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November 29, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“Everybody ready?” Our tour guide called out from the front of the bus. All of us let out a collective, “mmhm,” in agreement. “Great, because we’ll be there in ten minutes.” He said back to us. I stared out the window at the beautiful white landscape, it was like something out of a dream. A blanket of white covered the surrounding hills to the side of the road. After a few minutes of observing the beautiful atmosphere, we arrived.

I stepped outside the bus, and gazed up to see the tallest mountain in the world. Everest. Everyone else was staring at the colossal chunk of earth that stood before us, as well. Our tour guide explained to us, that this would be the most physically taxing thing thing we would do in our life, and it’s not too late to turn back now.

No one turned back.

I looked around me, and saw three men and two women. There was Karl and Lara, the young German couple. Leo, the Italian college student. Ivana, the middle aged Russian lady. Nabin, our Nepalese tour guide. And of course, myself. These people would be like my family for the next few days, we would need to support each other if we wanted to survive this experience. After Nabin made us sign a last batch of waivers, we began our ascent up the mountain.

It wasn’t bad at the beginning, but as we got higher, the air slowly grew thinner, making it harder to breathe. As we were climbing up a particularly steep surface, I remembered why I came on this expedition in the first place. All throughout my life, I’ve played my cards close to my chest, and avoided most risks. I had an ordinary nine to five office job, until something suddenly changed in me. I realized I wanted to do something extraordinary with my life. Something my wife and kids would be proud of me for. I felt like my children found me boring and uninteresting, if I come back and tell them I’ve climbed the tallest mountain in the world, it might change the way they see me. I need to do this, and if I die trying, at least I’ll die doing something brave. We climbed a bit further, until Nabin told us that it was time to set up camp.

We found a plateau on the mountain, and set up our tents. We talked for a bit, and learned each other’s purposes for partaking in such a risky expedition. Karl and Lara had been married for a year, and wanted to do something to celebrate their first year of marriage. They were major adrenaline junkies, and frequently went skydiving and bungee jumping. Leo was an art student, and thought experiencing everest for himself would put him in the right emotional mindset to paint the natural beauty. Ivana was bored of her monotonous routine back in Russia, and wanted to do something risky and dangerous. At around 10pm, we all went back to our tents to get some sleep. I was going back to my tent when I heard a scream echo across the desolate, white mountain. It wasn’t a human scream, I knew that for sure. It sounded like something was angrily yelling at the top of its lungs. My blood curled as I heard the high pitched expression of pure malice. Needless to say, I quickly walked back to my tent.

We’ve been climbing for about a month now. My ears have grown used to the faint howling of the wind. It’s often the only sound any of us will hear all day. It creates a feeling of loneliness. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve done this at all. A lifetime of playing it safe hasn’t prepared me for this, but I keep going anyway. Even if I die here, at least people will remember me for something. It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.

As we climbed higher I began to think about my wife and kids, and if they could see me right now. They would be so proud.

I kept ascending.

After a few more feet of climbing, we came across an opening in the side of the mountain. The hole was extremely rough and uneven, almost like it wasn’t natural. Nabin seemed cautious about going in, but with a bit of persuasion, he led us through the jagged entrance on the side of Everest. We were surrounded by an expanse of darkness, along with the sound of water dropping from the stalactites that hung overhead. We couldn’t see a thing. We trudged through it, until we came to a wide open area, at the end of the narrow pathway. There were torches hung on the walls, so the area was mostly visible. As we entered the wide cavern, a pungent odour entered my nostrils I saw Leo run to a corner and violently throw up. It smelled like urine and rotting flesh. I looked around and my stomach sank. The room was filled with human skeletons, all brutally murdered in different fashions. One was impaled on a particularly jagged rock, another was missing its head. We continued to move through the collection of death, until we heard large footsteps moving in our general direction. Whatever this cave belonged to, was returning.

We ran in the opposite direction of it, towards the opening that we came from. As soon as we started running, the thing must’ve heard us, because it let out a terrifying yell, and started moving much faster. Adrenaline poured through our veins as we started running as fast as we could, First Nabin got to the opening, then Karl and Lara, then me, then Ivana, but not Leo. I looked behind me to see Leo sprinting towards us, but an outstretched arm reached out and grabbed him. He was desperately struggling to get loose. Tears were pouring from his eyes, and he was screaming at the top of his lungs for someone to help him, but there was nothing we could do. We watched as the creature pulled Leo back into the darkness. Agonizing screams came from Leo as we heard what sounded like limbs being ripped off. Leo suddenly burst out of the darkness. It was the most horrific sight. Leo’s arms and legs had been ripped off, exposing us to the gruesome image of the torso and head of Leo, squirming out of the darkness, desperately trying to escape whatever was following him. A large hand then reached out from the darkness, and pulled Leo back in. We heard a deafening scream, then suddenly a loud snap, and the screaming quickly ceased. We quickly re-embarked on our previous path. The wind howled as we climbed further up the mountain, no one dared to speak a word about what we’d just witnessed. Finally, Ivana broke the silence,

“Maybe we should go back.” Everyone was silent once again.

“No,” I finally said. “If we turn back now, we forget everything we’ve fought for so far. I don’t know about you people, but I won’t stop until I’m at the top.” My heart was racing. I felt empowered, like I could do anything. “Now let’s keep going, and if anyone doesn’t make it, at least they’ll be remembered as courageous. Like Leo.”

Everyone nodded their head in agreement.

We kept ascending.

We were about one day from reaching the peak at this point. The air was growing fatally thin. Everyone was in obvious discomfort, but we pushed forward. The wind was howling in our ears. The cold was numbing our faces. But we pushed forward. Our eyes have grown used to the same two colours, blue and white. The blankets of snow grew thicker the further up we went. We kept climbing until we came across an unusually large plateau. We could barely see anything in the distance because of the snowy wind that was crippling our vision. I thought I made out a tall bipedal figure in the distance, but I was probably just seeing things because of the lack of oxygen. As we trudged through the plateau, the figure seemed to become more visibly clear than before. I suddenly knew that I wasn’t imagining it. It was real. Everyone stopped when they saw it, a look of terror dawned on all of our faces. We had all realised, that this was the same creature that had mutilated Leo, earlier on our journey. I told everyone to stand their ground, maybe we could intimidate it. It suddenly started running to the side, becoming invisible in the snowy wind. Our hearts were pounding through our chests, we didn’t know when it was going to attack…until it did. It lunged out from the side, in a blur of white, and grabbed a hold of Ivana. It crushed her head with its massive mouth, and threw her to the side. It then grabbed a hold of Karl’s arm and Lara’s arm, and ripped them off. Their blood was pouring out of the stumps on their arms, painting the snow crimson red. The creature then dragged all three of them back by the legs, creating three distinct red lines in the snow. My heart was about to explode, but I couldn’t lose sight of my goal. I was going to get to the top.

It was just me and Nabin now.

“Maybe we should follow the blood, it’s possible they’re still alive. If we get there quick enough-”

“NO!” I shouted furiously. “We don’t have time for distractions.” “I don’t care who dies, as long as I reach that peak.”

“Do you have no empathy?” He said, as he gave me a disgusted, and walked away.

I continued to ascend.

As I walked up the last few kilometers of the mountain, I heard a bone-chilling scream of anguish. It was Nabin, no doubt. I kept climbing until the peak was in sight. I was immediately overwhelmed with joy. I ran to the top like it was a long lost brother. I fell down into the snow and took a moment to look down from the the top. It was the most amazing sight I’d ever seen. I was enjoying the view, when I heard something breathing behind me. My heart sank, and I knew it was over. This started as a way for me to prove myself and take risks, but turned into a deadly obsession. At least I made it to the top. Tears were streaming down my face. I knew this was the end for me, but I was so proud of myself for doing something courageous, for once in my life. I turned around to meet the face of an eight foot tall hairy humanoid creature, covered in white fur, soaked red with blood. In one swift motion, it pushed me off the edge.

The higher you are, the farther you fall.

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All Driven Into The Yearning Arms Of Amobolaa

November 22, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Within The Carcass Of Lunar Rot

I have been sending this distress call repeatedly, and I have been trapped on this moon for what I hope to have only been the past two sidereal days. Can anyone hear this message? Can anyone send help? I do not know what to do anymore and I do not know how much longer the emergency power of this pod will last. I have to keep recording, I have to keep sending this message. In the case that anyone can hear me but cannot respond, I must relay the horrors of this foreign moon.

My memories of before arriving here are hazy, but I remember living back on Tenlithe. I remember the general uneasiness of a coming, petty war. I remember my family.

But here, there is a greater turmoil. I cannot describe the shock of awaking inside some sort of escape pod atop a pile of putrescent and semi-unidentifiable human corpses. I can barely explain further the terror of when I heard some of them groan and their mangled limbs slowly twisted in unnatural directions. I struggled to free myself of the slimy, corporeal entanglement, every one of my senses assailed by disgust and fright, but I eventually freed myself and approached the escape hatch. The pod’s hatch appeared to be set to open on a timer. The hatch did eventually open, but the noxious fumes and the faint movements of the bodies were driving me mad.

After an unknown time, but what seemed to be hours, the hatch opened after much of my wrenching upon it and to my surprise all of the air did not escape into the vacuum of space—I could still breath, at least. I shambled out of that den of horror and slammed the hatch closed behind me. The horrors I saw afterward were even worse.

Similar pods were scattered all over the pitted, ash-like surface in the little I could see over the proximate hills and craters. What the hell is happening here? I scurried to the highest peak I could find and from the dizzying height I spied a jagged out-crop of massive rocks jutting from the otherwise desolate surface, but little else as the beetling surface obscured most of the horizon. The out-crop appeared to be artificial or crafted by some massive, fumbling hands with a shaky composition and tall, pyramid-like shape. And when I later arrived closer every compositional chunk appeared to be of some pyroxene material and was roughly hewn, covered in claw marks similar to the size of my own hands. Over the heavily arced horizon I could only spot a few similar, yet warped, constellations, but no neighboring planet.

The trek from my location to the massive megalith was long, but with no other landmark to see I had very few options. It appeared—and later felt—to be about a three-kilometer hike as I was loosely guided by the distorted Cassiopeia constellation faintly above the horizon. Along the way there were a few of the other pods slumped across the surface, none of them appearing very old, but widely varying in design and condition. The most common appearing to be stout and neutral-colored cans similar to my own.

I was still perplexed by the invisible atmosphere here. How could such a small celestial body seemingly hold an atmosphere such as this? Why was there no light refraction on the horizon? Why was the gravity so similar to Tenlithe’s?

I only peeked into one of the pods, hoping to not repeat my findings from it in the others, for what I found was another corpse-impregnated hull filled with the murmurs of the seemingly dead. The hatch was locked like mine was, but opened easily enough from the outside. This time the bodies bore little resemblance to a human, instead seeming to be limbed and snake-like beings with dark, squamous skin. The hollow chatter of the rattling that emanated from within shook my nerves more than my time within my own pod, even after I walloped the hatch shut and darted away from it into the distance.

The unsettling silence of the alien surface was beginning to perturb me gradually and an enveloping fatigue was setting in just as the shadow of the isoscelean pyramid was covering my rugged surroundings. I stopped to listen for anything, but the aether emitted nothing. The imposing structure was starting to strike more and more fear into me as I, too, was now hidden in its shadow. I noticed how cold the surface truly was without the slight warmth of the distant sun. Oh, how cold and indifferent a horizon of ever-present black and speckles of faint light can be.

I nearly circumambulated the base of the impressive edifice, looking for any sort of entrance inside, only discovering a triangular, oblique hallway a few centimeters taller than myself on the distant side of the square-ish base. Luckily, it was on the sun-lit side and the light seemed to funnel deep into the odd passage. The tunnel stretched almost indefinitely into the heart of the structure and sloped gently downward. My clambering footsteps echoed roughly inside the tight space, which worried me but I was too tired to tread any more gracefully.

The hallway seemed to shrink the deeper I plunged and I found myself having to slump slightly over as I walked. I decided to sit and rest for a while, lying down under the leaning walls. I tried to gather my thoughts, but I found my mind too exhausted to do so and I slowly fell into a frigid sleep. When I awoke, the sun was no longer illuminating the passage and I could not see the ends of either side. I struggled to remember my orientation: Had I slept with my head or feet to the entrance? I could no longer distinguish the gentle slope of the corridor either; it might have leveled out without my prior notice.

I decided to stumble towards the direction of my feet arbitrarily. The thought of waiting until the next sunrise did not please me and the crushing weight of the dark and my echoed movements instilled into me a deep worry. I groped along the wall as my balance was greatly diminished and it felt as if gravity itself was fluctuating in that lunar tomb.

A few minutes after my foot-ward walk I heard a rumbling blast of sound, but was unable to discern which end it came from, even when I turned my ears parallel to the passage. The echoing reverberation rendered it impossible to tell. I heard a series of thin popping sounds followed by a few moments of quiet. Then, the cacophony like that of hellspawn came, but it did not stop. No, this nightmare was forced to continue. I was reminded of the tired and lifeless groaning from within my casket-like pod, but of many magnitudes louder and more varied. This sound I could more easily discern to be coming from a singular direction—the direction behind me, and presumably outside the pyramid.

I froze for a few minutes in fear with my ears covered and eyes shut tightly, trying to finally compose my thoughts. I wondered if it would be better to run deeper into the abyss and hide or to seek possible survivors amongst the din of what could only be a hellish landscape. I could not be the only living one sent here, right? I decided I was too afraid to exit the specious safety of the darkness and turned to head further into the void, but when I lifted my hands from my ears I noticed the freakish groans, rattles, and yelps were louder than before. Panicked, I sprinted as best I could through the narrow hallway, my shoulders and sides rebounding off the walls and the clamor of my steps resounding madly.

I heard another horrific rumble, but this time structured in two specific blasts resembling speech. I could tell it came from somewhere within—or atop—or near—the pyramid, but I could not reverse my course. I continued this run for as long as I could until I could see a pale-green glow at the end of the passage. When I reached the end of the passage I paused to hear for sound inside. Thankfully for my sanity the sounds from outside had subsided enough to the point of only being heard by a careful listen, and there were no stirrings inside either.

Instead of another audible quandary, I walked into a visual one, where inside I was bathed in that green phosphorescence and greeted by the enigmatic architecture of some ancient design. The walls undulated upward in sharp peaks, valleys, and mostly-straight surfaces between, but seemed to do so forever. The room was massive as well and I could but faintly spy the four corners from my vantage from the middle of one of the sides. The emerald light seemed to be emitted from triangular channels carved into the walls in a random and puzzling pattern. Looking upward, I noticed that the aerial void had faintly glistening sparkles emulating stars to my eyes. Horizontally along the floors was a carven script of unknown language to me, it appeared to be somewhere between pictorial and phonetic with some of the characters reminding me of various inhuman creatures.

But most unsettling of all—as my eyes adjusted to the light—I saw that there were innumerable high-relief carvings of monstrous beings along all of the walls. Scarcely any of them were humanoid in shape and many of them eluded all standard description beyond the phrase ‘life-like’ or ‘realistic’. I jerked away from the nearby wall as I spotted the demons portrayed there. There was a multi-headed snake-thing with large, staring eyes topping each branch and a toothy maw at the base of its main trunk nearly twice my size arched over the doorway. There was a rotund and minotaur-like beast lumped to my left with dozens of primitive arms wielding flesh-laden spears. To my right there was a highly erect tripod-thing with a main body resembling a crown. All of these horrors had smaller, but just as grotesque, monstrosities darting between them and my dismay of the entire vista was only amplified by the dull glimmer of the green glow permeating the room.

This chamber of terror was almost too much to bear, but I thereafter kept my gaze down on the cryptic script on the floor and plodded towards the center of the room. There did not appear to be any escape from that subterranean vault other than the main entrance I had come from and I had trouble scanning the walls for another exit both due to the fright and the dark. I sat with my head firmly nuzzled within my collapsed limbs wondering what to do for most likely hours. I only tried to remember the few thoughts of home I had, losing track of whatever sense of time I had. When I lifted my head I noticed a faint glow of daylight from the entrance. It appeared that another sidereal day had come.

Yet another rumble came, but this time easily heard to be from above and of three distinct beats. A slight dusting of soot was loosed from above, leaving an acrid aroma and taste about. Then, a comatose roar came in seeming response from somewhere outside, heavily muffled by the stone walls. It would be moments later when I could muster up the courage to head outside and escape this esoteric megalith. There would be nowhere else to go and help would assuredly never find me in there. On my hours-long exit, I found the journey to be shorter than before, most likely because of the aid of sunlight during the entire walk.

I grew anxious of what I would see exiting the pyramid, and my pace slowed to mirror it, but as I approached the exit I heard absolute silence. Through the triangular aperture I could see the entrance was just as barren, save for those ghastly pods, as when I went in. Still, I felt apprehensive and I galloped somewhat hurriedly back towards my landing site. On my quiet journey back—except for the sounds of my crunching footsteps—I felt an air of peculiarity about, despite not noticing any apparent difference. About halfway back I had again grown exceedingly tired while jaunting away and could no longer stifle my reflex to look back at the towering pyramid. I breathed a sigh of relief when I did not detect neither any lunar abomination clinging to its peak nor any horrible procession scuttling about the surface. Had it all been a hallucination brought on by stress?

It was around this moment that I passed the serpent-filled pod from before, but noticed that its hatch was not in the closed position I left it. I froze. I could not hear the chatter like before and the dusty surface appeared mildly disturbed by a great many bodies other than my own distinct, but obfuscated, prints. I then glanced around to the other pods within the immediate landscape to notice that their hatches too were all open. Surely I could not have misremembered this detail on every pod? I slowly approached the serpent pod with dread.

I stole a glance over the side of its hatch to find it empty. Then, with more courage I stole another longer glance to confirm that the pod was indeed empty of the snake beings. I was not sure which state I preferred: the serpentine horrors nearby and inside the pod or outside, but possibly roaming about.

These mounting experiences began to pile up inside my mind with no clear action being apparent to me. I faintly remembered the science topic of the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response, all of which seemed equally terrible to my mind at the moment.

After some tense deliberation I decided to head back to my prior vantage point on the high-cresting hill where I first saw the pyramid. The climb back up it from the steeper slope was arduous, especially with my nervous grasps of the loose stone surface. This is where I spotted the final horror.

When I reached the peak and tiredly spun towards the triangular monument, I noticed that diagonal to the pyramid, and roughly 30 degrees to the right of my outlook, was a smaller child pyramid forming. It blended into the scenery with the same cinder-colored stone and was only a mere one-fifth its parent’s size at best, but it was definitely not there before. And worst of all, a mass of unidentifiable creatures were straggling around its base.

At this sight, I ran directly away from it. I ran and I ran and I ran. Past the open pods dotting the desolate, lunar crust. Past the vaguely familiar hills I first gazed upon. Past even the pod I emerged from earlier (after further thought I am sure that my perfunctory glimpse into the side-hatch showed it vacant as well). I continued to run for a duration of time I will never be able to calculate. I ran until I stumbled upon this very pod here, with its inner lighting system still in operation and a big, recognizable “Tenlithe #106” identification in crimson on its side. The communication panel is also appearing to be in working order.

I am just sitting here now, safely inside this pod, I like to believe. I do not know how much longer the battery reserves will last and I do not know if I want to. Upon entering it, I saw my reflection for the first time in its clean glass hatch. I am not sure if this person I saw truly is me, but they look deathly ill with an extremely pallid complexion and a blood-stained jumpsuit. I suppose a close death for them is best because they must have seen some absolute horrors recently. . . .

I do not feel cold anymore. I do not feel hunger anymore. I do not feel tired anymore. I do not feel much of anything, but I do feel compelled to return to the pyramid. They need me there. Perhaps when the dark soon returns. . . .

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November 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Despite Clare’s advancing years, he walked with smooth confidence up the narrow, infinite steps, which should have given trouble to one as ancient as he. He was notable, if for no other reason than his youthful figure: the locals had told me that he must be at least seventy or eighty at this point, but to see his powerful body, to hear his loud commanding voice, one would never guess his age. Indeed, his mansion matched his own vibrancy: the ancient thing would look brand new if it weren’t for the painfully outdated furnishings. As he gestured and flowed widely through the rooms of the house, it was clear he took a great pride in it, and had some deep love or connection to the place unfamiliar to a travelling investigator like myself.

Clare looked back at me, finishing his description of another dull oddity. His blue eyes were piercing, and I was jolted out of my internal monologue.

“Does it really interest you, Mr. Stanley? I must admit I don’t get many visitors. The place is quite out of the way, you know.” He spoke with an almost clichéd regal British accent, but his words boomed out with a deep bass, effortlessly projecting across the room. I nodded with feigned enthusiasm.

“Certainly, Mr. Clare, the house has a quality that is rarely seen these days. Your decorations” I said, gesturing to one particularly bland pastoral, “are most interesting.”

“Ah yes. Well, I wouldn’t say that particular piece is of my own taste. My wife did many of these.”

I resisted the urge to nervously grab at my tie, and broke eye contact with Clare. “Oh, I, uh—“

“She’s no longer with us.”

His words had a tone which was bizarre, and what I assumed to be remorse. Looking back up, I said “I’m sorry, Mr. Clare.”

He waved it off, dismissive. “Come. We’re about done the tour.”

After what seemed like another hour of walking through dreary, maze-like passageways, we finally arrived at the so-called den. Clare sat in a massive, gaudy chair—presumably his usual one. He gestured for me to sit across from him, and poured me some tea, left by an unseen servant. Looking up at him, I had to stifle a laugh.

The man sat, with almost mirrored similarity, in front of a life-sized portrait of himself. Apart from a few clothing differences, he looked exactly the same as the portrait—same age, and same sitting position, which is what made the image so comical. With how closely he resembled the portrait, it must have been painted very recently. I guessed the man had some modicum of self-love for him to have such a thing done when none would see it—no visitors, or even family.

Clare didn’t notice my temporary seizure of laughter, seemingly lost in unending descriptions of his manor. In a moment he broke, and we finally came to business.

“And you, sir, would like to stay in the place?” He looked suspicious, one eyebrow firmly up.

“Rent a room for a few days, sir. If you wouldn’t mind. I have such an interest in the…pieces you’ve collected…a-art pieces I mean…and I don’t feel the tour you’ve given me is enough—thorough though it was—to give me an…ehm…appreciation, you see.”

I felt my throat tightening, and my brow beginning to drip: Clare was so obviously not convinced. He didn’t mince words. “Are you sure that’s it, Stanley? Are you sure there isn’t something more?”

“Well I, uhm, don’t see what you, uh, could mean, s-sir…”

“I know Stanley. I can see. And I don’t blame you boy. Truly I don’t.”

“R-Really, sir?”

“Of course not!” He said in a sudden yell, leaping up from his chair to gesticulate wildly. “This house has me too! It has me! I’m enchanted. Of course you can’t appreciate such rich atmosphere with such a brief tour. You have to exist here. Yes, of course!”

I didn’t know whether I should say something, or merely run away in the instant, and avoid the house for the rest of my life. The man had such a gleam in his eyes, and his sudden passion scared me deeply—you may laugh to read it, but at the time it was a real, affecting fear. But, instead of running, I remained motionless, and stared up at the raving man.

“I wouldn’t keep such an experience from anyone, dear boy! No, no! Stay here? Why of course, of course, I’ll give you a room for free!”

I just stared dumbly up at the old man for a moment. Then, not wanting to excite him any further, I quietly said “Thank you, si—”

“Don’t mention it! Just one thing.” I nodded, and clenched nervously. “Do not explore my basement. It is, uh…under construction at the moment.” The sudden fire in his eyes told me of his earnestness. I wordlessly agreed.

And so I gained unguarded access to the Clare mansion.

The basement door had a locking mechanism that would have been hard to penetrate some fifty or a hundred years ago. As it stood, my toolkit and lock-picking skills were enough to easily dislodge the door, and it swung back with a quiet smoothness.

Locating the basement had proved difficult enough thanks to the confusing, arbitrary layout of the mansion. Pile on that Clare’s insistence on accompanying me throughout the day, and talking endlessly about God only know what, and I had little opportunity to explore on my own. I was however sure that the basement was the lead I should seek, thanks to Clare’s overemphasis on it. So, after dark, when the master had gone to bed, I snuck out and spent a few hours wandering the halls, aided only by my small flashlight.

The stairs down were thin and ancient, clashing with the well-maintained central body of the house. They were also partially concealed in a blind spot between a door and a cupboard, making them almost impossible to find in the dark. The smooth cement walls produced a chill unfamiliar with the otherwise antiquated warmth of the place, and the door was thick and plain.

Inside it was dark, and I had to calm my thrashing heart with deep breathing. That adrenaline, that excitement, was all the inducement I needed to do the things I did. In frantic anticipation, I crept into the enveloping darkness.

My tiny light did little to illuminate the room. After taking a quick survey, I discovered a small sconce with a partially used torch still in it. I shined my light around the room, not wanting to reveal my presence by tampering with anything. As I directed the light upward, it seemed to reach farther and farther, like the room had no top. When it had reached the ceiling it glanced across something which to my utter horror, looked like a face. An angry, vicious, massive face.

I gasped and scrambled to the torch, hoping to illuminate the fiend. I deftly lit a match, and the torch surged with light. To my surprise, a series of further torches burst to light in sequence after the first. I made the vague assumption that this was done by some unseen mechanism, which I wasn’t particularly concerned with at the moment. I stared up at the place where the face had been, and had to laugh—not only at discovering my fears to be unnecessary, but also at the pure surreality of the scene before me.

The face I had seen belonged to a statue, and was not nearly so malevolent when fully illuminated. It was plain, with a vaguely masculine facial structure, which was the only clue to the statue’s gender thanks to its otherwise sexless form. It was monolithic, stretching to the top of the unbelievably tall ceiling of the chamber. The room itself was a large, mostly circular hall, which aside from the statue was empty. The walls were all rough stone, as though the door had simply led to a conveniently located cavern—in fact, it was like a different place entirely, and I wondered if I had somehow missed a step in the transition. The ceiling was so high above that it seemed impossible that a house lay just overtop, and the stairs I had descended didn’t seem like they should account for the height.

The statue was inexplicable, even for a noted art collector like Clare. It was placed at the far end of the room, facing the entrance like a guard. It smacked of those stereotypical Egyptian sculptures, the types one might find in the deep tomb of some Pharaoh. If it had ever held some sort of staff, it didn’t now—the left hand was missing, presumably fallen off at some point long ago. Behind where the arm should have been was a door, which looked to be made of sandstone.

Wanting to get a move on, I slinked past the statue, never taking my eyes off of it. As I went under it, I looked up at the unmoving giant, whispering “Huh, some guard.” Then I opened the sandstone door, which slid up surprisingly easily, and entered the next room.

The light from the previous chamber only illuminated a small circle, which I crept into cautiously. As soon as I passed the doorway, the sandstone slab slammed down behind me, and the room lit automatically. It was squatter but longer than the first chamber, like a grand hall. The room had walls of the same sandstone as the door, smooth and constant. Like the previous chamber it was almost entirely empty aside from a small, plain, out-of-place looking oak table and chair. On the chair sat Clare.

The moment I saw him, his eyes lit up with uncontrollable mirth. “Mister Stanley. You are simply so easy.”

I was caught with an uncomprehending confusion, mixed with a vague dread and guilt at being caught. His jovial reaction didn’t much calm me, and when he called me over, I bolted towards the closed door behind me. Unfortunately, it seemed like it couldn’t be opened from this side. As I scrabbled and dragged my hands across the smooth surface, Clare continued to laugh.

“Your efforts are really quite useless. Come, dear boy, come. Don’t be afraid. I expected such a thing, you see. Why would you think I’d mention my basement so artlessly? Did you really think I was so stupid, that I really wanted you to stay out of here? Come here, boy, I’ll explain it all to you.”

I finally moved forward, slowly and wordlessly. Clare sat casually in his night-robe, with his hair still askew from bed. I realized that his previous raving behaviour must have been an act of some sort, that he had been manipulating me the whole day.

“I know your type, Stanley. Yes, yes, sit down there. Your type, you see: curious. I get them sometimes, people that think the place is haunted.” He laughed at the notion. Laughed too hard. “Well, I know my tastes can be a bit unusual, but please.”

“There certainly are rumours, Mr. Clare.”

“Well, yes, fine. So I show those people. That it isn’t haunted, or anything of the sort, see? Look for yourself! Does it look haunted?”

I shook my head, obviously lying. “But, Mr. Clare. What about those other rumours? Rumours a…about your family?”

“Of course it doesn’t,” he said, ignoring me, “This is part of the experience, this vault of mine. To get to experience this mansion, and let it affect you, you must be here. Here is the place!” He laughed again, jumping up. “Here, here! You’ll love it here. Lots of room! See the walls here. Imported, you know. The be—”

Not an act, after all. Luckily, I was always prepared with my trusted adventurer’s backpack. I reached back, thinking I’d got the machete, but I was mistaken. Towards Clare’s turned head came my hammer, making a satisfying crunch on impact. I realized I must have mixed up the two items accidentally. I made a mental note to reorganize the pack later.

Clare quickly fell to the ground, face-first in a growing pool of blood. I looked at the hammer in dismay, seeing that it dented slightly on Clare’s thick skull. It wasn’t meant for violence, but it did the trick in any case. I wasn’t sure if Clare was alive or not, and I wasn’t particularly keen to check. Ignoring the body, I doubled back to the closed door he had trapped me with. Indeed, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t jar the thing with hands alone. I drew out a thin crowbar, intended for just such a purpose, and pried at the door’s bottom crack. After a considerable effort, I was able to lift the door fully open. Then I wedged it with a nearby rock, in case it decided to lock itself again.

I was determined, you see. I certainly wasn’t ready to give up on my “exploration,” and without hesitation I moved down the long hall towards the next sandstone slab. This, identical to the first, was just as easy to open, and I used the same method of jamming to ensure my escape route.

Thus ensued a long series of rooms and hallways, similar in style to the first but all varying in shape and composition. Each had the same lighting system which made it easy to navigate through them, and at the end of each was the same sandstone slab. The immensity of the whole construction clashed with its apparent uselessness, as no room had much of anything noteworthy within it—though some did have bizarre items on the walls, like thick shafts zigzagging everywhere, and occasional holes that looked like massive spouts. As I moved through hall after arbitrary hall, I felt my excitement grow more and more, dreading and anticipating whatever could possibly be at the end.

I travelled for what felt like a half hour, after which I came on a chamber larger than all the others, and starkly different. The entire room seemed devoted to a large construction facing the entrance. It was placed on, or perhaps composed the opposite wall, and was not made of sandstone. The backing seemed to be some sort of fabric, which was a ruddy red or plum in colour depending on how the fire-light decided to cast it. On it were thick black tendrils, what I would describe as over-sized threads though they looked more like vines of pitch. The threads all lead to a centre clump, and though they were arranged in a symmetrical, and what I might even describe as a fascinating or alluring presentation, they didn’t seem to form any picture or outline. The closest impression I got was that of some large, black flower, though this was a vague notion at best. The mass of tendrils sat above something that appeared to be an altar, with twinned free-standing torches placed by its sides. These torches, like the rest in this underground vault, burst to life in succession after I lit the first in the room.

I approached the central altar, which was placed on top of a raised platform. Climbing the few steps, I saw yet another door placed off to the side, and relished in the anticipation of even more exploration. On top of the steps I gave a brief glance at the altar itself, which was smooth and plain. Then I moved towards to mass of threads, and felt a stab of horror when I saw the thing more clearly.

The first and most disturbing image was that the tendrils moved. It was subtle, almost unnoticeable, but it was clear as I came closer. The mass shifted slightly at irregular intervals and in arbitrary directions, giving it the resemblance of some blind, stupid lifeform.

However, I was an adventurer extraordinaire, and I certainly wasn’t going to let a little fear halt my investigation. The mass seemed harmless enough, so I moved up to it, close enough to touch it.

I realized that the tendrils which seemed thick as vines actually were made of tiny threads. These threads clumped together in a way that made them seem like one mass, when they were really quite small. I reached out to touch a section of thread, but the very moment my fingers touched he substance, the whole mass made a brief shudder, and I heard a small gasp.

I froze, paralyzed with fear and confusion. Then, like an avalanche the epiphany came to me. Unthinking, I hurriedly started separating out great swathes of thread, unburying the surface I now felt underneath.

What I found was, of course, a human face, though much too pale. The bright eyes looked up at me, signalling an obvious intense, quiet fear. It was a child, though I couldn’t guess at an exact age: at any moment the face looked ten or fifteen. I could only see a brief section of clothing by the child’s neckline before it became covered in hair. There seemed to be a sort of white robe or gown, and indeed when I looked down to the child’s feet, I could see a trail of white fabric.

I assumed by the way the soft voice had sounded that the child was a boy, and looking at his face, one could see it as masculine, if one were to stretch every definition and understanding of “male.” The poor boy had, somehow, been restrained here and his hair—though more hair than a human should be able to produce in a lifetime—had been threaded into the wall behind him. Despite the monstrosity of the act, I must admit that the job was done with a careful, artful—what I might even call gentle—hand, threading the hair in a thoughtful, thorough manner. It was clear how disturbing it was to the boy though. You could see the fear in his eyes.

I reached down to pat his head, and though he recoiled I persisted, saying in the softest, gentlest tone I could, “Here now, don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you. I’m going to help you,” followed by the biggest smile I could muster. The boy still looked afraid, but calmed somewhat. “So,” I said, trying to fathom how I could possibly free the lad, “what’s your name?”

He just stared up at me, either unable to talk or unfamiliar with my language. Either way, it wasn’t much use talking. I knew the only way I could free him.

I softly said “Don’t worry, I can get you out of here.” Then I grabbed the hair behind him, prodigious though it was, into a condensed handful close to his back. He gasped in surprise, but I calmed him down with pleasant sounds and words. Then I reached back, and located my machete (successfully this time). With a big wind-up, I sliced through the hair.

I didn’t think to warn the boy for some reason. I had expected the hair to take a number of chops to get through anyway, but to my surprise it all cut apart in a single stroke, and I almost fell over from all the excess forward momentum. The stuff didn’t feel like how I’d expected. It cut more like butter, or…I don’t know, something similar. As I looked down, I felt my heart drop. There was blood spilling everywhere.

The boy screamed out, a sharp, piercing, all-encompassing sound. I looked around, feeling my whole body shake violently as I stared at the river of blood pooling on the floor. The boy had slumped over, and lay in a heap. I realized that I must have cut him accidentally, very badly. In a panic, I rushed over to apply what little first aid I knew. But, on moving the still-considerable length of hair off his back, I could not locate a single wound, though his back was covered with blood.

It was then that I realized: it was his hair. His hair was bleeding.

Indeed, looking at the wall, I saw thick fountains of blood falling from the leftover mass of hair. The stuff twitched—twitched like severed body parts, and curled up like dried tentacles. Staring, uncomprehending, I looked down at the boy. He muttered and gasped, and cried horribly. I did what I could, tearing a piece of thick fabric off my clothing and using it to tie the ends of the hair up, which stopped the blood-flow somewhat.

There was another violent shake, and I realized it wasn’t just me but the whole room that vibrated. This, as I now properly sensed, was accompanied by the most horrific, brain-stabbing, blood-curdling scream I have ever heard. It was like the mix of a growl and a shriek, piercing and guttural rasping combined to an impossibly loud degree.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I picked the boy up, and held him in both my arms, so his head rested on my forearm and his legs dangled over the other side. He was light, surprisingly so—in fact, he was almost weightless. I had some base, instinctual urge to protect him—I couldn’t describe it, but I knew, just knew that I had to get him out of that place.

Before I could start moving, a sound from below stopped me. What I feared was the rasping of the unknown thing was just the door behind, opening by itself. I almost didn’t want to see what was through it, and I didn’t have to look: when it had opened a crack, dark liquid, thick like tar, flowed into the room, covering the floor with a sticky black covering. The smell was foul like rot, and I hesitated moving any farther as I descended the stairs. But the boy still shivered and cried in my arms, so I lost all my fear, and plunged in.

It was even thicker than I had expected, and clung to the bottom of my feet aggressively. I could still hear that horrid roaring at frequent intervals, each time seemingly closer, and the liquid made it difficult to move. I started into a run, which only amounted to a stumbling walk, and finally made it past the first door.

The tar was much thinner here, and I crushed the rock that had been holding the doorway open, thereby slamming it down. The mechanism to open the door seemed to be thereby broken somehow, and the ooze couldn’t pass through. Relieved, I rushed through this next room, after which (if I remembered correctly) there was another eight. As I ran, I heard a splashing sound behind me, and in outraged confusion I looked back to see the tar cascading out of the spouts in the wall. Out of hundreds of spouts.

It couldn’t reach me before I slammed the door on it, but I knew that it could enter any of the rooms through those spouts. I only ran faster, trying to outpace the liquid death, but after every room I passed, it gained on me bit by bit. By the time I had reached the room just before the hall where I’d met Clare, I only barely managed to close the door before the ooze overtook me. It was already falling when I turned to run.

This room was a thin hallway, long as the others but with a low, cramped ceiling. It was filling faster than the previous rooms, and before I was halfway through, the tar came up to my waist. It was almost impossible to move, and I had to hold the boy up high over my head, though he still got splattered by the falling streams. The walls, once bright yellow, were now covered in the black muck, and matched its colour. The torches were long put out, and the only light was the faint torchlight from the next room, which seemed to stretch farther and farther away.

The liquid was up to my neck, and I clambered wildly for the door. I didn’t want to attempt to swim through the dense sludge, and I could feel my body being pulled down where I had thought there was floor. I could feel my limbs burning and dying. I just about gave up.

With a sudden surge, the sludge burst out into the next room, carrying me with it. The larger volume of the hall gave plenty of space for the liquid to wash out, and I managed to regain my balance. I still held the boy in my arms, in an iron grip. He occasionally gasped and moaned, but seemed otherwise insensible. I rushed to the exit of the basement, sure I could make it out before the sludge got me.

I felt the vague sense of something missing as I entered the last chamber, or rather, the entrance chamber. I thought nothing of it and rushed into the room, headlong for the exit. That’s when I heard the growl, the scream again. It was so loud I was sure my eardrums would burst, and I kneeled to the ground, unable to cover my ears due to their current luggage. Then I looked up, tears streaming down my face.

The statue, that damned statue, was looking back down. As I stared its mouth opened, gapingly wide, and the scream it made was the grinding of stone-on-stone amplified from deep inside it. I stared up, and met its eyes, which were wide, deep, and black like the tar. In a slow, grinding movement, it brought up its feet to trample us.

I hurled my body in whatever direction I could, careful to land on my back and not crush the boy. The foot came down with a crash, causing a large splash of muck. I scrambled, and pushed myself up using my elbows. The colossus was readying for another attack, raising its massive leg out of the tar with a schlick, and I ran back as quickly as I could. Unfortunately I had jumped towards a side wall away from the exit, and the sludge was again building. As the powerful leg came down I became trapped between it and the stone wall, with only a few feet of space. I trembled violently in desperation and exhaustion, and held the boy close up to my chest.

The colossus shuddered, and I prepared for the extreme killing pressure. I waited, and held the boy tight, and it never came. I shook in extreme fear, and looked up. The giant was posed in its killing posture, and its eyes stared directly at mine. But it didn’t move.

I looked around, uncomprehending. The sludge was still rising, and I knew I had to move, but some deep instinct made me stay still. Then I finally noticed it: the boy’s leg lay against the stone of the statue.

I couldn’t understand it, but I took advantage all the same. I crept under the stone trunks of the monster, holding the boy out against its leg at all times. The boy’s body lolled and flopped with unconscious weight, and I made sure to hold him firmly to the stone against all my desires to flee. Once I had crossed under the giant’s legs and reached the child’s body out as far as I could, I grasped him back to my chest and ran.

As soon as the boy lost contact with the monster, the beast started grinding again, following through with his previous attack. I hurtled towards the door, focusing my sight directly on that exit. As I made it past the threshold the boy shuddered, and I felt a massive impact through the door behind me, blocking the opening with a tumble of rocks. I didn’t look back again and quickly made my way through the house, somehow finding the exit without paying much attention, and being jolted to my senses as I burst forth into fresh air.

I brought the boy some distance and laid him on the soft grass. The house burst into a geyser of filth, and sheets of sludge fell all down its sides, covering it in fountaining muck. But I didn’t pay this more than a glance, and instead looked down at the boy.

His eyes were bright and dazed. He was looking all around at the outside, which I figured he had probably never seen before. The sky was overcast, a soft bluish gray, and a cool wind blew gently. He took in all that was around him, seeming to forget the drying muck and blood on him, the torturous injury.

I grasped him by the shoulders, and he looked directly into my eyes, and his gaze was like piercing, like it went into my body and soul, and he just stared at me like that, and in the most unforgettable look he gave a soft smile.

Then, he shuddered again, and fell to dust in my arms.

Credit: Ree

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The Cottage

October 16, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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The Cottage
By Christina Durner

On October 1, 1957, Callie purchased the small cottage overlooking Cimmerian Bluff. She was quite alone in the world. Having just lost both her parents in a head-on collision three months ago she felt it was time to make a life for herself, to move to a new town where no one knew her, a town where she wouldn’t be accosted daily by the well-meaning people who offered their sincerest sympathies despite the fact that they had never bothered to acknowledge that she even existed before the accident. She had no other family. She had no friends. The only things that truly belonged to her were her dog, Hodge, her new job as a page at the town’s library, and the broken-down little cottage that she’d purchased on a whim.
Turning the cottage into her personal sanctuary would be a grand task. But the inheritance that she’d acquired would make that possible. From the looks of the exterior it appeared to be a shell-like ruin. But having gone inside she realized that with some initiative and a little elbow grease she could fix it up in no time.
“A diamond in the rough,” she kept telling herself. “Once I clean it up and have the water turned on Hodge and I can move right in.”
It had been uninhabited since the late 1920s, when a tragedy of heinous nature struck down the elderly woman who had lived there with her cat, and it had remained empty until Callie discovered it. According to the citizens of Cimmerian Bluff a traveling tramp had been blamed for the brutal slaying. The old woman’s throat had been viciously torn open in what the police believed to be an act of desperation when the hobo had broken in to the woman’s cottage and been caught stealing. They never did find the cat. The tramp swore ignorance, claiming to never have been near the cottage. But despite his protests he was found guilty and hung for his alleged savagery. The townspeople swore that the old cottage was unfit to live in, that it was haunted and did not want to be lived in.
But Callie detested superstition as much as she detested unwanted guests. So she bought the house despite its sordid past with the hopes that the legend of the tramp and the old woman would deter townspeople from making unwelcomed visits. Callie paid to have the water turned on and the roof and floors repaired and by the seventeenth she and Hodge had taken up residence. True, there was no electricity at this point. But Callie enjoyed the warm glow and snug atmosphere that candlelight and the stone fireplace provided.
She’d enjoyed her first two days at work. Shelving books required very little human interaction and allowed Callie to listen to her audio books which always made the time go faster. The only problem she’d experienced thus far was the spotting of a field mouse scurrying into the stacks on her way to the lunch room. Callie had always loved animals, more so than people. But rodents gave her a fright. As a child her mother had always been cruel to her, insisting that if her room was not spotless the mice would come into her room at night and bite her toes. Callie’s mother maintained that they would scamper into her room every night searching for a reason to get her. Since then the very thought of a mouse could cause her to freeze up and panic to wash over her in tidal waves.
Thinking of her mother saddened her. She’d spent most of her life trying desperately to win her approval and affections. While her father on the other hand had been the most loving person she had ever known. He was the only person that she enjoyed being around and now he was gone. She refused to upset herself any further and cuddled close to Hodge as she sipped warm cider in front of the fireplace.
“This could be a lovely little cottage,” she said out loud, talking to both herself and the dog. “We just need some new carpeting, perhaps some floral drapes, maybe I’ll put in some window boxes to really spruce it up around here.”
Hodge sneezed, bringing her back to the here and now then plopped his little head back onto her lap. She peered through the cottage windows to see the autumn leaves coming down from the trees that surrounded her new home.
“Every single one of those villagers must be the town idiot,” she chuckled to herself. “The house doesn’t want to be lived in,” she said in a mocking tone. No cottage could ever make her feel more comfortable and at home. No cottage could ever be more welcoming.
On October nineteenth the first incident occurred, though she’d taken it lightly and dismissed it at the time, it would be of great significance in relation to later events. Lying in bed that night, somewhere between the half-dreaming and half-waking world, Callie heard the familiar scratch of claws on the bedroom door. Since he’d been trained as a puppy, Hodge used this as his means of communicating that it was time for her to take him out. The electricity wouldn’t be fixed for another two weeks. So she found her way to him with help from the moonlight. Throwing the pudgy Jack Russel over her shoulder she felt her way down the hallway and made her way carefully to the tiny staircase. A loud snap jolted her upright as the dog leapt from her arms and down to the floor.
“Must’ve been one of those rat traps I set this morning,” she whispered to the dog, kneeling down to stroke his soft coat. “A place that’s been vacant this long is bound to have vermin. Glad I thought ahead.”
The thought of a rat in her beloved dwelling made her feel nauseous. What made matters worse is the thought that she would have to go look at the trap and possibly find the disgusting half-dead little pest squirming to get free. Then what would she do? Worry about that in the morning is what she would do. That vile little interloper would surely be dead by morning and she would be able to handle the matter more easily.
The following morning, she’d discovered an enormous rat dead inside the trap. Thank God she thought to herself. Hodge growled at the grotesque corpse until Callie mustered up the courage to pick up the trap and throw it in the outdoor garbage bin. It had been the size of a small trout and left her shaking as she ran back into the house to get as far away from it as she could. She set another trap that evening, hoping that they wouldn’t hear anymore loud snaps in the middle of the night. Living in a house that was supposedly haunted did not bother Callie in the least. But living in a house that was infested with rats was enough to make her skin crawl. Remembering her mother, she wore her shoes to bed that night.
Several nights passed and each morning Callie had discovered dead rats in the traps that had been placed. She phoned an exterminator while she was at the library but was disappointed to learn that he would be unable to make it to the cottage for another three days. No matter, Callie would not allow those disgusting varmints to scare her out of her own house. Not when it had become the biggest part of her new life.
Around midnight Callie had heard Hodge’s tell-tale signal scratching at her bedroom door. It was a moonless night and she had forgotten to bring a candle into the room with her. As she crawled out of bed, feeling her way through the darkness, she could just make out the shape sitting in front of the door. She lifted him onto her shoulder and started carefully toward the stares. His weight bore down on her heavier than normal.
“Whoa, buddy. You’re getting heavy! Guess we better cut back on the Milk Bones, huh?” Callie stroked his coat lovingly. Something was wrong. It felt harsh, coarse, grimy.
“Hodge?” she managed to utter through trembling lips.
She turned her head to look at him. What she saw glowering back at her sent ice through her veins. Frozen in place, Callie saw two beady red eyes and whiskers that unmistakably belonged to a rat. But this rat was larger than any she’d ever seen. It was slightly bigger than Hodge. Where was poor Hodge? As she felt its naked sinewy tail thumping against her chest and bare arm she could smell the scent of blood mingled with the rat’s own musty stench. Its whiskers brushed against her cheek, leaving streaks of blood in its wake as it inched its snarling snout closer to her neck.
What was it going to do to her? It had already eaten Hodge. Why was it perched on her shoulder so calmly, almost calculatedly? Her mother’s words popped into her mind. Scampering, she’d said. They scamper in looking for a reason to bite. But this rat had not scampered. It had waited calmly as if it were waiting for Callie to figure something out. Suddenly, the pieces of the puzzle started to come together. It had not occurred to her because her own mother had been so disconnected from her. She did not wish to protect Callie from anything. But her mother did not follow the laws of nature. This monstrous rodent that lay heavy upon her now, however, did.
It’s their mother! The voice inside her rang out. She’s the mother of the rats that I caught in the traps!
Callie didn’t know if it was the rat’s reaction to the fear the seemed to pulsate from her body or if it somehow realized that she had figured out why it was there. But before Callie could find the strength within herself to try to fight it, the mother rat sank its grizzly needlelike teeth into her throat. As she fell to the floor the last thing she saw were those piercing red eyes and the blood soaked muzzle dripping all over the beautiful new flooring of her beloved cottage.
The next morning the police found her lifeless body at the top of the small staircase. They concluded that a prowler must have attacked her and ran frightened out into the night. After all, whoever it had been didn’t bother to use the door to escape. The downstairs window had been smashed to pieces and none of the wild animals in that area were big enough to do that kind of damage. They’d tried to warn her before she’d purchased the cottage. This place was haunted. It did not want to be lived in. The old lady found that out and sadly Callie had found out too.

“Oh but that’s just a silly old legend,” the real estate agent said with a halfhearted giggle. “Something cooked up by the local busy bodies because they had nothing better to do back then.”
I eyed her suspiciously. My husband’s job had just transferred him to Cimmerian Bluff and we were in desperate search of a reasonably priced home where we could start a family. A small cottage set back in the woods away from the hustle and bustle of the town. When we’d heard the story of Callie and the old woman from his new boss we’d thought it was a sick joke. The realtor’s reaction to our account of the tale calmed my nerves as she invited us to walk into the cottage. It was lovely, cozy, just the type of place that we were looking for. Not to mention the price was right. We signed the paperwork and were more than ready to move in. But it’s funny. As we made our way back to the car, I am certain that I saw a rat scamper underneath the front door of the cottage.

Credit: Christina Durner

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The Spirits of Detroit

October 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Hello, Creepypasta:

Here is a short, indie documentary that I made a few years ago about the ghostlore of Detroit. I hope that you enjoy it.

–Derek at Addovolt Productions

“The Spirits of Detroit” – A Short Documentary

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit: Addovolt Productions

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When You Go A-Knocking

October 9, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Growing up in small town in the middle of Kansas in the 1970s meant that not only was there not much to do as a slightly mischievous teenager, but if you did want to do something, anything, you had to come up with it yourself. This usually meant anything from the fairly innocuous, like cramming as many friends as I could fit into my trunk to sneak them into the drive-in, to the slightly more unlawful, like trying to break into the five-and-dime in the dead of night (relax – we didn’t actually succeed on that one).

One of my buddies, Donnie, had slightly macabre tastes. He managed to get ahold of an anatomy class skeleton that he liked to pose around his house and his dream was to one day get a real casket to put the skeleton in; that’s the kind of guy Donnie was. Whenever we left it up to Donnie to decide where the night would take us, it was usually in that macabre vein. He liked to explore old cemeteries, abandoned hospitals, things of that nature. On one particular Saturday night, he said we should explore an old abandoned farmhouse he had spotted along the side of a country road. I didn’t hear any better ideas, so Donnie, Pat, Hoodie and I all piled into my Rambler and headed out. Donnie only vaguely remembered where the place was; it took us an eternity of winding down pitch black country roads before Donnie finally excitedly exclaimed, “That’s it!”

The place was creepy looking. The house itself was fairly typical of the area. It was a stark, two-story affair, which was probably painted a dull grey at some point, but almost all of the paint had since peeled away, leaving behind exposed wooden planks drying and cracking in the Kansas heat. Illuminated in the moonlight, the planks looked like a ribcage. Most of the house’s windows had long since been broken; only a couple of windows on the second story remained intact. No one had bothered boarding up the broken windows, suggesting no one had looked after this property for a long time. A porch circled the house, but the porch was sagging and leaning with age. As I pulled my car into the driveway in front of the house, my headlights shot into the house though the broken front windows. When I cut the car off, it suddenly hit me just how dark it was out here in the middle of nowhere. We waited in the car for a few moments as our eyes adjusted to the dark. Once we stepped out of the car, we starting taking inventory of our surroundings.

The moonlight only gave us the slightest of clues about what lay on the property. About fifty yards behind the house stood a large garage of some sort. There was a third building beyond that may have been a small barn. On our left was an expansive field. What probably used to be a field of wheat or corn was now an overgrown mess of weeds and sunflowers, most of which was well over six feet tall. I suddenly became unnerved looking at the field, gently swaying in the evening summer breeze. Anything could be out there in that field, I thought to myself as a soft shiver went up my spine. The moment of creepiness was broken up by my buddies piling out of the car. We all stood there for a moment soaking it all in, the only noise was the nonstop thrum of the locusts in the trees. It was Donnie who eventually broke the silence. “I’ve driven by this place a dozen times and never seen anyone anywhere near it. It’s definitely abandoned.” It didn’t really need to be said; the sorry state of the place confirmed a human hasn’t been living here in years. Decades, probably.

Pat made the first move. He bounded up the steps on the porch towards the front door. One of the ancient steps partially gave way under his weight. The rest of us were careful to hop over that step. The front door was as dry and warped as the rest of the house. Pat gave it only a slight shove with his shoulder and the door swung violently inwards with a faint squeak. I clicked on my flashlight and scanned the inside of the place. Directly in front of us was a staircase leading up to the second floor. Off to the right was a mostly empty room and a narrow hallway ran along the bottom of the staircase, advancing into the pitch black house beyond. I took in the details of the room to our right. Only a few random pieces of furniture remained; an end table sat in one corner, covered in a thick layer of dust. The wooden floor was now covered in leaves and other debris blown in through the broken windows.

We started down the hallway that ran to the back of the house. The house had a very strong musty smell to it, like damp earth. The wooden floorboards creaked and groaned underneath our feet. The first wave of panic and claustrophobia swept over me as all four of us shuffled through that cramped hallway. For the first time it dawned on me how vulnerable we were if some maniac wanted to confront us with an axe or something. Every fiber of my being wanted to turn around and get the hell out of his place. I couldn’t do such a thing in front of all of my buddies, though, so I reluctantly trudged forward. The end of the hallway branched left and right. To the right was a narrow door. I pulled it open to reveal a small bathroom. More like a closet with a toilet in it. Like everything else in the house, it only told a story of decades of neglect. I swung my flashlight to the left to reveal what remained of the house’s kitchen. We all filed into the little room and swung our flashlights around.

Like the rest of the house, the kitchen was coated in a thick layer of dust and we stood upon a layer of leaves. Nothing much remained in the little kitchen except for a small round table off in one corner. And that’s where Hoodie saw it. “What the hell is that,” he asked, with his voice coming out in a choked whisper. We all swung our flashlights over to the table.

Sitting on top of the table was a prosthetic arm. It was the kind designed to attach at the elbow. A plastic cuff narrowed down to what would be the wrist. At the end of the prosthesis were two angry-looking hooks. We all stared at the thing for what seemed like an eternity. Finally Pat broke the silence. “Anyone else notice that it doesn’t have dust all over it?” It hadn’t occurred to me, but he was right; everything in this place was buried in dust, but not the arm. It looked like it had just been placed there recently. We all slowly rotated to face the doorway through which we had just entered, halfway expecting a one-armed lunatic to come screaming through. Instead, all we could hear was our own panicked breathing, and of course the locusts outside. Always the damned locusts.

“Should we take it?” Donnie asked. Of course Donnie would want that hideous thing.

“No, Donnie,” I snapped. “What the hell are you going to do with it?”

“I could think of something,” Donnie grinned. That made us all chuckle. Something needed to break the tension.

“Let’s check it out upstairs,” Pat volunteered. We shuffled back through the narrow hallway and then turned up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs the place opened up to one bedroom facing us, and two more off to the right. The bedroom immediately facing us was more of the same. It was empty except for random junk, like a large milk churn sitting in the corner of the room. Like everywhere else in the house, the wooden floor was covered in branches and leaves. Oddly, only one thing still adorned the walls in the room. A crude cross had been fashioned out of popsicle sticks, probably by a child. It hung from a tack in the wall by a length of red yarn. Pat grunted as his flashlight paused on the cross for a moment.

We made our way to the next bedroom. More of the same; it was empty, save for a burlap sack lying in the middle of the floor. Donnie nudged it around with the toe of his shoe, seemingly disappointed that it was empty. So far our trip to a spooky abandoned house had been anything but; the only thing that managed to unnerve us was some poor old bastard’s fake arm. Everyone was starting to get a restless at this point. Our thoughts were turning to where we would go after this. Probably to pick up a case of beer and watch TV at Hoodie’s house, like always. With our interest quickly waning, he walked into the last bedroom. It took a moment for us to all focus on the thing on the floor.

In the darkness there appeared to be a large black mass lying in the middle of the floor. Even as all of our flashlights focused on it, it took a moment for us to recognize what we were looking at.

It was covered in fine dark brown hair. A larger mane of slightly lighter hair sprouted out of the top. It was a horse’s head. And it was real. The large pool of deep red blood around it confirmed that it was real. The mouth was twisted up into a hideous grimace. The eyes were opened wide and frenzied.

We stood silent for a long moment. Of course Donnie was the first one to advance on it to get a closer look. “Guys, this is fresh. Look – the blood hasn’t even dried.”

“It doesn’t smell yet, either,” Pat stammered. “It hasn’t been here long.”

We all slowly turned toward the doorway. Again, we were expecting someone…some thing come thundering up the stairs. We had seen too many movies.

I finally broke the silence. “So…maybe we should get out of here before whoever left that wants to bring in something else.” The other guys half laughed and half grunted in agreement. We took one long last look at the horse’s head and then made our way down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs we tried to theorize what exactly we had found.

“Maybe a farmer slaughtered his horse?” Hoodie offered.

“Sure…but why drag the head into the house?” I countered.

“And why choose an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere?” Pat said. “There ain’t no working farm around here.”

Donnie’s voice came from behind us, barely above a whisper. “Guys.”

We all turned to face him. Donnie’s face had lost all color. “Guys…the arm is gone.”

“What?” I said.

Donnie’s voice now erupted into a panicked cry. “The fucking ARM is gone!”

Without exchanging a word, we all dashed out of the house and to my Rambler as fast as we could, skidding on the gravel as we reached the car.

Once we got inside and slammed the doors, we started to feel a little more settled. We rolled down the windows and Pat and Hoodie lit up cigarettes. We sat in the silence of the car and stared at the house in the darkness.

“So…someone must be around here,” Donnie said. “I mean…right?”

“Hell, I don’t know, Donnie,” I said.

We sat in silence another few moments, scanning the surroundings for any hint of movement. The only sound was the steady hum of the locusts. Suddenly we heard something out in the field to our left. I will try my best to describe the sound, because I had never heard anything like it before, and never since. It sounded something like a cough, but it was strangled and choked, more like the hacking wheeze that would come out of a person dying of emphysema. Haaaaaachhhhh. That lone, alien noise reverberated with us for a long moment and we all stared wide-eyed into the field. We didn’t so much as breathe.

“M-maybe you should start the car,” Pat stuttered.

I wasn’t going to argue. I fired up the car and flipped on the headlights. The field to our left remained unchanged. A mess of vegetation slowly swaying in the breeze.

The silence was broken by a large thud on the back of my car. It was something heavy; the back of my Rambler actually dipped down with the impact. That was enough. I threw the Rambler into Drive and roared out of the driveway, spraying gravel in a huge roostertail as I went.

The guys were in a frenzy inside of the car. They were jabbering and shouting, whipping their heads around in every direction with wild eyes. As we got back on a main road, they calmed down a little and the mood turned into excited whoops. We eventually followed through with our plans to pick up a case of beer and go to Hoodie’s house. The rest of the night was spent pondering just what exactly we had experienced.

The next morning I drove myself home and parked the Ramber in my driveway. As I circled around the car to walk up to my porch, I noticed…something on the car. There was a wide smear across the sedan’s white trunk lid. It was a reddish-brown. A lot like blood, I thought. I got out my garden hose and tried to spray it off. It didn’t want to immediately come off, so I got a sponge and scrubbed at it. The stuff stunk. The sickly-sweet smell of rot.

That was our last time venturing into old abandoned houses. Donnie would bring it up every so often, and the rest of us would chuckle and exchange nervous glances.

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