to Jan and Brianne not to give up.”

Mayet shrugged. The doctor was quiet for some time. Then she stood, brushed off her slacks, and took something out of her purse: a bottle of pills, and a small bottle of water.

“Mayet, you’ve been through a lot. More than anyone your age should have to deal with. You need more help than I can give you. Even your mother can’t help you through this all on her own. But we both want to help you. Do you believe that?”

At first it didn’t seem like Mayet was going to reply, but then she nodded.

“The first step, I think, is up to you. These pills are over-the-counter. Your mother has a prescription from your doctor for something stronger, if you need it. You don’t have to take them, but I want you to think about something: The sooner you fall asleep, and the sooner you wake up again, the sooner you’ll see that there’s nothing to be afraid of. That this man in the night doesn’t exist.”

“Then why do I see him?”

“There are a lot of reasons why we see things that aren’t there. Especially when we expect to. Fear can do that; so can grief, and guilt. But I think, deep down, you know that he’s not real, and now that we’ve had this talk a part of you has acknowledged that. I think that the next time you wake up, you’ll see that for yourself. And that’ll be the first step toward taking your life back.”

The doctor stepped away. She left the pills on the arm of the chair.

“It’s up to you. I think that, with your mother and your doctor’s help, you’ll make it through this no matter what. But I also think the sooner you start, the easier it’ll be for you. Think about the morning after, Mayet. Think about how good it’ll be. I want you to do that for me. And for you.”

Then she left. Mayet was alone. There was no more light coming through the curtain. Her room was growing dark. She turned on her side, looking at the little orange bottle and the water. The back of her throat hurt.

And she listened very, very carefully, for what she knew was there: the skittering sound of pale, hairless flesh sliding along the ground, and the gentle, almost imperceptible thump of misshapen limbs scrambling over each other. Was he here, even now? Had he been in the room, hidden, all this time, even while she was awake? Sometimes she thought he was. He could even be right behind her chair, standing over her, watching her, ready to glide away or melt through the wall the moment anyone else came in but always, always there.

Mayet felt cold. She curled up into a ball, trembling, clutching at her hair. The doctor was wrong. Deep down inside, she knew that the Rake was real. And that the next time she saw him, it would be worse than dying.

She laid out on her bed, watching the shadows crawl over the ceiling. She squeezed the pills in one hand, the water bottle in the other. She shook two into her mouth, grimacing as she swallowed; she’d always hated taking pills. Then she took two more. And two more. She kept taking them until there were no more, washing them down with the tasteless water from the plastic bottle. She wanted out, but she didn’t want to do it like Brianne; she just wanted to go to sleep. To go to sleep and never wake up seemed the only way of winning; the only way to cheat him, somehow.

She was already feeling drowsy. She thought of her mother and a pang of guilt went through her, but it was too late now. The shadows on the ceiling swallowed the room, and her vision blurred at the edges. For a moment she thought she saw something, a malformed silhouette stooped over her, with a cold, wet hand reaching for her face…

But then there was nothing, and she slept.

***

The doctor sat at the kitchen table, a cooling mug of tea in her hand. Mayet’s mother sat across from her, drinking hers. Her eyes had dried. “Thank you,” she said.

“I’m glad to help,” the doctor said. “I think she’ll take them. We can’t say for sure, of course, but I think she will. The important thing is that it’s her decision.”

“I suppose,” said Mayet’s mother. She turned her head at the sound of something moving in the hall, but nothing was there. She shivered without knowing why. “I really don’t feel right about it, though. I hate trying to just knock her out with pills. I never liked those things.”

“Well, there’s no need to feel guilty about these ones,” the doctor said, downing her tea in one gulp.

“Why is that?” Mayet’s mother said. There was that sound again, like something fumbling with a door, but there was still nothing there.

The doctor grinned. “Ms. Bautista, there’s nothing in those pills. They’re just a placebo.

“Mayet will wake up in the morning, right as rain.”

Credit To – Tam Lin

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Suzie Couldn’t Go To The Party Because…

June 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Suzie had lost her trademark smirk. A frail pink mouth quivered in its place. Her green eyes sparkled in the firelight, the naive naughtiness now absent. She was holding back the rest of her story, almost as if she wasn’t sure if it was fiction anymore. Our touching knees parted.
Karl accidently knocked over a can of Budweiser and we lost unity. The energy dispersed around the ritualistic circle and I stared back at Jack who was using subtle hand gestures to suggest we escape. I started to sober up, but the night had felt sober for Suzie ever since she started this horror story. Nobody had the guts to ask her what happened next. We leant in but still nobody said anything.
The flames illuminated the cemetery landscape behind her; gigantic forest trees created a fortress miles deep surrounded by a locked gate. Our breath disappeared into the thick enchanting smoke before us and our bodies shivered.
Suzie gripped Jack’s hand and behind his blond bangs his eyes closed as if affected suddenly by her contact. I closed my eyes too; partly to hide my envy, partly to recall the story already revealed.

We were only a few blocks away from the ghost story setting on the edge of town. Four months ago there was carnage on the streets due to a change of government. Military gas masks cloaked the identity of so many alienated, senseless yobs. Feisty riots broke out and youthful hooligans took to torching and looting local stores and homes. I don’t even think they knew what they were fighting for; they just wanted to be part of something anarchistic.
Luckily enough, nobody we knew was injured. But House of Reeves, an ancient, discount furniture store, was burnt to the ground. It was as if the fire services were just avoiding it, a conspiracy theory for the local government to use it for a new commercial fast food joint. It had been there for years beforehand so it was already decrepit and nobody ever went inside its enormous complex. It was on the verge of being disused. My dad told me that where it stood was a portal to another world from the past; but that rumour was only spread to make our hometown sound more thrilling in bedtime stories. The most recent owners, twins late in their eighties, were surprisingly proud of the building and lived together in the attic above the store. It had been passed through his family for generations—their great-great grandfather Edwin being the founder sometime in the mid nineteenth century.
And Suzie had said that ever since the violence occurred, no trace of the twins has been discovered. There is no news report remembering their endangered lives, or copies of their death certificates; their existence was never acknowledged. Although, on the last of the CCTV footage, the brothers were seen clambering up the stairs to safety.

No deceased bodies were found in the wreckage where a wasteland now remains; despite the later police interviews which claimed that male screams were heard from the attic as the perpetrators fled the scene. One of the more curious arsonists looked up at the window before he ran. Police were sceptical that it would have been too smoky and late in the evening for him to have seen in the deceptive firelight, but he reported that through the darkness, there was a grey haired gentleman standing peacefully still, the flames roaring behind him and the smoke slinking around his dated three piece suit. The man’s lack of expression troubled the young boy; he didn’t seem to be affected by the destruction. His paranoid friends kept yelling at him to leave the scene but the last thing he saw was the old gentleman extending his finger toward him sternly. Suzie said it was the ghost of Edwin Reeves.
I realised that for a while it had been silent and intense. Karl looked agitated and asked if Suzie thought the boys had been cursed by Old-Man Reeves in the window. Aurora laughed and nearly fell into Jack’s arms. Suzie said it was only a scary ghost story and nobody had died in that fire anyway. Besides, the arsonists had got what they deserved and were locked up in jail now, so what was the point of getting any revenge? She said the two owners were probably hitchhiking across Europe; they must have done anything to escape that shithole; even faking death. They didn’t want to be found. Aurora rose to her feet rather gracelessly and leant against a gravestone to stabilize herself. She yawned, unenthused and disappointed by the lack of closure to Suzie’s story. Jack sighed and said he would take Aurora home. Suzie looked even sadder and paler.
“D’ya think he’s buried in this cemetery? You know, Edwin Reeves?” I asked her.
“Probably. I mean, as far as I know he never left Cortizone”.
“How do you know that?” Jack asked.
Suzie didn’t say anything.
“So he could be somewhere around here?”
Aurora overheard me. She rolled her eyes. “Shut up”.

* * * * * * * *

It had been a week or so since Halloween so all the decorative bunting was sagging across the school gates and you couldn’t move for damn candy wrappers on the sidewalks. I’d caught glimpses of that Edwin Reeves’ face in every window I passed by. As the visions progressed, the images burned bolder and longer. I felt those soulless eyes burning through my skull and the bony finger casting blame. I hadn’t seen Suzie at school so I tried to call her a few times to see if she was sick, but her dad always insisted she was out. He obviously hadn’t been informed that Suzie was cutting class so I just hung up. After the fifth time of speaking to her dad, he finally revealed that he was concerned about how much time Suzie was spending alone in her bedroom.
At first he thought Suzie had been given more homework. Then he speculated that maybe she was going through a ‘womanly’ time and because Suzie didn’t have a mom to turn to, it forced him to ignore her even more. Then Suzie started refusing meals and never switched off her nightlight, even when her dad passed her bedroom at 5am to use the toilet. He would rap lightly on the door and call out her name like a lullaby but heard no reply. He knew that Suzie wasn’t asleep, though.

One Sunday morning before church, her dad had taken the opportunity to investigate Suzie’s bedroom when she was using the shower. It looked just the same as it had done since he asked her to tidy it at the end of summer break. Her feathery dream catcher swayed softly in the breeze above her lavender bed sheets and her desk was stacked neatly with her favourite poetry books. Her wooden, earthly jewellery was tucked away and her floaty clothes were folded perfectly. As the sunlight glimmered brightly into the room, it led a spotlight to the underside of her four poster bed, where her dad caught sight of a crumpled array of newspapers. He walked over to the bed and grasped the tattered clippings.
The one that lay on top was coverage that ran from the Cortizone Gazette during midsummer. The official crime correspondent was Mick Shaft; known for his previous retirement from the detective squad, and probably the best superintendent we’d ever had. The articles Suzie had collected recorded all the damage and justice of those involved in the riots and as the pile wore thin, Shaft’s focus directed toward the lives of the boys who had torched down the furniture store. I wanted to tell her dad about the expert ghost story that Suzie told at the campfire, but remembered she wasn’t supposed to have snuck out with me that night and so I kept quiet at the other end of the phone.

I choked. “What was the last entry?”
Her dad hesitated. “Do you hang out with Karl, Ricky?”
“Karl?” I said. “Yeah, sometimes. Karl’s cool”.
“Has he been in school lately?”
He hadn’t. “Do you think he’s taken off with her?”
“No, no. I just wondered how her friend Karl was dealing with the grief”.
“What grief?”
“Ricky, I don’t think it’s a very good idea for you to hang around with Karl anymore”.

* * * * * * * *

It turns out that Karl’s older brother was part of the trio that burnt House of Reeves to a wasteland in the summer arson riots. He had been sentenced a petty three months jail time but before Suzie’s dad hung up, he told me from the last report that Karl’s older brother had died in his cell on Friday.
I hung up too, cycled down to the corner store and bought the Cortizone Gazette. I couldn’t wait until I got home to read it so I sat down on an empty bench in Main Street, surrounded by the fragmentary reconstruction of my town’s disaster.

I read that Mick Shaft investigated the post mortem examinations and concluded that his cause of death couldn’t have been suicide. The guards verified that Simon hadn’t been seen by anyone that day; that his cell hadn’t even been cleaned yet. This was understandable; nearly all the kids in Cortizone had been submitted to prison that month.

Mick Shaft described the injuries which Simon received as aggressive. He had discoloured bruises that wrapped around his neck like racked sausage links. The local police examined the prison 40 miles north of Cortizone to review cases of prison guard brutality, which they supposed was a catalyst for Simon’s death. The boy looked like he had been throttled, but the CCTV footage proved no evidence of forced entry by any staff or that guards had even visited him that day. On the tape, Simon’s feet could be seen shaking wildly. They dangled briefly and then his body collapsed to the floor. There was no rope around Simon’s neck and all that the local police retrieved from his cell was a painted shoebox. Initial viewers of the tape said that the footage sharply cut to black. When they tried to play it back, all the recordings had been wiped.

I blinked at the tight lettering on the page and felt dizzy. I held the newspaper at arm’s length and then brought it back up close to my face. I looked at the copy of the Cortizone Gazette until I couldn’t focus anymore and laid it on my lap. I tried to digest all the loopholes in the information. Suddenly my mind raced back to Suzie. She had obviously read the article and savoured it preciously, ready to defend something. Maybe Karl thought she had cursed Simon with her harmless ghost tale. Maybe Suzie never suspected it would end up like this. It was almost as if Karl was ashamed by the ghost story, and that probably kept him quiet about Simon’s death that night. Maybe Suzie felt bad too. Maybe they had talked about it.

I rubbed my temples of the sweat. There was someone real in the corner of my eye. A hand gripped my thigh with a superhuman force. A woman walked by vacantly with her baby in a stroller and a snarling Dachshund at her heels. She scowled at him and clipped him around the ear.
“There’s nothing there, Toby!” she said, and tugged on his leash.
I yelped in pain. There was an anachronistic man with grey hair and he was grinning at me. It looked like Suzie’s grin. The other hand was pointing a rigid, angry finger. I shook my head, thinking that I was having another lucid vision about Edwin Reeves. I fought with all my strength to be released from the stony grip. As much as I tried, I couldn’t move. The man whispered in my ear, a stale, gross breath filling the air.
“Curse of Reeves,” he chanted slowly, with a melancholy tone.

* * * * * * * * *

He was cursing us; punishing all the children in Cortizone for the damage to his beloved furniture store. Anybody who was involved was being haunted by the ghost of Edwin Reeves, whether we were involved through the direct act, or through the indulgence in word-of-mouth schadenfreude. Online forums speculated it everywhere and internet comment threads supported the rumours. Mostly it was just rotten kids trying to blow smoke for attention or phoneys patronising the more elaborate stories. I browsed through some more comments in relation to Mick Shaft’s article. As expected, there were mixed opinions. Some agreed there should have been further investigation with Simon’s suspicious death, whereas some thought the article was too graphic and emotional; the boy had clearly committed suicide and Shaft was unethical to glorify otherwise. But if Simon was to be released in three months, why would he want to kill himself?

The latest comment on the thread claimed to solve this debate. It was written by one of the officers who worked in the prison where Simon died. He introduced himself by saying that he was actually interviewed by Shaft, but his story wasn’t allowed to be printed as local news. It was too confidential a report. Deciphering from the internet conversations with my friends that a few of us lived in Cortizone, he felt obliged to share the missing evidence. The main comment had a photo attached to it and was titled “Baby’s First Visit”. Although the officer remained anonymous, he said that he was lucky to have found us and promised to provide some kind of closure to the ambiguous case of our friend, Simon.

“I remember Simon having a visitor just a few days before he died. He wasn’t expecting anyone, and wasn’t really allowed to see them without notice, but the guys and I all made an exception because this chick was in such a state to see him. She was pretty spaced out, but so adorable, man. Little petite blonde. She couldn’t have been older than 16, maybe 17. I’m talkin’ just about 5”4’ and no more than 100lbs. She was a lot younger and shorter than Simon and we had no idea who she was. She didn’t leave her name and we never asked her for it. She must have known him though, maybe lived in Cortizone too. I dunno how she got here. There was no car in the parking lot and the nearest town is a 30 min drive away from the complex. No public transport direct to us at the prison, so she must have walked it.

She said there was something really important she had to share with him. She was so rational and specific…I was hypnotised when she spoke, man. She said it wasn’t anythin’ to do with his the riots or the arson, but we recorded the conversation anyway as protocol. I dunno if she knew that, but we didn’t think she’d start any trouble; she had the face of an angel. But there was something about her smirk, playful on her pale pink lips that I knew there was something not quite right about her, you know? Very distracting.

She asked us if she could talk to him somewhere open, so we let them have a standard interview room down the hall. That way we could intervene if we needed to and it would give Simon some time outta that rotten cell. We put a table between two chairs to split them apart and when I escorted her down the corridor to the interview room she tried to sneak in this plastic carrier bag. She said it was a special gift. I told her it wasn’t allowed and would have to pass through security procedures before she could let him see the parcel. She said it wasn’t anything illegal but it was very private, in this real flirty tone… and I couldn’t resist. I peered inside the bag, not really looking at it, and saw a cardboard shoebox decorated with glitter and rainbows. For God sake, it looked like a kid’s arts and crafts project. Utterly harmless. I told her that as long as it wasn’t gonna hurt anyone then it was okay. I faked the search, told the superintendent it was just a bunch of homemade mix tapes and cookies.

When we got to the door, I could see thru the window that Simon was waiting for her, cuffed by his ankles to the chair. He knew someone was coming to visit but we didn’t have any identity of the girl so we didn’t tell him who she was. We didn’t even know how they knew each other, but when she strutted into the room, Simon shot up out of his seat and struggled against his cuffs, this look of terror and anxiety in his eyes. He recognised her for sure, but I don’t think he wanted to. He started stuttering. We hoped he would say her name but the girl smirked again and pressed a finger to her lips. She whispered something to him and we still can’t understand what she said. We keep playing the tape over and over and keep running tests on it but the frequency just won’t pick it up.

He sunk back down into the chair and she sat opposite him. She started chatting to him for a while about random stuff; various names and places were mentioned casually, most of them repeated by all of you on his forum base. That’s how I knew I hadn’t imagined it. It was all unforgettable shit up until now. Simon didn’t seem to cooperate with what she was talking about, and held this reluctance toward the conversation. Did any of you know how she might have known Simon? ‘Karl’ was mentioned quite a lot, and also ‘Arcadia’, some kind of campus? Anyway, he was pretty unresponsive and wanted to make us believe that he didn’t have an association with her. Maybe he thought it would protect him? I dunno… the guy was already in jail so what did it matter?

That was when she took the shoebox out of the plastic bag.

She put it calmly on the table and slid it forward over to him. She told him it was a present. He pulled the shoebox closer and smiled at her, but it was really more of a grimace now I think about it. We were all a bit cautious about what she was giving him, but we let the scene play out ‘cause we were standing by to pile in right away if we had to. Nobody would have expected this spirited little seraph to have snuck in something contraband.
He lifted the lid and looked into the box. I ain’t never seen a guy squeal so loud in his life. It sounded as if someone had cut off his wiener with a chainsaw, man. He flung himself so far backward off the chair that he broke the links of his cuffs. He scurried over to the corner of the room like some sort of rat, and started scratching at the concrete walls. All his nails were splitting and the skin on his fingers was peeling off.

She didn’t move the entire time as we surrounded her, as if Simon’s reaction was irrational or illogical or somethin’. She stayed in her chair, watching as Simon was circled to be sedated. I ran over to the sparkly shoebox on the table. We got out our pistols and aimed at it, expecting there to be a bomb or a weapon inside. There was a colourful post-it note stuck to the side:

“He came to visit Daddy
Four days later, Simon was dead”.

I never did bring myself to open the photo attachment.

Credit To – Veronica Hope

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