Red Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit To – David Mein

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Repossession

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or someone.

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

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

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

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

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

Dark red.

Blood.

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

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

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

Laughing, I stop struggling.

He’s merely taking back what’s his.

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

Credit To – Bryce Tan de Guzman

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The Vigil

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

***

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

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

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

“Weeks.”

“Has your family physician seen her?”

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

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

“Should I come with you?”

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

“If you’re sure…”

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

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

Mayet raised a hand in a half-salutatory gesture.

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

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

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

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

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

Mayet shrugged.

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

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

“That’s good.”

“I’m afraid to wake up.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Because of the man who watches me.”

“…what man?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And does what?”

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

“Then what?”

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

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

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

“Who is ‘we’?”

“Me and Jan.”

“Jan. Your mother mentioned him, too.”

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

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

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

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

“It was there again.”

Mayet nodded.

“Did you believe Brianne?”

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

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

Mayet bit her lip.

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

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

“How did you feel about this?”

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

“And how long did this go on?”

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

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

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

“What did she say?”

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

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

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

“So what happened after that?”

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

“And then?”

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

The doctor squeezed Mayet’s hand, once.

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

“Jan was your boyfriend?”

Mayet shook her head.

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

“My mom says a lot of things.”

“All right. What happened with Jan?”

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

“Was he drinking?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you tell anyone that Jan was troubled?”

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

“Did he?”

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

“Disappeared?”

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

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

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

“What do you think that means?”

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

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

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

“Here? Not on the bed?”

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

“Did you see his face?”

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

“Did you tell anybody?”

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

“But it didn’t.”

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

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

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

“Because he only comes when you sleep.”

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

“But you can’t stay awake forever.”

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

The doctor didn’t say anything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then why do I see him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then there was nothing, and she slept.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit To – Tam Lin

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Suzie Couldn’t Go To The Party Because…

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never did bring myself to open the photo attachment.

Credit To – Veronica Hope

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I’m Not Scared

May 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I have to be brief, for I don’t really know how long I have until it finds me.

My name is Daniel Lockwood, I’m a 20 year old British citizen and I’ve been living in China for the last 18 months. My Mother’s name is Deborah Lockwood. I am typing this on an Ipad. It’s around 10.45pm on Tuesday 30th April 2013. I am unsure of my exact location, but I am somewhere in the mountains south of Beijing, on the border of Hebei province, close to a small village named Shidu.

My fingers are trembling as I quietly tap away at the touch screen and tears are flowing heavily from my eyes, creating a satisfying patter sound as they slam against the smooth surface of the tablet. A cigarette is hanging loosely from my lips. This space is tight and unwelcoming, not the kind of tomb I had hoped for.

Please forgive any spelling mistakes or nonsensical ramblings, my vision is slightly blurred and my mind abundant with unimaginable horrors. Isn’t it funny, that even in death the brain is concerned with such trivial things as grammar?

Anyway… This is my legacy. If you are reading this, I hope to God that you are warm and safe, within the confines of a locked room or in a heavily populated area. I hope that your friends and family are close by or that your pet cat is cuddled up on your lap. The tale I’m about to tell is not for the faint hearted, nor is it fabricated or exaggerated. It’s the telling of a desperate man’s final hour in existence, one filled with horror, fear and experiences he wouldn’t wish upon his worst enemy. The purpose of this final entry is to reveal the truth, to let it be documented that there are still things in this world that we don’t understand, that we’ve not discovered. There are still things in this world that haven’t emerged from the darkness to reveal their twisted and unholy faces. But I’m not scared anymore.

If you are reading this, I am surely dead.

Around 11 hours ago, myself and 4 others embarked on a ‘mini-adventure’ outside of the familiar and into the wild. I won’t waste time on back stories and the like, all you really need to know is that the 5 of us were intrepid travellers, a close group of friends who thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and frequently enjoyed treks and hikes together. Of this 5, only I remain, and soon my life will too come to a grizzly end.

This particular escapade landed us in Shidu, a small and rural village far on the outskirts of Beijing municipality, China. Shidu is famous for its beautiful scenery, adventure activities and serenity. It’s also famous for its rich and colourful folklore, an area of Asia that often attracts crypto-zoologists from around the globe.

If you live in a foreign country for long enough, and take enough of an interest in its traditions, you will reach further and further into the foundations of its culture, learning about the food and history and mannerisms. You will eventually and undoubtedly come across an aspect of that culture that is often a very defining and unique feature – Fairytales and stories about beasts and boogies that hide in the forests or under your bed. Goblins and ghouls that will suck your soul out through your mouth, or drag you kicking and screaming through the earth until you reach the burning core of hell. You’ll learn about graveyards and rituals, superstitions and spells, curses and ghosts. All of these things add a certain charm and elegance to a culture and Chinese culture is brimming with such legends.

I have taken that step from reality into the realm of legends. No longer am I skeptical of the shadows in my cupboard or the creaks from the attic. I now believe that people have been possessed or abducted or probed or haunted or eaten or defiled in horrifying ways by horrifying things. These things I now know to be true. But I’m not scared anymore. I just hope that there is a God who can offer me some form of peace after this ordeal comes to its inevitable end…

We departed from Beijing’s city centre at around 11am, excited and well prepared for a couple of days in the mountains, armed with snacks, cameras and a sense of adventure. As the concrete jungle behind us slowly faded away into the thick layer of smog that frequently engulfed the city, the 5 of us enjoyed a long and comfortable ride through the Chinese countryside, passing large open fields and seas of rotten wooden shacks, which became less recurrent as we entered the sloping valleys and canyons that twisted through south-western Beijing.

The first port of call was a brief stop at the guest house, where we could stretch our legs, wash up and offload any unnecessary baggage. I’m not going to attempt to make this into a cliché horror story by providing falsifying claims of unsettling landlords or shaky warnings from deformed locals, because none of that happened. It was an ordinary guest house within the confines of ordinary mountains, inhabited by ordinary folk living ordinary lives. There was nothing extraordinary about this place just yet.

After a quick shower, a bite to eat and a cigarette, we hopped back onto the bus and started the brief journey to the beginning of the hike, which would take us through the most rural and unexplored section of this particular mountain range. At 5.20pm, we arrived. The driver, a stern but pleasant local man, told us to call him roughly 30 minutes before we wanted to be picked up. We responded by informing him that we should have completed the hike by about 9pm.

I guess he’s getting pretty worried by now.

We purposefully chose to start the hike slightly later than usual, to avoid swarms of other tourists, but admittedly not as late as we did. The sun was already waning in the sky, foreboding the fading light that would soon be devoured by darkness. The last few drips and drabs of sightseers were funneling out of the narrow opening ahead, shooting us concerned looks as we shambled past them on our way up. We had traversed tough terrain in the late evening before, so we didn’t give much thought to the implications of a night hike.

The first hour or so of the hike was relatively undemanding, lightly inclining slopes and steps, paralleled with rows of stone carvings and badly translated signs. All of the stalls and markets that accompanied the first section of the trail were deserted now, save for the one or two remaining locals gathering their cheap tat and trinkets, ready to sell on the next day. We only passed a handful of others, who shot us yet more disconcerting looks as we strolled past them in the fading sunlight. Areas of the mountain had already been swallowed up by shifting shadows, other sections were relishing in the last few minutes of luminosity.

The trail gradually became more demanding as equally spaced steps became less and less frequent. After about an hour and a half of trekking, we came across a tattered notice board which informed us of our current position and distance from the peak, not too far away.

The only sounds that filled the evening air were our voices as we discussed the next day’s activities – water rafting and horseback riding. Gaps in conversation would bring a dead silence. There wasn’t even a breeze to rustle the trees, not a cricket chirping, not a bird tweeting. Just silence. Even the sounds of our heavy footsteps seemed to be drowned away by the enormity of the mountain.

Close to the peak, we came across a small, traditionally crafted pagoda. The path split in two here, one lead straight ahead, further up the mountain and towards the peak. I remember from the map that this was also the exit route, which eventually wound down and intercepted the entry path close to the bottom. The other path strayed off to our right. This route, dutifully named ‘cloud road’, was steep and led to a large raised viewing platform about 200 meters above.

We spent a few moments deliberating whether or not to take the minor detour to catch a glimpse of the setting sun from one of the mountains few viewing platforms. Sarah and Thomas, the couple of the group, decided that they would have a rest at the pagoda. The rest of us, assuming that they just wanted some alone time, sighed and began to make our way up to the platform.

It wasn’t much of a detour, perhaps 10 minutes each away, but a tiring walk nonetheless. Neither of us really spoke much on the way up, the path was too uneven to focus on conversation, but the top of the platform rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the landscape. The mountains stretched on for as far as the eye could see. Even in the waning light, I could see far into the distance. The rolling hills seemed to carry on forever and signs of early summer blossomed and cascaded over the slopes. We spent 5 or so minutes catching our breath at the rest stop. I enjoyed a celebratory cigarette, resting against the lone fir that occupied the platform, appreciating the spectacular view that lay before me.

I found myself unable to take my eyes away from the scene. The hills seemed to twist and ripple around me, not in a sinister way, but in a magnificent display of beauty. It wasn’t until my friend Jay nudged me that I awoke from my day dream, crushed the cigarette butt into the ground and turned on my heels to begin the descent back down to the pagoda.

The sun was hanging very low in the sky now, disappearing behind a large set of mountains to the west as we fumbled our way down. Gradually, the pagoda emerged from behind the shrubbery and into view. Sarah and Thomas were no longer perched on one of its colourful beams as they had been before. My first thought was that they were probably responding to a call of nature in a nearby bush, or that they had gone on ahead without us.
Then Clare saw it. Then she screamed. Then we all saw it.

A human scalp, sprouting long, blood-matted blonde hair lay on the ground towards the back of the pagoda. Folds of tattered skin were hanging loosely from the main bulk of the flesh. It looked like a piece of road kill and as though it had been clumsily removed using a blunt instrument, or perhaps a giant animal’s claw. It was clearly identifiable as being from Sarah’s head. The rest of her was nowhere to be seen. Long streaks of crimson had stained the wooden floor of the pagoda, and lead away into the foliage just past it. My eyes shifted from the gory mess in front of me to the left, where a detached jaw lay clumsily on the soil. Velvety tendons protruded from the thing. Whatever had ripped it from its owner did so quickly and with almighty strength.

I began to taste acid on the back of my tongue as mouthfuls of thick hot vomit made its way out of my stomach and up my esophagus. I could barely distinguish between the sounds of my friends screaming and the throbbing retches that accompanied the stream of bile that flowed from my mouth. My stomach had emptied itself onto the earth before me, stinging my nose and eyes as it did so. Somebody grabbed me by the shoulder and was yelling maniacal and undecipherable words at me. My legs instinctively began to carry me away from the nightmarish scene and along the unexplored path ahead.
The sounds of heavy breathing and clumsy footsteps rang through the trees and bounced off the rock faces surrounding us. Dusk was settling in and the first few stars began winking in the void above me. We sprinted for several minutes, plummeting through thick shrubs as we lost all sense of direction, fuelled solely by adrenaline.

The path was tight here, barely enough space for two people to stand side by side. I glanced over my shoulder to see that the others weren’t far behind me. Their panic stricken faces only served to heighten my own desperate fear. Another 20 seconds of sprinting led me to take a sharp left turn around a protruding rock, after which I stopped dead in my tracks.

Fear is a horribly difficult emotion to describe. It does things to the human body that can traced back to the earliest species of man. It forces hair follicles to stand on end in an attempt to make our forms seem more menacing. It commands a fight or flight instinct, designed to secure our continued existence when confronted with something potentially life threatening. Fear can also paralyze the human body, a reaction to frightening stimuli that is less understood by those who study it.

This latter reaction, being paralyzed, is the unfortunate response my body decided to commit to when confronted with the terror ahead. The path in front was again long and narrow. It was lined with brooding trees, most of which hung delicately over the lane. Roughly 100 meters along the trail stood, or rather ‘hunched’, a figure. I immediately came to the conclusion that it was not human. It was far too tall, perhaps close to 8 foot, even with its drooping posture. Its arms and legs were massively out of proportion to its body, stretching almost to the floor. I couldn’t quite make out any defining features; it was far too dark to pick up on anything other than its overall size and shape. One thing I did notice, however, was that it was clutching something in its right hand. This ‘something’ was dripping a thick liquid, which was pooling in the earth below.

I assumed that the others had witnessed the same horrific sight as I had; I could sense them standing close behind me. Even in this situation, the closeness of others provided the slightest amount of comfort. I’m not really sure how long we were standing there. It could have been as much as several minutes. I can’t say for sure how I knew it, but I was certain that I was staring into whatever it had instead of eyes. Dark voids occupied the space, a shade of such complete blackness, it was unnatural.

It dropped whatever it had clasped in its claws, extending its slender fingers so that they scraped the ground below. The object, which I now assumed to be a chunk of flesh, splattered onto the soil. The thing began creaking and moaning as it shifted slightly.

Then it began running straight towards us. Life swept back through my limbs as I launched myself in the opposite direction, pushing past the others in a selfishly desperate attempt to put myself ahead of them. The thing was screeching now, a blood-curdling sound that quickly intensified as it grew nearer. I had been running for a few seconds when I heard a different kind of scream. I can only assume that it had mounted Jay, for the most unnerving shriek, obviously that of a male, stung my ears, quickly followed by a loud thud. His screams were soon cut off by a sharp snapping sound that echoed through the night. It certainly was not the sound of a branch breaking.

Tears blurred my vision, making it difficult to navigate the uneven path. Frequent glances over my shoulder confirmed that Clare was not far behind me. Looking past Clare, I could see the thing, sitting atop Jay’s chest and greedily gnawing on his face. One prolonged look treated me to a view of the thing pulling Jay’s eyeball out of its socket with its teeth. The optical nerve stretched to a surprising length, before eventually snapping and bouncing back and forth like a child’s play thing. It slurped the sensory organ into its gaping maw and swallowed it down whole, sending it down into its abyssal stomach.

I turned again, making eye contact with Clare, whose face was a mess of colours as her makeup was sent sprawling across it in a mixture of sweat and tears. My stomach lurched again when I noticed that the thing was no longer in view. Jay’s mangled corpse still lay awkwardly on the floor. I screamed at Clare.

“IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE”

Clare immediately swung her head around in an attempt to confirm my claims. As she did so, her foot caught on a stray root that had defiantly pushed its way through the rock floor. I tumbled to a halt, only catching a short glimpse of her rag-doll like form as she toppled over the edge of the steep bank on her left. I could do nothing but stand and listen to her muffled yelps as she crashed down through the foliage. The drop was at least 20 meters and strewn with ragged rocks and tangled trees.

I made a necessary and self preserving decision right then, to carry on without her. If she managed to survive the fall, then surely the thing would get her anyway. I pelted my way back down, past the pagoda and the scalp and the jaw. I fell down a couple of times, quite seriously hurting myself.
I ran until I could physically run no more, and collapsed in a heap on the floor. My chest and head were pounding violently and for the first time since the start of the ordeal, I had a few seconds to reflect on the reality of what had happened. 3 out of 4 of my friends were certainly dead, the fourth’s fate as yet unknown. This thing was fast and likely had super-human sensory abilities. Was there just one of them? Or had a whole clan of monsters evolved in this untouched region of China. The thought of a group of the things made me whimper audibly.

I screamed quietly as my phone vibrated against my leg. I quickly fumbled it out of my pocket, so as to silence the damned device and use it to call for help, now that I had a chance. Clare was calling me. I answered it immediately and put the phone to my ear. She was sobbing painfully. Through the weeping, I could hear her saying,
“Why did you leave me? Why did you leave me? Why?”
And then,
“It’s here. It’s here now. It’s just standing there. Watching me. Just standing there. Right in front of me”
A screech, a scream and a sickening squelching noise bellowed through the speakers. I scrambled along the ground and into a crevasse in the side of the mountain, behind a bush, and buried my face into my knees. Indescribable sounds continued to stream out of the mobile phone, which I had placed on the ground in front of me. A brief moment of silence followed, eventually broken by the sniffing, creaking sounds of the thing. It handled the device for a few seconds before screeching, dropping it and galloping off into the night.

I threw the phone away from me and rustled through my backpack for a cigarette and my Ipad.

I’ve spent the last 30 minutes chain smoking and immortalizing my last words. It’s almost time, I can feel it. I’m not scared anymore, because I know it will be all over soon. Anybody reading this might think it insane of me to just sit and wait for death as opposed to attempting escape. I don’t really know why I’m not currently cascading through the night; it just feels right that I sit here and wait. I’m not scared anymore.

It’s here now. I heard its silent footsteps a few moments ago. Now it’s standing about half a meter away from me, on the other side of this bush. I can see its pale, scaly, thin legs through the shrubbery. I can see its crimson-stained claws hanging freely by its side, almost touching the floor. I can hear its controlled breathing and croaking. I can smell its thick musk and the drying blood around its face. It’s my turn now, and I’m not scared.

Credit To – Reece Ayers

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We Lie

May 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Adam entered the living room and sat down with a glass of red wine, careful not to spill. He needed to have another talk with his wife. Things could get difficult. The wine helped him keep a level head.

“Clara.”

“Yes, dear?”

“I’m glad you’re here. We have to talk.”

“Okay,” she said. “About?”

“Can you help me to understand why you did it? Why you hurt me like that?”

Clara was silent for a long while. Adam took a sip from the glass, remaining patient.

“I was hurting too. And confused. Please…forgive me.”

“It’s hard, Clara.”

“I know. But I don’t want to talk about it now.”

Adam stood up, paced around the room a few times, and sat back down. “Well, are you happy? Can you at least tell me that much?”

“Yes, so long as you’re with me. I won’t leave you, Adam. You have to know that.”

“I know. And I love you, Clara.”

“I love you too.” There was another long pause. “Do you know I sometimes watch you while you sleep?”

“Really?” Adam idly swirled the dark liquid, observing how the glass refracted the room’s light. “I’ve been having bad dreams lately, so just knowing someone’s there watching over me really helps. Thank you, honey.”

“I have to leave now.”

“Already?” he asked, surprised.

“Hey, I know. You should come with me.”

His brow furrowed. “I…I can do that?”

“Sure. You already know how.”

“How?” he asked, sensing he wouldn’t like the answer.

“Same as me, silly.”

The room seemed to dim at the corners, as if its huddled shadows were conspiring to eavesdrop. “What? How could you say that, Clara?”

Another pause. “Clara’s not here,” came the reply.

Adam felt his stomach bottom out. “What…you mean…you’re not..?”

“No. Never was. But I did speak to her once.”

The deceit stung at his eyes. “Oh yeah? And what did you say?”

“Jump.”

He shot up from his chair, rubbing his temples. “No. No, goddammit. H-how? How is this possible? All those things she said…I was talking to Clara, dammit. I was talking to her!” At this point Adam was not so much talking with another as he was pleading with himself. But he forced himself to sit back down.

The planchette beneath his fingertips raced across the board, spelling out a simple message.

“We lie.”

Tears began to splash over random letters, blurring the ornate typeface. But Adam dared not remove his hands as the planchette continued to move.

“One more thing.” He did not respond, so it resumed without a prompt.

“Those aren’t dreams.”

Adam could recall only fragments of his nightmares – a dark alley, a dripping tunnel…the thrill of darting from shadow to shadow…a scream cut short…hands wrapped tight around something soft and yielding…and the reflection of the moon in a cold river, its black waters rushing at his bare waist.

He found his voice again, growling, “what do you mean?”

“I borrow you.”

At this, Adam withdrew his trembling hands and stared at them in disbelief. He choked out a single word: “Why?”

The planchette moved freely now, without need of human touch, and answered with a single word of its own:

“F-U-N.”

Credit To – alapanamo

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