What Only the Girl Could See

July 6, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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There once was a girl sitting on her sofa, reading a book by the tableside lamp like any young girl might do. Above her hung an bloodstained old woman on the ceiling, with grotesquely rotating limbs as she slobbered and gasped like a dying fish. But the girl paid her no attention. The woman was nothing but grey and red splotches of skin stretched over a skeletal frame, with her elbows and knees bent backwards like a spider clinging to the rafters, her eyes grown over with cataracts as they stared at the girl without seeing, and her decrepit face contorted into a silent scream. She darted around wildly in a disjointed fashion, and finally the girl glanced up toward the ceiling and saw the demonic creature there. But the girl only shook her head and looked away.

This girl was a special girl- she had something called hypnogogia. She wasn’t mentally ill, and science and doctors told her that what she saw wasn’t really there. The girl lived in a sort of fantasy- that is to say, she dreamed while she was still awake. This made her quite different from most other people, but what she had wasn’t rare, just… MORE than most. Have you ever woken up and couldn’t move, but you thought you saw something menacing standing by your bedside, or creatures whispering around you? That wasn’t a demon or an alien; it was sleep paralysis, and your body did it between when you slept and when you woke. This was the world that the girl inhabited.

The girl didn’t believe in magic things or spirits. She read lots of books and all of them told her that the people she saw, sometimes just out the corner of her eye, other times full-on and even staring her down- these people weren’t real, and they hadn’t lived some life before or came to her for a purpose or something. It was just a trick in the girl’s brain, and she reminded herself of that. There were all sorts of people she would see in visions- sometimes modernly dressed, sometimes looking old-fashioned, and while most of them were strangers, some of them she knew. But like any dream, they were illusory and quick to disappear- at least at first.

Yet after a while, the things the girl saw began to… stay around longer and longer. They started to appear as though they were, “attached” to other people, one might say, like the girl’s loved ones. First she noticed at her sister’s house that when her sister spoke at the dinner table there was a small, hunched figure sat upon her shoulder, its face hid behind a long beaky mask like the kind a plague doctor used to wear. Her sister wasn’t always nice to her, and she saw that when the bird looking creature leaned in and whispered into her sister’s ear, she would spit out something nasty, like it was feeding the words to her. Of course the girl was frightened, but she didn’t want to freak her family out and so she stayed silent… in time, she would get used to people and the creatures that came along with them.

In her mind, she knew that there was a logic to these entities. Like anything a psychologist would tell you- there was a reason for them being there and the way they were, and who they seemed to be stuck to, just like there was a reason for what we see in dreams. For instance, her father was a smoker for 40 years, and she would see him being followed by a wheezing, sickly thing with bloated lungs- this just signified her worry about his health, and that one day his cigarettes might get the better of him. Or the giant faceless man, cackling with laughter, that trailed her boss at the supermarket where the girl worked. The boss was always one to shout and then chuckle at his employees to embarrass them, so it only seemed fitting that his “creature” should be a brutish, monstrous looking thug.

More and more now the girl could look at any person and see what she called, “their monster.” She was unnerved to the point of trembling as she cashed out an impatient woman at the grocery store one day, watching a gaggle of slithering, growling grey beasts bounce around her feet with agonized cries like those of children. The girl had only had a couple closed loved ones ask her what “theirs” looked like… and afterward, they probably wish they hadn’t. It didn’t matter where the girl went. It could be at home, or at a friend’s house or the airport- the ugly, nasty things trailed each and every human she came across.

And then there were the worst ones of all, the truly bizarre and grotesque ones that could be called “demons” even if the girl didn’t believe in them- these ones would always go about on the ceiling, like it was their own personal world. They might be big, nasty black hog creatures snorting and sniffling until they opened their toothy maws and let out a raspy scream… or grey-blue child cadavers giggling and crawling around upside down just above the girl’s head, taunting her with bloated little faces and wagging black tongues. Soon the girl learned it was best simply to keep her eyes down upon the floor, for fear of what she might see dangling just above.

The girl grew older and she learned to cope, and lead the very best life she could. She was honest with her doctors and her family and they knew about her struggles, but she was still resolute in the fact that nothing in these waking dreams was real or could hurt her. There was one thing, though, that the girl never told anyone. Not a single soul would ever learn of her deepest and darkest fear, the one she learned she could contain most easily once she lived in her own home, away from the rest of the world. The one that chilled her to the bone in a way that the ceiling creatures never could.

The girl turned off the showerhead and stepped out onto the bathroom carpet, eyelids shut to shield against the mop of dripping brown hair. She fumbled around blindly for a towel and even as she did, unwittingly stood beneath a nest of slithering bloody white entities, humanoid yet so foreign from anything the girl had ever seen, and they scattered like cockroaches to the fair corners of the ceiling when she wiped away the water and opened her eyes, wrapping the towel around herself and shivering in uncertainty.

She took the brush and as best she could began to tease out her long wavy hair, her gaze avoiding any shiny reflection that she might unintentionally catch off the shower’s sliding glass door. She struggled to dry off and then get her clothing just so, to make herself presentable, standing in front of a wall bare save for the single nail that once held up her mirror, now lying on the floor under a dirty old sheet like all the rest of them. It wasn’t that the girl had never seen HER monster. Her terrifying secret was that she had, and so she had promised herself that she would never look upon her own face again, lest that… that THING resurface in her eyes.

Credit To – TheJinx

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Something Is Wrong

June 29, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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It had been a while since I had visited my cousins. Believe it or not, it had been five years since I saw any of their faces.

The last I time I saw them I was eight years old and had not yet learned that the world had no consequences. I skipped gaily around their two story ramshackle house joyously, singing my favorite songs and playing with the six year old twins. This playtime, however was constantly tainted by my Aunt Clarissa.

My Aunt Clarissa was always that one person with which everything had to be just right, perfect, or as close to perfect as possible.

Whenever I would try to play tag, hide and seek, or anything of the sort really, she would be hovering over us, her dark grey eyes flashing. She would always say, “Now Jared, don’t you ever play too rough with Simon or Eloise. If anything ever were to happen to them, I’d wear you out.”

Aunt Clarissa always used to scare me as a child, with her sharp chin and stormy eyes, she reminded me of a witch. I did not dare do anything she wouldn’t approve of with Simon and Eloise, even when she wasn’t around; because I knew that she would stay true to her word and beat me black and blue if I ever harmed either one of them.

Her precious little twins had to be perfect and untouched.

We used to visit her all the time back at my old house. We only lived about thirty minutes away from each other. Then my dad got a job offer up in Michigan, and it was a long time before I ever stepped foot in Illinois.

I do remember feeling happy, at the very least, for my Aunt Clarissa as we left, despite my disliking her. She was about to have another child, and she was joyful as could be. Her eyes weren’t as stormy as they usually were the last time we went to visit to say goodbye, and she seemed as content and relaxed as ever with the growing bulge in her stomach. Three was the perfect number, three perfect children in a wonderful family; this was all Aunt Clarissa had ever wanted.

We all moved to Detroit and eight months later, the big news came. Aunt Clarissa had had her baby. She sent us a letter with several exclamation points telling us how happy she was for her newborn child, who she had named Mallory. Even now, when I’m seventeen years old, I still remember thinking that it was odd she had not sent a photograph of her infant child.

The years whisked by like sand in wind, and the more time went by, the less contact we had with our cousins, Aunt Clarissa, and my Uncle Wayne. Then, finally, we were invited over to her house for the holidays.

My mother, who missed her older sister dreadfully, readily agreed to visit, and my father, seeing how eager my mother was, complied with her wishes.

After a two day car trip, we finally got to the familiar old residence of my aunt, uncle, and their three children.

We all approached the steps, laughing and talking to each other before reaching the door and knocking. A full minute later we were still standing there, fidgeting and stealing glances at each other. The door suddenly opened about a foot. The face of an eleven year old boy appeared at the door, his white blond hair hung down over his baggy green eyes, which flitted around at us, taking in our every detail. His jaw finally quivered slightly before he said to us, “Come in, please, it’s so nice to see you all.”

After five years Simon had definitely changed. He was more solemn, as if he had been consistently bullied, and expected contempt from everyone.

My mother wasted no time, smiling and gushing, “Why Simon, come here and give me a hug!” Simon allowed himself to be hugged before taking us all inside, where we were greeted by Aunt Clarissa.

She smiled, saying, “It’s so nice to see you all again!” before spreading her arms and coming in to give us all hugs. She commented on how much I had grown up and asked me if I’d taken care of my parents. I smiled uneasily and replied that I had done the best I could, I looked hard at Aunt Clarissa, taking in how she had changed.

She really had not changed very much. There were gray streaks in her otherwise blond hair, but that appeared to be it.

I asked where her Uncle Wayne was, and she responded that he was on a business trip and wouldn’t be back in some time. She led us into the dining room, where Mallory and Eloise had already sat down. My mother crooned over Mallory and introduced herself while dad commented on how much Eloise had changed. Mallory didn’t look at all like the rest of the family. Her hair was a dirty blond and her eyes were not green or gray, but instead a light blue.

I did not really talk to her, but instead focused on Eloise, who had grown much older and prettier than I had last seen her. She barely remembered me, but I was able to make small talk with her. I noticed she had grown to be wary and suspicious of others, as if someone might try to stab her in the back.

The only members of the family that seemed normal were Aunt Clarissa and Mallory. Mallory was happily eating away at steamed carrots and Aunt Clarissa was sat on her chair with a pleased look on her face, as if proud of her perfect children.

There was definitely tension in the air, as if there had recently been a fight between Aunt Clarissa and her kids. I decided that I would ask Eloise about it after dinner.

I met up with her in the living room and sat down. She was engrossed in a teenage magazine I had never even heard of, but looked up sharply as soon as the question was out of my mouth.

“Eloise, is there anything wrong in this house?”

Her sea green eyes flitted to two different places somewhere behind me before meeting my own. I made a mental note of this.

“There’s nothing wrong here, why would you say that?” she answered, forcing a smile onto her face.

I shook my head. “Never mind, I thought Simon was acting unusual.” I saw a split second of relief cross her face before she managed to hide it.

“It’s nothing, don’t worry about him, he gets bullied sometimes by older kids.”

I nodded and continued to talk to Eloise, but my mind was elsewhere. I swiftly concluded our conversation and got up, turning around as I did so. I quickly surveyed the living room, looking for the places Eloise had been glancing at.

Those two places were the coat closet and the stairwell.

I knew that something was wrong with this family, inside this house. It was something that kept eluding me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was definitely frustrating.

I decided that I would find out tonight, after everyone had gone to bed. I was to be sharing a room with Simon, and mom and dad would be taking the spare room upstairs. I did my best to act normal and socialize with everyone, given the unsettling atmosphere of the house.

My parents did not appear to notice anything; they were oblivious to how strange our cousins were acting. I think my mom was just glad to finally be talking to her sister for after five years of not seeing each other, and my dad just seemed to be happy for my mother.

Finally it was time to go to bed, and we all brushed our teeth and changed into pajamas. Simon had allowed me to use his bed, and he plopped down on the floor. The moonlight streaming in through the window illuminated his face.

I relaxed my breathing, pretending to fall asleep, while watching Simon, waiting for him to nod off. But he did not. I stared at him for hours as he lay there on the ground, his eyes never closing. Every muscle in his body was pulled taut, as if he were expecting someone to break into the room and attack him.

At one in the morning his breathing relaxed and he became limp. I crept out of the room and headed for the coat closet, a small flashlight in hand that I had stolen from Simon’s drawer.

I tiptoed silently over the hardwood floor, wincing every time it creaked. I finally made it to the coat closet and opened the door. Turning on the flashlight, I stepped inside. It looked like a regular coat closet, nothing special or extraordinary about it. I began rummaging around, checking in coat pockets and even Aunt Clarissa’s purse, but all I came across was a Swiss army knife in Simon’s pocket and some scented Germ-X in Eloise’s jeans jacket, but nothing more.

I began to search in the more unusual places, checking in dark corners and even in the shoe rack, but didn’t find anything of interest. I started looking underneath the baskets in which various gloves and hats were kept on a shelf above the coat rack.

To my surprise, a newspaper article fluttered down to the floor.

I bent over and picked it up. The article read: “Female Infant Stolen From Orphanage.”

My curiosity increased. Why would Aunt Clarissa have something like this in her coat closet? I tucked the article into my back pocket and went onto the second thing I had seen Eloise looking at… the stairs.

I remembered when I was little, Simon and Eloise had a hide and seek place that beat me every time. They would simply hide in the cupboard underneath the stairs. Every time I passed the cupboard I would stop, not wanting to go inside to the darkness of the cupboard where unspeakable monsters surely awaited me. I would search every other nook and cranny of the house, hoping they would be somewhere else before eventually giving up, even though I really knew where my cousins were.

Using that method they had beat me time and time again until I eventually tired of hide and seek and proclaimed that we should play tag instead.

They had rearranged the furniture so the couch now blocked the cupboard under the stairs, but I knew for sure it was still there. I looked down on the ground and noticed something strange. There were scuff marks on the ground, as if the couch had been pulled away from the stairs often.

I knew that whatever was under those stairs was the answer to why everyone in the house was so tense, and I was eager to find out the secret.

I pushed the couch away from the staircase and stepped over to the cupboard beneath the stairs. To my surprise, the cupboard was secured with a thick padlock. I went back to the coat closet and retrieved Simon’s small knife. I inserted the thin blade into the handle and jiggled it around until the lock clicked open.

My heart began to pound feverishly in my chest as I unhooked the padlock and swung the small door open. I shone the flashlight in the dark area beneath the stairs. My flashlight passed over a chain dangling from the low ceiling of the right hand end of the small space provided by the cupboard, and I moved my flashlight down to discover a human hand in a manacle.

A shocked little gasp escaped my throat and my blood ran cold. I reached up and flicked the switch to the small light bulb dangling from the ceiling.

Something Is Wrong

Before me, a girl no less than nine years old was hanging from the manacles on the ceiling, clad in nothing but a pair of dirty undershorts.

Her head lolled to one side, A rag was stuffed in her mouth and her ankles were tied in thick rope. Her wrists and skin around her feet were red and sore from being bound, and I could tell from the length of her face and how small her eyes were that she suffered from Down syndrome. Her skin was seemingly pulled over her bones and her ribs stuck out.

For a horrible moment I thought that she was dead, but then her head raised and a horrible moaning escaped her throat through the rag in her mouth.

Looking to the other side of the cupboard, revulsion welled in the pit of my stomach.

Sprawled out in the other corner was the half eaten corpse of my uncle. His stomach had been ripped open and his innards were spilled all over the floor. The skin on his face had been peeled away by greedy hands to reveal his white skull.

I looked back at the girl and noticed for the first time that her hands and face were stained with gore.

I couldn’t take it; I keeled over and threw up before catching my balance on the door frame and trembling.

I realized what had happened in this house.

Aunt Clarissa, the perfectionist she was, would never have allowed her child to have Down syndrome. So she stole a new baby from a nearby orphanage. She stole the child I knew to be Mallory. But Aunt Clarissa didn’t have the heart to kill her own child, even if the baby was marred. So she kept the child hidden away under the stairs whilst being with her perfect family. However, my uncle had opposed my Aunt Clarissa. So she had gotten rid of him out and used him to feed her hungry little secret under the stairs.

I had to do something. I knew that I should immediately call the police; I ran upstairs and grabbed the handset that was sitting on a nearby table. I quickly punched in the numbers 9-1-1, only to look down and discover the phone lines had been cut.

Aunt Clarissa kept her family under close tabs. Simon and Eloise’s home was also their prison.

All of a sudden I heard a shriek from downstairs.

That’s when I realized I had left the door under the stairs open and the light on. I then heard someone running, and the front door being slammed shut. I scrambled to my room and used my cell phone to call the police.

I later found out that Aunt Clarissa had fled the house when she discovered her secret was out. Thankfully, the girl under the stairs turned out to be okay, but the police never found Aunt Clarissa.

Even now she is probably on the streets, maybe with a new name or face, searching for another perfect child.

Credit To – SnakeTongue

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The old woman’s words

June 27, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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1.

‘Nobody likes you. Nobody ever has and nobody ever will.’

‘Not true…’

‘Yes it is. Why would you think otherwise? What’s there to like about you?’

‘What do you know about me? Can’t you just leave me alone?’

‘People just pretend to like you, but everyone hates you.’

I’m sitting in the back of the bus, there are no passengers but me and her. Her words are poison. I see her every day. And every day she tries to break me down with her words.

‘You don’t know me,’ I tell her.

‘Oh but I do. I know everything about you. Even the small things. For instance I know that you take off your shoes every time after you enter your house. Oh yes…’

I look at the old woman. I feel very disturbed by what she just said to me. Is she following me? She doesn’t take her eyes off me.

‘Keep following me around and I’ll call the police.’

She doesn’t respond and keeps staring at me. A grin appears on her face.

‘Just leave me alone.’ I say as I get out of my seat to get off the bus. It’s not my stop yet, but I don’t want to stay on the bus with this woman. Her presence feels very familiar, but creeps me out regardless. I walk towards the door as the bus starts to slow down.

‘This isn’t your stop yet. Where are you going? It’s not like you have any friends or family to go to. Nobody wants to see you.’

I don’t reply to her. I just want to get off the bus as soon as possible. The bus stops and the doors open. I don’t greet the driver and get out. I start walking and the bus drives on. The streets and pavements are empty. As the bus passes me, I look at the window and see the old woman still staring at me. I can see her lips moving and I can make out some of her words.

‘I’ll be watching you,’ is what she says.

I don’t understand why the woman is doing this to me. I don’t know her, but for some reason she knows me. I get lost in my thoughts as I walk home. It’s supposed to be a 20 minute walk, but in a blink of the eye I arrive. I snap out of my thoughts and realize that I’m in front of my house. I look around a few times to see if the woman is somewhere, hiding in the bushes or behind a car. But there’s nobody around.

The streets still are completely empty. I take off my shoes, open the door and go in, closing the door behind me. I lean against the door and close my eyes. I shouldn’t let her words get to me. But her everyday demeanor is messing with my mind. As I stand there, I don’t notice that someone has been ringing the doorbell for minutes now.

2.

That’s not a doorbell. The door of my room blazes open and a wall of light blasts through the opening, almost blinding me. There’s a person standing in the doorway.

‘Good morning dear, time to wake up! I’ll be waiting for you downstairs.’

‘Yeah, thanks. I’ll get up.’

‘Breakfast is ready,’ my wife says as she walks off.

Close the goddamn door then. I turn off the alarm clock and get up. I feel bad. Every morning I feel bad. These dreams are getting to me, they’re breaking my spirit. They started about 2 months ago and I haven’t been able to live normally since. At first they didn’t bother me, dreams happen. But every night the same kind of dreams? Every night, seeing the same old woman, hearing insults over and over… it gets to me. Then on top of that, I’ve been feeling that I’m not appreciated by anyone. Not even by my own wife. I haven’t had energy for a long time.

I go downstairs after having showered and getting dressed to find my wife sitting at the breakfast table. She looks at me as I sit down and start eating.

‘How you feeling today Jeff?’ Joanna asks as she looks up from the newspaper.

‘I’m fine,’ I respond to her.

‘Yeah? Did you sleep okay? You look pretty tired.’

‘I said I’m fine, really.’

She keeps looking at me. It bothers me.

‘What? Why are you looking at me like that?’

She takes off her reading glasses and puts them down on the table.

‘Alright dear, it’s just that I’ve heard you talk in your sleep for a while now. I worry about you. I mean, I don’t want to be annoying or anything but I find the things you say in your sleep… a bit disturbing.’

I look at her and ask: ‘What am I saying then?’

‘Well… I wrote down a few things,’ she says as she takes a piece of paper out of her pocket and unfolds it.

‘You might want to read them for yourself.’

‘I don’t want to read them for myself. Just tell me what I’m supposedly saying in my sleep.’

She puts on her reading glasses again and starts reading with a frown.

‘Okay. You are saying that you are totally fucking useless. You tell yourself that everybody hates you, that you’re better off not existing. You hate yourself. Then you also say that nobody will ever love you. Everybody is useless except…’

I cut her off during that last sentence and grab the note from her hand, I crumple it up and put it in my pocket. ‘You’re making this up! Why would you say these things to me?’

‘I’m not making this up, sweetie. I love you and I worry about you.’

‘Yeah right,’ I say as I get up from the table, ‘stuff like this really shows how much you love me. I’m off to work.’

I grab my coat and leave the house. It’s pouring outside. I walk towards the bus stop with my head down, my hands in my pocket, able to feel the crumpled note in my pocket. Did I really say all that?
I stand underneath the small shelter at the bus stop, looking at the drops of rain that fall on the pavement. My head aches. Normally I wouldn’t take the bus, but my brother borrowed our car to go on vacation. He left a few weeks ago. It hasn’t been that bad to go to work using public transportation though, it’s just that I don’t feel comfortable being in the same bus that appears in my dreams. I live in constant fear, irrational as it may be, that this old woman will appear in the seat behind me or next to me.

As the bus arrives, I look through the windows to see if she’s there. But to my great relief, she’s not. I get in and prepare myself for a mentally exhausting day.

3.

Cubicles. A lot of people fear ending up in one, the hopes and dreams that they had as a kid lost and soon forgotten for they will spend an eternity working in that cubicle. I for one don’t mind working in one. It gives me the rest that I need, it makes it possible for me not having to interact with colleagues.

As I sit in my workspace I stare at my screen. My mind drifts off to my dreams and the way I’ve been feeling the past weeks. I woke up one morning with an ache in my neck and a headache stronger than I had ever felt before. I had a nightmare that night. I can’t remember much from the dream, except that I was in a room and I couldn’t move. I wasn’t alone, there were people around me. But of course I can’t remember the details of the dream. It’s normal to forget what a dream is about.

Every night the same type of dreams however, 5 or 6 every night, will help to remember what they were about. And that for 8 weeks. More than 250 dreams where my self-esteem is broken into pieces have made me question my own qualities and the value of my existence. And after each restless night I have to start the same routine where my colleagues don’t appreciate my work, people on the street ignore my existence and then I come home to a wife who says to love me still, while deep down inside I know that she’s just pretending.

For hours I had been sitting at my desk, overthinking things. I went out during lunch time to take a walk, hoping that the fresh air would do me some good. But who the hell was I kidding. It was raining.

The same anxiety from this morning takes over while waiting for the bus to take me home. But once again, the woman isn’t there. I haven’t spoken to many people at work and I feel tired as usual. As I return home and enter the house, I greet my wife who is sitting at the dinner table.

‘Your brother called. He said he’ll bring back the car tonight after 9,’ she says.

‘Okay, thanks. By the way, I’m not very hungry. I just want to get some rest.’

‘Are you alright though? You know I didn’t want to bother you this morning with that note. I just want to take care of you.’

‘I’m alright,’ I lie to her. I go straight upstairs to our bedroom. I close the curtains quickly, making them shift back and forth for a little while. I lay down on the bed situated in front of the window. With a restless mind troubling me, it takes hours to fall asleep.

4.

‘I told you that everyone hated you. Did you see the way everybody was looking at you at work? How nobody wanted to talk to you? How everyone tried to avoid you?’

‘It’s not true.’

‘Do you believe that? You really are stupid. By the way… who were you looking for yesterday at your front door?’

‘What? I wasn’t looking for anyone.’

‘Oh but you were though, I saw you. I was there.’

I’m in the city park, although I don’t remember how I ended up here. The old woman is here as well. I’m not entirely sure where she came from. She just appeared. I look at her while she’s talking to me.

The woman has very few facial expression. I always assumed that she was old, judging by her grey hair, however she doesn’t have that many wrinkles. I think it’s her creaky voice that creates the impression of an old woman. Her eyes are empty, there’s no life in them at all. When she talks, only her mouth moves, it seems like the rest of her face is glued stuck.

‘Is there a reason why you are stalking me?’ I hesitantly ask her.

‘I have my reasons. I just have to do it,’ she replies.

I get off the bench I had been sitting on and walk away. I look over my shoulder to see if she is following me, but she isn’t. She just stands there with her head tilted.

‘Going somewhere?’ I hear her ask from behind me as I walk in the other direction. I stop and turn around to look at her, but… nothing. She’s gone.

I turn back to keep walking. My heart skips a beat when I turn and I look straight into the woman’s dark, cold, wide opened eyes. She grabs me firmly by both arms and starts talking.

‘I’ll find you again, you know. You’ll never get rid of me. I’ll break you in a million useless pieces and I’ll make sure that you’ll never be whole again.’

She lets go of my arms and throws me hard on the ground. I knock my head on the solid rock pathway and I slowly lose consciousness.

5.

I wake up on the floor of my room. Unclear as to how I managed to roll this far out of bed, I sit up. Another nightmare. I look at the alarm clock on my nightstand and see that it’s not even past 11 PM. As I glance past the clock on the nightstand, I notice that my wife isn’t in bed yet.

Sigh… I stand up and go to the bathroom to get some water. Even though it’s still early night, I don’t want to go to sleep again. As I splash some water in my face and look at my pale face in the mirror, I can hear some voices downstairs. My wife is still up and talking to someone. I listen to the voices, but I can only pick up some of the things they’re saying.

‘I’m worried about him still. I think he’s even hallucinating sometimes.’

‘It’s not your fault.’

‘But it is though, he’s my husband…’

‘I know he is. And he’s my brother… I also remember how he was before and… he changed.’

‘You think I should do something?’

‘You can’t control the man’s dreams…’

‘…but he changed so much. And I never expected him to turn out like this.’

‘We just have to accept him for who he is now. Unless you want to involve some doctors in this.’

‘Shouldn’t I intervene myself? It’s getting worse every day. And I told you about all those things I wrote down. All I wanted in life was a husband who would love me more than anything.’

I’m not sure what I just heard. The way my wife and brother are talking about me. Over the weeks I’ve been getting more and more convinced that the old woman from my dreams might be right.
I smack myself in the face. Stop it! It’s crazy to think that way, because damn… a dream is just a fucking dream. But everyone around me is either disappointed in me, or thinks I’m worthless. Everywhere, at work, at home. Even on the streets people look away as I pass.

Confused, I walk back to my room, closing the door behind me. There’s a small glimmer of light shining through the curtains which I hadn’t closed properly before. I know where the light is coming from. Our room is situated above the toolshed that I built years ago. I installed a backyard light system as well which turns on as soon as it gets dark outside. I suppose I should get some rest anyway. I walk towards my bed and the curtains and grab them.

Just before shutting them, I notice a bit of movement in the light outside. I take a closer look to see what’s moving in the distance. Is it the garden gate that’s open? No, it can’t be. It’s always locked.
It takes me short while to realize that I’m not staring in the distance… I notice that I’m looking right at a pale face, just centimeters away from me. I stumble backwards and lose my balance as I recognize the face of the woman standing in front of the window.

‘Did you hear the way they were talking about you? I told you that everybody hated you. Do you believe me now? Do you finally get it?’

Her voice sounds muffled through the window, but the fear she normally gives me only got worse.

‘You can’t be here. I’m not asleep, I’m awake… I’m awake…’ I say as I slap myself in the face, trying to convince myself of my own words.

‘Yes, indeed you are,’ she says to me, ‘and so am I.’

I get off the ground and sprint towards my door. I pull the door handle, but the door doesn’t open. I bash on the door, shouting to my wife and brother.

‘They can’t hear you,’ she says with a voice suddenly as clear as crystal.

I turn around and notice that the woman is now in my room. Her black clothing makes her posture very hard to see as the only light that’s shining into the room is the glimmer from the backyard lighting. Her face however, is clearly visible, almost illuminating. I see her gliding towards me, barely moving any limbs to get herself forward. She moves very slowly and keeps speaking to me with only her mouth moving.

‘They will not help you. You don’t live up to anyone’s expectations. You’re a burden to them and to everyone around you. You’d be better off killing yourself. Or I could do it for you.’

‘No! Get away from me!’ I shout to her as she is almost face to face with me.

Suddenly she jolts forward and grabs me by the neck, choke holding me. I try to release myself from her grip, but she’s unnaturally strong. I can’t breathe anymore…

‘Why?…’ I whimper out with my last breath.

‘I’m doing the world a favor. You’re totally fucking useless, remember?’

6.

‘Jeff?!’

‘Get him up from the ground! Put him on the bed!’

Their voices echo through my head as I slowly regain my vision.

‘Joanna? Clarence?’ I whisper.

‘Yes dear, it’s us. What happened to you? You were shouting so we ran upstairs and we found you laying on the floor…’

I look at the faces of my wife and brother.

‘Jeff? What happened?’ my wife asks again.

‘It was her… she tried to choke me. The woman from my dreams…’ I tell her.

Joanna looks at my brother. He nods to her.

‘We’re going to get you some help, get you to a doctor,’ she says.

‘I don’t need a doctor. I’m not crazy! I need a… a… a gun, a weapon or something, so I can get rid of the creep! It’s her who did this to me! We need the police or… you know. Someone.’

‘Jeff, we know what’s best for you. We’re going to get you fixed up okay? Get you safe again.’

‘But she’ll find me!’

‘No she won’t, I will make sure of that, I promise,’ my wife says. ‘Now, get up and get dressed so we can go to the doctor. The doctor can help.’

I hesitantly get up, get dressed and follow them downstairs.

‘You’ll be driving, Clarence?’

‘Yeah, I will.’

The three of us get in the car and drive off. I sit in the back of the car, my arms folded. I’m looking around nervously, trying to ignore the burning feeling of discomfort that’s rushing through my head. She’s going to get me before we arrive at the doctor. I know it.

‘Jeff, it’s going to be a long drive, so take some rest. That’ll keep your mind off things,’ my wife says, trying to get me back in my comfort zone.

‘I don’t feel like taking some rest,’ I reply to her while I unfold my arms. I stick my hands in my pocket and feel something. Oh right… that stupid note. I take it out of my pocket, unfold it and read through it. I didn’t even think about it reading it for myself before.

7.

————————————————————————————

Dream talk:
I’m fucking useless.
I’m totally fucking useless.
Why am I even alive?
I don’t care about them.
Everybody hates me.
Nobody will ever love me.
Everybody is useless except my wife.
I deserve it all.
It’s better this way.
People only pretend to like me, but they hate me.
I don’t blame them.
I’m better off dead.

————————————————————————————

Reading the note gives me some very disturbed feelings. The things I read in the artsy handwriting of my wife match up with the things the old creep tells me. I keep staring at the words… Something isn’t right.

‘What you got there, dear?’ my wife asks me.

‘It’s the note you wrote. You know? With the things I supposedly said in my sleep?’

‘Will you stop looking at that? It’s not helping,’ my brother says as he looks over his shoulder at me.

‘Keep your eyes on the road please…’ I tell him.

‘It’s just weird… this list of things. I mean, I’m starting to believe that I actually said them while I was asleep. Because…’ I pause to look up from the note to my wife who turned herself in her seat towards me.

‘…the woman in my dream tells me these things as well. And I was believing what she said. But something on the note doesn’t match with the rest.’

My wife keeps looking at the note, then turns her gaze towards me.

‘Like what?..’

‘You never noticed that this whole list consists of me hating everything and everyone, including… well… especially myself, yet I happen to speak positively about you?’

My wife looks at my brother. He keeps his eyes stuck on the road.

‘You just love me that much. I know you do, and I’m so happy that you do,’ she replies.

‘Maybe… I just think it’s weird.’

‘We’re here. This is the address, right?’ my brother says as the car stops. My wife nods. He gets out and opens the door for me. I get out, leaving the note on the backseat of the car. He slams the car door shut and lays his hand on my shoulder. Joanna wraps her arm around mine. We walk towards the freestanding building we parked in front of. The house in front of us is old, but in a good state. It’s not in the city, that’s for sure, but I don’t recognize the immediate surrounding area.

‘What’s this building?’ I ask.

‘It’s where we’ll fix everything,’ my wife replies.

We walk up the stairs and she knocks on the big door of the dark building. This can’t be a hospital. I want to ask again what kind of building it actually is, but as soon as I want to open my mouth to talk, the light turns on inside. A silhouette, visible through the glass window of the door moves towards the entrance.

‘Say Joanna, this doesn’t really look like a hospital or doctor’s office. Are you sure we’re at the right address?’ my brother asks as he looks at my wife.

She doesn’t respond to him and I can feel my wife’s grip around my arm tightening. I look at her. My brother is still looking at her as well, slightly confused by her sudden change in behavior. I try to move my arm a little bit so she would loosen her grip, but she doesn’t even look in my direction as I do so. She keeps looking at the silhouette that’s slowly getting closer and as the door opens I can make out a familiar face. One that I don’t like to see. One that makes me panic.

‘That’s her! We have to leave! Now! She’s the one that’s been doing all of this to me!’ I shout. My brother looks away from me, and turns his eyes towards the strange figure that appeared in the open doorway. I feel paralyzed and can’t move, my brother lets go of my shoulder, switching his gaze between the woman and Joanna.

‘Hello doctor,’ my wife says.

The woman speaks with her creaky voice while looking at me, tilting her head: ‘Good evening. Oh. I remember you. How are you feeling?’

I don’t dare to say anything to the woman who’s been haunting me. I turn to my wife and brother.

‘Please, get me away from her.’

‘Joanna, what’s going on?’ my brother asks. A few seconds of silence pass.

Without replying to him, Joanna reaches inside her jacket pocket and pulls out a gun. She puts the side of the gun in front of my face and shoots Clarence through the head without a second of hesitation. My eyes grow large as the noise of the gun rumbles through my ears, followed by a loud high pitched tone caused by the loud bang. My brother falls over sideways onto the hard stone tiles covering the steps of the stairs.

‘Jesus!’ I yell out.

I pull my arm out of her grip and back away from her towards my brother. I kneel next to Clarence and look at him. My hand shakes as I move it over my brother’s body.

‘Shush honey, everything will be okay soon. Don’t worry about a thing,’ my wife says as I sit there in the cold. I take Clarence’s hand and feel his pulse.

As I look up to Joanna, she continues talking to the old woman, her eyes still focused on me and my brother she just shot.

‘Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. Can you help me out?’

‘You know there’s no refunds on my services, right?’ the old woman replies calmly and appears to be unmoved by what just passed on her doorstep.

‘I know, I’ll pay you. Just… help me out.’

‘Alright then. I’m not going to take care of that body though.’

‘Understood.’

‘Just give me one second,’ she says while turning around to shuffle back inside. I slowly get on my feet and want to run away, run to the car to drive away and find a way to call the police, but as soon as I stand up straight, Joanna points her gun at me.

‘Please don’t run,’ she says coldly, with a slight tremble in her voice.

‘Found it!’ the woman shouts from inside the building. She shuffles back to the door and holds up her arm. ‘It’s easier to get him inside this way.’

I look at the object she’s holding and as soon as I see the needle in her hand, she jumps forward and smashes the thing in my neck. I drop down on the stairs, next to my brother.

Darkness takes me…

8.

My head… I want to hold my head and try to pressure away the headache, but I can’t move my arms. What is this? I slowly open my eyes and try to make out objects in the room. I look to my left and I manage to identify some cutting tools. To the right of me is a chair. I know this room.

‘Don’t hate me for this, please.’

‘Who said that?’

The high pitched beep is still rushing through my ears as I try to recognize the voice. I lift my head to look around the room. My vision is getting clearer by the second. At the end of the table I’m strapped onto I see a familiar face.

‘Joanna? What’s going on?’

‘I never wished for this to happen… I just wanted you to love me more,’ she says while her eyes start tearing up. She still has the gun in her hand and she’s shuffling around on the spot uncomfortably.

‘What did you do to me?’

She walks to the side of the table. She grabs my hand and talks.

‘I wanted you to love me more. You never loved me enough. You had so much love to give to everything and everyone in life. But not to me…’

I look in her eyes which are tearing up.

‘Why did you make me do this?! Why did you hate me?!’ she suddenly yells at me with a touch of hysteria in her voice. She throws the gun on the floor and clenches her hands around the edge of the table.

‘What did you do to me? And what did I do?’

She looks away from me and smirks. ‘What did you do? Do you hear yourself?’

She drops down on her knees next to the table and holds my hand while cracking her neck: ‘I… never got the feeling that you truly appreciated me. I… did everything for you. But why would you hate me then?’

‘I never hated you…’ I tell her.

‘Yes you did! You did so often! Of course you will never admit it!’ she shouted.

I look at her, and she just stares right back at me. I don’t know what’s going on anymore. I don’t even recognize her like this. A silence rushes through the room for minutes. I don’t dare to breathe too loudly or say anything. Joanna tries to hold back more tears while she keeps looking at my hand which she still hasn’t let go of.

Suddenly the sound of a door opening tears up the silence and both of us turn our heads towards the door. We all know who’s entering the room. The same shady old character that’s been creeping me out for a long time. She stands still in the doorway.

‘Shall we?’ she says.

‘Yes. Yes, help me out,’ my wife says to her.

The old woman moves around the room slowly while she starts talking. My body goes completely numb from seeing the figure this close to me, especially now that I can’t defend myself or run.

‘An interesting one, this guy. I got years of experience with this kind of stuff. I even reconstructed my own body and face. But thousands of operations on my resume and I’ve never ever seen a case like this before. I mean… did I mess up? I might’ve.’

She rushes towards me after speaking and bends over me, taking my head in her hands, examining it.

‘Yes… I think I might’ve messed up this time. But, accidents happen. Mistakes happen. I’m human after all. Well, 40% human, 60% plastic and chemicals,’ she says with a grin while turning her head to look at my wife.

‘What did you do to me…’ I ask her.

My wife gets up and walks back to the end of the table. The old woman turns back to look at me, breathing heavily. She still doesn’t let go of my head.

‘You see that woman over there? She is the most messed up human I’ve seen in a long time. She tells me that you don’t love her enough. I tell her that she could be right. Or wrong. Whatever she wants to hear, that’s exactly what I will tell her. She comes to me and asks me if I could mess things up in your brain. She asks me to screw up the way you feel about things. Basically, she wanted me to make you love her more.’

‘Is this true?’ I look at my wife. She stands at the end of the table, and nods. She then rises her hand and slowly gives a thumbs up, combined with an awkward smile. The old woman forces my gaze back on her.

‘It didn’t turn out too well for you, I guess. Instead of making you love her more, I apparently accidentally ended up destroying your ability to recognize acceptance and love from others. You didn’t even know how to express your own feelings that remained anymore. All that was left was a destroyed self-esteem and even self-hatred. Oops.’

I keep listening to the woman, unable to reply to her. Her hands are still wrapped around my head, the only part of my body that’s not strapped down. She continues talking.

‘She was supposed to get a husband that had nothing but love to give to her. However, at what cost…’

I find the courage to ask her another thing…

‘Why were you haunting my dreams? You terrorized me for weeks, you wore me down until I had nothing left to live for. You followed me everywhere. You even tried to choke me to death tonight.’

She falls silent for a short while. I can hear Joanna sobbing softly in the background.

‘That’s interesting. That wasn’t my intention at all. I just receive the money and do my work. You didn’t tell me that I was involved in his dreams and hallucinations,’ she says while letting go of my head and turning towards my wife.

‘I didn’t know it was you,’ Joanna says.

She turns to face me again.

‘I suppose you don’t remember waking up during my little experiment?’

‘I don’t. But I dreamt about this room before. I couldn’t remember where I had seen it. But now I do remember. I also remember the first time I saw your face,’ I reply to her.

‘Yes… Interesting. It seems your destroyed self-esteem and inability to recognize acceptance took the form of the one person you saw, the moment they were being triggered.’

‘Which was you…’

‘Interesting,’ she says again.

Everything that has happened in the past weeks is rushing through my head. I lay silent, simply staring at the ceiling, trying to collect my thoughts and organize them. But it’s no good. My mind is completely numb.

‘Time for me to fix things,’ the old woman says.

‘Can you make sure he doesn’t remember anything from what happened?’

‘That won’t be easy, but I’ll see what I can do.’

‘Everything will be okay, sweetie,’ my wife assures me. I don’t respond to her.

‘I don’t expect you to forgive me. I only expect you to love me even more when this is all over.’

My wife is insane. Still I can’t blame her. I’m not even mad at her. I should be, but I’m not. After all, I do love her a lot. I close my eyes and realize that they did in fact achieve the goal of their previous experiment on me. I feel another sting in my neck and I let the darkness take me again.

9.

‘Jeff! Wake up!’

I open my eyes and notice that my face is stuck to the car window. My wife is looking at me from her seat while I rub the sleep out of my eyes. I sit up straight and greet her.

‘Hey sweetheart.’

‘Hi darling,’ my wife replies, ‘I didn’t want to wake you, but we just got home. You slept so long.’

‘Did I? What time is it?’ I ask her as I look around, trying to remember why we’re in the car.
Joanna looks at her wrist watch and tells me its 10 AM in the morning. She smiles at me and I smile back at her.

‘That was quite the night out for you. You got so drunk that I almost had to carry you back to the car. Good thing I was the designated driver,’ she says, laughing.

‘Oh damn, that’s embarrassing. I can’t remember anything from last night. You’re the best, though! I don’t think there’s any wife better than you.’

‘Oh sweetie, you’re just saying that. Come on, let’s go inside.’

I step out of the car. There’s a cold wind rushing around outside which gives me the chills. I close the car door but before I slam it shut I see something on the rear seat. It’s a small piece of crumpled paper. I take it and unfold it.

I read through it and I can’t help but nervously laugh at the little note.

‘Hey Joanna! Check this out! I found a weird note.’

She stands beside me and reads the text that’s written on it as well.

‘Isn’t this your handwriting, dear?’

She takes the piece of paper out of my hand and looks at it.

‘Indeed it is. It doesn’t matter though, just forget you even found it. You’ll do that for me, won’t you?’

‘Sure. Anything for you. Let me get our coats though, are they in the trunk?’ I reply and I walk towards the trunk of the car.

‘No! No no no! Leave our coats in the car. Don’t open the trunk, I will take care of it,’ Joanna urges me. She grabs my arm and playfully pulls me towards the house. She opens the door and I take off my shoes.

‘For the life of me, I can’t remember the last time I slept this well,’ I say to her before I close the door behind us.

Credit To – TvanK

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The Shredder Monkey – Part 3

June 19, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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This is part three of a three-part series. Please visit The Shredder Monkey Series tag to see the previous installments!

Blog Entry: September 21st, 2014

I’m feeling a little better today. I slept until two in the afternoon yesterday, then stayed in my room and watched Breaking Bad on Netflix until I fell asleep again. So now it’s Sunday morning, and I’m looking at the world with a clear head. Which is a bit ironic. Because the dream I had on Friday night was anything but sanity-confirming.

I was in the maze again. You know the drill – warm air, blue sky, dry yellow grass as far as the eye can see. I could see the rusty sheet-metal shack, but it was far in the distance.

I was calm, and I was lucid. I knew I was dreaming. I had to take a psychology class at Citrus, and we talked about how some people are capable of controlling their own subconscious thoughts. This place, this maze, was all a construct of my own imagination.

Then something spindly and grey grasped my shoulder and spun me around.

I was face-to-face with the monster.

The thing balanced itself on the three warty balls attached to the spider-like appendages that extended from its midsection. Its cylindrical body extended lengthwise and tilted so the stress-ball blob was near the ground and the tentacles hung from its tail end like hair, dripping slime. Its three spherical eyes betrayed neither emotion nor intention.

“Greetings,” the thing said. “What are you called?”

Its voice was pleasant but mindless, reminiscent of the automated recording reads you back your account number when you call the bank. I then noticed that the monster had acquired a new accessory – what appeared to be a fuzzy grey scarf wrapped around the intersection of its pipe-shaped body and jelly-filled head (its neck?).

And then I realized the thing had spoken to me in English.

“What the… who are you? What do you want?”

“Do not be afraid,” the robot-voice chirped. “I am here to advise you. Forgive the curtness of my communication. My body cannot produce your language. The filter I am forced to adorn may be unfamiliar to your species.”

I guessed the “filter” was the fuzzy scarf.

“Um… okay,” I responded. “Um… what’s your name?”

It whistled something that sounded like “Fifi.”

“Okay… Fifi,” I said cautiously, “what’s your advice?”

“You are like myself. You have the ability to climb through planes.”

Huh?

“There are an infinite number of them. Every time you make a decision, another is created in which you decided the opposite. Billions of planes, all stacked on top of each other.”

“Oh!” I got it. “Like alternate dimensions. String theory. I’ve heard that one.”

“You’ve climbed into another plane before. It was like your own, but not.”

“I don’t think…” I started to say, then realized Fifi was right. My dream. The one where I’d driven home drunk and killed some bicyclist and was supposedly in jail.

“You felt weak and ill after, am I correct?”

“Yes,” I murmured, my brain suddenly a wet rag. “I… I had a dream. I was throwing up after and almost had to go to the hospital. You mean I… I traveled to another dimension?”

“Yes. Climbing is difficult on the corporeal form. It is more difficult the farther you go from your own plane. The place you traveled to was barely several billion away. On my plane, capable climbers are trained since we are small things.”

“Your plane?” I asked. “You mean, you live in another dimension?”

“My plane is untold quadrillions away from yours. Tens of billions of years ago an asteroid ricocheted off a newborn star. My plane is the eventuality of that asteroid travelling north. Yours is the eventuality of it travelling south.”

“Your plane,” I repeated. “Is that… are we there now?”

“No. This is a space between the planes. It is a dangerous place. That is why I constructed this labyrinth.”

“Wait, this stupid invisible maze was you?” I cried. “So, you’ve been chasing me through it for weeks?”

“It was difficult to trap both of our corporeal forms at once. You continuously vanished.”

“No, you kept on disappearing,” I argued. “And why are you trying to keep me in here anyways?”

“Not keep you in. Keep him out.”

My anger dematerialized, replaced by ice-cold panic. I knew who “him” was. I glanced around nervously.

“He is not here,” Fifi droned pleasantly. “He is a dark thing, a creature who wishes only destruction. He comes from a plane far, far below all the others. In my world we call it ‘Shish-vojes,’ and it is where we say evil beings are trapped after their natural life ends.”

“He’s a demon,” I whispered, feeling my pulse quicken and my palms grow moist. “We call that place he comes from ‘Hell.’”

“This is one of the places he lurks,” Fifi continued. “He constructed the square box. He offers attractive sustenance to climbers who wander into this space, while their bodies are in a state of unconsciousness.”

“He…I was there once!” I stammered. “I dreamed I bought some cereal! He’s the monkey!”

“He takes many forms. You consumed his fruit. This allowed him to intertwine your consciousness with his, allowed him to find you and follow you. Which he has been doing.”

“Yeah!” I said excitedly. “I found a stuffed animal that looked just like him!”

“The object was a token. An assertion of ownership, to deter others of his kind. But he could not claim you as his prize yet, as he was not yet strong enough to take corporeal form on your plane. Instead, he took possession of a weak mind.”

“Mr. Gaffigan!” I should have been afraid, but I felt as though my brain were on fire. “He… he was a confused old man. The monkey possessed him. He wrote on his walls.”

“The symbols were not him. That was myself. I followed the trail he left, took control over the same feeble consciousness. I could not stay there for long, as my strength was limited and the body attached to the mind I occupied was expiring due to the pressure of housing him. I should have been aware you do not understand my symbolic language.”

“Why did you care?” I demanded of her (him?). I was immediately ashamed of the nastiness in my voice. But if Fifi was offended at all, she (he?) hid it well.

“We nearly met inside the square box, when we were both small things. My elders had told me to stay away from this place, and to never consume anything offered to me here, but I had become curious. I saw you and tried to deter you, but I could not retain my corporeal form.”

I remembered the footsteps I had heard that day, the slamming door. I could see all of the strange products sold in the sheet-metal snack shop, all in different languages, all unrecognizable. The demon-monkey wanted to cast a wide net, lure children from all dimensions by offering them sweet, tasty things featuring their writing, familiar to them. This was all madness, fantasy, a fever dream. But somehow, for the first time in weeks, my life made sense. I was scared. But knowing what I was up against made me feel a little bit more powerful.

“So,” I asked Fifi, “this demon monkey thing wants to kill me or eat my soul or something.”

“He wants your essence,” Fifi dictated emotionlessly. “And he is very powerful. Stronger than any climber. Eventually, he will break through and take physical form in your world.”

“He already has. I saw the thing. How do I stop him?”

I noticed the sky above me had paled. My surroundings were blending together into a pixilated haze, I could no longer determine the point where yellow became blue. I was looking directly at Fifi, but she (let’s go with ‘she’) was melting into a grayish blob, as though I were looking at her through a camera and fiddling with the focus. I was waking up. No fucking way.

“Fifi!” I cried desperately. “How do I stop it?”

The haze became a filmy cloud. I was no longer in the field, but falling down some foggy, sense-defying pipe, and Fifi’s outline had become the sort of static, color-less shape you see when you close your eyes.

“You must climb,” her answering-machine voice echoed.

And then I was staring at stucco and light was streaming in through the blinds and my alarm clock was wailing.

Last night, I didn’t dream.

I’m glad I decided to keep this blog. I’m sure I’d have gone crazy if I didn’t have some outlet to organize my thoughts. And now, if I can’t chase down Fifi again, I’ve got to learn how to exorcise the Demon Shredder Monkey all by myself.

Yeah, I’m aware of just how Harry Potter fan-fiction that last sentence sounded. Maybe I am actually going crazy. But given the choice between looking like a nut job and getting eaten by that purple thing, I’ll take crazy any day.

Blog Entry: September 23rd, 2014

I started wearing a crucifix around my neck yesterday. And there’s a bible at the bottom of the backpack I take to work. I’m not sure whether or not the Shredder Monkey is scared of religious iconography, but it’s worth a shot.

I saw him again.

We were waiting outside MacArthur Dialysis at around five, waiting for Diem Phan to finish clotting. I was in the ambulance alone; Cisneros had gone inside to use the restroom. The rig was idling, the radio was on and, for some reason, I felt eyes on me. I looked behind me, through the back window.

His purple, plush face was pressed against the window.

It was the closest I’d ever seen the thing, and I was made aware of little details I’d have rather remained ignorant to. His purple fur was not monochromatic, like that of the stuffed monkey I’d tossed in the attic. It was matted, dirty, caked with grime. His red nose was comparable to a dog’s snout; leathery, warted, dripping greenish mucus. And his fiery eyes were neither plastic beads nor emotionless spheres like Fifi’s. I could make out whitish rings, black pupils staring at me, alight with twisted mirth.

He was enjoying this.

I stared back, too terrified to scream. The bright red, fleshy nostrils flared, steaming up the window, obscuring my view. Then, words began to appear, letters backwards. The thing was writing something in the fogged window, like a kid on a cold morning.

NWODR EH GARD from his vantage point.

DRAG HER DOWN from mine.

Then I heard a snap; the door opening. I screamed. Cisneros yelped and stumbled, catching himself on the driver’s side door. He didn’t even bother asking me what’s wrong. He just gave me that same look I’m starting to seriously despise.

Blog Entry: September 24th, 2014

No monkey sightings today. I was on edge all day long, eyes darting like a crazy person, jumping at any unexpected sound. I know he’s messing with me. That’s why he left me that message on the fogged-up mirror.

Whatever. He’s playing games, I’m figuring out how to get rid of him for good.

Remember how I said my parents keep everything in the attic?

I went up there today after work. I dug through box after box. Baby clothes, Jose’s old soccer trophies, photo albums, sheet music from the two years I played the cello in middle school. My clay model of San Juan Capistrano Mission, what was left of Jose’s foam board poster depicting the process of photosynthesis. Third grade, second grade, first grade… and then I found what I was looking for.

In a forgotten manila folder at the bottom of a water-stained box labeled KIDS 1997, I found a cache of crayon drawings signed Ariana. My suspicions were justified. A small child, guided by her imagination, unfettered by logic or rationality, could have travelled to places her older self would be kept from.

One depicted a red house (ours is brown) and a family of six – Mama, Papi, Jose, Ari, Noemi, and Roberto. Once, years after I’d drawn the picture and forgotten about it, my mom told me she and my dad had considered having more children, then decided against it. There were a whole bunch of those – crayon Ariana playing with people I’d never met, in front of houses and schools and parks I’d never been. And some of the people were weird. They had eyes in the wrong place, or noses that were too big, or too many arms or legs or fingers.

The Shredder Monkey knows how to find me here. If I can climb out of this dimension, like I did when I was a little girl, he’ll lose my trail. And then… I’m not quite sure of the “and then” part yet. Maybe he’ll forget about me. Maybe he’ll get bored and retreat back to his sad little sheet-metal squatter’s nest, better luck with the next unfortunate dream-traveler. Maybe some being in whatever plane I’ll end up in can teach me how to fight back. Maybe.

I closed my eyes. I tried to think about nothing. Allowed myself to forget all my little daily worries, forget where I was, dissolve all of my thought processes, focus on the neon shapes dancing in the blackness, flickering and folding and combining and breaking apart and coming together again.

Then the blackness faded to grey and the neon dulled to primary colors and the shapes took definite form. I was sitting on something soft and the air around me was warm and pleasant. The grey lightened into dingy white, and details revealed themselves. A pink dollhouse, complete with little wooden figures. A bookshelf, plush dolls littering brown shag carpet. A pink Barbie mirror mounted on the wall, reflecting my tired face rimmed with frizzed hair. I was in a child’s bedroom.

I heard voices, coming from outside the open door. Nervous, I jumped to my feet. I hadn’t thought of how I would explain my presence in some random kids’ room. Two little blonde girls barged in – twins, from the looks of them. They stopped and stared at me, wide-eyed.

Then the pastels and dingy white walls started to blur, and the floor dematerialized under me, and everything started to spin. The last thing I registered before my cold, hard attic floor was a child’s voice.

“Mommy! Mommy! There’s a lady cop in my room!”

This is good. This is really good. I saw myself in the mirror. The kid saw me, all of me. My blue uniform does resemble a police officer’s. I climbed into an alternate dimension. Now all I’ve got to do is figure out how to stay there.

******

E-mail from: Michael Wyzeki, Editor-in-Chief, Scientific Fringe Magazine
To: Ian Koros

Ian –

Thank you so much for this fascinating piece of work!

I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of doing a bit more research, trying to find out who this “Ariana Gomez” is and how her blog ended up attached to a spam e-mail.

As you know, there have been isolated incidents of “travelers” claiming to be from alternate dimensions, but most have been proven false. And, after my extended attempts to contact the young woman responsible for this blog, I was ready to declare your account the same.

I contacted Citrus College in Glendora, and they kindly allowed me to look over their enrollment records for the past 10 years. In that time period, twelve women with the name “Ariana Gomez” attended the school. Via social media, I was able to open a dialogue with all twelve. All denied any association with the blog. None had ever worked as an EMT.
Then, I searched for a young man with the surname “Cisneros.” This was more fruitful – I found the Facebook page belonging to a Benjamin Cisneros, aged twenty-three, employed as an EMT with a small ambulance company. He was cooperative, and even met with me once in Pasadena. He has spiked hair and a mustache.

Cisneros was able to corroborate much of her story. He does work with a dispatcher named “Mary” and a lanky teenager, “Charlie Green.” The name “Henry Gaffigan” was unfamiliar to him. However, he transports a patient with similar symptoms (though this man is still alive).

But he’d never known a girl named Ariana Gomez.

I let him look over a hard copy of the blog entries you sent me. He was visibly spooked. In his words:

“This is really creepy. I mean, I have no idea who this chick is. But reading that stuff, what she wrote, I almost feel like I remember some of it. Like déjà-vu. I imagine a face, hear a woman’s scream, but it’s impossible. None of it ever happened.”

Then, two days ago a friend of a friend’s sister found this posted on a Persian cat enthusiast discussion board. Since everyone who knows me knows I can’t resist an internet mystery, it ended up in my hands:

This is ariana Gomez ariana Gomez can you see this please? Please? The shredder monkey got me I tried to climb again same as before, but the colors behind my eyes formed his face and then he was right there in front of me His face split open and became a mouth and all that was there was a dark hole and I fell down the hole and when I woke up I was gone and no one could see me and I didn’t have a reflection and im not in any of the pictures in my house just my mom and dad and Jose and all my stuff is gone from the house I’m typing on a laptop I found now but the screen is all white and I have no idea if anyone can read this or where its going or if im even typing or how long this will last becase sometimes I cant touc thin

So, Ian, I’m inclined to come to one of two conclusions:

Conclusion #1: we’re both victims of an unsettling hoax. Or,

Conclusion #2: Ariana Gomez is real. Was real. She became the victim of a demon dressed like a giant purple monkey. The Shredder Monkey… deleted her. Made it so she never existed. Or maybe, the monkey ate her entire dimension, leaving her disembodied consciousness stranded in another dimension, one in which she was never born. Maybe our dimension. Either way, all that’s left of her is breadcrumbs – the message on the Persian cat discussion board, Cisneros’ deja-vu, and the blog.

Oh, and speaking of her blog, can you e-mail me the text again? The file somehow disappeared from both my hard drive and my inbox, and I think I misplaced the hard copies as well.

Sincerely,
– Mike

Credit To – NickyXX

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The Shredder Monkey – Part 2

June 18, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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This is part two of a three-part series. The final installment will be posted tomorrow; alternatively, you can track The Shredder Monkey Series tag for new updates.

Blog Entry: September 9th, 2014

Henry Gaffigan is dead.

Cisneros and I hadn’t been sent for him since the night he spoke, and I was thankful for that. Until yesterday. We were supposed to take him from Sunshine Convalescent to San Gabriel Kidney Center; as soon as his name appeared on our pager, my blood turned to ice. I’m pretty sure I was physically shaking as we walked through the door, but we didn’t even get to his room before one of the snotty, normally inattentive nurses caught us. Mr. Gaffigan passed last night. For no apparent reason, his blood pressure dropped, and his family had a DNR order in place.

Normally, I wouldn’t have found this revelation particularly shocking. He was old and sick, and Sunshine has a reputation for handing out the wrong meds. But Cisneros had to use the restroom, leaving me outside what had been Henry Gaffigan’s room. Not thinking, I looked through the little window in the door, directly at the wall beside what had been Henry Gaffigan’s bed. There were little pictures on the wall, done in black ink.

“I think it was the roommate,” the nurse told me. “Mr. Gaffigan definitely didn’t have the motor skills for art.”

But I wasn’t so sure.

Because I’d seen that arrangement of straight lines and triangles before. Long ago. On that strange CHALK chocolate bar.

What the fuck, guys? What’s going on?

Blog Entry: September 12th, 2014

Woke up at noon today. My mom said she’d called my boss and told him I was sick; I looked like I needed the sleep. She probably had a point. I haven’t been sleeping well the last week or so. Not since Henry Gaffigan spoke to me, and especially not since he died.

I keep on having this same dream, over and over again. I’m running through a maze and, whenever I think I’ve found the way out, I hit a wall and have to start over again. Except the walls aren’t really walls; they’re invisible, and I can’t touch them. But somehow, I know when I can’t go any farther. The only thing I can see is a dry, golden field, extending infinitely in all directions. Above my head, the sky is sunny and cloudless. I think it’s warm there.

So I run around, following these invisible passageways, and I’m nervous because I know someone is following me. I can’t see them. But I hear whispering, high-pitched and singsongy, like one of those recorders I used to play in third-grade music class. I can’t quite make out what’s being whispered. It might not even be English, or Spanish, or any other language I’ve ever heard. And sometimes that pipe-ish whispering is accompanied by a rustling in the grass, like the footsteps of a cat. I whirl around, but the whispering and footsteps automatically cease, and I’m staring at dead air.

Last night, I felt something reaching for me, jostling my hair. It couldn’t have been the wind, because the grass in front of me didn’t move.

Filled with an indescribable sense of dread, I ran faster. The footsteps behind me grew louder, loud enough for me to notice their three-beat, waltz-like rhythm. And the whispering became a hum, then a melody, and finally an entire wind section – the urgent, cascading notes echoing off the invisible walls around me. And something clasped my shoulder.

Something spindly, grey, scaly, tough, and covered with coarse black hairs.

But, when I whirled around to face the owner of that horrific appendage, I saw nothing but dirty white-and-grey bumps. My stucco ceiling, streaked by the light of the midday sun.

Blog entry: September 17th, 2014

I think I’m going crazy. That must be it; I haven’t had nightmares since I was a little kid but, all of a sudden, I’m waking up dizzy and nauseous from an impossibly lucid dream.

Right after I wrote my last blog entry, I drove to CVS and picked up a box of sleeping pills. When I was in kindergarten and woke up screaming, crying, and puking four times a week, and my mom told me she solved the problem by giving me a spoonful of cough syrup before bed. Apparently she’d gone about things the right way; one pill made me sleep like a baby. Until last night. I had the box on my nightstand, but I wanted to stay up a bit to finish Section 3 of the UC Irvine online application.

Next thing I knew, it was the morning. I’d woken up and showered, and was walking from my car to the station. I mean, I assumed I’d woken up and showered and drove to work, because there I was, on the sidewalk and in my uniform. I opened the door and walked past the dispatch booth to grab my time card, and the dispatcher – a chick named Mary – gasped.

“Gomez!” she cried. “What are you… how did you…”

“What’s wrong?” I asked, interrupting her babbling. “I start at eight. Did Langdon change the schedule again without telling me?”

“But…” Mary stammered, “but… you don’t work here. The police said… why are you out of jail?”

Jail? Huh? Mary’s always been a little ditzy, but her shock and confusion were sincere.

“Are you smoking something?” I laughed. “I was here yesterday.”

But apparently, Mary wasn’t trying to be funny. In one fluid movement, she shut and locked the door to the dispatch booth. Through the thin walls, I could hear her dialing a number on her phone. Thoroughly mystified, I checked the printed copy of the schedule that Langdon, my supervisor, always tapes up on the wall.

08:00 – 16:00, Unit 51: Cisneros, Green.

Heartbeat quickening, I scanned the numbers and names. The date was correct: September 17th, 2014. But there were some definite differences between this schedule and the one I glanced over yesterday. I didn’t recognize some of the names – Jardiel? O’Rourke? Lang? – and a few names were missing. Including mine.

“Gomez?”

I turned around. Cisneros was standing behind me. Except, he looked different. He was sporting a neat goatee and moustache, his longish black hair pulled back in a knobby ponytail. Yesterday, he was clean-shaven with a buzz cut.

“Gomez… Ari… what the fuck?” He, like Mary, was looking me as though I’d sprouted another head.

“What’s going on?” I demanded, my voice trembling. “Why am I not on the schedule?”

“Um…” he frowned, taking a step back. “Ari, I miss you and all, but I don’t think Langdon’s going to give you your job back. How are you even here? I mean, the newspaper said you were going away for eight years.”

“Eight years? What newspaper? What the fuck is going on?”

Cisneros took another step back. The front door opened, and I heard heavy footsteps. Charlie Green – all six foot four of him – stepped out of the hallway. There was a scream from the dispatch booth, and Mary came charging out, wide-eyed and hysterical.

“Grab her!” she screamed to the guys. “Lock her in the office!”

Before I knew what was happening, she was clasping my wrists behind my back. Cisneros froze. Green barreled towards me, shoving Cisneros out of the way, and then I was looking at the world upside down and backwards as he picked me up, swung me over his shoulder and dropped me unceremoniously on the floor of Langdon’s office. He slammed the door, and I heard the lock click.

I stood up and lunged for the phone on Langdon’s desk, desperate to contact my parents or Jose or my best friend or anyone else who could explain the discrepancy between the world I’d fallen asleep in and the one I’d woken up to. Then I saw a newspaper headline, popping out from under a pile of billing printouts. It was an article cut out of the Los Angeles Times, dated August 20th.

“Former EMT Sentenced to Eight Years for Drunk Driving Death.”

Yesterday (the article stated), Ariana Gomez, 22, of Duarte was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter.

It went on to describe her crime – on January 5th, 2014, at 12:45am, she’d made a right turn through a red light at the intersection of Foothill and Rosemead in Pasadena, on the way to the freeway, heading home after attending a house party. She’d struck a bicyclist – Adam Yen, 20, of Arcadia – killing him instantly. Her blood alcohol level was 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit.

I read the article twice, and then I lost my restraint, and then I screamed and screamed until my throat burned and my knees buckled, and I fell back onto Langdon’s chair and missed. I fell down, down… the world spun… then blackness… then the sound of the door opening, and Green’s voice…

“Where the fuck did she go?”

And then I was staring up at stucco peaks and valleys, eyes burning. My bedside lamp was on, and my laptop was open on my pillow. I rolled over and checked the time. 6:18. Twelve minutes until my alarm went off. My right arm ached, and my head throbbed. I turned to the side and puked all over the floor. I swung my legs over the side of my bed and tried to stand, but as soon as I shifted my balance the room began to spin, and then I was staring at the stucco again, drenched in cool sweat, too weak to move.

I don’t know what’s going on. That was the weirdest dream I’ve ever had in my life. I mean, it didn’t even feel like a dream. I was at the station. I was talking to my partner. I could feel Mary’s hands on me. And the lucidity of it all wasn’t even the strangest part.

I had been at a party in Pasadena on January 4th, my friend Caitlyn’s birthday. And I had thrown back a few PBRs, but I could talk straight and walk a line and thought I was okay to drive home around midnight.

But I hadn’t driven home.

I’d had second thoughts. I’d taken off my shoes and fallen asleep on Caitlyn’s couch, then woke up nine hours later with drool running down my chin and Jenny Wong’s ex-boyfriend passed out on my shoulder.

I lay there, on my back on the rug, for the better part of an hour before I had the strength to drag myself into bed. I had to call out of work again, and I’m pretty sure I copped as much of an attitude as I could manage with Mary, who answered the phone.

Hours later, in the shower, I noticed a dark purple bruise on my right shoulder that wasn’t there yesterday. Exactly the sort of bruise I’d have expected if Charlie Green had dropped me on the floor, like he did in my dream.

Blog entry: September 18th, 2014

I’m going crazy. I’m going crazy. The sleeping pills aren’t working anymore. I was back in the maze again last night, blue sky above me and golden field extending in all directions. I was running. This was the right path, I could feel it. I could find my way out of the maze, escape the thing chasing me, and then… I don’t know. Find the highway? Hitch-hike? In my dream, I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

But I kept running, in the moment sure my life depended on it. And then I heard the whispers again. The same melodic piping, but it was different today – doleful, haunting. I stopped, and surveyed the area around me. And I noticed I was not alone. In the distance I saw a grayish form, moving slowly though the grass.

Whoever – or whatever – had joined me in my mysterious labyrinth was at least a few hundred yards away, I could not tell whether I was looking at a human or an animal or some sort of machine. The same doleful motif was repeated and, this time, I recognized the gray silhouette as its source.

I ran, down the same path that I sensed would lead me to freedom. My lungs ached, my legs numbed, I could feel sweat beads rolling down my face and neck. Then I glanced to my left, and saw something that nearly stopped my heart, drove me to stumble and fall to my knees in the dead grass.

It was a small shack, square and flat-roofed, covered in rusted sheet metal. No windows, just one wood-and-mesh door. Several burned-out neon signs.

And, standing in front of the building was the most disturbing, hideous sight I have ever seen. Breathing. Staring at me with bulbous marble eyes. Yelling strange words to me in its shrill, woodwind voice.

Its body was grey and cylindrical, about three feet high, covered in dry, leathery hide dotted with bulging, pus-filled blisters and disparate clumps of coarse black hair. At its base was a tangled network of tentacles, writhing and twisting, glistening, coated with a whitish slime. Extending from its midsection were three appendages, dry and cracking like tree roots, bending at the middle and culminating in a warty ball with five spindly, scaled appendages, covered in sickly black protuberances and tufts of hair. And topping the cylindrical trunk was what appeared to be a clear sac filled with opaque black liquid, bulging and then extending, reshaping itself like a stress ball. Attached to this water-balloon head (head?) were three pure white spheres, unblinking, emotionless, but inarguably fixed on me.

I think I screamed. I attempted to climb to my feet but found myself drained of all strength, and fell backwards, supine in the grass. I could feel the coarse stalks scratching my arms as I collapsed, seeing nothing but blue. And then I felt myself spinning around, still falling, down through the grass and deeper and deeper into the earth, the grey creature’s drilling, flute-like cries pounding in my ears.

The last thing I remember was something staring down at me. A purple sphere of some sort, with a prominent red nose and two tiny green ears. Something reaching out with a long, skinny, purple arm, furry in texture, like a puppet. I couldn’t make out its mouth, but its red eyes flashed gleefully.

Then I woke up, the grayish light of early morning illuminating my room. And then I found myself staring, again, into depthless red eyes embedded in a purple sphere. I imagined one of its long, purple arms reaching for me, and I nearly screamed.

Then I realized it was all just a dream, and I was staring at the stuffed Shredder Monkey sitting on my shelf.

I talked to my dad later. I asked him about that trip to Tahoe years ago, when we stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. He remembered the trip; he even remembered the Goosebumps book I was reading. But he said that we never stopped for gas, that it was cloudy and drizzling the entire drive, and that I slept in the back the entire way.

What is happening to me?

Blog entry: September 19th, 2014

I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep.

I saw it today. I saw the Shredder Monkey.

We were downtown, posting in a ranch market parking lot around Wilshire and Alvarado. I got out to buy a soda, and I looked across the street and it was there. On the sidewalk down the block a ways, just standing there, staring at me.

It’s big, at least as big as a man. From a distance, it looked like one of the guys in character suits at Disneyland. Wide, square body; balancing on these two tiny little skinny legs that shouldn’t be able to support the weight of its bulging body and giant round head. Long, skinny arms – one nearly reaching to the ground, the other extended towards me. All purple, with puke-green, mitt-like hands and feet. A big pink circle on its belly. Blood red eyes. It didn’t move.

I know it was watching me.

So I opened the door and screamed at Cisneros to look, look over there, but thing was gone. I jumped out of the ambulance and ran down the block to the spot I’d seen the giant monkey, between a lamppost and a run-down office offering payday loans.

Nothing. Not so much as a purple hair.

Cisneros gave me this half-pitying, half-mocking face he’s been throwing my way all week. I didn’t tell him about my dream, but he knows something’s up. He keeps on asking me if everything’s okay at home. Apparently, Charlie Green says I have “bitch eyes” now.

I’m scared. I keep on telling myself it’s just my imagination; that it’s the lack of sleep and the stress from work and applying to school getting to me, all mixed together and combined with that stuffed monkey on my shelf, staring down at me while I sleep. I took the thing and threw it in the attic. Maybe that will help.

But even so, it doesn’t change what I saw. I saw the monkey. Just like I heard Henry Gaffigan speak that day, like I saw those markings on the wall, felt Mary’s hands grasping my wrists and the pain shooting from my shoulders to my fingertips when Green dropped me. And maybe I could rationalize and explain it away if it weren’t for the bruise on my shoulder and the scratches on my arms and the maddening memory of that sheet-metal shack and that grey, scaly…

I can’t sleep. I can’t see that thing again. I can’t be in that maze. The pills aren’t working anymore. I’m scared.

Help me.

Credit To – NickyXX

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The Shredder Monkey – Part 1

June 17, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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This is Part One of a three-part series. The next two installments will be posted over the next couple of days; alternatively, you can track The Shredder Monkey Series tag for new updates.

E-mail from: Ian Koros, Contributor, Scientific Fringe Magazine
To: Michael Wyzeki, Editor-in-Chief

Mike,

Several weeks ago, I was presented with a bizarre account I believe you’ll find worthwhile.

A friend of mine first found it. You know those spam e-mails, the ones that sometimes make their way into your inbox? For erectile dysfunction pills, diet supplements, et cetera? Anyways, this friend of mine clicked on the link attached to one of those by accident.

But instead of an advertisement for an erectile dysfunction pill or diet supplement, this one lead to a personal blog kept by a young woman. A girl named Ariana Gomez, apparently. I’ve tried to find this Ariana Gomez on Facebook and Instagram, but so far have had no luck.

My friend forwarded it to me, and I printed out the blog entries. It was a good thing I did, because the link no longer works. I got an error message the second time I clicked on it. And a pretty nasty virus, I should add.
Neither of us could find the picture of the monkey that Ariana Gomez refers to.

Below is the account in its entirety, which I retyped word-for-word from my printout. As to authenticity, you are free to judge for yourself.

Sincerely,
– Ian

*****

Blog entry: September 1st, 2014

Okay. Hi. I’m the girl who put up the picture of the stuffed monkey. You know the one. Squat, squarish torso. Long thin arms; skinny little legs that would never support that bulky, squarish body. Round head with two little ears on top. Purple, with puke-green details and a big pink circle on what’s supposed to be its belly. Red eyes and nose, no mouth. Not sure what’s up with the mouth.

Here’s how it is: this monkey is haunting me. This little cartoon character – the Shredder Monkey, he’s called – has appeared in my life on two completely different incidents, yet has absolutely no presence in pop culture. And then there was that singularly disturbing incident at work with the old man with dementia, and what he said …

Anyways. Lemme start at the beginning.

It was fourteen years ago. I was eight. My aunt and uncle had a timeshare by Lake Tahoe. Every summer, my whole extended family would drive out there for a couple weeks to swim, water ski, barbecue – you know, escape the commute and the suburbs, fun in the sun.

Since other people used the house as well, my dad liked getting an extra day off work and driving out early, just to make sure the place was livable – nothing broken or rotting, no beer bottles or used condoms or dead hookers lying around.

That year, to ease my middle-of-summer boredom, I decided to tag along with him.

So we took off in my dad’s Civic for the eight-hour drive, through an early-summer storm. At some point, I fell asleep in the back seat, lulled by the sound of rain against the window. When I woke up, we were parked outside of a dilapidated gas station.

I opened the door and climbed out. I didn’t recognize the area at all. The rain had stopped; it was warm, and the sky was bright blue and cloudless. The gas station had four pumps and one tiny shack that functioned as a snack shop. There was nothing but fields of tall, yellow grass on all sides.

The snack shop (or whatever it was) looked as though it had been standing since World War II. It was a little place, with walls of rusted sheet metal and one wood and mesh door. No windows. Just three blackened, indecipherable neon signs. My dad stood outside the car, pumping gas. He gave me five dollars to buy food.

The inside of the sheet metal shop was scarcely in better condition than the outside. The fluorescent lights were dim, and dust hung in the air. The white-tile floor was stained and peeling. Two old refrigerators rested against the back wall, stocked with soda and beer. A variety of cigarettes and tins of chewing tobacco were displayed behind the front counter. And there were several shelves dedicated to snack food. Candy, chips, beef jerky, plus more substantial stuff – cans of beans, string cheese (I stayed away), tuna, condensed milk, cereal. All coated in a healthy cover of dust.

I looked around, and realized that I didn’t recognize any of the brands.

A couple examples: CHALK chocolate (at least, I assumed it was chocolate). Something resembling a Snickers bar in a pastel purple wrapper with bright blue lettering. I had no idea what was in it, because the nutrition facts and description of the product were all written in a strange language that resembled Chinese characters mixed with Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
Then, there was some brownish substance in long, skinny plastic packaging. I guessed you tore open one end and squeezed the contents into your mouth, sort of like go-gurt. I didn’t know for sure, however, because the label was in another bizarre written language. Though not the same one. The CHALK characters featured straight lines and triangles, while this writing was squiggly.

Okay.

A little freaked out, I was about to leave. Then I glanced at the cereal display, and noticed one box had English writing on it. SHREDDER SHOCKS. The box was yellow, and the words were red comic-sans. Kid’s cereal. The picture on the front was of a bowl filled with milk and what looked like shredded wheat squares and pastel marshmallows. The marshmallows were in the shape of purple monkeys. On the back were the obligatory kids’ cereal box games, hosted by a large picture of a cartoon monkey in a bamboo (huh?) tree.

You guessed it. Purple, with puke-green paws and circles around its red eyes, big pink circle on its belly. Square body, long arms, proportionately-incorrect legs. No mouth.

There was a circle-shaped maze, and text telling you to “help the shredder monkey find his way to the oasis.” At the upper right corner of the box, the other end of the maze, was a picture of a little cartoon pond, complete with happy-looking fish poking their heads out. Also, there was a word search, with words like “monkey,” “jungle,” “adventure”… you can guess at the rest.

As I examined the colorful box of cereal, I heard a shuffling that could have been footsteps in the next aisle over. Thinking it was my dad, I went to look. But no one was there. Then, there was a “whoosh” and a SLAM!

The mesh door was swinging. There didn’t appear to be anyone behind it, and I was alone. Weird. The wind, I guessed. I took it as a hint that I needed to get out of there as soon as possible.

I was hungry, and extremely untrusting of the inexplicably-labeled foodstuffs I’d seen, so I decided to take my chance with the Shredder Shocks. I grabbed the box, went up to the counter, and paid the cashier. I don’t exactly remember what the guy looked like. I think the cash register he used was a manual one. I exited the store with my snack, climbed back in the car, and a minute later my dad and I were back on the road to Tahoe.

The cereal was pretty good. Kinda like Lucky Charms and Shredded Wheat Thins mixed together. I ate handfuls until I was bored of it, then amused myself with the games on the back. Which were uncharacteristically hard.

I mean, you guys all remember the word searches and mazes on the back of cereal when you were a kid. They’re made for kindergarteners. Kindergarteners with IQ’s approaching two digits. But this maze I couldn’t solve. I must have tried for half an hour. It was weird; I could see the entrance, I could see the exit. There was a clear path leading to and from each, but the paths didn’t connect.

And the word search was utterly impossible. I decided it must be a misprint. I tried to work it out on a blank sheet of paper in the back of the Goosebumps book I was reading, but all I found was the same patterns of letters, repeated over and over again.

GARD
NWODR
EH

Confused and frustrated, I tossed the box and my book aside and curled up for a nap. When I awoke, we were in Tahoe. At some point while I was asleep, the blue sky had clouded over. Distracted by the bustle of moving stuff through the puddles into the house, cleaning up, and picking out my room, I forgot all about the cereal box. Nor did I think about it at all once my mom and my brother Jose and my cousins showed up, nor while we were swimming or barbecuing or camping. And, two weeks later, when we drove home, the box was no longer in my dad’s car.

On the way home, we didn’t pass the strange, dilapidated gas station.

Fast forward nine years.

It’s 2009, I’m seventeen. A senior in high school. I’m at a toy store in the mall, looking for a first birthday present for my cousin’s baby.

As any parent (or aunt or older sister) knows, walking through the stuffed animal aisle in of a chain toy store is a little bit like walking through Disneyland while tripping on acid. Lots of colors, lots of cute, a little terrifying. I was between Pokemon and Pillow Pets when I saw it fall and land right in my path.

It was a stuffed monkey. A purple and pink and green stuffed monkey, with a bulky square body and dangly little legs. Red eyes, red nose, no mouth.

I picked the little guy up. I had no idea where he’d fallen from, and I couldn’t find any others that looked like him. Confused, I flagged down an employee.

“That’s strange,” she said. “I’ve never this stuffed animal before. I don’t think he’s one of the ones we carry, maybe some kid left him behind.”

She ended up letting me have him for free. I don’t know how she would have charged me otherwise; he didn’t have any tags. So I took the stuffed monkey home and kept him in my room. The Shredder Monkey, it had to be. The same monkey as on that bizarre box of cereal I’d bought from that bizarre gas station nine years before. That bizarre cereal I’d never found again.

I’d looked for Shredder Shocks every week at the local Vons, where I shopped with my mom. They never had it in stock, and none of the clerks I asked had ever heard of the product. And when I Google’d Shredder Shocks, I came up with nothing but dune buggies, RC cars, and some episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

No big loss. The cereal hadn’t been that good. I’d looked for some of the other products I’d seen at that convenience store as well, and found similarly useless results. I’d come to assume that dilapidated gas station only sold poorly-made local merchandise, or brands that had been discontinued.

But, all of a sudden, the Shredder Monkey was back in my life.

I wasn’t scared of it, at least not yet. I showed the stuffed monkey to some of my friends, and then to my little cousins’ friends. No one had ever seen a toy like it, nor witnessed any version of the Shredder Monkey on cereal boxes or cartoon shows or anywhere on the internet. As far as pop culture was concerned, he didn’t exist.

Now, fast forward five more years. To this year. Three days ago.

I work for a small ambulance company out of Glendora. I graduated from Citrus College with my AA, but wanted to take some time off in order to earn money and focus on getting into a good BSN program. Life as an EMT with an inter-facility transport company is pretty easy; 90% of the job is driving bed-ridden, confused old people to and from dialysis.

That night, at around 19:00, my partner Ben Cisneros and I were dispatched to San Gabriel Kidney Center to pick up Henry Gaffigan and take him home to Sunshine Convalescent, a delightful little one-star facility where there’s regularly human feces smeared on the floor. We’d been on since 8:00 that morning and were both starting to drag, but you can’t argue with overtime. So we got there, got the guy on the gurney, and loaded him into the rig when Cisneros realized he’d left our oxygen bag inside. He ran back to get it, leaving me alone in the passenger compartment with Produce Aisle Henry.

A little about Henry Gaffigan.

Henry’s 96 years old and weighs around 90 pounds. He’s got a laundry list of chronic diseases, ranging from anemia to CHF to Parkinson’s disease. Mentally, he’s what we call a/o times 0, which means he can’t tell you his name, where he is, what day of the week it is, or what’s going on. Actually, he can’t talk at all; mostly he just stares at you. His atrophied legs are contracted, his right arm is contracted, and his left arm is ragdoll-limp thanks to his second stroke two years ago. His back is so stiff you can’t even prop him up in a wheelchair. He’s on continuous oxygen and, after dialysis, his BP drops so low that twice we’ve had to call 911 from the Kidney Center.

“Hey, Hank,” I said to him cheerfully. “I’m gonna take your blood pressure real quick, okay?”

He stared at me.

I wrapped our manual blood pressure cuff around his left arm. The dialysis machine had given me a fairly healthy 112/54, but those things love reading high. I put on my stethoscope and distracted myself fiddling with the earpieces. Then I heard the whispering.

“New… od…”

I dropped the stethoscope. No way. But his lips were moving again.

“New… Odor… Eigh..”

The utterance was a gravelly whisper, drawn from atrophied vocal chords unused for God knows how long.

“New…Odor…Eigh…Guard…”

I stared at him, mouth gaping. Henry Gaffigan was non-verbal. We’d taken him to dialysis for three years, he hadn’t uttered a word in all that time.

“Mr. Gaffigan!” I said excitedly. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

Then he sat up.

I wouldn’t even call it “sitting.” It’s more like his body folded at the hips like a hinge. He didn’t support himself with his hands, and his back didn’t arch at all. He just sat straight up, like Dracula out of his coffin in the old black-and-white movies. The nasal cannula attached to his face grew taut, then was pulled from the house nozzle.

Like a puppet’s, his head twisted towards me.

“NEW! ODOR! EIGH! GUARD!” he roared.

His voice was mechanical. Metallic. Like the voice your friend’s voice morphs into when she yells into a steel pipe. And the scariest part was that the jibberish words didn’t seem to be coming from Mr. Gaffigan’s mouth, but from all around me, down from the sky and up from the ground and right in front of my face, all at the same time.

I screamed. In one desperate motion I opened the back door and jumped out of the ambulance, stumbling as I hit the asphalt and nearly falling onto my partner. He was back with the oxygen. As I steadied myself, he frowned at me.

“You okay, Gomez?”

“Mr. Gaffigan… he… he said stuff!” I panted. “Did you… did you hear?”

He gave me a strange look, then climbed into the rig to secure the oxygen bag. He stayed in there a minute, and I heard him repeating Mr. Gaffigan’s name, trying to get his attention. Then, he leaned out the door.

“You sure?” he asked suspiciously. “He looks about normal to me. But you forgot to put him on O2.”

Bracing myself, I climbed into the back with him. Mr. Gaffigan lay motionless on the gurney, exactly how we’d positioned him. The blood pressure cuff still dangled from his left arm. His nasal cannula hung at his side, detached.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared shitless at that point. I let my partner tend to Henry Gaffigan while I drove to the convalescent home, and the old man didn’t do anything else out of the ordinary. He was confused, silent, and quadriplegic, just like every transport before. Was I going crazy? I knew what I’d heard. What I’d seen.

And those words… that jibberish. It wasn’t completely unfamiliar.

As soon as I got home, I wrote down phonetically the syllables Mr. Gaffigan had uttered. (Chanted? Screamed?) It was easy; the terrifying sound was unforgettable.

New, odor, eigh, guard.

I puzzled over it. I repeated the words in my mind, then out loud, over and over again. I allowed them to blend together, gain meaning, lose all meaning. And then I got it.

I still live with my parents. Convenience, mostly; work’s close and they don’t charge me rent. And my parents have a frustrating habit of keeping everything – all my elementary school projects, high school textbooks, and childhood playthings live in moldy cardboard boxes in the attic. Which is where I spent that night, digging through said moldy boxes, until I found the one in which my brother Jose’s and my old books were stacked. Bunnicula, Baby Sitter’s Club, Harry Potter, Beverly Cleary… Goosebumps. Goosebumps number 3, 15, 23, 12, 7, 36…

Bingo. Goosebumps number 9. The book I’d been reading on that long drive to Tahoe, 14 years before. I pawed through the sticky pages until I found the blank one on which I’d written:

GARD NWODR EH

I took the book back to my bedroom, rearranged the words on a sheet of notebook paper, and compared them to the word salad Mr. Gaffigan had spouted.

Nwodr Eh Gard
New. Odor. Eigh. Guard.

What the fuck.

Maybe I am going crazy. Because I’m thinking a confused dialysis patient – a nearly-comatose dialysis patient who doesn’t know his own name – recited to me the meaningless syllables I found in a word search on the back of an obscure cereal box fourteen years ago. A box containing cereal that has, apparently, never existed anywhere except for that dilapidated gas station snack shop.

And that voice. That hollow, metallic voice. Booming from all around me, yet inaudible to my partner, no more than 20 feet away.

I looked up. My eyes rested on the stuffed animal that sat, amongst old dolls and beanie babies, atop my bookcase. The squarish, purple stuffed monkey with green paws and a pink belly. Long thin arms, skinny little legs. Round head, red eyes and nose.

And, even though it had no mouth, I could swear the thing was laughing at me.

Credit To – NickyXX

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