Restless Hands

March 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Content Warning: Explicit Gore

Since I was a child, I had always felt the need to move my hands and fiddle with objects. My parents would always pester me about it, how I couldn’t do well with keeping them still and picking up and messing with things.

This affected me in more parts of my life than I would think of. I had difficulty making friends, as I would typically touch and tangle with belongings that weren’t my own. This was because I began to grow a intolerable, unrelenting madness when my hands didn’t move, even a short period of time.

The condition became so common after time that I sometimes wouldn’t even feel or notice my own movements. Others would question curiously on why my fingers contorted and twisted in conversation, or why I would loudly tap on a desk during the middle of an essential test. I would only apologize, and say it was just a habit of mine. My parents never saw it as any real issue, as they believed it to be common for my early age.

My hands, with no surprise, also had a damaging impact on my process of sleep over the years. The feeling of my fingers became much more noticeable when I would seek rest. They dragged, curled, rapidly spread apart and closed, and did any other movements that would interrupt my falling into sleep. Sleeping medication helped to a point, but began to be ineffective when the problem continued to develop.

After years of attempting to cope with the problem, I took on a career that would involve an amount of finger movement, such as typing, in hopes that it would progressively lower my urges. I worked in an office building, and to my surprise, the problem never bothered me as much during the day. I still felt the urges to tighten and stretch my fingers, but it was never an obstacle to any task. I felt like a normal human.

Everything would change at night, when I would be alone. The problem always returned far worse, more than I could often handle. It was because of this phenomenon that I began to see the condition as more of a…possession. This sounds completely insane, I know, but my hands seem to come alive in some sort of way when I was alone and exposed. They felt more there, more apparent than any other part of my body.

With my parents out of my life and unable to refuse, I finally went to a doctor with the problem. He couldn’t even explain what the source of the condition was, as he had never seen an issue that was acquainted with the hands in such a way. He compared it most to “Restless Leg Syndrome”, which was classified as urges to move the leg muscles to cease uncomfortable sensations. Had my problem not been as bad as it was, I would have gone by this comparison. My problem was not “urges”. I was positive that my hands physically moved themselves, that it was something that I had no real control of.

The doctor’s only word of advice was to do regular activities that would exercise my hands and fingers, movements that would, in a way, satisfy and possibly remove the urge over time. This only lead to my fingers moving more, taking more control and seeking more attention than before.

I remember a particular night, where I first attempted to physically retrain my own hands, in hopes of sleeping well for the first time in years. I used a roll of duct tape to wrap each hand, forcing each joint and knuckle into a tight, immobile fist.

My hands were hardly stopped. After only minutes, they began to shake under the tape, rubbing against the material in a mix of cold sweat and burns from the friction. I forced my arms down to my sides as I lied on my bed, sweating entirely as my fists began to itch, burn, and ache. They had always felt like some sort of living, controlling being, and I had put it in a cage which it was desperate to be free.

I sawed the tape off with a knife as soon as I felt a pain begin to spread up my wrists, going as far as my upper arms. This horrified me enough to were obeying my hands felt like the greater option.

Once my hands were completely free, they went uncontrollable. They twitched and jerked at a speed that I would not expect the human body to be capable of. The beast that I believed my hands to be were now in a blind rage, with every muscle and bone moving all at once. They moved without my restraint until they began to slow to a stop, stalling as if it were a vehicle empty on fuel. I collapsed on the floor that night, waking up with no feeling in my arm muscles at all, and not much more everywhere else.

That was the last time I ever attempted to restrain my own hands, but strangely enough, I didn’t ever feel the need to from that point. The unknown condition, after that night, seemed to have left me. I often grew paranoid that it would come back, perhaps worse than before, but my condition appeared to have healed itself. I could still feel my hands as part of my body, but in the same way that I would believe any normal human would. Perhaps the spirit that I thought possessed them became bored, unsatisfied with my suffering, and simply departed. I pondered these ideas, but never fully questioned why it was gone, as I was unmeasurably relieved to have my hands at peace.

A year later, I experienced a nightmare, a dream that was the first sights of the condition since it had stopped.

I had dreamed of my own hands coming to life, rising above me as I awoke from a pleasant sleep. They rapidly rose above my head, pulling my arms along with them until I could feel them crack and break from the stretching. The hands twisted as if trying to escape from my own joints, like my body was their own prison. I felt them beginning to rip away, until they slowly lowered down, both in sync with each other’s movements. They moved like they were their own machine, as I could only helplessly watch as they lowered themselves in front of my face, with all fingers extended. Seconds past with no movements or sounds, then both hands clasped around my neck in one motion.

My vision blacked out.

Then, I awoke from the nightmare.

I was drenched in sweat, breathing heavily as anyone would after waking from a horror. I turned my head to look out my window, and saw a full moon in the sky, which streamed light over my face, and most of the room as well. The rest of my body felt still, including my hands. I only stared at my ceiling, in a relieving happiness knowing that what I just experienced had not been reality.
Then, like I had snapped completely awake, I turned my thoughts to something that was moving.

I immediately sensed my hands, but they felt undisturbed. My right hand was the same as it was, with no feelings of movement. The same was for my left hand, except for its index finger. It tapped, slowly, in a calm but noticeable rhythm. It was so consistent that I began to count along with it in my head.

One…two…three…

I did this as I was shaking, terrified because of what I felt was coming. I viewed each tap of my finger as more of an audible footstep, an invisible being approaching to possess my hands and wreak destruction on my body and sanity. My hand began to occasionally twitch, as the finger continued to tap, and tap.

It wasn’t long until the finger began to tap faster, harder. My left middle finger joined in its rhythm, bringing more fear of my approaching suffering. I shook on my bed, still motionless, thinking of what I could do to prevent my hands from springing to life. I had no ideas of bonding them again, as I didn’t want to bring on its aggressiveness sooner.

My left ring finger began to tap along, with all three of the fingers now sounding like a light beat of a drum. They continued to grow in speed and strength, with my hand beginning to shake more entirely.

I leaped out of bed and stood to my feet the second my right hand began to move.

I searched around the bedroom, looking for any sort of restraint that could guarantee my safety. I opened my nightstand drawer to find the roll of duct tape, the same that I had used a year ago. I went against my earlier state of mind, and went to grab it for it’s use.

The second my right hand touched the tape, pain shot through it, which continued up my entire arm. I screamed and immediately withdrew.

It was back. Both my hands, angered with my attempted efforts, began to move and contort at their own will. It took much of my strength to keep them down at my sides, which made my body rapidly become weaker.

I searched for a stronger restraint, until the only real solution came to my mind. I had so long made an effort to restrain, to control the problem I had.

I never had the thought to destroy.

I stumbled to the bathroom, still using much of my energy to keep my hands down. I had trouble opening the door with my hands moving the way they were. Each finger retreated from the doorknob with every reach, fighting to keep me trapped in the bedroom. I managed to get in by using both hands.

I opened only a few drawers in the bathroom until I found the knife I was searching for. My right hand immediately began to reject as soon as I touched it, causing a burning in both my hands that nearly caused me to withdraw. I wasn’t going to let it happen, as I was determined to not be literally killed by my own hands.

Pain began to spread more throughout my body as I gripped the knife tightly in my right hand. I went down on my left hand first.

I felt no difference in pain when the index finger went first. I slammed the knife down on it with most of the strength I had left to use, and it went with no resistance.

The middle finger wasn’t as easy. The knife slammed down on it, but only went halfway through. This may have been because I had less strength to use on the next swing. It went on the second hit.

The ring finger also went with only one swing. Blood began to drain out of my now desecrated hand, and then moved across the counter and onto the floor. Rather than swing down on the pinky, it severed off easily with a few saws of the knife, which took a little less energy than a full swing.

I was just about to move onto the thumb, when I realized the ineffectiveness of my current efforts. I wouldn’t be able to cut off my other fingers in the same way, as I wouldn’t be able to hold the knife properly. What remained of my left hand continued to spastically flail for life.

I had almost accepted defeat, but I remembered a feature of my apartment: the sink in the kitchen had a powerful garbage disposal unit.

The idea at any other moment would have been utter insanity, but in my suffering, I was perfectly desperate to make it happen.

I walked slower to the kitchen than I did to the bathroom. Blood continued to stream out of my left hand remains. Pain was raging throughout my body at his point, as my hands punished me for my efforts of escape. It was becoming nearly impossible to keep them down, away from what other damage they could cause.

I arrived in my kitchen, and used my almost uncontrollable right hand to remove the drain filter from the sink. I immediately shoved my entire left hand down the drain, careful not to include my wrist with what I was about to erase. I hesitated for a moment when reaching for the disposal switch, but I was set that it must be done in order to keep myself alive.

I turned on the switch, and I screamed as I felt my remaining left hand begin to grind away. The pain was worse than It was before, but I couldn’t tell if the pain was from the shredding of my hand or from the spirit that was rejecting my efforts. The time felt slower, but it took about fifteen seconds for the rest of the hand to be shredded away.

I pulled my arm out of the drain, and I didn’t look at what remained. I went straight to my complete right hand, which was now completely still and calm. I paused, questioning why the hand had ceased its efforts.

I snapped to my senses. It was trying to fool me into stopping, into keeping the hand alive. It gave me the perfect moment to put the complete right hand into the drain. I used the end of my left wrist, which was now a bloodied stub, to turn on the disposal again.

All the pain that I had felt before came back at twice the force. I screamed even louder as my right fingers went away at a slower pace. I could feel each finger flailing to escape the drain as they sinked deeper, being cut to silence as they were blended into a red pulp.

Like the left hand before, the feeling in my hand stopped after time, the point at which they were no longer there. My entire body still shook as I pulled my right arm out of the drain.

I collapsed on the floor, letting each arm crash against down beside me, as I fell unconscious with all my energy drained.

I awoke on a hospital bed. My memory was hazy, but I still knew where I had just came from and what I had been through. I wasn’t sure how long I had been there, but it must have been recent, as I still felt a slight pain in both my wrists. I looked down to see both ends of them heavily bandaged. I felt victorious at the sight, knowing that my hands had been destroyed, and will no longer be controlling or haunting me, like they had done all my life so far.

A doctor walked into the room, and performed a standard check-up procedure. He asked me a few questions, and explained that I had been asleep in the hospital for a few days. He told me that another apartment resident had heard screams, and called authorities. They had arrived in my apartment to find me unconscious on the kitchen floor, with a deadly amount of blood pouring from where my hands once existed. A trail of blood could also be found from the sink drain, where they then knew that I had mutilated my own hands.

I tried explaining to him my situation, that I had acted to save my own life. He listened to my story, but his expressions were not looks of understanding. His only response was that he would talk to me again once I had a few more days of rest. He told me to try and keep relaxed, and that I would be perfectly safe and okay, despite losing both my hands.

I knew that he, and most likely everyone else, believed I had gone mad. I didn’t care at the moment. I felt at peace again, conquering what had claimed control of my life all this time. My happiness made me laugh out loud quietly, as I simply stared at the ceiling from the hospital bed. I felt rather rested, which was unfamiliar to me.

I didn’t want to try and sleep again. I only continued to laugh, and I found myself blinking. It was very calming, as had a form of rhythm to it. It remained consistent, so counted along with it in my mind.

One…two…three…

Credit To – Richard S. (Emeryy)

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Your Eyes Are Glowing Red

February 18, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I have never been a sucker for ghost stories. I’ve never believed in ghosts, and I don’t think—honestly, I do hope I’m right—I ever will. I also don’t believe in demons or angels. It’s all just a bit too far out of my imagination for me to think it is all true. Therefore stories of demon possession or seeing some angelic creature—it’s all bull to me. However, I have heard some that were unexplainable. Some stories that might leave you wondering. I know that some of the people that experienced these will spend the rest of their life searching for the answers to their questions, but all the same they’ll never find them. In fact, I’m one of them. Now, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t think it’s a matter of demon possession. I just can’t think of any logical explanation.

My brother has always been different. All those years ago when we were young children, there were quite a few tales to tell. Creepy tales. Tales that would send a chill down your spine. Now, things are a lot quieter. Every now and then, of course, you’ll get a call from his wife, saying that he thought he saw a man standing in the front yard with a pitchfork in his hand, staring into the windows, or that he woke up the family in the middle of the night whispering in languages he never even knew. The most recent was after she had seen something one day. Something really weird. She had gone into the kitchen to wash dishes, but right before she went through the door, she saw, or she thought she saw, out of the very corner of her eye, two slightly red, dull but sharp bumps in his hair. Then she looked back, and there was nothing. Just her husband sitting on the couch, watching the Dodgers game. Nevertheless, these strange occasions were very rare. Sometimes I would go more than a year without getting a call from them. My relationship with them wasn’t so great; I lived in California, and he lived in Nebraska, just about as far away as I wanted to be from him. All the calls from my sister-in-law were no more than panicky attempts to find out why these things were happening.

All I could tell her is that he was like this as a child, except it was worse. Then I would sense her feeling of relief and worry at the same time through the miles and miles of telephone wire.

* * *

We thought he was a normal baby, that nothing was wrong with him. There was only one morning, an average Sunday morning, when we noticed he had a very intent gaze, as if he saw something we didn’t. He would stare at it, full attention and concentration on whatever it was. Then he would come to, and we were left wondering what was running through his less-than-a-year-old mind.

And that was it, until he was three.

One night while we were sleeping, he started screaming and crying, waking us all up instantly. Our mother dashed into the room, followed by our father, flipping on all the lights. Don was screaming like a maniac, his eyes wide with terror. Our mother picked him up, trying to calm him down, nearly crying herself. A few minutes later, he was starting to settle down, though he was still sobbing uncontrollably. In between wild tears and gasps of breathe, he was saying something about claws. We could barely understand it. Though he was very smart for his age, he was only three years old; he didn’t know much English. He spoke more gibberish than anything. Yet we were able to decipher words we didn’t think he had ever heard before.

Half an hour later he was calm. My mother heated up a bowl of soup and we sat down at the dinner table to ask him again. He was still sniffling, but he could get what he was trying to say through to us. He had seen claws, dried up, grey and discolored, wrinkly claws snatching at him through the wooden bars of his crib. He said hoarsely that some of them were touching him, some of the yellow, cracked, inch-long nails were grazing over his skin and pajamas. Worst of all he couldn’t see where they were coming from. They seemed to be coming from under the bed, but he wasn’t sure. His eyes were wide open as he was telling us the story. Mother ran her fingers through his hair and told him it was just a bad dream. And then he whispered, in a low hushed voice that was barely audible, that it wasn’t a dream.

This definitely spooked us. We half believed what he said. We thought this was merely a bad dream. But this was still a serious nightmare, if that’s what it was. He couldn’t sleep for the next three days, and every morning he would tell us he saw a bump in the rug in our bedroom, as if something small was under it, moving towards the crib like in an old Tom and Jerry cartoon.

Nothing happened for the next few months. Then one day he was nowhere to be found. We searched the house until we found him standing in the middle of our room, sleeping. Just standing there. His eyes were shut and he was snoring, which was weird because he didn’t snore. Father gently slapped his cheek a few times, and he woke up. It took him a minute to realize where he was, but then he was wondering why we took him out of his crib. We looked at each other as if he had just slapped one of his parents. We told him we didn’t take him out of the crib, and he said he had gone to take a nap in his crib, and he just woke up right now.

* * *

Another three years passed and everything was the same. There would be some sort of nightmare every once in a while, or we would catch him doing something unusual. Like the time he asked us why we were carrying flaming pitchforks, or the time he stood during a cartoon and crossed over to the dining table, where he sat down and started laughing hysterically.

By this time our mother and father were scared of their own son. There was no reason he should be seeing claws and pitchforks, no reason at all why he should be randomly crying with laughter at the dinner table, when nothing funny had been said. We couldn’t afford to see a doctor, and our schedule was too tight to see someone else. We asked other family members, who had no idea what to say.

One time we were spending the night at our cousin’s house. It was a fun night, nothing out of the ordinary happened…until nighttime came, and it was late at night when we were asleep. There was only one extra bed, so Don and I had to share it. I was fast asleep, but when I felt something crawling through my hair I began to stir. I was already waking up, there was no going back to sleep; whatever was crawling through my hair had done its job. I started to open my eyes; my vision was blurry, so I rubbed my eyes and looked at the light up clock on the wall, which read12:00. I felt that crawling thing in my hair again, and I looked up. My brother was up on his left elbow, smiling down at me, his right index finger twisting a few strands of hair on my head. It was an odd smile, the kind you get when someone has told you a dirty joke. I was startled, and asked what he was doing, and why he was up at this time. He stopped playing with my hair.

“Your eyes are glowing red,” he whispered, still smiling.

I didn’t wake up. I didn’t fall asleep. I lay awake there all night, waiting for the nightmare to end, but it never did. I tried to close my eyes, and when I opened them back up in disappointment, Don was lying down, eyes shut. I whispered his name, two times, three times, and then threw one of my cousin’s old stuffed animals at him. He was fast asleep.

* * *

Every morning for the next four months, he told us he had had a nightmare the previous night. Each one was the same. And in the nightmare, he was crawling on the walls of our bedroom, looking at me, breathing heavily. He said he was perched up in the corner at times, and at others he was crawling around. Watching me. Just one more frightening story from him. First disembodied claws, then watching his brother sleep and telling him about his red eyes, now watching him from the walls. After a week, he looked as if he hadn’t slept at all. He was tired and had no energy. He just moped around the house barely talking, barely noticing anyone’s presence.

* * *

He told us once that his nightmares sometimes repeated, or continued from its ending point the previous night. Mother asked him if he had had a nightmare last night and he nodded. He said that he had a dream that he was drowning in a pool. Nobody was helping him. He said that the night before he dreamed that he was at a friend’s birthday party, and when he wasn’t looking someone pushed him into the pool, and nobody noticed. Then, as we were sitting there in horror, he whispered that he woke up, and the “Tom and Jerry carpet thingy” was back. It would race towards him under the rug and poke its head out and stare at him, but he couldn’t see it because it was dark. Just a little bump under the rug moving around.

He also described a dream in which a dozen or so people were on the front lawn in the dead of night. They were inching their way around in circles. And the same person would slowly start walking towards his window. This one happened three nights in a row, where he was staring out his bedroom window the entire time. I decided I would take a look myself. Enough things had happened that I reconsidered everything that we were experiencing. That night I stayed awake until I knew everyone was asleep. I slipped out of bed, grabbed a stick I had sharpened at both ends, and walked out of the front door and into the driveway. The only light was the dim light from the streetlights. It was, I admit, creepy. I walked around to the front lawn, and saw nothing. I stood there a moment, trying to picture what it was Don was imagining. And right before I turned to go back inside, my eyes caught something—a spot in the grass. I walked up to it, heart beating now, and realized it was a footprint. A footprint in the shape of a boot. I saw more. Different sizes, different shapes, going in no particular order, as if they were going in circles, here and there, everywhere. I glanced up to my bedroom window…and say my brother peering out. I dropped my sharpened stick in sudden terror, and took a few steps forward. I walked a few more steps, and a few more, until I realized it wasn’t him.

I dashed back into the house.

A few days later he was staring again. That unbreakable, unwavering gaze, that seemed like it would burn a solid hole through whatever it was his eyes were set on. I glanced back, looking at a picture frame on the wall. It was a family portrait, taken when I was five and Don was al-most one. There was nothing unusual about it. But right when I looked back at my brother, who was still staring, I saw something. I looked back at it; it was not there.
But still, I saw something there. Something that has stuck with me most vividly all these years, though I only thought I saw it. Today it reminds me of when my sister-in-law calls me from Nebraska, that story of what she thought she saw. But this was different.

What I saw, or what I thought I saw, was each of our heads in the photo gone. They simply weren’t there, I don’t know why. But in the background there was a face, very faint, barely there at all. A smiling face. It almost looked like Don’s, but with two red stumps poking their dull points out of his messy hair.

* * *
Light bulbs exploded when Don was angry. Stuffed animals moved when you turned your back. TVs turned on on their own accord. Clocks ran backwards. If you glanced out the bathroom window, you could see that the pool water was thick and red, like blood—if you glanced back, it was water.

Don had dreams that our brains were wasp nests. Don had dreams that faces were in his windows. Don had dreams we were dead bodies standing in his closet.

When Don had dreams that everybody was nailed to a wooden cross, we took him to see a psychologist.

* * *

Nowadays things are quieter. My brother and I haven’t seen each other for twenty years. We both have families, and we are planning on getting together during the summer to try and start over. Every time I get a call from Nebraska, I get along just fine with Don and everyone else in his family. I ask Don’s wife about him and his behavior. She usually has some sort of story to tell, something small and rather insignificant, like him laughing for no reason. She’s a bit jumpy, I guess. And despite the fact that most of the calls I get from them are her attempts to seek advice from me, I do my best to hide the fact that I know it.

The last one of Don’s “episodes” (as we began to call them when we were in our twenties) before we separated, was when he was about fourteen years old, and I was eighteen. I had invited some of my buddies over to watch the World Series. Soon after they had come and the game began, Don walked out of the hallway and to the center of the living room, where he lied down, face down, in front of the entertainment center on which the TV sat.

Suddenly, Don flopped over like a fish out of water, sat upright, and yelled a full sentence in complete gibberish. Then he stopped, his eyes widened, and he muttered, “They’re coming.” He fell right back over, bouncing his head off the floor and making a sick smacking sound that made us cringe, and went right back to sleep. The four of us, who had been talking and laughing, were now quiet. One of my friends looked at me as if he was scared to death; the other two looked as if I was making silly faces that weren’t funny.

An earthquake hit. An 8.9 on the Richter scale, they said many years later. The casualties would have been tremendous, but much of the city’s population had changed their schedules for the baseball game, preventing traffic on the highways that collapsed in the quake. We were lucky we hadn’t been killed; pieces of the roof had collapsed, all around. Don hadn’t even stirred, but nothing touched him. He lay there, still asleep, totally unaware of the earthquake, huge chunks of thick fallen wood forming a neat circle around him.

Credit To – vexxum666

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Dream-Jaunt

February 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Unsent email found in a fifth floor office of the Morpheus-Delta Research Facility. Account belonged to Cal Rooker, Security Chief.

*

- Subject: RE: back from vacation! -

Sorry I haven’t got back to you in so long. Been real busy over here.

Glad you had fun in Jamaica. We got your card all right. Ginny was tickled pink. She’s not used to people remembering her birthday (I’m a forgetful ass myself). I gave her a kiss for you. I think I’ll have to take a rain check on our golf game this weekend though.

How’ve I been? Oh, not so good. Things have pretty much fallen apart over here. I got promoted to Security Chief last week, which means I got to see more of the project than the other grunts on my team, which means I had to keep my lips shut tighter than everyone else. Pay was great, but it meant watching more than my fair share of the volunteers’ violent reactions to taking dream-jaunts. The paperwork always said “fatal seizure,” but if you ever saw one you’d know it was bullshit. They gave sweet ol’ Gary a dream-jaunt on Tuesday and he took a pair of scissors to his eyes and died of shock. “Fatal Seizure.” Sometimes it’s like they’re trying to crawl inside themselves to escape something horrible. Turns out that’s not far off.

Dr. Eddings and Dr. Pearson are dead now, so confidentiality is out the window. Better take notes ‘cause this’ll definitely help you with your writer’s block.

I don’t remember the proper name for the thing, but the docs called it the Dreamcatcher. It’s a prototype machine that translates brainwaves into images, like how you plug a VCR into your television so you can see what’s on the tape: you plug yourself into this gizmo and watch your subconscious mind like you’re watching home movies. Dr. Hayworth invented it — that yahoo in charge of the Morpheus-Alpha medical colony. Hayworth wanted to find a sure-fire way to treat and even CURE all mental illnesses. If his Dreamcatcher worked as well as ours did, then it’s no surprise why they carpet-bombed his facility last year. But I’ll get to that, don’t worry.

As the security chief I sometimes got to accompany the docs to the lab in the back of the facility. At the far end of a poorly lit corridor screaming “Nazi bunker” is a pneumatic door that requires a six-digit code and a security card to open. On the other side is a small gray room wall-to-wall with electronics equipment and glowing white and red buttons. On the furthest wall of the room another security door and a big glass pane look into a small, brightly lit, white-tiled room where the ‘Catcher itself sits.

It’s crude and scary-looking: a reclined dentist’s chair sits beneath a round, silvery screen suspended from the ceiling. The screen is framed by a ten-foot metal ring lined with wires and glass tubes. Subjects are strapped into the chair with a dozen wires pasted to their heads and chests — during dream-jaunts they look like they’re about to be executed by the state.

The most common problem with the ‘Catcher is after a single dream-jaunt most subjects die from shock or suicidal mania, and the docs couldn’t figure why. That’s why the Morpheus-Delta team drafted AIDS and cancer patients for their project: their philosophy was that these people are all going to die anyway, so what difference will it make? The “volunteers” were never told about the deaths, of course. And the docs were real pieces of work. I kill one guy during the war and ten years later I’m still drinking it out of my memory; Eddings and Pearson must’ve killed two people a week and didn’t bat a fucking eye.

Their favorite subject was Nikki, an eleven-year-old albino girl. Real cute, real smart, real creative. She played violin and piano and composed the prettiest tunes you ever heard. Nikki had bad dreams just about every night: I’d see her walking around the halls when she should’ve been in bed, whispering she was afraid to be alone. The nurse would give her something to help her sleep and stay with her in her room ‘til she konked out. Always figured it was typical for overly creative kids. I always wanted kids, so I had a soft spot for Nikki.

I shared some ice cream with her in the cafeteria once and she told me about the dream. She was in another world where the sky was always red and yellow like at dawn. She scrambled as fast as she could across an earthy landscape full of black pits and chasms of sky as if the world was broken into floating fragments. She was always frantic and never knew why, and always inches away from falling into the sky, or into one of the hundreds of black pits. The pits were the scariest part of the dream, she said, ‘cause they made these ungodly gibbering sounds and sometimes she could see things moving around in them. The dream was so vivid she’d usually wake up screaming.

The docs were fascinated by her insomnia. They’d never met a guinea pig with recurring nightmares so potent and so consistent, so they gave her special treatment. She was the prize cow they wanted nice and fat for her trip to the slaughterhouse. They figured if the ‘Catcher could help them figure out what underlying trauma caused the dream (without driving her insane, of course) it would be a major breakthrough.

Now, you ever hear about Madison LeBroche? She was an army ranger they shipped here a couple weeks ago that knocked out two of my guys and had to be sedated and locked in a clean room. Turns out she was a security officer at Morpheus-Alpha, and the only survivor of the bombing. They’d found her sleeping like celery in the woods six miles from the colony. Eddings had her shipped here for interrogation and kept her like a prisoner until she decided to talk. I took down everything they said for Eddings’s records and saved part of the transcript for you. I think LeBroche sums up the ‘Catcher’s effect on people better than I could.

*

EDDINGS: “It’s my understanding you were the only survivor of the epidemic at the Morpheus-Alpha Medical Colony managed by Dr. Harding and Dr. Hayworth. Can you tell me what happened? Just in summary for now, if you like.”

LEBROCHE: “That’s what you’re calling it? An epidemic?”

EDDINGS: “Miss Lebroche—“

LEBROCHE: “Dr. Hayworth told me I was gonna help him cure cancer. He fed me sentimental bullshit about DYING CHILDREN. Then he strapped me into a dentist’s chair and dunked my head into an ocean of nightmares.”

EDDINGS: “Taking a dream-jaunt is a naturally harrowing experience, but Hayworth’s purpose was always the advancement of medical science and psych—“

LEBROCHE: “No, no, no, don’t. Don’t. No. Medical science does not use stories about suffering children to lure people into dentist chairs of horror. Did Hayworth tell you why he always strapped them down? You’re fine at first. Scared shitless, but fine. But then you start to s…you SEE things…and when it’s all over, sometimes you STILL see ‘em and you realize they can see you, too…And the first rational thing you want to do when you come back is gouge your eyes out.”

EDDINGS: “You were one of only three test subjects who survived the process. You must know if the problem was a technical failure or human error—”

LEBROCHE: “The PROCESS was the problem. The human brain can’t handle the experience. And it opens a gateway to places that were meant to stay hidden, REAL PLACES that some of us got better connections to than others. Hayworth shoulda figured that out after the first ten people lost their fuckin’ minds. Shoulda figured it out before the ‘epidemic’.”

EDDINGS: “That’s why we’re trying to improve it.”

*

Shit hit the fan right there. In the next moment Lebroche was on top of him screaming, “Let me outta here! Let me outta here!” and me and Greg almost needed the Jaws of Life to pry her ass off. Another shot of morphine and she was out for the night.

After the most recent “fatal seizure” I went to ask LeBroche a few questions, but she was gone. Tom was unconscious in her room wearing nothing but his briefs. I don’t know how she got out, but we couldn’t find Tom’s uniform or his security card. Brady thought she was hiding and wanted every available man sweeping the place for her, but I knew better. She must’ve slipped out during the security shift change.

This afternoon Pearson got an urgent call from Eddings that the experiment “goddamn works” and was “absolutely incredible,” and I wanted to see for myself. But when we got to the lab door, just when Pearson had her card in hand, Eddings’s voice exploded over the intercom.

“Pearson, stay out!” he screamed; then over his shoulder, “Pull the plug, goddammit! Pull the plug!”; then back to the intercom, “Stay out, do you hear me? Do NOT come in here!”

Pearson was frozen in position with her card over the swiper. She looked at me, then the intercom, then back at me. I yanked the card out of her hand and swiped it, opening the door. Five people were scrambling around in there, flinging brainscan printings like confetti, vomiting techno-jargon I didn’t understand with shrill, panicky voices. Strapped into the ‘Catcher with eight wires pasted to her head was Nikki. Her limbs trembled and twitched and her eyes bulged wide open. I couldn’t tell if she was conscious or not — they probably started drugging their subjects, hoping it’d keep them sane — but if Eddings had been in my sights the first moment I saw her I mighta planted my fist in his head.

Eddings didn’t seem to notice I was there. He saw Pearson and stuttered like an idiot for a minute and a half before anything came out what sounded like words. He couldn’t seem to keep his hands still and his face was colorless and dripping with sweat.

“We saw…saw something in the ‘Catcher…”

Pearson got excited. “She had a vision? The ‘Catcher finally caught a vision? Did you—?”

Eddings cut her off. “We SAW SOMETHING. It wasn’t…The thing’s supposed to transmit abstract imagery, dream visions. This was REAL. This was like looking through a window onto…Oh god, and something was alive in that black pit! It SAW us, Pearson! It SAW us and—”

One of the control panels on the left wall sparked and caught fire. Something started humming real loud like a guitar amp on the fritz. The big round screen flickered. One of the techies screamed that their toy was turning itself on without a power source.

The screen went pitch black and the entire lab came alive with a chorus of murmuring voices not of this earth. Something putrid and pink like raw flesh oozed out of the blackness, taking up the entire screen, and split at the middle into a pair of dribbling infant lips big enough to swallow a man whole. They opened wide to let out a long, awful howl like a hippopotamus would howl if it had no bones. A giant pink worm of a tongue lolled around inside, slapping against I don’t know how many sets of yellow, spade-like teeth.

I couldn’t tell if Nikki knew what was going on. She didn’t struggle to get free or anything. She just kept lying there, staring up at the abomination and not even flinching at the ropes of drool it dribbled on her face. Eddings ran in and tried to pull her out of the machine, but the wall of flesh came out of the screen like water bursting through a dam and filled the little white room in an instant. Eddings and Nikki were gone.

Some of the other doctors muttered prayers or cried like three-year-olds. None of us moved a muscle at first: we just stood staring as half a dozen slobbering mouths pressed against the glass, licking it with their worm-tongues and fogging it with their breath, as though the thing knew we were there and didn’t know how to get at us. When the windows flexed and cracked, we ran.

So we’re not doing so good over here right now. The volunteers lost their minds with fear, killed themselves, fell into catatonic trances. My security team was useless. We had about thirty seconds to evacuate over two thousand volunteers before the thing flooded through the lab doors, mouths foaming and dripping with spit and letting out all these noises that make me shudder in remembrance. Half of my guys took one look and froze like statues and let the thing swallow them. Jesus Christ, it’s like running from an avalanche. I can’t tell if it’s endless in size or if there’s an army of them running amok here. And the sounds it makes are worse than any of the screams. The way it gibbers and slobbers and snorts.

It overran the lower floors and trapped everyone inside; if anyone made it out, good for them. I think I’m the only one left now, hiding like a coward in Eddings’s office on the fifth floor. There’s no more screaming below and the air vents belch a nasty stench medley I can’t apply metaphors to. It’ll find me soon, and when it busts its way out and slithers into the city, God help everyone.

Please get Ginny out of the country as soon as possible. It’d mean a lot to me. Maybe you can take her to Ja

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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The Invitation

February 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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They call him “The Hatter”. His face is only a rumor. His body is an urban legend. But, his intentions are always clear; once the invitation arrives, he will be waiting, likely with a knowing smile and lashing tongue.

Marcus was an unexceptional man. He worked eight hours a day in some indistinct office, punching numbers, balancing accounts, and taking phone calls. He kept to himself, preferring to spend his evenings alone, sinking into a good book rather than the revelries of bars and nightclubs. Though he had his eyes set on Janet from accounting, Marcus seldom spoke with her, and their relationship was best described as accidental.

Ever a creature of habit, Marcus was a predictable man, always living under an invisibly ticking clock. He would wake up every morning at 6:30 AM, never sleeping a minute under or over. He would shave, shower, and cook a simple breakfast of faintly buttered rye toast and coffee. Two slices on his plate, two sugars in his coffee, and Marcus was ready to go. He drove to work, clocked in, and stayed in the same place for eight hours, leaving only to eat lunch or use the bathroom. Sometimes his coworkers would drop in for a casual conversation, but this happened with increasing rarity. He’d drive home, change into his pajamas, and cook a simple meal of meat, potatoes, and some greenery if he felt adventurous. For him, excitement and color came through carrots and peas. Then, at exactly 11:00 PM, Marcus went to sleep, never to rise until the next morning. Marcus was boring, and he liked it that way. The Hatter had other plans.

After a grey day at work, Marcus was ready for new reading material. Perhaps his issue of Reader’s Digest had arrived, or perhaps his family had sent him an early Christmas card. He needed some entertainment, and with a brisk walk approached his mailbox. Sure enough, a pile of letters waited for him, and like a vulture with an affinity for milk toast, Marcus scooped these up, taking great care to conceal his treasures from the pouring rain. Dripping and dashing, he gingerly slammed the door shut, unceremoniously tossing his coat over a nearby chair.

Sadly, it seems Marcus would be met with disappointment this evening. Instead of his favorite magazine or warm greetings, he found bills, advertisements, and one pamphlet about his local Congressman several months too early. In the hopes that he had missed something, he flipped through the stack again and again, only to be met in vain. Then, he heard the faint swish of a letter landing on the floor.

The Hatter was terribly fond of grand gestures, and the invitations to his party are always carefully hidden. Whether hidden with care or in plain sight, he made sure his potential guests always found their letter in time, and Marcus was no exception. He’d been watching Marcus, and he eagerly awaited his response.

The letter was small, no larger than a Christmas card. It was addressed to Marcus in clear, elaborate cursive, and the return address was his own house. This is The Hatter’s way, for both the destination and the starting point come together in his plans. Perhaps placing the letter back in the mail can drive off his eye. Perhaps it is another of the Hatter’s games, silently mocking his prey that there is no escape. Either way, Marcus opened the letter. It offered no resistance; it longed to be opened.

Inside, he found a simple card, embroidered with shades of red and gold lettering. He saw the shine of golden script on both sides, and casually turned the invitation over. The reverse side held a date and a time; April 14th, 2:31 PM. Curiously, he glanced at the other side. And there it was, in bold print.

You should sit.

This phrase is The Hatter’s invitation. It is a simple command, no more threatening than asking to continue breathing. But to follow the instruction is to answer the Hatter’s call, and many fall into this gentle trap. Marcus knew no better, and sat down, pondering the strange letter. A single footstep echoed behind him. Perhaps a cup of tea would calm him down. Was he nervous? No, strangely not. He had forgotten his movement to the kitchen, a momentary amnesia as he brewed a steaming pot of Earl Grey.

As the moist aroma wafted through the room, he felt an intense relaxation. He could hear a faint bubbling amidst the silence of his home, and with each pop an excitement began to overtake him. Perhaps I have been too hasty, he thought to himself. I hardly give my coworkers the time of day.

The gentle flow of hot tea pouring into his mug brought feelings of joyous guilt, and unfamiliar thoughts flew into Marcus’ head. I should reach out to them. After all, what harm is a new friend? A silent sip, and a beaming grin crossed his face. In some dark place, The Hatter returned the gesture.

The next day, Marcus rose at 6:00 AM. He sprung out of bed with an unknown energy. Surely, he had been rejuvenated, and his blood felt hot and bubbly. Such an exceptional blend of Earl Grey, he thought to himself. This morning it was eggs and bacon. He didn’t remember buying those, but who was he to argue?

At the office, his coworkers found a completely alien Marcus. He went out of his way to ask people how they were doing, hold doors, and tell jokes. Even his boss went along with it, and Marcus became the life of the party. His charm was contagious, and over the course of a month, the stagehand had gone center stage. He knew their names now; Janet, her sister, Clara, Andrew, Gary, and his boss, Everett. Every day, he had another cup of tea, often brewing pots for his coworkers during lulls in paperwork. They had grown to love Marcus, and The Hatter enjoyed the show.

He would go out with them, though he cared little for clubs. Instead, he would take his new friends to comedy clubs, or invite them to the local theatre. He showed them culture, and for reasons unknown, they loved it. All the while, the burning feeling flowed through his veins.

One day, Marcus realized something dire; despite his new friends, he had never invited them to his home. Even Janet had never seen his home, and no one seemed to notice but him. He knew he had to rectify this. During their lunch break, he proposed a classy gathering of olden times; a tea party. His infectious charm did the work for him, and his friends all agreed to such a lovely gesture. And so, on April 14th at 2:31 PM, five guests stepped through his door, and six pairs of footsteps echoed through his home.
With grand gestures and an elaborate table set, Marcus greeted them, the smile on his face as broad as always. Ever the gentlemen, he offered Janet a seat before all else, and she beamed at how lucky she was. Then, clasping his hands together, he addressed his friends.

“You should sit.” As they obeyed, they were gone. No longer were they Marcus, nor Janet, nor any of their friends. There was only The Hatter, and he had waited long for this entertainment.

Suddenly, Marcus’ grin widened to sickening proportions, and the guests followed suit. Janet’s sister had come along, and as the guests sat at the dinner table, she placed herself on the dinner table, lying back and sighing. They looked on hungrily, and The Hatter deemed that they should say their prayers before their meal. Then, their forks and knives dug into her, severing raw flesh and spurting blood.

Their gory meal continued, and it devolved into frenzy, with guests forsaking their utensils and biting at her. They shredded her like wild animals, bits of flesh and blood caking to their fine dress and teeth. As she was devoured, they all smiled, including the eviscerated remnants of her sister, an unnatural force keeping her alive until The Hatter deemed she had suffered enough, her mind trapped helpless and silently screaming within her own body.

You may die now. As she had her moment to scream, Marcus bit down on her throat, her shriek devolved into a gurgle. Janet scooped up a severed finger, placing it in her mouth. With inhuman strength, she chewed and swallowed, stifling a giggle. Clara’s face inhumanely twisted back into a grin, cracking bone and holding far too wide. She was The Hatter’s now.

Yet The Hatter’s party was far from over, and the guests were ready for his party games. While Marcus escorted their boss into the kitchen, Janet pounced on Gary, her hands on his throat. She viciously slammed his skull on the floor, holding him down, though they all knew it was too late already. His face draining, Janet slowly eased a fork in each of his eyes, gore and white slime oozing and pouring down his cheeks. All the while, Andrew observed, clapping his hands excitedly.

Marcus offered his boss a cup of tea, still stuffed and dripping with the blood of Janet’s sister. Against his will, he smiled.

“That would be ever so lovely!” His consciousness clawed and scraped inside his skull. Please God, let me go. Let me out! HELP ME! His screams echoed inside, but not a sound could escape, a prisoner in his own mind. Perhaps Marcus could hear his plight; perhaps not. Either way, he set the kettle on the oven, and switched the burner on. As blue flames lapped the No, NO, PLEASE DON’T DO THIS teapot, Marcus reached for his meat cleaver. As man who regularly dined on meaJUST LET ME GO PLEASEt and potatoes nightly, his tools for carving flesh were remarkably advanced. Unfortunately for Everett, their usage today would not be for beef or chicken.

As the kettle came to a boil, Marcus smiled. He raised the pot above his head, and Andrew’s cheering and applause could be heard in the other room.

“Your tea’s ready!” exclaimed Marcus as he poured the boiling water over Everett’s head, searing and peeling away flesh and hair. Amused, The Hatter released him, and his screams came free just in time for Marcus’ cleaver to strike his chest. The Hatter forced his blow to strike true and strong, and Everett’s heart beat for the last time. But time was wasting, and Marcus got returned to his task of severing his former boss’ limbs.

Upstairs, Andrew and Janet had made their way to Marcus’ bathroom, all the while dragging Gary’s body. Andrew’s fate, deemed The Hatter, would be the most merciful. Andrew began to fill the tub, water sloshing and splashing. He’d decided that icy cold would be best, and PLEASE DON’T THEY DIDN’T DO ANYTHING more hot water was far from original. All the while, Janet gnawed at Gary’s neck, her dark appetite not yet sated from her sister. From below, Marcus shouted up.

“Janet? Are you almost done up there?”

She cupped her hands, glancing out into the hall. “Yes, I shouldn’t be more than a minute!” Her internal screams had broken down into uncontrollable sobbing, and she begged for someone to save her. Only The Hatter heard.

With the tub full of frigid water, Andrew smiled externally. He knew his fate, and LOOK AWAY FOR GOD SAKES LOOK AWAY their terrible host was not yet satisfied. Andrew plunged his head beneath the icy water, and The Hatter released him just in time for Janet’s hands to force him further in, pressing his face against the bathtub’s surface. Arctic waters rushed into his lungs, and each painful gasp only brought more flowing in. Violent bubbles danced to the water’s surface, and Janet’s lips ran red with ruby droplets. Andrew’s screams were little more than a humming whisper, and he heard DON’T DO IT PLEASE the same whispering command that had damned Clara. You may die now.

His crumpled body draped into the tub, Janet left the two bodies behind, making her way downstairs. Marcus was waiting, holding the same tea pot he’d seared Everett’s flesh with only minutes before. She smiled, giving a curtsy.

“Oh, Marcus, this was such a lovely party.”

He just kept beaming, raising the pot high before striking Janet’s head with it. She fell to the ground, and Marcus loomed over her. He hit her again and again until the pot could take no more, cast iron FOR GOD SAKES SOMEONE HELP crumpling from the repeated impacts. A terrible strength poured through Marcus. Leaning down, he kissed what remained of Janet’s head gently. And then, The Hatter released him.

Regaining control of his body, Marcus gripped Janet’s hands, holding them one last time. He collapsed into quiet sobs, praying to no one in particular for this to just be some awful dream. He wanted to wake up at 6:30 AM, sit eight hours in his cubicle, and know none of them. He just wanted them to be safe again. Then, Marcus felt a hand slowly rest on his shoulder, and The Hatter’s invitation came again. Like the original letter, it could come from anywhere, and it will always find a way to reach the intended recipient, such as this story. You should sit.

Credit To – M.L. Zane

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Sauin

February 4, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I find myself speeding down a road that is, for some reason, both familiar and unfamiliar. The sky arches above me like an ancient and angry sea, grey and melancholy, reaching down to the horizon to kiss the earth. I’m going to fall into the sky, I think to myself. My car will sink down into the clouds like a stone and that will be the end of me. I smile at the absurdity, but grip my steering wheel tighter. The trees, what few there are that I see upon the road, are gnarled ugly things, bereft now of even their autumn foliage in the early November frost. My car is the sole occupant of a lonely stretch of highway, silently bringing me to my destination. “It’s a good day for a wake,” I say to no one, breaking the stillness of the day. My voice startles me and I retreat into my head. I let the yellow lines of the road and the monotony of the scenery hypnotize me, and soon my mind is wandering down familiar corridors. For what must be the thousandth time, I think of him.

Seamus Hagan could pass for a good man when sober. He was boisterous and affable and could talk to strangers as if he had known them their entire life. He would tell bawdy stories that could make men laugh well into the evening, and tell sweet lies that could make women swoon. At parties, he was the center of attention, surrounding himself with members of all social strata. They gathered in their revelry to hear of his outrageous stories and antics, but still, they did not know him. Beneath the thin veneer of personality Seamus Hagan was unhappy. He harbored within himself an unending sadness that always threatened to peak above the surface if he was left too long alone in his own mind.

When I was young, my father looked up to Seamus, I feel like he idolized him in his own way. They had grown up together and Seamus, who could never hold onto a wife for very long, was always traipsing through our home, an unwelcome guest to all but my father. I remember clearly the day I solved the riddle of his being. It was a crisp autumn day, the last of October, and I for my part was dressed as a cowboy. Seamus, who had been drinking again, looked me up and down and said

“What sort of a get-up is that?”

“I’m a cowboy,” I replied

“Are you stupid or something lad?” he said. “You’re supposed to be a monster on Halloween, something scary.”

I grew silent and looked away from him.

“Come here and sit down I’m gonna tell you a story about why you look
ridiculous.”

Seamus was never parted from his drink for long and I could smell the beer on his breath as I approached him. His eyes had grown dim from the alcohol but his voice was as melodious and commanding as ever. His breaths were steady and his pale grey eyes were fixed on me. Obediently, I sat next to his chair at his feet unsure of what to expect from the old drunk. I was at his mercy and he began his tale.

“Now all this business of Halloween that you children get on about is a sanitized, Christianized version of the festival of Sauin celebrated by our heathen ancestors before St. Patrick taught us to fear wrath of Jesus Christ. Now my mother, gone these thirty years God rest her soul, she was something of an expert on Sauin and while she was a God fearing woman she knew rightly that it isn’t wise to completely forget the old ways. You see the Druids knew on Sauin certain doors were opened, temporarily, and the dead could come back for a night. To keep themselves safe, the Druids appeased the dead with certain rituals, some of which have trickled down to us. They’d carve lanterns out of turnips to light the path of the way back to the underworld. They’d dig up the corpses of the newly dead and arrange them at a grotesque feast so that they won’t be hungry on their way. They’d go around through the town and find a little child. Then in the fields that had been left fallow that year they would construct a gigantic wicker man with the help of all the townspeople. When it was complete, the child would be shut up in the head and then the wicker man would be set alight while all the people joined hands round it and chanted to the gods and the dead; one living soul given as an offering to the dead, to ensure their prosperity and leave ‘em alone for one more year. No one went out on Sauin for fear of encountering the dead in their grim procession and being dragged into the nether world. Those travelers that could not help but be on the road would rub chalk on their faces and charcoal under their eyes, or maybe wear some ugly mask so that if they should be questioned by a dead man they met, they could say ‘no sir I am already dead, I am already among the dead.”

Seamus looked around and stood up from the chair. Somehow I knew intuitively not to move yet. He returned in a minute with two beers, one of which he offered to me but I declined. He drained one right then and there and then took to nursing the second. He swirled and churned the lager in his mouth taking in the full breadth of its flavor, trying to decide what to do next. After a moment the alcohol began to affect him and he continued his story.

“Now my mother, God rest her soul, was always beating me senseless when I got to sneaking out at night but that only encouraged me to do it all the more because, fuck her, right? So one night, I was about your age, she says to me ‘Seamus, you have the devil in you and you don’t care one lick for your mother but I’m telling you don’t be sneaking about at night tonight. Tonight is the feast of Sauin where the dead come up from their graves and follow grim Morrigan in procession in search of some living child to drag back into the underworld, for the dead despise the living. For the sake of your mother, stay in your bed tonight.’ So naturally that night when she was asleep I got my clothes on and prepared to sneak out and see what mischief I could get myself into. Now my mother’s stories were rattling around in my head and I must have believed some of ‘em because before I went out I whited my face and blackened my eyes and snuck out a window and set out upon the road.”

Now I recall Seamus paused here again and shifted his glaze uneasily around the room as if checking its dark corners for some unseen stranger. His breathing became deeper and his mind seemed in turmoil. Seamus’s skin turned ashen and for a moment I thought he would vomit. The words he meant to speak next seemed stuck in his throat and he feared to spit them up. He looked down at the beer in his hand, quickly finished it, and grabbed another. Filled with the courage that one often finds at the bottom of a beer glass, he cleared his throat and began again.

“So I went through the town looking for what mischief I could get into but I found no one about and no shop open. I was about to start vandalizing houses when I looked into the distance beyond town and saw a pale orange light flickering in the distance. I thought it must be some bonfire lit by likeminded children and so resolved to make my way towards it. In no time at all I was in the woods outside of town on a narrow dirt path that passed for a road in Ireland in those days. I looked down the road and saw the light moving toward me slowly. I realized what I thought was a bonfire in the extreme distance was actually just some old codger in a car. Determined as ever to make the best of a bad situation I gathered up some good sized stones to throw at the car as it passed by and hid in brush on the side of the road.”

Seamus paused here for the last time though the pause was the longest. He didn’t say anything or move just continued staring off into the space beyond him reliving events in his own mind. Minutes passed and I began to feel uneasy. He began to rock in his chair a bit, and I thought for a moment he was going to have a seizure like someone I had once seen on TV. All at once he began speaking again, as if in a trance, as if no time had passed at all.

“I waited for that damn car to come. Five minutes became ten minutes became twenty. It was moving so fucking slowly I should have known I was no car. I was just about to get up I was just about to leave when I saw this big bird fly over me, it looked like a raven or a crow, but it was the size of a house cat. It perched on a tree just beyond me and let out a screeching cackle that chilled my bones. I saw the road light up and thought that the car had come at last. I crouched down and readied my stones but instead of a car I saw people, lots of people. It was some parade I thought, but as my eyes adjusted realized they were all dead. At the head of the procession was a gaunt man, naked and bone white, carrying a scepter of polished bone. On his head he wore the skull of horse and he urged on the mass of corpses behind him with his hideous gesticulations. Behind him came in no particular order the mob of the dead. Old, young, women, men, it made no matter. Some looked nearly whole and could pass for the living if not for their unearthly paleness. Still others looked as rotted corpses, blood and maggots dripping out of every orifice. Still others were little more than skeletons who wore their flesh like a beggar wears rags on a hot summer day. They shambled along held together by an unseen force. All of them carried small lanterns, some carved from pumpkins, others form turnips, and still others from things I didn’t want to recognize. The parade lasted minutes, hours, years, millennia. Time stood still and yet jumped ahead of itself. It was over before it started, and yet lasted forever, all the while presided over by that grim bird who watched it all with dead and lidless eyes. Eventually the shambling corpses and their unearthly light moved past me. The bird took to the air once again and I was left alone in the brush, gasping for breath as my heart threatened to beat its way out of my chest.”

“I emerged from the brush and looked down the road. I saw the lights of the phantom parade safely in the distance and tried to collect my thoughts, when I heard a twig break behind me. I turned slowly and acted unsurprised, and maybe that’s the only reason I’m still here today. In front of me was a young boy, pale and in tattered clothing. Pieces of his flesh and his face were missing and his throat was cut from ear to ear causing the blood to dribble down his shirt like a bib. In one hand he held a small pumpkin lantern, and in the other a knife. I took only small breaths least he realize I was still breathing and looked deep into his cloudy eyes. He spoke to me in a gurgling voice that seemed more to escape from the bleeding slit in his throat than his mouth.

‘Are you alive who walks among the dead? I’ll carve you up and drag you piece by piece to my home beneath the earth and you shall never see another sunrise. That is a promise I make to you living boy.’ I stood glued to the spot. I thought this was the end of old Seamus, but then I remembered my mother’s stories and I looked at the dead boy and said

‘No sir, I am already dead; I am already among the dead.’

‘Liar,’ said the dead boy, ‘I can hear the pitter patter of your heart it sings to me through the night.’

Again I replied in a steady voice, ‘No sir, I am already dead, I am already among the dead.’

‘I see your chest moving living boy though you try to hide it will you deny that?’

‘No sir I am already dead; I am already among the dead.’ It stared at me for a good long while after that toying with its knife but I matched its gaze as best I could. After a while the dead boy seemed to fade into the shadows around him and then was gone. No long after the sun came up.”

Seamus didn’t say another word; he just stared into the space ahead of him looking like a corpse himself. After a few minutes I got up, and approached the doorway. He shouted at me then “But you don’t understand that wasn’t the worst of it, you don’t understand what I saw in that parade that night, you don’t know who was there,”

“Who was there?” I said

“Everyone”

Seamus never spoke of that day again. Perhaps he drank away the memory. When I was a few years older he and my father had a falling out, I never asked about what, and I never saw him again.

What I partly realized that day and elaborated on upon reflection was that Seamus believed that the fate of all men saint, sinner, and everything in between, was to join that hideous parade. It was their fate to be called down to a gloomy sunless netherworld where an eternity of languished sighs robs them of their minds and their sanities and they die a second death. Their jealousy of the living morphs into a deep well of hatred and every Sauin night they comb the land searching for someone to drag down with them and share in their unending misery. The dread of one day joining that parade haunted Seamus and molded him into a man filled with fear, who tried all manner of diversions to hide from the truth that dogged his footsteps his entire life, that hell was the destination of all men.

I am driving down a road that is becoming more and more familiar. I see before me, just ahead on the dirt path that passes for a road in Ireland these days, the funeral home, not a mile from the house where I grew up. Outside my father waits, beckoning me to come in, it’s a marvel how well death can mend fences. For what must be the thousandth time I think of him. I tell myself he was just an old drunken fool trying to scare me. I say to myself, no man knows what becomes of us when we die, and perhaps that is for the best, for if we knew the truth of the lurking horrors awaiting us on the other side of the horizon line it would drive us mad. This thought too I push from my mind. No living man knows what becomes of us. No one can say to a certainty what, if anything Seamus saw that night, and no one can say what it meant. Whatever demons haunted Seamus in life he’s beyond them now. Whatever waits for us on the other side no man can say but one thing at least is true, whatever waits for us, now Seamus knows.

Credit To – John Fitzgerald

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A Funny Thing Happened

February 3, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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There was no doubt – my mouth had moved a centimeter to the left overnight. I check between reflection and picture before accepting the impossible.

“Hitler, you gotta see this,” I call to my roommate, nicknamed for being the image of Arian perfection – blonde hair, blue eyes (the works). I find him in his favorite pass-out hiding place – behind the couch under a layer of PBR cans.

“Listen, something funny is happening. I think I’m turning into one of those weirdies from the X-files!” I give him a shake.

He doesn’t show any response at all, not even his trademark, ‘Fuck off’. Looks like you reached for the moon and landed on your face last night. I’d hate to be you in a few hours.

Content my transformation would remain after Hitler wakes up, I head to the kitchen for a breakfast of B12 vitamins before returning to the couch. I find a fresh nitrous cartridge from the box on the coffee table (‘Whippit good!’ as sage Hitler would say), load it into a brass cracker and give it a healthy twist. The aluminum seal punctures with a satisfying pop. Finally, I snap a balloon on the end and gently unscrew the device, filling the latex sphere with precious laughing gas.

Waiting for the air to warm up, I bounce the balloon against Hitler’s sleeping face, “Remind me, I take two vitamins for every lung-full, right? I don’t wanna get limp-dick. I like having feeling in my extremities.” He gives a huge yawn and rolls over on his side. “Two it is then.”

I always get laughy before partaking in any narcotic, and this time’s no different. I can hardly control my excitement as I pick the huge balloon off and take in a breath of the sweet-sweet drug. My vision blurs and all thought takes on a slanted quality. Our dog Trigger trots in from the hallway which is about the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. I laugh and (can it be?) Trigger laughs with me, licking chunks of hair out of my face.

For a brief, awkward moment, I consider French kissing the Golden Retriever when I’m hit with a wave of dizziness. The room spins before me and I have the nauseating feeling that I’m somehow looking at both the ceiling and floor at the same time. Trigger sits down and tilts his head, wondering what the silly human is doing. I look past him and spot the cause of my discomfort in the reflection of our old TV.

My face has changed again. I raise a hand, too scared to confirm what I’m seeing, but having to know. I touch my right eye which had slipped down (socket and all) to rest beneath my chin. The pain that registers when I nudge its wet surface is proof of the awful reality. My ears too, have gone for a trip around my skull and now reside one on the back of my head, the other on my neck. Though perhaps most terrifying of all is a new eye which has opened on my cheek. This one a different color, unlike mine in every way. And looking; watching me, unblinking.

“Holy fuck, shit!” I look back at Trigger, but he’s left the room, unimpressed by his master’s situation.

“Hitler! Hitler, wake up!” I really go at him this time, alternating between kicking and slapping. But he’s dead to the world.

A doctor! I can call a doctor. There’s gotta be someone else who’s had this (disease?) problem and been fixed. Even in a shit small- town like this one.

I reach for the phone in my pocket and realize it’s not there. NO, NO! Why do I always lose everything? I consider looking for it, but catch another glimpse of my destroyed face in the hallway mirror (I’ve never been ‘attractive’ and now my face is a fucking rubix cube) and decide to just drive the five minutes to the clinic. Time is of the essence, as they say. I pull on my hoodie and set out into the late afternoon air of Linderville.

I’ve only just left the porch when I hear my best friend Chris talking a few doors over, and I pull the hood further down my face. I love the guy to death, but he’s never been one for recreational drug use (did nitrous do this?) and I didn’t have time for a lecture.

“Ya, I’m telling you,” says Chris to a pretty girl in a short dress, “This deer was bigger than a horse. Jumped out like he wanted to die.”

I glance at his pickup. Sure enough, the front’s been totaled and smeared with blood. That’s not gonna be cheap. Sucks to be you, buddy.

I glance inside my garage and stop. Sucks to be me. The car’s not there. I think for a moment, the sun beating down and soaking into the dark fabric I’m wearing, when I’m caught off guard by the mental image of headlights cutting through trees. I feel the blood drain from my face and then, faint as a whisper, I recall my brother saying he’d borrow it.

No choice then – I foot it, carefully avoiding the eyes of the few pedestrians I pass until I make it to Dr. Genn’s family practice. He’d taken care of me since I’d been smoking cans with a bb gun instead of joints and was one of my favorite people. Even if he couldn’t fix me, he’d console me until someone else could.

There’s the familiar chime of bells above me as I push through the door. Dr. Genn is sitting behind the counter invested in a crossword puzzle, his KFC Colonel beard twisting between his fingers.

He hears my approach and looks up smiling, “Well ‘an how can I be of assista-”, he stops when he meets my eyes (well, eye), and then casts his gaze around the room as if he’d forgotten where he was.

Conflicting emotions dance across his face, alternating between fear and revulsion, the desire to help and the urge to run. I give my best smile, despite the flutter of unease in my stomach.

“Get out.” He says with such finality that it catches me off guard. This wasn’t what I’d expected from the man who’d given me suckers for booster shots.

“Dr. Genn-,” I start, but then he stands up and shouts.

“Get out! Get out of here, whatever you are, and don’t come back!” His eyes bug out and his lemon tea falls to the ground in a twinkle of glass and ice.

Never had I been rejected so out right by someone I cared and respected. It hurts in a way I hadn’t experienced since childhood. A loss of control, I suppose (or a challenge to what you thought you knew as fact). I back out the door, bells jingling overhead and run to the only person I knew who would never reject me, never run in fear.

Day has moved on towards dusk when I finally arrive at the gates of Cedar Hill Cemetary. It must be a holiday because I’m not the only who’s chosen today for a visit. A large procession of people mill about the stones, leaving flowers and tears on the graves of their relatives.

I look up at the overcast sky. Perfect weather for a depression-session. My dad’s headstone stands near the middle of the manicured lawn. I could find it eyes closed, I’d been here enough times – which is good because my face starts rearranging itself again, making me lose my balance but not my motivation.

When I see the familiar mini pine tree, I quicken my stride. I’m practically running before I fall to my knees at the foot of His name, carved for eternity (until acid rain do ye part).

“Dad…” It’s not much, but enough to express all the warring emotions inside me. “I need you, Dad. What should I do?”

As if on cue, the voice of my brother Donny drifts from behind me, “This is a shitty situation we’re in, huh, Eddie?” I twist around, surprised, but he’s not there. A woman glances up at me, meeting my gaze before returning to her mourning.

“Donny, where are you?”

“Ha, well,” he replies, “I’ve been here. Inside you.”

For a moment I’m certain my heart has frozen solid. I slip my hands beneath the hood, to the back of my head, and sure enough, a new mouth has formed beneath my mat of hair. It bursts into life and I let out a yelp.

“Nothing?” he says, “I set up the perfect, ‘that’s what she said’, for you.” He starts laughing, and Jesus-Christ-I-Can-Feel-His-Mouth-Moving. I feel like I’m going to vomit.

“Donny?” I manage, “Donny, what’s going on? Am I having a bad nitrous trip?”

There’s no response except for the twitter of blue jays in the surrounding oaks. A light rain begins to fall, and one by one the visitors pop up their umbrellas in reply.

“Eddie,” he whispers, “You know you’re dead, right?”

The pitter-patter of rain swells and I’m once again surprised at the number of people in the park that day. The sweet smell of rotting leaves reaches my nose and I hold it in, tasting it. Yes, I guess I had known. Some things are just harder to face than others.

“That man – three headstones over,” I say, “That’s Richard Grady, isn’t it? He’s dead too.”

I feel the extra eye (his eye) swivel on my cheek towards the direction I’m pointing.

“That’s him,” Donny replies, “Used to piss him off so much in chem. class. Remember when we set his desk on fire?”

I did – when he mentioned it.

“He died four years after his wife,” he continues, “There was a rumor that he’d spend more time here than at home to be with her. Looks like old habits die hard.”

I watch the old man kneel over the grave of his equally-deceased wife. There’s an odd flicker emanating from his face that obscures his eyes, though I’m sure they’re filled with grief. Something about the dead mourning the dead gives me the creeps; I shudder and put a hand on Dad’s headstone to steady myself.

“It’s not so strange really,” my brother says, “You were doing the same, just now.”

I tremble again, disturbed by the fact that he’d just read my mind.

“How did it happen? Us dying, I mean.” I realize I’d forgotten a pivotal moment in my life/death.

“Close your eyes.”

I do, and find myself walking through a forest with Donny at my side. We are hiking to the perfect camping spot in the nearby mountains of Perth. Something reflective catches my eye and I call him back to help me. It’s a mason jar, buried so that only the lid pokes out above the compact dirt. A childish curiosity overcomes us and we start digging it out with the back of a hammer. After all – anything could be inside it.

Both of us take turns going at when I hear the low rumble of what sounds like a cougar or black bear. I look up in time to see the grill of the truck that crushes both of our heads against the tree behind us. I’m thrown from my body as if from the impact of the crash. From my new vantage point, I watch as the truck pulls back, the hood and bumper crumpled like paper, allowing the mess that is our bodies to slide to the ground.

The driver gets out, assessing first the damage to his car, before turning to our lifeless bodies. One glance at our faces, crushed to the point of unrecognition, confirms our deaths to him and he gives an approving nod. Lighting a cigarette, he kneels forward into the beam of headlights and for the first time I see his face. It’s Chris. My old buddy Chris who’d ‘had the run in with a suicidal deer’. He loads our bodies into the back of his trunk, washes down the tree with bleach and leaves.

“Good friends are hard to come by, huh?” Donny says this from within and without my head.

I open my eyes and we’re back in the cemetery. Night has swallowed day. Still, the mourners wander about on the lawn; pausing to cry, sometimes giving in to hysterics before continuing their march.

“Why did he do it?” I ask.

“Why do any of us do anything?” he replies. “Personal gain. Even when we help others, we do it for the good feelings and butterflies we get, as much as we don’t like to admit it.”

“Doesn’t seem like he helped either of us much.”

“No,” he agrees, “This time was purely selfish. He did it for Lily. I hadn’t had the heart to tell you, but they’ve been sleeping together for a while now. You don’t blame me right, man? I mean, he was your best friend. It’s hard to breach that kind of subject. Besides, I told you she was a bitch.”

To be honest, I don’t remember a girl named Lily, let alone a humiliating relationship with her. Donny again picks up on this thought.

“I guess even love isn’t safe from death. She was with him today, when he was hamming up the story about the deer – she could hardly keep a straight face.”

A fragment of memory floats down to me and I grasp at it hungrily: a date we’d had that ended with us sneaking onto the top of the old Alladin movie theater. The first place we’d made love; though certainly not the last.

She cheated on me. I can feel my face burn hot with shame. Another abandonment. This time ending in the death of not only me but my brother as well.

But it didn’t have to be over yet.

I stand up with a purpose, avoiding the eternally grieving spirits as I make my exit. And when I reach the gate, I run.

“Why run?” He says, “We’re dead. Wherever we want to be, that’s where we are.”

We’re standing inside Chris’ house now, just outside his room. The door is shut, but I can hear him talking. Talking to the girlfriend he’d stolen. The seed of rage sprouts into a clawing thrush of vines.

“This is it, brother,” his voice echoes more inside my head than out, “You can make them pay. They killed us. They killed me, Eddie,” his voice cracks for a moment and I’m fed the memory of late night gaming sessions together, fighting over the last beer and secrets told in confidence. “You can’t let him get away with it, big brother. You couldn’t protect me, but you can make things even. Make things fair.”

I think over what should be an easy decision, but it’s not. Chris did the unspeakable, but did that mean I should return the favor? We’d been best friends since we were kids. Even if he’d forgotten that bond, it didn’t mean I had to too.

Suddenly the room begins flickering in and out of focus like a strobe light. I’m reminded of Richard Grady and the same flashing light I’d seen slipping from his eyes. I know then without explanation that this is a crossroads. This is where I can forgive and surrender to the universe or unleash it on Chris.

The image of Dad smiling and shaking his head blossoms in my mind; and with it, the flicker continues to grow. Love takes a long time to grow.

Donny pipes up again, “Let’s see how long her neck can stretch.”

* * *

Chris sits at the edge of his bed, still reeling from the phone call he’d received. Lily had slept through the whole thing, and though he considers waking her up with the news, decides against it. There’d be plenty of time for grief. Eddie’s pickup had been found at the bottom of a cliff with his body crushed inside. The officer who’d told him this had explained he’d likely fallen asleep at the wheel, which wasn’t uncommon at all. They suspected he’d been out for a night of camping judging by all the gear scattered around the impact site.

My best friend, Chris marvels, gone. God, I wonder how his mom’s doing. First her husband, and now her only child. He stands and heads for the door, thirsty for a drink. The stickiness is the first thing he notices; it oozes up between his toes, causing the carpet to cling to his bare feet. He glances down to find a thickening pool of blood seeping from beneath the door which swings open with awful finality.

He has enough time to whisper, ‘Eddie?’, before the air around him reverberates into a deep hum like a subwoofer, accented by the agonizing (elongating) screams of his wife behind him.

Credit To – ARScroggins

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