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October 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“Bobby! Pay attention!” he heard his teacher say. He snapped out of his reverie and looked up to see her glaring at him. “Did you hear anything I’ve been saying?” she continued.

Bobby shrugged his shoulders. Prior to being disrupted, he was daydreaming that he could freeze time, and before that he was imagining himself navigating the classroom if he was only 5 inches tall.

The teacher continued to rant at him, just as they all did, then she placed him on detention Friday night after school.

Why is it that schools are so intent on crushing a child’s imagination? What is it about creative kids that piss so many teachers off? They punished him for sketching or writing stories in class. They punished him whenever he slipped into a daydream. His artwork wasn’t the right style for his art teacher; his music was too modern for his music teacher, and he was even forbidden from using mnemonic techniques to revise for exams. Whenever he strayed from their formula and their methods, he was punished and told he would never amount to anything.

At the end of the school day the kids rushed towards the gates, saying goodbye to all their friends and classmates. Nobody said goodbye to Bobby though. They barely noticed him unchaining his bike for the lonely ride home.

As he approached his teens, he was finding it hard to connect with other kids and was used to being excluded. Bobby’s only companion was his diary, in which he confided his thoughts and feelings. Every night before bed, he would make an entry…

Dear Diary,

Another shit day at school. Wandered the playground alone. Picked up another detention Friday night.

On the plus side, there are some great Xbox games coming out this month.


The following day transpired much the same…

Dear Diary,

I hung around the boys in my class today, watching them play football. I thought they were going to ask me to join in, but they just wanted me to fetch the ball. I decided to spend my break time in the library instead.

Got into an argument with mum and dad again. I told them I’m on detention tomorrow night and they threatened to take away my books and Xbox. If they did that my life wouldn’t have much point.


The following day at school Bobby made an effort to focus on his classes. Every time he caught his mind drifting away, he’d try to snap his attention back to the words of the teacher. That lasted all of 15 minutes before he slipped into another daydream.

When the school bell signalled home time for the kids, he made his way to the detention hall. At least here nobody was telling him what to think about. The supervising teacher read a book while Bobby and two other boys stared at the walls until their hour was up. When he was done, he headed outside to unchain his bike. It had started to rain and dark clouds hung in the sky making it feel much later than it was.

Bobby rode his bike along his usual route home, over the wet deserted roads, but before he could reach the home stretch, he noticed a gang of older boys lurking in one of the streets. They looked like trouble so he chose to circumvent them via a patch of wasteland behind the houses. The pavement gave way to a rocky and uneven dirt track at the foot of a tall grass bank. He steered onto the grass to avoid some broken bottles, but it was soft and slippery from the rain. The front wheel slid out of control, throwing Bobby over the handlebars. He landed on his back, knocking the wind out of him.

He appeared not to be seriously hurt, but sat on the ground for a while as he attempted to catch his breath. He was wet and his bike lay in a heap in front of him.

“Are you ok?”

Bobby looked round trying to locate the source of the voice. It sounded like a young girl.

“Is your bike damaged,” she asked. It was coming from the top of the bank, but he couldn’t see who was speaking.

He pulled himself to his feet and started to clamber up towards the unidentified voice. A line of houses backed onto the bank, overlooking the wasteland below. In one of the gardens stood a girl, peering through a wire fence.

“I saw you fall and just wanted to check you were all right,” she said.

“I’m ok…thanks,” Bobby puffed, gasping for breath.

The girl opened the gate and gestured for Bobby to enter. The lawn was overgrown and the house looked run down, but that barely registered in his mind as he laid eyes on the girl in front of him. She had brown hair tied into a pony tail with a red bow that matched her dress; a pale and flawless complexion with pink cheeks, and eyes like droplets of sky. She was beautiful.

Bobby didn’t know what to say. He was out of practice when it came to talking to girls…or to kids in general.

“I left my bike,” he said, standing on the threshold.

“We can bring it up to my garden if you like. We can check it over, make sure it’s safe to ride,” offered the girl. “Come on, I’ll help you.”

The two of them made their way down the grassy bank and wheeled the bike back up to the girl’s garden.

“Err…thanks,” said Bobby.

“That’s fine.”

They checked over the bike, though Bobby was thinking only of the girl he was with. He’d never experienced such kindness from a stranger before.

“I’m Lucy,” she said.

“I’m Bobby.”

“So are we meant to shake hands or something?” she said, reaching out.

Bobby smiled and gently shook her delicate hand.

“Do you have to rush home or do you want to hang out for a while?” she asked. “I can’t invite you in because mother’s asleep, but I know somewhere we can shelter from the rain.”

Bobby checked his watch. “Ok. I have to be home by eight though.”

“Great! Follow me.”

Bobby picked up his bike and wheeled it along as Lucy led the way. They exchanged small talk and he found himself more at ease than he had felt for a long time. They came across a small cove of trees where the branches intertwined to form an overhead canopy.

“It’s not much, but it’ll keep the rain off us. We can sit here,” said Lucy, taking a seat on a log and motioning for Bobby to join her.

He leaned his bike against a tree and sat next to her. “So, do you hang out here a lot?”

“Yes. Sometimes I need to get out of the house. Mother sleeps a lot, you see. She gets really annoyed when I make noise, so I try to keep out of her way.”

“I understand,” Bobby replied, sympathetically. “I have arguments with my parents too.”

“Really? Over what?”

Bobby looked down before saying, “I disappoint them.”

“I’m sure that’s not true.”

“I’m no good at anything and I’m always in trouble at school.”

“Are you one of those bad kids?”

“No, I’m really not. I just can’t concentrate on the classes. They bore me.”

“That’s not so bad.”

“My parents wish they had a normal son who was into sports and did well at school. When I try talking to them about the stuff I’m into or the stories I’m writing, they just roll their eyes,” he said. “Most people just avoid me.”

“I didn’t avoid you, Bobby.” Lucy placed her hand on his as she spoke. He flinched slightly at her touch. She looked at him until he raised his head and their eyes met. “I would love a friend like you,” she added.

Bobby couldn’t repress the smile that stretched across his face. “Do you want to hang out tomorrow?”

“I’d like that. Meet me in my garden around three?”

“Ok,” he agreed.

They continued chatting a bit longer before deciding to head home. Bobby gave Lucy a lift on his bike, dropping her off at her garden before making his way home for the night.

Dear Diary,

I’ve had an amazing day and I think I’ve made a new friend! Her name is Lucy. She’s beautiful and sweet. We really clicked and she gets me. We’re meeting again tomorrow afternoon. I’ll keep you updated.


As arranged, Bobby met Lucy in her garden. She was wearing that same bow and red dress. He noticed it was torn and frayed in a few places, but she looked even more beautiful in the clear daylight. They went for a ride on his bike and he showed off some stunts. She appeared impressed and gave him a round of applause. She explained that she’d never learned to ride a bike, so he decided to teach her, gently guiding her to make sure she didn’t fall. As he placed his hand on her back, he noticed that her dress was damp. Had she not dried it from the rain yesterday? Did she not have any other clothes? he wondered, but he kept his thoughts to himself.


Bobby turned around to see a bunch of on-looking kids. They were shouting out and laughing amongst themselves.

“Freeeak!” they yelled again.

Lucy pulled Bobby aside. “Take no notice. I get it all the time.”

“But, why?”

“It’s because I’m poor and my house is a dump,” she said. “Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed.”

“Freeeeaaaak!” the kids continued.

Bobby had always shrunk away from confrontation, but he found himself tapping into courage he never knew he had. He puffed up his chest and pulled back his shoulders, ready to face them. The kids scurried away nervously.

“Forget about it. They’re just idiots,” she said, tugging at his arm.

Bobby and Lucy returned to their little den in the trees where he allowed his temper to settle. He couldn’t understand why they called her a freak. Aside from the frays and tears on her dress, she didn’t look poor, especially from a distance. He started to wonder if they knew something about her that he didn’t.

They continued talking and discovered a number of interests in common. Lucy loved reading too, but confessed that she didn’t go to school much. When Bobby asked why, she said it was complicated and offered no more. He figured it had something to do with her mother, but decided to drop the subject. They spent the entire afternoon laughing and playing together and forgot all about the incident.

Bobby dropped her off at her garden. He looked up at the house. She was right: it was a dump. He felt so sorry for her. Despite the arguments with his parents, he was always well fed and well dressed and had nice presents at Christmas and birthdays. Maybe one day he could whisk her away.

They stood facing each other for a moment. Their eyes met, but Bobby broke his gaze to check his watch. “Well, it’s getting late. I guess I should get going.”

Lucy leaned in and wrapped her arms around him. “This has been one of the best days of my life,” she whispered into his ear.

“Mine too,” he replied, sincerely.

Bobby peddled his bike home, a smile stretched across his face and a fluttering in his chest.

He met with Lucy again the following day and every night after school.

Dear Diary,

I’m sorry I’ve not written any updates this week. I have been spending a lot of time with my new friend, Lucy. I’ve never met anyone like her before and I can’t stop thinking about her. She’s so caring and when I talk, she actually listens to me. I stop myself sometimes when I think I’m rambling, but she always asks me to carry on and says she finds me fascinating.

I think about her as more than just a friend sometimes. She hugs me and compliments me a lot and it makes me wonder. She had a big argument with her mum last night and cried on my shoulder. We held each other so tightly and just stood there for ages in the rain. She looked up at me with those big blue eyes and I wanted to kiss her so much. I think she wants me to, but I’m scared to ruin what we have.

Something really bothers me though. All the kids keep calling her a freak. It happens whenever they see us together and I don’t understand why. She says it doesn’t bother her, but it must. Why are people so cruel? I notice she wears the same tatty dress every day and I worry that her mom is neglecting her. But I’ve planned a nice surprise for tomorrow.


When they met the next day, Lucy joined Bobby on his bike and they took off along the main road towards town.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“It’s a surprise!”

“I don’t get to go into town any more,” she said. “This is so exciting!”

They arrived at a shopping mall and Lucy seemed overjoyed, mesmerised by the wonders in front of her. They walked round, admiring things in the shop windows and when Lucy pointed out a dress she really liked, Bobby offered to buy it for her.

“That’s the surprise,” he told her. He’d been saving his pocket money for some new games, but the past week he hadn’t even turned on his Xbox.

“What? Really?” Lucy was jubilant. “But I can’t, Bobby. That’s your money…I can’t.”

Bobby insisted and assured her it was what he wanted, so they went inside and bought the dress.

“I’ll wear this for you tomorrow,” she said, and gave him a big hug. “I can’t wait!”

Bobby treated her to something to eat and drink in a fast food place, but the stares they got from the people in there made them very uncomfortable, so they decided to finish their food outside. In fact, they endured a lot of stares in the mall that day, as well as a few giggles and Bobby was sure he heard the word “freak” a few times too. But it wasn’t enough to ruin their day or snap him out of the bliss he felt when they were together. Besides, Bobby secretly hoped that the new dress he’d bought for her would put an end to the name-calling.

When he met her the following day she was wearing the new dress as promised. It was dark purple with lace frills. She had untied her hair too, and it hung freely just below her chin. Bobby was taken aback.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“I love it!” he replied.

That evening they decided to leave the bike behind and go for a stroll over the local park.

“Do you ever dream about your ideal future?” she asked.

“All the time.”

“Do you ever picture yourself falling in love? Or walking hand in hand, taking the dog for a run over the park on a Sunday afternoon then snuggling up on the sofa in the evening, watching movies?”

“I guess so,” Bobby said. The truth is, he’d thought about it a lot, especially since meeting Lucy.

“A girl can dream,” she sighed.

The following ten minutes passed in silence as they walked through the park, taking in the autumnal colours and kicking through leaves. Then he felt Lucy reaching for his hand. He held onto it and they continued walking hand in hand. He felt butterflies in his stomach and in that moment he couldn’t have been happier.

Unfortunately, it was soon to be interrupted.

Three boys, a few years older than Bobby, stood in their path. “Look, it’s the freak!” one of them said.

Bobby released Lucy’s hand and positioned himself between her and the boys. “Leave her alone,” he warned them.

“Is that your girlfriend?” one of them laughed.

“Mind your own business.”

“How about I steal her from you?” the biggest of the boys threatened. “I’ll snap off her head off and use it as a football!” At this point, the boy reached out and grabbed Lucy’s arm. As he pulled her towards him, she fell over.

Bobby snapped. He threw a punch into the larger boy’s jaw, who dropped to the floor in an instant. He then swung at the other boy, catching him on the nose. He felt it crunch on impact and blood spurted out. The remaining boy saw his opportunity and punched Bobby under his eye, but it wasn’t enough to knock him down. Adrenaline rushed through Bobby’s veins as he grabbed him in a headlock and tightened his grip until he screamed for mercy.

“Bobby! Stop!” he heard Lucy say. He looked down to see she was still lying on the floor. He released his grip and all three boys staggered away, defeated and humiliated.

“Fuckin’ freak!” one of them muttered.

Bobby ignored the parting shot and attended to Lucy.

“Are you hurt?” he asked her as he lifted her onto her feet.

“No, I’m fine,” she said. “But your eye…it’s all swollen.” She ran her fingers lightly over Bobby’s face, where he’d caught a punch.

“It’s nothing,” he replied.

Lucy leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you Bobby. Nobody has ever done anything like that for me. You were so brave.”

He blushed.

“By the way, you dropped something,” she said, handing Bobby his watch.

“It must’ve come off in the fight. It’s a good thing you found it! My granddad left it to me when he died and my parents would go crazy if I lost it.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I’ve never had a watch before.”

“Want to try it on?” he offered. “You can wear it until we get back.” He adjusted the strap and fastened it onto her narrow wrist. She held it in the air and flaunted it as though it was some valuable treasure. It was endearing how much she appreciated the little things. Everything about Bobby seemed to impress her.

They continued walking and he noticed she was limping. “I just twisted my ankle a bit, that’s all.”

“I’ll give you a piggy back,” said Bobby, crouching slightly so she could jump on his back. He was surprised at how light she was. He walked her all the way home, right to her door.

“You’ll have a black eye tomorrow,” said Lucy, touching his face again. “What will you tell your mum and dad?”

“I’ll make something up. I’m good at that.”

They lingered for a moment. Their eyes met, only this time neither of them turned away. Bobby glanced down at her tender lips, brushed back her hair and leaned in closely. He kissed her and she reciprocated. He felt his heart pounding.

They gently pulled apart and gazed into each other’s eyes. She started to giggle nervously. “I’ve been waiting for you to do that,” she told him.

Bobby beamed at her. “See you tomorrow,” he said, as he retrieved his bike.

“I can’t wait!” she replied.

He couldn’t stop thinking about her on the way home, about their kiss. He was overcome with euphoria and wanted to greet everyone he passed and announce his happiness to the world. Just over a week ago, he’d meant nothing to anyone and was just some lonely failure. Now he was a hero who had taken on three older bullies and got the girl. Life couldn’t be better.

Her reached the front of his house and went to check the time. “Damn!” Bobby exclaimed, realising he’d forgotten his watch. He trusted Lucy and considered leaving it with her until tomorrow, but he started to imagine his parents stressing out, before marching him to her house and demanding it back. He couldn’t face the embarrassment.

Bobby turned his bike around and headed back to Lucy’s house. By the time he got there, the sun was going down and darkness was falling over the streets. He noticed there were no lights on at the front of the house. Afraid of aggravating her mother, he decided to head round to the back garden where they usually met, hoping he could attract her attention.

No lights on in the back of the house either.

“Lucy!” he called out, in a half whisper. He made his way through the overgrown grass and weeds, drawing towards the house. He called out again, but no response.

He walked up to one of the windows and peered inside. He could see what looked to be a dilapidated kitchen. The walls were streaked with peeled wallpaper, the surfaces were covered in plaster and dust, and broken tiles lay on the floor. Bobby felt his heart sink on seeing the deprived conditions in which Lucy was living.

He moved round to the next window. A dirty net curtain obscured his view, but in an otherwise empty and undecorated room, he could make out the figure of a girl. Her back was turned to the window and she was gazing into a mirror.

“Lucy?” he called out. No response.

He knocked the window. She didn’t move. He knocked again, a little harder, but she remained perfectly still. A sense of foreboding loomed over him. He knocked again.

“Lucy! It’s me, Bobby.” His pulse started to race and he struggled to swallow. Something wasn’t right.

He headed to the back door and found it unlocked. The house looked even worse on the inside. There was plaster over the floors, holes in the ceiling and no carpet or wallpaper. It looked abandoned. He crept slowly through the shadowy hall towards the room in which he had seen the girl. Floorboards creaked underfoot and he remembered Lucy telling him how annoyed her mother would get when disturbed. He could feel himself trembling. It wasn’t about the watch now; he just needed to check she was ok.

Slowly, he opened the door and an icy shiver ran over his body. He felt his knees buckle and his stomach churn at the sight before him: a pale mannequin with rosy cheeks and brown chin length hair. It was wearing the purple dress that he’d bought from the mall. Its glassy blue eyes stared blankly into a dirty mirror.

Fear gripped his body, but he needed to know the truth. He drew closer and gently pushed the mannequin. It toppled to the floor and lay there stiff and lifeless. That’s when he noticed his watch fastened around the mannequin’s narrow wrist.

Bobby could feel his head spinning and his heart pounding as repressed memories came flooding back and his fantasy started to give way to reality. He ran outside and jumped on his bike. Tears streamed down his face as he peddled furiously away from that house…forever.

Credit: Daniel Hammonds

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The Quiet Game

October 6, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Have you ever wondered why we see ghosts? Maybe they have a message for us. Perhaps they’re trapped somewhere between our world and theirs, oblivious to the fact that time has gone on without them. There have been tales of long-lost family members visiting us in our dreams and unexplainable coincidences that put a smile on your face. But for every heartwarming story of visits from the “other side” there is a frightening account of an unwelcome presence that can send a chill down your spine. I could share a number of instances where I felt uneasy or even frightened by what I knew was an angry or negative spirit. However, the story I’m about to share is one that has cast a dark cloud over my nightmares for over 17 years. I can just short of guarantee that this story will force even the non-believers to check that dark corner before drifting off to dreamland.

I was 11 years old the first time I saw her. My parents were away for the evening and I had ordered “Scream” on pay-per-view. I haven’t watched a PPV movie in a long time, but back then it would play the movie on a 24-hour loop once ordered. Well into the second viewing, I got up from the couch to grab a drink from the kitchen. I was headed for the stairs when I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye. Hesitating for a moment, I took a deep breath and continued toward the stairway.
Returning to the basement, the air seemed ominous. The room seemed darker. As I relaxed on my seat to watch the rest of my movie before bed, I saw what appeared as a strange silhouette standing near the bathroom door. I focused my full sight on what I thought was there. I blinked and it was gone. Boy, was this movie giving me the creeps. Then I heard it; the soft whisper of a young girl at first, followed by a much louder command, “Let’s play!”

Now, I have two older brothers so I flipped on the light expecting to see them playing a trick on me with a flashlight and a tape recorder or something. These are the same brothers who used to hide a toy record player in my room blaring train sounds and throw me in with the lights off, holding the doorknob so I couldn’t get out. Needless to say, teasing me during a horror movie would not have been above them. With the lights now on, I yelled, “Ben, Phil…stop it or I’m telling mom!”


I figured I was just over-tired. I curled up on the couch and felt my eyelids getting heavier as I finished watching my movie. Just before I drifted off I heard Ben’s bedroom door creak. I dismissed it, too tired to get myself worked up over nothing. I then got the sense something was watching me. I tried to shake it off, I just wanted to sleep. Finally, I heard something breathing heavily and slowly. At first I thought it was me and that I was psyching myself out, so I held my breath for a moment.


Swearing off slasher movies forever, I turned to face the back of the couch hoping that would help me get to sleep.
“Can you play now?”

The question came from lips that couldn’t have been further than a few feet from the couch. Still turned, I yelled, “I’m gonna tell mom if you guys don’t leave me alone!” Within seconds, Ben and Phil were at the landing by the back door.

“What the hell are you screechin’ about?” Ben asked, he and Phil not the least bit concerned about the panic on my face.

“If you guys don’t stop I’m telling mom when she gets home!” As I spoke I knew there was no way they could have been both places at once. The realization that my brothers were upstairs all night left me cold. I stood up from the couch and quickly marched upstairs to my room, praying I could just fall asleep and put this whole thing behind me.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky.
Thirty minutes into my restless shuffling, I was alerted to the sound of my bedroom door opening ever so gently. Jolting upward from my bed and opening my eyes, I became frozen as I saw, in the corner, a young girl with long, black hair, around the age of 6, in a once-white nightgown. She stared at me with dark, unblinking eyes and a wide smile. It was the kind of smile that you muster up for family picture day in the sense I could tell it was for show. I began to open my mouth, hoping to scream or cry; anything that might scare her away. Before I could make my decision, she pulled her boney finger up to her still smiling mouth.

“Shhh. Now it’s my turn to hide.”

I yelled louder than I had ever yelled in my life. To my surprise, my mom came running into my room. “Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked, as I darted my eyes between her and the now empty corner of my bedroom. I couldn’t answer. Was it a nightmare? Was my mind playing tricks on me? One thing was for sure; it was over. I shrugged it off as an all-too-real bad dream and went out to sleep on the couch in the living room.

Fast-forward about three weeks. It was around 10:30 and I was out playing “spot” with Phil and nearly a dozen other neighborhood kids (for those of you wondering, “spot” is a game of hide-and-seek played at night with flashlights). The rules were simple. We had to stay within our block, we weren’t to go into backyards without permission and you couldn’t stay in one place for more than five minutes. I had been gearing up for this evening’s game all week. I had the perfect hiding spot and nobody would ever think to look there. Our next-door neighbors had a split-level house with a red deck off of the kitchen upstairs and plenty of room underneath for storage. Their yard wasn’t fenced in, so it had easy access. I made my way under the deck and positioned myself behind their lawn mower. “No way anyone will find me here,” I thought.

I had been crouched for around three minutes when I saw the beam of light coming from between the houses. My friend, Mike, was “it” and he was running with his flashlight, nearing my hiding spot. Without hesitation, he turned at the edge of the house, shined the light directly on me and yelled, “SPOT!” There’s no way he knew I was there.

“How did you do that? Did Phil tell you about my hiding spot?” As I asked the question I could tell he was paying little attention to me while he searched the area.

“Where did she go?” Mike asked, a little hesitant. “I’ve been chasing her for half a block and I just watched her duck under this deck!”

I couldn’t tell if he was trying to play a trick on me or if he was being genuine. Although I didn’t want to know the answer, I asked, “What was she wearing?” As he answered, I felt a rush of cold all the way up my back, as if someone had splashed me with ice water. “She had a long, kinda grayish pajama shirt on. It was really strange. Must be somebody’s little sister.” I leapt out from underneath the deck and stared at him for several seconds, reading his expressions.

“Mike, I’ve been under here this whole time and you’re the first person I’ve seen.”

With the small amount of light from his flashlight illuminating only a portion of his face, I watched his color fade. “Whatever, this game’s for babies anyway. I’m going home.” he stated, visibly shaken, but doing his best to keep his composure. “You’re it now.” He shoved the flashlight into my chest and walked quickly in the direction of his house.

Although Mike was gone, I had a sudden awareness that I was not alone. Doing my best to avert my eyes from my once great hiding place, I pointed my flashlight back toward the street. My legs struggled to lift my feet. It was as if hands had emerged from the soft ground and clasped their menacing fingers around my ankles. In a desperate attempt to run, my legs had a different plan as I crashed, face-first, into the wet grass. I lied on the ground, stunned for what felt like only a few seconds. Gathering my wits, I lifted my head to see bare, pale feet resting only inches from my nose. “Aahh!” I screamed, suddenly sitting but leaning back on my hands. I had no words. That girl, the same one from my room, was standing over me. What once had been a vacant grin was replaced with a disgusting, angry snarl.
“That was MY hiding spot!” Her voice now a high-pitched shriek, like thick nails on a dirty classroom chalkboard. Her shadowed eyes pierced through me like a hot blade as she began to cry. She continued with a much quieter, more sinister tone, “It’s your fault.” It was at that moment I knew she wasn’t talking about the game anymore. She lunged forward, flailing her arms while she fell on top of me. I struggled to grab at her frozen wrists and hollered for anyone close who might be able to come help me. I caught one last glimpse of those sinister eyes before everything went black.

I awoke to the sound of footsteps creeping up to me. “I’m sorry!” I proclaimed, weak and covered in sweat. Just then a hand reached down and grabbed my arm.

It was Phil. “Are you OK?” he asked. “Everyone is going home now. We didn’t know where you were and it’s getting late.” As I stood up I realized I wasn’t in our neighbor’s backyard anymore. I had somehow managed to end up in my own driveway, just a few feet from the front steps.

“Are you hurt? What happened?” My brother was beginning to show worry at my lack of response. “I…I don’t know.” I stood there, still puzzled at how I had come to be in the driveway. “Well, we’d better go in. It’s almost midnight,” Phil continued.

“Wait. What?” The words left my mouth and I began to grow more and more concerned as to what might have happened after I blacked out. I had to tell him. There was a good chance he would think I was crazy but I couldn’t keep this to myself anymore. “I saw this girl…” The front porch light came on and our dad stepped outside. He didn’t have to say anything. We knew it was time to come in.

The nightmares started that night. I lied in bed, staring at the ceiling for hours and doing my best not to look anywhere else when I felt my eyelids getting heavy. With each flutter, I could picture her face, staring at me with that look of hatred and disgust. I fought the fatigue for as long as I could, finally succumbing to the night. They say you only remember bits and pieces of dreams and lose sight of what little you had as time marches on. But the horrors that plagued my subconscious for the next several nights are still as vivid and frightening as they were 17 years ago, reappearing every now and then as not to let me forget.

My first dream started out normal enough. I was with a couple of friends (who have asked to remain nameless) and we were headed to an area near our house we all called “Cherry Hill”. It spanned several blocks and housed lots of trees, trails, hills and even an old train trestle. We did all sorts of stuff there. We built forts, rode bikes, played tag; the stuff you’d expect kids to do. We were walking down the trail, boards and tools in hand, looking for just the right spot to build. Settling on an area tucked in by the trestle, we got to work. I was nailing some small boards to a tree to make a ladder leading up to a long ledge. It was to be our lookout. I could hear my friends digging some kind of hole behind me.

After a while, the sound of their shovels stopped. That same chill I had felt under the deck was inching up my legs to my back, then to my neck. I whipped around to see that they were gone. In fact, everything was gone; the shovels, the hole. It was as if they had never been there at all.

It had gotten very dark. The giant trees were blocking any trace of light shining from the evening sky. As I strained my eyes to scan the area, I locked in on a familiar nightgown across the small stream of murky water. I was panicked. Frozen in fear, I watched as she grew closer, never moving her limbs. She threw her head back in a disgusting cackle befitting a woman well her senior. I closed my eyes, hoping that would somehow slow my pounding heartbeat.


I wasn’t ready to open my eyes. My mind was racing and I couldn’t decide if I was awake or asleep. Before I had a chance to come to any conclusion, I felt a soft tug on my wrist. “They’re gone now. Will you play with me?” It was that same soft voice I had heard in my basement. It wasn’t creepy or angry. If I had to think of a word for it, I would say it almost sounded scared. No longer feeling threatened, I was ready to open my eyes. What a horrible mistake!
She stood only inches from me, covered in blood but with no visible wounds. Through the gore I could see the frills of her gown, now torn and crimson. The more frightened I became, the more pleased she seemed with herself. Turning to run, I had made it only a few steps before tripping and crashing into the cold dirt. I had to compose myself. I sat up and glanced at the object that forced me to topple over. “Oh my God, no!” the words left my mouth as I stumbled back even further. There, laid out in a heaping mess, were my friends. Next to them was a shovel covered in blood and hair. She stood over the bodies, that menacing grin returning to her face, and she slowly brought her finger up to her lips.


I awoke on the living room couch. I know I fell asleep on my own bed, but with a history of sleepwalking I wasn’t surprised. One thing was for certain, I wasn’t going back to sleep. I turned on the TV and watched infomercials until morning. I finally got up to make myself a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch as the rest of the family emerged from their rooms. I wanted to tell them what was happening to me, but I was sort of famous in our house for stupid nightmares. To this day, I still catch guff about the big, green duck with a machine gun that would chase me around the neighborhood. Nobody was going to take me seriously. I had to find a way to handle this on my own.

That night, before bed, I knelt down next to my bed and I locked my hands together in prayer. “Dear Lord, I need your help. There is something evil here that won’t leave me alone. I don’t know why it would choose me. Did I do something wrong? I beg of you, Lord, please stop this. I will never ask you for anything ever again! Amen.”

I was dream-free for the next two nights. Maybe there was something to this prayer thing. It was Saturday and a few of us had gotten together for a game of street hockey. We must have played for at least two hours before someone said, “Let’s go to Cherry Hill.” As soon as I heard it that cold chill raced up my back. “I think I’m going to stay here, guys.” They weren’t having that. After lots of prodding and pleading, we hopped on our bikes.

We stayed near the entrance, making dangerous ramps out of leftover boards from our hockey goals. I wasn’t that excited about going toward the trestle, but I figured there was strength in numbers. We were pointing out spots that would be ideal for a new fort. “There’s a good spot,” I said, pointing to a wall of dirt with an area already dug out. I was quickly out-voted as it was clear someone else had already claimed that area. We ventured down the trail until we neared the old trestle. “This spot is too open.” I pled my case and hoped for the best. It must have been “Let’s Do The Opposite of What Jamey Wants to Do Day” because everyone ignored me and headed down toward the water. Not wanting to let my fears get the best of me, I followed.

I walked toward the lookout ledge from my dream. It was as if something was pulling me in that direction. Glancing at the tree I noticed letters etched out in the bark. They spelled out “Shhh.” I was done. No more fort building for me. I jumped on my bike and sped home. I was still shaking when I pulled into the driveway. I refused to come to the door when a couple of my friends stopped over to check on me. I lied in bed, sobbing and cursing the ceiling. “Why won’t you help me? I begged for your help and you didn’t listen!” I cried myself to sleep.

My next nightmare was much shorter. It was a very strange dream in that I felt like I was watching a slide show. I remember watching an old, run-down farmhouse slowly fall to a pile of junk, but it was in pictures with each one showing more age and decay. There was a tree in the front yard with a tire swing and in every image there were children running around and playing. They didn’t seem phased by the crumbling house behind them. As the house aged, fewer kids were seen running around until only one remained. I watched as the last little girl stared at the ground, sad that her friends had left her. I watched her sadness turn to anger and then into resentment. The background grew dark and her eyes met mine. The edges of her mouth turned up into that all too familiar grin. She knew I was watching her. She stood still for several minutes as the wind blew through the bare trees behind her. Suddenly everything went dark and I heard the whisper, “What should we play next?”

I avoided my room for the next several nights, finding any reason I could to stay up well past my bedtime. Although I feared coming across her while I was alone in the dark, it somehow felt safer than meeting her in a dream. She could manipulate me in my nightmares. I couldn’t look away. I tried obscene amounts of Mountain Dew, bright lights from the TV and music to avoid surrender to the night. I finally figured out that if I slept during the day she left me alone. I still wonder to this day if she was fueled by my fear. I was calmed by the light of day. It kept me safe.

I had nearly forgotten all about her by the time she visited me again. Weeks had passed and I had started sleeping in my bed again. This final encounter was, by far, the creepiest (I consider this my final encounter because I truly believe any dreams since then have been residual, albeit terrifying).

I awoke to the wind blowing my curtains across my face. This was significant because I have terrible allergies and am unable to sleep with the windows open. As soon as my eyes opened I could hear faint laughter coming from the front yard. It almost sounded like the overused laugh track that goes with any clip of children playing in movies and television. I attempted to sit up and quickly realized I had no control of my own movements. I felt paralyzed. Before long I was lifted out of bed and placed, standing on my bedroom floor. I began walking toward the window still unable to move my own limbs. At the screen, I watched as this beautiful little girl skipped and sang through the grass without notice of the world around her. This time I didn’t feel as if she knew I was there. Mesmerized for nearly a full minute, I finally snapped out of it to find I was no longer in my own room. From my surroundings I could tell that this bedroom belonged to a girl. The walls were covered in bright pinks, purples and yellows with tons of princess doll houses, Barbies and dresses scattered along the floor and in the open closet. I stood in the middle of the room, still unable to move, and watched as the door flew open and that same little girl from the front yard came running in, crying. When she dashed by me without looking I didn’t think that she could see me.

Had I become the ghost?

The girl jumped into the closet and her eyes locked onto mine. As footsteps grew louder down the hall she looked at me, put her finger up to her mouth and gave a soft, “Shhh.”

Who was she hiding from? Why was she crying?

I stood and watched as a tall man wearing a baseball cap, red t-shirt and jeans marched into the room with a menacing, “Come out, come out wherever you are!” The little girl kept her stare on me as tears rolled down her face. I tried to ask him who he was looking for, but he didn’t respond. Couldn’t HE see me?

His tone quickly changed, “Where the hell did that b***h go?” I still couldn’t tell if he knew I was there, but I knew she must be hiding for a reason so I decided to keep my mouth shut. He gave one last look around the room and left. I watched him walk down the hallway until I could no longer see him, and when I turned to the closet she was gone. In the blink of an eye all of the room’s bright colors turned to shades of gray. I heard shouts coming from another room in the house. Without hesitation, I ran toward the screams.

When I got into the living room the little girl was lying on the floor. This time she was wearing that same night gown from my earlier visions. The man in the ball cap was standing over her and I could tell that she was uncomfortable.
“Let’s play a game, sweetie. It’s called ‘the quiet game.’”

Although his words were sweet, I knew his intentions were anything but. She was terrified. Her eyes were telling a story of fear and sadness. I panicked.
“Leave her alone!” I yelled the words as loudly as I could. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen, but my shouts fell on deaf ears. It was no use. She turned again to look at me I began to feel light headed, like I was losing oxygen. Everything went dark but I could still hear the faint cries of a scared little girl. The cries were followed by wet, gurgling sounds and that’s when I heard the sound that still gives me chills as I write these words. As if he was right by my face, I heard the man whisper one last request, “Shhh.”

I woke up right after that and sobbed in my bed for what seemed like hours. Aside from the occasional nightmare, I haven’t seen the little girl since. Although I haven’t seen her, I still feel like she’s around. I’ve spent time in libraries and news archives hoping to come across a story of a familiar missing girl or maybe even something on the man in the cap. I believe my dream of the deteriorating house means the potential scene of the crime is long-gone. I suppose it’s best that I leave it be. But the question I fear will forever go unanswered is: Was I just a kid with an overactive imagination, or was a frightened little girl reaching out for help that I failed to provide?

Sweet dreams.

Credit: J. Northrop

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Don’t Think of The Old Hag

October 1, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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It has been six weeks since my first sighting of the wicked old hag. I woke up in the middle of the night and went to roll over, but my entire body was paralysed. I lay there, scared and helpless, contemplating my predicament when I became aware of a presence in the room with me…a presence that I can only describe as pure evil.

I caught sight of a withered old woman at the foot of the bed. Her tall hunched frame was draped in a long dirty gown and wisps of filthy white hair hung from a balding scalp. I channelled all my energy into a desperate attempt to move, but my efforts were in vain. It felt as though I was being pinned to the bed by an invisible force. I tried scream out for help, but my words came out as jumbled whimpers. I could feel her claw-like hands on my legs and my arms as she crawled her way up my rigid body. A crooked smile revealed rotten teeth and her bloodshot eyes were callous and calculating as she stared directly at me.

Suddenly, I bolted upright in bed. I could move again and the room around me was empty. It was just a bad dream, I concluded. I took a few minutes to catch my breath and settled back to sleep.

A couple of weeks later I met an old friend for a drink and a point in our conversation reminded me of my dream.
“I had a scary case of sleep paralysis a couple of weeks ago,” I told him.

“Really? Did you see the old hag?” my friend replied.

An icy chill ran over my body. I hadn’t told anyone about the dream and there was no way he could’ve known what I’d seen. “How the hell did you know that?” I asked with disbelief, my voice quivering.

“I read about it some time ago,” he explained, startled by my reaction. “…A phenomenon known as Old Hag Syndrome where sufferers of sleep paralysis are visited by an entity, often in the form of an old hag.”

“You’re bullshitting me!” I said, incredulously.

He convinced me to look it up, and so when I returned home I typed the keywords OLD HAG and SLEEP PARALYSIS into Google. It returned pages full of results, some of which told of ancient folklore spanning different cultures; others told of personal experiences like my own. To some the entity took the form of an old lady or a witch, to others she looked more like a demon, but they all described the presence of overwhelming evil. Most chilling of all were the accounts in which the hag tortured and molested her victims as they lay paralysed and helpless.

I turned off the computer and tried to put it out of my mind. An eerie mood lingered in the room and I had a bad feeling that unless I could get her out of my mind, she was sure to pay me another visit.

That night I was woken by a piercing cackle and I lay paralysed as that tall and stooped figure emerged at the foot of my bed. She crawled under the covers and up my body before sitting on my chest and peering down at me. She ran her slimy tongue over her chapped lips and made slurping sounds. What transpired after that I cannot bring myself to talk about.

I’ve spent subsequent days browsing forums for answers…for a way out. I am neither religious nor superstitious and I don’t believe anything considered “supernatural”, but scientific resources offer no rational explanation for what I’ve been experiencing – just speculation and scepticism. In some cultures it is believed to be a demonic curse and the entity is brought to life through the power of suggestion. Most victims recall some kind of trigger that worked its way into their subconscious, such as a painting or a friend sharing their personal experience.

I’ve been telling myself, “Don’t think of the old hag!” But as we all know, the harder you try not to think of something the more that thought persists. The visions grow more vivid and traumatising the more I think of her. Some nights she violates me in unspeakable ways and I wake with bruises, scratches and bite marks over my body. Other nights I hear her ragged breathing in my ear and find her lying next to me, grinning and gurgling.

But I think I’ve learned a way to be rid of these visions once and for all. I must plant the thought into the mind of someone else and distract the old hag with a fresh victim. As selfish and cruel as I am to pass this curse on to someone else, I just can’t bear it any more.

Dear Reader, whoever you are, please forgive me!

Credit: Daniel Hammonds

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I Chose to Sleep the Days Away

September 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I chose to sleep the days away
chose comfort in dreams, safe from a world so grey
My mind gave me comfort my life could not
so as I dreamed, I could not stop

I was happy at first, with my daily sights
European castles with thousands of lights
the king of everything, from ground to sky
I did anything, without reason for why

I dreamt, little by little, more each day
and, little by little, my body decayed
I did not notice from my throne of thought
that my throne of flesh was beginning to rot

That was when my throne fell
dreams became nightmares as I slipped into hell
marble became brimstone, wine became blood
a mountain of flesh where my castle once stood

I tried to break free of my prison, these hellish chains
but my body was as still while my mind was in flames
and as the ambulance carted my comatose shell away
my thoughts were caged for a long term stay

My only escape is the sound of saline
a cacophony granted by various machines
and my soul is left to writhe in my sleep

I know now, what I sow, I reap

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Someone Always Comes Along

September 23, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Hey there. Are you lost? Me too. Aw there there, don’t be scared, someone will come along. Someone always comes along. Sooner or later.
I’m Amy. We can wait here till someone finds us. In the meantime, would uh… would you like to trade? Yeah I’ll tell you a story and, well… you listen to it. It’s a great way to pass the time, you know.
So do you want to trade?
Ok, my story happened a long time ago, I got lost then too. I kinda feel like I’m always lost, you know?


It was late September when my family and I took the visit to the Great Corn Maze Farm. This was the largest corn maze in the state and we had traveled for nearly two hours just to get here. The farm boasted 5 separate mazes all intertwined into the corn field. They ranged from “Lil’ Pumpkin Path” that was the easy level, to the “Devil’s Labyrinth” the longest and hardest maze in the field. The Devil’s Labyrinth was nothing to laugh about, it wound around and around in horrid circles and had long twisting paths leading to dead ends. Without any direction you could get completely turned around in there and spend hours trying to find your way out. Luckily, you could grab a maze map at the entrance so you wouldn’t have to wander around hopelessly lost. Although for me getting lost in a corn maze is usually half the fun.
This maze had a reputation for being creepy and strange. At my high school there were all kinds of rumors about the Great Corn Maze, especially about Devil’s Labyrinth. Some kids swore that strange creatures or demonic scarecrows or other such monstrosities lived in the maze and came out at night to steal souls or eat brains or whatever. I never believed any of them, they were just lots of silly Halloween type stories just told to frighten people. Only one rumor floated around that had any kind of menace. It was really simple, just an old newspaper clipping about a little boy that went to the Great Corn Maze last year, he went into the maze, and simply never came out again. No one knew why… maybe he got lost…
But things like that didn’t really happen to people, and like I said, I didn’t believe in silly rumors. No silly rumor was going to spoil my birthday trip! No way!
Or so I believed…

We drove up to the farm, bumping over the dirt roads. Eagerly I gazed out the window at the huge green cornfield, unable to contain my excitement. I loved corn mazes and this was the best one ever! Late September was my birthday and this year, my family had splurged just to bring me here! I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to wander through the rows of sweet smelling corn… We pulled up to the dirt and hay field that served as a parking lot, driving our little Nissan over the rough mud ruts. We all got out, Mom, Dad, my cousin and me.
We passed by the other attractions at the Farm. There was a hayride, a little train ride that went around and around, a carousel, a petting zoo, an obstacle course, an empty field for pumpkin throwing, a typical haunted house, and various other little food vendors and kid playground attractions. There weren’t many people here today, and many of the vendors were closed up. But then again it was the early part of the season. Halloween was still weeks away, so it would make sense that not everything was open. Unfortunately…..

“They closed the maze?!?!” I exclaimed as I stared in shock at the cheap wooden sign hanging over the maze entrance, forbidding passage to my birthday adventure.
“Fraid so,” mumbled a farmhand that worked there.
“Why?” I asked, disappointed. “Isn’t the maze finished?”
“Uh huh. The maze is all there, but um… well the corn ain’t ripe enough. Field is still too green.”
I didn’t like the way he said that; somehow that hesitation in his voice told me that he was lying. “Come on, you gotta be kidding me! Couldn’t we just go inside for a little while?”
“No, absolutely not!”
“But why?!” I didn’t mean to act like such a baby, but I just couldn’t help it.
“I told you why! Field is too green, and anyways we ain’t got the maps printed. You can’t go in there without a map.”
“I don’t need a map… ”
“Without a map, ma’am… ” he leaned in close to whisper to me. “You might get lost.”
“Pfff, I don’t mind getting a little lost.”
For some strange reason this seemed to upset him greatly. “No ma’am. You don’t want to be lost in there. You don’t ever want to be lost in there!” Then he caught himself and replied more casually, “I sure don’t ever want to be lost in there, I always carry a map and so does everybody else, cause no one wants to be lost in there! You hear? We ain’t got the maps so the Maze is closed!”

I could not believe it. My birthday trip and the main attraction was down because they didn’t have the stupid maps, and the corn wasn’t ripe? It wasn’t fair. As my family and I walked away to enjoy the train and the hayride and all the other little attractions that the Farm offered, I kept stealing sullen glances at the closed corn field. I watched the beautiful green stalks sway in the autumn wind, beckoning me. I wanted so badly to go in there, to smell the growing corn, to run laughing down the paths with my arms outstretched, winding and twisting ever deeper into the maze until I became lost and playfully found my way out with my map, only to rush back in and get lost all over again. But that luxury had been stolen from me… It just wasn’t fair.
“Amy, Helllllllloooooo? Are you lost or something?” my cousin’s voice snapped me out of my reverie. “Huh what?”
“I asked if you wanted to go to the petting zoo with us?” my cousin repeated.
My mother joined the conversation. “If you didn’t want to go to the petting zoo, then you and I could go shop for some souvenirs over there, maybe pick out a birthday present? Or you could venture over there and do the Haunted House? You would have to go by yourself though…”
I glanced over where the Haunted House was. I enjoyed haunted houses, but I already knew this one. Plastic looking but still with a gory edge to it, loud music and sound effects came from that corner of the field along with shouts from the costumed people within.
“Yeah,” I decided. “I’ll take in the haunted house and maybe the train ride again.”
“Ok sweetheart.” Said my mother. “We’ll all meet up right here again in two hours. Have fun! Don’t get lost, sweetie, don’t get lost!”
I waved goodbye to my family and walked away… I should have listened closer to those last words, “Don’t Get Lost”
But like I said before, getting lost is half of the fun….

I stopped to grab an ear of roasted corn from a nearby food vendor. It was piping hot, so I left it in the bag to cool for a little while and followed the screams that led to the Haunted house. I smiled wondering what kinds of halloweeny scenes they had made this year. As I started to go up to the entrance, a sudden gust of wind blew me back slightly. I heard a soft papery sound at my feet and when I looked down, I saw a thin corn husk blowing in the breeze along the dusty ground. It flew up in a small whirlwind and then breezed around the side of the Haunted house. I didn’t know why, but it felt like I ought to follow it. Somehow, I needed to see where the wind took it. So I darted after it. The papery husk flew in front of me, then ducked around the corner of another building. Growing ever curious, I followed around the corner….
…and there was the Corn Field, tall and green and wonderful before me. I watched the green stalks bow with the breeze, seeming to welcome me back after a year of waiting. I caught a whiff of the green scent of corn on the breeze. It smelled like the sweetest perfume, rich and irresistible. Looking around I saw that no one was near this part of the field, and I ducked under a feeble roped off walkway. I tiptoed along the outer perimeter of the corn field, stepping carefully over ruts made by a tractor. I dared to get close enough to touch one of the growing stalks. Huh, that was weird, it seemed… warm. Must be the sun, I thought.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw the papery corn husk again. It floated on a gust and blew along the perimeter, staying just within my vision. I couldn’t seem to help myself, I followed it. Like it was drawing me to some amazing discovery, and that if I just kept going, just kept walking around the edge of the field, I would find it.
And I did find it.
An exit.
An exit that led INTO the maze!
I was looking at one of the five maze exits that led people out of the corn field. But this time it seemed to be pulling me in. The wind swept over the corn stalks making them bow and sway, calling to me. Beckoning me to enter their lair of greenery. All day long I had been wishing that I could run into the corn maze, run and laugh and enjoy the winding trails that led through the cornrows and now here was my chance! Nervously, I looked around, afraid that I would get caught wandering around. But the area was empty. Nobody noticed me, the coast was clear. Cautiously, I tiptoed up to the maze pathway, their perfumed scent flooding my mind with a kind of childlike joy, and silently I entered the lush jungle of bowing stalks.

Left turn, right turn, middle fork, left turn, right turn, right turn, dead end. Go back and take the right fork… I was grinning and running with my arms outstretched as though I could fly, my fingertips grazing past the ears of green corn, not yet ripe. One hand clutched my bag with my ear of roasted corn still in it. I was so happy! I felt this total euphoric freedom and rebellion against the stupid people that had closed the maze today. I couldn’t see why they had, the field was perfect! Maybe a little muddy perhaps, but otherwise perfect! I ran and ran, trying not to laugh with joy, lest someone heard me and caught me. I danced around the corners loving the smell of the fresh green stalks and the feel of the warm sun and cool breezes. Oops another dead end. I grinned and spun around taking another right fork and running around a zigzag of freestanding stalks in a large square clearing before finally I came to a halt, breathing hard but feeling amazingly happy, as my birthday wish had come true.
I took out my cooled ear of roasted corn and bit into it. Mmm the sweet taste of the golden kernels mixed with melted butter had never tasted so sweet as they did in that beautiful field. I gobbled up about half of the ear, put it back and decided that it was time to head back the way I had come. I had my fun, but I sure didn’t want to get caught in here. I gazed around the large square empty clearing with joy then turned back toward the entrance path. Or rather…. the exit path…. right?

Take a left turn, right turn, right turn, left, right, right, left, I stepped back along the path trying to recall the way I had come. Most of the path looked ok, but it seemed to be taking a while. I turned left again, and again, then the path went straight for a while and came to a fork. “Did I take that fork from the left, or from the right?” I thought to myself. I kept going, further and further. For no apparent reason, an image from the story of Alice in Wonderland flickered into my mind, poor Alice was wandering through the Tulgey Wood and getting lost; she kept saying to herself, “Did I come this way, or that way? This way or that way?”
“Wait, I don’t remember a T junction here…” I said out loud, a flicker of worry crossed my mind. I didn’t have a map and I was starting to not remember coming this way at all. “We ain’t got the maps…. without a map you might get lost…” the farmhand’s warning floated through my mind like the echoing moan of a lonely ghost. I shook off my slight fear and doubled back for a while. At the next junction, I took a different path certain that I would find my way back to the exit again. After all, I hadn’t come that far…. had I?

The wind blew the stalks together and made murmuring noises. “This way or that way? This way or that way?” They seemed to be whispering. I felt a slight touch of claustrophobia as I gazed at the green pillars growing high above my head. Where at first the corn stalks had seemed so welcoming, now they seemed to be staring at me, lifeless green husk-eyes that followed my every move as I continued down the winding twisting paths. A series of left turns gave me a sudden flash of hope, and then crushed me as I came to an unfamiliar dead end. I was getting lost, but this time it wasn’t fun! Panic started to grip at my heart, I ran faster down the pathway, looking down every corner for a familiar junction, somewhere I knew I had been. Had I come this way, or did I go that way? This way or that way? This way or that way? My heart was starting to pound frightfully in my chest. I looked toward the green stalks for some kind of answer; but now the rows seemed to glare coldly back at me, the pathway looked darker and more forbidding.
I stopped along the path trying to get my heartbeats to slow down. I breathed hard, trying to calm down. I had to still be near the rest of the farm, I thought. I listened for a sound from one of the other rides, the whistle from the train ride, the familiar sound effects coming from the haunted house… I listened expecting to hear phony screams and families laughing… I listened for any sound that might give me comfort. All I heard was the rustling whisper of the wind through the corn… and footsteps.
I concentrated hard as I stayed where I was and listened. Yes! Soft footsteps coming from in front of me, no… behind me…. no… where were they? I spun around trying to find a person, a face, some source of the tiny footfalls. Was that a child walking so softly? “Hello?” I called out. I no longer cared if I got caught by the farm workers anymore, I just wanted to be out of there, I wanted to be out of the maze and with my family, I wanted to not be lost anymore. “Hello?”
Silence. The footsteps had stopped, even the wind had stopped.

“Oh Amy, why did you wander in here?” I asked myself, shivering. “Why didn’t you listen to the workers and just stay out of the maze?” I didn’t even know which maze I was in, the exits all looked alike. I really hoped I wasn’t in the Devil’s Labyrinth. Without a map, it might be dark before I managed to find my way out again. I started to run down the path. It couldn’t be very much farther, I thought. I ran faster and faster, a few of the green corn husks slapped at my face. The ground grew wetter and slippery. Suddenly I tripped over a broken corn stalk and went sprawling, down down, face down into a patch of rotten smelling mud.
Pain shot up my knee and my left side, and I gagged as my mouth filled with greasy muck. I spat and groaned and tried not to be sick. God I hope they didn’t use pesticides in their corn. Wiping mud from my hands and my face, I looked down and saw that my left knee was bleeding, my jeans torn, my shirt ripped where it caught on a sharp ear of corn. All I kept thinking was: how could I have let myself get lost in this maze?

I glared at the corn stalks around me, now I was angry. I felt betrayed, like this maze had lured me in here, like the sweet sticky maw of a Venus Flytrap. Here I was, lost and afraid and struggling to get out! I stared up at the yellowing stalks and wanted to scream.Furiously I grabbed a nearby ear of ripe corn and shook the dry husk from the cob…. I blinked at the ripening kernels. Slowly I looked around at the golden yellow stalks, swaying like a dry wheat field.
I thought the corn was still green? Why did this area seem so dry and yellow? My questions went unanswered as a sudden chill ran down my spine. I turned around and tried to go back the way I had come. But this wasn’t the way I had come, not at all. The pathway seemed totally different now, the furrows were dry now, not muddy like they had been before; and the corn was ripe and golden everywhere, and the wind felt cold and crisp. Like late-October wind. Or mid-November wind. I shivered and turned down a long unfamiliar corridor with a dozen different paths to follow, I tried the first left path and got a dead end. I tried to turn around but suddenly the corridor wasn’t there and the path veered off to the right. I went along until the path split into a fork, I went left but soon changed my mind and turned around to take the right path, but there was no right path, the corn rows had closed into a dead end behind me. I couldn’t understand any of this! Was I going this way? Or was I coming that way? This way or that way? This way or that way?
I fled down the pathways faster and faster, feeling panic rise in my chest and an acidic bile taste rising steadily my throat. My heart began to pound and my bleeding knee throbbed. Every few seconds I looked behind me and each time the paths were different than they had been before. Then I flew back around again only to find the open path I had been walking had turned to another dry dead end. Now the dead end was behind me… now there were two dead ends and no paths! Now the dead ends were really a four way intersection that stretched on and on and on forever! My head started to spin, nothing was making sense anymore! This way or that way? This way or that way!?!

I clutched at my ears and shut my eyes tightly. Stop it! I thought. This isn’t happening! This is not happening! You’ve got to pull yourself together and get out of this damn maze!” I stayed like that for a while, thinking, hoping that it was a dream, that I would open my eyes and be safe in bed. But I could still hear the wind rustle through the rows, mocking me, Thissss waaaay or thaaaat waaaay? Thisss waaaaaaaaaaay or thaaaaaaaat waaaay?
I opened my eyes and finally saw a place that I had been before! The old square clearing with the zigzag of freestanding corn stalks. I had somehow wandered back into that same clearing again! Only….. the corn stalks were now a rich golden yellow, the husks papery thin and many of them littered the pathway, the ears of corn were going dry and overripe, the sky was a stormy gray with a cold bitter wind that whipped at my face.
I trembled with fear. Just how long had I been in this field? It had only been a little while right?A few minutes…. a few hours….. a few days….. a few weeks…..
“No no no no no no no no no no!” I couldn’t let myself think like that. It wasn’t possible, I simply couldn’t have been lost in here for that long! Could I?
Voices floated in my head. More disembodied ghostly moans… warnings that I had not listened to… my friends telling their scary rumor stories…. ‘People would wander into the maze,’ they would say, ‘and never come out again. They would go on wandering this way or that way, this way or that way and never be seen again….’
“Help!” I finally screamed. I grasped the dry corn stalks and shook them like prison bars. “Someone help me! I can’t get out! I’m lost! Help me!!!!” I cried and shook and ran around the clearing, feeling terrified. I was afraid to venture along another path, afraid I might never find my way out again. Afraid that I would be lost among the rows and rows of corn stalks, wandering this way and that way….forever….

Wait, I suddenly looked down and realized that I was still holding the bag that held the half eaten roasted ear of corn I had just bought. I opened it up quickly, perhaps the sight of that fresh roasted food might bring me back to reality, might remind me that I was not really in this Rip Van Winkle nightmare all around me. I grabbed the wrapped paper that held the other half of the corn cob and opened my mouth wide to bite into that sweet buttery corn, to taste reality again…..
And screamed as a million crawling black bugs swarmed out of the paper and down my hands, arms and into my mouth.
“Ohhhhhhhhh!” I flung the bag away and swatted at the mass of legs and black shells furiously. I felt them slide down my shirt, wriggling up my sleeves, crawling up my face, biting me, stinging me, everywhere, millions of them! I gagged as I felt a stinging crawling sensation inside my mouth, and bending over I puked my guts out, watching as the black intruders struggled in the pool of sick brown liquid. Somewhere in my mind, I wondered if I had really eaten any corn at all, or if I had really been eating those stinging black bugs the whole time…. “Ohhhhh”

I ran. I ran without stopping or thinking; I couldn’t see any paths anymore, just corn. Rows and rows of corn, stretching endlessly on and on. I ran, stumbling over the rutted cornrows, the dry stalks clutching at my hair, ducking under dry corn husks swarming with bugs and mold, the stench of dry rotting plants invaded my nose. And still I ran, I ran till I couldn’t see, ran till my sides ached, till I couldn’t breathe, and still I ran and ran and finally I tripped and fell…..
Into a puddle of mud.
Eewww! I gagged as the muddy water filled my mouth and nose. I sat up quickly and wiped my eyes, but I felt afraid to open them, afraid of what I would see now. I froze, as the faint sound of soft footsteps approached me…

“Are you ok?”asked a tiny voice.
“Huh?” I looked up quickly and saw a young boy, about 6 or 7 years old. He was looking at me down in the puddle I just fell into. I looked around at the normal green corn rows, the simple square clearing with the zigzag of green cornstalks, the muddy ruts, sounds from the nearby train and haunted house attractions wafted by. The perfumed scent of green corn drifted around us. Everything was normal, everything was ok.
“Yeah, kid.” I exhaled a sigh of relief as I wiped muddy water away from my face and grinned. “I’m doing great.”
“Wanna trade?” he said holding out a napkin for me to wipe the mud off with.
“Sure.” I took the napkin and wiped my face with it and stood up. I looked at the dusty little face and realized I had nothing to trade with. “How come you are in here?” I asked.
“I got lost.” he said. “But I knew that someone would come along and find me. Someone always comes along. That’s what she told me.”
“Umm.. who told you?” I asked, mildly confused. I started to notice the dark circles under his eyes and the haunting way he was looking at me.
“The girl I saw. When I got lost in here, I met a girl and she was lost, and she had met another girl who was lost, and the other girl met a man with a cloak and scary eyes. The man said: whenever a person gets lost in here, they have to wait for someone to come along. And when they do, then they can trade.”
“Trade? Trade, what?” I felt my mouth go dry, why did this thin little kid scare me so badly?
The little boy let out a sigh like the dry rustling of the corn stalks. “Trade…. souls. So that the person who was lost in here can go home.”
I decided right then that I didn’t like this story at all. I dropped the napkin he had given me and started to back away. He looked up at me with his haunted eyes and gave that low rustling sigh again.
“Mommy told me not to go in here, but I did. I didn’t have a map so I got lost, and I didn’t know how to get out. I went this way and I went that way, but I couldn’t get out. Then I met that girl and she wanted me to trade with her and I did. I’ve been lost in here for a whole year.”
“Wait… wait!” my mind was reeling from the strain of trying to make sense of it all. The corn, the changing, frightening maze and now this haunted thin figure masquerading as a little boy. “You couldn’t be lost in here that long! You just couldn’t! Someone…. someone would find you! Someone would help…” I sputtered to a silence.
His dusty head shook from side to side as though it were blown by the parched wind. “Not while we are lost in here. No one can find us if we are lost…. ”

The ghostly warning voices returned with a laughing, ironic hopelessness. Without a map, you might get lost. You don’t ever want to be lost in there. I always carry a map, no one wants to get lost… Even my own mother’s voice calling to me, Don’t get lost, sweetie, don’t get lost…
“The maps…” I whispered more to myself than anything. “They didn’t open the maze because they didn’t have any maps…”
“I didn’t have a map, so I got lost.” his eyes gazed hollowly from that dusty solemn face. “Everybody else always has a map, so they never get lost, so they never found me. Until you came along… ” The skeletal little figure bent down and picked up the napkin, when he looked up again, he was smiling. His smile resembled that of a grinning skull, a death smile. “Thank you for trading with me.”

“No….. no….” I shook my head violently as though trying to shake off muddy water, or crawling black bugs, or moldy ears of corn…. I scrambled for the nearest path, the sounds of the rest of the farm seemed to be fading into the distance, I chased them hopelessly. “Please, ” I begged to the corn, to the sky, to anybody. “Please, let me out! I don’t want to be lost anymore!” The wind whipped at my face like a knife, an icy cold, jagged knife at my heart…. so sharp… so cold….
His tiny haunted voice seem to float into my ears. “Don’t be scared, the other girl told me that someone will come along and you’ll get to trade souls and go home. Sooner or later, someone will come along. Someone always comes along.


Creepy huh? Yeah, that happened to me about five years ago. Still gets me every time I think about it. I wonder how he’s doing sometimes…. but anyway that is my story.
Oh and by the way…
Thanks for trading with me.
Remember, I asked you if you wanted to trade with me, and you did.
It won’t do you any good to run away, this corn maze won’t let you go until you’ve made the trade, believe me. After five years of wandering this way and wandering that way, I know. The maze will keep you lost, and won’t let you go.
But don’t be scared. You’ll get your chance. Sooner or later, someone will come along.
Someone always comes along.

The End

Credit To – B.J. Byrd

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The Visitor

September 20, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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I am going to tell you a story from my childhood, but I admit that I am not sure the events of the story ever truly happened at all. Although I acknowledge that there might be nothing beyond present human understanding happening here, I have to write this account down just in case…

I will do my best to keep this story as objective as possible.

The first event I will describe happened one night in what must have been January, as I remember it happening just after winter break had ended. I must have been nine at the time, because I remember telling the events of that night to Mrs. Jay, my fourth grade teacher.

I am not sure if I was asleep or awake. Regardless, I heard a noise, a scratching noise. It was almost imperceptible at first, but it grew louder, and louder. It grew loud enough that I was about to run down the hall to my mother’s room when I saw it. I am not sure I am capable of accurately describing what it was. It did not have form, as much as it was an everchanging surface of slime. The only feature on the opaque slime was what seemed to be suckers on its roiling surface, like on an octopus.

I did not scream. I cannot describe why but I wasn’t even scared, really. Its surface formed and reformed again until a gaping mouth appeared and spoke to me. Its voice wasn’t like a human’s voice, although it did speak to me in English. It weezed its words at me in the same scratching sound that I had heard before. “How old are you?” it asked. I told it my age, and all it said back was, “not yet.” I don’t remember anything else after that. I must have fallen back asleep as my next memory of the event is telling my mother about it the next day. I told several adults of my visitor to which they all reassured me that it was a dream, as any parent, teacher, or grandparent would, and that was that.

That would have been the end of the story, except many years later I had a similar experience. This event I am certain occurred in January. I was awoken again by a scratching sound. I had not thought much about the previous encounter, but as soon as I heard that noise, the events of that night flooded back into my mind. I sat up in bed, and there was the creature. It looked the same as in my memory, but I did not feel the calm of our first encounter. Although it was not fear, I did not feel at ease. Again a mouth formed from nowhere and it inquired, “how old are you?” I told it my age, and it replied, “not yet.” As last time, I have no more memories of the encounter.

I remember telling my mother. She did not recall the last time I told her, but she did seem concerned, so concerned that she had me talk to someone about my “night terrors”. After talking to him for a few sessions, the psychologist told us that my night terror was likely the result of anxiety about going to high school next year. This seemed like a reasonable explanation as I was always a shy, lonesome individual and the prospect of high school was bothersome to me. Based on this, I must have been thirteen at the time of that encounter.

The final encounter is the one that is by far the most disturbing, as I remember it best. I was seventeen and awoke (at least I believe I was awake) to the horrible scratching sound. I had thought about that previous night from time to time, and once again, recognized the sound immediately. This time when I saw the creature, it felt different. I felt dread. A deep dread that I had never felt before and I hope I never feel again. The creature waited a second, and then it asked that question, “how old are you?” I was frozen, breathless. It felt as if several minutes had passed with the creature silent, waiting for my reply. I finally built up the courage to gasp out an answer, and it replied, “next time.” As every time before, I remember nothing besides waking up the next morning.

This time I told know one of the events that transpired that night. However, I have thought of that night incessantly. With paranoia, I have questioned the meaning of his reply. The reason I am choosing to write this now is because I believe I have figured it out, and the implication is frightening and one I must share while I still can.

I hope I am wrong. I’d like to think that the first encounter was a child’s imagination and the second was the result of adolescent anxiety, but what of the third? Maybe these events were just reoccurring dreams, a phenomena that most people experience at some point. Or, maybe these events never really happened at all. Afterall, my academic training has taught me that human memory is extremely susceptible to losing, adding, or changing pieces of information. I hope one of these explanations is true rather than what I am about to propose.

These occurrences have happened every four years since I was nine. Now that I think of it, the creature may have visited me when I was five and even when I was one, and I simply haven’t remembered it. Every encounter it has told me “not yet” until this last one. Well, if I am right, the next encounter will be soon. I am 21 now, and it is January. I wish I could remember the exact day that the visits happen, assuming it does happen on the same day every time. I have been up, paranoid every night so far. I am terrified to know what “next time” means.

Credit To – InTheVault

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