The Charlatan

July 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I didn’t ask for this, you know. I mean, sure, I was curious about what it would mean to be “enlightened,” but meditation was never a means to end. It was the end itself. Plus, I always thought you had to be in a state of complete detachment in order for this shit to actually work. Turns out, all you have to do is practice the technique for a few years and before you know it, your mind is flooded with the cacophony of tripe that the average human mind transmits. Oh, and you can’t turn it off, either, so right now it sounds like a swarm of bees in my head with bits and pieces of discernible language. I now understand see why the great gurus lived in caves in the Himalayas.

That’s why I charge. I need land. I need land and a house in a very remote part of the world so that I can escape long enough to figure out how to block out the voices or how to shut this off completely. And I’ve tried medication. No thanks. The only thing that came close to working left me a drooling zombie. At least, that’s what the doctors told me after I came to. They said things like, “marked decrease in kinetic activity” and “demonstrates paraconscious behavior,” to which I responded, “Get that shit away from me!” Because the meds affected Wernike’s Area, it came out more like, “Muh.. Muh uhhhhnnnnnnnnNNNNNNNNNNNnnnn NNNNnn.” I want to be consciously aware of the life that I’m living. If I wanted to just check out, I’d do it the right way, all nice and permanent-like.

Ha! You think I belong back in that mental hospital. I can read your thoughts, remember? What, you want some other kind of demonstration? Fine. Take my last client. He was a lot like most of my clients: older, wealthy, a wife and three grown kids, and completely clueless as to why he was so unhappy. So, I helped him see why. I clarified things for him, and for my gift, he paid me a nice sum, much to the dismay of that now not-so-wealthy family of his. Now, regardless of what you think, this all above the boards. Technically, I’m a life coach. I just charge a little more than most. Oh, and this guy had a really bad stutter. I removed that at no extra charge. Don’t believe me? Go look at that guy. He’s as happy as he’s ever been and stutter-free, no thanks to that ungrateful family he’s got. I talked to him once a week until the restraining order arrived in the mail. It was his family! They’re now suing me– well, my lawyer has advised me that I can’t discuss it until the case is resolved, but trust me, it’s not like I’m independently wealthy. In cases like these, they freeze assets, alright?
Look, you can go wherever you want. Just march into that facility, and they’ll let you see him during visiting hours. He’s happier and healthier than he’s ever been, and now he sees the truth. He’s finally happy without money. His family is another story, but again, I can’t really get into that.

Alright, that’s not my best example, and no, I can’t demonstrate this on you. You have to genuinely want some kind of change in your life. I mean, this stuff isn’t motivational speaking. Well, some if it’s motivational speaking, but there’s some genuine hocus-pocus that’s involved. These aren’t parlor tricks or sleight of hand. I mean, if you’re not truly prepared, this stuff can ruin your life. It’s damn near doing that to mine. If I wasn’t able to actually help people from time to time, I’d have gone crazy by now. Still not convinced? Alright. Let’s see. There’s the hedge fund manager that has quit his job and started a foundation to teach high finance to kids in Africa…. There’s the publishing executive that went into standup comedy… There’s the Senator that went to art school… I cured three cases of ADHD, three cases of mild, plaque psoriasis, one case of seasonal allergies that had a touch of seasonal affective disorder, and even had one guy start growing his hair back.

What do you want from me? I’ve only been doing this for only a few months now, and yes, I primarily deal with people that you might consider to be of privilege. I’ve got to get a handle on this before I can start doing the big work! I’m still helping people out; I just have to get the voices under control. Once I can concentrate on one voice at a time all the time, then I can really start making a difference out there. Besides, between you and me, this is a highly valuable skill set that I possess, and I want to see what I can do with it. I mean, you don’t just leave a tech support salary without taking at least one shot at the big bucks, right? Surely you’re with me on this one. I want to know what it’s like to live in a big house and drive an overpriced sports car and fly in my own private jet. I’m still young and need to get those out of my system. Plus, God wants us all to be bountiful, right?

I can see that I’m losing you. Here. How about this: Tell me, do you believe in angels? I’m serious! Right, right, you’re the scientific type. I get it. Alright, let’s go at this from another angle. Have you ever done the trick with the black and white picture? You stare at a dot surrounded by a negative color image, and then you look at the dot while the photo turns to black and white. The black and white photo all of the sudden has color! The real world that you view every day is that black and white photo. You’re preoccupied. You’re thinking about your cases, or your wife, or your children, or what you’re going to have lunch today, or that girl with the big tits that rode on the elevator with you yesterday at 2:09 PM. The problem is that you’re only seeing part of the world. You’re only seeing that black and white picture. Now, imagine what would happen if you were able to find the real-world equivalent of that negative color image and imprint it over the black and white picture of your daily life. Imagine what you would notice.

You’re curious now, right? Think about the amount of cases you could close if you could actually talk to a ghost that was witness to the crime? Yeah. Now you’re getting it. If you want, I could help you do that, right here, right now, at no charge. Just as a token of my appreciation for all the hard work that you do. There. It’s done. Your third eye is now wide open. Open the blinds and look out the window. The one that’s walking across the lawn right now used to mow the grass here. Nat? Nate? Nate! That’s Nate walking on the lawn right now. Cool, huh?

You know, there’s one thing that I forgot to mention. Once you notice them, they notice you. There are some NASTY things out there whose attention you REALLY don’t want. There’s a particularly nasty one in the corner behind you. Don’t turn around. Don’t look at it. Seriously, if you look at it, that’s it. It’ll know that you can see it, and I have no idea what it will do after that. It’ll probably go after you, then Charlotte, and then little Jenny and William. Jesus, what have you people been doing in this room? How many people have died in here, exactly? Now, now, now. There’s no need to get upset or angry. Calling me names isn’t going to help you out, and no, I have no idea how to close your third eye. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I’ll bet if you drop these ridiculous fraud charges against me, I can go about figuring out just how to do that.

For a modest fee, of course.

Well, then. I’ve got work to do. Remember, whatever you do, don’t let them know that you can see them. Unless you know how to block them out, you’ll just, well, go crazy, and that can simply ruin your life.

Credit To – Grant Robinson

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Full Circle

July 21, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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This is the sixth and final part of the By the Fire’s Light series.

Names we give have power
As we discovered too late
For we have named the nameless one
And thus have sealed our fate.

Our time has come full circle,
And now we have the end
Of lives or story who can say
As we turn the final bend.

Oh Wanderer of Blazes,
Will you please pass me by?
I am not worth your interest
So leave me here to die.

As the flames close in and curl
Around this frigid winter night,
I pray I will not see you coming
By the fire’s light.

Rourke lay in the early morning twilight, unable to sleep, staring at the green canvas above him and listening to the twittering of birds. He heard Mira typing quietly on her laptop on the other side of the tent. They had bought an external battery that held a decent amount of charge to keep it and their phones running out in the wilderness. The battery was running low though. They’d have to go to a town somewhere to charge it up.

Mira stopped typing and Rourke heard her close the laptop. “It’s finished,” she said to herself.

Rourke pushed himself up on his elbow. “You’re done?’

Mira looked over to him, eyes red from lack of sleep and nodded. “It’s done. I’ll still have to look over the proofs when they send them to me. But the story is finished. I am ready to send it in.”

Rourke scooted out of his sleeping bag. He zipped it up and began to roll it tight. “Well, good timing. We needed to go into civilization to charge the battery anyway.”

“We’ll need to hit a place with free wi-fi,” Mira said. She was sliding her laptop in her duffle bag and packing in other small items, like her notepad. “And coffee. Good coffee.”

Rourke laughed. “What, you don’t like percolated coffee?”

“Not when you make it weaker then water,” she said, unzipping the flap at the front of the tent. Sunlight streamed in and Mira blinked against the sudden onslaught. She poked her head outside slowly, looking left and right. “No signs of tall people in business suits,” she said pulling back into the tent.

“That’s good,” Rourke said, hefting his duffle bag up. “You have everything?”

“Yeah,” Mira said, hefting her own duffle bag. “Let’s pull the tent down and get out of here.”

Mira and Rourke ducked down and walked out of the tent. It was a decent sized tent, meant to house a family. It was camouflage colored and blended in with the foliage around it. For the past two months, Rourke and Mira had moved from campsite to campsite and state park to state park, and, occasionally, private property (which was when the camouflage came in extra handy). It was somewhat ironic, hiding from the Slender Man in the woods, but as long as they stayed near a water source like a lake or river or even a stream, they didn’t seem to have too much trouble.

As long as they didn’t stay anywhere too long that is. As they walked, Mira remembered back to the end of their first week of camping. They were at a state park site, camped near a decent sized lake. It had been three in the morning and Rourke had been sound asleep. Mira, however, had had trouble sleeping ever since her encounter with the Slender Man at the hotel that ended with the entire hotel in flames. She was determined to finish her story and bring it to publication, to try and put some dent in the path of destruction this thing was weaving.

As she had been typing, Mira had noticed a long thin creeping shadow in the pool of light made by her screen. With a gasp she had turned around to find a tall slender shadow just outside the tent. She had leapt forward on Rourke, shaking him awake. Which turned out to be a good thing when a tendril ripped through the tent fabric and struck where she had been sitting, splitting her laptop in two.

Rourke had grabbed a knife he used for paring down sticks for the fires he made sometimes and used it to slash a hole in the other side of the tent. Pushing out, they had run through the woods to the lake, crashing into the frigid water. The thing had stood on the shore watching them until the sun came up.

They had both staggered to shore, shivering, with blue lips and numb fingers and toes. Luckily, they had been able to get back to their camp and gather their things, only pausing to change into dry clothes. Even though it was the middle of summer they had cranked up the heat in Rourke’s car as they drove away from the state park. They had had to buy a new laptop for Mira and another tent. Since then they hadn’t stayed at a single site for more than three days.

Mira snapped back to the present as they came up to Rourke’s cars. As they loaded their things in the back, she frowned and turned to Rourke. “Hey, Rourke,” she said.

“What’s up?”he said as he shifted their duffle bags to the floor so he could squeeze the rolled up tent in.

“You remember our first collective encounter with the Slender Man? When we dove in the lake behind my house?”

“Yeah, it’s when I told you about how we needed to modify its story instead of negating,” Rourke said, shutting the door. “Because it’s easier.”

“Well, yeah,” Mira said, opening the passenger door. She climbed in and belted herself in and waited for Rourke to do the same on the passenger side. She turned towards Rourke as he started the car. “But there was something else you said. About us not being enough.”

Rourke revved the car and then let it idle as he sat back. He closed his eyes, thinking. “Yeah,” he said. “It was something Connor told me in the dream that prompted me to come check you. He said that one would not be enough. Or two.”

Mira’s eyebrows knit. “I don’t understand then.”

Rourke cocked his head. “Don’t understand what?”

“Why water has been so affective against it,” Mira said. “I mean there is some speculation in the Slender Man mythos that it is weak to water, especially in the Marble Hornets series, but nothing definite. Nothing concrete. So how can just the two of us believing it be enough to keep it at bay?”

Rourke stared ahead out the windshield for a few moments, watching the trees wave in the wind. He shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe Connor was wrong? Or maybe that speculation combined with our belief is strong enough?”

“Maybe,” Mira said, sounding unconvinced. She shook her head. “I can’t think without coffee. Let’s make our brief trip into civilization before we rough it again.”

“Sounds good to me,” Rourke said. He reached forward to turn on the radio.

–tenth disappearance in the area.– the disembodied voice said. –When questioned, authorities would only say they were investigating all possible leads. When questioned as to whether the disappearance of the children in the area was connected to the sudden spike in child abductions nationwide, authorities had no comment.

Mira and Rourke stared at the radio and Rourke shook his head. “You can’t get that story in soon enough,” he said to Mira, shifting the car into gear.

Twenty miles down the road they found a small town with a coffee shop that advertised free wi-fi in the windows. Mira had ordered the largest black coffee should could and a bagel. Taking her laptop, she settled in a corner by an electrical outlet and plugged her laptop in, letting it charge. Rourke sat down across from her and surreptitiously plugged in the battery they were using to charge their equipment.

“So,” Rourke said, settling down with his own coffee. “What’s your story called anyway? Did you finally decide on a name?”

Mira took a long swallow of coffee, appreciating its nearly scalding heat as it slid down her throat. “Oh, so good,” she said, putting the coffee down. She was definitely going back for a refill.

Rourke eyed her with amusement. “I take it that’s not the title.”

Mira rolled her eyes. “No,” she said, attaching her story to an e-mail she was sending to her agent Maureen. “I called it ,The Wanderer of Blazes.

“Catchy,” Rourke said. He swirled his coffee around. “So, how will this stop that thing?”

“Well, first we have to hope we can reach a fairly wide audience. If it bombs we’re back at square one,” Mira said. She lifted her cup for another gulp and drained it.

“It won’t,” Rourke said, trying to sound encouraging.

Mira stood up to get a refill. She patted Rourke on the shoulder as she passed. “That’s nice of you, but even great stories have bombed in their time. And I don’t think I’ve written a great story. Maybe a good one though.”

Rourke settled back in his chair as Mira went for her refill. The past couple months had been harder on him they he cared to admit. He had resigned from the force when he had gone underground with Mira. He really didn’t have any other options if he wanted to disappear without a thousand following hounds. Not that his employers weren’t curious to his reasons or wouldn’t investigate. But, there had been nothing to tie him to the hotel that had gone up in flames (more like exploded really…) since Mira had made all the reservations. Aside from being available for questioning in the disappearance of Jared Holloway from his prison (and he remembered his gun in Jared’s hand as Jared turned it on himself…) he had nothing to tie him down.

Mira sat back down with a new cup of coffee and checked her screen. “Good, it sent,” she said, taking a sip. “We should probably check in to civilization every couple days so I can get the proofs.”

“You still haven’t told me how this story is going to help us,” Rourke said, leaning forward.

Mira shut her laptop lid and set her elbows lightly on top of the shiny dark blue surface. “A few things,” she said. “One,” said, ticking the point off on her fingers, “we really establish water as a weakness in this story. Make it something that can seep into the mythos. Two, I wrote about a way in the story to pull people from whatever horrid place that thing takes them to.” She took a breath. “And three is tied to two. When we pull the people out, we force a large de-power in the thing. Since it runs on belief, once we steal the belief batteries its been running on we cut its power down to manageable levels.”

“Huh,” Rourke said. He finally took a drink of his coffee as he
contemplated this. “But doesn’t it run on the belief of people who aren’t
currently spending eternity with it?”

“Well, since I’m guessing that’s how it first came to exists, yes,” Mira
said. She shrugged. “We’re not going to destroy it in one sitting though.
If the book sells well, I can write another hey, maybe even get in a trilogy
that ends with this thing’s permanent defeat!”

“That’d be nice,” Rourke said, leaning back in his seat. “It’d be nice to
get back to life again.”

Mira reached across the table and grabbed his hand. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“You’ve had to give up a little more than me. I can still do my work while
we’re running.”

“Yeah, well, just do a good job so I can go back to mine,” Rourke said
gruffly, looking away from her, a thin shiny film on his eyes.

Mira opened her laptop again and became engrossed in it until Rourke turned
back towards her. He glanced down at the battery. “Battery’s charged,” he
said, reaching down to unplug it. “We should hit a grocery store before we
pick our next campsite.”

The rest of the day passed quietly after he and Mira had set up camp again.
A strong stream wound by the tent, rushing on its way to who knew where.
Mira sat with a book in the grass by the stream, head bent over the pages.
She looked up as Rourke walked restlessly out of the tent.

“Would you like to read it?” she asked.

“Read what?” Rourke asked, walking over to her. “That?” he said, pointing
at the book in her hands.

“No, my book,” Mira said, closing the one she was reading. “You’ve read
bits and piece, but never the whole thing.”

“I–” Rourke said. He stared at the stream for a moment and then shook his
head. “No. I don’t want to know more about this thing than I have to.”

Mira shrugged. “Fair enough.”

“Do you have anything else?”

Mira reached next to her and held up a small paperback. A dark haired
mysterious man had one hand waving a gun and his arm around a blond woman
with breasts so large Rourke wondered how they stayed in her half buttoned
shirt. “Cheap thriller I picked up at the grocery store,” Mira said.

Rourke laughed. “I’ll take it.”

The proofs had finally showed up in Mira’s inbox a week and a half later.
Mira spent the next couple of days glued to her laptop as she poured over
her pages, looking at the marks the editors had made. “And done,” she
finally announced at the end of the second day. She glanced towards the
setting sun. “You wanna go in now or wait until tomorrow?”

Rourke looked from the sun to Mira. He wanted this story off as quickly as
possible. But he didn’t like being out at night. It wasn’t that this thing
could only attack during the night, but it seemed to prefer to. And he
would rather not be around other people if it decided to make an appearance.
The burnt down hotel with dozens and dozens dead had taught him that lesson.
“Let’s wait until tomorrow,” Rourke said.

That night Mira slept well, with an actual smile on her lips. Rourke
guessed it was because she had finally finished her story. She had been
stressed out over it, working almost non-stop, typing, revising, and then
typing again. At times he had wondered if he was going to have to start
making her take tranquilizers to get at least some sleep.

Rourke, however, did not sleep. A slow creeping sensation of doom had been
building in him ever since Mira had finished her story. He didn’t
understand it and he couldn’t shake it. All he could do was lie awake and
watch and listen for anything unusual. The night crawled by slowly, each
cicada buzz, each small gust of wind, setting his already frayed nerves on
edge. It was with relief he saw the light of the sun start to creep into
the tent. It was only then he allowed his eyes to close and he dozed for a
couple hours.

They had managed to creep their way across the state over the past couple
weeks with their constant changing of campsites. They were in the southern
tip of it now and they ended up in a small town that sat right on the
border. They walked into a McDonald’s to take advantage of the free wi-fi
and to get some breakfast. Rourke felt unfriendly eyes on his and Mira’s
back as they walked in. He looked around curiously as they got in line
behind a woman and her small boy. The woman glanced over her shoulder and
almost casually reached over and pulled her boy closer.

“What is everyone’s problem?” Rourke muttered as he and Mira stepped forward
to order.

“Oh, don’t mind them,” the young girl manning the register said, brown curls
bouncing as she shook her head. “It’s just, five kids have gone missing in
the past couple weeks. It’s a small town, the kind where everyone knows one
another, so they’ve been eyeing daggers at any strangers passing through.”

“Here too,” Mira said softly.

“Well, the cops said it’s not related to the national spike, but,” the girl
leaned in conspiratorially, ” I think they’re lying. I saw some guys in
suits in government type cars at the station earlier. Looked like the FBI.”

“Wow,” Mira breathed. Rourke and she took their order to go and set up at
one of the table on the patio outside.

“Glad the wi-fi reaches,” Mira said, opening her internet browser on her
laptop. She looked to Rourke. “Should we try to tell someone?” she asked.

Rourke looked up from his biscuit. “Tell them what?”

“About all this,” Mira said waving her hands in vague circles.

Rourke raised an eyebrow. “Tell them a faceless tentacled abomination is stealing these children and setting fires? With no proof, no evidence, and photos?” He shook his head. “Only if you want to spend the next couple years in jail or a psychiatric hospital.”

“I just,” Mira said, typing as she spoke, “I want to protect these kids somehow.”

“That’s what you’re doing by sending in that story,” Rourke said, pointing at the laptop. But even as he said it, he felt a feeling of doom rise in his chest.

“Am I?” Mira asked, as if she could feel it too. She sighed. “You’re right there. Who would believe us?” She shook her head. “Nobody else has. Even people who saw it, who you tried to warn.”

“Yeah,” Rourke said, folding up the rest of his sandwich and putting it back in the bag. He wasn’t feeling very hungry anymore.

“Let’s start making our way to the coast,” Mira said suddenly.

“Um, okay. But why?” Rourke asked, getting up. He tossed his bag into a nearby trash can.

“If the story does well, we’re going to need to be near a lot of water,” Mira said. “And if it doesn’t,” she looked around her, “I just don’t want to be here anymore.”

“Well, east, west, or south?” Rourke asked. “Unless you felt like heading to Canada?”

Mira smiled. “No. Let’s go south. But let’s take our time. It’s going to be a couple months before the book is published.”

The next two months were almost pleasant for Mira and Rourke. With the story out and awaiting publication, there was nothing to do but wait. Well, that, and keep moving so that the thing didn’t catch up with them.

The Slender Man showed neither tendril nor tie the entire two months, and it bothered Rourke horribly. It made him feel worse than if it had shown up everyday. His feeling of doom grew worse as each day passed and slipped through his hands like so much sand.

After two months of meandering travel, Rourke and Mira had finally ended up in Florida. Mira had taken to wandering back into civilization daily once her book hit publication.

“It might not do as well as it could,” Mira said to Rourke as she sat in a donut shop with him. “Since we’ve been on the move, I wasn’t able to help promote it.” She bit her nails.

“Well, it certainly would have made an impression if the Slender Man had showed up during an interview,” Rourke joked.

Mira looked up from her screen with something close to relief on her face. “Well, early review are mostly positive. Good but not great. A good way to while away an afternoon. Stuff like that.” She clicked some more. “And it’s starting to show up on a lot of blogs dedicated to Slender Man stuff.” She held her hands together. “This just might work,” she squeaked excitedly.

“So,” Rourke asked, “does this mean we need to be near a lot of water?”

Mira closed her laptop. She took a breath. “Maybe. Ask me again in a week. And let’s keep going south, all the way down to the tip.”

They rolled south, stopping at beach campgrounds as they went. It was getting to be the tail end of summer. Rourke would have thought that the campgrounds would be full, but they weren’t. He learned from a local at one of the shops they stopped at for Mira’s daily book check that the campgrounds were scarcely inhabited in the hotter months. “Just as well,” Rourke had said to himself.

At the end of the week Mira had looked up from her laptop in the coffee shop they were in with a mix of determination and pride. “Look,” she said, turning the laptop to face Rourke. It was the New York Times bestsellers list. And there was The Wanderer of Blazes at number 11.

Rourke felt himself smile. “That’s great, Mira!” he said and he meant it.

“I think it’s time I told you how to pull the people out,” Mira said, slowly closing the laptop. She looked around the shop full of laughing teens and college aged peoples, with beads of all colors hanging in strings from the ceiling. “But not here.”

“We should go set up camp anyway,” Rourke said, getting up to join her.

They drove to the beach campground located the furthest south and found an isolated spot to pitch their tent. It was heading towards noon when they were finished, so they had both crawled inside with bottled water and a small fan to escape the heat.

“Well,” Rourke said, fanning himself with the copy of the cheap thriller Mira had picked up a couple months ago, “what’s the plan.”

Mira took in a deep slow breath and then let it out. “You aren’t going to like it.”

Rourke sighed and leaned forward, still fanning himself. “Please don’t dance around the issue. How can it be any worse than what we’ve already been through.”

“Well, you see,” Mira said tentatively, “you know how it was sort of able to weaken the barriers between our reality and its that time at the hotel?”

“When it set everything on fire? Yeah, I remember,” Rourke said. He frowned. “I’m really not going to like this, am I?”

Mira shook her head. “Well, I sort of made it that if it decided to try and pull that trick when near water, that the weakening would twofold. It could pull things in, but the those trapped with it could push back and out. Wake up out of whatever state it has them in.”

Rourke stared at her. “Are you saying that to save these people, we have to purposely call the Slender Man to us and purposely piss it off enough to try and breach worlds again?”

“Yeah, basically!” Mira said, cheerfully smiling wide. Her smiled faded quickly.

“Oy,” Rourke said, putting his book down and rubbing his eyes. “The more water the better I take it?”

“Yep,” Mira said. “That’s why we’re here. I think I can handle calling it to us and pissing it off pretty easily, though.”

“Do tell,” Rourke said, looking back up even though he still felt a dull throbbing behind his eyes.

“I will start writing my second story. And I will plain old try to write it out of existence. It’s why it came after me the first time. It’s has to be the main reason it’s afraid of people who know it’s ‘really real’ as Jared told you. When it comes, we’ll go in the ocean where it can’t reach us.”

“And if it decides to just stand on shore and watch us like it has before?” Rourke asked, picking his book back up to fan himself.

“I thought I’d, y’know, taunt it and stuff,” Mira said.

Rourke laughed. “You’re going to taunt the eldritch abomination. That’s great.” He laughed again. “But I don’t have a better plan. When did you want to try?”

Mira folded her hands. “I wanted to wait here a couple nights. Give it some time to catch up with us.”

Rourke nodded slowly. “Okay, Mira. I trust you. I’ll do this with you.”

Mira looked away. “Don’t say that. Don’t say you trust me.”

“Why?” Rourke asked, genuinely surprised.

Mira looked back and there were tears in her eyes. “If– if you get hurt, if it hurts you, I don’t want to think it was because you trusted me.”

Rourke smiled softly. “Mira, I think it’s out to hurt me whether I trust you or not. And you for that matter.” He became serious. “Be careful. I feel like we’re reaching the end somehow.”

Two nights later, Mira and Rourke sat on the most deserted beach they could find. It was rocky and the waves were choppy and was entirely unpopular, which was perfect for their purpose.

“Here goes,” Mira said, beginning to scribble on her notepad. A portable lamp sat next to her giving her enough light to write by. She had opted to not use her laptop so the saltwater wouldn’t ruin it. “Keep an eye out.”

Rourke merely nodded and stood up and walked a slow perimeter around where Mira sat. Ten minutes passed. Half an hour. Two hours.

Mira’s lamp started to dim and she looked up from her notepad to Rourke. “Anything?” she asked.

Rourke shook his head. The feeling of doom and dread were larger in him than they had ever been but there had been nothing. Not even a stray shadow.

Mira sighed, looking disappointed. “I had hoped… well I didn’t relish it coming but–”

“I know,” Rourke said walking back to her. He picked up the lamp as Mira stood up. “What now?”

Mira looked around her. “We could just wait until it shows up. It always has eventually.”

“We could,” Rourke said. “We can decide in the morning.” The only sounds their feet crunching in the sand and stones, they headed back to their camp.

Rourke lay quietly in the tent listening to Mira’s slow rhythmic breathing. Everything was off. They hadn’t seen the thing in over two months. Mira had purposely invoked its personal berserk button and nothing had happened. Only, something was happening, Rourke could feel it hanging over him. He just didn’t know what. He turned restlessly over and saw the sun’s light beginning to peak through the tent.

He abruptly sat up. That light was too orange and wavery to be the light of the sun. In the space of a couple of seconds he was out of the tent and looking towards the horizon inland. He stood stock still even as he heard Mira calling him and crawling out after him.

She stood next to him as still as he. “What on God’s green earth?” she asked.

Flames reaching so high they looked like they licked the sky were before them. Not near them. Not in their campsite. No, the flames were coming from what Rourke knew was the nearest town. The whole sky was orange with their light, like an aurora borealis of one color. They were moving steadily south, towards them.

Rourke staggered over to his car and Mira followed. He turned it on and fired up the radio. Maybe a local news station could tell him what was going on. A loud screeching met his ears and he jumped back it was so loud. “Ah!” he said as he hit his head on the door. “What is it?”

Mira had her hands over her ears, eyes wide. “I think it’s the emergency broadcast system!” she said. Her gaze kept flicking back to the flames that were marching ever closer.

This is not a test – the voice said – this is not a test. This is the National Emergency Broadcast System. A large scale terrorist attack has set massive fires in the major metropolitan cities of the continental United States. All people living in or near such areas need to evacuate immediately. Further instructions will follow later. This is not a test– the voice began again.

Mira backed away from the car, eyes wide. “No, no, no,” she was saying over and over again. “You don’t think, oh, God, Rourke, you don’t think?”

It was then Rourke noticed the air around them was starting to shimmer. Just like it had at the hotel. “Later!” Rourke said, grabbing Mira’s arm and dragging her after him towards the ocean. She found her footing quickly and he let her go as they kicked off their shoes and waded in.

“Out further,” he urged. “Beyond the pull.”

Mira coughed out a mouthful of seawater, but kept swimming.

About thirty feet from shore, Rourke felt they were far enough from the shimmer to be safe. He turned with Mira, expecting to see the whole shoreline in flames with the Slender Man dead center.

He blinked. While the Slender Man was indeed standing on the shore, tendril floating above it and waving in the breeze, there were no flames. Rourke squinted. There weren’t flames, but there were impressions in air, indents, almost as if the air had become a liquid curtain that people were pushing against.

Rourke and Mira gasped as people began to spill out of nowhere onto the beach. Hundreds of people, most of them children, now filled the deserted beach. But the Slender Man did not move, merely stood unmoving and turned towards Mira and Rourke.

For a moment those who had appeared from nowhere were still and silent on the beach. Then, they began to stir, almost as one, and moved for the water. The adults were urging the kids into the water, helping carry the ones too small to understand what was going on.

“Yes!” Mira shouted, waving towards them, bobbing in the water. “We got them out! We can stop it!”

Rourke was looking at the thing though, standing on the beach, a backdrop of flames that were steadily moving forward behind it. It didn’t look very defeated. “Mira,” he began. Mira grabbed his arm and nearly dragged him under, though, as he spoke.

“Rourke!” she screeched. “Look!” She pointed away from her with a trembling hand.

Rourke followed where her hand was pointing. He watched, dumbfounded, as the people, the adults and children, on the beach began to deliberately walked into water over their heads. They were not resurfacing.

“No, stop!” Mira cried, striking out towards them. “You’re out! We can stop it!” A wave pushed her under and she came up again sputtering.

Rourke swam after, always with an eye on the thing on the beach. He saw a young man detach himself from a young woman and a few children and swim towards him and Mira. Rourke squinted. “God in heaven,” he said, as the man came abreast them. “Kurt Kent.”

Mira looked at the young man. “Kurt Kent? Connor’s friend?”

Kurt nodded looking from Mira to Rourke solemnly. “I just wanted to thank you for letting us get out and giving us a chance to get away before the end.”

Mira stared at him open-mouthed. “The end? What do you mean?”

“The end,” he said again, simply. He pointed to the sky above him. Mira and Rourke looked up. Rourke sucked in his breath. The sky looked like it was literally pulling apart at the seams. There was a gigantic rip in the dark blue above them and behind it was a deep burgundy red. What looked liked slime was dripping from it and then a thousand mouths full of sharp teeth opened and roared. Long black tendrils slipped in from the rip and began to dangle down.

“How,” Mira said helplessly, only paddling enough to keep afloat.

“I’m afraid it’s your fault a little bit,” Kurt said, apologetically. Mira stared at him. “Oh, this would have happened eventually I think. You just gave it a little boost.”

“How did I give it a boost?” Mira screamed. She looked towards the thing on shore. Standing. Unmoving. Waiting.

“You made us more important,” Kurt said, eyes boring into Mira’s. “You called us its belief batteries. Before we just gave it the belief of a regular person, albeit boosted a little because we though of nothing but it. You must important, though. Special. You amped up its power through us. And well–” He shrugged. “It doesn’t need us anymore.”

“Kurt!” the young woman he had left behind called to him urgently.

“Coming, Ellen!” he called backed. He turned to Rourke and Mira. “You should go too. You don’t want to be here when its done.” He swam away without looking back.

Rourke put an arm around Mira and looked up at the sky. The rip was widening and quickly. The water pulled him backwards oddly and he looked behind him. The water was angling up and back into a looming darkness that was blacker than black, a black so deep his eyes could not process it. A black that hurt to look at. And the blackness was moving forward, sweeping towards them. He looked forward again. Flames and the thing waiting on the beach.

“Mira,” he said, quietly. “There’s only one way out. Really out. And we need to take it quickly if you want.” He squeezed his arm around her. “I said I was with you until the end though, and I meant it.”

Mira stared steadily at the Slender Man on the beach. Her eyes narrowed. “You’d like that wouldn’t you,” she hissed at it. “Well I’m not afraid of this story and where it’s taking me!” she screamed at it. It cocked its head but made no move. Mira looked up to Rourke. “This is our world,” she said. “And I will not surrender it to that thing.”

“Okay,” Rourke said, holding her close, bobbing in the water.

Mira wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tight. “It was a corner of darkness in our reality. Maybe we can be a corner of light in its.”

They held each other fast as the blackness approached and the sky spilled open above them. The held each other not like lovers, or even like friends, but as a child holds its bear, a last shield against the darkness.

“To the end,” Rourke breathed.

“To the end,” Mira echoed back.

Then the blackness engulfed them. The world around them fell away and they said no more.

Credit To – Star Kindler

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Silent Quinn

July 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Nowadays, if you are fanatical Christian, you are mostly likely looked down upon by society. People are absolutely disgusted by your ways and your desire to spread your religion to others. As a teenager, you could get out-casted by the other kids because they wish to believe that being anything but Christian is the way you should be.

When I was growing up, the popular religious ideas of the public were very much the opposite. I grew up in a very small town with a population of a mere fifty people. Every single individual had a life that revolved around the Christian beliefs, and frankly, to say that any other belief was looked down upon would be quite an understatement. You were treated as an animal if your opinions of religion differed from theirs. Eventually, you would be put to death. Since it was such a small town, murder wasn’t frowned upon because everyone had gotten so used to it by now. In most people’s minds, if you were putting a heretic to death, you were merely curing a disease. As for my personal opinion on the matter, I was taught that these people who were put to death deserved to die, so it never really scared me or bothered me.

That is, until, I was the one who was public enemy number one.

The worst part is that it wasn’t really my fault. I always obeyed the rules of the religion. As a child, I attended church every day it was required, and when it wasn’t required, I spent hours in there just praying. If I somehow managed to run out of things to pray about, I would just talk to God. It was a comforting feeling to know that a higher being was looking down at you and keeping you safe as long as you were good. It seemed like a reasonable deal—as long as you are good to him, he will look after you. Though I would spend hours at the church, I still felt the need to pray to God even more. I would pray before every meal and right before I went to sleep. I loved God so much and wanted him to know that I did every hour of the day.

When I was first approached by the unknown entity that crouched at my window, I didn’t know what his intentions were. In fact, I thought he was a guardian angel sent from my Lord. I figured that his repulsive features were simply there to test the strength of my loyalty. God simply wanted to make sure I would not judge this angel sent from heaven merely by its looks. He wanted to make sure I would love this angel no matter the physical flaws. Its smile was crooked, for some of its teeth were shattered. His black, sloppy skin loosely hung around his bones, revealing every dent in the bones of his fingers. His eyes managed to claw their way into my head, and I found it very difficult to make eye contact.

They seemed to swell out of the sockets. I think they had a problem staying in place due to his skin that seemed to be melting off. The eyes themselves had cracks of red in them, but beside that, they were a thick, milky, white.

At first, of course, I was frightened, but then I remembered that there was no reason for the Lord to send any harm my way. I was a good child.

“Hello friend!” I grinned and stuck my hand out to him. His head slumped onto his left shoulder and his mouth fell open. After waiting a minute or two, I realized he wasn’t going to reply to me any time soon, “Were you sent by God?” I asked. Instead of using words, he replied with a low, gravelly snarl. The sound unsettled me to say the least. Chills trickled down my spine and no other words seemed to be able to escape my lips. He clamped his jaw shut and began to make his way off of my window and back into the shadows of the night that awaited him outside of my bedroom window. A while after he disappeared,
I finally noticed that slimy, murky substance that he left behind on my window sill.
In the morning, I decided that telling my parents would be a terrible idea. The being that came to my window last night was a personal message from the Lord to me—not them. I assumed if God wanted me to tell my parents, he would have sent him to their window too.

My morning was a typical one. We all sat down to pray, we ate our food, and headed off to church. On the way to church, I couldn’t help but continue to focus my thoughts on that creature. Was he there to watch over me at night, and when I woke up I scared him off? I realized that I may be offending my Lord by questioning his plans, so I pushed those thoughts out of my head and focused on mentally preparing myself for the church sermon that was about to begin.

It was as if that sermon was a direct and obvious message from God to me! The entire two hours that the preacher spoke, he spoke about guardian angels. He spoke of how those who are good to the Lord will be the ones to receive them. And that’s when I knew for sure that God had sent me a gift.

The next night the angel visited me, I was not afraid anymore. I sat up in my bed and gazed at the window. It didn’t take long for him to appear.

He stood on all fours at my window. Though his skin was dark, he was distinguishable through the night sky, for it was as if his skin was blacker than the night.

“Hi, again.” I said gleefully.

I jumped back slightly when the angel replied to me. I was not expecting an answer, to be honest. His voice caused pain to my ears, for it was croaky and it sounded as if he was trying to talk with needles jammed into his throat.

“Hi Quinn.”

Now this was even more proof that the Lord had sent him. He knew my name! I couldn’t help but allow a giggle to escape my lips. I was eager to reply, but the angel stopped me with his raspy voice again.

“Do you love your God?”

That was weird. Wasn’t the Lord his God too?

Of course my immediate response was to nod eagerly. His drooping face lifted slowly into a smile.

“Would you do anything for him?”

Once again, I nodded. I was starting to feel anxious again. I couldn’t control it. His existence was overwhelming me with absolute terror. I had a strong desire for him to leave. I felt awful for wanting something that directly went against what the Lord had in store for me, but in that moment, I didn’t care. This monster was downright disturbing. Before I could utter any words, I saw that he had fled while I was deep in thought.

The next morning, I no longer felt that I did not want to tell my parents about this entity that was visiting me. Instead, I felt that I cannot tell them that this entity was visiting me. Telling them that I was frightened by a black being with bloated white eyes that was appearing by my window would be a certain death wish. I would be called out as a heretic for believing that such evil would be visiting me, and then I would be put to death without question. I lugged my way through another day of worship. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to focus on God due to the thoughts of the creature that were haunting my mind.

Night finally gave me a slight relief as I crashed into my bed and slammed my eyes shut. I didn’t even pray before I fell into a deep sleep. Now that I think back, I find it hilarious that for one second; I actually thought I would get a good night’s sleep that night. I awoke once again to those chalky, bulging eyes. My eyes were scorching from my sudden awakening. Just as I was going to tell it sternly to leave, it interrupted me.

“Please do not be afraid.”

Ha. Easier said than done.

“I am here to guide you.”

His words truly clutched my attention. I tried my best to lock eyes with his. How could I have been so stupid? He was never an evil entity at all! I felt absolutely foolish.

“You see, the reason you believed you feared me is because this town has been preaching such wrong things, but part of you knew that I was only here to tell you what you were meant to do. You were chosen to show them the errors of their ways, my child. It’s not too late to do what’s right.”

A wide grin smeared across my face. I was chosen! Out of all the people in my town, I was chosen to show everyone the right way!

I keenly replied, “What does my Lord want me to do?”

Stupid. I was so stupid. I was so fucking stupid.

The rest of the night was a blur of flames and shrieks of terror and rage. The next thing I remembered was the morning, when I was held down by two very strong citizens. The town priest was standing before me. His eyes leaked tears of disappointment… and disgust.
From the snippets of conversations that I could catch, I learned that, apparently, I had burned down the town church. No one said anything about a creature. I, alone, burned down the town’s only church. Fear swallowed me whole and I began to scream in absolute terror.

Their first act was to sew my lips shut. They wanted to assure themselves that I would never speak any of my heretic thoughts to others again.

Their second act was to hack my hands off. They wanted to assure themselves that I would never write any of my heretic thoughts down to show others again.

I lost all ability to communicate with others. They left my eyes completely untouched so I could spend the rest of my isolated life watching others experience the miracles of God’s work. Next to me, there was a deep hole in the ground. There, they released me into the ground and buried me alive.

Over the years, they unintentionally built a new church over my grave. The town died off very slowly and was completely abandoned years later. I am almost absolutely certain that the creature was responsible for the entire obliteration of the town. But that doesn’t matter to me anymore.

Every now and then, I get a group of teenagers that visit my church. Typically, they speak of Satan and try to preform rituals to raise me from my grave. It’s funny. No matter how hard they try, they won’t be able to, because I am already out of my grave. Even in the afterlife, I still try my best to serve God. Every time a new group of adolescences enter my church, they speak of a new story they heard about how the last people who came here were brutally murdered. They always laugh after the person tells the story and then continue to mock me. It’s okay though. Because I’m always the last one to laugh. I punish them for their heretic beliefs. I’m only doing what is right. After all, I’m merely curing a disease, right?

Credit To – PartyPoisonn

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Fighting Fate

July 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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This is part five in the By the Fire’s Light series.

Mira Grolinsky sat at her desk in the hotel room sorting through stacks of paper. A biographer by trade, she was used to gathering large amounts of information and then synthesizing it into one coherent package. What she was not used to was not needing to source check. Of course, when you were researching a creature that literally ran on belief, that meant any and all sources on it were valid, in their ways.

Mira bit the pen in her hand as she sorted the large stack of paper in her lap into smaller stacks. That didn’t mean that all the information was equally important, though. The most important pieces were the ones that the most people had seen. That meant things like Marble Hornets and Connor Russell’s hit book By the Fire’s Light held a little more stock than the latest Slender Man story posted on fanfiction.net.

“Worth pursuing,” Mira muttered, passing a piece of paper to a very small pile. “Garbage,” she muttered passing one to a much larger pile. She sighed. This was the easy part. When she was done, she planned to write her own story. This creature thrived on belief and Mira planned to turn that to her advantage. Mira had already talked to her agent, and she had convinced Maureen what a good idea it was to jump in on this Slender Man thing. After all, Connor Russell was dead and his book was popular. People would want more. Maureen had eventually caved in and was already in talks with several publishers. Mira was hoping she could get her usual publisher to pick it up for their fiction division.

She finished with the pile of papers in her lap. Unceremoniously, she swept the garbage pile into the trash bin next to the desk. “We’ll start by establishing water as a weakness, get it to the major population,” she muttered, pulling a notepad to herself. “Then I’ll figure out some way to bind you or something.” She had learned the hard way that just writing this thing out of existence was not an option, at least not right now. She began to scribble notes to herself as she worked through the small pile of things she was keeping.

Her phone began to trill. Still scribbling notes, she picked it up and put it to her ear. “Yeah, Mira here.”

“Mira, you need to get out now.”

Mira stopped writing. “Rourke? What happened?” She put her pen and notepad down and grabbed a duffle bag on the floor by the desk. She began to scoop everything on the desk inside it.

“Later,” he said, sounding out of breath. “It showed up, I don’t know if you’re safe. Grab our stuff and go. Don’t pick the next hotel on the list, go to a random one. I’ll call you later.” The phone cut off.

As she hung up, Mira grabbed the laptop on the bed behind her and stuffed it in the bag. Luckily this was the last day Rourke and she had planned on staying in this hotel so most of their things were already in her car or his car. She grabbed Rourke’s duffle bag by his bed, and with hers balanced in her other hand, she was out the door.

Five minutes later found her driving down the highway. She checked her rear view mirror, but she had seen no signs of the thing, which was good she supposed. Ever since her and Rourke’s close-up encounter with the Slender Man at her house, they had both been on the move. She had pointed out to Rourke that the protagonist’s that lasted the longest against Slender Man in the stories she had seen tended to A) move around a lot and B) have partners. So, that was exactly what they had decided to do.

Of course, they had only been at it for a few days, and Rourke had already had another encounter which did not bode well. Still, she didn’t know the circumstances. In fact it might be fruitful. It might be something she could put in the story she was going to write.

After fifteen minutes, she pulled off at an exit with a coffee shop with free wi-fi. One latte later, she sat down with her laptop and pulled up her list of hotels and then a random number generator. She plugged in her range of numbers to the generator and it spit one out at her. She groaned looking at it. It was a hotel fifty miles away. Shaking her head, she made a quick online reservation. Closing her laptop, she picked it up and stopped to grab a to-go sleeve for her coffee at the counter. She texted Rourke the location of the hotel and then headed out.

It was two in the morning when Rourke finally entered their motel room. “Great place,” he said, looking around at the water-stained paper and carpet spotted with blotches of all colors.

“Well,” Mira said, yawning and typing away on her laptop, “it wouldn’t be truly random if all I had on the list was five star hotels.” She saved and, with a flourish of her hand, shut down her word processor. “So,” she said, closing the laptop and placing it next to her on the bed, “what happened?”

Rourke stretched and then put a hand to his head. “I screwed up. Big time.” He sat down on the second single bed in the room. He whipped his arms out for balance when the mattress nearly sank to the floor. “Your bed doesn’t do that,” he said, frowning, momentarily side-tracked.

“No, it doesn’t,” Mira said, cheerfully. She grew serious. “What do you mean you screwed up?”

Rourke shook his head. “I pulled some strings. Got them to give Jared and me complete privacy. I thought it might help convince him to talk.”

Mira raised an eyebrow. “And?”

He looked over to her. “Don’t you see? It was just me and one of the only other people that have seen this thing in action alone in a room with no one readily available to help us.”

Mira processed this for a second and then a hand flew to her mouth. “Oh my God. Is he dead?”

Rourke’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t know. I was sort of able to distract it. Made it make enough noise that the guards opened the door. But it pulled Jared back into the room with it.” He made an unhappy noise. “Actually, I think Jared might have saved me. He let it pull him back so I could get away.”

“What happened to him?” Mira asked, sitting up and leaning forward.

“I don’t know,” Rourke said. “He was just gone. I’ve just now finished talking with everyone at the scene. They’re tearing apart the interview room now, looking for trapdoors or hidden passages.” He laughed. “It’s the only way they can explain what happened that doesn’t involve monsters.”

“What about the guards?” Mira was sitting all the way up now and pushed her legs over the side of the bed.

Rourke shrugged. “I tried to warn them. Told them they needed to run. At the very least not go back to whatever home they lived in. That the thing would follow and kill them, sooner rather than later. I don’t think they’re going to listen.” He shook his head. “Like I said, screwed up, big time.”

Mira reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. “Hindsight’s twenty twenty,” she said. “We can’t undo it, all we can do is try to stay one step ahead of it long enough to beat it.”

Rourke sighed. “I guess.”

Mira squeezed his shoulder. “We should both probably get some rest. I finished the outline for the novel just as you were coming in. I’ll get started on the rough draft tomorrow.”

“Great,” Rourke said, trying to sound enthused. He took his coat off and tossed it in a corner of the room. Kicking off his shoes, he pulled the covers back, eyeing the bed dubiously. “How long do you think it will take to write?”

“Well, once I have my information, I can crank out a rough draft for a biography in a couple weeks. I’m hoping this will actually go faster since I don’t have to cross-reference as much information as normal.” She too pulled back her covers and got under them. She reached towards the lamp on the stand between the beds. Her hand froze by the fixture. “Wait, you said you distracted the thing.”

Rourke’s eyes popped open. “Um, yeah,” he said, sounding embarrassed.

“Well, how did you do it?” Mira pressed. “Anything helps at this point.”

“I,uh, well, I remembered about the water thing and how well it worked last time…” Rourke said.

“And?”

Rourke closed his eyes and grimaced. “I– I shot it with a water gun.”

The edges of Mira’s mouth twitched. “You did what?”

Rourke rolled over. “Yeah, ha, ha, it’s funny. I’m still alive aren’t I?”

Mira chuckled. “Where’s the gun?”

“It crushed it,” Rourke said flatly. “Crushed it when I was trying to use it to save Jared.”

Mira grew quiet. “I see,” she said. She turned off the light. “Good-night, Rourke.”

The next morning Mira woke up to the quiet snip of the bathroom door closing. She lay still in the darkness for a moment before turning over to look at the alarm clock. 7 am. “Wow five whole hours of sleep if that,” she grumbled turning back on her side. She considered throwing the blankets back over her head and going back to sleep, but given that Rourke was up and about already, she might as well get up and try to be useful.

By the time Rourke was out of the shower, Mira was setting two cups of coffee down and a couple of bagels down on the stand between the beds. “Despite the questionable decor,” Mira said, nodding at the blotched carpet “the coffee smelled okay and the bagels look passable.” She dumped a few creams and sugar down that she had hauled with her.

“Thanks,” Rourke said, sitting down on his creaking bed.

“What’s the plan for today?” Mira asked.

“I have to go back to the prison site. Answer some more questions,” Rourke said, in between swigs of coffee.

Mira nearly dropped her bagel. “You’re not going back there are you? That thing nearly killed you there!”

Rourke shrugged. “I can’t afford to quit the force. We’ve got too many of our leads that we can’t follow if I quit my job.”

Mira stared at him. “Well,” she said, putting her bagel down, “let me come too. So I can watch your back.”

Rourke shook his head as he chewed his bagel. “And what? Get killed too if the thing shows up again?” He leaned back. “In fact, I think we should change hotels again tonight.”

“But I booked this place for three nights!” Mira said, playfully. “Don’t you want to stay here?” Rourke glared at her and she waved a hand. “Whatever you say,” Mira said, sliding her laptop out from under the bed. She booted it up, threw her hotels through the random number generator and found a new one. “Well, this one’s closer to home at least, only fifteen miles out,” Mira said, showing it to Rourke. “I’ll book the room and head down there later.”

“Sounds good,” Rourke said. He grabbed his coffee cup and got up. “Everything I need is in my car, you should only have to pack your stuff.”

“Righto, chief,” Mira said with a salute. “I’ll start cranking out the words today.”

“Good,” Rourke said, eyeing his bed. “I really want to sleep in my own bed again.”

***

Mira packed everything in her car soon after Rourke left and headed out for the next hotel. A couple hours later found her comfortably situated in her (much nicer) room sitting at a small desk next to a window. The sun streamed in through the glass warming her hands as they hovered over the laptop. Mira took a breath. She had written many books before but none as important as this one. True, she hadn’t written any fictional books before, but how difficult could it be?

Two more hours later found Mira staring at her still blank first page on the word processor after a dozen attempts. She ran a hand through her hair and looked at the clock. Noon. It was noon and she hadn’t written anything. “Errragh!” she exclaimed pushing her chair back from her desk. She grabbed her outline off the desk and began to go over it as she paced the room.

“I don’t get it,” she said as she circled the trash can by the far wall. She walked back towards the window and the desk. “It’s all right here! Just like always! I have a plan, I know what I want to do! So why doesn’t anything sound right?” She flopped down on the bed and closed her eyes and let her outline drop on her face. She let out a large breath and the pages fluttered up and back down. “I can’t have Rourke come back and find me with nothing but a blank page to show for my day,” she muttered to herself.

She lay still for a couple more minutes. Then, groaning, she sat back up and made her way back to her laptop. She typed in the URL of a writer’s board that she frequented. She didn’t write fiction, but several of the other regulars did.

Hey, need some help, she typed. I’m writing a fictional novel for the first time. I did my research, I have my outline, but every time I write, it just comes out sounding all wrong. What should I do?

Mira pushed her chair back from her desk and got up. She’d take a quick stroll across the road and pick up some lunch. Hopefully by then someone would have answered her.

About an hour later, Mira settled back in front of the computer. She refreshed the page and found someone had replied to her thread. It was one the regulars who went by the handle “Unfettered”.

Hey, glad to see you moving out of your comfort zone! it read. I’ve seen some of your work before, and you write great biographies. You really make people come alive. You’re very detail oriented, you know all your facts, and you know just how to make all the puzzle pieces fall into place. I think that might be your problem here. You’re treating your characters like puzzle pieces instead of like people. Treat your characters like you would one of the people you research. Get to know them inside and out. And, don’t be afraid to ditch the outline if the story moves in an unexpected direction. You should never be afraid of where a story takes you.

Mira read the response and repeated the last line to herself. She gave a small laugh. “I think I should be afraid of where this one take me,” she said. She stared at the screen. It made sense though. To her, the characters had just been props to move the story along. It might make for a publishable book but not a memorable one, and she needed this book to be memorable.

She reached into her duffle bag by her bed and pulled out a pen and notepad. “Marlin Forest,” she said, writing down her main character’s name. “Let’s get to know you.”

Mira spent the next hour doing a biographical sketch of Marlin. The hour after that she made smaller ones for her other characters (Except one. She already knew plenty about it.). When she was done she looked up at the computer screen again, feeling oddly energized. “Yes, I think I know what you were doing in that woods now,” she said sitting at the computer again. “And maybe your friend doesn’t have to die. At least not in chapter one.” She began to type and this time she did not delete the words after she finished the first paragraph.

When Rourke came in around midnight, Mira didn’t even look up. The tippity tappity of her typing filled the room. Rourke circled around behind her to read over her shoulder. He glanced down at her page count and whistled. “How long have you been at this?” he asked.

Mira glanced down at the time in the bottom corner of her screen. She blinked. She hadn’t realized how late it was. “Uh, around eight hours I guess.” She smiled. “I’ve never gotten lost in a story like that. Writing one anyway.”

“Hmm,” Rourke said, scanning the page. “That seems like a rather cruel and unusual death,” he said, pointing at the screen. “That’s a lot of stabbing.”

“I mirrored it after Kurt Kent’s death,” Mira said quietly. “At least what I imagined his death at that thing’s tendrils was.”

Rourke walked over to his bed and sat on it. When it didn’t sink to the floor he grinned appreciatively. “I’m going to follow up on some of these missing kids cases tomorrow, see if I can get any details on how they disappeared. Maybe get an idea if it’s really that thing or not.”

Mira nodded. She saved her work and closed her laptop. Her rhythm had been broken. She’d pick up where she left off tomorrow. “By the way, before he was taken, did Jared have any idea why the Slender Man fixates on children so much?”

Rourke shook his head. “No. He said he thinks it’s afraid of people who know it’s really real.” He pointed at Mira and then himself.

Mira nodded. “Makes sense. We can shapes its story.”

Rourke scratched his head. “And he said something about not letting them die. The children and the others it takes I think.”

Mira stared at him. “You mean all those people this thing has ‘killed’ might not be truly dead?”

Rourke froze in place. “Y’know,” he said slowly. “You remember the night I helped save you from that thing?”

“How could I forget?”

“I had a dream that night. I saw Connor. He said… He said ‘I am free but others are not.’ And I think he said he couldn’t help them but we could.”

Mira reached for her notepad that was still sitting on the desk and began to scribble furiously on it. “That needs to go in the story then. We can’t leave those people to suffer if it really does have them.” She shuddered. “I would not want to be stuck with that thing for eternity.”

Rourke nodded slowly. “That is true.” He stretched and yawned. “I think we need to get some rest. We both put in some long hours today.”

“Dibs on the shower,” Mira said, darting off the bed, before Rourke could object. The doors shut with a small snikt behind her and she thought she heard a sigh but nothing more.

***

Mira woke with a start. Rourke was shaking her, looking at the television against the other wall as he did.

“I’m up!” Mira said, bouncing against the pillow.

Rourke let her go but did not turn to her. “Grab your things. We need to leave.”

Mira glanced over the clock. Five in the morning. “Now?!” she said. “What, is the Slender Man in the bathroom or something?”

Rourke just pointed at the television. Mira crawled across the bed and squinted at it. There was a small “live” caption in the corner of the screen and a reporter standing in front of a burning building. Another caption at the bottom of the screen said “Hotel fire”. Mira felt her heart stop. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “Is it?”

“Where we were staying last night,” Rourke confirmed, hurriedly stuffing his things into his bag. “I don’t know, maybe that thing was able to track me from the prison to the hotel. And since I went back to the prison yesterday and came here…”

“It could be here next,” Mira said, jumping off the bed. She began to shove her things into her duffle bag as well with wild abandon. “Where do we go, though?”

“Let’s go to the precinct. You can write in my office. I’d feel more comfortable if you were in a place with a lot of people and a lot of cameras, which the precinct has. You can figure out what hotel to go to while you’re there and let me know later.” Rourke hefted his bag over his shoulder. “Come on, I’ll walk you to check out and then we’re leaving.”

Just under an hour later, Mira stood in Rourke’s office and yawned. Rourke looked up from his desk. “There’s some coffee in the break room down the hall and to your right. Cups should be in the cabinet. Steal one of the chairs while you’re in there so we can share my desk.”

“An officer of the law telling me to steal,” Mira scoffed as she turned to leave.

“Yeah, yeah, funny,” Rourke said, waving a hand at her.

“You want some?” Mira asked, pausing at the door.

Rourke shook his head. “No thanks. I don’t think it would be good to mix caffeine with adrenaline rush I took this morning.”

Mira shrugged and headed down to the break room. She found the cups and some powdered creamer in the cabinets. She threw some in her coffee, hitched her arm around a chair, and went back to Rourke’s office. When she pushed open the door she found Rourke sitting abnormally still and rigid, staring at his laptop. “What is it?” she asked, closing the door behind her.

“They’re dead,” Rourke said, quietly, eyes never moving from the screen.

Mira set the chair in front of his desk and sat down, balancing her cup carefully as she did. “Who?” she asked.

“The guards. The guards who saw that thing when it took Jared.” He put his head in his hands. “God, have we become a walking blight? I feel like everywhere we go, we’re dragging that thing behind us.”

Mira sat quietly and stared into her coffee. She had thought much the same thing that morning as she had stared in horror at the television screen. But what else were they supposed to do?

“Maybe it would be better if–” Rourke began and then stopped suddenly.

“Better if what?” Mira pushed.

“Connor said he was free. The only difference between his death and the others is that Connor died by his own hand.” Rourke tapped a few fingers nervously on his desk.

Mira reached over and grabbed his hand. “No,” she said firmly. “That is not the answer. If we die, so does all knowledge of how to fight this thing and then it can do whatever the hell it wants. How is that better than what’s happening now?”

“It’s not,” Rourke admitted. He sighed. “I just wish it wasn’t like this.”

There was a rap at Rourke’s door and Mira and Rourke turned to look at it. “Come in,” Rourke said. A young man with blond hair poked his head in. “What is it, Deloran?” Rourke asked.

“Landers down in Robbery wants to talk with you,” Deloran said. “Someone apparently broke into your house sometime in the past few days. One of your neighbors behind you noticed the back door broken open when he was taking his dog for a walk. Cops on the scene say the rain water on the inside makes it look like it’s been at least two days.”

Rourke cursed quietly. “That’s just lovely,” he said, getting up.

“Not been home much lately, eh?” Deloran asked. His gaze turned to Mira. “Who’s this?”

“Mira Grolinsky. She has some information for me on the Connor Russell and related cases.” Rourke said.

“Grolinsky,” Deloran said, slowly. “That is odd.”

“What?” Mira asked, half getting up.

“Do you live at 444 Sweetspring Avenue?” he asked.

“Yes,” Mira said, now standing.

Deloran whistled. “Well, Landers was just getting ready to call you actually. Your house has had a break in too.”

Mira and Rourke looked at each other. “Do you think its related?” she asked.

“Oh, yes,” Rourke said, moving for the door.

“To the Russell case?” Deloran asked as he stepped back to allow Rourke out. Mira followed him.

“Something like that,” Rourke said. “Come on, we can both go talk to Landers.”

***

Mira walked out of her house just after noon with Rourke in tow. There were some books and clothes tossed around and it looked like someone had searched the desk with her computer on it, but the only thing that appeared to be stolen was a tablet e-reader.

“I don’t like this,” Rourke said, looking around to make sure none of his fellow officers were in ear shot. “This doesn’t feel like the Slender Man’s style, but I can’t believe it’s not related.”

“Well, I’ve arranged for a new hotel, anyway,” Mira said. “I’ll text you the location after I leave here.” She pushed her bangs out of her eyes as the wind whipped her hair around. “I guess you’re headed to your house next?”

“Yeah. I’m willing to bet its a lot like this one, though,” he said, turning back to look at it. “I’ll probably be late again. You don’t have to wait up.”

“Wasn’t planning to,” Mira said, with a grin. She gave a small wave. “I’ll see you when I see you then.”

“Be careful,” Rourke said, turning to to re-join his comrades.

The new hotel Mira had found was located about halfway between the now burnt down one and the one she had stayed at last night. She sat in a lounge chair by the pool with her laptop and enjoyed the afternoon sun. She wasn’t typing with the same frenzy as the day before. That particular moment of inspiration had left. But Mira had been writing long enough to know inspiration only covered about five percent of your writing, if you were lucky. The rest was forcing yourself to keep typing even when it felt like you were pulling teeth just to put the next sentence on the page.

She had a local news reader widget on her desktop and she checked it regularly. She kept expecting to see that the hotel from the previous night had gone up in flames too, but nothing scrolled across the widget except a reminder that Proposition S was up for a vote next week.

As the sun began to set, Mira picked up her laptop and headed to her room. Once there, she turned on the TV and set it to a local station to serve as background white noise and then kept writing. The local news came on and she stopped momentarily to listen. No messy deaths. No recent child abductions. No fires. She breathed a small sigh of relief and then went back to typing.

As she typed, Mira would occasionally make notes on the notepad that sat next to her on the bed. Eventually, though, her pen ran out of ink and tore a hole in the page as she scribbled. “Oh, bother,” Mira said. She pulled open the drawer of the night stand, hoping to find another pen. Her hand closed on a small book. Curious, she pulled it out. “Oh,” she said, holding it in her hands and leafing through it. “Gideon Bible.” The page fell open to one in the Gospel of Matthew. Mira’s eyes were drawn to the red font that indicated the words Jesus had spoken. “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” Mira read to herself. “Hmm, faith like a child and all that I guess,” she said, sticking the book back in the nightstand. Her hand closed around a pen and, pulling it out, she shut the drawer. Then she paused. “Faith of a child,” she breathed. “Oh my God, the faith of a child! That’s why it take children!” she said, excitedly, bouncing in the bed.

The door handle clicked and Mira checked the time on her laptop. Just after eleven. “Well, this is positively early for you,” Mira said looking up. “I think I figured out the children angle.” Then she froze. Rourke was not standing in her doorway. A man she didn’t recognize in a ripped orange prison jumpsuit stood in the doorway.

He closed the door behind him and then turned to Mira. “Stole a key from the desk when the attendant stepped out to give someone towels,” he said off-handedly as he leaned against the door. He rubbed his left shoulder. Through a tear in the jump-suit Mira could see livid, red, inflamed flesh.

Mira slowly got up off the bed, her laptop clutched in her hands. “Who are you?” she asked, standing up.

The man shrugged. “Jared Holloway. I take it you’re Mira,” he said. “Your passwords are crap. You should look into changing them. Or, well, I guess it doesn’t matter,” he said, still leaning against the door. In his left hand, Mira could see her stolen e-reader.

Mira felt the blood leaving her face. “You’re not dead. You got away from it.”

“Well, I’m not dead,” Jared said, rubbing his shoulder again. “I wouldn’t say I got away from that thing though,” he said, quietly.

“How, how?” Mira stuttered, trying not to shake.

“Did I find you?” Jared asked. “Well that thing indicated it wanted to find you and was having some trouble. I broke into Rourke’s house and your house. Your computer was most revealing. You’ve got all your accounts linked,” he said, pointing at her laptop and waving her e-reader. “It was just a matter of checking your search history.” He sighed. “Though you threw me at first by registering for three days and then leaving after one.”

“You burnt down the hotel!” Mira exclaimed.

“Oh, no,” Jared said quietly. “I didn’t. I just led it there.”

Mira sucked in a breath and took a step back. “You can’t!” she said. “We’re going to stop it! If you get us killed it will just do what it wants!”

“It already does that,” Jared growled. He laughed at her. “You think you have a chance?” He shook his head, his hand digging harder and harder into his shoulder. “I’ve seen it and where it lives. You can’t stop it. No one can. Now just be a good girl and–”

Jared stopped as Mira dove forward and crashed her laptop into his head. He staggered back from the door and Mira yanked it open, dropping her laptop and running out the door.

As she ran towards the main office, the air in front of her started to shimmer. She pulled up short, staring at it. Mira glanced wildly over her shoulder, looking for Jared. He was just outside the door, panting and holding his shoulder, looking ready to pass out. “It comes,” he said, pointing back towards the shimmering air.

Mira turned back around. It almost looked like the very air itself was growing thin and stretching, as if something was trying to pull itself through from behind the curtain that was her reality. Several black tendrils reached into the air. Mira didn’t wait to see more. She turned around and fled the other way.

She heard Jared give a cry of pain behind her. Pounding feet told her he had finally gotten up and given chase. She looked down at her shadow that stretched in front of her. She could see Jared’s elongated one catching up, and, behind it, a dozen thin waving ones. Mira looked up and saw the pool in front of her. Without thinking, she jumped into it. It wouldn’t save her from Jared, but it might give the other thing pause.

Her clothes clung to her as she swum towards the middle of the pool. A splash behind her made her turn, and she saw Jared swimming towards her. And behind him, at the pools edge, was tall, dark, and slender itself. Tendrils waved and reached over the water but did not touch it. It’s tendrils seemed to grow and reach forward, and arched over the pool, touching down on all sides. Jumping in the pool was starting to look like a very bad idea.

“Come on, stop delaying this!” Jared said,lunging at her. Mira pushed back and he fell just short.

“Stop giving in to that thing!” Mira shouted back. Why wasn’t anyone coming outside? Didn’t they hear this?

“I won’t go back to the flames!” Jared roared, and he caught a handful of her hair. He pulled Mira’s head under the water.

Mira twisted and clawed at his grasp. She wondered for a second if he meant to drown her. But after that moment, Jared hauled her head back above water. He tried to hook an arm around her waist, moving back towards the edge of the pool and the thing as he did.

“No!” Mira said, twisting in Jared’s grasp. He didn’t have a huge muscle build, but there was a wiry strength in his arms belied by his slight size. Mira saw the tendrils retreating from around the pool and back towards the thing. By now they were in the shallow end of the pool and mere feet from it. Mira gritted her teeth and readied to fight the tendrils reaching for her.

Then, amazingly, something hurtled into the tall slender being above her. It appeared to be taken off guard and it fell towards the water, the person who had tackled it falling in with it. It splashed down next to Mira and Jared and instantly began to writhe, its tendrils flailing indiscriminately. Mira felt one strike her forehead and felt blood flow down it. It dropped in her eye.

The person who had tackled the thing pushed back off it, hissing in pain, his hands a burnt red. “Rourke!” Mira said. She turned and angled her elbow up into Jared’s nose. Surprised, he cursed and let her go as his nose started to bleed.

Rourke waded over and tackled Jared, and they fell in the water splashing. “Get out of here!” Rourke said, trying to drag Jared out of the pool.

Mira pulled herself out of the pool, but found herself unwilling to leave Rourke behind. The Slender Man was lodging tendrils into the ground around it and starting to pull itself out of the pool. “Rourke, let him go, we gotta run!” Mira said, standing up and backing away.

Rourke wrested Jared out of the pool and they hit the concrete together not far from Mira. “Come on, why would you want to help that thing?” Rourke asked as they struggled. “You should come with us, help us fight it!”

Jared savagely kicked Rourke in the stomach. As Rourke rolled away from the kick, Jared leaped on top of him and reached for something at Rourke’s waistline. He stood back up with a gun.

Mira and Rourke froze as Jared held the gun in his shaking hand. “I don’t want to help it,” he whimpered. “And I don’t want to hurt anyone else.” He shook his head. “But I won’t go back.” Then, suddenly, he pushed the gun into his mouth.

“No!” Rourke shouted. Mira gave a small scream and turned away. There was a gunshot and then a meaty thump. When Mira looked back, a pool of crimson was already gathering around Jared Holloway’s head.

Rourke was grabbing Mira now and pulling her away. Mira looked up and saw the Slender Man, now out of the pool and using its tendrils to hold itself off the ground. Absentmindedly, Mira noted there were now plenty of people opening their hotel room doors, pointing, gasping, screaming, and generally acting as shocked as they should be. The thing turned its head, as if registering this fact. More tendrils grew from its back and hit the ground.

“It’s like its digging itself in for something,” Mira muttered as Rourke dragged her away. The air started to shimmer again. It wasn’t just a small patch now. It was all around them and back towards the hotel.

Rourke looked around him confused. “What is this?” he asked.

Mira looked at the air and felt a cold fear that belied the heat that was rapidly rising around them. “It’s how he got here. It was like he was pulling himself in from somewhere else. I think it’s–”

“Trying to do the opposite,” Rourke said. He cupped his hands over his hands. “All of you, run! Get out of here!” he shouted at the watching spectators. Then he turned and ran with Mira following.

“They won’t listen,” Mira said, feeling tears filling up her eyes.

“I know,” Rourke said quietly.

They were stumbling through the parking lot and Rourke was pointing to his car. Mira was feeling a strange backwards suction on her skin as she spilled into the passenger seat. Rourke threw the car in gear and pealed from the lot. The shimmering air line terminated several feet down the road from the hotel.

Mira twisted in her seat as Rourke drove away. For a few seconds more the night was still. With the suddenness of lightning, a giant singular flame erupted from the middle of the hotel compound. Mira shielded her eyes and turned away. When she looked back, the entire hotel and surrounding area was in flames.

Mira sat back properly in her seat. A small gasping sob escaped her, and she leaned forward, trying to pull air into her lungs. All those people. Jared. All gone.

“I don’t get it. It’s so powerful,” Rourke said, hitting the steering wheel with his hands. Rourke hissed in pain and the car veered too far to the right. Rourke yanked the wheel back to the left.

“It’s the children,” Mira said, leaning her head against the window, still able to see the orange flames reflected in the glass.

“What?” Rourke asked, briefly turning to look at her confused.

“Who has faith like a child?” Mira asked. “We believe things so hard when we’re kids. We believe in fairies, and promises, and pots of gold,” she rambled. “And it runs on belief. And it does not let them die.”

Rourke sucked in a breath. “So it preys on children because they make it stronger…” he said.

Mira nodded. “I think so. And it has taken so many children lately.”

Rourke gripped the steering wheel. “Did you lose your story in the fire?” he asked.

“No,” Mira said tonelessly. An enormous tide of emotion threatened to wash over her, but she kept it at bay. She needed to function for just a little longer. “I had it saved on cloud storage. I can access it from anything that can connect to the internet.”

“Good,” Rourke breathed. He pulled over to the side of the road. His hands were shaking as he did.

Mira noticed again how red his hands were. “Did it burn you?” she asked.

“Yes,” Rourke said shortly. He turned to her. “I think we need to go underground for now. No more hotels. No going home.”

“Where will we stay?” she asked.

“We’ll hit a Wal-Mart and buy a tent and supplies. We’ll set up somewhere by a river or a lake to help keep it at bay. Just–” and he had to compose himself. “Just somewhere where there’s no people around.”

“I agree,” Mira said, voice trembling thinking of the hotel they had just left. “What about tonight?”

“There’s a rest stop about fifteen miles down the road,” Rourke said. He signaled and drove his car back on the road. “We stay there tonight. Empty out our bank accounts tomorrow. Cash only so we can’t be tracked after the initial withdrawal.”

“Sounds, sounds good,” Mira said, settling back in her seat.

Rourke reached a hand out to her. Mira gently grabbed it, trying not to hurt his burn. “Whatever happens, we’re in this together, Mira.” Rourke said, firmly.

Credit To – Star Kindler

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Woof

July 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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It was nearing midnight, and the air was rapidly cooling. It was silent but for the few cars passing by, and the wind rustling trees. I looked around outside once more before shutting the front door and bolting it. I turned off the hall light and made my way upstairs. As I was brushing my teeth, I heard a slight scratching sound. Ignoring it, I focused on the too-strong mint flavor of my toothpaste and the tingling feeling in my mouth. I turned on the taps and studied myself in the mirror. There it was again, that scratching sound; although this time it seemed more frantic, louder. I armed myself with my toothbrush and entered the hallway. It was black, the mirror at the end of the hall reflecting little light. I quickly flipped the switches, chastising myself for not having left a light on. As I neared my kitchen, the scratching sound was replaced by a tapping, a strange, infrequent noise that only intrigued me further. I felt around for the light switch, a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Counting to three, I turned the lights on. I dropped the toothbrush and waited. Nothing. Walking further into the kitchen I heard a familiar sound. Woof. I pulled back the blinds from the patio doors to see my dog sitting outside, waiting to be let in. How could I have forgotten about my dog? I always made sure she was in, safe from harm and from causing too much trouble. I started towards the door, only to see something in the glass door’s reflection that made me hesitate. I shrugged it off and opened the door, and once I had let my dog in I realized what I had seen in the reflection. In on the living room couch was my dog. But how? And then I saw something that both terrified and confused me. My dog was two. There, sitting on my kitchen floor, was literally two of my dog. There were no physical differences whatsoever, from the coarse white fur to the pink collar around her neck. I took a step back, dumbfounded. Either I was imagining things or what had I just let into my house? I felt uneasy looking at the dogs, I couldn’t tell which one was my Maggie and which one was the other. I pulled out a chair from the table and sat down. Neither dog moved. Think, I told myself. Stay calm, think. This thing, this dog, it cannot know you know it doesn’t belong. But how can I tell the difference? Then I had an idea. I’ll attribute it to all the time I’ve spent watching Criminal Minds, but really I was just so terrified I couldn’t think, so I did the only thing I was able to do: stare. I watched the dogs. I sat there and stared and waited until one of them moved. The first to move was the one on my right, who sauntered off into the living room and curled up on the rug. The other dog followed, but this dog had more of a spring to its step. “C’mere Maggie!” I grabbed a treat, a flavour I knew my real dog wasn’t fond of, and summoned the second dog. She came galloping towards me, and swallowed the treat whole. Before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed the dog by it’s collar, flung open the patio door and threw the thing outside. Then, as quickly as possible, I locked the door and flicked on the outdoor lights. I was just in time to see the dog trot off the patio and morph into a human-shaped black fog, before blending into the shadows.

Later that morning, after a sleepless night filled with fear and nightmares, the phone rang. It was the neighborhood gossip, an old woman named Gladys. She had called to tell me about an event that took place last night. “Didn’t you hear? That young lady- the one up the street, who just moved in? She disappeared last night! Cops have been out all morning, trying to figure out what happened!”

Maybe it wouldn’t have been as weird if what happened to me last night hadn’t happened. But then I remembered something, a minor detail, mediocre really, that I hadn’t registered when I had looked around outside my neighborhood last night. I remembered seeing that young woman call her dog inside and shut her front door. I must have been imagining things. After all, Gladys had mentioned that she had seen the young woman’s yellow lab scratching at her back door, just a little while after midnight.

Credit To – Faith

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The Crawlspace

July 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Um… hi there. I guess you could say I’m writing this as a cautionary tale to those who plan on studying abroad in future. I don’t mean to discourage you from going in the first place, it’s more like I just want you to be aware of this so that something like this doesn’t happen to you too.
I guess I should explain a little bit. Last summer I was selected to participate in the study abroad program that would be centered in Rome for several months. Like anyone would be, I was elated. I had never been out of the states before, so this was going to be a real adventure for me.

In the weeks that followed I happily packed anything and everything I could fit into my suitcase. (I will be the first to admit that I had way over packed for this trip.) I was nervous about leaving my parents for the first time but I was also excited for the newfound freedom I would have while in Europe. Before I knew it my parents were dropping me off at the airport, and I was boarding a 19 hour flight to Rome.

Despite being long and tedious, the flight wasn’t all that bad. When I exited the airport I was greeted by the program supervisor and several other students who would be studying with me. They were about the same age and all looked just as excited as me. From there we went to our mandatory orientation meeting, and afterwards we went to pick up our apartment keys.

In the months that preceded the trip, we were responsible for getting to know our would be roommates as well as finding a place to stay that we could all afford. There were three girls I would be staying with. They were all nice enough and made an effort to make me feel welcome, though I will admit it’s a bit hard to get close to the group of preformed friends. But despite my slight alienation, it seemed that things were all going to work out well. All of us were on a similar budget plan, and by that I mean none of us really had much money to spend. Because of this we were all on the same page while searching for the cheapest apartment we could find.

After several days of searching we stumbled across an ad for an ancient apartment located above the Campo di Fiori. That was a prime location and we couldn’t believe it that it was still available, no less listed for an unbelievably low price. This immediately sent alarm bells off in my head. The place was enormous yet the rent was cheaper than the much smaller apartments in a far less desirable part of town. However reason never really wins out in a group of excited young women. They had already made up their minds and if I would be staying with them this was my only option.

We each received our own set of keys as well as a map with walking directions. Because of its prime location it really didn’t take us long to get there. The Campo was amazing. During the daytime it was filled with a vibrant market, while during the evening it was lined with lively street performers. All of the apartments surrounding it looked to be ancient, so ours really didn’t stand out all that much. After circling the square three or four times we finally noticed the number nailed to the front of a massive old wooden door. This would be our home for the next three months.

I fought with my keys for a moment until there was an audible click of the heavy old lock. The thick old door swung forward with a screech. We were then met with a long winding staircase. We all looked at one another and groaned. None of us had accounted for the fact that the building had been constructed before elevators were common. So three sets of stairs and countless complaints later, all four of us, with luggage in hand stood outside our new front door. Once again I reached for my set of keys and fought with the stubborn lock. As soon as the front door was opened there was a stampede of young women trying to claim the best rooms. Being a three-bedroom apartment, it meant that two of us would have to share. I personally didn’t really care so I let the others battle it out. When the dust had settled, I found that I would be sharing a room with a girl called Stephanie. That was fine with me. Stephanie was nice enough and she was also very quiet, my ideal feature in a roommate.

Over the course of the rest of the day we ran around exploring our new home. There were two bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a living room with an ancient TV. Once again I began to feel uneasy. Just how was it that we were able to get all of this for such a low price? But before I could finish the thought I was interrupted by a fit of loud squealing. My initial reaction was to panic, however I soon learned that all the noise was from excitement. Down at the other end of the apartment near the front door, apparently there was another part of the flat we had missed. I followed the noise until it led me to a long dark hallway. There at the end, behind the group of squealing women was a washing and drying machine. For those of you thinking “what’s the big deal?”, I should explain that these things are incredibly rare in Rome. Generally exchange students have to wash their clothes by hand in the sink before hanging them up to dry. What was a luxury item like this doing in such a cheap apartment?

Just as the screaming quelled it picked right back up again as the girls noticed a door adjacent to the washing machine. Beyond that door was a master bathroom. It had a balcony, a claw-foot tub, and even a bidet. The girls immediately started fighting over “who’s bathroom this was going to be”. I didn’t really see why we couldn’t share, but apparently the others were dead set on having ownership. As it turned out it ended up being my bathroom. Stephanie had made a logical argument that because she and I had to share a bedroom, while the other two each got their own, it was only fair that she and I got share the master bath. And I’ll admit that at first I was actually kind of excited, it was after all, a really nice room. However over the course of the next several weeks I began to grow more and more wary of the room. I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s like every time I went into that room I could feel something’s eyes on me. And the voyeuristic element wasn’t really what had me so unnerved. It felt like whatever was watching me was angry, that it didn’t want me there and that it wanted to hurt me.

I began doing everything in my power to avoid the room. I asked Alisha if she would mind if I were to use her restroom occasionally. I made up a lame excuse about how it was far more convenient since her room was so close while my bathroom was at the other end of the flat at the end of the very long hallway. She happily agreed though, when I told her that she could use my bathroom anytime she liked. This worked well for a while. For about the first two months of my trip I was able to completely avoid the eerie room. It wasn’t until the final month that everything began to unravel. One night as I prepared to brush my teeth, I found that Alisha was already occupying her bathroom. I could hear giggles coming from down the hallway, it was clear both Stephanie and our other roommate were both getting ready for bed in the master bath. I decided that since there was strength in numbers, it would be all right just for tonight.

So I made my way down to the large bathroom where I joined the boisterous girls in brushing my teeth. They were in the midst of some conversation when Lindsay, our other roommate, had broken into such a furious fit of laughter that she had to lean on the wall for support. But suddenly she jolted upright as if she had been shocked. We all looked at what had been the cause of her reaction: there on the wall, about the same level as the bathtub was a tiny door. None of us had noticed it because it was the same color as walls. The landlord had even painted over it. Naturally this made me a bit nervous. Whatever it was, the landlord clearly didn’t want anyone opening it. But as usual, throwing all caution to the wind Lindsay reached for the handle and began tugging with all her might. Stephanie clucked her tongue in disapproval before pulling out a small pocket knife. She began delicately carving along the seam of the door. I wanted to beg her to stop, but I really didn’t have the energy to argue that night. So within a few minutes, Lindsay had yanked the little door open with a loud crack.

It was… a crawlspace. It was fairly large. My guess would’ve been you could have fit at least three or four people in there. I was rather curious as to why the landlord would’ve sealed up an empty little room. While I thought about this, Stephanie and Lindsay began calling for Alisha to come see their new discovery. She was just as excited as they were when they first discovered it. However, as could be expected, this excitement waned over time and eventually the crawlspace was just turned into storage for a few towels and laundry baskets.

In the following days after the unsealing of the crawlspace, things started to go from eerie to downright terrifying. Annoyingly, Alisha had changed her nightly routine so that I could no longer use her bathroom in the evenings. Once again I was back in the large bathroom, all the while, the feeling that I was being watched growing worse and worse. I began to get so paranoid each time I went into that room that I would literally jump at the slightest noise of pipes settling, and as soon as I was finished I would run at full speed down the hallway and close the door behind me. For some reason I seemed to be the only one feeling this way. It’s not like I could’ve told the other girls either. I was already enough of an outcast as it was. So I just kept to myself and hoped it would go away eventually.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. One night as I was getting ready for bed, I found myself alone in the bathroom. As I stood in front of the mirror brushing my teeth something set the hairs on the back of my neck straight up. There was a faint rustling noise. Not the kind that could’ve been caused from my roommates at the other end of the flat. Any noises caused by them would have had to have been quite loud to reach me all the way at the end of the long hallway. No this noise was very faint, the sound of someone gingerly shuffling things around. I stood completely silent, terror filling me. The soft rustling noise was coming from inside the crawlspace. I turned on my heels and ran down the hallway to grab the attention of my roommates. I tried to explain to them what happened, but all that came out were incoherent murmurs.

Eventually I managed to stutter “S-Something. Something’s inside the crawlspace!”

They looked at me with fear and confusion in their eyes. As a pack we moved together down the hallway into the bathroom. I nearly fainted when I saw the tiny door hanging fully ajar. Though this discovery filled me with horror, Alisha immediately pointed to the balcony’s sliding door. Stephanie had left it open to air out the bathroom after having taken a shower several hours ago. She peeked her head out the door and pointed to the slanted rooftop adjacent to ours. There was a pigeons nest occupied by few birds. The girls surmised that a pigeon must have found its way in and was the cause of the disturbance. They all had a good laugh as we made our way back to the living room. I pretended to shake it off but I knew it was not a pigeon that caused the rustling noise. First off, the tiny door had been shut tight all day. None of us really cared to leave it open because it smelled quite musty inside. And secondly, the door had been shut when I left the bathroom, I am certain of this, yet there it was wide open when I returned. You’re not going to tell me that a pigeon knows how to and is capable of opening and closing a door all by itself.

It was at this point that I began to suspect that something was terribly wrong with this apartment. When I got back to my room I pulled out my laptop and called my best friend via Skype. She had always been the skeptical and methodical type, however she also kept an open mind towards things that were hard to explain. I decided that out of anyone she was probably the best to talk to about my situation. As I expected, she was initially quite doubtful. Though she also agreed with me that a pigeon was quite likely not the source. She asked me if I had any photos of the crawlspace. She said that if she could see it, that would help her to understand a little more clearly, and possibly help her to come up with a more logical explanation.

Relieved at her willingness to at least hear me out, I reached for my camera and made my way back down the eerie hallway. When I arrived I found, to my relief, that the door was still closed. I stood in front of it for a moment, gathering my nerve before finally pulling the little door open. Despite the clutter left inside by my roommates, it was empty. I snapped a quick photo before closing the door once more and running back to my room. I immediately plugged my camera into my computer and uploaded the photo. When I finally opened the image, I was petrified by what I saw. There in the upper right-hand corner was a face, baring its teeth at me. My whole body began violently shaking.

“Dear God. That thing is in our home!” I muttered to myself.

Fear began to overtake me. Someone had sealed whatever it was inside of that crawlspace, and we had let it out. I was so absorbed in my panic I didn’t even notice when my roommate returned. She was so blissfully unaware of the imminent danger we were in, yet even if I tried to warn her she would not believe me. I was at a loss of what to do, and finally decided that I would deal with it in the morning. Though not by a large amount, I did feel braver in the sunlight. From there I attempted to get some sleep. Though for the first time ever since being there I closed and bolted my door before getting into bed. Stephanie eyed me suspiciously while doing so, but I just told her jokingly that Lindsay had been sneaking into our room the previous nights and had been stealing my nutella. She laughed heartily, shaking her head before settling down for the night. I will admit that the only reason I was able to find any sleep that night was because of her presence. Something about not being alone can give one a sense of false security.

It was about two o’clock in the morning when the sound woke me. I had always been a light sleeper so the faint noise was enough to stir me. It sounded like a door being pushed open at the other end of the flat followed by footsteps. But these weren’t just normal footsteps. They were far too fast. It sounded like someone was running at full speed from the foyer to the living room and all about the apartment. But these weren’t heavy footfalls like the kind you would expect from a running person. They were very light, almost unnaturally so. My initial reaction was to assume it was either Alisha or Lindsay, so I got up and stuck my ear to the wall behind me that separated Lindsay’s room from mine. I could hear her faint but steady breathing. She was clearly asleep, it wasn’t her. I then crossed over to the other side of my room near the door and once again stuck my ear to the wall. Alisha’s snoring was quite audible, there’s no way it was her. I slowly began to grow fearful as I turned in a last resort to see if Stephanie had perhaps gotten up, but I could plainly see her resting form silently rising up and down. A shiver went down my spine and I nearly screamed when I realized that the footsteps had come to a stop outside of my door. Despite all the lights being out, I could clearly see the looming dark shadow of a form through the tiny crack at the foot of my door.

I dared not move. Whatever it was, it was just standing there. Waiting. Then to my horror, my doorknob slowly began to jiggle. Gently at first but then growing violent at the realization of it being locked. The noise of it eventually woke my roommate. She sat up, blinking in confusion. That instant the jiggling of the doorknob stopped. She asked me just what the hell I was doing and if I knew what time it was. I told her it wasn’t me! I told her that whatever had opened the door to the crawlspace the previous day had come back. But she just furrowed her brow at me and said that I needed to get more sleep.

The next day I made an appointment with my programs supervisor. I told him that I just needed to go home. He tried to tell me that I was just homesick and that it would pass, but I insisted. He eventually gave up and let me call my parents. They were confused but understanding. They were able to change the date of my return flight to the following morning. I really wanted to get out of there that day, but understandably that was the soonest they could manage. Unfortunately this meant that I would have to stay one more night in the apartment.

When I returned I tried to tell the others about what had been going on. I knew I was going to be getting out of there and would be out of danger, but I was still immensely worried for their safety. But none of them took me seriously, they looked at me as if I was a mad woman. They didn’t say anything but I was sure they all thought I was going home because of some sort of mental breakdown.

At that point there was nothing I could say that would convince them. So that night I locked my door and hesitantly went to bed. And right on cue, once again around two o’clock in the morning I was awoken by the rapid footsteps scampering around the apartment. I could hear the door to the bathroom begin to creak open, followed by the door at the end of the hallway. The footsteps grew louder and faster as they moved through the apartment. And finally, once more they came to a pause outside of my door. I could hear breathing this time, slow and heavy. I sat up in panic, and to my horror I saw that Stephanie had forgotten to lock the door behind her after getting up to use the restroom.

It was right outside my door and I did not know if I had time to jump up and try to lock it before the thing realized there was nothing blocking its way. I hesitated a moment too long and by the time I had sat up straight in my bed, the handle slowly began to turn. I froze in terror as the door cracked open revealing my tormentor. It stood there ominously in the doorway, staring me down. It’s eyes protruded slightly from its skull and gave off a very faint bluish light. It didn’t appear to have a nose, only slits where the nostril should have been. It had the teeth of a man, but had no lips, giving it the impression of an eternally toothy snarl. It’s grayish white skin was waxy and stretched tight over its bony face. The rest of its skeletal form was hard to make out as it was almost entirely enveloped in shadows.

After pausing for a moment in the doorway, it began to head toward me. As it moved, its body let out sickening cracks. I sat there, still petrified by fear until it had made its way to the foot of my bed. It’s heavy breaths were deafeningly loud. I don’t know how Stephanie slept through it. The air had begun to smell sour and stagnant.

With frightening speed, it jolted to the other end of the bed, mere feet from me. I gagged at the smell of it, like sulfur and rotting flesh. Slowly it unfurled one of its along the gnarly hands and proceeded to reach for me. Not until it was several inches away did I finally find my voice. I screamed as loud as I possibly could and it halted in its tracks. Stephanie shot up from her bed, visibly frightened. The creature hunched over on all fours and fled from the room with unsettling movements that recalled those of the spider. A moment later Stephanie switched the light on and looked at me furiously. She demanded to know what the fuss was all about. I told her exactly what had happened, but she just called me a nutcase.

The taxi came to pick me up very early the next morning. The sun had not even risen by the time it arrived. None of the girls came to see me off, but I expected this. After loading my luggage into the trunk I climbed into the back seat of the old cab. It had driven right through the square and was sitting at the base of my apartment. When I leaned to look out the window I could see where my room had been. My face contorted into a mixture of panic and concern. There, looking out of my old window was the creature. It’s unblinking eyes bore into me and it’s lipless mouth curled into a snarling grin. Before I could say anything, the cab driver had taken off, leaving that hell house far behind.

I tried to warn them. I really did. I did everything in my power to try to warn them of the danger that they were in, but none of them listen to me. There was no way I could’ve stopped what happened after I returned home. You see, several weeks after returning to the United States I received a phone call from the program director. He informed me that a day before the program ended, all three of my past roommates had been reported missing. The authorities had no idea just how long they had actually been gone for, as they were only recently discovered to be missing when the program director went to check on them after none of them made it to the end of the program wrap up meeting. They assumed it had been at least a week or two, since all the food in the apartment was expired. There was no sign of forced entry, and no valuables were missing. The only notable detail mentioned in the report was that when they arrived on the scene, there was a strange little door hanging ajar in the bathroom. And when they approached it, they were met with a powerful odor coming from no visible source. The official report has them declared as missing, but I know that they’re all dead.

I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have made it out with my life. I think the only reason I’m still alive today is because I fled thousands of miles and across an ocean. Despite their unwillingness to listen, I still feel an unimaginable amount of guilt over what happened to those girls. That’s why I’m writing this now. I may not be able to go back in time and save them, but maybe I can prevent this from happening to you. Please, PLEASE heed my warning. If you ever get the opportunity to study abroad, keep this in mind: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And WHATEVER you do, don’t stay on the third floor of the ancient yellow apartment complex above the Campo di Fiori. There’s something there. Something evil.

The Crawlspace

Credit To – Kaitie H.

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