Zozo Phenomenon

November 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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It’s time for another entry into our Real-World Creepy series! This particular topic was sent to me by Sobellium69, who sent me the following message:

Recently I have come to knowledge of what is known as the Zozo phenomenon.

To start, I must tell of what the Ouija Board is. To those of you who don’t know, it’s a “children’s toy” with letters spelled out across a board. A person or a group can put their hands or fingers on the planchet, and try to summon spirits. The spirit then moves the planchett around the board, spelling out sentences. Some claim its each other doing the moving, which it often tends to be. Others claim it’s their subconscious. Yet many believe it is actually spirits. I will not get into this, if you want to research this there is plenty of information.

The Zozo phenomenon is the fact that people from all over the world for the last 30 years (the time the board became popular) have reported an entity named Zozo, Zoso, ZuZu, Zu, Zo, and other Z worded names like that. This creature often starts claiming its another spirit, or trying to act friendly or nice. More often then not, Zozo quickly becomes violent, curses you out, and takes complete control of the board. For many, this is not the end of it however. No matter how many boards they use, Zozo comes back. And soon it doesn’t end with the board. Many report hauntings by Zozo, some claim possession, and others claim harassment. It often carries a very common theme, however. Zozo either pretends to be friendly for a while, and slowly drains away from its host, or he is outright hostile, terrifying the poor souls unlucky enough to encounter him.

Many have asked Zozo questions on his origins. On most occasions, after revealing himself as Zozo, he will not deny what he is. He will outright tell you he is a Demon from hell, even once claiming to be Satan himself. Although this last part was probably one of his many scare tactics, there is much evidence of ancient entities in ancient Africa, medieval Europe, and Christianity for a demon named Zozo, which in English translates to “the destroyer.” Zozo has even been known to curse off in Hebrew and quote bible verses, and to react severely negatively to anything about God or Jesus Christ, even relinquishing his grip on his victims when being commanded in a Christian fashion. I do not know if this is common with other religions as well, and it doesn’t always work for Christians as well.

I am writing this as a warning to inform my fellow Creepypasta readers that not everything is as it seems. If you happen to use one of these boards or an automatic writer, and something by the name of Zozo appears, leave the game properly, and cleanse the house by your religion.

-Sobellium69

Googling the name ‘Zozo’ brings up a number of websites and message board postings where people discuss their ‘true’ experiences with this being. I’ve compiled a short list for any of you who are interested in reading more about this alleged demon:

The Zozo Phenomena
What is ZOZO? @ Ghost Theory
ZoZo, the Oujia Demon @ Creepypasta Wiki
A Zozo experience from Your Ghost Stories
A thread about Zozo @ Disclose.TV

Now, I’m aware that people are pretty divided on just how creepy Ouija-related experiences truly are – to be honest, given that every time I’ve ever tried to use a Ouija board it was blatantly obvious that any messages were borne entirely of human effort (my friends weren’t exactly good at hiding their efforts to move the piece where they wanted it to go), I’m not particularly spooked by the boards. After all, it is largely marketed as a children’s board game and since all of my experiences using it were when I was a kid, for me that association is hard to break. However, I’ve seen many people make the argument that it’s not the vessel that matters, it’s the intent and permission given by the user to any entities that’s important. That may be true; after all, how many stories are there of seemingly innocuous items becoming possessed by ghosts and spirits? Many. So I’ll leave each of you to your varying degrees of skepticism and belief and close out with some anecdotal evidence – a Zozo experience trascribed by Stephen Wagner:

I am from Tulsa Oklahoma. I am currently 40 years old and have held a fascination with the occult since an early age. I have had many bizarre experiences with Ouija boards and I am writing this as a warning to people that bad things can happen because of these “portals.” The majority of people from The United States holds a skeptical view regarding the scientific evidence of spirits or ghosts, and many people who believe in these things also believe that it is for this very reason that ghosts and poltergeists occur here and exist “under the radar,” so to speak.

These Ouija boards are manufactured under the precept that they are mere “toys.” Let me tell you first hand that they are not toys and should be used with strict caution, and probably should not be messed with at all. Other countries take a more open-minded view of spirits, demons, and ghosts, and many many cultures have based entire religions from these beliefs.

During my experiences with Ouija boards one particular spirit always seemed compelled to make its presence known. Its name is Zozo. Today, I refuse to even pronounce its name as I believe the mere pronunciation of it can cause it to manifest itself. Too many times to count, it has at first pretended to be a nice spirit, or pretend to be whomever I was trying to contact. But eventually it showed its true self, cussing me, threatening me and others present in the room. Once it actually cussed me using what looked like Latin or Hebrew, and using biblical terminology.

NASTY SPIRIT

I was genuinely fascinated and startled by how many times Zozo showed up, even in many different states and many different Ouija boards. It always wound up being very nasty and commented freely about how it wanted to posses my girlfriends and take them to paradise. When asked where paradise was, it spelled HELL.

One time, after Zozo was being extremely evil, I walked into my bathroom only to see my one-year-old daughter about to drown. Her mother had left her alone in the tub “just for a second” and somehow the water got turned on and was overflowing. Instinctively, she had her face tilted up and was seconds from going under when I grabbed her from the water. The next day she was hospitalized for some weird internal infection and was put in isolation for 14 days straight as doctors tried to diagnose the illness. We almost lost her, and that was when I began to suspect demonic attack.

At this same time, my girlfriend maintained a trance-like state. Her personality changed from a very sweet person to withdrawn and uncaring. Zozo said before this that it was going to possess her and eat her soul.

I was recording music for a future rock project, and I remember jokingly asking if it had an opinion on what I should name the band. It spelled IRON TONGUE, which at the time I thought was pretty cool. Only later when my daughter’s tongue swelled up in the hospital to the point of asphyxiation did I realize that this wasn’t coolat all! Her tongue became rock hard and distorted her face, swelling up to where it hung grotesquely from her mouth. We took turns bedside at the hospital for what seemed like forever before my daughter began to recover from this strange affliction.

When guests would spend the night in our house, they would claim that they heard frightening voices coming from inside the walls. Objects would be thrown across the room, and spiders seem to come from nowhere. My girlfriend’s brother, who lived with us, complained that he couldn’t sleep at night because the “conversations” were so loud that he simply could not rest. He believed in ghosts, and though he wasn’t afraid of them, he said that it definitely felt demonic.

Lights would turn off and on by themselves, doors would open and unlock themselves. One night in our bedroom a viscous laughter emanated from thin air, and to this day I cannot explain the terror in that laughter. Another night, I was awakened by what felt like hands on my throat choking me. I could not breathe, I could not scream….

After about 30 seconds, it released its grip and I gasped for air. The same thing happened to my girlfriend the next night.

FAMILY CURSE

Yet another night, her brother and I were standing just outside the back porch sliding glass door talking about a supposed curse of their family. I abruptly exclaimed, “I rebuke this curse in the name of Jesus Christ!” I no sooner finished saying those exact words when a deafening sound and a vibration struck the entire house with such an alarming “boom” that the neighbors came over to ask if I had heard something strange. I knew it wasn’t our imaginations. I got out the ladder to see what had landed on top of the house only to find nothing.

Things settled down after that, and to this day I believe that whatever made that noise also caused the disturbance to go away. For awhile. My girlfriend broke up with me, and I met someone online in Michigan, where I moved up to be with her. She didn’t believe in spirits, and although I knew better, I decided to make her a believer as well….

THE SKULL NECKLACE

Living in a very small town in Marshall, Michigan, there were no stores that sold Ouija boards, so I downloaded one from the internet. I printed it out, and to my horror, Zozo returned. It said it came from “cyberspace,” and when I asked it where it lived it spelled SKULL NECKLACE. We didn’t think much of this until I asked it again where it was, this time spelling MIRROR. There was only one mirror in the bedroom where we were crouched on the floor, and I heard a scream coming from my girlfriend’s seven-year-old niece, who was watching us with another young friend. We looked up at the mirror and saw the skull necklace swaying back and forth with glowing eyes looking down at us!

My girlfriend’s son had hung the necklace on one of the posts of the waterbed hours before I downloaded the paper board. We almost jumped out of our skin, and although three feet of fresh snow had fallen that night, we all found ourselves in the front yard not knowing what to do, scared and frozen in terror.

My girlfriend was so fascinated, she drove 40 miles to purchase a new glow-in-the-dark Ouija board, much to my dismay. The next night, we had another session in the same room. Zozo immediately came forth, even without me being a participant. My girlfriend’s nieces were using the planchette and I would secretly write down a color onto a small piece of paper, then crumple it up where no one could see. I asked the young girls to ask the board if it knew which color I had written down. It quickly scooted to YES and then BLUE.

I remember chills coursing up and down my spine as I threw the wadded up paper to my girlfriend. Her eyes widened as she read the written color: BLUE! We then tried the same thing with shapes and words, and every time the board knew.

THE PHOTO APPARITION

One night we asked the board if the spirit would show itself. It spelled YES and told me to turn out the lights and take a picture of the necklace above the board. I did just that, and what turned out is eerie, to say the least. On the upper left hand corner of the picture we could plainly see “winged” skeletons flying about, and they are of the exact same weird shape of this “skateboarders” skeleton necklace. Toward the middle we could make out hideous faces. I have seen at least four evil faces in this picture. I have sent this picture to several “experts” and they have all said they cannot explain the images inside.

As if all of this wasn’t strange enough, now comes the really scary part. A few months ago I Googled the word Zozo. To my shock, many other people have also been contacted by a demon by the same name! I read about 20 similar stories and I am now convinced that this simply cannot be mere coincidence. Supposedly, Zozo is an ancient demon name, which possibly stands for “The Destroyer.” Claims of demonic possession are associated with this Zozo, and I feel it my duty to warn people to steer clear from this if it happens to present itself during a Ouija board session.

I am currently researching this phenomena for a future book, and am in the initial stages of presenting my findings to a reputable demonologist, who has been involved in hundreds of cases of paranormal activities across the world, including A Haunting in Connecticut.

WHO OR WHAT IS IT?

What is this Zozo? Supposedly, the three-headed dog demon that guards the gates of Hell has a tattoo on its forehead that spells Zoso. Also, Zozo is a term Aleister Crowley claimed meant “666.” Jimmy Page of the rock group Led Zepplein also used Zoso as a symbol on the Zepplein 4 album. Could Zozo and Zoso be connected somehow? How can so many different people from so many different parts of the world somehow lie about this Zozo spirit? And if they aren’t lying, than how can we explain these visitations by this wicked entity?

Is Zozo the Devil himself? Or a wayward demon who has the power to manifest itself wherever and whenever it is called?

Heed my warnings, people: If you are playing around with a Ouija board and you jokingly ask it if it has a name and it spells Zozo, close the session properly, cleanse the house, and never — I repeat,NEVER ask it again. And if you are brave enough to carry on conversations with this spirit, do not antagonize it or act on its directions.

I know what I have seen, and I know other people have also come into contact with this spirit. It is dangerous beyond words. I realize not every session results in negativity, but when you play with this Zozo you are playing with fire. Everything I have described here is true, and I am not exaggerating one bit. It may take me years, but I do intend on writing a book about this, as I have many more stories that I do not have time to mention here. They all stem from true events that took place while talking to this Zozo.

Folks, I have been told by people wiser than myself that the spirit world is “more real” than this world of so-called reality. Ouija boards can cause many bad things to happen in your life. Maintain an open mind, and most of all… be careful!

-Stephen Wagner

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He Comes

November 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Forgive the length of this message, this is the first and possibly the last time I’ll have access to a computer so I thought I’d better write this all down while I can and get it to those who should know. I’m leaving town; I don’t know where I’m going, I’m just getting as far away as I can.

Okay so as some of you may know, I took out a loan and opened my own auto shop a little over year ago. Business has been going decently well, I can’t complain, and I’ve always been grateful to all of my customers who would come to me exclusively when God knows there are so many already established places in town. I’ve been doing well enough that I was able to hire on my buddy Neil a few months ago, and he’s been working hard and helping out really well, as I always knew he would.

Well, I needed to take a day and go to a Lamaze class with Rebecca last month, and so I entrusted the shop to Neil for the morning and most of the afternoon. That’s the day I think everything actually started, because when I got back, he seemed to be in a stupor and was covered in oil. He’d even had some smeared across his face, as if he’d tried to drink it or something. I told him to go home and clean himself up because we had no clients at the moment and I could take care of anyone who came in for the time being.

He came back 45 minutes later but he was still much quieter than usual. He worked as well as he ever did, but something just seemed off about him. I asked him if anything happened while I was out and he just shook his head. I asked how many clients we had, and he just muttered something unintelligible. I asked him to repeat himself and he turned and glared at me and for the briefest moment I could’ve swore his eyes appeared to be completely black, no iris, no sclera, just utter all consuming blackness. I stumbled back and bumped a shelf, knocking things down. When I looked back at him, he was still looking at me, but he didn’t seem to be glaring hatefully the way he had before, he just seemed kind of…out of it.

“Just a couple,” he answered. “Some woman, and then a tattooed biker-type looking dude.” I assumed one of them must’ve asked for an oil change and that’s when he spilled it, so I asked if he had any trouble and he simply shrugged. I had looked around the garage while he was gone and I saw no traces of an oil spill, so whatever had happened he must’ve gotten it all on himself and none of it anywhere else, miraculously. But he seemed reluctant to talk about it, so I didn’t press the issue, and we worked on throughout the day. That day and the next were relatively normal other than him still being awkward and quiet. I asked him if he’d like to go out and get us lunch while I tended the shop and he said “sure.”

When he came back I was busy doing a diagnostic for a client, so he put the food on the counter in the office to wait for me and he went ahead and ate. I finished up with that customer, we’d have to keep her car over night to figure out just why it kept dying on her, so I asked Neil to give her a ride home and then I went to grab my food. He’d brought me some Chinese food and an iced tea, so I opened the soy sauce packets to pour some over my food when I noticed the strangest thing…

It was as if the soy sauce was a living thing somehow…spreading out like dozens of squirming inky black maggots when it fell into the fried rice and burying itself inside. I took the fork and started to scoop out the rice to look deeper inside and small smoky tendrils would rise from the rice occasionally and dissipate. I was incredibly hungry at that point but I was way too creeped out to eat that so I chucked it and the iced tea in the garbage and decided I’d just wait ‘til I got home that evening to eat something I’d prepared with my own hands. I’d never in my life seen anything remotely like that and I couldn’t even fathom how I would ask Neil if he’d noticed anything similar. As cold and distanced as he’d been lately I was sure he’d look at me like I was looney tunes, so I just shut up about it.

That Friday we went down to the ol’ watering hole as we always do to get some drinks and watch the local bands play, and Neil was just as quiet and distanced as he had been all week. He’s not a bad looking fellow, though, and so despite him not really going out of his way to speak to anyone, a woman went over to where he was sitting and started talking to him, and they ended up leaving together that night.

Monday morning I tried breaking the ice by asking how his weekend went, he gave me a nod and muttered “alright.” I asked him if he got lucky with that young woman I saw him with, and he gave me the smallest grin, which was quite possibly the first grin I’d seen on his face in a week, and said “it went well.” I didn’t pressure him for details, I knew he’d share if he chose to, and his small grin was enough to assuage my worries and lend me some hope that he might get back to his old self soon.

The day was relatively busy until about 3PM, so I finally had a spare moment to sit in the office and listen to the radio while I waited on the next client. So there I was, leaning back in my chair with my feet propped up on my desk when I swiveled around and looked at my bulletin board that sits behind my head with all manner of clippings stuck to it. I had a few sunday comic strips such as Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes that I’d read maybe a hundred times since I’d opened shop there…but that day something was different.

The first panel seemed normal, but in each subsequent panel, inky black tendrils crept out from the edges of the frame and from behind the characters. Blood dripped from the ears and eyes and sometimes even their noses, and in each of the strips one of the characters would say “HE COMES!”

I sat staring in astonishment for a moment before I realized the tendrils were moving ever so slowly, and then each of the characters’ heads turned ever-so-slowly towards me and I threw myself back away from the bulletin board, sliding over my desk and onto the floor. I ran out into the garage and yelled for Neil, I could not be the only one to see this! To my surprise, he had gone…and so I hesitantly walked back to the office and peered inside. The comics were still corrupted, but they no longer appeared to be moving. I crept over to it and reached out to pluck one of the comics free when I noticed the inky black tendrils starting to seep across the page towards where my fingers were at least three times as fast as they’d moved before and I jerked my hand away. Nothing good could possibly come from letting that blot of ink touch my skin.

Of course I ripped the entire bulletin board down, burned it in a tin trashcan out back, and never spoke of it again. That night I went home and my wife was already in bed, fast asleep. My mind was racing and I couldn’t even bring myself to eat dinner that night. With no one to vent my worries to, I fell into a restless sleep, and kept awaking to nightmare after nightmare seemingly every hour of the night until I just gave up on sleep entirely.

That Friday I went to the bar again, even though my wife couldn’t drink, being pregnant and all, and Neil wasn’t really any fun to hang with anymore, and none of my other friends could seem to be reached. I just needed to get a good buzz and I’d start feeling better, I reckoned. After downing a couple beers I excused myself to the restroom when I noticed I was more inebriated than I’d estimated, so I leaned over the sink to splash some water onto my face and that’s when I heard it. Like a sheet of fabric being dragged across a floor, a voice rasped ever so quietly out of the drain. It sounded like a prolonged exhale for the longest time until I finally recognized words hidden amongst all those vowels. “Heeee cooooomes!”

Cracks appeared in the porcelain, snaking out from the ring around the drain. At least, they looked like cracks at first…but after a few seconds I recognized them as the same tendrils of corruption I’d seen in the comics earlier that week…snaking their way slowly along. I stumbled backwards out of the bathroom door and right into someone’s chest. I turned around and stared up into the pitch black eyes of a six and a half foot biker with tattoos covering every piece of exposed skin besides his hands and head. I stumbled quickly away from him and his evil piercing gaze followed me as I retreated through the bar. It felt like a dream, where whenever you’re running for your life it feels like running through quicksand. As I walked across the room I noticed the biker wasn’t the only one staring at me. It seemed every pair of eyes in the place were focused on me, and more than half of those eyes appeared to be perfectly black, with no hint of iris or sclera. A few lips moved, and though I couldn’t hear their voices over the sound of the jukebox I could easily guess what they were saying. “He comes!”

I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night.

I haven’t been getting much sleep for the past couple of weeks as a matter of fact, which I’m guessing those of you who’ve spoken to me recently could’ve guessed. I keep seeing those pitch black eyes staring at me. I’m afraid every one I see will turn and whisper those words to me, staring deep into my soul with that evil glare. Every time I go near a sink or go to grab a bite to eat I’m afraid I’ll see those inky snaking tendrils squiggling towards me. Even my wife has seemed cold and distanced lately.

Then tonight as I’m driving home from work, struggling to keep my eyes open so that I don’t drift into oncoming traffic, my cell phone rang and it was Rebecca. She was on her way to the hospital to have our baby, and for the first time in two weeks I was actually happy!

She was in the labor room strapped to a monitor when I got there, watching for her contractions. She barely noticed when I walked in, but didn’t seem startled when I sat down beside her and took her hand in mine. I tried talking to her, but she was unresponsive, and I was so tired I didn’t even realize I had started to drift off to sleep until the nurses came in and started moving her to the delivery room about a half hour later. I put on my scrubs and a hair net and went in with her to hold her hand and coach her through like they’d trained us in Lamaze, when she started cursing and screaming.

I was prepared for that, as well as her ever tightening grip on my hand, but when I saw the movement in her tummy my mind started to reel. The doctor said the baby was crowning and told her to push. I echoed his orders and she screamed at me with a voice I couldn’t begin to describe. When I looked down at her she was staring up at me with those same eyes I’d seen on the biker. The same eyes I thought I’d seen on Neil weeks before. I tried to jerk my hand away but she maintained her grip. Black tar-like blood splashed the front of the doctor’s scrubs, but he seemed to pay no heed. When I looked at her tummy again, black veins seemed to stand out beneath her skin, pulsating. She continued to stare at me, and she was no longer screaming, just grinning…those obsidian eyes boring into me.

“To invoke the Nezperdian hivemind of Chaos,” she breathed in a raspy voice.

“He who waits behind the wall,” the doctor continued as he stared down at the child, my child, lying silently, cradled in his bloodstained hands. He looked up and raised the baby, and it appeared to be covered in oozing inky black liquid, much like that that had covered Neil a couple weeks prior. It did not cry out, but it was alive, and it moved when he held it up. When its eyes opened, they were as black as my wife’s. As black as the doctor’s. In unison, they all breathed his name.

“Zalgo!”

I ripped my hand free of my wife’s iron grip and stumbled out of the room, barrelling into the nurses passing in the corridor just outside. When I stood up and looked back into the room, I could see the inky black tendrils seeming to extend from the doctor and my newborn, across the floor to where I stood. I turned and ran down the hall to the elevator and slammed my finger into the buttons. When I looked back, the tendrils had come into the hallway, yet no one else seemed to notice until it slithered over their feet and up their legs, at which point they abruptly stopped, turned and looked at me with those same obsidian eyes.

I abandoned my effort to call the elevator and broke into a panicked run for the stairs. I ran down the 15 flights of stairs all the way to the lobby, tore ass out into the parking lot, hopped in my car and started driving. I didn’t know where the fuck I was going, I just had to get the fuck away from there. I don’t know if I’m going crazy, it certainly seems like it, but I just can’t be around anyone I know anymore. They all have those same eyes and those same dead stares and even my child…oh god my baby.

I still saw those eyes staring at me from the cars beside me, and by some strange coincidence the same biker from the previous Friday night at the bar pulled up beside me an hour away from the hospital and followed me for nearly two miles. He’d turn and stare at me, grinning. I couldn’t see his eyes through his sunglasses this time but I knew it was the same guy. His tattoos seemed to move of their own free will, the flaming skull on his right bicep began bleeding from its eyesockets.

As soon as I could, I slammed on my brakes, allowing him to fly past me as I swerved to my left and did a U-turn. I think I lost him, that was about an hour ago. I’m at a motel 3 hours out of town, the first place I found that has wifi, and I’m tired, and I’m shaking, and my hand itches where my wife’s nails scratched me open. I honestly don’t know what to do, or who I can turn to. This story will sound insane and I’ll probably be institutionalized and I’m not sure that wouldn’t be the best thing for me but I just can’t bear to look into those eyes anymore. Every time I see someone new and they stare at me I start to panic because I know…I just know it’s out there looking for me, w̝̹̩͎͍̘h̪a͖̮͚̪͓t̩͍͎̣̱e̖̜v̪͈̹̥̟ͅe̤̖͙r̗̱̹ͅ ̲͕̳̟͓̰i͉̝̼̤̜̱t͕̼̤ ̝̱̮͕͔̤i̩̭̤̬s̩͇.̖͎̬̱

And even when I lay down and start to drift off to sleep, I̫̮̣̜͎ͭ̽ͪ̾̀́ͯͮ ͍̻̻̞̬̞̾̍̋ĥ̥̰̲̱͙̰̖̟̔ͧ̎ͤ͆͛̚e̦̪̭̙̎͌͐̅͌̄a̼͎͈̘̰̮̹͈͇ͣͪ̐͐ŕ̞̱̤ ̞̬̲̑t̖̠̠̗̱͊̾h̪͈̭̪͋ͨͥo̮̱̺̜͖̙̘͚͌ͧs͍͔̉̽ͥ͑͐͌e̯͍͎̗͕ͪ̈ͦ ͔̮͕͆́w͔̲͕͓̩̼̗͖ͦ̽̔ͅò̭͚̼̣̼̺̰̃̿ͭ͐̈́͋̆̇r̰̪̠͎̳͚̯͚̎̋̉d͚̦̭̟̯͚̹̘ͣ͌̄͂͊ͅs̟͍̗̹͕̫͎̈́̒͑ͨͫͨ͐̓̓.͕̠͍̪̙̹̣̘̿͋ͬ.̼̖̣ͥͮ̒ͬ̓́.̺͚͔̟͚̫̮̏̑͐ͯ”̗̦͍̗̝̠̼͉͔͍̺̱̠͉͇̟̳ͭ͆ͧ̌ͦͫ͂

H̺̼̞̼͇̮̖̭̗̳̳̣̜̦̬̟̻̄͐͗̎͂ͤ̄̌͆͂ͩ͑̿͛̏͂̇̚e͓͖̰̹̯̬͙̼͇̊ͯͫ̈̊ͩ̔ͣͤ̾͂ ̮̭̙̂ͪ̏̿ͫ̇̐̆͗̐͂ͮͣ̂C͔̪̣͊͋͑̆ͪͯ̍ͩ̎͌͛͋̆͑͗ͅo͍̭̟͎͓̹̖͔̱̼͉̪̪͕͖̭͐̇ͤͯ͛͂͛̅̔̓̋͒̊̐ͩm̯̭͖͚͇̯̠̫͔̼͔̟̯̪̲͛͐̈̃̀̈́́ͨ̽̔̏ͪ̅͐͐͗̂ͮ̔ê͎͚͎͇̣̟̺͇̲͉̱̫ͬ̒̐̉ͥ̐ͭͭͫ̔͐̈́ͨ͑ͪ̌s͉̫̥̬̠̤̭̙̿̑̃̾͒̌ͧ͛̍̚.̳̼̟̙̺̰ͩ͐̇̍̅ͮ̓̇̏̎͌̏͆ͤ̃̍ͨ̚ͅ”̩̺̘͓̯̹͉ͨͭ͑̌͂̐̋̃͊ͥ

Credit To - Chris Phoenix
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Miss Fortune: Part Three

November 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Have you ever wondered what you would do if you had the luxury of knowing when you were going to die. Some people say they would not want to know the time of their own death. The idea behind that is these people could continue on in blissful ignorance and live without a looming fear over them that a clock is ever ticking onward. The problem with this is not knowing when you die does nothing to prevent the actual event. Some people would say that they would like to know when they are going to die, because it, in a way, frees them. It allows them to live without fear of their own demise, until that one fateful day of course.

At this moment, I have neither of those luxuries. With every flip of every card, every bet I placed in this horrid game, I held my life in my hands, and I could feel it slipping further and further away from me. By now I had played seven hands of blackjack, using chips seemingly tied to my very life’s essence. The woman taking the role of the dealer, the thing to put it more appropriately, seemed happy as could be, lost in an inebriated euphoria. Myself, I was down to five remaining chips, half of what I started with. There was a rattle to my breath; my clothes were covered in hair that had withered from my scalp. I was having trouble keeping myself upright in the stool I sat in. At least one of my hands had to stay on the table at all times to help with the balance. I had by now quit trying to wipe away the dark crimson that dripped from my mouth and nostrils.

A couple hands ago, the woman began to dissolve the very casino hall around us in order to force me to keep playing. What started as a pinprick in the very center of the high ceiling had eaten its way through the second floor and had started its approach on the walls of the ground floor we were on. The blackness crept onward slowly making its way to us. As the walls came down, the endless nothing on the other side became more and more apparent. Before the cards went out I fell into that void trying to escape the woman, in all her monstrous horror. She had a habit of turning into her other form when I tried resisting anything she set in motion.

She stares at me, drunk and hungrily, as I push two more chips to the betting area one at a time. There was no way by now I could pick up the chips. They had become too heavy with the weight of my life, and I too weak to adequately hold them. Again, with a dancer’s grace the cards are dealt once more.

“Mr. Reynolds, you seem to have gone quite. Feeling down?” She giggles

I give her whatever defiant look I could muster. “Play…the…damn…game” I wheeze in a hushed voice.

“I only say this because you stopped asking me questions. Remember the little arrangement we had?”

Truth be told I still wanted to know why this was happening to me. As she dealt cards I saw for this hand I was looking at a soft eighteen with an ace and a seven, the woman showed a nine.

“You want to know why all of this is happening to you. It must feel like you are the unluckiest person on earth. You could also look at it the other way, if you win that is. I promised you a second chance to make your life better, the means to go back to school.”

“Hit” I tell her. Without missing a beat she gives me another card, a king. “Stand”

She flips her own card to show an eight, making her total a seventeen. My balance returned somewhat as the blood flow stopped from my nose. I heard a clack as two chips returned to my pile. I pulled one of two in front of me back to the pile with a refreshed strength.

“Seems you have gotten the hang of this rather quickly, good for you Mr. Reynolds.” She smiles at me. “It is not surprising though. You have been doing this your whole life.”

“What do you mean?” I say, finding it a bit easier to speak.

“You have spent the majority of your short time on this mud ball of a planet allowing your life to be lived for you. Every time you gave up your right to control an aspect of your life, be it school, standing up for yourself, or making your own decisions about what you want to do with your life, you gave control to chance. You gave your life to me.”

“I never wanted any of that” I yell. I see the walls have now been eaten away completely by the encroaching dark. “Deal the hand”.

“My, aren’t we touchy now. You may not have wanted things to turn out like they are Mr. Reynolds, but they did.” She dispenses cards as if they floated on some unfelt breeze. A six and a seven land in front of me. Her face up card was a ten. “I know why you choose to give up the direction of your life to fortune, it was easier Mr. Reynolds, and you were so afraid. I do not understand fear Mr. Reynolds as it is something I cannot feel. A few moments ago you were squirming like a worm under the hot sun. Even as you are behind in this game now you seem more focused. Is it because you have accepted what has become of you, or do you finally understand the importance of choosing to actually be involved in your own life?”

“Play the hand and I will answer your question. Hit me.” I tell her. I almost smile at her, but there was too much at stake for me to feel that bold. She throws me a card, quickly and flatly, absent of her graceful motion I had become accustom to. It was a jack, I had busted. The chip dissolves as my head begins to pound and the red leak in my nose begins again. I had gotten too used to this by now to let it slow me down.

“I am still afraid, I don’t want to die. There isn’t really a choice here for me any more. I either die or I go on now. It’s more of an acceptance.”

“It is the same acceptance you have had since your mother died. That your life can be over in an instant. That was the day you lost the motivation to decide for yourself what to do with the time given to you.” She then turned that familiar shade of grey as her voice came at me from all sides, as if the void itself was howling in my ears. In her sunken green eyes I saw a loathing older than anything I have known or will ever know. “I am eternal, I will never die and yet the most important power in existence was given to such a pathetic creature as you and denied to me. The power to decide where to take your life. You threw that away as if were meaningless. That, Mr. Reynolds is why I am here. I offered you the choice to throw your life at chance again or walk away and make something of yourself, on your own. You let me in, that is what your acceptance has given you.”

Only a small platform of the once large hall remained. It continued slowly fading away as I stared at the pile of chips that remained. In order to win I needed to come out ahead with at least eleven chips.

“All in.” I say, and at once the pile moves itself to the betting circle for one last time. It seemed as though time were slowing down to a crawl. I felt every pounding heartbeat and the very blood flow through my veins like tiny rivers, laced with what adrenaline I had left. I could hear the micro fractures of the remaining floor beneath me cracked and fall into the abyss around me.

The woman mouths something to me that I don’t pay attention to, couldn’t even hear over the pumping blood flow from my ears. There was a strange vibration coming from the table that was in synchronization with my own heartbeat. Before the cards came out I had a thought that it may have been the chips themselves, a reflection of my own life.

Cards flow to the table once more. My first card is sent out to me, a queen. Her facedown card is placed on the table. Suddenly I feel myself begin to fall and I cling to the table. The floor around my stool had given away and the void lays waiting beneath me, silent and patient. I think I scream as I just try to hang on, already weak from losing too many hands before. I don’t even hear myself shout, the pounding is too loud. A third card is played. An Ace. For one moment I forget about the strain of keeping myself clung to a table that may only have moments itself before it too falls away. I stare at the Ace as if it was the most beautiful thing in world, and at that moment it was.

I look up at the woman, wanting to smile. The only thing that greeted me was her own smile, slightly sinister. She was pointing down at her own cards. I look over to see she had just placed her own face up card, an Ace of her own. Even if I could hear her I wouldn’t need to be told what would happen if her down card was a ten.

I close my eyes in disbelief. I am pulled away from the table, my legs no longer having anything to kick and scrape against to stay up. When my eyes open I find myself being held, hovering about the table. An elongated claw-like arm holds my midsection as another snakes its way back and forth across my neck, leaving small scratches even though very tip of the point was lightly grazing my skin. Something wet caresses my left ear and I out of the corner of my vision I see the monstrous grey face of the woman, mouth wide open.

“Turn it over” She whispers. I outstretch my right arm. Every muscle fiber is already like taught piano wire, it creaks with every inch I push it forward. As my own hand closed in on the down faced card, her claw took up position beneath my right ear. My fingertips touched the card, her own pressed in painfully to my skin, waiting for the call to tear my throat apart.

I shut my eyes hard and cry out as the card is over turned.

“Sir?” I hear a woman’s voice call out to me and I feel a hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay?” My eyes open to see a waitress standing over me with a concerned look on her face. “Why did you start screaming?”.

My head turns to my front. I was back in the diner, the walls were intact, and there were people around again. In fact, they were even staring at me like I was a mad man. I still felt something in my hand, a playing card. A seven card, with a black back to it feeling grainy in my hand with roman numerals on the front to signify the value was in my hand. A breath forces its way through my throat and makes a sound similar to a cough. An ocean of relief welled up inside my core and as it made its way to my head the coughing noise increased with frequency and my eyes watered. It was like the memory of how to laugh had faded away, and was slowly returning.

The waitress took a couple steps back and began talking quietly to another server. I didn’t care how I must have seemed to those other people. I lost myself in my tears as the coughing reformed itself into more recognizable laughter one breath at a time. When I got myself under control again and wiped the hot tears from my face I found the card in my hand was gone.

I stumbled to my feet and sped my way to the restroom. In the bathroom mirror I saw that my hair had returned, my face unbloodied. There was a floating feeling in me, like anything that had ever troubled me I was now far away from. That feeling continued to stay with me as I left the casino, past the bouncers that were made aware of the scene I made at the diner. I laughed as they looked at me like they were two seconds away from getting a hold of me, but I just strolled past them towards the door.

The night air was cool with a mild breeze. The stars above me were brilliant and wonderful to me, everything was, even the trash in the gutter of the parking lot. My free feeling dropped a bit when I got to my car to realize I did not have my keys. The vivid image of watching them tumble into the unknown returned to my mind. Things like losing my keys used to upset me as it would anyone, it didn’t seem all that important to me anymore. I took out my cellphone and called my roommate to bring me a spare set I kept at our apartment. He seemed pissed at me when he showed up, but puzzled at how I was just sitting by my car, staring up at the night sky, still enjoying the air.

I decided to surprise my father with a visit early the next morning. To tell him how sorry I was, and that I planned to try to put myself through college, to get it right this time. It was his day off so I knew he would be at his house. I pulled in to see his truck parked in the driveway. That floating feeling, that renewed sense of my own life stayed with me even as I slept the night before and woke this morning. It stayed with me as I rang the doorbell and waited to see my dad. I even didn’t care he wasn’t coming to the door soon enough. I tried calling his phone, no answer. I go inside anyway.

“Dad, are you on the toilet or something?” I call out. No answer. The cloud nine feeling began to ebb away. I looked around the living room, nothing. Something does catch my eye though, a familiar object on the key ring holder nailed to the wall by the door. It was my car keys. The same ones I lost in that nightmarish place that only last night I somehow escaped from.

“Dad!” I began screaming and rushing through the house. Nobody was in the bedroom, or the bathroom. As I entered the dining room I saw my father with his back to me, sitting in a chair looking like he was about to eat something. “Dad!” I call out again. He doesn’t even move let alone answer me.

I move closer and shake him. His body was cold and the normal softness of another being was absent. That’s when I saw it, the lifeless look in his eyes. I kept shaking him, not knowing anything else to do, and screaming as I continue on. His body falls out of the chair but maintains its position. I remember something I heard about rigor mortis once. He had been dead since last night.

A giggling noise comes from behind me. I spin around sharply to see the woman standing not five feet from me. “Hello Mr. Reynolds” She smiles. I scream once more as I back away. I didn’t realize how quickly I had moved till I was surprised by the feeling of the wall slamming against me.

“Is that any way to greet a friend?” She says whimsically, still with that drunken smile.

“Why! Why did you fucking do this?”

“Me? I did not kill him. Your father had a heart attack last night. You see, as it turns out, your father’s doctor failed to diagnose a genetic heart condition your father had. He went on unmedicated for some time. His death was just very unfortunate” She laughs madly.

No more words were coming to my mouth. I just sat and cried, helpless. I was supposed to have a second chance, to make things right not only with me, but with me and him. I had beat her at her game but she couldn’t let me win it seemed.

“I won; you said you would give me a second chance”

“You did, and I have. As luck would have it, you are the sole benefactor on your fathers will. He was a high end attorney wasn’t he? Lots of money there, things to sell off or keep for yourself to help you do as you please. You could go back to school with it if you wished. It does not matter to me; our business for now is done.”

I never wanted it to turn out like this. My dad didn’t deserve this. I didn’t deserve his money. I couldn’t move. I started to wish she had just killed me. The only thing that snapped me back into the moment was the woman, her form changing once more.

“Jake, get up. Call the police, take the money and move on with your life. You have your second chance to come back from all of this. Not many are so lucky to get that choice.” She smiles a wide toothy smile “Or don’t, it would be fun to play with you again. I will be watching.” Just like that she was gone, vanishing before my eyes.

An hour had past as I sat there on the hardwood floor of the dining room, gazing at my father’s corpse. I spent that hour mulling it over in my head. In the end I came to the conclusion that my father would want me to keep going on, to follow through with the new goals I had set for myself. I did call the police, I did take the money. I went back to school, but this time to be an EMT. The job felt right for me somehow. Helping people just felt like something I needed to do, giving a second chance where I could.

It was hard going sometimes, but it no longer bothered me. The memories stayed with me. The vision of my dead father, the memories of my mother, and the card game that changed my life forever kept me going through the hard parts. I got a job with the local fire department, even got married and had a kid. My little girl is five years old now. I love hearing her voice greet me when I get home.

Life isn’t all good though, I don’t think it ever is completely for anyone. I still feel the woman sometimes watching me. I hear her laughter as odd occurrences happen around me every so often. Like my car wreck a few weeks back, I heard her voice over my radio. Every time I meet somebody with green eyes I can feel the back of my hair being gently brushed, she’s never there when I turn around.

I can keep going on with my life and say it’s a good one though, because I finally have a hold over it. I can roll with whatever fate and fortune want to throw at me. Never again will I give up my power to decide what I do with myself.

A smile of my very own comes to my face as I turn the doorknob of my house after a day at work. I stop at the doorway and start taking off my boots, expecting the sound of my daughter happily calling to me as I walk in. The first noise I do hear is a scattered rolling clacking coming from my dining room.

“Sweetie, I’m home” I call out.

“Hi daddy! Come and meet my new friend, we are playing a game. Say hi to my daddy.” I hear my daughter say.

“Hello Mr. Reynolds”

I freeze, not even finishing taking my second boot off. My ability to think goes out the window as I rush to the dining room. There she was, the woman in the expensive black dealer uniform. She was sitting at the table across from my daughter, smiling up at me like an old friend.

“Daddy, say hi to Miss Fortune.” My daughter says as she takes a handful dice on the table and rolls them. The clacking sound of the dice echoes through the still room.

The End.

Credit To – Author Mike Gilbert. Special Thanks to Bob Vetter and Eric Garcia for their input.

**This is the third and final entry in the Miss Fortune Series.

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Miss Fortune: Part Two

November 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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When you wake up from a nightmare there is a brief moment of lingering fear. You open your eyes and look around your bedroom. Everything seems to be in the same place as it always was. The blankets, sheets, and pillows comforting you as the terrible memory of whatever monstrous thing you were dreaming about fades away until you may be only able to recall one or two key things about the dream. After all of that you get up and go about your day or try to fall back asleep and drift off into better places.

For me, this was not one of those times. A moment ago I was falling into an infinite void of utter nothingness, praying for an end to it. Hoping that at least death could free me from whatever I had stumbled into. Now, I am sitting in a stool in front of a blackjack table in a nearly empty casino. I say would say it was empty if it weren’t for me and woman standing at the opposite end. The woman wearing the high end black and gold dealers uniform and a smile that eerily resembled a vampire’s smile. When I first saw her smiling at me and thought of vampires crossed my mind I almost wanted to laugh at the thought she could be one. Right now however, I am not so sure I wasn’t too far off.

I slowly bring my hands up and place them on the edge of the table, griping the cushioning. They shook violently and I squeezed hard to try to get them under control. This sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and labored breathing told her I was afraid. That’s when I saw the fingers on my left hand were bleeding. I remembered scratching the floor trying to run away from her, it still hurt so I eased up my grasp on the table.

“I see I have your attention now. Mr. Reynolds, place your bet” She said softly, taking the black deck in hand. With a flawless grace the woman begins shuffling the cards, her movement captivating. Movements such as these would be practiced but it all just seemed to flow so naturally to her. Every card seemed to know where it was going as it slid alongside one another, barely making more than a whisper of a noise in the hall.

The black poker chips had been set out in front of me. I place my right hand over the stack and I felt a warm sensation emanating out of them. My hand shook less at the feeling. The warm traveled up my arm and washed over me. The sickly feeling I had numbed a bit.
“Wh-what is going on” I stammered.

She tilts her head to one side and gives me a curious look as if I had just asked something really obvious.

“We are playing blackjack. What does it look like? Didn’t I already explain that?”

I could only stare at her blankly. The memory of her other form was still very fresh in my mind. The vivid image of the teeth, claws, the graying skin, and those eyes faint and glowing deep in her skull was still fresh in my mind. She could kill me if she wanted to. What was she waiting for?

“Like I have already said, this will be a standard game of blackjack with a few rule modifications. You are not allowed to surrender a hand. As you have already seen, you can’t walk away from the table” She laughs as she finishes that sentence. “We play to ten hands or until you are out of chips and lastly, all you need to do is come out ahead at the end of those ten hands to win”

“What happens if I lose?”

She only sighed at the question and her smile fades. “Mr. Reynolds, you will find I don’t much in the way of patience”. Her skin began to grey again, her eyes slowly retreating into her skull. “I will make you a deal, for every hand you play I will answer one question if it makes you feel better.”

I might have thought about running again, but I didn’t know where I would go. For all I knew the entire building was floating in an endless space. The only option I had was to play. I picked up one of the black chips from the stack; it was heavy, far heavier than a simple chip should be. I set it down on the betting area indicated by the white circle in the table cloth. It plops down as I let it go, hitting the table with an ominous thud that echoes through the empty halls, the sound reverberating in my chest.

“Cut it” She says with a cold tone while offering me the freshly shuffled deck. I didn’t want to touch it for fear some other horrible thing would begin happening. The hesitation I felt was noticed.

“Do you really want to leave it to chance, or is this where you want to have some say in what happens to you?” It sounded like a challenge I was being issued. I outstretch my hand timidly taking the cards. The deck, like my chips, was smooth, but unlike the chips these cards irradiated a mixture of feelings. One moment I felt this sensation of comfort and I had a single hopeful thought I may get out of this place and see my apartment again. As soon as I place the other hand to cut the deck, the sinking despair I was feeling returned with a reinforced sensation. I quickly cut it close to the bottom and put it back on the table.

The woman’s smile returns to her face as her skin regained its color and the eyes protruded to their original place. Gracefully she deals the cards from the deck in regular blackjack fashion. Two cards were placed in front of me; face up, two cards she placed in front of herself, one face up and one face down. My cards I observed were a jack and a six. The cards were different than any deck I had seen or played with before. The symbols and numbers appeared to have a grainy texture to them, the colors vibrant. The six card had roman numerals in the corners instead of a regular six to represent the value. The jack was displayed on the card in a medieval art style. His facial expression was stoic, cold and disinterested with a hand on the hilt of a sheathed knife. The art style was an old one, but the cards appeared in excellent condition. The card in front of the woman revealed a three.

When I saw that the game we were playing with had only one deck I started to feel a bit better. It would be easy to keep track of which cards were being played. Like a distant memory, the things I learned about basic strategy and counting practice I had done came back from a far away place in my brain. It was in my favor to stand this hand and hope she would bust in hitting.

“Stand” I say.

She flips her down faced card to show a seven. She draws another card from the deck and reveals a five. I notice her look of drunken contentment returning to her face, the same look she had playing next to me when I first saw her. Drawing another card from the deck she calmly places it down to show another three. I had stood on a sixteen; her hand gave her an eighteen.

With that same look on her face, never missing a beat she easily picks up the black chip, held it between two of her fingers and I watched at it begin to vanish particle by particle into thin air until nothing was left of it. As I watched the chip dissolve, my eyes widened and started to water. This shooting pain coursed through my heart and I choked on something unseen. I coughed violently and came off of my stool, held up by my right hand clinging to the table and my left holding onto my chest. A few moments like this and the coughing fit dies down and I slowly rise to compose myself. One final cough expels a spurt of crimson onto the hand I had been dealt. I continue staring at the blood I stained the cards with as red seeped into them, and strangely vanished altogether, never tarnishing the card’s mint condition.

“What happens if you lose Mr. Reynolds?” She says whimsically. “You die”.

I look up at her to see her giggling at me, mocking me. I would have been angry at the mockery if I hadn’t been so terrified. My gaze turns to my remaining nine black chips. It became obvious to me that my life was now tied to those remaining chips. If I was ever going to get out of here, I was going to have to win. I looked back at my hand and what I saw made me take a step back. The picture of the jack had changed. Now the jack held the knife to his mouth, tongue licking a spot of red from the tip of the blade, his eyes closed.

“What are you?” I say, after trying to swallow the remaining blood traces in my mouth.

“One hand, one question Mr. Reynolds” She says sweetly while tapping the betting circle. “We have at least nine more hands to go.” She wipes the table of the cards previously played and collects them in a pile she places to her right.

I regain my breath and pick up another of my chips. It was a bit heavier this time than I remember, but only just. Were the chips actually gaining weight or had I gotten weaker after losing the first one? The woman sees me looking at the chip in my hand and she gives me this look like she seems to know what I was thinking.

“Thinking of changing the question you want to ask me?” She smiles again.

I don’t respond but only put the chip down in the betting ring in a defiant manner. The deep thud of it echoing once more through the building. She laughs at my facial expression. “Whatever helps you cope with this Mr. Reynolds” she giggles.

The cards get dealt again with that same graceful style and drunken expression on her face. I almost smiled myself as I saw that my cards this hand were a five and a six, the woman’s a seven. Not many ten cards or aces had been played yet so that told me I had a good chance of getting one.

“Double Down” I tell her as I move another chip to the betting pile. As I placed it down with another deep thud the muscles in my arm relaxed in relief. These chips were definitely getting heavier.

My decision seemed to excite her, she giggles at seeing the increased bet. At once she draws another card and places it next to the hand, showing another three. My heart skips a beat. She taps the table and says “Good luck”. It was either sympathy or mockery. I didn’t care anymore; I only wanted to see her cards. It was the only thing that mattered anymore.

Flipping the down card to be yet another three it made her total to be ten. Almost knowing what the total would be she draws another card, not missing a beat. The next card was a queen; the image displayed had the queen with her head on top of her interlocked hands, elbows on a surface. The queen’s facial expression, again apathetic as the jack was.

“Sorry darling” The woman coos, collecting the cards and adding them to the discard pile. Leaning down till her upper half is parallel to the table she blows gently from her lips to the chips on the betting ring. As the air billows over them they disintegrate just as the last one had. The black particles rise and rush past my face, I was in mid breath as the flowed over me. Some of it flew into my throat and again I choked.

I clenched my throat and tried to cough. I couldn’t get the air through my lungs to clear it. I could feel my face go red and I shut my eyes in pain as I felt a blood vessel pop. I slam down on the floor, dizzy and suddenly my throat clears. I gasp like the air itself was life. As soon as I feel decent enough I try standing. My legs nearly buckle again and give way as I scrape my head on the edge of the table. Something wafts downward as I pull my head back away from the table. It was a tuft of hair. My hair.

“What am I Mr. Reynolds?” She says flatly as I tilt my head up towards her. “I am not entirely sure of myself. I just exist; I have for quite some time. I have a job to perform in this universe, and that job is ensure the wheels of the machine you call life keep turning. I am the driving force behind what you could say is chance or luck.”

I gave her a weak puzzled look. There was no way to be sure I had just heard her correctly. “Are you telling me, you are god?”

She begins laughing hysterically at me. “Oh my no, I didn’t create anything. I don’t have a divine plan, I simply exist to move things around, keep things happening, moving forward. I don’t profess to really understand it myself. I am the money you find on the street, the medication that was labeled incorrectly because both bottles looked the same, the iceberg that sank the titanic, and I was the locked engine in your mother’s car the day she died.”

There was silence as she finished that sentence. I did not want to believe what I was hearing. I didn’t want to believe anything that was happening to me. “You killed her?” I finally said in a hushed, cracked voice.

“I did not exactly kill her. It is a more accurate thing to say that I facilitated her death. Chance, luck, fortune, these things come into play every day. It comes at everyone constantly, changing seemingly without whim. I am the harbinger of fortune. Your mother’s fortune just turned sour that day. I still remember the rush it gave me, the ecstasy of her life force ending, filling me up, your life forever changed by bad luck”

I could only stare at her, my mind a blank. I felt a slip of sanity at the thought this woman, this thing in front of me, was responsible for the shaping of all of history. Of my life.

“Jake” She finally says. “I don’t intend for anything to happen to anyone, I am simply compelled to be where I am at any given moment. I have an innate need to change the flow of occurrences one way or the other. There is no rhyme or reason to what it is I do. I simply must. Invoking chance fills me with a feeling greater than anything you could imagine. It is an eternal addiction I cannot switch off even if I wanted to. I do what I do simply because that is how things are for me. I do not have a choice”

When she says this I could almost swear I felt a note of sadness to it. Did she pity herself? It was a thought I couldn’t begin to understand. I am losing my mind, and my life bit by bit and she feels sorry for herself?

“Why Me? Why are you doing this to me?”

“I think I thoroughly answered your last question. Time to live up to your end of the bargain and play another hand” Her smile comes back.

“….No…” I say. It was the only thing I could think of. The one little bit of power I had over her. She needed me to make a call or she couldn’t deal. If I die here, I wanted to know why.

“Look at you, pretending to be brave” She giggles. “I know for a fact this is not the kind of man you are Mr. Reynolds. The Mr. Reynolds I know would rather let the world decide what to do with him, rather than take a stand.”

“You don’t know a damn thing about me.” I raised my voice. She was right though I wasn’t brave, but maybe I didn’t care anymore. After everything I had seen, the fall, that monstrous self of hers, feeling my own life slip away piece by piece as I lost hands in a fucking game of blackjack.

“You dropped out of school because it required more effort than you were willing to put forth. At your senior prom you didn’t show up because you couldn’t get a date. The reason you were dateless was that you didn’t want to risk rejection in asking a girl out, none of them asked you out. In elementary school you always got pushed to the back of the lunch line by a bully. You thought risking getting the smaller piece of dessert cake was worth not pushing back or getting a teacher. I know exactly who you are.” Her voice became booming and terrible as she talked, I even heard the building’s support beams move and crack as the lighting dimmed.

Then I saw something as I hurriedly looked around the hall. A black spot at the very top of the white marble colored ceiling. Bits of the surrounding structure flying upward through the hole, little by little the spot grew bigger. The woman saw me staring at the unnerving sight. Only her laughter broke my gaze.

“I can’t make you finish what we have started, but I can give you incentive” She smiles almost politely.

I quickly pick up another chip; I almost need both hands this time to move it. The blood is pounding in my ears so hard I don’t hear the thud this time. The cards go out once more. I see I have been given a three and a five. The woman’s down faced card was an eight. I stare at the three hard. I may not have been in the best state of mind but I could swear I had already seen four threes played. I look up at the woman and she only nods at me, confirming what I was thinking. By now I shouldn’t have expected anything, for all I knew this deck changed at a moment’s notice every hand we played. It meant most of my strategy was meaningless. Hell, the game could have been rigged for all I knew. Maybe, just maybe, it all came down to luck.

If that was how we were playing than I did not see how anything I did really mattered. I felt dead already. To this day I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to do this, but I lifted another chip over to the betting area, not caring about how heavy it was to move.

“Double Down” I shout.

“Now we are really playing” She says excitedly. She swiftly deals me a card. I take in a breath I didn’t even know I stopped breathing as I see the ace displayed on the card. The woman looks at it too. I can’t be sure but there was the smallest moment of pause from her. Then still smiling, still with that expression of intoxication, she flips her down faced card to reveal a king.

“You finally won a hand” She says as she gives me a soft golf styled clap of her hands.
I hear a click as my pile of chips move a little. Two more black chips have appeared on my pile. This warm sensation washes over me, diluting the pain and weakness only a moment ago I had been suffering. I still did not feel quite right, but then again I was still down by one chip.

The thought this game was stacked against me, that I was doomed from the beginning may not be true. The woman tilts her head to the side as she taps the table, clearing her throat.

“Excuse me Mr. Reynolds, but we have seven more hands to be played. Also, you are on a deadline” She points upward. I look back up at the ceiling to see much of it had faded away into the blackness that was slowly replacing it. The void had almost reached the walls of the second tier in the grand hall.

“This game is far from over” She says softly.

Whatever small hope I felt from winning the last hand now escaped me. I place my right hand over my remaining chips. Their warmness licks my flesh like a candle flame. My only light in an unending nightmare.

Credit To – Author Mike Gilbert. Special Thanks to Bob Vetter and Eric Garcia for their input.

**This is the second entry in the Miss Fortune Series, which will be published one entry per day from Nov 14-16.

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Has anyone else seen it, or an I the only one?

November 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I’ve done my best to research this phenomenon, if it even is one, to no avail; there is not a single dream journal in print or through the Internet grape vine that can ease my unsettled heart. Two packs of cigarettes and a house to myself are all I have each night, and the light from the screen projecting the deepest and darkest corners of the internet are as comforting as a polite mugging; I just need to sleep without dreams.

A few years ago, my father died. He was a good, Nordic man, a sailor and a veteran with a heart of gold and a liver of blackened steel. After my mother stole my siblings and I away from him when I was a child, only to bring us to our jailor of an abusive stepfather, he has been my protector. My drunken, jobless, kind hearted saint of a father. In the last few years of the boozing haze of his life, an entire twenty-four pack of beer would be drained within twelve hours every day; each night he would fall asleep with a burning cigarette in his hand, and an aluminum can at his feet. Our ranch style deer shack of a house never burned to the ground, but that would most likely be an improvement. I’m currently nestled deep in the woods, the developments of concrete jungle miles away from the original homestead.

When he died, I was twenty-three years old. I had no family, no husband, and no morals. On my twenty-fourth birthday on an unseasonably cold day in May, I buried him. The priest and I had the occasion to ourselves. I’ve been doing drugs for most of my life, but the remainder of my money and pathetic inheritance fell into the deep hole that is cocaine addiction. A year ago I tried to sell my couch in exchange for a couple of measly lines; even today, I’m not far from that mess. No much longer after that, I tried to kill myself.

Earlier in that week, up to the attempt, I had been catching squirrels running lose in the attic, and had no idea how to get rid of them. So one day, drinking a beer on the back porch, I went to the sack I had them in, and tied it to the end of my black Mustang’s exhaust, got in and revved the engine for the entire woods to hear. When I opened the back, the corpses were charred black, slicked with grease and grime; it was then, I knew I wanted to die.

I jumped into her, my Black Widow, the Mustang, and shut the garage door. The ignition clicked over, engine blaring in the small concrete cube of a room. I laid back with a beer, and closed my eyes; not even crying. But fate, or so it seems, wants me to suffer; my father’s navy buddy, Ross, heaved the door open at the last minute, screaming, “Kris! Krissy!” and dragged me out, semiconscious into the gravel driveway. He saved my life, and after such a kind deed, he died of lung cancer three months ago.

Fast forward to two days ago; I was upstairs sleeping, and suddenly the door slams. “I’m home!” my father bellows. Clear as day, as certain as the keys I’m using are real. I ran, tripping every step, to the stair overlooking our door, to see nothing. Just the cold and reassuring loneliness that there isn’t a soul on Earth that cares about me. Even my dreams have started to turn.
For years, I’ve read scary stories. They give me a sense of power over life, a feeling of control. The words on a page that send shivers down your spine are a thrill difficult to achieve in other places, but there is very little truth in any story out there. But my dream, the dream is reality. Reality is the dream. Only in the sense that reality is the escape, not the other way around.

The night of my father’s voice, I slept deeply. The bed in my father’s old bedroom sits in front of a closet door, but in my dream it was blocked by something. At the wooden footboard of the antiquated frame, stood what looked like a man. Very tall, well over six feet, dressed in dark colors; he wore what looked like a suit, but memory on the clothes is hard to come by. His face was very long, almost a horse like quality, and pale. His irises were dark as well, and his expression was both blank and sinister. His mouth was extremely wide, and when he opened to speak, there were so many teeth I would certainly regret referring to him as a human being. But he never spoke, acted like he had changed his mind, and smiled. An ear to ear, wider than the Grand Canyon smile. And with that same grin, he lifted an overly long arm with boney fingers like that of a massive spider, and reached out for me. With his pointer finger out, he touched my forehead, but never actually made contact with bone; rather, the finger pushed my brain inside the skull. I felt as if he was informing me, touching me with knowledge, but what? I have no answer to that question.

Last night the dream was similar, but he wasn’t at the bed’s end. He was standing at its side like a family member stands beside the hospital gurney. He leaned in close to me, the features of his smooth and pale face nearly translucent and corpse like; the corpse that’s been found floating under six inches of bathwater for days. This time he produced two fingers, like a peace sign, and with the same terrible smile, pressed my eyes back, again never touching skin. His touch this time was cold, like having an ice cube against bare skin, only worse. On both occasions I have awoken from the nightmare with the closet door ajar, when it was clearly clicked shut each night. And thus brings me to my current predicament.

The closest thing that even reminds me of my experiences come out of works of horror fiction, and certainly not legends or tales from other horrified victims. But the symptoms have been invading from the dream world more and more; I hear frantic running up the stairs in the morning, doors slamming, whispering. The closet at the foot of the bed is cold, like a meat locker, and I can’t find any family photographs. And worst of all, the sun sets in a matter of hours, and the closest hotel is sixteen miles from here. Would driving through woods in the dark actually help my situation, or just be another chapter in a grisly paperback in a five-dollar bin at the bookstore?

I’m preparing tonight, with light and heat, as well as nailing the closet door shut. If I need to, the car’s garage bay is open and the keys in my pocket, but I haven’t been to hell and back to be frightened off by a figment in my own head. This is my only home, and despite the crippling sense of being alone in the dark, I certainly don’t need a friend like him.

Credit To – M.D.T

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Dance of Flames

November 14, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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You’re probably like me, sceptical of all things unexplained. Never in my life have I believed anything that doesn’t have a logical explanation, even if it means I have to string together the most tenuous logic just to make something reasonable. This is me. Why then, do I sit here by this shimmering lake, desperately scrawling these notes on my last remaining pages, terrified? Something wants me. I cannot seem to escape them, I cannot explain them, I don’t know why they want me. All I know is that large volumes of water are crucial to my survival.

Despite my scepticism, I used to love sitting up late at night reading creepy stories about things like Slenderman, and the Rake. I used to regale freaking myself out with horror films, the creepier the better. For me, ominous creaking and flickering shadows thrilled me far more than hacking and slashing, however, no matter how much thrill I found in a story, I would always sleep soundly at night knowing it was just a story. That was until now, until they began to haunt me. This isn’t some made up story about being stalked by Slenderman, or about a ghastly haunted child watching me sleep. No. This is far worse. This is no made up story. This is a very real threat to my life, my sanity, a threat I don’t know how to stop. I am hoping that if I don’t make it, my satchel containing these notes will help someone piece together whatever is going on here. I realise I’m being vague, please, allow me to start from the beginning.

As I’ve mentioned, I love reading up on creepy things. One caught my eye in particular. It was the “real-life” story about the curse of the crying boy. If you’re unaware of this story allow me to quickly explain. In 1985, a house in Yorkshire, England was burned to the ground. The only thing that survived in near-pristine condition was a painting of a crying boy. After this strange event was reported, many others around the world began reporting fires where the only surviving relic was this painting. This caused widespread panic resulting in many people in possession of the painting to destroy it as quickly as possible. As I read on, fascinated, I ran across an article on some website detailing that a car spontaneously burst into flames after a crash. The only surviving object from the blaze was the driving license of a man whose name matched the name of the boy in the paintings. I quickly laughed and shrugged this off as people exaggerating on what was probably just coincidence. The reading of this particular tale marked the beginning of strange occurrences around me.

It was August 20th and that evening my mother and I had planned a bonfire to get rid of the old shed. We had invited the family round for a few drinks and decided to make a social evening of it. During the day we stocked up on plenty of beverages, beers, ciders and bottles of wine for the adults and fizzy drinks for the youngsters as well as some “finger food” in case anyone got peckish. Our garden was fairly large so preparations began early, bringing out the garden furniture from the new shed for everyone to sit around as well as some of the chairs from the dining table. Dad was at work so mum and I had to prepare everything ourselves; she yelled instructions to me from across the garden to set up the large fire pit and pile on the old wood whilst she set out the table cloth, plates and cutlery.

“Tom, make sure there fire pit is secure, we don’t want to burn the house down now, do we?” Jested my mother. I laughed with her and commented on how I wasn’t an idiot. Once the large circle of stones had been laid, I proceeded to move the old wood that was propped up against the far fence to the centre of the pit. I started with two long planks and set them up in a pyramid structure. I began to place other planks around it, also propped up until I had made what roughly resembled a wigwam. We used to burn all our old sensitive letters too, so I scattered a few around along with some dry twigs and other flammable junk from the garden. After about an hour of setting this up, mum began to lay the food out on the table and the family started to arrive. First to arrive was my dad who had just got home from work, he was eager to see the rest of the family so he promptly headed upstairs for a shower. From about 7pm until 8pm, the rest of my family turned up until all seventeen of us were here.

I am the oldest of my generation, nineteen at the time. My other eight cousins all ranged from five to sixteen. The younger ones were running around, fuelled on fizzy pop while the adults, myself included, had just started on our beers, ciders, and wines. It was about 9pm now and beginning to get dark so my dad decided it was time to light the fire. The older generation all took a seat ready to absorb the warmth of the flames.

“Who built a bloody Egyptian tomb then?” Shouted my uncle Kevin sat opposite me. I raised my bottle of cider, proudly admitting to my creation and laughed with him. He was the joker of the family and always kept us laughing. By this point, I was very excited as I loved fire. I mean… I used to love fire. There was something soothing about it, perhaps dating back to our more primitive times. Dad drizzled a bit of fire lighter fluid around the base of the pyramid and dropped a lit match on it. Instantly, the fluid ignited with small flames, licking their way up the wood. Everyone paused for a moment and smiled, watching the flames climb higher and higher. I distinctly remember the sweet smell of the burning wood filling my nostrils and the crackling of the blaze as fire grew stronger. Kevin had spotted some of our documents and made a witty remark about hiding evidence, but I wasn’t really listening at that point. I was transfixed on the dancing flame. Within a few short minutes, the fire was burning at about a height of seven foot and the family were lost in laughs and chatter, the kids still screaming and having fun as they played tag around the garden.

It wasn’t until about an hour later I started to notice things. I was on my third cider and feeling slightly buzzed from it. I had been lost in the inferno for about half an hour at this point but I can’t be sure. Intensely staring as each peak of fire whipped itself into the air and transformed to white smoke before drifting off in the cool night breeze. I’m sure you do the same, if a fire is burning you stare at it. There is something so calming, so tranquil, I was completely transfixed. I would imagine dancers inside the fire, swaying about in synonymous movement with the blaze. I could feel myself starting to be pulled in, I leaned forward and felt a rapid increase of heat on my face. The warmth was bliss. Staring harder and deeper into the flame was when I first saw it. A face manifested itself right in front of my eyes. It all happened so briefly but I felt like I had seen it for an eternity. The quivering lipless snarl, the eyeless sockets, the pointed chin, and the mane of flames. The face that I saw directed its empty sockets deep into every fibre of my being and I felt nothing but pure evil and terror in that hint of a moment. I startled backwards and my family blankly stared at me. I shrugged and told them it was an ember landing on my face. They all began to laugh and a few of my uncles joked about something I didn’t really hear. I tried to find the face in the fire again, but I couldn’t. I was certain I had imagined it, after all, I was drinking and it was getting late. Still, even my sceptical side was difficult to silence, I still felt an incredible uneasiness.

I went to bed that night, still filled with disturbance from the face in the fire. Although the eyes looked empty, I somehow felt they contained an immeasurable amount of pain. Allowing my mind to wander, I drifted off to sleep. The next morning I awoke with a start after rolling onto my side. Clutching my cheek, I groggily hauled myself to the bathroom and saw in the mirror I had a vertical burn about two inches long down my cheek. How the hell did that get there? I didn’t actually burn myself on the fire last night. Fortunately the burn wasn’t major and didn’t look like it would blister, but it felt sore enough for me to put some cream on it. I walked downstairs after getting dressed, both my parents were already eating breakfast. Dad asked if I was okay, he said I’d had a lot to drink last night and joked about me having a hangover. I didn’t remember having a lot to drink, however, I didn’t remember much between seeing the face and getting into bed, though I felt okay, if a little restless, when I got into bed. How was I drunk? Mum pointed out the burn and called me silly, then asked if I had put some cream on it. I confirmed I did in a half-attentive way. I was trying to make sense of everything. I asked dad what happened, he said he didn’t know as he was too busy catching up with his two brothers. My brain scrabbled to piece together some kind of explanation. I had been drinking which caused me to hallucinate the face, the shock of the hallucination made me drink more, I got drunk and burnt myself with a hot stick or something causing the straight line, and went to bed. That must be it… After all, faces don’t just appear in fires and stare at you, that’s ridiculous isn’t it?

Later that day, I walked down town to grab some essentials like toothpaste and shampoo. As was normal on a Sunday, the main high-street was lined with half a dozen street performers to entertain the tourists. Among the human statues and juggles was one young man using fire poi. Normally, I would have walked past them all as I usually do, but I stood to watch this man for a minute. Again, I was transfixed on the flame just as I was last night. I shook my head rapidly to try and shake this silly feeling. The man caught my eye and smiled at me, I gave a nervous smile back and turned back towards the shops. I had only taken a few more steps when I heard the crowd scream, I quickly turned to see what was going on and everything was plunged into darkness.

I woke up in a hospital bed what seemed like moments later. My parents were sat to my right and I could only see out of one eye. I panicked briefly but my mother put her hand on my shoulder and told me to calm down, and that it was all okay. I looked at dad who had a the biggest smile of relief on his face. I asked them what happened. Dad took the reins of the question. Apparently, the street performer with the fire poi lost his grip whilst swinging the poi about. The flaming ball hurtled toward my head and hit me square in the eye knocking me unconscious. I adjusted my position in the bed and put my hand on my left eye and felt the soft bandage cloth. Dad assured me the doctor said my eyesight was fine, and that I was lucky. I didn’t feel lucky. Two fire incidents in two days? Perhaps this was all a stupid coincidence, but perhaps it wasn’t. I glanced at the clock and saw that I had been unconscious for just over two hours. I was very open with my parents, and I decided now would be a good time to tell them about last night’s events. They both agreed that I was just drunk, and today just happened to be one of those accidents, wrong place wrong time type thing. I hesitantly nodded in agreement although I knew something wasn’t right at all. I suddenly grasped the bandaged eye in agony as I felt a wild burning ignite inside my skull. Mum shouted for a nurse in a panic and one came rushing in, she tried to give me painkillers but I was writhing in too much pain to take them in tablet form. She pulled out a small needle and a tiny bottle, filled the syringe with some clear liquid and jabbed it into my arm, injecting every drop. She assured us it was a liquid painkiller, and that the pain I was feeling was the exposed nerve endings and it would soon go. I knew that wasn’t right. I forced the ball of my hand into my socket but nothing helped this intense heat coursing its way into my skull and spreading down to my chest. My mother grabbed my hand, and once again the world turned to black.

My eyes flitted open about an hour later, I had blacked out from the pain. My parents were stood outside the door conversing with a doctor. I was shaking. I saw it again, as the pain happened, behind the eye that couldn’t see, I saw it. It was clearer this time. I was absolutely certain it was the same face I saw before. It was truly harrowing, it wasn’t just a face. I saw… It… The entire of whatever ‘it’ was, stood there engulfed in darkness. The Flame Dancer. Its hideous fleshy face was surrounded with a body of fire, humanoid in structure but without hands or feet. Instead, its legs and arms just ended in a sharp point of concentrated blaze. The face looked like a leather mask just hovering there, seemingly immune to the surrounding inferno. A pointed chin, a lipless snarl that quivered with the rage of the fire around it, seams ran tracks across the face as if it had been stitched together, but worst of all – the most terrifying feature was the eyes. Two empty indents. Empty, yet fierce. Angry in shape but when directed at me I felt like I was feeling the excruciating fear of a thousand tortured souls, as if I could feel the agony of each poor soul before me. It stared, flames raging around it. Then it lifted an arm and directed that fiery spear of an arm toward my very heart. I felt it as real as anything. I felt the burning fury of the sun scorching my chest. That was the point I had blacked out.

The following few days I wasn’t myself at all. My parents were worried, I was avoiding anything that could be linked with fire as best I could. I couldn’t concentrate all morning at work, and half the staff were off on holiday or ill meaning my workload was increased. However, it was now Friday and I knew the fire alarm tests happen at work on Fridays. The alarm itself wouldn’t have frightened me, but it was to warn of fire, and what if it wasn’t a test this time? I had become certain that the “Flame Dancer” as I had named it, was after me. I watched the clock nervously as the seconds ticked closer to 10:00am when the bell would sound. I couldn’t relax or focus, I kept trying to tell myself that the whole thing was just a stupid hallucination playing on my mind but it wasn’t that simple. The burning, the glare, and the raw panic I felt were all very real. My boss came over and mentioned that he’d noticed a decline in the last week and asked if everything was alright, I feebly explained to him that it was just the poi incident that had shaken me up a little. He told me to feel better soon and try to focus on work. I glanced back at the clock at noticed it was now 10:01am. The alarm didn’t sound. Oh God, it was broken, the safety mechanism that warns us of fire was broken. An official came to the office to inform us that the repairman was on his way. I couldn’t take it, I bolted for the toilets with a lump in my throat. What if they broke it? It’s them, I know it is. I tried my best to compose myself and walked back to my desk.

In that very moment I sat down, I heard someone curse loudly from the kitchen followed by a buzz of electricity. I jumped up and as I glanced toward the kitchen I could see the microwave had malfunctioned and a small fire had started in the kitchen. My worst nightmare had just been realised. I screamed for everyone to get out and raced to the fire exit running full speed into the push bar. It was jammed. I ran full force into it and fell backwards. In the next moment, I awoke with one other work colleague who was desperately trying to haul me onto his shoulder. The flames raged around us, the rest of the staff had escaped through the main entrance, ignoring me in their haste. I staggered to my feet, an orange haze surrounding my vision. I coughed violently as I inhaled a large breath of smoke before pulling my shirt up over my mouth and nose. Sam pointed toward the exit and said something which was inaudible over the crackling and roaring of the flames. I followed Sam’s finger and saw that all exits were blocked, there was no way out. The burn on my face was particularly tender when in close proximity to the curling tendrils of fire. It was then that it appeared again. Sam saw it too. The mask-type face emerged from flames, followed by the body before the two conjoined. Every step it took toward us left a smaller fire in its wake. Sam bellowed at me demanding to know what it was. I told him I had no idea but I’d seen it before. It loomed closer, teasing us with a slow pace and staring intently at us. Two more twisted up from the fiery footsteps either side of it, into magnificent columns of fire, contorting into the humanoid shape, and parting the flames to reveal the leathery face that conjured out of nowhere. Three of them, looming slowly toward us, they raised their pointed limbs slowly as they took each step, and we both clutched our chests in burning agony. I grabbed Sam’s collar and dragged him toward a window with a strength I never knew I had. He kept his footing but was crippled due to the pain in his chest. As I began to move, one of the Dancers twisted back into the ground and appeared again behind me. I was hell-bent on survival at that point and continued toward the window. As I approached, I could see the fire engines outside. Sam collapsed behind me and fell unconscious. I picked up a chair and threw it at the window, the “Flame Dancers” only metres from me now. A powerful jet of water burst its way through the window and hit the Dancer closest to me. It let out a shrill cry and dissolved into a puff of smoke, no sign of the face. I glanced back toward the other two, and the third separated from out of the body of the one at the front. I screamed at them asking what they wanted from me, the snarls turned to disturbing smiles, and they all stopped, turning their gaze to Sam. Realising there was nothing I could do to save him, I jumped from the ground floor window onto the hard concrete outside. An ambulance scooped me up and rushed me to hospital for the second time.

I sat quaking in the hospital bed as the nurse checked me over. I deeply inhaled the oxygen being fed to me through the mask. I turned my head and asked the nurse about Sam. She seemed puzzled and asked who Sam was. I told her he was in there with me, she told me to wait a second and went out the room. She returned moments later with two police officers who sat down next to me. They wanted a statement from me so I nervously told them everything I knew about the fire. Everything except the Dancers. I knew how insane it sounded and I didn’t want to be carted off to a mental institution. My parents burst in the room at that moment, but held back from pouncing on me in relief due to the officers present. I asked about Sam. They gave me the same puzzled look the nurse did and informed me the building was completely empty of bodies, and nobody was reported injured. At first I thought Sam had made it out, I breathed a brief sigh of relief before an office began to ask questions about Sam. Although his body wasn’t found inside, he didn’t turn up for the roll call outside. I shrugged gingerly. The officers thanked me for my time and walked out. My parents replaced the officers in the two seats by my side, and my dad joked about my affinity for fire.

“Three fire related accidents in one week, my son!”

I just gazed emptily at him. My mind rested on Sam. Maybe he just went home out of shock. He saw those things too. But he was unconscious, none of this is making any sense. I finally settled on one conclusion that drained all colour from me and turned me skin ice cold. They got him. My mum had that same look of panic on her face I had become accustomed to. Mum asked me what was wrong. I told them I had seen the “Flame Dancers” again and how they have Sam. She didn’t laugh this time. She was an aromatherapist, so she had suggested some treatment when we got home as something was causing me to see these weird creatures. I snapped at her about Sam being missing. She stayed quiet. Dad just looked at me, he had a good front but I could tell he was just as concerned. We all just sat there, motionless in awkward silence until a nurse came in and told me I was fine and could go home. My dad thanked her but neither me or my mum reacted.

Later that evening, I was furiously racking my brain trying to figure out what to do. I felt lost. There was nothing. My mother’s voice called me from the dining room and I ambled in to see her, still limping on my right leg slightly. As soon as I got close to the room I stopped in my tracks at what I could smell. Scented candles. Mum was going to try aromatherapy. Oh God, candles! I jetted in and blew out the six candles as quickly as physically possible, one didn’t go out properly so I threw my mum’s tea on it and sighed heavily. Mum didn’t understand and tried to assure me it would help. All I could say was “no fire” over and over. No fire. No fire! I felt my sanity slipping from me. I drearily looked up at mum who I don’t think had been so worried in her life. Her tearful eyes gripped my heart. I hated doing this to her. I walked up to her and hugged her whilst assuring her that I was just tired and that I should just go to bed. She just nodded and told me she loved me. That night may have been the worst night yet. I drifted off to sleep fairly easily, but there they were, in my dreams. Six of them, surrounding me. I screamed at them, demanding to know what they wanted from me. One stepped forward and stared me right in the eye. By this point I was fed up and I could feel the fear escaping me. I wasn’t sure whether they could hurt me in my dreams if it even was a dream. Nonetheless, I tried to avoid those harrowing eyes but caught a glimpse as one of them moved to my right. I gasped when I saw Sam’s face, contorted in sheer agony, shimmer for a nanosecond in the right socket. Then it spoke. I thought the eyes were horrifying enough. Several voices emitted from it ranging from a high-pitched shriek to a demonic grumble. The words that followed re-ignited the fear that had briefly subsided. In a slow, chilling tone, it spoke.

“You… Belong… To us…”

The limb came up, just as before. I had to wake up. I screamed, I pinched and bit myself but nothing worked. I thrashed about but I could not get out of this reality. A raging fire storm build up around my heart and I bellowed as pain engulfed my every sense. Then nothing. They had gone. Was I safe? Were they toying with me?

My eyes opened and my bedroom light was on. I was sweating and panting heavily. Mum was sat beside me crying. She begged me to go to a doctor. I tried to convince her it was just a bad dream, and that I knew how to help myself. She hesitantly nodded and questioned me about it. I needed to go away for a bit, change of scene and clear my head. She didn’t want me to at first, but I told her it was the only way and I would be fine.

“We’ll discuss it with your father in the morning.”

I agreed, and she left still sobbing. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of that night. My heart was still pounding, and still felt hot. The look I saw on Sam’s face as it briefly appeared was more contorted and agonising than I had ever seen anything before, worse than any horror movie I’d ever watched. I belong to them? What did I do? Was it because I read that tale of the crying boy? Staring into the bonfire? Maybe Sam was collateral as they tried to get to me. I didn’t know what was real any more. I spent the next few hours trying to formulate a plan. Could I run from them? Hide from them maybe? Would I have to evade them for my whole life? How can I live a life like this? I contemplated suicide, then dismissed it believing that they would claim my body after death. I would outrun them for as long as I can. Stay smart, stay ahead. I got up and found my old school bag. I stuffed it with rope, pens, a notepad, scissors, money, and various other things I thought I’d need to survive. I would find or build a house next to a lake, and live there, shielding myself from fire for as long as was possible.

When morning came, I still hadn’t slept. I walked downstairs with my packed bag to meet my parents sat at the dining table. We discussed the idea of me leaving for what felt like hours, but I had made my mind up. I was going whether they agreed or not. I didn’t want to put them at risk. My dad realised this, and consoled my mum. He glared at me and demanded I call them every day. I promised I would and told them I’d be back before they knew it, just think of it as an adventure. I cried a bit, and hugged them both goodbye, not knowing if I’d ever see them again. I left the house that morning, almost two years ago now, and have not been back since. I used to phone my parents daily, but my mobile stopped working a while ago. Now I only phone them when I get the chance. It took me about six months to find this little place after I left. A very small abandoned log cabin on the edge of a lake in a clearing in the woods. It was perfect. I disposed of everything that could cause a fire and called it my home. It may sound like I had found peace, but that is far from the truth. I sit here now, by this lake, scrawling my notes in the moonlight. I kept this satchel I stole from a fire station a long time ago with me at all times, I don’t want to lose it. I live every single day wondering if I’ll see them again. I have long since discovered that the dreams only happen if there is a source of fire nearby. I am far from safe though. I’ll never be safe again. I still see the haunting eyes every day in visions and flashbacks. I can feel their sinister presence watching me, just out of sight, waiting for the perfect time to strike. I can almost touch the tendrils of evil that emit from the very thought of the horrors I have endured.

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The notes ended there. After reading them, George looked uneasily at the charred pile of ash he presumed used to be the log cabin upon which he was now stood, and felt an icy chill trickle down his spine. His breath stopped and his chest felt warm.

Credit To – Thomas Lay

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