March 19, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Top Secret; United States of America Navy – July 11th, 1980

The contents of this report are for A Level security status only; no portion of this document may be reproduced for any reason. Lower level security status personnel are not to be made aware of this document; nor is the public. This document may not be transferred into digital format and cannot be transmitted by electronic means. Failure to comply will be seen as an act of treason, punishable by death without standing trial in any form.

Submarine, codename: SCORPION

Statement: Johnny Davidson, Ensign

Captain Ritter ordered us to turn north to the Arctic Ocean near Greenland to run cold-water tests. We were to spend seven days under the ice before returning to warmer waters in the Atlantic. The purpose of these tests was not revealed to the crew before or after the voyage.
At approximately 0400 hours, 07-7-1980, the alarm sounded that a large unknown object was in the vicinity of the Scorpion. On radar, it appeared larger than any submarine currently in existence anywhere in the world. Captain Ritter order us to run-silently as we observed the anomaly. It became clear that the anomaly was approaching us. At approximately 0600 hours we made physical contact.
Radar reported that the anomaly had enveloped the Scorpion, gauges indicated that we descending deeper under the water. We reached and passed crush-depth minutes after we lost control of the submarine but the submarine showed no effects common with increased pressure on the hull. It appeared in the same condition as the day we departed from port.
Radar reported strange objects in the water, nothing that appeared dangerous to us. Ritter cancelled the silence; he saw no importance in it. Gauges indicated then that we were ascending to surface level. Once we reached periscope depth, Captain Ritter used the scope to look around. He did not say what he saw, but it was clear that we had surfaced.
With the Captain’s permission, several crew members exited the submarine to explore the area. I did not leave the submarine during this time.
Only two of the twelve man exploring team returned, they would not speak of their experiences. Soon after we were pulled back under the water in the reverse of what had happened. When we were finally released we were alone in our previous position in the arctic with no trace of the anomaly. Three days had passed.
We returned to port immediately.

Statement: Brian Cox, Petty Officer

We went into the arctic ocean and under the ice on 07-06-1980 without any issue. The following day, at approximately 0500 hours radar saw an unidentified underwater object in the vicinity of the Ghost. The UUO made contact with the Scorpion at approximately 0600 hours and dragged the submarine deep. Captain Ritter ordered silent running but the events prevented the men from carrying-out that order. Ritter cancelled the order before the submarine reached crush-depth.
When we began ascending, engineering reported that they weren’t able to power the propellers. Once we reached periscope depth Captain Ritter looked around. He didn’t say what exactly he saw, though he did say “Jesus Christ, what is this place?” With permission from the captain, a party including myself was able to explore the area around the submarine.
The unknown place had breathable air, though it was thin and sometimes hard to breath. Samuels, who had asthma, couldn’t do much. It was a humid place, reminiscent of the Gulf of Mexico. It was a place unlike anything I have ever seen; there was foliage that I did not recognize and the very landscape appeared alien to me. The sky was odd; it did not look like the same space seen from the surface of Earth.
I stayed with Samuels when his asthma slowed him down. I spent my time looking at the surrounding foliage as Samuels hid himself in a small cave. The plants were unlike anything I’d ever seen before, though I admit my experiences in the town of Moros didn’t make me very worldly. Still, I read National Geographic whenever I could and none of the green that surrounded our small camp was ever in those pages. What looked almost like a rose bush had the head of a Venus flytrap, which watched us like a snake hunting its prey before finally striking. And the vines that crawled up the rock wall behind me, around Samuels, shook as if nervous. It all seemed strange to me.
After what seemed like an eternity I saw Fielding running towards me; he was coming down a hill and from my position I could see him stumble as he ran, but he always kept his feet under him. I do not know what the others experienced. He was in a panic and ushered me to flee. My regret, Samuels was still alive when I left him, though those vines had moved closer to his hiding hole as though they intended to strangle him.
After we returned to the Scorpion, the submarine was dragged back under the water. It was much more violent than our original trip, and when we sunk deep I could feel the pressure building as if we’d really gone below crush depth. Once released, we were able to return to port. Three days had passed, though I can’t fathom where they had gone.

Statement: Cory Fielding, Petty Officer

Captain Ritter ordered us under the arctic ice to run drills, though he wasn’t specific. He armed the torpedoes, which I thought were dummies though he seemed confident that they were live. We made wide turns around the same area, as if circling something we couldn’t see. Ritter kept a keen eye on us, never retiring to his cabin as would be expected of him. At approximately 0300 hours on 07-07-1980, the Scorpion entered the vicinity of an unknown object. I say that we entered the vicinity because it remained stationary throughout the observation; the Scorpion moved into the object’s path. Ritter directed us towards it; I feared an imminent collision but nobody else on the crew appeared to share my nerves.
Whatever it was, it dragged the submarine deeper until we passed crush-depth. Despite several attempts, we were unable to get free of the object, like it wrapped itself around us in a tight hold; only later did I learn the truth. When we rose, it was not in the same place we had been. Captain Ritter used the periscope once we were at the appropriate depth, mumbling under his breath. I don’t wish to know what he saw, or what looked back at him through the scope. With the captain’s permission, a small group was formed to explore the unknown area around the Scorpion.
The first fact, we could breathe although the air was thinner like we were at a high altitude. It was also hot, though I would not say humid. I was joined by Cox, Samuels, Nero, O’Conner, Warden, Westbrook, Saluki, Mahoney, Ryder, Yaks, and Bishop. Cox and Samuels stopped halfway through our trip, Samuels complained of asthma though I’ve never seen him show any sign of asthma before; I think he feared climbing the hill before us.
It was like walking through a wild forest, with only a small path to follow. The submarine had risen in what looked like a pond, though oddly the water was frozen into ice. We’d brought the arctic with us, or so it seemed. I saw several large tentacles wrapped around the hull, holding it in place. It was like an octopus holding a fish, right before consuming it. At the time, I couldn’t see anything else of the object holding the submarine.
The ten of us followed the path until we came to a ruined city, like those built by the Mayans. It looked long abandoned, some humanoid skeletons were visible. I don’t want to say human because they weren’t, over seven feet tall with thick brows and long limbs; they were some twisted artist’s imagination of what we were beneath skin and muscle. We headed toward a high pyramid that seemed to be the center of the city. Like the rest of the city it looked abandoned, with those strange vines like those where Cox and Samuels had stopped growing up it, reclaiming it for the horrid jungle. We had to climb the steps to a small temple on the apex; it wasn’t easy. By the time we finally reached the temple we were covered in sweat, the walk took us several minutes.
Waiting inside was an elderly man. He had wild eyes and was covered in more tattoos than clothing. He spoke some language that I’ve never heard before and pointed to a balcony. He was in the act of performing an odd dance around a pit of fire, roasting a humanoid being. I was too disgusted to stay in the man’s presence, so willingly I followed my comrades onto the balcony. From it we could see the submarine in the pool, far in the distance more than ten miles I don’t recall walking. I noticed that the Scorpion seemed free, though the land just east of the pond was destroyed as if something large had passed through that way. The man started saying one word repeatedly loud and clear so we could understand. I never imagined that he was summoning something.
An indescribable horror wrapped itself around the pyramid, opening its jaws near the balcony. Those same octopus tentacles took hold of the stone structure as the wild man poured sand on the flaming pit. In some strange sense of ecstasy he heaved the corpse before the creature. Its tongue rolled from the gaping abyss like an anaconda, taking the offering though it was small compared to its girth. I don’t think that it was satisfied because the tongue lashed out at Warden, pulling him to the balcony’s edge. Before we could react, it pulled him in and swallowed him whole. While the man kept saying Leviathan, the abomination was eating the seamen one at a time. It bit down on Nero and O’Conner with a large hawkish beak and tossed them into the air before snatching them on their descent. It tried the same trick with Saluki but missed; the doomed man’s body crashed to the temple’s vine-cover stone surface and exploded. I can’t describe it any other way. We didn’t have weapons so our only chance was to escape.
Yaks was grabbed by one of the thing’s tentacles, its hooked suckers impaled him and dropped the dead body in the creature’s expectant mouth. When we’d run from the temple, it turned its attention to the old man. The crazed man cried out gleefully as the creature’s long tongue pulled him in. I wasn’t going to stay around any longer to see what else it would do; it let out a roar of anger once we’d passed from its immediate reach; though I imagine it still could’ve caught us with one of its larger tentacles. For some reason it didn’t, maybe it wasn’t hungry anymore.
At the bottom of the temple waited more humanoids; uncivilized monkeys wielding wooden spears. They attacked us, maiming several of the men. As the seamen fell to their wounds, which were by no means fatal, the humanoids descended on them and beat them with clubs made from stone. As the grass turned the color of blood they began crying out “Leviathan,” which made the unspeakable horror turn to them. It swallowed the sacrifices, as well as a few of the humanoids. But it spit their bones back out, knocking a couple of the warriors unconscious. The creature, which I’ve taken to be Leviathan, had a large head which was mostly a mouth with eyes; it had a snake-like body and the lower portion of it was split into more than a dozen tentacles longer than the Scorpion.
Four of us survived the initial attack by the monkeys, but three were taken down by the uncivilized brutal attacks before we’d reached the relative isolation of the forest. I couldn’t see the creature, though in my nightmares I think it chased us. When I reached Cox I pulled him back to the Scorpion; Samuels appeared alive but decayed like a skeleton; a few vines had grabbed hold of him and were leeching the life from the man. I never looked back to see if we were pursued, though I heard the crashing sound of something large breaking through the trees. I was stunned to see the monster already sliding back into the pond and grabbing the Scorpion, it had finished its meal and was returning the cold cylinder to the arctic. When we reached the submarine, it was pulled back under the water violently and returned to the arctic sea.
After we had control of the Scorpion, Ritter turned us back to port. Three days had passed during the incident.

Further Recommendations:
The crew of the Scorpion saw things they weren’t authorized to witness, violating the code of clearance; forfeiting their lives. The Scorpion is to be decommissioned and destroyed, pieces are NOT to be sold or reused in the construction of future submarines or any other vessel. The crew of the Scorpion will be separated and they will be terminated in whichever ways are most convenient. No US vessel is to enter the region that the Scorpion reported the incident having occurred.

Credit: Michael Bertolini

There’s Nothing Left

March 13, 2017 at 12:00 AM

I’ve always been a creature of habit, and few observations ever elude my mind. That’s why I can recall any event down to the smallest insignificant detail, but recently my memories haven’t matched up with reality.

On any given weekday, I’ll return from work. My keys will be in my left inner coat pocket. I’ll open the door, retrieve the mail from the assortment of mailboxes on the left side of the entrance. My apartment number is seven, just like the mailbox.

Following this, I’ll travel up the stairs to the first floor, eleven steps; I always start with my left and end with my left. At least I thought so, because a few days ago I tripped. Not because I’m clumsy, but because on that day, I ended the staircase with my right foot.

Of course, I doubted myself, but it was enough to recheck the amount of steps in the staircase, and sure enough, one was missing. At this point I could’ve talked to my neighbours, but they weren’t the detail oriented kind, so I let it slide.

It was a minor change, one I quickly adapted to. At least until I lost my wristwatch. The prior night I put it on my nightstand, and the following morning it was simply gone. It wasn’t impossible that I misplaced it, but I had a firm memory of placing it on the nightstand.

Everything escalated today. I woke up, took a shower, shaved, brushed my teeth, cut my nails on all nine fingers…

Nine fingers, one of them had disappeared, with no trace, just healthy skin covering the barren knuckle.

Not knowing who to call, I turned to my mother. My voice trembled as I explained what had happened. She went quiet for a few seconds, before responding with worry in her words. She told me I was born with only nine fingers.

I hung up. It was dark. I sat down trying to remember, had I simply forgotten? Was there something wrong with my mind? Only after minutes did I realise I was sitting in the dark, but it was daytime. My apartment didn’t have any windows anymore.

Panic set in, this wasn’t in my head, they don’t even make windowless apartments. I tried to escape, but there was no door to flee through. I was trapped in a nicely decorated brick box that was my apartment.

I called the police, they claimed my address didn’t exist.

After they hung up, I would’ve called someone else, if my telephone wasn’t already gone.

My computer is all that exists, and I am trying to write this story with the stumps that were once my hands. Only one middle finger left; a perfect “fuck you,” to myself.

I’ll have to post while my computer still exists, but think about this:

Have you lost anything recently, such as your favourite mug, maybe a blue pen? Something that just disappeared without a trace. That’s how it started for me too.

Credit: Scott Saxon

The Shadow Theory

March 9, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The Shadow Theory
By: Sean O’Morrison

Session 1:
A pale doctor walks into the interrogation room holding a medical file under his left arm, he is accompanied by a woman. Smiling at the patient, he begins his session by introducing himself, “Hello Mr. Strahan, I am doctor Weise.” He turns to look at the younger brunette female as she hands him a small digital recorder. She then she leaves the room. Dr. Weise checks the digital recorder to confirm it is working properly, and sits it on the table. He makes eye contact with Mr. Strahan, trying to make sure his patient is paying attention.

“I understand how these types of sessions can be for the patient; also, I would like to assure you my only interest is in helping you Marcus. I myself have seen a therapist, and though it was not court appointed I did find it very, very useful. Sometimes we all need help. You need to understand that receiving help does not make you bad.” Dr. Weise is sincere, but does not feel that Marcus wants to hear his lecture. “Well then, let’s begin.”

The spotty, white haired doctor sits down across from Marcus, and slides the digital recorder to the middle of the table. He lightly gazes upon Marcus, and once again smiles. He turns the recorder on. “Are you ready Mr. Strahan?”

Marcus feels a wave of fear run up the length of his spine to the base of his neck. It is a cold feeling, not only in the room but in his mind. This nice doctor is about to see he is either crazy, or that there are unexplainable, and even extraordinary things all around us. He swallows what gulp he can; considering he is extremely parched, and then replies, “The question Dr. Weise is … are YOU ready?”

Already trying to analyze the young man and what makes him tick, Weise opens his file and begins scanning it, “Ok”, Weise looks back to his patient, “Let’s just start with your name.”

After twenty seconds or so of stale silence there is a response, “Marcus Strahan.”

“And what do you do for a living Mr. Strahan?”

Doctor Weise takes off his glasses and wipes them on his flannel shirt, giving Marcus time to adjust to the series of seemingly elementary questions. Of course Weise already knows all of this information, it is in his file.

“I am … or… I was, a bouncer at a club in Atlanta.”
“Would you call that dangerous work?”

Marcus eases up a little bit, trying not to seem too cold as he replies, “It all depends on who’s in the club, and how much they have been drinking.”

“Have you ever had any sort of… altercation with any patrons, whether drunken arguments or otherwise?”

Marcus grows impatient at this point. He knows where the doctor is going with this. Weise is trying to find some rough past, or previous violent behavior. It takes most of his energy to just let it go. “To be honest Doc I’ve had many beefs both on and off the job. Some were pretty ugly. I have also had anger issues in the past. I guess that goes with … bad luck.”

Dr. Weise writes something in his folder before sitting his glasses on the table. He leans back in his chair and crosses his fingers together on his gut, trying to find the proper words. “You seem agitated Marcus,” he paused, “and I understand the last few days have been very stressful for you?”
“Yes they have Doc, I’m scared. I’m scared for my life and I’m scared of the world…I just want this place to make sense again. I want to not be so damn afraid.” Marcus debates in his head whether to tell him or not, and decides that if anything, he just wants to get it out. He just wants someone to know his troubles. Something very odd is happening in his life. He says, almost as if he is in pain, “The Shadow.”

In a confused tone Weise repeats him, “The … shadow?”

“It’s not like I’m seeing crazy shadows, or shadow monsters. I’m not hearing voices or anything; it is just this one shadow. I see it everywhere.”

Doctor Weise leans forward with interest and returns his glasses to his face, then begins overlooking the file once more.

Marcus continues, “I keep seeing this one shadow all around me. There is nothing scary about his shape or size, I mean, he has no claws or horns. You wouldn’t think it would feel so menacing. He just watches me and watches me and he won’t go away. It’s like he’s always there but… he isn’t there, ya know?”

He now has the doctor’s undivided attention, “What do you mean by he is there but not there, Mr. Strahan?”

“I see him, but It’s never just on a wall or something. I only see him in reflections, or stray lights.”

“Could you elaborate more if possible?”

Marcus sighs trying to figure out how to say what he has been seeing for the last week without sounding like a complete madman. “He … he hides in plain sight. I won’t see him on my wall, but I see him on the wall through the mirror in the corner. If the sun or moon shine through the window, I won’t see him in the window, but in the square light spot on my wall. I see him … watching me.” Marcus shivers as his hairs raise.

At this point Dr. Weise is no longer interested in the violent acts of the previous day. He is spellbound by this “Shadow Man” that has obviously driven his patient into some kind of nervous breakdown. “Marcus, how long has this been going on?”

“For a week now, and it has been a very long week.”

“I cannot imagine,” Weise says in support, “Any idea what could have triggered this anomaly, or when you first noticed?”

A long unnerving silence falls over Marcus as he stares at the floor, still debating on giving this kind doctor the full story. He wonders what a mental institution would be like. Would he still see this shadow? Would he for sure be sent there if he tells Doctor Weise? He deduces that Dr. Weise is his only line of defense now; his only hope, and so he begins.

“A week ago I rode the bus. It was about five when we hit my stop, and I got off like usual. I didn’t notice it at first, I had my headphones on and I was in my zone.”

Weise scribbles a few notes down in the file, and asks Marcus to continue.

“So I hit the store and got a PowerAde; nothing special, and when I got outside I noticed it.” Marcus grows a concerned look, almost as if he cannot believe what he saw, “I had no shadow.”

The doctor quickly gazes up at his patient. He fumbles in his head for a second, hoping his original diagnoses was correct. Hoping that Marcus is just having some crisis, and is not crazy. But how many sane people claim they have no shadow? Weise speaks, almost in a condescending tone, “Marcus everyone and everything has a shadow. One cannot defy this simple fact, unless you could block every light source, including our sun. Even glass has a shadow.”

“That’s what I’m saying though Doc, I don’t have one. Believe me I tried, and tried to figure it out. The lady next to me on that corner had a shadow; it was long from the sun, stretching right out in front of us. I had nothing. I even tried crossing the street to the park and still nothing, no shadow.”

Dr. Weise grows concerned. How would something like this even be possible? There is no way this patient is lacking his shadow. Is he really crazy? I hope not … but wouldn’t it be worse if he were somehow telling the truth? No. There has to be something deeper going on here. Medications maybe? Drug use? It would make sense considering what he has done.

Weise feels his thoughts running rampant, and for the first time in his thirty-four-year career he has no idea what to say. By now the room has been silent for a full two minutes, and he senses Marcus is uneasy. He quickly fires off a question to break the silence, “So you have had no shadow in the last week, and you are afraid of this fact?”

Marcus feels smarter than his court appointed therapist at this point, and retorts, “Yeah, who wouldn’t be? Combine that with the fact that the same day, I began seeing this mysterious shadow all over town, watching me. It’s enough to make you feel crazy.”

“Do you feel crazy Marcus?”

“I feel like something is going on that’s beyond my control. I hope it isn’t some switch flipping in my brain.”

Without the tools, or research to know how to handle his case at this point, Dr. Weise decides to end the session. He thanks Marcus for his time and tries to let him down esy.. “Mr. Strahan, I am going to need a little time before I can draw any conclusions on your … situation. You are going to have to stay in here a few more days.”

Marcus’ heart sinks, “I didn’t mean to hurt him Doc. I don’t deserve to be locked up like a criminal. Promise me you will come back? You are the only one who can help me now.”

Doctor Weise feels pity for this patient, and gives Marcus his word that he will do his best to figure out what the problem is. He then takes his medical file and his recorder and leaves the room. As he exits, the guard comes in to escort Marcus back to holding.


In his holding cell, Marcus cannot stop replaying the events of the day before. Behind bars most of the time you spend, you spend alone in your head. He sees the window of his apartment, with the headlight shining through. He envisions the pistol in his hand, the one he had been holding for days. He was terrified that the shadow wanted him. The troubled man had no idea what he could do, even with the gun. He then pictures the light reflection move as the car outside turned, sliding an ominous yellow square across his bedroom wall.

There it was; the shadow, in that pale yellow light right next to him. It was 2 or 3 seconds overall, but playing it in his head it feels like years. The sudden figure on the wall right beside him scared him so much he let out a yelp. He thoughtlessly jumped, and fired at the wall. Bam! One shot … Bam! Two … each gunshot rings in his head and feels like a symbol. Bam! With each eruption from the pistol, he hears in his mind the prison cell closing behind him.

Marcus begins to cry in his bunk, remembering the screams that followed his blind shots at the wall. The walls were thin, and several rounds made it through to the next apartment. His neighbor John; a divorced father of two, was struck and killed by the gunfire. As Marcus heard the screams of the children, everything stopped. He knew his life was over. He was stunned, heartbroken, angry, and alone in the world. He felt discarded in that moment. He sat in the corner listening to the neighbors call 911, and banging at his door. They were yelling for him to open up, but he was frozen.

It took forever for the police to arrive and arrest him, but not before the shadow man came back. As the sirens grew louder, and stopped outside his building, the flashing blue lights penetrated the window. There on the wall, in the flickering blue box was the shadow. He was flashing … as if he were in some kind of strobe light. Just watching him, as if to say, “I win, and you will never defeat me.”

Session 2:
Dr. Weise walks into the room, this time with a whole stack of folders and files. His hair is a mess, and he looks as though he has not slept in the three days since their first session. This time he does not smile, and he offers no introduction. He simply sits down and places the digital recorder on the table. He does not turn it on, but begins speaking, “I will be honest Mr. Strahan, when I left the other day I had no idea what to do.”

Marcus hopes for some sort of good news from the doctor.

“I went home, and after searching through textbooks from medical school and online for several hours, I stumbled upon a case eerily similar to your own.”

“What do you mean Doc, you mean someone else lost their shadow and it wanted them dead?”

Weise does not respond. He doesn’t even look at Marcus. He instead pulls a small flashlight from his pocket. He states, “I am very skeptical about all of this, but I took an oath to help my patients, and never turn them away.” Weise finally makes eye contact with a serious, and cold face, “I cannot help you if I do not give you a chance.”

Marcus is relieved and worried at the same time, “I appreciate it Doc”

Dr. Weise then calmly demands, “Hold out your hand Mr. Strahan.”
Marcus hesitates. What is this? But he feels trust for Doctor Weise, so he holds his hand out over the table. “See, no shadow,” he says with confidence.

Weise clicks the small light on, and begins moving it around Marcus’ hand. He moves the light up, down, and side to side, to his amazement there is no shadow. As a control, the doctor then tests his own hand in the same fashion, but his shadow is clear as day. He peers up at Marcus in amazement. But the amazement is short lived.

An overwhelming sense of fear overcomes the doctor. He stands up, and begins to pace.

“Doc, shouldn’t you be recording this?” asks Marcus with concern.

Weise stops and leans his head down. His body slouches over, and his arms clinch the sides of the steel table. It seems as though he is close to tears. “Marcus the case I came across may well have changed my outlook on you.”

“That’s good though … right?”

“I do not know.”

Marcus has never been this stressed out about anything. He has a thousand questions, but he asks none. He decides to let the doctor gather himself for a moment. It takes a lot out of a man, seeing something truly unbelievable. It is not something you can easily brush off.

Eventually Weise sits down and opens an old discolored folder. “According to the case, a young man about twenty years ago claimed his shadow had vanished, and then swore on the stand that it began to watch him. He was convinced this shadow meant him harm. One day he saw this shadow; in the glass of a storefront, and drove his car right through it. He killed three people, and wounded two more.”

Marcus is losing hope. There is no way this kind of thing just happens. The poor soul, he wanted the sick game to be over just like me. It’s so weird, we both ended up hurting someone else trying to drive the shadow away.

Doctor Weise carries on, “Upon evaluation, they deemed him insane, and he spent the rest of his short life in an asylum.”

“No Doc I’m not insane! I never wanted to hurt anyone, I was just scared. This has all been too much to handle.”

“Listen to this part Marcus. In this asylum he developed a theory. One that is loose, and there is no scientific evidence to back it up. He sounded … well, crazy.”

“What was this theory?” Marcus begs, “Please Doctor Weise, I have to know,”

Dr. Weise lets out a sigh. He removes his glasses and wipes his face, rubbing his finger and thumb on his stringy white goatee. He does not want to encourage any of this, but he feels like his patient needs to hear it. He commences, “I do not personally believe any of this, but the man in the asylum believed in parallel universes. He was certain we have a counterpart in our likeness. It goes around and does everything that we do, in some other plane of existence. He said that is why there are shadows, not because of light. He said everything and everyone we see, is there on the other side as well”

“I mean Doc, that sounds like nonsense, just crazy babbling to me.”

“I agree, well until I get to this part. He believed his shadow or ‘parallel self’ had somehow died. Like he said, they were supposed to go to the same places, and do the same things together, including dying.”

“So he thought his shadow died? What, his ‘shadow ghost’ was haunting him? Come on Dr. Weise, I thought you had something for me.”

“I know it sounds insane son, I feel that way too. He swore he was supposed to die and his shadow moved on without him, something about ‘universal balance’. His shadow was watching him, and waiting for him to die. Possibly even trying to hasten the process.”

“So this man in the asylum, how did he die?”

The doctor hesitates, “He…he hung himself with a bed sheet.”

Marcus is disgusted, confused, and angry, “Jesus Doc!”, he exclaims.

Doctor Weise knows this is stressful to hear, but maybe somehow it can help Marcus figure out what had happened to his shadow. He feels awful. Three days of coffee and research and this is it, this is all they have to go on. “I’m sorry Marcus, but going by this case we might be able to swing an insanity plea.”

“And then what? I go on stand and tell that family ‘Sorry I murdered John but hey, I’m insane?’ Fuck that, I thought you could help me Doctor Weise.”

“Marcus I’m sorry, I have never in my life dealt with this sort of thing.”
This is not the help he thought the doctor could provide. A nonsense theory that seems to help Weise cope with the shadow, more than himself. Marcus hits a wall of anger, and self-pity. “Man get me out of here, I’m done. Guard!”, he shouts out, “I wanna go to my cell. I’m done with this!”

As the guards rush in to calm Marcus down and take him away, he looks right at Dr. Weise and says, “Don’t you ever come back.”

None of this session is recorded. Reasons are unknown.

5 years later:
Dr. Weise is older now, too old to do what he will be doing on this day. He straightens his tie, and puts on his jacket. He gazes mournfully in the mirror at his pale face, and the wrinkles around his eyes. His white hair is almost gone. He sees the blue veins in his neck and hands, like rivers or roads on some pale old dried up map. Today will be tragic.

Today is the state scheduled execution of one Marcus Strahan. Weise retired after that confrontation with Mr. Strahan. He lives alone, always repeating that crazy theory in his head. He is always checking to see if he has a shadow when he goes outside. He was never the same after that last session, and today he hopes to gain some closure.

It is a dark room, filled with people in funeral attire: Judges, lawyers, and the district attorney are present. He notices two young women, age fourteen or so in front. They are both sobbing mournfully, and he knows they are the neighbor’s daughters. They are here to watch the lethal injection of the crazy man, the one who had killed their father. Weise feels sorrow, for this family, and at the same time for Marcus.

The curtains open and Weise can see Marcus being walked in. His orange jumpsuit is ragged, and his beard and dreadlocks show years of neglect. They strap him down with ease … like he is willing and ready to get this over with. He is, for the shadow was also there in prison with him. For five long years on death row he lived with it, in every reflection, and every light the doors produced on the prison floor. The shadow was even there in the water when his cell block flooded. Marcus is ready to end it all.

After hooking up the necessary tubes and needles, they raise him up for the crowd. Weise almost cries immediately at the sight. At this time Marcus sees the shadow man through the reflection of the window, on the wall behind him. He rolls his eyes and speaks, “It’s over, and I win.” Just then the pumps begin to push the poisons into his arms. He laughs, and yells as loud as he can, “It’s Over! And I WIN!” This sends a wave of mixed emotions coursing through the crowd.

As his consciousness fades he notices the shadow, but this time it was no reflection. This time it is right there in front of him. While moving towards him it begins to fade away. Marcus is captivated at the thought he outlived the shadow man.

At 3:12 pm Marcus Strahan dies with a smile on his face.

In the crowd Dr. Weise can take no more. He lets out one whispered phrase, “I am sorry.” He stands up, puts on his hat, and makes his way to the door. He opens it for the two young women, who are still sobbing for their father. He is so relieved to get out of there, and get some fresh air. It feels as though an extreme weight has been lifted from his being.

He looks at the sky with sad eyes. “Good luck Marcus,” he says, and begins to walk to his car. The sun is warm, and comforting on his back. He pulls the car key from his coat and puts it in the door. He then stands there for what must be eternity. He is amazed and terrified. On the ground in front of him, right where it definitely should be, he has no shadow.

Credit: Sean O’Morrison

Stories of the Black Count, Part I: Deathless Days

February 20, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Stories of the Black Count, Part I: Deathless Days

Credit: Michael Vrazitoulis

Waking Nightmares

January 22, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Focus on your breathing, silence your mind, drink warm milk, stay away from electronics, keep the room dark, take pills. All the ways the internet had told me to fall asleep. All bullshit. For most everyone else sleep is simple, really, just lie down and suddenly eight hours have passed. Those people don’t need to worry about what happens if they can’t fall asleep- not like me.
Our entire existence boils down to the constant string of thought weaving its way through our heads, our thoughts are what we are. But when you’re left all alone with those thoughts, for hours and hours cut off from all external stimuli, that ever present tiny little voice becomes something like torture. Very much like torture, in fact, I likened it to Chinese water torture; the practice of tying someone up and having a drop of water fall on their head at fixed intervals. Drip… Drip… Drip… It becomes a certainty, all that they can really focus on is the next drop of water. That’s what it was like when I would try to sleep, one thought, and then another, and another… And another… Never letting my mind rest.
It had been like that for as long as I could remember, even as a little child I would lie awake in bed silently conversing with my stuffed animals. As I grew older, however, my insomnia became more of an issue; it held much more weight in my life than my old conversations with Mr. Teddy Bear. Of course, there were the obvious side effects; I lived like a zombie, only half in touch with the world, my mind- in its ceaseless need to think- jumped around, never able to focus on one thought. I was honestly fine with that part.
The part that I was not fine with were the things that stood in the corner of my bedroom when I couldn’t sleep. People who sleep normally sometimes experience nightmares, their own sleeping minds work against them to create terrifying situations. Monsters, spiders, murderers, there are no limits. The thing is, though, that those people wake up and their nightmares are gone. But my nightmares were real, physical, things.
They were different every time. I’ve had the typical fears: giant spiders, clowns, chainsaw murderers, and such. But every now and then I got creatures, horrid abominations that were particularly unpleasant. They had ways, beyond my understanding, of keeping my room dark, of preventing lights from working. So I never got to make out more of their images than the moonlight would allow.
The… occurrences, my own twisted version of nightmares, had been happening ever since I moved into my own apartment. Nightmares are generally a result of stress, so my theory is that the stress of moving out on my own caused these nightmares. But somewhere along the line something went wrong, my nightmares were not confined to my head. I didn’t know why, I just knew that they were very real.
The memory of the first time it ever happened is permanently engraved into my mind, how could I forget? It was the first week in my new apartment, I hadn’t even unpacked, and I was swamped with work from my new desk job- accounting. All of the stress led to another of the all so familiar sleepless nights, but it was distinctly different. Rather than tossing and turning I found myself to be lying quite still under my thin covers, unable to focus on anything other than my newfound headache.
Headache is probably not the best way to put it, hammering migraine is a better term. Pulsating waves of pain radiated from my skull, even the soft touch of my pillow was enough to set my teeth on edge. I had let out a groan of agony, and that seemed to be the start of it all; a crackling chuckle, similar to that of a smoker- raspy and dry- came out of the darkness in my room, responding to my pain.
And just like that my headache was gone, but it was replaced with a skin chilling fear that led me to sit bolt upright. The chuckle continued. It came from the far corner and I very much knew that I was not alone in my own bedroom.
It had been a cloudy night, so all I could do was squint into the darkness. Eventually my eyes managed to make out the dark outline, it was a person. Sort of. I could make out two struts of curly hair shooting off of the side of a bald head, all topped with a very tiny top hat. I didn’t need to turn on my bedside lamp- which I was far too afraid to do regardless- to know that it was a clown. There had been a clown standing in the corner of my room, chuckling continuously.
Hours went by as I watched him, but he never moved, and he never stopped that damn laugh. I hadn’t slept much around that time; perhaps as little as four hours of sleep in the previous forty-eight hours. And that lack of sleep is what nearly got me killed. My thoughts were numb and out of focus, which is why at some point in the night I managed to write off the clown silhouette in the corner as a fatigue induced hallucination. With that conclusion easing my mind it had been easy to eventually slip off into sleep.
That sleep was short lived. I was forced awake by a pair of gloved hands around my throat. And all I could manage to do was flail my arms around, doing absolutely nothing to remove the weight from my windpipe. My entire body burned, desperate for air, and I felt that I was not going to see the morning; until a dim light briefly illuminated my window. It was a lone car, a solitary set of headlights driving past in the night- it saved my life.
For the briefest of seconds I could see the face of my assailant; all the paint of a clown with none of the charm, the entirety of his flesh was white as sheet, completely contrasting the horrid splash of red around his mouth -blood or paint, it was still disgusting. The eyes were the worst part, the cold pupils were almost impossible to make out under the murky layer of darkness covering the surface, but I could still tell they were looking directly at me as he crushed my throat. But the moment I saw him, in the flash of headlights, his grip released; all I could do was stare and try to suck in narrow breaths as the clown climbed off of my bed and backed into his corner.
Shakily I sat up, never looking away from the clown, and I reached over to flick on my bedside lamp. The room remained dark. I hit the switch again, and again, but the room remained dark; the clown once more began to chuckle. There was no way in hell that I could bring myself to move, to run, to call the police, all I did was sit and stare. And I could feel the clown stare back. It wasn’t until the sun shone through my window that the clown disappeared. I just blinked and he was gone.

I didn’t want to acknowledge it as real, I just wanted to dismiss it for what it was- a nightmare- but the bruises on my neck would allow me to do no such thing. Yet if I went to a doctor I’d certainly be labeled insane- not to mention that if I called in sick so early in my career I’d lose my job. So, I went in to work, made up some tale of getting jumped by a vagrant to explain the bruises, and tried to get on with my life. Which was very difficult considering I was met by a different creature the following night- a large spider, and the night after that- machete murderer, and so on; which is what led me to begin drinking.
My first visit to the local bar was two weeks after the first… visitor. The only sleep I’d had in that time period were the few minutes at a time I was able to get away with at work and forty minutes during lunch. Of course at first I didn’t take it lying down. No technology would work when they were present, and they only appeared during night hours- but I never had time to sleep during the day. I thought of everything a sensible person would think of. I thought about moving, about trying to sleep other places (A visit to a hotel yielded negative results), getting an exorcism, and even briefly about ending my life. Those weeks were hell and I was quickly losing motivation to push on.
But on my first night of trying to drink the trouble away, almost as soon as I entered the bar I became a cliche. I fell in love. The bartender, a soft spoken, lanky, brunette- Kathleen- was the most attractive woman I’d ever seen, so of course I made a fool of myself trying to talk with her.
I was sleep deprived and drunk, yet for some reason she took an immediate liking to me. She was quick to laugh at my poor jokes and didn’t seem off put at all by the excessive complaining I did about my job. Even drunk I managed to avoid bringing up my nighttime companions. Although by the end of the first night with her I felt as if I could trust her with that knowledge. But I held off. It’s probably a good thing I did too, seeing as how she asked for my phone number before I left the bar.
That night was the first time I’d been happy in weeks. I’d almost let myself believe all of my problems had gone away. A pretty girl and a stomach full of beer was all it took for me to let my guard down. And I paid for it.
That night I climbed into my bedside chair- with no intention of sleep. I’d let my guard down but I had in no way allowed myself to forget the creatures in the night. Even if I didn’t mean to sleep it became quite difficult to focus on staying awake when my mind wandered to thoughts of Kathleen. Minutes, maybe hours, passed as I replayed our conversation. I’m not a witty person when I’m sober, and I’m even less witty while drunk. The last thought I had before losing the battle with my eyelids was that she must have been twice as drunk as I to be laughing at my jokes.
Searing pain in my legs woke me up screaming. The normal light of my window was blocked by a hazy figure, tall with jagged arms that bent in too many places, and the entirety of its skin writhed with needlelike protrusions. I figured that part out because they were being used to shred the skin on my legs.
Not ashamed to admit that I screamed bloody murder. It didn’t deter the nightmare at all, it just leaned further over me and reached towards my face with a razored tendril. The movement was slow and mocking, it was drawing out the anticipated pain. I was so focused on that one tendril it almost drowned out the pain in my legs. The creature slowly drew closer, and it towered over me as it finally connected with my cheek. There was only a pinprick of pain. The moment the monster touched my face my phone buzzed and lit up. Once I could see it, and its entire horrifying figure, the nightmare receded to its spot in the corner.
My floor was soaked with the blood seeping from my legs, and probably urine as well, but all I could think to do was grab at the phone. I didn’t understand at the time, normally nothing electronic worked when the nightmares were watching me, yet the phone lit up when I hit the button. And in the screen flashed a text from Kathleen:

Sorry to text you so late. I couldn’t sleep. I know you’re probably in bed but I just couldn’t wait to ask if you’d like to have dinner some time.

I called her. I was completely incoherent, sobbing, and raving. I told her about the the monsters in my room, the cuts on my legs, and how she just saved my life. All at two in the morning the night after I met her, but she did not hang up. She listened. And- bless her perfect heart- she asked, “Where do you live? I’ll come over.”
I told her to let herself in, and when she arrived I don’t think she expected me to actually have torn up legs. There was a lot of freaking out and rushing around. I imagine I lost a lot of blood which is why it all seems to hazy, but I know that Kathleen forced me to go to the hospital. Or rather, she called an ambulance without consulting me, but I’m glad she did.
I woke up in the hospital to her smiling face. I was so confused, “Where am I?”
“The hospital- you’ve been asleep for two days.”
“Asleep?” The word sounded so strange coming out of my mouth. Sleep was something for normal people, a fairy tale far beyond my grasp. Sleep was something that came in fifteen minute flashes here and there- never in hours.
“Yes, asleep. They’re still trying to figure out what happened to you- they think some psycho broke into your apartment. But I’m glad you’re okay. I’ve been here with you the whole time.”
“Why…” Far from the best choice of words to show gratitude, “Why are you being so nice to me?”
Kathleen gave a tight grin in response, “You just seem… so lost. When I first saw you it was like you were calling out to me for help. I don’t really understand either, but I already feel so connected to you.”
“Oh,” Was all I replied, but in my defense I was still groggy, “Thank you so much.”
We were quiet for awhile until she softly asked, “Hey, when you called me… You said I saved your life. What did you mean?”
The memory of the creature flashed through my mind and I must have grimaced, she glanced down at my cuts, “You weren’t planning on killing… on suicide, were you? Did you do that to yourself?”
“Oh no, no, it’s, well, it’s worse than that,” I responded, “It’s just… I have… nightmares.”
For some reason she didn’t question that.
“Well, you’re in no condition to be in your own. How about I spend the night with you and try to get rid of those bad dreams,” she offered and then seemed to understand what she had just said, “Woah woah, I mean just be there. Nothing sexual-”
“No no no,” I cut her off. The thought of how she might react to the monsters, or how they might react to her, I wouldn’t have it, “You’ve done so much, and I still don’t understand why to be completely honest, but I don’t want you to get hurt by this.”
She placed her hand on my cheek, opposite to where the nightmare had prodded me, “I’m doing so much for you because your eyes are the saddest I’ve ever seen. Whatever it is you’re facing, it’s time to stop trying on your own. I’m coming to your place once you get out of here.”
There was no arguing beyond that. The cuts my legs were many, but not deep, so I was actually able to walk out of there on my own feet- with Kathleen refusing to let go of my arm. We made it back to my apartment and I insisted upon cooking for her- then we simply sat at my little kitchen table and talked. We made small talk about everything and anything yet there wasn’t a single subject in which we had opposing views. She was the perfect girl, which is why it was so difficult for me to ask her to leave. Our conversation had been effortless and warm- but I shattered the mood, “I… I need you to leave now. It’s getting late and you shouldn’t be here overnight.”
She ignored the request, “Ahh, time for the meat of the matter. So what are these nightmares that would compel you to turn away a pretty lady offering to spend the night?”
I suppose I just didn’t want her to leave, so I figured screw it and tried telling the truth, “They’re not really nightmares. They’re monsters. I know I sound crazy, and I probably am, but for the last few weeks I haven’t been sleeping. There have been these things in my room at night. Watching me- waiting for me to stop watching them. If I look away they… they come for me. I was almost strangled… and now my legs…”
“You’re not lying, are you?” Her question wasn’t patronizing in the slightest, she genuinely believed me. Which led me to believe that perhaps I wasn’t the crazy one, but I no longer had the strength or desire to refuse her as she said, “Let’s go to your bed. We’ll face them together.”
A few minutes later and we were doing something that few adults had ever done before- sitting in bed with a stranger that they just met at a bar yet doing absolutely nothing other than going to sleep. I made sure to leave every light in the room on, and Kathleen didn’t seem to mind. Not like it mattered though- as soon as we both settled down under the covers the lights flicked off on their own.
Her breath caught at the same time as mine. The two of us slowly sat back upright in the dark room, and I had the unshakable feeling that I should not have allowed Kathleen to stay. My voice was a hoarse whisper, “They control the lights… They don’t let me see them.”
She remained silent and I followed suite as it became clear that we were not the only ones in the room. An all too familiar rasping arose from the far corner. My first waking nightmare- the clown. She could see it too. Kathleen’s voice was faint even though she sat so close, “When did this start?”
“When I moved in here and got a new job,” I replied dimly. My blood ran cold as the clown let out its humorless chuckle and my mind ran rampant with newly formed fears, it was one thing for me to face the monsters- at least they ignored me when I focused on them- but what if the clown attacked Kathleen?
“There are more,” She pointed out. I kept my eyes plastered on the darkness of the room, and dim moonlight leaking through the shades illuminated the awful fact that Kathleen was correct. More creatures lined the walls of the room, surrounding the bed, all staring at the two human occupants.
“What actually happened to your legs?” She asked faintly.
I was too absorbed in our surroundings to realize the oddity of the question, “I fell asleep- one of them got to me.”
And with a sinking realization I saw the very same buzzing outline of the needle creature that had torn apart my flesh. But Kathleen continued to press on, “What stopped it?”
“You. You messaged me.”
“And you said one of them tried to strangle you, what stopped that one?”
“Someone’s headlights,” I responded numbly as my eyes further adjusted to the darkness and revealed the four foot tarantula clinging to one of the walls. More of the creatures appeared with every second and all I could think about was the horrible things they would do to Kathleen if I didn’t keep my eyes on them.
Then one of them took a step forward. I whipped my head towards it- the machete murderer- but when I faced it one of the other creatures drew closer. I couldn’t watch all of them. Somehow Kathleen managed to keep talking, “They started when you had a big change in your life, and human interaction made them go away.”
“We need to make a run for it,” I had replied, only half listening to her as the mob of nightmares closed in on the bed, “There’s never been more than one…”
I looked to my right and the spider was no longer on the wall, but on the ceiling overhead. And when I looked back down the needle monster was almost within arm’s reach. No matter which way I turned they manage to draw in closer. The clown stood at the head of the mattress, staring at both of us head on. All I could manage to do was whimper, “You go- maybe they just want me-”
She cut me off with a kiss. Her entire body weight flung against mine and pinned me against the pillows. My mind was a panic, I couldn’t see a single nightmare they so I figured they must be about to pounce. But still, she pressed against me, and I guess I also kissed back- might as well enjoy our last moments. But nothing happened. She broke away and we both drew in breath, and then I gasped as I saw the empty bedroom around us. The lights flickered on as she rolled back to her side of the bed. “How…?”
“You told me yourself,” she replied with a relieved giggle, “Interaction makes them go away, be it a stranger driving by, or someone texting you in the middle of the night. Or maybe the most intense kiss of my life.”
“They’re gone,” It’s all I could think, and then, “How are you so amazing?”
“I’m not. I’m really not. I get lonely, I do stupid things- like call crazy drunks I just met- and I work in a bar to make a living… I’m anything but perfect.”
The monsters were gone, and I got the impression they weren’t coming back- not as long as Kathleen was with me. Now it was my turn to kiss her, and when it was over I said, “Well you’re perfect to me.”
She just grinned and curled up under the covers, somehow ready to go to sleep, “Come on, you need some sleep.”
And for the first time in weeks I was able to let my head sink to my pillow without worry. The end to a horrid chapter in my life, all thanks to the amazing bartender at my side. She was my hero, and I had to find a way to put it into words. I needed to express my true gratitude, and it took awhile, but I got it. I wrapped my arm around her and said, “You’re a dream come true.”

Credit: Teddy


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