Lost Tombs and Those Lost Within Them

May 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I could barely keep from collapsing as I ran through what seemed to be the never-ending darkness of the godforsaken catacombs. When I’d first signed on to serve as Professor Nickel’s field assistant, I’d assumed that the shrunken old man and I would spend days standing over a blanket of dirt, sifting through broken vases and old bones in search of some lost relic that the old fart would be hunting for.

He was always ranting about the “lost civilizations” and “how they need to be better explored by those with vision!”

All I’d cared about was walking away with a passing grade.

Now all I cared about was living to tell the tale!

We’d gotten separated some time ago, the old loon hopping down from a leaning column to the top of what he claimed to be a Sumerian tomb, telling me to keep up. How the old man moved like he did, I had no idea, but the jump was easily a twenty foot drop.

Yeah, not doing that. I’d thought with disdain, having thought of the horrors my knees would face from such a height had I made a similar jump.

Now I was running for my life from some ancient Sumerian creatures that had crawled from the cracked awning of some ionic pillars, great shark-like maws wide in anticipation for what I could only assume to be dinner.

Namely me.

Really, it didn’t matter as the creatures chasing me through the utter darkness were outright terrifying. From what I’d seen, the creatures were essentially unwrapped mummies that had replaced their funerary wrappings in place of moving along the walls like spiders, hissing in their ancient language innumerable insults at me as they chased me around the catacombs, howling with laughter like sadistic chimps as they swung from high above, their aged claws scraping away bits of ancient plaster as they hurried after me.

Running with the two satchels of archaeologist’s tools, I quickly roll under a fallen column and soldier-crawl my way beneath a toppled statue, doing my best not to hack and cough at the dust I was kicking up.

I almost hack when I feel one of them land on top of the toppled statue, the other landing on all fours some distance away, prowling just within the light of my dropped flashlight, giving me a decent look at them.

They were obviously once human, but centuries of decay had changed that, turning them into something far worse. What funerary bindings they still possessed seemed to only exist to hold the carrion beetles that crawled all about their yellowed bones, held together by the lightest of pink tendrils, thin strands of decayed sinew perhaps. Their mouths were no longer even comparable to what I possessed, being cracked down the middle and held aloft by the same pink tendrils, giving them a wide, toothy maw that nevertheless looked as if it could break stone. Their arms were covered in faded tattoos, highly intricate looking dark ink work that had probably meant something at one time. Now all I could do was stare at the bare-boned hands, the sharpened finger bones…

The one on top gave a great leap, causing more dust to rain down over me, landing next to its compatriot. This one held an old sword awkwardly with its left hand, handling the cracked leather-hilt as if it were poison.

Whatever this Ghoul had been in life, it was obviously not a soldier. It held the sword awkwardly, offering it to the other with a shrug, the two speaking in their gibberish language.

Oh good lord they’re thinking…

I fish into my satchel, as quietly as possible, for something that could actually be used as a weapon for when I eventually bump into one of them and can’t run. One satchel is nothing but books and brushes, so I look into the other, finding my great savior!

A steel trowel.

Six inches of sharpened steel connected to a wooden handle. That was all I had to separate me from death.

I shuffle about beneath the collapsed statue, like a sleepy turtle trying to find a comfortable spot, crawling the way I came in, squatting behind several tons of rubble in hopes of keeping the creatures far enough away from me to actually make a break for it. I slink around the corner as best I can, trying to figure out where the hell I actually am in the damned ruins. Pulling a compass and a smaller flashlight, I frown as I notice North is in the exact opposite direction I wanted it to be.

The map of the supposed “Tomb of the Ubaid Princes” that Professor Nickel had traded his watch for was worth its weight in lead in my eyes, but Nickel had been hopping with joy over the idea of a set of Ubaid tombs as of yet untapped.

I’d merely rolled my eyes.

Now I could just wring his damn neck for getting me into this deathtrap.

A crumbling of mortar tumbles over my shoulder, a hissing cadaver perched atop a column just above me, wielding the ancient looking sword within its cracked leather casing, its eyeless sockets filled with an unholy green light as it opened its mouth to an unholy size. It howls at me in anger, or hunger.

Or happiness?

I have no idea, truth be told, as I respond by ramming the trowel up into the creature’s chest, the steel cracking through the creatures sternum with the sound of dry timber snapping. It doesn’t seem to mind as it swings its sword at me with clumsy fumbling, falling off of the pillar as I yank the creature down with me into a wrestling match, stabbing at the creature madly as it howls in agony, its weak claws scratching at my shirt feebly as I vent my frustrations out on the unholy being.

Two more come bounding around the corner, caterwauling like a pair of mated tigers after the people who stole their cubs. The creature beneath me is barely grasping at my boots as I stand, feeling a little more empowered seeing as the damn things obviously can’t fight worth a damn. I scoop up the leather ensconced sword from the creatures twitching talons. The two creatures run at me, moving more like wolves than men, hissing their greeting as they leap over rubble. I raise the sword more like a mallet, bringing it down onto the crown of one of the mad beasts, hammering its skull more than cleaving it.

The leather cracks away more than any kind of damage I did to the screeching corpse beneath me. This one is far stronger than the other, giving me a rather painful sense of anger at myself for being made to believe I could effectively fight these things. My leather-clad sword serves some healthy justice snapping the wrist of the second howling creature as it pounces onto my back, the thin pink veins doing little to keep the fractured bone connected to the body. The creature on my back encapsulates my head within its engorged mouth, the separated lower jaws forming a tight noose around my neck as the creature beneath me grabs hold of my wrists, their unholy shrieking becoming profane laughter as, rather than the intense pressure of a bite or the serrated edges of teeth, I feel a sudden pressure against the back of my head like I’d blocked off a water pipe. The one on my back pulls up slightly, allowing room for whatever its vomiting to move over me, and thousands of scarabs and carrion beetles begin scuttling over and under my clothes, their feathered legs leaving long shallow cuts wherever they fall.

I throw my weight back, slamming my insect-filled foe into a column behind me, a disgusting squelching noise similar to the sound of rotting pumpkins being thrown from an overpass rising from its chest, along with a series of audible snaps as I cave in its torso. It falls to the ground in a heap, wheezing out a steady stream of insects that seem to have decided to turn on him rather than me.

Thank God, because I can feel a few dozen finding spots all over my body and beginning to claw through my epidermis, seeking the warmth of the womb that my body would provide. The leering undead still grasping my wrists expands his mouth out, his hollow throat beginning to bulge as it seems he feels like sharing his own personal wealth of flesh eating insects.

Bang!

Bang!

Two shots fired from Professor Nickel’s personal hunting rifle tag the creature, once in the temple and again in the right shoulder, effectively blowing it to pieces in my very hands. While old, senile and eccentric, Professor Nickels always carries two guns with him at all times, something he’d suggested I do as well, once I actually earn some money to buy something. Slinging his Sharps Buffalo Rifle back over his back, you can just barely make out the holster to his M1911 pistol, something he tells me that “one should always keep loaded when on an expedition, just in case.”

I’d assumed he’d meant bandits!

“Joshua!” He calls out from half way across the rubble strewn room, hopping to and fro like a bullfrog after a fat firefly. “Did they get any on you?”

“Yes!” I all but screech as I feel three particularly large beetles begin wriggling their way into my skin, pushing a hole through my flesh. Three red blotches begin to form over my clothes, two over my stomach and one over my right thigh.

“Quickly, drink this!” He says, shoving a glass bottle into my hand that I happily begin fumbling with the cap. After several seconds of nervous fumbling, I growl and slam the top end of the bottle across an old mosaic next to me, breaking the bottle open wide enough for me to begin guzzling the foul smelling liquor held within.

“The larvae will die quickly enough if you’re sauced to the gills,” Nickels explains, his wrinkled face crinkling further as he smiles at me as I continue to drain the bottle, a faded paper label bearing the words “Ever” before being too rubbed out to see. With my throat on fire and my insides wriggling with parasites that were continually burrowing into me, I drop to the ground gasping for air, dropping the empty bottle into the sand.

“It will hurt like hell in the morning, let me tell you,” Nickels says with a smile, patting me on the shoulder with a gnarled hand. “The alcohol will drive them out of your body, or kill them. You’ll have to pay a nice doctor to drain your infected wounds once we get back to Baghdad in a few weeks.”

I sputter at the thought, my head spinning. “A few weeks? Did you not just see what we had to deal with?”

The old man waves his hand in the air at me as if a foul odor was passing. “Merely temple guardians, looters that fell prey to the traps around here and found themselves as guards for tombs and the like. But I have a good feeling on this one lad, a good feeling!”

“However so?” I ask, moving to my feet rather shakily, leaning heavily on my newest acquisition, the sword reaching an easy four feet in length.

“Well that sword for one thing!” Nickels says with a wide, toothless grin. “The Ubaid weren’t known for their ironworking abilities, merely their domestic advancements; I’ve long since held belief that there was a civilization here before the Ubaid, based on their legends of metal men and the like, and that sword is quite a piece of history if I do say so myself.”

“Well at the moment it’s my cane, because I can feel a goddamned roach burrowing deeper into my gut!” I hiss at him, but he pays it no mind.

“The tomb I found, the one that you wandered away from, well it is just what I was hoping for when I saw it and the great seal over it!” He crows, dancing about me like a mad little leprechaun. “The seal predates the Ubaid by at least five hundred years, and it has markings similar to the ones the Sumer used to mark royalty. I think I found myself the crypt of a king of an Empire not yet recorded!”

“Bully for you…” I grumble, limping alongside him.

He looks up at me with a discouraging glare. “Don’t tell me you’re going to be this much of a whiner the whole expedition, are you? Because if you think those petty guardians were anything worth talking about than you don’t even want to know what is probably lurking down in that tomb we’re going to be breaching in the morning.”

I could barely keep from collapsing as I felt the first of my burrowing playmates begin to spasm from the strong grain alcohol I’d ingested. My head swimming with drunken vigor and mild blood loss, all I could do was glare at the old man as we settled into our campsite, twin pair of tents and several large chests scattered about the sandy cavern we’d climbed down into, our camels left at a small oasis some two miles East of here with a tribe of nomads that Nickels seemed to be on good terms with.

Drunkenly leaning back, I decide to take a solid look at my walking blade, brushing away the flaking leather to take a better gander at the iron beneath it. It was in near pristine condition, a few touches of age here and there, but no actual structural damage to the frame of the blade. I knew for a fact that the museum back in London would pay me an easy ten thousand quid for the thing more than enough to pay off any outstanding loans I have hovering about my head at the local gambling houses.

Despite the crazed dead and demented midget, this dig might not is so bad at all.

***

I awake to the sounds of scraping stone and the grinding of dried mortar, giving my sleep-addled mind a sharp spike of adrenaline, considering all that has happened to me so far. I push my way up, wincing at the numerous bruises and scratches that are littered over my thin frame. The fire we’d assembled atop the tomb still burned bright, shining slivers of starlight peering through the narrow crevice we’d climbed through to get to this hellish dig.

I find Professor Nickels crouched over the tomb’s seal, hammer and chisel in hand as he is lightly tapping away at the edges of the four-foot circular disk of stone. Hunched over in the darkness, the old man makes me think of the stories of gremlins, incomprehensible creatures that would come into your home at night and hide your shoes, or take your socks. The old man is goofy looking not because of his wild mane of hair sprouting from the side and back of his head instead of the top, nor because he wore glasses that had adjustable nobs on them to move lenses in and out of the frame, allowing him to examine things “in better detail”, while essentially looking like the King of the Insane Beetles.

He was goofy because he didn’t care what everyone else thought of him, and despite his low social standing amidst the Historical community, he churned out peer reviewed research like clockwork every six months that furthered our knowledge of ancient cultures. So the eccentric midget was tolerated, and asked to only teach two classes a year, when the icy chill of winter would spread over England and he would remain cloistered within his quarters, writing and compiling notes in between classes.

“Professor, what are you going?” I ask tiredly, leaning heavily on my shining sword, which had taken quite a bit of work to get to this poor level of shine let me tell you. The Professor, after looking it over, had declared it to be from the same time period of the Ubaid people, but not of their make (metallurgy was beyond them), theorizing it came from a group that “displaced” the Ubaid through warfare, eventually creating the Sumerian culture some five to seven hundred years later, depending on who you were talking to.

“Joshua, my boy, come down and help me move the seal!” He calls to me, still squatting impossibly low for a man of his advanced age. “The mind is willing, but the flesh is withered and old; I need a young strong back to move the seal, so that we can continue our explorations!”

I sigh and walk over next to him, dropping to my knees and taking as firm a grip as I could at this awkward angle and begin to shove with all my might, slowly moving the three to four hundred pound slab inch by inch. After moving it half way open, he orders me to halt, giddy at the smell of the musty old air rising up from the crypt below us.

“Why didn’t you just break the damn seal so we could just go down? Now my back feels like it’s been run through a sausage grinder.”

“Call it vanity on my part, but once we’ve catalogued what’s in the primitive tomb, I’ll want to bring that seal with me, as a souvenir.” He said with a grin. “Don’t worry; you won’t have to be my porter for that one. Plus, if we discover something down there that could be called ‘The Mother of All Evil’, I’ll be wanting that seal intact to cover it back up.”

“The Mother of All Evil?” I repeat, looking at the spry little dwarf of a man as he flipped between lenses on his glasses, peering into the darkness beneath the seal.

“Oh my, it looks like we’ll need some rope… perhaps a hundred or so feet of it.”

“What’s down there that’s so important that we need to go deeper into this crypt Professor?” I ask, curious to what he can see with his steam-powered headgear. He looks up at me, all of his additional lenses flipping back at once, rolling back into their separate compartments.

“What I’ve been looking for my boy, what I’ve been looking for.” He says with a grin, hopping from foot to foot gleefully at the discovery. Rolling my eyes, I climb back up to our campsite to retrieve the rope and the climbers gear. Hammering in three pitons (safety first!) I loop the knotted silk rope around them and tie as harness about myself, as well as a smaller backpack rigging that I planned on tucking the good Professor into, the twisted little bastard. He happily tucks himself into the makeshift backpack, jabbering on about how important this find was, and other such nonsense.

I just wanted to live through this now, like I said.

“Professor, mind if I take your Pistol, for the time being? I feel a little… unsafe walking around with just a sword.” I ask, trying not to sound too desperate in my plea.

“You’re a strapping young buck Joshua,” He said from his safety harness on my back, patting my kidneys to reassure me. “A sword should be fine enough for you. I never lend anything my boy, anything at all! That’s how you lose your favorite books, or good pens, you know.”

I ignore the urge to just throw the little man down the hole and just make my final adjustments with the rope and the pitons, ensuring their driven deep into a solid section of stone and not just some piece of loose tile. Strange, there are several other holes in the stone similar to the ones I’m hammering in, almost a ring of them surrounding this pit. I pay them no mind as Prof. Nickels urges me to move forward.

“The ropes seem fine Joshua, just fine! Now let’s get a move on!” Prof. Nickels whined from my back.

“Hey, I’m just making sure this will work alright? Whatever’s been down there had been down there since before the pyramids, according to you, it can wait another five minutes.” I snap at him, still trying to figure out how to carry my sword (which is essentially the same size and weight as the good Professor) while shimmying down a rope into a darkened tomb. I reach in my side satchel and pull out a flare, cracking it against the stone floor to ignite the magnesium and sawdust held within it, the foot long rod now glowing as brightly as the sun.

“What’s that?” Prof. Nickels asks, sounding somewhat worried. “Are we being attacked?”

I can feel him pulling his rifle closer to his chest and quickly snag the butt of it with my armpit. “No, I’m just throwing a flare down in the hole, relax.”

“What? Why on earth are you wasting a flare when I already told you it was perfectly safe?” He demands hotly, struggling to break my ironclad grip on his rifle.

“Because I can’t see in the dark like you can you old loon.” I curse and, before he can reply, tuck the flare into the rope about my waist (the fiery bright end up against a boiled strip of leather I used to protect my kidneys whenever I practice boxing in between classes) before jumping down into the hole, feeling the roughened silk rope slide through my leather clad glove as the two of us scream at our rapid descent.

I ditch my sword when I see the ground is coming too quickly and grab the rope with all my might, turning us into a swinging pendulum a good ten feet from the dusty ground. My hands sting from the sudden friction, and I thank God for the fact I’d brought along all of my fighters gear, just in case.

The palms of my gloves are forever ruined, but at least I had hands.

Prof. Nickels undoes his own rigging, dropping to the floor lightly with a fit of giggles. “Good God, what a rush! It’s a shame we can’t do it again, eh?”

I give him a sour look which I know he ignores and pull the flare from my belt, holding it up high to take a look at what this chamber actually held. It was built in the shape of a bell, the base much wide than the top, with flaring buttresses and smoothened stone sloping up the walls. A surprising lack of murals for such a wide chamber, but as I approach one of the walls I can tell why: hundreds of slats running along the walls, perhaps a foot deep and a foot wide, are filled to the brim with human bones.

Prof. Nickels wasn’t joking when he called this a tomb.

He hobbles up next to me, studying the architecture with glee as he jotx down note after note in his small moleskin journal. “Very nice, very nice indeed!” He said happily. Looking around at the vast collection of bones. “This must be a room where those sacrificed were to be placed.”

“Wait, how do you know that?” I ask, looking around for any sign of writing or any indication that this was a religious room.

“Well the only entrance is nearly a hundred foot drop, and while you may not have noticed, the center stone directly beneath the hole is made of much more durable granite, polished to a fine shine.” He said with a carefree smile. “The bones were placed into the walls after the victim had been thrown down here. I would also like to note, just to keep you alert, that none of these skeletons, no matter how incomplete, seem to have suffered any major broken bones.”

“That means something was down here to, what, sort the dead?” I ask hesitantly, looking down at Prof. Nickels.

“No, I believe this is just a hobby for whatever it is they trapped down here some few thousand years ago.” Prof. Nickels replied while eyeing the varying states of decomposition between the bones. “Grab your sword Joshua… we might still have need of it.”
***

The entire room was indeed built like a bell, tapered at the top, with curving walls flowing downward in a wavy pattern that suggested the site was originally a naturally existing cavern that some primitive culture had chosen to alter. The entire room is roughly two hundred feet in diameter, with four pillars acting as support for the structure forming a square some fifty feet apart from each other, and seventy five feet or so from the Charnel-lined walls. Everything was carved from smooth granite, with few actual etchings marring in the stone, indicating the tools used to fashion the tile and the columns were metal, not stone.

Prof. Nickels was ecstatic, having pulled an oil lantern from his own prodigious satchel, creating a wreath of comforting light around us. He did this not for comfort, but to study the pillars, and the drawings ever so carefully carved into them. I chose to merely shoulder my sword and stay by the old man, watching for whatever could be down here that enjoyed sorting bones.

Scribbling furiously in his journal, Prof. Nickels was blathering on about how this was supposed to be the antechamber to the “River of Continued Life,” which would either represent a belief in reincarnation or a belief in an underworld reachable only by waterway. Both of these beliefs existed in this area at a later date, the rocky hills and mountains of Iraq having played host to Roman and Hindu alike. But from what little Sanskrit and hieroglyphs I knew, damned if I could say they were similar to the writings on the pillars.

My flare, slowly dying out, left a large black mark on my leather bodice, and so I chose to use it as an exploratory tool, mostly by throwing it as far as I could.

Bouncing off the wall (and narrowly flying into a slot full of femurs), the flare drops down with a clatter and rolls for a few moments, illuminating a passage by just the barest shred of shadow. I immediately break out another flare, cracking it to life with a sizzling twist and hurl it into the gaping maw of the passage, its landing kicking up a small cloud of dust and grim as it rolls about, hissing and spitting sparks. For the briefest of moments, I thought I saw the flicker of movement within the flares fluorescent glow, but thankfully it was just a cloud of detritus that had been stirred up.

“Well now this is strange,” Prof. Nickels says aloud, a phrase which I can safely say is never safe to hear when you are hundreds of feet beneath the ground. “It keeps referring to a symbol that could either mean ‘Keeper Of’ or ‘Keeper from’.”

“Those are two big distinctions Professor, and I’d rather not die fighting whatever the hell acts as a Keeper to this place, only to find your supposed ‘Mother of all Evils; down here.” I reply, eyeing the passage and the two sets of light keeping it illuminated. “Check another Pillar, see if they have a different reference, a different story.”

“That might be best, as now all I am finding are references to something that I shouldn’t be reading here of all places,” Prof. Nickels said with a grunt, walking over to the next pillar, the one furthest from the passage. “The symbol… it can’t be what I think it means, as that would prove this to be a very dangerous place.”

“What symbol? Maybe I’ve seen it somewhere.” I offer, thinking it worth a shot. After all, I am an archaeologist in training.

He looks at me oddly, as if not looking at the man he knew me to be but with a sudden, distrusting glint. “You’ve never studied at Miskatonic University, have you?”

“Miskatonic? No, I tried to get in but my application was rejected. Their standards are too high for me to attain for now. Why?” I ask, confused. What did the infamous Arkham University have to do with knowing an ancient symbol?

“Then thank whatever God you believe in that you can’t confirm that symbol for me.” Prof. Nickels utters as he pushes past me and to the next column, dropping his bag to serve as a seat as he begins scribbling notes from the pillar, his translations slow and steady.

I chose to crack open another flare and follow along the walls to make certain I wasn’t missing any other passages, slowly running my hand along the centuries old stone as I go. Cool to the touch, yet oddly bereft of any dust, or soot. The passage has been full of such debris, but it seemed as if a maid had come through just before us, tidying everything up.

I make a discovery that nearly kills me as I stumble upon a sudden drop off, just opposite of the passage. The wall opens and goes back about twenty feet, for about thirty feet of wall space. A small stone bridge, barely three feet in width, crosses over to an alcove on the other side, where the most bizarre statue I’ve ever seen sits atop a fountain.

A creature that looks aquatic by nature, with fins and frills sprouting from its three tentacle appendages that it is using to rise from the fountain, with carved from what I could only guess to be marble. The tentacles themselves reared up, showing off what any normal squid would have, but instead revealing a row of carved eyes, each set with a small faded emerald. The tentacles connected with the main body, a bulbous center followed by a long serpentine tail that it was resting upon, like a cobra raised up.

The head of the beast was lowered and shaped like a bell, with a three foot wide lamprey mouth slowly spewing water into the fountain beneath it. One great eye, shut for reasons I could never guess, sat atop the head, but from where I stood I could see spacing for the eyelids to move, probably if a lever were turned or something.

The rest of the fountain was nothing but a great piece of art depicting a city, embossed figures running away from the great beast, while smaller versions of the creature seemed to be chasing them.

“I’d say early ninth century BC,” Prof. Nickels says from my elbow, eyeing the disturbing piece as well.

“What the hell is that?” I ask, waving my flare at it. “I’ve never heard of any tales of giant sea beasts that resemble that.”

To say its name is said to garner its attention, but to ease this conversation, we shall call it by the title it earned: Darkness Given Hunger.” The Professor said with a sigh, staring at the statue with the look of a man lost in a terrible, terrible memory. “If this is this far south… what this is isn’t what I was looking for.”

“Well you were looking for evidence of older civilizations Professor.”

“Not this kind, and certainly not here of all places.” Prof. Nickels grouses, moving over to his pack in a sudden hurry.

From deep below our feet the entire complex quaked with the churning of some unwholesome howl, along with the groaning of the very stone around us. Whatever Nickels feared could be down here, it sounded as if it just now took note of us.

How that would play out, I couldn’t say.
***

Prof. Nickels had decided to finally drop his mammoth backpack to the temple floor, a sudden cloud of dust bursting up from the floor in a choking miasma that left both of us coughing. Flipping over the seal of his bag, he rooted within its cavernous interior until he yanked free two cartridges of ammunition for his M1911, pulling back the safety and checking over the heavy pistol before tossing it to me.

“While the sword’s a nice touch, I’ve got a feeling that we’ll need a bit more arms than that to deal with what we’re going to find down here.” Prof. Nickels says with a wry chuckle, carefully loading his Sharp’s rifle with the inch long bullets as he spoke. “A good deal of trouble should be heading our way if my guess is right.”

“Guess? What guess? And shouldn’t we be leaving if you think we’re going to be in trouble?” I ask, fumbling with the heavy pistol before getting a good feel for it, sheathing my sword in the crumbling scabbard as I watch him pull out small green orbs, a metallic sheen glinting from the flare’s bright glow.

Grenades? “What are we going to need those for? To cover our escape?”

“We stood in front of the statue lad, shed blood over the top soil of the creature’s tomb,” Prof. Nickels calmly explains. “If I’d but known this was a sight where one of these blasted things dwelt, I’d have never of brought you here. For that, I’m deeply sorry.”

“What things? This Darkness Given Hunger thing?” I ask, growing slightly annoyed at how little the dear professor was sharing. I snap my head to the side, looking down the tunnel opposite of the statue leading down, down deeper into the cold womb of the earth. A distant echo was coming from the tunnel, a wet noise… like the sound of mud dropping from the hide of an elephant, plopping to the ground in great sickly splats.

“The Darkness Given Hunger is something put to sleep thousands of years ago by ancient man, and kept in a tomb under lock and key.” The professor begins to explain, moving away from his pack with a surprising amount of speed, back straight for the first time that I’d ever seen. “Legend’s tell of creatures made from the blood and dreams of the slumbering beast, creatures that act as both its wardens and its servants.”

“Servants? What the hell are you talking about?”

“The creature and its ilk are as close to damned gods as mankind have ever seen! They ruled over the ancient civilizations as monstrous tyrants while others merely reveled in slaughtering entire empires, feasting on our flesh and drinking our blood!” Prof. Nickels all but shouts, sliding the bolt of his rifle into place. “We’re going to need to do something about this… an unholy site like this must be sealed up, locked away from people who would stumble blindly into it.”

“So the grenades?” I ask, watching as he slings a smaller pack (pulled from his larger one) over his shoulder, filling it with the small cylindrical grenades and sticks of dynamite. “And the dynamite?”

“We’re going deeper, deep enough to where the tunnel is narrow and beneath several tons of earth.” The good professor replied, shouldering his rifle. “And then we’re going to coax out some of these creatures out and kill them so I can have a look at them before blowing this place back to the bowels of Hell where it belongs.”

A horrid, gurgling screech echoes from the depths of the tunnel before us, a scrabbling of steel upon stone as… something is coming up from the unknown. “Here comes the first wave… this should tell us what we’re dealing with.”

I look at him like he’s a madman (which isn’t unusual) before moving behind a pillar, putting my back to the cool stone as I pull a new flare from my own satchel, cracking it to life before spinning around the pillar and throwing it into the dimly lit tunnel, my previous flare having begun to peter out.

The thrown flare collides solidly with a wet slap against the chest, if you could call it that, of an unholy terror torn from the brainchild of Dr. Seuss and Escher. Two legs rising up from the top of the creature’s body, multiple joints visible beneath the gelatinous skin moving in tandem as the creature shuffles awkwardly towards us, my flare seemingly stuck to its hide by viscous ooze seeping from its pores.

The main torso is nothing but a lone, unblinking eye and a series of snake-like tentacles, all ending in three pronged mouths that writhe and hiss. Its feet are boneless, shapeless blobs of protoplasm that it used to balance upon, merely sliding along the ground with its leg movements rather than lifting its feet like any other creature would. The crackling flare stuck just above its eye created a corona of light that illuminated the rest of the hall, revealing another three such creatures shambling up the hall towards us.

Prof. Nickels breaks me from my horrified stupor with the loud crack of his rifle, echoing across the chamber as the high caliber round lances through the gelatinous hide of the first creature, passing through it and through another still, all without slowing them down. Cursing, he fires two more shots, blasting away large globs of their green flesh, spattering it against the walls around them as he begins firing at their legs.

But still they push on, onward into the chamber, their tentacles stretched out towards us hissing, hissing in a language that seemed to alien for me to understand, yet I understood all too well. Words of pain and suffering, of my eternal agony and of their eternal suffering flitted through my mind, images of men being torn asunder by armies of these creatures, of how the oceans would grow dark with their passing, consuming anything and everything in their path.

And of how they dreamed of doing it again.

“Focus damn it!” Prof. Nickels shouts at me, reloading his Sharps as quickly as his arthritic hands can. “They get in your mind unless you focus!”

Seeing what little effect his bullets seemed to have on these gelatinous horrors before us, I move from behind the pillar, focusing on the creature with the smoldering flare charring it’s quivering mass. I fire three rounds as I calmly walk up to it, one going wide and striking the floor a few yards behind it but the other two piercing deep into the creatures eye, a spray of writhing maggots erupting from the two holes made over the sensitive flesh. The snake-like tentacles screech in agony, growing louder in pitch as I lunge forward with my blade, hacking into the writhing mass with vigor I never knew I possessed.

The multiple maws all shriek with fury untold as I hack and tear them away from the creature’s bobbing form, firing bullets into the center of its bulbous, now deflated, eye as I slash and jab away at its tentacles as if they were mere weeds. Prof. Nickels, watching the effect of shooting them in the eye, unloads a single round into the remaining threes’ large eyes, the floor now smeared with trampled maggots and green blood.

It takes me but a moment to realize, as I’m rending into the beast, that I’m slowly growing taller than it. Looking down, I see several of the severed tendrils, now mawless but still quite flexible, wrapped around my legs and waist, lifting me high into the air above it. Confused, I drop my gun and grip my sword tightly with both hands, swinging in wide arcs to tear away the strands holding me aloft.

With mounting horror and a moment of realization, I saw the bones within the gelatinous beast, the ones that seemed to be there to grant the beast legs and a torso, begin to realign within the central mass of the blob.

Realigning into a humanoid shape.

The creature let loose a horrid squelching noise as the skeletal remains of what was once a living, breathing man burst from the gelatinous walking tomb, sharpened fingers curled into talons as it lashes out, tearing four wide strips in my jerkin with its razor sharp talons. A wet, hollow laughter fills the corridor as the maggots still spewing from the central eye began to swarm back into the creature’s feet, swimming through their host to slowly writhe and contort over the skeletal torso sticking out of the top of the stoop creature.

“Fleshlings… for the master…” The skeleton rasps with a dark voice, the maggots swarming over him, flattening out until they were bursting from the pressure to form a semi-solid paste over the skeletons body. The other three were doing the same, skeletons climbing out of the gelatinous beasts as the writhing streams of maggots fueled a horrid transformation granting them a taut skin coat as pale as the moon. “All will kneel… within his shadow…”

“Kneel to this!” I shout swinging my blade in a heavy handed arc down into the fragile looking frame as it was climbing from its roost.

Clang!

I stare in shock as the skeleton, now more of a pasty-colored emaciated monster, writhing maggots peeking out from its empty eye sockets, stands there with both hands held high, a thin staff of green slime having jutted out from the quivering mass to block my strike, it’s hardness now equal to that of my ancient blade. As the laughing dead takes a firm grip of the staff, a wicked curved blade grows from the end of it, turning the staff into a scythe. A sickening noise akin to vomit hitting the floor echoes across the chamber as my foe tears his new weapon from his former host, his comrades creating the same weapons from their own symbiotic graves.

“The Darkness… feeds… needs to awaken…” The skeletal creature rasps, limping forward towards me, dragging its heavy ended weapon along the stone floor beside it, the scratching of iron on stone grating in my ears. “Bleed… bleed for Qas!”

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Prof. Nickels quickly begins to reload his rifle as his three shots blast away great chunks of my foes body, rending off an arm at the shoulder socket and blowing away its left lower leg from the knee down.

Undaunted, two of the other undead warriors (the third stumbling from the Professors second shot, which blew away a good portion of its upper body), scythes raised high in the air with screams on their lipless mouths’. I pull my ancient sabre back, stepping to the side as a heavy ended scythe came crashing down into the stone with a heavy cracking noise. Before the creature could pull back, I swing my own blade in imitation of the abominations maneuver, severing its arms at their elbows, the skeletal forearms still wriggling on the shaft of the scythe wedged into the stone floor.

“Qas… hungers for yo-urk!” The creature hisses at me before I ram the full length of my blade into its skull, the hilt shattering its aged teeth with a sickening crunch. Putting a boot to the creatures face, I hop to the left to put the wriggling undead between me and his last dangerous friend and kick him free from my blade, sending the armless body tumbling into its colleague, who mercilessly twirls its weapon and bisects its allies broken form.

“Flesh… blood… spirit…” The creature hisses as it advances on me, holding the deadly curved blade high before it, a guard flawless against anything I can do.

Bang!

… but not anything Professor Nickels can do. His rifle shot blasts the last skeletons head into disjointed fragments, a rancid green slime exploding outward from the sudden implosion caused by the .50 caliber round. The body stumbles for a moment before the eldritch energies holding it together collapse, the skeletal being falling to pieces as its composite bones are reduced to ash and grit.

The various scythes that the undead abominations had been wielding, as well as their pasty flesh that was drawn taut over their emaciated frames, began to bubble and dissolve as their evil spirits finally lose the battle to remain coherent.

“Good work,” Nickels says as he walks up behind me, reloading his rifle. He scoops up his pistol from the ground and holsters it again, giving me a wary eye. “That sword of yours better pack a wallop, because they confirmed what I feared was down here.”

“You mean…?”

“Darkness Given Hunger,” He interrupts, looking at me pointedly. “Never say his name, or his eye will be cast upon you. Even now he sleeps… hopefully.”

“Than what were those?” I ask, pointing my sword at the bubbling green muck at my feet.

“I’m no expert on the Elder Gods, but those were clearly fractured pieces of the Darkness that serve as guardians for him.” Prof. Nickels says as he kneels by one of the steaming puddles, pulling a flask and a spoon from his satchel and ladling in a fair amount of the muck. “Each God has beings that serve them, that are a part of them. The followers of the Christian God call them Angels, the followers of the Yellow King have the Byakhee . If I recall, Darkness Given Hunger has the Dreamless Nightmares, or Quan-gao.”

“Yeah, I can see where they’d get that name.” I say, toeing one of the puddles with my boot. “That sounds somewhat Asiatic in nature.”

“That’s because it is,” Prof. Nickels replied from his place on the goo slathered ground. “The Darkness Given Hunger was originally sealed by the Uruk, the Sumerians. How do you think they overcame the vast Ubaid empire history claims they toppled?

“I’ve never really thought about it.” I admit, wincing as the Professor pulls a slickened shard of bone from the quivering mass.

“Nobody ever does. Every time a great empire fell, it was because one of these… these things awoke or arrived from beyond time and space, and undid all that man had labored so many years to create. The Sumerians buried this creature after it gorged itself upon their civilization, merely renaming themselves afterwards to the Sumerians thanks to the hero who led the battles against the Quan-gao.”

“So why didn’t the Sumerians deal with all of the Quan-gao when they had the chance?” I ask, looking at the bubbling remains of the foul beasts.

“Each man slain in the Darkness’s name, or under his gaze, are pulled into his dreams and made into one of the beasts we just fought.” Prof. Nickels says with a distinct shudder. “What you just did was release the souls of three men or women that had spoken his name and died by the hand of one of his agents.”

“Oh… that’s disheartening. And we’re going to go deeper into the tunnels where these things came from?” I ask a tad incredulously, pulling a pit of cloth free from my ruined shirt and wiping away the gunk from my blade.

“Just to blow the narrowest point of the tunnel closed, so that none of this can ever surface. If the Darkness awakens, the world as we know it could fade into a living nightmare.”

“Well if the world is at stake,” I say with a sigh, looking around the tunnel in search of something to plunder. “I’m going to need a shield. I can’t use a gun to save my life.”

“I know,” Prof. Nickels said with a smile as he cracked his rifle into the ready position, “I saw. You do well with a blade, and if my eyes don’t deceive me, there’s a round shield just under that debris over there.”

Looking to where he was pointing, I indeed see a battered iron round shield, one that would have been used by virtually a dozen civilizations that had ruled over this area in the last thousand years, pinned beneath a large slab from the mosaic. Moving over, I wedge my blade into a crack in the detritus and heave my weight forward, breaking away the crumbling remains pinning my new prize to the ground.

Covered in verdigris and dents, the leather arm straps within the shield are surprisingly sound, with very little rot to them that I can see. The dented shields surface bears a wolf’s head symbol, perhaps linking it to one of the numerous barbarian tribes that had ravaged the lands above over the past thousand years.

How it got down here when it too the Professor and I over three days of spelunking is beyond me, but I’m thankful for it. I quickly tie the shield off on my left arm, freeing the hand to hold a flare.

While I busy myself with that, the Professor has been busy studying the remaining sections of mosaic with intense scrutiny, jotting down notes in his ever present journal. “A group of people native to this land dedicated their entire civilization to worshipping the Darkness,” he says aloud as I’m adjusting the straps, “according to this for over five hundred years they lived in the caverns above, building this great complex to house the ancient horror while it lay dormant. Of course, they revered it as a God… and according to this it gave them blessings in return.”

“How? It’s asleep, right?”

The Professor snorts and shoots me a derisive glare. “A being like this is never fully asleep, nor fully awake. It neither lives nor is dead, it just is. Those ghouls up tope we encountered were the caretakers of these sacred grounds, blessed with eternal life to better serve their God.”

“Oh…” And we’d killed them. “Then we better hurry, or the rest of them will notice those guards are missing and come looking for us.”

The Professor remains silent as he finished the mosaic, clearing his throat every few moments as he had to stoop to the pieces I had broken away to get a clearer view of what the pictograms read. From his face, they weren’t anything pleasant.

“Anything else I should know about?” I ask as I tighten the last arm brace over my bicep.

“Just that the Darkness slumbers so long as it is regularly fed warriors. If it goes too long without eating, it sends out the Quan-gao. If it goes even longer, than it wakes up.”

“Lovely,” I grumble, adjusting my satchel along my hip to have a better sense of balance in the inevitable case of having another fight, “Well then let’s hurry and blow the tunnel closed so that it can’t get out.”
***

I move deeper down the dank tunnel, trying to ignore the saccharine scent of the dead that seems to pervade through the porous stone tunnel we’d begun descending about half an hour ago. The Professor has been unusually quiet as I move ahead of him, my tarnished shield and gleaming sword glinting softly in the light of the flare the good professor has dangled from an extended wooden rod from his satchel, held in place by the straps of his backpack and creating a peaceful glow that chased away the overwhelming gloom of the strange tunnels design.

“It’s like the stone wasn’t carved,” I muse as I slowly make my way down the smooth slope, the tunnel walls and floor slick with the same green slime the Quan-gao had been comprised of.

“It wasn’t,” Prof. Nickels said with authority, pulling a scroll from his side satchel as he spoke. “The Quan-gao are formed primarily of a weak mineral acid, something akin to Boric acid I believe, which allows the slumbering Darkness to guide his guardians in creating new tunnels for it to travel should it ever awaken.”

“Lovely,” I deadpan; slowly learning that the more I heard of this forgotten Elder God, the more I wished it remained forgotten.

“Look! Just up ahead, it looks like an opening!” The Professor says, a gnarled hand grasping my shoulder, shaking me excitedly. “Let’s go, we have much to do!”

“Shouldn’t we just set the charges here and blow the cavern closed?” I ask somewhat hesitantly as the good professor shuffles ahead of me. He shakes his head, sputtering on excitedly.

“No no no, that just won’t do! What if there are other tunnels?” He asked without looking back. “We need to ensure that we’re sealing the Darkness away for good, not just closing one of its many doors.”

I sigh at his usual impeccable logic, moving onward past his shuffling form to look to the edge of the darkened chamber, a sense of vertigo overcoming me as I stare into the vacuous void before me. A few moments later the dangling flare hanging above my diminutive professor allow me a greater chance to peer into the cavernous hollow, great pillars of stone lining the walls to hold the ceiling too high to see aloft. The floor of the cavern, a mere thirty feet from the tunnel they stood in, bubbled with darkened slime, the ooze shifting and swirling, moving like the slimy fried eggs, pushing and pulling against one another in an endless struggle for dominanace.

“Well… this sure slows things down.” I say with a sigh, looking at my crazy Professor for an answer, one that he seems to already have ready as he is rooting through his satchel. The toothless man gives a cry of glee as he pulls a tightly wound orange rectangle from his bag, shoving it into my hands as he fishes out a pair of collapsible oars.

“You can’t be serious… we came to a dig in the desert and you have an inflatable raft?” I nearly shout, before he shushes me, looking across the cavern with concern. “What?”

“Nothing… I… I just don’t want to alert anything to our position.” Prof. Nickels says, scratching at his neck idly as he set to extending the oars. “Roll out some rope and some pitons so we can have a safe drop down onto those waters, I want to make sure we don’t have anything else to worry about.”

“Are you serious?” I cry, pointing my sword out into the darkness, a low groan echoing through the cavern, waves of slime splashing against the rocks beneath us as if something titanic had just breached the surface of the small sea. “This right here is a big thing to worry about!”

“Now my young warrior, you have no reason to worry. Between your blade and shield and my gun we’ll be fine.” Prof. Nickels says with a smile as he slides the last piece of the oar into position. “I know you’re worried, but you must ask yourself: are you prepared to defend humanity from the otherworldly evil that lurks here, even if it may cost you your own life?”

Taken aback by the strange question, I stare at my Professor with a measure of caution. “Well… of course, I mean… who wouldn’t be willing to save humanity?”

Professor Nickels serious demeanor melts away to his normally cheerful expression. “Well then, get to it! We need to be down there seeing what we need to do, not standing about like a couple of bumps on a log!”

***

After we’d scaled the slick wall to the crashing waves of darkened slime beneath us, the good Professor had pulled the ripcord on the raft, unfurling the great orange life raft in an awkward moment of sheer panic as the great boat almost overtook us and comedy as we fell from our tenuous grip on sanity and into the raft, the waves rocking us back and forth as Prof. Nickels fastened the collapsible oars to the raft, moving to the helm of our teetering vessel and adjusting his glasses, peering off into the darkness.

“Full steam ahead mi’boy!” He says with a hearty chuckle, nodding to the oars as he moved past me towards the rudder. “It’ll take more than these withered old bones are capable of to battle these raging waters.”

“That is not water…” I grumble as a jellied glob splashes over the side, seemingly trying to stretch out in search of open skin. Taking the oars, I begin rowing as best I can against the swirling currents of the underground sea as Prof. Nickels steers us along. Several times my oars slide between greasy ovoid’s, pushing them apart.

We drift for what feels like hours as my arms go numb from the strain of battling the turbulent currents, sweat pouring from my lean frame in buckets as I desperately tried to keep us on the Professors desired course. The entire time he praises me, telling me we were almost there, that we were only a few dozen yards from it.

Gasping for breath, I never thought to ask what it was.

Just as I felt my arms giving out from exhaustion, I was lucky enough to see the wicked grin the cracked across my scholarly advisors face as he lunges across the raft with his rifle held firmly between his white-knuckled hands, the butt of the gun making a shuddering snap as he beat me across my brow with the butt of the gun, dropping me back from the force of the blow, my vision swimming as I struggle to understand what had just happened.

I struggle even further when he brings the butt of the rifle down onto my face, breaking my nose and shattering my front teeth in a sickening crunch, tears streaming from my eyes as I watched him slowly pull the weapon from my face, a fractured piece of one of my front incisors sticking to the butt by a thin coating of my own blood. He steps over me, shucking off his heavy satchel onto my chest, I suppose to pin me in case I had any fight left within me, as he moves to stand at the bow of our miniature raft, hands held high overhead.

“Qas!” He intones, a low moan akin to the call of a whale rising up from beneath us as he lowers his arms once more, jumping from the raft and landing on something hard just out of my sight… something made of stone? “I’ve brought you the blood of a tested warrior, one who will allow you to slumber still. Come to your servant and grant me my boon and I will render unto you the supple flesh of the young and the brave!”

This can’t be good. I struggle to move the massive pack off of me, but with between my swimming vision and my numb arms I can only flail uselessly as he hops back onto the raft with the dexterity of a man a tenth his age, rolling the bag off of me and hoisting me up onto his shoulder.

Coughing up blood and a few teeth, I look at him through the one eye that can see. “No expert, eh?” I laugh, hacking up a lungful of blood onto the back of his khaki jacket. He merely pats my aching back with a gnarled hand as he jumps from the raft, landing on a large stained stone, rounded along the edges, before dumping me onto the ground with the care of a man dropping a bag of gravel.

“What can I say boy,” He says with a smile and a genial shrug, “I’m a man who figured out a way to stay young forever while keeping mankind safe from the things that go bump in the night. I’m a bloody hero!”

As he’s saying this rivulets of blackened slime are trailing up along ridges carved into the stone, seeping and searching for my spilled blood. I wince as I feel, and hear, the caustic hiss of the ooze lashing to my leg, and then my arm, pulling me taut along the rock. I let out a wail of agony as the slime begins to suffuse over my body, eating away at my clothes and skin with a sound akin to the sizzling of a slab of meat on a grill. Just as my head begins to submerge beneath the malevolent muck, I see Prof. Nickels leap back to the raft, my sword in his hand, calling out to me over his shoulder.

“Don’t worry m’boy!” He shouts cheerfully as he begins to row away, leaving me to my horrid demise. “You’ll see me again in another fifty years!”

Credit To – Nicholas Paschall

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Frank’s Forest

May 22, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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In the backseat of her mother’s minivan, Ashley admired the passing autumn foliage and contemplated the excitement and fear she and her best friends were sure to experience at Frank’s Forest, an attraction featuring actors as zombies, witches, and werewolves galore, all trying to “kill” the visitors.
For four years, she, Emily, Sarah, and Zoey had wanted to go to this haunted attraction. Each girl pleaded with her parents, only to hear the same answer: “You’re too young.” Now that they were freshmen in high school, their parents decided they were old enough to experience it. To make it even better, they had the opportunity to partake in the thrills and fear on the night of Halloween as well as that of a full moon.
Despite this, Ashley had a sinking worry in the pit of her stomach. Though she knew thousands of people had participated in Frank’s Forest and loved it, she was certain something would go terribly wrong.
Over the course of the past year, Ashley started seeing a therapist to discuss her increasing feelings of paranoia. At first, it was focused on the paranormal; she claimed to see countless ghosts lurking around her home. Since her parents had no reasons to believe otherwise, they kept an eye out for supernatural happenings around the house. To their dismay, her parents never experienced any ghostly activities. The spirits only seemed to want to interact with Ashley.
Once her ghost phase moved on, she felt as if someone was constantly staring at her. Whether she was in class or with her family or completely isolated in her own room, she could not shake the feeling that someone was watching her. This feeling kept her constantly on edge and would not allow her to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. She realized she must be going crazy and admitted it to her parents.
Therapy worked as long as she didn’t have a reason to have paranoid thoughts anymore. However, her feelings of paranoia only intensified when her friends reminded her of their dream to go to Frank’s Forest. Ever since that conversation six months ago, Ashley has had nightmares where she and her friends have died in hundreds of different, gory ways. These nightmares only got worse when they made definitive plans to go on Halloween night, the night of a full moon. Her paranoia convinced her there would be real werewolves there that would transform and maul all her friends and her to death.
Although her fear was petrifying at times, she refused to ruin the fun and excitement for her friends. Ashley decided not to tell them of her therapy sessions or her unshakable worries.
“Ash, are you okay?” Sarah asked tentatively from the adjacent seat.
“I’m fine; I’m just a little nervous, I guess,” she assured.
Zoey turns around from the passenger seat, glaring at her with an annoyed expression. “Why are you nervous? We finally have a chance to go, and you’re going to ruin it for all of us! Just enjoy it, won’t ya?” she demanded.
“Now, Zoey, that’s enough,” Ashley’s mom interfered.
“C’mon, Zo, don’t be rude,” Emily chimed in. “By the way, thanks for the ride, Mrs. Hamilton.”
“Yeah, thanks,” the other girls added.
“No problem, girls,” Mrs. Hamilton said, smiling as she turned down a dirt road and into an unfamiliar forest. After five minutes, the girls saw a small yet packed parking lot. Mrs. Hamilton backed into a space and turned to face the girls again. “I don’t know this area well, and it’s quite a drive, so I think I’ll find somewhere to relax until you girls are done. Just shoot me a text or call me when you’re all done and I’ll be back for you, okay?”
“Alright,” Ashley answered as her friends climbed out of the vehicle.
“Ashley… Please try to relax and have fun tonight. I know it might seem scary, but don’t freak yourself out. Your friends are with you, and they all want to have fun with you, too.”
“I know, Mom. Thanks again. I love you.”
“I love you too, sweetie.”
Once Ashley exited the van and the girls crossed the lot, Mrs. Hamilton pulled out of her spot and back down the road. After the girls watched Mrs. Hamilton leave, Sarah interrupted the silence. “We don’t want to be late, guys,” she said, gesturing toward a narrow dirt path with a “TICKETS” sign handwritten in red paint.
The girls walked silently down the path for a minute until they reached the ticket booth. Sitting inside was a woman with dark circles under her eyes and an uncommonly pale face. “Four of you?” she asked in a husky voice. All four nodded. “That’ll be $80.” Each handed her a $20 bill, which she placed in a cash register. “Behind this ticket booth is a group of picnic tables. That’s where your guides will be meeting in a few minutes. Until we meet again.” She smirked at them as they passed.
Once they are out of earshot, Zoey commented, “She was creepy.”
“Are you guys sure we can handle this?” Ashley wondered nervously.
“Of course, Ash! We’ll be fine,” Emily reassured her.
“We just paid for our tickets, anyway,” Zoey reminded her. “If you don’t wanna do it, I guess you don’t have to; you’re just out $20.”
“Look, there’s no need to make such a big deal out of this, guys,” Sarah chimed in. “Plenty of people have gone here before, and it must be pretty good if it’s still open. Let’s have fun.”
Ashley sighed and nodded. “Sorry, guys, I’m not sure why I feel this way. But I can do this.” She lied to appease her friends.
The girls approached the picnic tables, all of which are occupied by couples and small groups in their late teens and early twenties speaking of their excitement and anxiety about this upcoming experience. In total there were around a hundred fellow visitors. Once the girls found a spot to sit together, they idly chattered for a few minutes until the actors slowly approached. There were two physically fit actors and a skinny actress. One man donned a heavy mane and excess amounts of thick hair on every visible inch of skin. The other’s skin was a haunting grey color, and as he sluggishly shuffled forward, he brought the unmistakable odor of rotting flesh. The woman wore a skintight, seductive black ensemble with a velvet red cape, featuring pointy vampire teeth and sticky blood around her lips.
Ashley shuddered immediately upon recognizing the monster the actors represented; she was right about a werewolf being there, and was now absolutely convinced they were going to die. Every part of her wanted to turn around and go home, but she couldn’t explain it to her friends in a sensible way.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen. We will begin as your guides and transform into your worst nightmares,” Werewolf introduced in a menacing growl.
“Basically, we will lead you into the area and leave you on your own,” Vampy added.
“Do any of you have questions before we begin?” Zombie asked.
Ashley called out, “How long will this take?”
The trio exchanged a look and chuckled ominously. “However long it takes. It depends on how much of a fight everybody puts up,” Vampy responded, winking at Ashley.
Ashley involuntarily shivered. By asking that question, she made herself — and her group of friends — an easy target, she was sure. “Guys, I have a really bad feeling about this,” she whispered desperately. “We can’t do this. I can’t let us do this.”
“What’s your problem, Ash? They’re actors; they’re supposed to intimidate us and make us afraid. It’s their job,” Zoey snapped quietly.
“Don’t be rude, Zo,” Emily scolded. “Ash, it’ll be okay. Do you realize how many people come to this every year and have an amazing time? Seriously, we’re gonna walk out of here safe and sound. I promise.”
“Alright, everybody follow us!” Zombie commanded as he and his comrades turned around to head back in the direction from which they came.
Ashley exhaled deeply and looked to her friends. “Here we go,” she murmured as they walked side by side, following their temporary guides.
After a silent and eerie walk deep into the woods, Werewolf, Vampy, and Zombie abruptly stopped. “We’ve arrived at our destination,” Werewolf explained. “Now, we must reunite with our comrades. All of us will return in five minutes’ time.”
“We take pleasure in hunting humans and making feasts of them,” Vampy added, smirking. “Each of us is famished. If you do not desire to become a meal, I would suggest that you hide or attempt to escape.”
“However, half our pleasure comes from the thrill of the hunt. Therefore, you cannot stick together as one large group. It would be much too simple to track you down and devour every last one of you. The people you came here with are the only ones you may stay with,” Zombie said.
“Know that our next encounter will be fatal. We — werewolves, vampires, and zombies — are the only ones who can fatally wound you. Our other friends are simply devices to terrify you. Your screams are also clear indicators of your location. If you encounter our less deadly friends, refrain from shouting out if you value your lives,” Vampy supplemented.
“We sound like soulless monsters, and rightly so,” Werewolf augmented. “Despite this, we are not completely unreasonable creatures. If your group is the last group standing, we will restrain ourselves and let you go free. Oh, and don’t even bother calling outsiders for assistance; you have no cell reception. If you don’t believe me, go ahead. Take out your phones.”
Immediately, every human pulls out their cell phone. Each one has the same message on the screen: NO SERVICE. Zoey, Emily, and Sarah look around at one another, both impressed and slightly worried.
“Your five minutes begin once we can no longer see you: a generous gift since our eyesight is much better than yours,” Zombie concluded. “I hope to see many of you soon. Good luck.” He and his comrades crept backwards until they were no longer visible.
As soon as the group was left to its own devices, couples and small groups immediately branched off and began walking away in several different directions, talking quietly amongst themselves.
“I think we can be the last group to be found if we jog instead of walk,” Zoey suggested. Sarah and Emily nod in agreement as the girls begin their run in a direction unique from the rest of the crowd, backtracking toward the ticket booth.
“What’s our strategy?” Emily wondered.
“We do whatever we can to be the last ones standing,” Ashley answered grimly, assuming her friends now agreed with her worries. “It’s good we’re heading in the opposite direction of the monsters. It should take longer for them to find us.”
As they progress, they heard the familiar sound of a wolf’s howl, a sound that stopped them in their tracks. Living in an area where it was common for wolves to appear in someone’s backyard, the girls all knew it was a genuine howl, not a human imitation. “They wouldn’t have a tourist attraction like this in a forest where there are wolves prowling around, would they?” Ashley questioned. This was proof enough for her that the werewolf was real, and if he was, so were the others.
“They must have speakers in the tops of the trees and a recording of a wolf howl,” Zoey rationalized. “Come on; we need to pick up the pace.”
The girls continue running until they heard a series of bloodcurdling, paralyzing screams from behind them. Once again, the group stopped. Ashley began to shake uncontrollably as she knew the screams were real, too. “Our five minutes must be up,” Emily stated matter-of-factly.
The others hushed her. “If they started already, we need to keep quiet and keep moving,” Zoey whispered. “We want to last as long as possible, right? We need to get our money’s worth.”
“Do you think everybody found each other back there and kept close together?” Sarah wondered softly. “How many screams were there?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. They don’t concern us,” Zoey stated diplomatically. “All I care about is us making it close to the end, if not the very end. Let’s go.”
After a few more minutes of uninterrupted silence and running, more bloodcurdling screams break out from behind them, closer this time. “Others are heading back here, which means the monsters are, too,” Zoey observed quietly. “We need to pick up the pace.”
However, before they could do that, they heard a crashing sound from directly behind them. As each girl turned around, she gasped and covered her mouth to stifle the screams. A lifeless, pale, and hauntingly thin female body lied limply inside the enormous dent of a previously healthy and stick-straight tree, featuring two puncture wounds on her neck and little trickles of blood dried onto her neck.
“Do you see the dent in the tree?” Sarah shrieks, forgetting about the importance of muted voices. “Humans can’t throw that hard, even from a short distance away. They either have a catapult, or…”
All eyes turn to Ashley as they realize her worries were both justified and correct. “I told you guys I didn’t want to do this,” she murmured as tears formed in her eyes.
As the girls’ faces slowly lose their color, they attempt to walk slowly in the directly for which they were heading. “We need to keep moving,” Emily muttered, emotionless.
“We’re not getting out of here alive, are we?” Sarah asked them.
“I don’t think anyone is,” Ashley responded honestly.
After thirty seconds of lifeless walking, they hear leaves rustle behind them. As they turn around to investigate the source of the noise, they hear it from the previous direction, as well. All four girls realized instantaneously that they were surrounded. At the moment, none of the monsters were visible yet. “Are we the final group?” Emily called out timidly. “We heard plenty of screaming going on. Does that mean we get out of here alive?”
The response consisted entirely of growls and devious laughter. “We aren’t known for our honesty,” the familiar vampire voice responded, a smirk apparent in her tone.
“Well, I’m sorry we ever doubted you, Ashley,” Zoey said, reaching for her hand as the girls felt the monsters closing in on them. Once they were finally visible, Ashley noted the clothing dampened with blood and the dried blood ringing their mouths. In the moment before the four girls were preyed upon like wild animals, Ashley felt a strange happiness, finally realizing that at least her paranoia regarding Frank’s Forest wasn’t paranoia at all.

Credit To – Melanie Adela

This is a Crappypasta Success Story – a story that was rewritten with the feedback received on Crappypasta and accepted for the main site. You can see the Crappypasta posting for this story here.

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A Slight Misunderstanding

May 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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*Introductory Note* What you’re about to read actually happened while on an internship during Fall of 2014. In order to protect people’s privacy, I’m not including the names of my friends, the name of the company I was employed with at the time, or the name of my university. But after you read my account, if you feel skeptical or otherwise have any questions about my experience, feel free to e-mail me at 2453396381@qq.com. I know the address looks like a spam e-mail, but QQ is actually an extremely popular social networking site in mainland China as Facebook, Twitter, and all the western networks are blocked by the Chinese government. The reason for the suspicious username is that your QQ number is randomly generated and assigned to you when creating an account (that’s right, your identity is literally reduced to an itemized number until you provide personal details on your account).

In fall of 2014 I got a job as a supervisor over 13 volunteer English teachers. I would be working in a Chinese city called Weihai [pronounced ‘way high’] located in Shandong [shawn doe-ng] Province. The company that hired me sends English teachers to Mexico, India, China, Russia, and Ukraine each semester. I was super excited at the opportunity because not only would I have the chance to live in China again (I’d originally been one of the volunteers for this same program several years prior), but my university was willing grant me a semester’s worth of Chinese language credits as an academic internship. I could get good job experience, live abroad in a country that I consider my second home and complete a semester of school, it was my dream semester!

In Weihai, the volunteers and I lived and worked at a prestigious international private school. They treated us really well, one of the biggest perks being that in addition to taking the same vacation days as the school’s faculty that took place over China’s national holidays, we also got an extra week or two of personal vacation time. It was during one of these vacations that I had one of the most disturbing experiences of my life.

Two of my friends from the group, I’ll call them Sara and David, decided they wanted to travel down south to China’s Guangdong [gwahng doe-ng] Province during the Dragon Boast Festival. I suggested that we visit Yangshuo [yahng sh-whoa] a little-known village surrounded on all sides by the region’s gorgeous mountains. I’d visited it a year before and wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to visit there again. Search Google images of Yangshuo’s scenery and you’ll understand why I’m so crazy about the place.

Yangshuo isn’t a large town, but even so, if you plan to do everything that you want to while you’re there, you need transportation since most of the things to do are out in the countryside. The problem was that we’d chosen a super busy time of year to visit such a popular tourist location. All the traffic in the area the entire 6 days we were there was literally a continuous traffic jam, so taking cabs or hiring rickshaws wasn’t an option. We were fine though, as we’d rented some bikes which gave us the freedom to go anywhere we wanted. It actually worked out even better than relying on cabs because we would be able to get to some of the places that were out of the way an inaccessible by car.

I remembered some mud caves pretty deep in the countryside that I’d visited before. It was about an hour outside of town by bike, so it was more than a little out of the way, but its secluded nature was one of the reasons it was such an appealing destination, especially during such a busy holiday where it was a nice to have a break from all the tourists. I convinced Sara and David to make the trip to these mud caves, explaining how we’d already done everything there is to do immediately around the city. They reluctantly agreed, and the morning of the 5th day, we grabbed our bikes and headed out.

We rode for an hour. An hour and a half. Two hours. After the two hour mark I realized that I must’ve gotten us lost. Granted, it had been quite a while since I’d last been there, so I think it’s understandable that I didn’t remember the route. Regardless, I felt stupid and guilty because I’d talked up the mud caves so much to my friends and it looked like we weren’t even going to make it to them. Not only that, we seemed to be in a completely isolated section of countryside. I spoke the language, so finding our way back to town wasn’t going to be a problem. Provided we found another person. From what it looked like, we were in the middle of the wilderness. I was worried that I’d inadvertently wasted one of the last days of our vacation.

I explained the situation to my friends who groaned and were noticeably annoyed at me but who, to their credit, didn’t complain or even blame me for ruining their vacation. That actually made me feel even worse about my screw-up. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I knew that losing a vacation day was no small matter to them.

We stopped our bikes and began discussing what we should do. Should we continue following the current trail and maybe find someone further along the way, should we try to backtrack and run into someone closer to the main road? Should we just abandon our original plan and try to find something else to do out in the country?

While we were deciding what course of action we should take, I noticed some old-looking buildings hidden within a valley, obscured by the thick vegetation clinging to the steep mountain slopes. I was elated; there was bound to be some people in or around those buildings and it couldn’t have been more than a 15-minute ride from where we currently were! Aside from which, some of the most memorable places in China are the ones that you stumble upon by accident, the ones that aren’t known as big touristy places. Our bad luck could turn out to be a good thing after all.

It was evident as we rode our bikes into the enclave that it had been abandoned for some time. The buildings were obviously once part of an old commune from the Maoist era when Communism was in full swing and everyone was required to live in communal compounds. After Mao’s death and Deng Xiaoping [Dung Shyow Ping] started on economic reforms to move China away from Communism, people deserted these communes to make a life in the city and chase a capitalistic dream. So what we’d stumbled upon was actually a really cool piece of Chinese history. We decided to check it out, look around, take some pictures, etc. etc. The entire compound was an enormous siheyuan [sih huh yuwhen], which is essentially a house contained in the walls surrounding a large courtyard that usually contain smaller structures (again, you can Google it for a better idea of what it looks like). In this case, though, it wasn’t just a single household, it was an entire walled community. The walls themselves comprised the living quarters, the central area contained an overgrown field where they would’ve kept the publicly-owned livestock. It looked like some animals had taken up residence since the people left; some goats and cows grazed the long grass and chickens clucked around their feet. Scattered around the perimeter of the field were a few run-down buildings dotting the compound which I assume at one point were the dining hall and some small for textile mills or small-time industrial production plants, depending on what this place specialized in.

We checked around the living area, and it was immediately clear that this place had been abandoned for several decades. The rooms were almost completely vacant, only furniture and a few odd assortments of possessions—woks, chopsticks, portraits of Mao—were left behind, creating a sort of gloomy atmosphere amid the cracked, crumbling walls.

We snapped some pictures, recorded some videos and just generally took in the scenery. We were getting ready to leave when I heard a voice coming from the far end of the commune. Was somebody still living here? It was possible. We had seen some animals left in the central area, after all. I’d assumed they were wild, but it made sense that somebody was still raising them. In fact, it probably made more sense because it didn’t seem very likely that stray animals would find their way inside a gated community like this.

We approached the apartment where the voice was coming from. The front door was slightly ajar and the rich smell of incense wafted out. The voice continued droning on, almost like a chant.

David spoke up. “You think this guy knows the way back to Yangshuo? You should ask for directions.”

I thought maybe the person inside was performing some kind of religious ceremony, so I was reluctant to interrupt him, and I said as much.

“We don’t know how long they’re going to take in there. Do you seriously just want wait outside their door for a couple hours like a bunch of creepers? Just knock on the door and if what they think they’re doing is really important, then they’ll ask us to wait and give us directions when they’re done.”

I was a little bit annoyed by that because David had a tendency to use our celebrity status as white people to expect special treatment from Chinese nationals. I preferred to try to blend in with the culture as much as I could, and I have a strong respect for local customs, particularly religious ones. But he also had a point—Chinese people are naturally hospitable and eager to help others. If this person was a devout Buddhist or Daoist, then their willingness to help us would be even greater, and would most likely drop whatever they were doing the second they saw us.

So I rapped lightly on the door. There was no response. I knocked a bit louder, and the person continued mumbling to themselves. I opened the door slightly and called out to them to alert them of our presence.

“Wei? (Way?) Ni hao! (Knee how!)” The the chanting stopped for a moment, almost imperceptibly, but then continued as though nothing happened. I pushed the door open all the way and saw an elderly, hunchbacked man wandering around the room, shaking a wooden tool as he hobbled about, mumbling his incantation.

He was certainly a Communist-era comrade. His hunched posture and wrinkled, yet calloused skin, told of years of hard work. He was practically doubled over at the waist and only had a few wispy white hairs on the top of his head. His clothes were the classical Communist fare; dark-gray pants with a matching button-up shirt that reached his Adam’s apple along with a squared-off cap. He must’ve taken great care of his clothing because they were in surprisingly good shape, considering they were from around the 1950’s. It’s not like anyone could find a replacement for era-specific clothing 60 years after the fact.

Even more surprising than his physical appearance however, was the state of his apartment. Given how empty the rest of the rooms were in this commune, I was shocked at how decorated this one was. It looked as though he’d scavenged everything his neighbors had left behind when they left. None of the walls were accessible because tables had been pushed up against them, occupying every inch of the room’s perimeter. The tabletops were completely covered by candles, statues of miniature Buddhas in various poses, wilted flowers, beaded bracelets and necklaces, the shoes of infants, calligraphy drawn carefully on rice paper, and what looked like the personal effects of loved ones who had either passed away or abandoned him. There looked to be thousands of other items that I couldn’t even begin to identify.

I approached him and began to speak, asking if he was familiar with Yangshuo and if he would be able help us find our way back to the main road. In response, he only muttered a short phrase

“Wo shao si ge ren [whoa sh-ow sih guh run].”

Wo shao si ge ren? ‘I’m short 4 people?’ Was this person expecting company?

“Excuse me?” I asked, in Mandarin.

“Wo shao si ge ren!” he repeated again, urgently. He glanced at me, and then his eyes darted to Sara and David. He looked between the three of us, repeating this phrase over and over. I felt bad. This poor man must have been senile. Maybe his friends or family had left the commune and promised to come back and he was still awaiting their return. Or maybe he was just pretty far gone and honestly believed he was preparing to receive 4 guests who hadn’t yet arrived. I tried communicating with him a few more times, but he simply continued mumbling this cryptic phrase, shaking the wooden object in his hand.

I took a closer look and realized I’d seen the object he was holding before. It was a religious instrument used for venerating statues of Buddha. Similar to how Catholics believe that partaking of the Eucharist purifies members of their sins, Buddhists use tools like the one this man was shaking to sprinkle statues of Buddha with water, symbolically cleansing themselves. They were shaped like Spanish maracas and were riddled with tiny holes that would allow for a several of water to escape from each hole with each shake. Sometimes people would infuse the water with lavender or other herbs to invoke a pleasant smell. I don’t know what this man had mixed in with the water, but it was a pretty putrid smell.

I ignored it and turned back to Sara and David.

“What’s he saying?” Sara asked.

“He just keeps saying, ‘I’m missing 4 people’,” I replied.

“What does that mean?”

“Honestly, I have no clue. But I have a feeling he’s not going to be able to help us. Should we just try to head back to the main road and hopefully we’ll run into someone there who can give us directions?”

“What the hell!” David yelled. Sara and I spun to look at him.

“That old guy just soaked me!” He complained, motioning to a wet spot on his shirt. I rolled my eyes.

“Give him a break,” I said, “He obviously doesn’t know what he’s doing.” As I said this, the elderly man continued to shuffle around the room, sprinkling water on the statues of Buddha and the other artifacts laid out on the tables, all the while muttering ‘wo shao si ge ren, wo shao si ge ren.’

“I’m fine with just going, but you should at least ask him if he has any water. My bottle’s completely empty,” Sara said. It was a good idea to get a refill before we left. Yangshuo is ridiculously humid and hot year round, so even though it was already late October, it felt like mid-July in Florida. We were so sweaty that we could easily get dehydrated just by standing around, even if without riding bikes.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” I responded. I was about to turn to the man for one last attempt at communication, to hopefully find out where we could get some water.

He violently shook the maraca-like tool, drizzling water on my shoes and the floor around my feet. Some even splashed up on the pant legs of my shorts.

“Wo shao si ge ren…” he muttered again, but this time, it caused a chill to run through me. Something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was wrong.

“Wo shao si ge ren…”

I took a step towards the man and felt my foot slide slightly it touched the floor. I looked down and saw the unnatural layer of gray dust that had collected on the floor. How could there be so much dust on the floor if someone lived here?

“Wo shao si ge ren…”

I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and felt the urge to leave, but I couldn’t understand why. I glanced over to Sarah, about to speak, when I realized something I hadn’t noticed before. Maybe I missed it due to all the clutter, but this room was in noticeably worse condition than the others. The walls had black stains on them, the wood in the window frame was blackened and seemingly shattered, far more brittle than those of other apartments. It almost seemed like this specific apartment survived a series of accidents, but was still somehow standing. So why was this the only room left occupied?

“Wo shao si ge ren…”

The broken old man shuffled past once again and this time I got a quick spray in the face. The powerful odor assaulted my nostrils. The smell of the scented water was off. It was too potent, too abrasive. It almost had a…toxic fragrance to it. It made me want to cough, to get it out of my nose and throat.

“Wo shao si ge ren…”

An icy shiver ran through me as I made a sudden realization.

“Guys, we need to go, now.” I said. I didn’t wait for Sara or David to respond, I made for the door and ran until I reached my bike.

“Hey! What’s going on?” David called out as midway through the courtyard.

“Why’d you ditch us?” Sara asked. They’d both caught up to me and were mounting their bikes, slightly out of breath. I didn’t answer them. We rode the trail we entered through in silence. After only about half an hour of riding we stumbled upon some hikers, both Swedish. They spoke impeccable English, which was good because I wasn’t in the mood for talking and Sara was eager to take over so we could find our way back to the hostel. It wasn’t until later that evening when we were back at the hostel that Sara insisted that I tell them what had me so freaked out.

“What’s going on? Ever since we were at that creepy old guy’s house you’ve been acting really weird.”

I didn’t want to tell them because I was hoping that if I kept it to myself then maybe the realization I made would somehow be less real. Maybe if I didn’t say it out loud, then I could believe that it hadn’t really happened. But it had. Remaining silent about it wouldn’t change that.

I sighed.

“You know what the guy kept repeating?”

“Yeah, you told us it means ‘I’m short 4 people’. That can’t be what’s bothering you, though…”

“That’s not what he was saying. I heard it wrong,” I replied.

You see, the thing about Chinese is that tones make all the difference. For example, if you hear ge ge (guh guh), it could either mean ‘older brother’ or ‘each and every’, depending on what tones are used. What I thought was “I’m missing 4 people” wasn’t that at all. It wasn’t until I understood what he had actually sprayed me with that I realized I’d been hearing the tones wrong.

He wasn’t sprinkling water all over his apartment. He was sprinkling kerosene. And he wasn’t saying “I’m missing 4 people,”. What he was really saying was

“I burned everyone.”

Note*
The Romanization of the phrases and their Chinese translations are as listed below.

I’m missing 4 people:
wǒ shǎo sì ge rén
我少四个人

I burned (literally burn-kill) everyone:
wǒ shāo sǐ gè rén
我烧死各人

Credit To – nibris

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Camp 22

May 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Many North Korean defectors and ex-prisoners can testify to the fact that there was a camp in that territory which housed more evil than anything else witnessed. It is called Camp 22, or the Hoeryong concentration camp. It is a torture camp originally intended for political enemies of the nation, but eventually broadened their targets to anyone they could capture. Anyone who was sent there also had their families sent there, as it was completely isolated from the rest of the world. Not even satellites were allowed to map the area. Anyone who was abducted and brought to Camp 22 were destined to die there.

Prisoners in Camp 22 were forced to perform agricultural, mining and factory labor until the day they died, and any insubordination would be punished by rape, starvation, torture, mutilation, and death, which also could extend to their entire family. Much of the time, even completely obedient prisoners would be brought to the private execution site for the guard’s entertainment.

None of the torture and experimentation done there seemed to have any purpose, as no information was being extracted from the victims, and none of the people abducted were of any political or ideological importance, just seemingly captured at random en-masse. The experiments were of no military value either, as no reports were ever written on the results.

The reason so much unnecessary cruelty was allowed in Camp 22, was to trigger the development of something the administrative staff referred to as “the white monsters.” This was denied by the North Korean Government, along with the existence of the camp itself after the defection and closing of Camp 22, but was reported by guards who left the camp. If any prisoners held in this camp ever survived, they could testify to this.

The program in charge of the surgeries required the doctors to drink alcohol before they did surgery on the “promising” subjects, so any strange occurrences they witnessed can be attributed to their drunken state. Inexperienced doctors were required to torture the living subjects until they went into shock, and then were instructed to strike them in the head with a hammer to cause brain damage. Often, this resulted in death, but as some of the defected guards and doctors reported, this wouldn’t kill them, or even leave them brain dead. Almost immediately after they died, their vitals began functioning again. One doctor described that a body “deflated” and “inflated again”, as if the wound to the subjects head allowed his soul to leave, but allow something else to enter.

When prisoners die, they are taken with a cargo coach and burned in a furnace until they melted and no traces remained. Those who did not die from sickness or suffering were taken to a secret execution site. However, many who were taken to the secret execution site were not always crushed or shot to death. Many of them were put into a solitary room where the experiment subjects were held. No guards or administrative staff were ever allowed into this room except to deposit the subjects there, otherwise the “white monsters” might be tempted to leave. The white monsters were always believed to be an in-joke amongst the guards of the camps to keep new recruits from bio-hazardous areas, and the people dumped in the building were disposed of by separate workers.

Eventually, when Camp 22 was nearing a shut-down, many of the prisoners were transferred to other camps for continued detainment, while a large number were executed. It is believed that the remaining unaccounted prisoners starved to death, even resorting to eating each other to stay alive in the abandoned prison, which was locked after the staff left. However, it is believed that when Camp 22’s status was no longer valid, the administrative staff quit ordering the guards to put people and confiscated children in the solitary chamber and just shoot them. As the days passed by, guards began to hear unsettling noises from the solitary chamber there, as if there were things still alive in there, stirring and looking for a way out.

Curious guards questioned the administrators about what was being held in there and why, and after receiving their answer, they defected the first opportunity they had, distancing themselves from the horrors of North Korea as soon as possible, while those who remained where killed by their fellow soldiers under a secret order.

As many of the prisoners abandoned in there would not eat their own family members or murder each other to stay alive, it is thought an unrelated third party wiped out and cannibalized the remaining prisoners, the third party which was locked away in those buildings.

Camp 22 was not just a torture camp filled with homicidal psychopaths, who were paid to punish and kill the prisoners sent there. It was a breeding ground for something even more horrible than savage men, beyond hounds trained to kill children, beyond inebriated doctors performing unnecessary body deforming surgeries. It was the place where the “Agma”, the white monster, was born, the personification of all the cruelty, death, rape and suffering in North Korea, and the only place where it could find bodies that were “vacated” solely for its use. Only in a place where death and suffering saturates the soil, could such creatures be born.

Even after Camp 22’s closing, an unsettling fact still remained, as their other concentration camps have not been closed, and the execution grounds of each one have a building that the staff are recommended to stay away from. Trucks are seen loading boxes out of the camps filled with coal and corn, but also take on additional unmarked cargo similar to animal cages. Why the North Korean government continue to transport these creatures in secrecy is unknown, however, it is evident that they are not limited to their own borders when releasing them.

Sightings of Agma are in every country on the planet. Truck drivers are seeing pure-white humans skulking across the roads at night. Hunters are finding human footprints next to their own tracks. Pale human-like animals creeping along the roof-tops in many towns are sighted constantly. Sunken pure-black eyes and sharp talons being a common trait amongst descriptions of them. The ability to speak languages, and to have otherworldly powers like invisibility, teleporting, telepathy or mind control are attributed to them. Many young children who have disappeared have drawn pictures of creatures that look like the Agma of North Korea, and while they differ from picture to picture, their major shape and attributes remain constant.

Every day, a new Agma is born, ready to find its way into another town, ready to stalk and kill another person or family. With how long and how often Camp 22 brought bodies to their off-limits buildings, there would be enough of these entities to have 1 in every city in America, and the numbers are continuing to rise with the efficiency that North Korea concentration camps produce them. It is unknown if they are weak to contemporary weaponry, but the lack of recorded kills or recovered bodies does not play in its favor. It is unknown if North Korea influence the behavior of these creatures in any way, or just unleash them in their dormant state on unsuspecting populaces to see what happens.

Soon enough, their numbers will be too high. Soon enough, proof of them will be undeniable. Soon enough, there will be no place on earth to escape them. The only conclusion or advice a person can take from these facts is that they should keep their loved ones close, spend more time with them, and be wary of the darkness outside their homes. When the Agma no longer have to hide in the dark of night, our world will become a nightmare that surpasses Camp 22.

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Thief

April 21, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Note: This pasta contains gore. If this bothers you, please do not proceed.

The moonlight bathes Paris in a silver, calming hue; a breath of serenity amidst the turmoil of revolution. The city is asleep, deep in its midnight slumber. Only a lonely shadow moves in the stillness of the night, tiptoeing across the rooftops. It climbs effortlessly up a brick wall high above the ground, reaching a window sill with an outstretched hand and pulling itself against the glass. It presses its hands against the wooden windowframe and with a swift motion pulls up. The window clicks open and the shadow slips inside the dimly lit apartment.

The place once belonged to the late magistrate, Pondicher, but after he was relieved of his post -under dubious circumstances- he committed suicide, and the place has remained abandoned ever since. Many enquired about the luxurious two-story apartment but rumours of hauntings and strange sightings kept people away.

Rigaut wouldn’t let old wives’ tales scare him off an opportunity like this. Pondicher had amassed great riches during his time at the courtroom, but he had neither family nor heir, so his fortune should still be in his house. Gold coins, shiny jewels and various other trinkets awaited Rigaut inside the deserted apartment. His lust for gold wouldn’t allow him to pass such a lucrative occasion.

He is now standing in a dimly lit corridor, with wooden, intricately carved doors on the sides leading to the other rooms of the first floor. Specks of dust are dancing in the moonlight coming in from the only window in the hallway. Faded paintings and portraits are hanging from the walls. Further down, a small, wooden table, with scratches on its legs, is covered by a tattered cloth. Two tiny portraits -probably depicting Pondicher and a woman- with the faces scratched off are placed on top of the table.

Rigaut walks carefully down the gloomy corridor, the wooden floor creaking loudly under his feet. He enters the first room on his right. ‘This must be the study’ he thinks. A large bookcase covers the back wall. Piles of old tomes are heaved onto the various furniture -stools, a music player, even a small piano- around the room. Rigaut approaches an equally untidy desk in the middle of the study. Immediately his eyes dart towards a silver pocketwatch partially buried under a pile of stained papers. He grabs it and puts it into an inside pocket of his coat.

His focus shifts to the center of the desk, where a large book lays open. A thin layer of dust covers its parched pages. Rigaut tries to read a few lines, but discovers that the book is written in an unknown language; Greek if he had to guess. Intrigued, he turns page after page, until a crumbled piece of paper falls on the ground. He picks it up. Rows and rows of complete gibberish, with a few lines crossed off. “A list, of sorts.”

Losing interest, he moves back into the hallway. He decides to check the first room on the left. As he steps under the dislodged doorframe, he catches a glimpse of a shadow moving at the other end of the corridor. He quickly spins around. A curtain, torn and shredded, floats softly under the nightly breeze. He laughs at himself for being so jumpy. He has been in this kind of business for many years; the shadows a second skin to him.

He fixes his attention back on the room. This one is much more orderly than the study, but the sense of abandonment is still here. The red paint on the wall is starting to peel, revealing the yellowish plaster covering the brickwork of the building. Fine, aristocratic chairs are gathered around a marble fireplace with blackened-from-the-smoke delicate designs. A ripped chair pillow is thrown in the corner of the room, next to a mahogany dresser. He walks towards that corner, where the faintest idea of a foul odor seems to emanate. Getting closer, a strong sulfuric stench fills Rigaut’s nostrils. Upon investigating the wall, he finds a large hole behind the dresser, broad enough for a small person to creep through, leading to the next room. Slowly, he kneels down to inspect further.

Examining the broken wall, he spots dried blood onto the rim of the hole. Someone must have slid in, only to get cut by jagged edges and wood splinters sticking out. Who would go through there and why? And most importantly, was he still in the building? Rigaut peeks inside the hole, his curiosity pushing him past the rotten smell.

The room is bathed in almost complete darkness, bearing no windows and the only light source being the gap on the wall. Rigaut can’t make out much. The place is in much worse shape than the rest of the house and it is empty save for a battered sofa and a few overturned chairs. His eyes are beginning to adjust to the darkness; little details coming in view. He can now see the white paint on the wall that has dried and on some places has completely fallen off and, most strikingly, blood splattered across the wall and floor. To his horror, he discovers bloody fingerprints and smudges on the floor and lower wall, as if someone has crawled on all fours towards the corner of the room, which is just out of view.

Rigaut stretches his neck and presses as far against the wall as possible in order to get a better view, but the dark corner is still out of sight. Sick of the gruesome scene, he starts to retrieve himself from the hole. But a clanking noise roots him to the spot. He hears raspy, heavy breathing. Then a thumping sound, followed by a painful moan. Rigaut’s mind freezes. He hears the scraping of nails on the hard floor. Someone is dragging himself towards the opening. Rigaut tries to move, but his limbs are numb from fear. The noise is coming closer and closer.

Then, it stops, a low growl replacing it. Seconds pass. Rigaut, pale-faced and wide-eyed, slowly pulls himself backwards. As he is getting up, a hoarse scream pierces his brain. Rigaut rushes to his feet. A rattling of chains and thumping of limbs fills the thief’s ears. Whatever is on the other side is lunging towards the hole. Rigaut runs out of the room slamming the door behind him, the force bringing down the doorframe. He rolls to the side, narrowly escaping the falling door, which crashes to the floor raising a fog of dust.

He runs out to the corridor. “Whatever is in that room can go to hell. I don’t care even if there someone dying in there. Every man for himself, that’s my motto,” Rigaut thinks as he turns towards the window, but the sight in front of him stops him on his tracks and sends shivers down his spine. A man drenched in blood is blocking his exit. His eye sockets are empty, a thick, pus-filled fluid dripping down his cheeks. The white rags thrown over his head don’t cover much of his scarred body. A thick red line runs around his neck, like something tight was tied around it. Three large nails are pinned on his right forearm, while the fingers on both his hands are cut into short, grisly stumps.

Rigaut, mortified by the ghastly sight, backs down the corridor. With trembling hands he tries to grab on something to steady himself, but his legs give way and he falls on his back. He quickly stumbles back on his feet, frantically scanning the floor for an escape route. Unable to spot the main door, he blindly runs up a staircase on his left. He glances over his shoulder, catching the monstrosity turning its head towards him, its mouth curved into the faintest of smiles.

Distracted, he trips over the last step and falls flat on his stomach; his face pressed against a musty old carpet. He pushes himself up and takes a quick look around. This floor is much more claustrophobic than the first. The ceiling is hanging lower and the corridor connecting all the rooms is much narrower. One of the three doors is broken, revealing a small store-room closet. Rigaut lunges to the first of the two. He wrestles with the doorknob, but the door remains closed. He runs to the next door. A nasty smell hits his nostrils. He hesitates, but knowing his options are limited, he pushes the door open.

As the door creaks open, a gust of stale air burst out of the room. Covering his nose, Rigaut carefully peeks inside. Before he can get a view of the room, a little man jumps in front of him. He looks old and feeble, his frail framework trembling under his own weight. The few hairs left on his head are oily and a crust of filth covers his skin.

“Welcome to the Wall of Art,” he says in a high-pitched voice. He smiles, revealing a row of rotten teeth in his mouth. The old man steps outside the room, closing the door behind him. He is wearing a bloody white shirt, that once must have been very expensive, and he is carrying a small hammer in his right hand. He has no pants on, his swollen genitalia on display. Yellow and white marks run down his inner thighs.

“Come in and marvel at the wonders hidden inside that little corner of our world,” he gestures to Rigaut, his bony fingers trembling.

Rigaut steps away from the man until his back is pressing against the wall behind him.

“Don’t be scared. Come in and stand in awe in front of the unearthly beauty of our exhibits,” the old man says, stepping closer to Rigaut. His mouth reeks of rot and decay. He extends a greasy hand towards Rigaut’s face.

“Young lad, I assure you, the Wall is unlike anything you have ever seen. It will elevate you, it will perfect you. You need the Wall to be complete and the Wall needs you. Step inside and become part of the art.”

A surge of adrenaline rushes through Rigaut’s body. He slaps the old man’s hand away and runs for the staircase. The scarred man previously blocking the window is nowhere to be seen. Rigaut’s heart flies. He is so close to escaping this house of horrors, but as he sets foot on the first step, he freezes.

At the bottom of the stairs, a woman -her joints twisted and her limbs rigid- is slowly crawling up the stairs. She twitches and squirms, trying to drag her broken body up the stairs. She is wearing a white, ragged dress and her forehead is adorned by a broken tiara. Her blonde hair has been torn off, with only a few patches left and those glued on her scalp and forehead by sweat and grease. Her glassy eyes are staring blankly at the ceiling while her head is bobbing lifelessly left and right.

Out of breath, Rigaut bolts towards the nearest door on his right, his weight bringing it down and his momentum carrying him to the other end of the room, straight into a pile of rotten body parts. Eyes and limbs and tongues and hair, all crammed into a heap of gore and flesh.

Rigaut gags, the revolting smell invading his senses. Clotted blood glues his fingers together, his hands a sticky mess of blood and hair. He tries to get up but he slips, crashing back down on the pile of dismembered limbs.

“Sir, you aren’t authorized to enter the backstage area,” the shrill voice of the disgusting little man echoes in the room. “I will have to see you out sir,” he says, stepping through the doorframe. He walks steadily towards the fallen thief, rolling up his bloodied sleeves and swinging his small hammer around. Rigaut, accepting his fate, lies still and closes his eyes while the old man downs the hammer onto his head.

The thief’s eyes burst open; explosions of pain shooting across his body. He is lying on top of an unstable table, with the old man’s figure looming over him; a hammer in hand.

“Steady now,” the old man says, bringing the hammer down on Rigaut’s hand. His vision becomes blurry; a sharp pain on his palm numbing his senses. Rigaut looks at his right hand and, to his horror, finds a large nail penetrating his palm. The old man thrusts down with the hammer once more, pinning Rigaut’s hand to the table. The thief screams in agony.

“Shush young lad. You are ruining the magic. You will have plenty of time to scream later. Now I need you to be silent and let me concentrate on my work,” the old man says, putting his hammer down. He pulls a wheeled storage cabinet from underneath the table and opens it. After hastily searching for the tool he needs, he grabs a large, mechanic pair of pliers which he rests at the end of the table, near Rigaut’s feet.

The old man grabs Rigaut’s right foot and pulls it towards the pliers. The thief kicks and stomps, but the pain in his hand impedes his movement and he ultimately succumbs to the man’s surprisingly firm grip. His foot is pushed between the pliers, two metal plates locking it in place. The filthy man steps back, a wry smile etched on his face.

“What the fuck are you doing!?” Rigaut screams. The smile on the old man’s face broadens.

“I am painting. I am painting over nature’s incomplete work, perfecting it,” he says, using his whole weight to pull down a rigid lever connected to the mechanic pliers.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, you sick bastard!”

The metallic plates press down on Rigaut’s ankle. The grip becomes tighter and tighter. Rigaut screams in agony, as his bones crack under the metallic grip.

“There is no point in screaming, young lad. Nobody can hear you. You are only ruining your beautiful voice,” the old man says letting go of the lever. “And you want to be at your sparkling best when she plays with you,” he continues, putting emphasis on the word ‘she’.

The pliers around Rigaut’s ankle relax. The thief exhales in exhaustion.

“Now!” the old man claps his hands. “Before I leave you to her mercy, I will show you a glimpse of the greatness that awaits you,” he says, walking towards the darkest corner of the room.

Rigaut stretches to see what the old man is doing, but his aching body limits his movement. Instead, he focuses on his surroundings. He notices red curtains covering the walls around him. They are heavy and thick and their surface curves slightly around strange bumps sticking out from the wall.

Suddenly, he hears a rusty metallic sound in the corner behind him.

“Behold. The Wall of Art,” the old man whispers in a hushed voice.

The curtains part revealing dozens of bodies hanging from the walls. Some are charred, others are skinned to their bones and others are missing limbs. Large iron spikes are nailed on their heads, pinning them to the wall. They twitch and shudder spasmodically, as if they still try to escape their dreary fate.

Rigaut can only stare in horror; his mind numbed by the horrors of the cursed house. The old man stares at the bodies on the wall too, a puddle of drool ready to fall from the edge of his gaping mouth. After a few seconds of silence, he speaks.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I have worked my whole life to achieve such elegance,” he says, sweeping a tear away from his eye. “And you will be up here soon,” he pauses. “Don’t mind me asking, but, how do you feel? You must surely be humbled by the honour that has been bestowed upon you.”

Rigaut spits at the old man’s feet.

“I don’t blame you for this classless act. In time you will understand. You will understand that man is only a pawn in the hands of a higher force. Everyone is forced to play; everyone is forced to fulfill the plot that has been set for him. Like an opera play, where the singers can’t deviate too much from the original work or they will be struck down.”

The old man says, walking up and down the room, marveling at the bodies hanging from the walls.

“I loved going to the opera. I remember one night, when I went to see the opening of Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’. Oh, what a marvelous show that was. There, smitten by the maestro’s divine touch, I fell in love. I fell in love with the Queen of the Night, played by the beautiful and majestic Josephina Rossignol. But I knew I couldn’t have her. Have you ever felt the longing pain of a love that cannot be?”

Suddenly, visibly shaken and angry, he punches the table near Rigaut’s broken ankle.

“I was devastated. Such a graceful being could never stand by my side. I was consumed by heart-wrenching despair. Every moment away from her was a moment my heart skipped a bit. I was inconsolable. My life was spiraling swiftly into a hopeless abyss of misery. I only left my house to go to her performances, dreaming she would notice me. But she never did.”

The old man sighs and hangs his head to his chest.

“One day, I mustered up all the courage in my heart to go and confess my love to her. So, I booked a first row ticket to her next performance. I can’t even remember what the play was, that’s how nervous I was. After the opera was over and the actors retrieved backstage, I slowly made my way to her dressing room. With shaking hands I knocked on the door. She didn’t answer. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door,” he says, hiding his face in his bloodied palms.

“And there she was. S-she was… indulging herself with another actor. My whole world collapsed around me. I don’t know what happened afterwards. Maybe I died and went to hell. All I know is when I opened my eyes I was sitting in a chair in this very room; my love’s mutilated body lying where you lie right now. Something had snapped inside me. I could feel it. I was broken.

“You have met her, you know. She was the one slithering her way up the stairs. My love, my first painting, reduced to a hollow cell of something once beautiful. I cannot hang her on the wall and be done with her. No, she won’t let me,” he emphasizes on the word ‘she’ once more.

“I have to watch my love wilt and wither till there is nothing left of her. I had to chain her to a wall downstairs; that’s how sad her deteriorating state made me.”

The old man snaps his fingers.

“But enough with the chit-chat. My love is simply a work in progress. It is her that you should be scared of. The Lady of the House. She is the one running this household. I am simply a painter. I paint her victims and she plays with them, feeding off their misery and suffering. The more beautiful the painting, the greater the satisfaction she gets.”

As he says that, he opens a toolbox waiting on a chair and pulls out a knife and a cleaver.

“And now, it’s your turn to get painted,” he says, running his finger down the sharp side of the knife. Satisfied he buries his hand in his toolbox, searching.

Rigaut sees his chance. Mustering up every source of strength in his body, he pulls his hand away from the spike pinning it down and rolls on his side, screaming. He comes crushing down from the table, his mind blurred by the pain. The old man turns around and stares at Rigaut with eyes filled with hatred. He grabs a hammer and slowly walks towards the thief.

Rigaut reaches for his left foot, pulling out a dagger concealed in his boot. He grips the handle tightly with his left hand; his knuckles whitened by the effort. The old man swings at Rigaut with his hammer. The thief easily evades the blow and stabs the man on his shoulder, but his broken ankle gives way and he falls flat on his back, his dagger flying out of his reach.

The old man charges towards the fallen Rigaut, but the thief kicks him in the knee, staggering him. Rigaut struggles to his feet, leaning against the table for support. His adversary swings his hammer once more, but the thief catches his hand in mid-air. The two men wrestle, but Rigaut manages to come on top, throwing the old man on the ground. By the time he gets back on his feet, the thief has already grabbed his dagger and is steadying himself for the oncoming assault.

The old man charges once more. This time, Rigaut feigns a move to his right but at the last second darts to the left, plunging his dagger deep into the man’s gut. Despite the stinging pain on his ankle, he manages to balance himself and grab the old man -who has dropped his hammer and is holding his bleeding belly- by the neck.

The old man’s face suddenly drops, a sad and tired look resting over his eyes.

“I once was Pondicher, the Great Magistrate of the Paris’ Court. But now I die as a wretched worm. Oh, how cruel life has been to me,” he says dropping on his knees.

“At last, I find peace. But the Lady, oh, she needs a painter. Without one sh-”

Rigaut slices his throat. He drops the dying man on the floor, letting him gurgle on his own blood; his face a visage of terror. A few seconds later, he draws his stern breath. Rigaut drags him across the room, pulling him onto the bloody table. He puts down the dagger and grabs a hammer. He puts a nail on the side of the magistrate’s head and thrusts down.

A new piece of art is now adorning the Wall.

Credit To – MrDupin

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The Grove

April 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I was always a the type of guy that enjoyed a good mystery. Mysteries like UFO sightings or those TV shows about paranormal investigators that stay a night in a haunted house always sparked my imagination as a child and on into adulthood. Some of those shows kept me awake at night, but that was all part of the fun. I never bought too much into crazy theories, but I do pay attention to anything that really makes you question what really goes on.
One documentary in particular set my mind racing. It was one of those History Channel shows that explore various mysteries over the course of the hour. This episode talked about the Bohemian Grove.
For those of you who don’t know, the Bohemian Grove is a camping ground in the Redwood Forests of California that hosts a two-week retreat in the middle of July for the world’s most powerful men. It is here that they may form a sort of think tank. This has led to some believing that the two-week getaway is actually a meeting for the New World Order.
I don’t particularly subscribe to the whole NWO theory, in fact it is one of my least favorite conspiracy theories. However, Bohemian Grove was only a few hours drive from my home in Red Bluff so I somehow resolved that a trip down to the Redwoods would be some good fun. I figured June was almost over so if I head down in a few weeks I might even be lucky enough to see some VIPs.
I called up some buddies of mine and asked if they would be down to do a little backpacking and if they knew what the Grove was. They told me that they had heard of it and a change of scenery would be good. So over the next couple of weeks we threw together some equipment and gear for the trip and headed on down.
My friends, Taylor and Joe, read just as far into the Bohemian Grove as I had so we were on the same page as far as what to expect when we got there. As such, we decided the best time to get to the Grove was a little after dark, so as to avoid any sort of security that, undoubtedly, be present.
According to our map, the best way into the Grove was to follow Smith Creek east from Russian River, and then fork due south. The trip itself would take almost a full day of just trucking through the hike, but we wanted to take our time and enjoy being away from Red Bluff. So instead, we’d go halfway and camp a night. That way, we could hike the rest during the day and roll into the Grove after sunset.
After a few hours, some restroom stops, and lunch, we’d arrived at Monte Rio where we’d found a pretty isolated spot to park the car. As we unloaded our gear, we took in the cool, moist air that the shade of the Redwoods provided for us. It was a sunny day and the clouds were sparse. The birds were chirping and singing high in the trees. The day began as the most peaceful display of nature I had ever known.
We heard the dancing waters of Russian River, locked down the car, and headed towards our starting point. It was then, among the tallest living things in the world, that I knew this place went beyond a simple meeting place for the elite. It was even beyond a force of hidden agendas and conspiracy. This place was mystical. The very air tasted purified like spring water and smelled of rich soil. Perhaps it was the age of the forest that made it that way, an aged man that settled in for his twilight years.
Our first day went great. The weather had been perfect all day. Even navigating our rather nonexistent trail proved a fun challenge. Once the sun started sinking, we set up camp and ate some of the rations we had packed. Since we were in no hurry to burn the forest down, we didn’t even bother with a fire. It was only an hour or two after nightfall that we had all settled in to our tents.
The forest’s nocturnal denizens were not as peaceful as their daytime counterparts. I was awoken by my tent rattling and bouncing around. I heard the flutter of wings and the panicked squeaks of some small creature that failed to take refuge under my tent. I figured I had to take a piss so I might as well see what the commotion was. I emerged from the tent with my headlamp and saw nothing, initially. So I walked a good twenty feet from the campsite and began to relieve myself when I looked up to see a pair of intensely glowing yellow eyes. I jumped in fright as whatever it was had caught me at an inconvenient moment. My eyes adjusted to reveal that it was a good-sized owl perched on a boulder. As I finished emptying myself while still in eye-lock with this creature, it did something I had not expected. The owl flew down from the boulder and onto the ground directly in front of me. There was something menacing, even insidious, in its gaze. Not once did it break eye contact. That is, until it let out a chilling screech I had only ever heard from a barn owl and flew off into the night.
The screech seemed to trigger the rest of the forest into action. Mice scurried along the ground. A family of deer high-tailed it to the north. I could hear a large pack of coyotes baying in the distance as if on the hunt. Needless to say, I hurried back to my tent and did not sleep very well. I could still feel that owl watching us from somewhere above.
The forest had calmed down after about ten minutes, but I had not. It was that look. The look of hatred I had never seen in an animal before. There was just something so un-animal about it, nearing a semblance of expression. The look of a man drunk with hate. A killer through the eyes of the victim. Something purely dark.
Right when I had began to doze off, I heard something that guaranteed I wasn’t going to sleep that night. It began soft, almost in the realm of hallucination. The sobbing of a child. It grew louder. Then it took on the form of a baby’s pained screams. I wasn’t the only one that heard suspicious noises this time.
“Hey, Taylor.” It was Joe speaking in a half whisper.
“Yeah, I hear it,” Taylor replied with a shaky voice.
“Man, what the fuck is that?”
“I don’t know, man, but it’s freakin’ me the hell out.”
“Why does it sound like a baby crying?” I chimed in equally as frightened.
“It sounds like it’s moving,” Joe said a bit louder. And indeed the sound was getting louder.
“How does a baby end up miles away from any road by itself?” Taylor asked as if to dismiss it as a dream. His question was something we had all secretly known and held from our minds in denial. A denial that I’d break with two words.
“It doesn’t,” I said.
The veil of panic set in as the wailing reached its climax. The deafening sound came from all angles at once. I clasped my hands over my ears, but still the cries burrowed through. I began to feel dizzy. The very ground seemed to spin at the sound of the child’s pain and despair. My head was pounding and my vision began to blur.
“Oh, I’m gonna fucking puke,” I heard from one of the other tents. I could no longer recognize their voices over all the commotion.
The cries slowly began to taper off. They eventually faded back into a plausible hallucination and on into silence. I emerged from my tent to find Joe kneeling over a puddle of vomit and coughing out the last drops. Taylor was already out as well, disoriented by the screams. I checked my watch to see if it was even worth trying to salvage a few hours of sleep. 3:23 a.m. It was probably enough time to try.
“What’s going on out here, man?” Taylor asked as an open question.
“This…is a…pretty sick joke…if that’s what you…brought us out here for,” Joe coughed out at me followed by a gaseous burp and a slight recovery.
“You think I wanted to do that to myself, too?” I retorted.
“That wasn’t any of us,” Taylor began, “None of us brought anything that could make noise like that, much less would any of us want to listen to that ourselves. Our best idea would be to try to go back to sleep and talk about it in the daylight where our minds won’t play so many tricks on us.”
We all agreed. Taylor had, in fact, always been the wisest and most level-headed of the three of us. But this truth was something we couldn’t consciously believe. Our minds couldn’t grasp it, like it had heard some strain of hideously vulgar language.
Before I retired back to my tent, I chanced a look up at the forest ceiling. I saw my headlamp’s beam climb the giant’s trunk and into the sky. It was here that I saw the clear night, the moon’s crescent glow among the stars. Along with a pair of intense, yellow eyes. A skulking stalker; waiting and watching.
I know I dreamed that night. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. I know I woke up terrified, instantly remembering and reliving the past night. I do remember that it was one of those nightmares you can’t willingly wake up from. It was the kind that even if your thoughts reject everything you see, you still can’t revive from sleep. A prison inside the only place that knows exactly what you fear.
I rolled out of my tent at around eight o’clock. It was an extremely foggy morning. I knew this particular ecosystem was renown for fog, but this was far beyond my imagining. The forest itself was calm, thankfully, but in a way that was eerily so. There were no birds singing in the early morning. No deer or elk roamed the woods. In fact, it was totally still. And totally silent. But I took this as a pleasant change of pace compared to the prior, hellish night.
Joe was the second to wake up and open his tent. He had the same restless look in his eyes that I imagine I also had in mine. He got a couple packs of trail mix out of his pack and threw one my way. My failed attempt to catch the snack was trailed by our first talk of the day.
“I don’t want to talk about anything until we start walking,” Joe stated as a matter of fact.
“I second that notion,” I replied, looking around the forest suspiciously.
“And I third,” said a voice in Taylor’s tent. It had startled Joe and I before we figured out Taylor had awoken and begun packing.
It didn’t take long to take down the campsite. Breaking down tents and stuffing sleeping bags was something we’d done many times before. But none of us spoke a word while we did it. It was an appropriate reflection of the forest’s own silence. I left out the map and a compass to finish orienteering to the Grove; the three of us donned our packs; and without much more than a glance at each other, we continued south. Figuring we had come all this way already, we trudged headlong into the unknown we had caught a brief glimpse of a few hours earlier.
The sun was high in the sky as the fog cleared and evaporated. It was soothing to hear birds chirping once again and to smell the same purity in the air as the day before. We still had several miles left until the Grove, so we might as well enjoy it.
“At least it turned out to be an alright day.” Taylor was the first to speak.
“Yeah, but what about last night?” Joe asked with a slightly worried tone.
“What about it?” I asked rhetorically, begging to not relive it in memory.
“That cry, dude,” Joe began, “I’ve never been that scared in my life. How did it get out here? Like you said, it couldn’t have made it out here on its own. Something had to carry it, or someone. Whatever it was didn’t seem to be in a huge hurry to shut it up. Furthermore, that cry got loud. Like it walked straight through camp.” Joe’s perceived paranoia was scratching at the walls of questions we all had but knew we couldn’t bear the answer to.
“I saw something when I got out of my tent last night.” Taylor had chimed in now, and he had captured our full attention. “Before the cries completely vanished, I saw two lights fading into the woods. They were bouncing as if carried by someone walking very slowly through the woods. They were as small as candles and burned as bright, as well. I didn’t want to say anything then to alarm you guys further.”
“Which way were they going?” I asked and immediately regretted doing so.
Taylor paused a moment and I could see him working it out in his head. His eyes shot down to his feet to watch his step and then back up to the woods. “I- I don’t know,” he stated after hesitation.
But I knew. I knew he had remembered which way his tent was facing. I knew he had remembered which way he was looking relative to his tent. It was the type of thing he had typically taken note of. I knew he knew exactly which way they had gone. And I knew we must be following them.
“Aside from all this crazy-talk,” Joe said to try to shrug off the conversation, “What are we gonna do tonight when we actually get to Bohemian Grove?”
“Well,” I had thought this part out well, “We all have binoculars, right?”
They nodded in agreement
“I was thinking we’d post up on a nearby clearing. It needs to be somewhere we won’t have our view limited by the trees and a place high enough to have a good view of whatever’s going on. I looked at the satellite pictures of the areas around the Grove and our path should lead us somewhere that may work for us. Don’t know what we’ll see, but we oughtta at least see some VIPs and some of the facilities.”
“I just hope this whole trip wasn’t for a bad view of a place we know nothing about,” said Joe begrudgingly.
We took great comfort in the remaining daylight, even partially recovered from the terror of the night. As twilight set in and we came upon our clearing, the daylight had already become sorely missed. We set our packs down in front of us and used them to prop up our chests, making the extended use of binoculars a bit more comfortable.
I peered through the scopes to see only distant Redwoods still visible in the fading twilight. As I panned around I began seeing cabins and tents. They were small, almost miserly shacks. Not a place I’d expect to see visiting dignitaries. I lowered my binoculars to see what my cohorts were looking at.
“Some hive for the rich and wealthy,” said Taylor who had apparently seen and thought the same as I had.
“What’s that?” Joe lowered his binoculars and pointed toward a small body of water.
I raised mine back up in the direction of the water. It almost looked like an amphitheater. A small pond giving rise to stone steps filled my sight. I followed the stairs up to what appeared to be a two-tiered stone stage separated by another set of steps arranged in a semi-circle. At the center of the semi-circle was what appeared to be a stone fire pit of some sort with a strangely shaped monolith behind it, towering over the amphitheater.
As I stared at this strange sight I had ascertained what the monolith was. It was a statue of a large, winged creature. An owl, to be certain. My mind raced back to the vicious owl at the campsite. I tried to dismiss it by thinking it a bizarre coincidence. But the whole thing made me feel uneasy.
“Looks like a kind of theater,” said Taylor. “That’s probably gonna be what we wanna watch tonight.”
We all agreed and used the day’s last light to set up our tents. Thankfully, our tents blended well with the environment. This would help us avoid being discovered by the security that was surely present with such high-profile individuals about. No lights were to be used all night and we rarely spoke above a whisper. Our dinners consisted of beef jerky and peanuts, a true backpacker’s delicacy. It seemed that the purple glow of twilight gave way to utter darkness in mere minutes and the nightly silence followed.
The moon hung in the sky as a resolute watcher of the night as the stars joined in with us as secret audiences of Bohemian Grove. The three of us posted back up on our packs with our binoculars glued to our faces. The Grove was dimly lit by candles and lanterns posted along the roads. This was our first sign of actual life down there. We could see vague forms and figures migrating toward the amphitheater. Taylor had chosen the right spot to watch.
It was hard to tell what these figures were wearing in the dim. The only thought that came to my mind was the robes worn by a choir. Except these robes were mostly black, broken up by some blues, grays, dark greens, and only two reds from what I could tell. Their faces were all shielded by hoods. The vast majority of black robes gathered on the north side of the small pond, closest to us, and a faint hum of conversation permeated the crowd of about fifty. All colored robes took places on the stone stage and carried candles. I chanced a look over at Taylor to see what he may be thinking. All I could see was a lump forming in his throat. I peered back down the scopes.
One of the blue robes stood center stage. He held what appeared to be an unlit torch aloft. The buzz of talk among the audience silenced. At first it was difficult to discern what the figure was saying. Eventually, my ears had tuned in to the man’s baritone voice.
“…on this, the first night of this year’s encampment, we welcome all into our domain of shared wisdom and brotherhood. I will be the Old Guard residing over tonight’s communion and, indeed, Bohemian Grove itself. Let us begin with a word of prayer to Moloch.” The man lowered the torch and raised his right hand toward the owl monolith. The crowd and the bystanders on stage mimicked the action. “Greatest Moloch, we humble servants of your way ask for close guidance these next few weeks to carry us through the rest of the year before we convene here once again to bask in your sight and take shelter in your mighty wings. We seek the wisdom and knowledge to best lead our people into your divine talons so they may be carried on the winds of enlightenment.”
The crowd followed by speaking a verse in the form of a chant. I couldn’t distinguish but a single word from it but it was no longer than a short sentence beginning with the word “Wisdom” and fading into indistinguishable babble. Owls had often been associated with knowledge and wisdom in many cultures so it made sense to ask this “Moloch” for such a thing.
The blue-robed man continued, “It is not out of charity we ask these things. We have prepared for you a seed that would surely grow as mighty as these trees you have made your dwelling in. Please watch, dear Moloch, as we prepare for you our offering.” He lowered his hand back to his side and lifted the torch back up.
The crowds lowered their hands as four grey robes flanked the blue with candles pointed forward. They raised their small fires to ignite the torch into a blaze of its own. Once lit, the four returned the candles to chest-level and retreated to their spots.
“The lighting of the torch symbolizes the four Songbirds that fly the Void,” the blue robe continued, “singing their Unheard Lullaby to Camazotz. Moloch is the Songbird of Knowledge. As such, he is tasked with remembering the song should the other three forget or the song end.” The man turned and walked toward the stone fire pit and lit the kindling inside.
The fire began small and smoky, but eventually was able to outshine all other lights when coupled with the reflection made by the pond. I, nearly blinded by the inferno, took my eyes out of their respective lenses and looked to my two friends.
“So this is what they do when we don’t see them on TV,” whispered Joe mockingly. He and Taylor were still peering through their binoculars so I raised mine back up to my head.
The blue-robed man spoke again. “This ceremony is called the Cremation of Care, and it is our longest held tradition.” For the rest of this “ritual” he spoke exclusively in an undefined language. It sounded like it may have been close to Hebrew, but I was no linguist. He spoke quickly in his almost-haunting beretone voice. Every few sentences, he would stop to allow the crowd to respond with a chant in the same twisted language.
“I don’t feel too good about this,” whispered Taylor.
“Yeah, man,” I spoke in hushed, shaky tones, “Everything about this feels wrong…wait, what are the two red ones doing?”
The two red-robed figures standing on either side of the owl turned and walked slowly, as if calculating every step, behind the monolith. Moments later, they returned carrying either side of a dresser-drawer sized wicker basket. Its contents were obscured by our angle. The two continued their snail-paced walk to the front of the the fire pit. They set the basket down and returned to their posts.
The blue robe continued his obscured sermon and turned to point at the two red robes. His rant had carried on, but this was not what held our attention. The two figures in red raised their hands to the sides of the hoods. They slowly and simultaneously lowered them to reveal a hideous sight. Two pale bald heads emerged from the hoods, each lacking eyebrows and facial hair as well. Perhaps the strangest of things were their eyes, each with heavy cataracts that gave the irises a ghostly appearance that was enhanced by a slight jaundice. Theses men had been stricken blind.
“We…we need to leave,” said Taylor slightly above a whisper.
But Joe and I were nearly entranced. We would be witnesses to something the world did not know of. It was this ability to wield forbidden knowledge that held our attention stronger than the sheer terror.
“Guys,” Taylor was speaking at conversation volume now, “You don’t get it, guys. We need to leave. Now. Before we see something that will drive us insane.”
“Taylor,” Joe began speaking as loud as Taylor now, “You’re freaking out about nothing. These guys are harmless.”
“Well you can keep your head up your ass, but I refuse to sit and watch any longer.”
“Both of you keep it down,” I whispered loudly. They ceased their bickering. I knew Taylor may have figured something out, but I could not stop watching what was unfolding below. “Nobody’s making you stay, Taylor. If you don’t wanna watch go in your fuckin’ tent.”
Taylor stared at me for a second with a look of shock in his eyes before walking back to his tent. I couldn’t be bothered by his cautionary advice. What I was seeing took greater precedence.
As I once again donned my binoculars I could see the blue robe walk over to the basket at the foot of the fire pit. He was still speaking in tongues as he pulled a bread loaf-sized clump of rags out of it. But the rags started to unfurl. He cradled the remainder in his left arm. With his right hand he reached into the clump and raised, as though unsheathing a sword, an infant child and held it high in the air by its leg. He paraded the now-wailing child around the stage like brandishing a trophy.
Chills shot through my whole body. Bumps formed on my arms. My heart was a racing engine. Whatever was about to happen could only be a sinister act. An act of dark obsession and evil motives. My stomach churned as the same ear-piercing cry of the baby in the forest shot out from the Grove. Had this been the same baby? Had the two figures in red robes carried it right through our camp, blind to their surroundings? What about that damned owl? We were in the midst of no mere sermon, but of an unholy communion. A sacrificial rite.
I froze. Unblinking. Unable to react to what I was seeing. Unable to run. Taylor had been right, yet again. I could hear him beginning to cry in his tent, not capable of leaving the friends that defied him. A cold sweat began rolling down my forehead.
The man in the blue robe put his left hand on the child’s forehead and recited, loudly and clearly, words from some arcane ritual written in the mutilated Jewish tongue. He removed his left hand and walked toward the fire. He reached the baby over the blaze and released it. The child was devoured by the charring depths of the sacrificial furnace. Some monstrous, sickening deed had been done in the name of this malign deity. The cries grew in intensity, reaching a new level of agony and suffering. The blaze shot up, reaching the height of the monolith before being completely extinguished in an instant. A silence hung in the air that suggested the poor child now knew a sleep it was far too young to meet.
My eyes adjusted to the dark after moments. Candles and lanterns were now the primary light. The forest seemed to shiver after what it had seen. The moon abandoned its nightly watch and the stars turned their backs.
“The seed is fed to the fire, as the ancient rite goes,” said the blue robe bowing to the owl statue. “Hear us and reply, Lord Moloch. Share the wisdom of ages.”
I could hear what sounded like distant thunder rolling through the forest. Once it passed overhead, it was followed by a cold wind. If my bones had not already been chilled the wind would have surely done it. My eyes suddenly started burning fiercely. With no explanation as to what had caused it, I glanced toward Joe. He had gone pale and looked sickly. He was crying blood. Thinking I might have been doing the same, I rubbed my eyes and looked at my hands. They were a dark shade of crimson.
“We gotta get the fuck outta here,” said Joe on the verge of vomiting.
“Tell Taylor he was right. I’ll start breaking down the tents.”
We packed the camp up in mere seconds, though at the time it felt like a grim eternity. The wind picked up as we left our precipice. The sky was now shrouded in cloud and it was not long before rain was falling. Whatever monster the Grove had been calling to had definitely answered. With our headlamps on and our hearts in a panic, we set off in a dead run through the forest.
The wind was causing the trees to sway and flex. It cut in between them, making a ghastly moaning noise. Taylor led the way with Joe and I trailing closely behind. Lightning flashed, giving us a brief, lighted glimpse of the forest. The thunder clapped in the distance and began growing louder. It felt like that thunder was chasing us. As it rolled overhead, our headlamps began to flicker. The flickering was mild at first, dimming and occasionally blinking. This progressed until the lamp was nothing more than a paperweight with a head strap.
Once my light went out, I ripped it off my head and tossed it aside. This run was miserable. Every breath filled my lungs with freezing air. I could not tell if my eyes burned because the rain or the blood that still trailed from them. I could feel the weight of my pack dig in to the muddy ground with every step.
With a flash of lightning, I could see something falling onto Taylor. The impact took him to the ground. Immediately following, Joe tripped over Taylor with me nearly going over as well. I saw Joe roll over in the dirt and recover to his feet. Taylor fell on his side and was shielding his face with his arm. Another flash of lightning revealed what Taylor was shielding his face from. I knew what it was in that very instant by the tell-tale sign of a pair of burning, yellow eyes.
The owl tore at Taylor’s flesh with its talons. It nabbed at his eyes with its beak. Though Taylor flailed around in a desperate act to escape, the nocturnal bird did not let up its onslaught.
“Oh God! Please, God, help me!” Taylor screamed in terror.
I dropped my pack and delivered a swift kick to the owl’s chest. It landed about three feet away on its side. I waited a moment to see if the owl would get back up. It sat lifeless on the ground for a moment before recovering to its feet. Its sulfurous gaze cut through to my very soul and ailed my already weary body. With a hideous shriek and a flutter of wings, the owl flew off into the wicked night.
Taylor had been knocked unconscious. He had deep lacerations all over his arms, prompting heavy blood flow. His eyes were swollen shut. Deep purple bruises covered his face. Aside from still breathing, he looked dead.
Joe and I broke out our first-aid kits and went to work. We applied disinfectant and heavy gauze to his carved-up forearms and hands and tied tourniquets to his upper arms to slow the blood loss.
“We need to get this guy to a hospital,” said Joe, still a bit rattled by the assault.
I nodded. We strapped Taylor’s pack to his chest to keep his weight forward and his possibly concussed head resting on the bag’s frame. Together, Joe and I scooped him up and slung each of Taylor’s bloody arms around our necks and began dragging him out of the accursed forest. No matter how our bodies had already been battered, we now had a life in our hands. The life of a friend. Adrenaline took hold and we summoned the strength to trudge on with our northerly route.
Minutes of walking passed. Followed by what seemed several hours. The sky began to brighten as the rain let up. As if to signal some small salvation, we heard the running waters of Smith Creek. Our weary bodies saw the light at the end of the tunnel and began to shut down. Our legs quaked with the fatigue delivered by every step. All we needed to do now was follow the creek west and to the car.
The familiar sounds of the morning birds filled the air. They sounded so joyous, so blissful, so unaware of the atrocity that occurred. The sin that dejected nature and broke the order, the very substance that defines conscience and sanity. Or perhaps these creatures lived in an ignorant awareness to the annual unholy sacrament in the heart of the forest. An odd sort of pact with this Moloch, for animals, too, fall prey to their own curiosity. Curiosity is, after all, what led us to this strange part of the world. It was out of curiosity that we witnessed that foul enterprise at the Grove. By curiosity’s cruel hand, we were now dragging our dear, nearly-dead friend out of such a cursed land, a wicked garden. It is as if we are all just marionettes, with our innermost questions stringing us along, being manipulated by a prime mover. A blight that rests within all of our hearts and minds. Uncurable and unceasing.
It was around seven o’clock in the morning that we cleared the forest and loaded our gear back into the car. Taylor was lain across the backseat with Joe keeping him from rolling around. Once all was secured, I began driving down to a nearby hospital in Sebastopol.
“What are we gonna say to the doctors?” asked Joe.
“The truth. He was attacked by a wild animal.”
“Wild, huh? I saw how it paused to stare you down after you kicked it, which, by the way, shoulda killed that thing. That bastard had a mind of its own.”
“I know, man,” I said nervously, “I’m trying to forget about all that.”
“Forget? I hate to say it, but I don’t think that’s happening. This is something we have to carry with us to our grave.”
“Well, Joe, if you’ll excuse me, I’m tryin’ to make sure our friend doesn’t get there too long before we do.” I was tired, impatient, and angry. But most of all, still scared shitless of even thinking about everything.
“I’m sorry, dude…You- You just keep driving.”
I was relieved to have some silence for a bit to concentrate on the road. Driving always eased my troubled mind. But then Joe broke the silence, yet again.
“You know…”
“Know what?” I said with a sigh.
“We could help Taylor in another way.”
“Oh, yeah? How’s that?”
“Doesn’t knowing what we know feel like a burden to you?”
“I guess…”
“And we wouldn’t want to burden a friend, would we?”
“What are you getting at?”
“I’m saying we could end his suffering before it starts…save Taylor from a lifetime of fear and paranoia.”
“Are you out of your fucking mind?!” I asked demandingly. I had pieced together what he was playing at.
“C’mon, man. For all we know, he’s in a coma he’ll never wake up from. Would you torture a friend like that? Make him relive the past nights in his mind over and over again in an endless nightmare?”
“I won’t make a judgement call on another man’s life. I won’t play God. And if you so much as look at him funny, you’ll find yourself walking your ass back to Red Bluff.”
He paused a moment and whispered, “It’d be easy. Just one twist. End the poor bastard’s life.”
I pulled over and stopped the car. As I turned to the back seat I saw Joe’s face. He was weeping gravely. The man had lost his mind like Taylor said he would.
“What, man?” Joe sniveled. “Can’t you see that it’s gonna be the end of all of us, anyway? We’ll never get away from it. No matter how long or how far we run, it’ll find us.”
“Look around, Joe,” I said calmly, “What’s coming after us?”
“Right now? Not a thing. But in days, months, even years? He’ll find us. He’ll be the end of us. He’ll hunt us down in our thoughts. In our nightmares. He may come knocking at night, when all evil roams free. He may even find you in broad daylight, when you once again find safety in your daily routines. But he’s coming for us all. Can’t you hear him? He’s whispering in my head. Telling me to end it all. He says you’ll hear him, too. You’ll look into his eyes again.”
His face had gone pale. Tears soaked his face as more welled up in his eyes. His hands shook uncontrollably, like he was being electrocuted. He had either abandoned his sanity or it was lost within him. But what he said terrified me. What he said shook me to my core. He was right. This wasn’t something that could be outlived.
“Look, man, you’re not yourself right now. We’re going to the hospital. Bottom line. Just don’t touch Taylor and don’t say another word. We’ll be there in fifteen.” I turned back around and put the car in drive. Daylight was no sanctuary anymore.
Upon reaching the hospital, Taylor was rushed to the emergency room. Joe and I sat in the waiting room for an eternity. He did nothing but shiver and whisper to himself the entire time. Growing tired of it, I told Joe I was going to the bathroom. Instead of going, though, I spoke to the lady at the front desk and explained Joe’s ruptured sanity as post-traumatic stress. Within moments of a phone call to the psych ward, Joe was confronted by two burly, male nurses and escorted away.
That was the last I saw of Joe. In days to come, his seemingly sudden mental collapse would earn him titles such as schizophrenic, epileptic, and amnestic, among others. I kept tabs on him, but never visited.
After they took Joe away, I sat alone in the waiting room. For two days, I’d attempt to read books or magazines, but my worries would take me away from whatever I was reading. I’d sleep in the chairs, only to be awoken from a nightmare by the lady at the desk offering me a cup of pudding or something. I never felt well enough to eat, but I always muscled down what she gave me.
On that third day, a nurse came out and escorted me to Taylor’s hospital room. His door was closed, but a television monitor outside showed him fast asleep.
“We had to drain the blood out of his swollen eyes,” the nurse began, “after that, it was all a matter of getting stitches to those gashes. One hundred eighty three, to be precise. No concussion. No comatose. He’s just asleep now. Did you want to go inside and see him?”
Just as she asked this Taylor began to stir on the monitor. He looked up to the camera. I did not want to see him anymore.
“No, thanks. I’ll let him get his sleep and contact his family for his insurance,” I spoke these words very briefly. The nurse looked confused as I turned a expeditiously left the hospital to drive back to Red Bluff.
Taylor looked great. His color had come back and, aside from light bruising around his eyes and a map of stitches on each arm, appeared ready to be released. There was just one thing that bothered me. One thing that sent shivers down my spine. Staring through me from that monitor were a set of abhorrent, yellow eyes.

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