The Stain of Margaret Schilling

July 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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The Ridges – previously known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum – is famous among Ohio University students. The other week, I ran into a friend who recently graduated from OU, and when the conversation turned to spooky things (summer is a classic time to tell ghost stories, after all) he told me about a particularly creepy part of The Ridges’ lore.

Margaret's Outline @ The Ridges

 

This seemingly-human outline is permanently emblazoned on the top floor of wars N20. That’s right, it’s not spray-painted on – it’s been there for decades.

The story goes that in 1978, back when the facility was still active as a mental asylum, a patient named Margaret Schilling abruptly disappeared. The hospital employees searched for weeks, but it wasn’t until over a month later – on January 12, 1979 – that she was discovered. Strangely, she was found in one of the closed-off, abandoned wards – N20 had previously been used to house extremely infectious patients and was no longer in use.

There are claims that she was either already completely decomposed or simply that she had clearly been dead for weeks, but the main point remains the same: she had apparently, soon after her disappearance, somehow ended up in Ward N20, where she completely disrobed before lying down on the floor and dying. The official cause was determined to be heart failure, and some people assume that as Ward N20 was unheated, she could have frozen to death in Ohio’s bitter winter. Why she chose to lie down in such an orderly fashion before her death – and why she initially went to the abandoned ward, or why she stayed there until her death – these are all, of course, questions with answers unknown.

As for the stain, it’s explained best by Jessica Castle:

“…it is more of a photograph negative than a stain. As you can see in my photos, there are windows in front of the stain. As her body decomposed, the fluids were constantly passed over and over again by the sunlight from the windows, developing a photograph of sorts.”

The story has been featured on TV programs – notably FOX’s Scariest Places on Earth, but unfortunately I can’t find the episode online anywhere – and these programs have added what is most likely nothing more than and embellishment: supposedly, a girl went on one of the ghost tours of The Ridges, where she touched Margaret’s stain. The rumour goes that she was then “claimed” by Margaret’s spirit and was eventually driven to suicide over the possession. This part of the story is at best unsubstantiated and at worst simply fluff created by FOX, but it’s still creepy enough to include here!

For specific reading on this particular story (as well as photos and personal accounts!) you should visit the following links:
Jessica Castle’s Haunted Ohio University blog
Forgotten Ohio’s Margeret Schilling Haunting page

For more general information about The Ridges (they are absolutely packed with creepy history and rumours, so in the interest of simply whetting your appetite, I’m only including Margaret’s story here today):
Athens Lunatic Asylum on Wikipedia
The Ridges Mental Health Institution and The Ridges Cemetary @ Haunted Athens Ohio
The Ridges @ Forgotten Ohio
Official information and map from Ohio University
Souls of the Asylum – a collection of “channeled stories” from Athens Lunatic Asylum patients buried at The Ridges cemetery in Athens, OH by Doug & Berta Lockhart (full disclosure: our Amazon affiliate link is included here).

*As a sidenote, this post marks the divergence of the Real-World Creepy tag from the Based on a True Story tag. The explicit differences (plus examples) are better detailed on the submission page, but the summary is that from now on, Real-World Creepy will be the tag housing my write-ups of “true” paranormal places and stories. Based on a True Story has been changed to be more true to its name – pastas more loosely based on experiences, locations, etc, will now be placed in this category.
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Dirty Paper Machines

July 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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This is the final entry in Stephan D. Harris’ Harlequin series.

“Sometimes I wonder; what exactly is a monster? Is it really something to be feared, or is it something to be respected? Is that frightening, hideous thing that stalks your nightmares trying to tell you something, something important? Maybe the monster isn’t there to scare you at all. Have you ever wondered about this? Have you ever wondered if the monsters that hide under your bed are actually just there to protect you? To protect you from something so much worse?”

 

-          The Wilcox Journal, 1989

 

 

At this moment, at this serene and terrible moment in the outer edge of the Union Street Cemetery, I’m wondering whether or not my thoughts are truly my own, or if they have been constructed by artificial means. By artificial I mean to say externally, unwillingly, or unconsciously; the kind of definition one should consider at the tail end of a mushroom trip just as things start to seem normal again, but not quite. The drug analogy is not what I had in mind, but who knows what I have in mind. Maybe it wants me rattle away like this, maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know.

 

What I do know is that with each thrust of the shovel, a little part of the Earth has been displaced. I do this while my right hand throbs in pain under the bandages. I don’t even care. After enough soil has been removed, the hole will be ready for the lye. I brought a few bags with me for just this reason. The idea is that even an isolated place like Union Street won’t be able to guarantee safety, so the hole needs to be filled with something that will burn hot enough to get the job done the next time it rains. I can already see the storm blotting out the horizon. Attention is a dangerous thing, this fact I know well. Nobody knows I’m here. The distant thunderclaps remind me. There’s another fresh grave next to the one I’ve already started. I made that one too, only a few days ago. By now the body of Reverend Proust has disintegrated into a carrion wad of filth, a sickening blob of putrefied mucus that not even maggots would find tasteful.

 

“And you don’t even know why he deserved it, do you?”

 

I stop digging for a smoke. The thing about habits, they always become the strongest when you know you’re going to quit. The time’s as good as any for a moment of self-reflection though, may as well use it.

 

Billie left yesterday on her motorcycle, to where I don’t know or don’t want to. She left with a duffle bag full of cloths and food, her bass strapped to her back and a gun or two strapped somewhere else. There were no goodbyes; two people who know each other well enough don’t need words or petty sentiments. Just a silent exchange of nods acknowledging that things will never be okay. I’m not worried for her though, she knows how to survive the chaos. Terry’s ending is a little different. After the wedding was called off, after the smoke settled, he finally gave up holding on to this miserable town.  He sold his half of the Broken Window last week, and as soon as he gets a bank or an agency or anyone to handle the house he’ll be leaving for New Orleans. I thought it was kind of funny actually, knowing how the poor bastard doesn’t stand a chance yet still possessing enough human compassion to lie to his face. It’s hard not feel bad about it, but sometimes honesty is the cruelest option. Besides, I could be wrong. The knowledge could be fabricated.

 

But I digress. The outcome means nothing if the means to the ends are ignored.

 

By now, the story should be obvious: the Harlequin, the mortuary, the stranger and the willow. I thought I knew what I was doing, we both did. Billie and me, fighting side by side against something we barely understood. We thought we knew how it worked, and we thought it was something we could stop. It sickens me how wrong we were.

 

“You are always wrong.”

 

As far as final chapters go, the ending began were the beginning had ended. By this I mean, I may as well recall the appropriate backstories the each of us, me the dark eyed mortician and the pierce studded Billie-Joe Kimble. Oh who to pick first? Let’s go with Billie, she is and always has been the real hero of this fucked up little nightmare of a fairy tale.

 

Billie was born just outside of Richmond, which is known to be less of a city than it is more of the world’s largest Civil War museum. She never told me much about her childhood, mostly because it seemed irrelevant to her and also because Billie isn’t much for dwelling on the past, but what I do know is that she was named after her father, who was apparently a heavier drinker than she is, but not for a lack of effort on her part. They didn’t get along so well, which makes me suspect that he’s the reason for how Billie learned to keep fighting long after her knuckles split.

 

“He wanted a boy, but got me instead.” She used to say. Billie, the dainty flower, the girl next door. Short and sweet like a pulled tooth.

 

Billie never finished high school. When she was seventeen she dropped out in her senior year to start a band in D.C. leaving Richmond in the very same manner she left Charlottesville, no goodbyes. For three years she drifted around the streets of our capitol looking for the perfect sound to compose the soundtrack for the endless anarchy that she felt summed up her existence. A new tattoo there, another piercing here, a week goes by without eating but the next doesn’t sleep. From the way she told it, it seemed like it should have been her very own slice of paradise, but of course even chaos can become boring. What she really wanted was adventure. Obviously the dozens of post punk bands she founded or joined weren’t able to provide this for her, otherwise she might have stayed there instead of making her way back south. She skipped Richmond two years ago, parking her uninsured motorcycle outside of a dinky bar in North Carolina, and there it stayed parked for eight and a half seasons worth of restlessness. Terry gave her a job and a place to live. She met four guys who called themselves musicians, fell in love with the blues, fell in love with Terry not long after. That’s the way it was for just over a year. That’s the way it was until I showed up.

 

I smoke the cigarette down to the filter and toss it into the growing hole just as the wind starts to pick up. It blows my tie around to the back of my neck and I can’t help but think of it as a noose. I’m wearing the red one today. It’s my favorite.

 

My story is somewhat dull compared to Billie’s. I grew up in a town called Baily Meadow, a place about an hour’s drive east of Charlottesville. The house I lived in was nice, my parents, a pediatrician and a financial accountant, were also nice. The neighborhood was nice, the school system was nice. The people were nice. I graduated at the top of my class, got a full academic scholarship to the university of my choice and promptly enrolled myself into a mortuary science course at a college in Raleigh, obtaining a bachelor’s degree along with a minor study in decomposition anatomy while simultaneously working through my funeral service apprenticeship. This resulted in my current position as professional embalmer of the Burnswick Funeral Home in the lovely town of Charlottesville, NC; population 943, unincorporated. This was about a year ago by now, and really that’s what my entire life has been working towards, at least the interesting parts. I doubt that anyone would be interested in the dead raccoon that I tried to keep in my parent’s freezer when I was eight, or the dumpster fire that I started when I was fourteen. No one wants to hear about the summer I spent in the juvenile detention center for stabbing a classmate with a broken pencil or the six months I stopped speaking. Those stories are irrelevant to who I am as a person. It’s not like I was a particularly disturbed child just because of a few antisocial interests, I was just different. It’s why I’m so good at what I do. I can ignore the sort of things that would make other choke or gag. Just because I’m callous doesn’t make me some kind of monster either.

 

“Real monsters don’t hide under the bed.”

 

By now, Billie must be at least halfway to California, but I try not to think about it.

 

The final chapter of this little anthology began the day after the butchering of a young hitchhiker in Terry’s bathtub. The following daylight hours included several instances of what would latter amount to something over and above what Billie and I had assumed to be a known truth. From my point of view, the morning went as according to plan with the incineration of the severed limbs of the unfortunate traveler in the Burnswick crematorium furnace as a much needed disposal method of his body, because neither Billie, Terry or I were in any position to explain to the authorities as to why we felt the need to murder a vagrant with a hammer in the middle of the night. “He was possessed by alien brain monsters,” probably would raise more questions than answer. Not to mention that Billie and I were also responsible for burning a farmhouse to the ground earlier in the evening. Cutting the body into pieces at the joints and draining it of blood for easier transportation to a crematorium was by far the best option for the three of us. It helped that my employer had one of those En-V 127 Heat Crushers that does a full incineration in under ninety minutes with a built in pulverizer to take care of the hardened calcium deposits. I had the whole thing done and gone by the time anyone else showed up for work, no one even asked why I was already there in the first place. A funeral home requires constant cleaning; the simple excuse of sanitation was enough to avoid suspicion.

 

Aside from the sleep deprivation headache, the rest of my day went along as normal as ever, with two embalming’s and eight cups of coffee. Nobody bothered me or my work until after Burnswick and Madelyn left for the day.

 

They left me alone to lock up shop.

 

Not that this was an abnormal occurrence in itself. Often I would be the last one to leave, it was just the nature of my work to keep track of how much of what supplies had been used and when more would be required, because running out of formalin halfway through a procedure would be very very bad.

 

No, what was out of the ordinary was the visitor who walked through the front door just as I was on my way out. Not to my own surprise, I didn’t recognize this man. Because of my long held beliefs, (or more accurately, lack thereof) not once in my entire stay in Charlottesville had I ever joined the ceremonial burial of any of my clients, or more importantly, entered the Trinity Baptist Church.

 

“I apologize, but we’re closed for business until tomorrow morning.” I told the man. He was wearing a black collared shirt tucked into a pair of blue jeans. He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, with a head full of perfectly combed salt and pepper hair. Something about him immediately caused a feeling of pure and total contempt.

 

“But if you’d like, I could pencil you in to meet with Mr. Burnswick first thing when we reopen tomorrow.” I continued, jingling my keys in the most apparent way possible. He stared at me for a beat too long before speaking.

 

“I don’t believe we’ve met.” He said through a smile. “Reverend Joseph Proust pleased to meet you.” He extended his hand toward mine. I ignored it.

 

“I’m Stephan D. Harris, head embalmer. Like I said, Burnswick left already and I’m on my out as well.”

 

“That’s a shame; I guess I’ll have to find him later. But tell me, Stephan is it? How long have you been in Charlottesville?”

 

“Going on a year by now.” I tried to say without letting the growing frustration show through.

 

“A year! My word, how is it that I’ve yet to see you in the pews on Sundays? Don’t tell me you’ve been going to that Presbyterian goliath out on the interstate. They may be big, but they won’t give you the same sense of family that I try to cultivate.” The way he spoke his words made me want to grind my teeth down to stubs, but I managed to collect myself.

 

“I’m not much for taking anything on faith.” I responded in the most polite manner possible. The reverend’s face lost its smile almost instantly.

 

“Well, that’s disappointing.” His tone was that of a disapproving parent. The kind who think they know what’s best even when they don’t, or at least that’s the way I heard it. “I believe there’s quite a bit you could gain by joining our flock. The world is full of evil, and it gets worse every day, it may be wise to seek the protection we offer. If you change your mind though, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.” Nothing he said sounded like a welcome.

 

I wasn’t in the mood for this nonsense, not then, not ever. I shuffled through the last two days without sleep, the night before being an exceptional case of overwhelming violence. Drained and tired, the last thing in the world I wanted to deal with was the leader of what Billie has been calling a cult. The Trinity Baptists have been aware of the same sort of phenomena that the rest of us have. Everyone has seen the lights in the sky, everyone knew about aneurism epidemic. The difference being I knew the cause, but they thought it to be a divine message proclaiming the end of days. Most importantly, I’m a sunny day asshole who just doesn’t enjoy meeting new people.

 

“Listen, it was nice meeting you,” I lied, “but I’ve really got to be going now.” Proust nodded his head as I led him out of building, locking the door behind us. The sun had already begun its descent towards the western sky, stretching the shadows of houses and tress across the ground like they do. I turned right, Proust walked to the left. Just before I was out of the range of ear though, I heard him call out once more over his shoulder.

 

“Don’t burn any bridges Mr. Harris. You never know what you’ll need to cross.” The side of my face that had had the stubble burned away from the night before began to itch. Just a little, as a reminder.

 

The walk home was quite, and oddly enough the ten minutes of pedestrian travel wasn’t accompanied by the sense of being followed. Lately, the creeping linger of paranoia had been a problem for myself while walking the streets of Charlottesville alone, but not this evening. In fact, I’d say it was enjoyable for the portions where I could forget about the unexpected meeting with the reverend. Until I reached my front door.

 

I bought a house last year. Because of the shit economy and the constant fall of property value that started when the Charlottesville Paper Mill caught fire and killed a third of the town’s income, I was able to get a place of my own for a ridiculously low price. I filled it with thrift store furniture and an ever growing collection of books until it eventually resembled the inner dwellings of a reclusive psychopath. I never cleaned the place; medical books lay open and scattered across the floors, empty mason jars and animal bones sat indefinitely on every table, blankets and cigarette butts a permanent fixture of the sofa. In other words, my home was the living embodiment of static entropy. One thing I would always be sure of though was that I would never, ever, under any circumstances, leave my front door unlocked.

 

When my key refused to make an audible click of a moving tumbler, I knew something was out of place. Stepping cautiously into the living room, I stood still a moment to listen to a faint noise of… something echoing from the bathroom. Mildly alarmed, more annoyed than anything, remembering that I kept a .357 snub nose in a drawer next to the television and so moved to retrieve it. At this point I wasn’t even surprised that something had broken into that house, it was only a matter of time before “they” caught on enough to try something. I call them the Abominations only because I don’t know what the correct terminology would be for a mutated-as-all-hell host body that smiles and giggles as it crawls across the ceiling reaching its absurdly long fingers towards your face to rip out your eyeballs or whatever. It’s what I think happens when a Harlequin worm decides that it wants take direct control of the body that it’s been hiding in, as opposed to quietly causing the victim to slowly loose its sanity. Maybe I’m right about this, maybe I’m wrong. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

 

“More than you know.”

 

So there I was, with a loaded single action revolver ready to blow as many holes in something’s face as fast as the trigger could be pulled. I tiptoed my way to the bathroom door, placing one hand on the door knob while the other held Stubs the Gun. Noticing the crack of light coming from beneath the door frame and another shuffling noise, I took a brief inhale, and kicked in the door to my bathroom. It screamed at me the way an animal does, it screamed and scratched and foamed at the mouth as I fired five shots into the legs and once more through the far side of its jaw, the mirror and the sink and the walls dusted with specks of red as I finished the job with a straight razor, my fingers slipping over the blood of its pathetic whimpering throat as a sharp edge ran across the eyes. So glorious, so violent, so beautiful and so vicious, the sound of skin as it peels from bone filling my ears like a thousand symphonies playing all at once over dissonant laughter. My laughter. The kind of laughter that follows the abandonment of all hope, where you laugh….

 

“The way you would at a sick joke.”

Except that’s not the way it happened, I’m remembering things wrong again. There were no shots fired, there was no blood or symphonies either. But there was screaming, the screaming of a startled girl.

 

“Check your damn voice mail for once!” Billie yelled as she spat a wad of toothpaste from her lips. “I called you like, two freaking hours ago to tell you that I’d be here.”

 

This turned out to be true, in fact the message Billie had left me was oddly specific about how I should avoid shooting her when I got home. “Hey Stephan,” it said, “Terry and I had a fight about that crap that happened last night and now he’s all butt hurt about it. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to crash at your place until he stops bitching about how we’re going to get ourselves killed or whatever. I’m heading over there now, don’t worry I still have a key, but call me back so I’ll know that you won’t freak out and try to shoot me or something with that snub nose I gave you, because that would suck. Kay, bye!”

 

“So, is it cool that I hang around here for a while?” She asked me after I had finished listening to her message. Billie had just finished taking a shower by the time I noticed the front door unlocked. She still had a wet towel wrapped around her boney little torso. Catching a glance of the hand grenade tattooed just above where her cleavage should have been, I promptly made my decision.

 

“Yeah you can stay.” I passed out on the sofa without taking off my suit twenty seconds later.

 

Waking up I became worried that I had slept through an entire workday, almost falling off the couch as the panic set in. It was dark outside; the feeling was understandable until a look at my wristwatch convinced me that it was four in the morning. An unpleasant way to awaken for sure, but at least the headaches were gone, so I decided to crack the kinks out of my neck and smoke a cigarette before the weight of the world inevitably came crashing down. This is what it feels like to be rested enough to sit quietly in the dark and listen to your own thoughts in peace; temporary.

 

The first drifts of the cognitive sea lead to Proust so I tried to sail the other way. Some efforts are futile however, and so acceptance must be so. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the good reverend had gotten the drop on me somehow. I mean, I had lived in Charlottesville for going on about a year, and not once had he ever so much as noticed me, or I him. Part of me thought his was strange. No, the word is improbable. It was improbable that for a year I had been working in an industry that is almost codependent with that of the church, and so one would assume that Proust and I would have met at an earlier time. Funerals are primarily of a religious concern are they not?  Yes it is true that I am basically an atheist, an atheist that considers the very concept of faith to be a blasphemy against the human condition to search for meaning in an inherently meaningless universe, and so of course I would have done everything within my power to avoid the Trinity Baptists, but just by pure chance we should have been made aware of each other sometime before. Why yesterday of all days? Yesterday at a time when I was the only possible person he could have talked to at the funeral home, the very day after Billie and I had seen the lights of the Trinity Baptist Church at two in the morning, just before we killed those Abominations at the farmhouse?

 

I knew that he knew something but I didn’t know what he knew. Had I figured out what it was earlier, I would have murdered him right there in the Burnswick lobby.

 

Sitting in the dark alone with my thoughts started to become tiresome, so I stood up to crack my back before shuffling my disheveled ass to the bedroom. I wanted to take a look at a few things that I’d been sleeping on. Billie was lying face down on the floor of my room surrounded by empty bottles of what used to be my beer stash, I assumed that she must have found some way to make her own fun without my help. Tiptoeing around her, I began searching through a desk where I’d been keeping important tidbits of information, or at least the things that seemed even remotely relevant. Things like photocopies of old newspaper articles about the paper mill fire, notes about who had died around the Charlottesville area from unexplained brain aneurisms, the video of the first autopsy (which I had yet to mail out to anyone who might have found it useful, I hadn’t even considered doing so until just before I decided to end everything at the Union Street Cemetery.) Nothing seemed to connect. If I organized the notes into any sort of coherent narratives, it still looked like a game of connect the dots made by a low functioning mental patient. The paper mill was central to this madness, but the how was the real question. What did a twenty odd year old industrial accident have to do with parasitic brain worms? Where did Proust fit in, if at all?

 

“They heard the noises, they all knew what it meant. Every. Last. One.”

 

It didn’t really come from anywhere, or maybe it was everywhere. Maybe it was something I had forgotten about intentionally because the thought itself carried with it a sense of ominous dread so overwhelming that feigning ignorance seemed a better alternative.

 

Suddenly it seemed very important to put on a pot of coffee. And to take a shower. And to iron my suit, to dump out the ashtrays and cancel all my magazine subscriptions. Cleaning the toilet. All the little things that I did every day, the things I never wanted to do or had been putting off, it all seemed so important. Everything but the dishes but anything to keep me from thinking about what I’d have to do once Billie finished sleeping off her hangover. My memory gets a little hazy around this part, but the last thing I did before we left was phone in to Mr. Burnswick. I told him that I’d need to take a personal day.

 

“Fade to black.”

 

“I don’t like this.” Billie said. “I mean I truly, sincerely, genuinely do not like this at all.” Billie rarely displayed any emotion without even the faintest sense of bravado. It was a bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, every bird was chirping, every woodland creature in the land frolicked without a care in the world and yet the mere sight of the crumbling ruins of the old paper mill was enough to set off her alarms. What was worse was that I agreed, and with good reason. The stigma that had been put on that place had been enough to keep the crazy homeless people and drunken teenagers away for two decades.

 

“Yeah, well, we both knew it was inevitable.” I lit a new cigarette with the cherry of the old one while I said this. I think I might have even chuckled a little to myself. It was funny because neither of us had batted an eyelash at the idea of trudging through Lucid Marsh two and a half months ago to look for a cannibal man who lost his mind after being sucked under the water by a man sized worm. That was a perfectly normal occurrence compared to this.

 

“Probably, but I still don’t see what this has to do with Reverend Proust.” Billie mentioned as she checked her backpack for the third time in ten minutes, as if not kept under a watchful eye the shit load of ammunition would vanish without warning. She had packed it with nearly a dozen or so fully loaded magazines of whatever caliber her illegal-ass machine gun needed in order to explode the air into a hell storm of bullets. Probably an HK417 or 416, I can never tell the difference. As usual she duct taped a flashlight to the barrel and threw in a bunch of painted bunny rabbits to pretty it up. I chose to be a bit more conservative, bringing only the snub nose, a speed loader and a couple of road flares.

 

We started walking through the tall grass that had sprouted out of what used to be a parking lot before I collected my words.

 

“Proust knows what we did the other night.” I answered. “He knows about the farm house burning to the ground, and he knows it was us.” Billie looked at me with that type of face confused people make. I pulled a business card from my pocket and waved in front of her eyes. “I used one of these to start the fire. I’m guessing enough was left legible to put two and two together.”

 

Billie shrugged. “I guess it’s plausible, and I guess you’re right about the mill. We’ve put it off long enough already. Best learn what we can before the lynch mob comes to rape you.” I stopped a beat to try and think of a way to respond to that, but I gave it up in favor of focusing my attention on the goliath whose shadow we stood beneath… the Charlottesville Paper Mill. Fully integrated, constructed in 1958, turned inferno in 1989, killing three hundred workers in under ten minutes, no indication as to what caused the initial fire. Some say arson, others say malfunction, but anyone who survived remembers the cackling laughter heard throughout the cutting line, just before it all went to shit. For what, nearly thirty years now, the remains have sat there, enduring the harsh North Carolina seasons, sitting there, waiting, like a sleeping colossus: massive, angry, and most of all, patient. As Billie and I approached the outer wall, just past a rusted barb wire fence, the tune to “Chop the Willow” started to go through my head. It seemed fitting.

 

“The clockwork points to midnight.”

 

“The sounds of metal grinding against metal, the echo of a close yet distant thing feeling its way through its own self-imposed prison, much as the absence of motion between the sway of a pendulum draws attention to the tension between opposites. Time is not relative; it is simply the most probable observable outcome, subjective and arbitrary, never any choice in the matter to begin with but open to all interpretations. The context becomes irrelevant, and we call them wrong things for a reason.”

 

-          The Wilcox Journal, 1989

 

The main doors were chained shut, probably had been since the fire. Yellow hazard tape tattered around in the wind like it stopped giving a shit years ago. The loader doors were too heavy to lift by hand, another problem. Billie had found a window a few feet above a concrete staircase, smashed in the glass with the butt of her gun while I threw a rubber washer mate over the remaining shards. A push and a pull later, we were in. The mill was surprisingly well lit, actually not surprising at all. A good chunk of the roof had caved in above the pressing line, little rays of sunlight peppering everything. “Where should we start?” Billie asked. I looked around for some sign of direction. “I dunno,” I said back, “Let’s just, look around.”

 

We did, finding ourselves following a hallway into what was probably the accounting office; a few burnt desks, filing cabinets lying on the ground spilling their innards about. The ash covering the melted carpet reminded me of a woman I had prepared for burial back in Raleigh. She had died in a car collision, but not on impact. Her gas tank exploded, spraying liquid fire into the drivers’ seat while the side door had been pinned closed by another car. It was a closed casket. I didn’t bring this up to Billie, who had found an intact staircase. “Down?” I asked her as she flicked her flashlight to life. “May as well.” She replied.

 

I apologize for what follows.

 

I’m not a scientist. I don’t know anything about astrophysics or quantum entanglement. I couldn’t describe how phase velocity works if my life depended on it, Planck’s constant might as well be written in Egyptian hieroglyphs for all the good that it would do me.

Particle decay is confusing, and the uncertainty principle strikes me as it sounds. One thing that I do know however, is that what constitutes reality is entirely dependent on the limitations of one’s own sensory organs, the organs in charge of compiling all external stimuli into a coherent perspective. Most people forget about this, myself included. It’s hard to convince your own brain that it sucks using nothing but your own brain. Sometimes though, a certain external force is so otherworldly, so strange and uncompromising that it forces your brain to admit some humility.

 

“Why don’t you try it?”

 

I’m having some trouble remembering the order of events that took place within the basement of that mill. Billie would later have the same problem, so part of me suspects that whatever happened in that mill, whatever it was that broke open the ether to where the harlequins came from was still in effect. I’ve already considered every possibility for this, everything from wormholes, to dark energy expansion, to psychotropic frequencies. Any option is valid, even if I can’t explain it. The only concrete memories are the ones where Billie and I climbed through that broken window, and the one where we leaped out in panic. What happened in between is variable. I know this, because even without a consistent rate of time, I remember three important scenes. Interestingly enough though, Billie told me later that some of what happened didn’t, and some of what didn’t did. I both believe and disbelieve her claims because of two important facts. First of all, she says that we never found Ryan Wilcox’s journal, despite it being held in my hands while she told me this. The second falsehood was when Billie told me that she saw me die. I thought that one was pretty funny.

 

Because I saw the same thing happen to her.

 

The Wilcox Journal: I found it in a janitor’s closet that was next to a pile of paper rolls that had rotted themselves back into wood. Billie stood at the precipice of the closet to keep watch while I searched the shelves that once held cleaning supplies. It was one of those leather bound journals made to look like a real book. The fact that it was in decent condition was what drew my attention. Everything else in that mill was either burnt beyond recognition or passively falling apart, so no doubt a healthy looking book would be an object of interest. The first page told me that it belonged to Ryan Wilcox, the previous embalmer of the Burnswick Funeral Home, whose wife had been the floor manager of the Charlottesville Paper Mill. She died in the fire, and Ryan being an embalmer was the one responsible for her remains. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that his private thoughts had returned to the place of his wife’s death, especially when it was Ryan who first discovered the Harlequins, noted their number, and left enough clues for me to track the source back to that place.

 

“What does it say?” Billie asked. “Let me read it and I’ll tell you.” I said back to her, flipping through the first couple of pages. Eventually I got to a place where all the words had been written in red ink. They read as such:

 

“They come from a place outside of time, beyond space, far separated from what reason may describe. There’s something wrong with this mill, it changes itself as it needs to, shifting between possibilities as they come and go. It holds onto everything indiscriminately, I can see this place as it was the day before the fire, and decades after. I can see myself wandering the dirty paper machines as they show their faces. I can see the men and women with their candles chanting in their prayer circle around my lifeless corpse. I can even see my successor reading these pages in a closet that I had never set foot in. To him and his companion, I say only this: Do not turn your back to the comedian.”

 

“What the fuck is happening here?” Billie asked rhetorically when I finished reading the passage. I didn’t have time to respond with anything other than an open jaw, cut off mid word because it was then that I saw it, the air shimmering around the tangled mass of flailing limbs. It had eyes, more eyes than I could count, each and every one of them filled with a hatred that went far beyond sanity, far beyond even the smallest amount of compassion for human life and decency. Something slithered around Billie’s waist, ensnaring her before she could turn to face the monster. I doubt bullets would be able to do a damn thing to help, I doubt anything could have done or even thought to have done would have made even the slightest difference for her sake. Billie couldn’t find the wiggle room needed to break free, not before it started to drag her to… somewhere. I couldn’t reach her in time, even as I chased after it for as long as I could, following after her one outstretched hand, following after the sounds of her screaming. It made no difference. The bloodstains trailed off to nothing.

 

The Escape: We didn’t know what we were running from. We heard the noise, and we ran from it instinctually, maybe the same way that birds flutter away from an earthquake despite being the best suited to handle the catastrophe in the first place. And why shouldn’t we be? I’ve spent my entire adult life doing a job that would make most faint into a pool of their own vomit. I am no stranger to indifference, but the soft grinding noise faintly heard over the rusting debris made our skin crawl. Billie ascended the stairwell two steps at a time, me following after regretting that I was going to die sober.

 

“This way, just past the office.” Billie called over her shoulder. Something stopped her once she passed the first set of crapsack cubicles. “Shh.” She turned to me, placing one finger across her lips. Billie crouched under a desk littered with scraps of paper, motioning for me to join her. Instead, I pulled the snub nose from my jacket and cautiously peeked over the edge of the composite board to scan the rest of the office. I didn’t like what I saw.

 

They had followed us. From the distance and lack of light they appeared to be elongated humanoid shadows, tall and lanky things that shuffled back and forth murmuring to themselves, arms bent like mantis in perpetual prayer. Everything about them seemed wrong, unnatural in both method and manner. Billie grabbed my tie to drag me back down to her level. “What the fuck are you doing?” She asked me in an agitated whisper.

 

“Looking for a way out,” I said back, pulling a road flare from my belt loop. “Considering the options, how would you feel about making our own?” The hollow grinding noise returned to the background, and Billie’s concerned expression shifted into the standard mania that I had come to know and love; a hatful grin with the eyes of a slap-happy axe murderer, despite the fear inducing infrasound’s echoing from an unknown source. “If I die here,” She said back, “I want you to give me a Viking funeral.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

Billie went left, sprinting as fast as she could into a roundhouse kick to the chest of one of the creeps. I went right, popping the flare, placing a shot from the revolver right into one of their heads, a red mist exploding out the back of its skull. The screams that followed were barely audible over the rapid fire of Billie’s murder machine, but their faces were made perfectly clear by the orange glow of the flare that I had thrown into the mix. One crashed through a flimsy wall with its arms outstretched screaming and biting towards my face, but Billie caught it in the leg with a spray of bullets giving me the perfect opportunity to stomp my heel against its jaw. The ordeal went along those lines for who knows how long. The vicious scratching and flailing of the abominations, the vicious cracking of bones when Billie ran out of ammunition and resorted to her fists and boots, and the absurd capacity for violence at my own hands when Billie tossed me a fire axe to help her dismember the endless ocean of chucklefucks. At one point I couldn’t even tell where the psychotic laughter was coming from, it could have been Billie or the things or even myself. It was definitely my laughter when I caught one scampering across the ceiling, wrestling it down to pry open its mouth with my bare hands, filling its throat with the fire of another flare. It was just around the point where Billie had just finished bashing the everlasting shit out of one with a typewriter when we finally decide to call it quits and run back to the exit, the entire time abominations phasing in and out of our peripherals. The grinding noise had grown to a deafening level by the time we climber through the window. Interesting enough to note that the light seemed blinding while in the mill, but quickly became tolerable once we stepped back into the real world, which probably had something to with the fact that it was the middle of the night.

 

“How long were we in there?” Billie asked me between heavy breaths as we ran back to my car. I looked down at my watch, bewildered at the fact that hands said it had only been about hour. Just as I was trying to piece together a theory I collapsed to the ground clutching the sides of my head. A brain splitting headache had taken precedence over thoughts, the feeling that someone had taken a power drill to the back of my brainstem turned on high. As my vision started to blur, the last thing I remembered was Billie mouthing words to me, shaking my shoulders in futility.

 

“In a world of infinite possibilities, the only reality you can conceive is a composite of probable outcomes. And some are more probable than others.”

 

Infinite Causality: Due to the powers that be, the memory of our escape was still fresh in my mind before it had even taken place, but for whatever reason it didn’t seem to bother me as Billie and I walked down the black charred concrete hallway, following the pipes that ran across the ceiling to the sub-basement where we would be able to find the central dehumidifier, which according to all my research was where the initial fire had started the chain reaction of chemical fires that had spread to the rolling line. Machines exploded, people died, and something wrong remained long after.

 

“Wait,” Billie said stopping to face me. “Stephan, how are you still alive?” Whatever temporal issue plagued me had apparently caught up with Billie. “I saw those cultists slit your throat in front of the portal, like, ten minutes ago.”  I thought back to the massive worm that had dragged Billie off into the darkness, and suddenly the thought of my own death barely fazed me at all. Still though, Billie seemed genuinely freaked out, so I searched through my rudimentary knowledge of theoretical physics for a satisfactory answer.

 

“Are you aware of the quantum immortality theory?” I asked her, knowing well enough that she did not, confirmed by the puzzled look on her face. I continued to speak regardless. “Well, to sum it up without having to go into detail about quark spins, it simply states that there are an infinite number of possible universes, but you can only be aware of the ones where you’re not dead.” I felt mildly embarrassed for not really knowing what I was talking about, but Billie accepted it anyway because well, what else could she do?

 

“That’s really fucking confusing Stephan, but whatever, I guess I’ll buy it, and I guess it sort of explains that portal thing that opened up earlier. It was like some weird green lightening hole with all this tentacle shit squiggling through.” Billie paused for a moment. “Um, Reverend Proust was there. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I think I owe you an apology. I guess he was involved in all this after all.”

 

“While the alternate version of myself was having his ass murdered, did Proust and his little groupies, you know, say anything important?”

 

“Something about coming into contact with angels,” Billie said to me. “They’re delusional, and they weren’t angels. Not even close.” I noticed that Billie was holding a shotgun, and thought about what a delusion really was but said nothing.

 

We moved down the turns of the hallway in a rush because the grinding noise had started to pick up from behind. Eventually we reached a door that maybe once been labeled but had been burnt to illiteracy long ago. The doorknob was partially melted, so Billie had to kick it open like she was mad at it. Her flashlight illuminated the remains of the humidifier. Except they weren’t the remains, it was as one would expect it to be if nothing wrong had ever occurred in the first place. A second later, Billie’s light became obsolete next to the fully functional florescent bulbs that glowed and flickered against the clean cinderblock walls decorated with O.S.H.A regulation posters and coat hooks holding onto yellow hard hats. The humidifier seemed to be doing its job of pulling moist air from the ventilation ducts to be dried and recirculated back into the rest of the mill. Everything seemed to be very right and oh so very, very wrong. My ears popped for no apparent reason.

 

“Hey Stephan,” Billie said, turning to face me with a nose leaking blood. Her voice seemed off, so did her eyes. They weren’t dead, but more or less what I would normally call numb, distant somehow.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Your nose is bleeding Stephan.” I pressed a finger up against a nostril, seeing the red pulled away with my own eyes. I didn’t know what to say, but someone else’s words filled in the moment of silence.

 

“It’s nice to see you again Mr. Harris.” Said an unwelcomingly familiar voice, coming back from the entrance to the sub-basement hallway. Billie and I barely had to turn to see that the voice belonged to the good Reverend Joseph Proust, his face holding a smug look of contempt and satisfaction. His hands were holding something else. Billie raised her shotgun.

 

“Where in the fuck did you get that?” My voice made it perfectly clear how completely pissed I was. Proust rubbed one of his palms against the perspiring glass, right across the unmistakably printed letters that spelled out “Harlequin No.7.”

 

“Oh, This?” He said back through a chuckle. “I’ve had this thing for years. True, it would disappear every now and then to fulfill its duty, but it would always return to the one who knew the true plan.” A tendril whipped itself across the inside of the jar, the florescent lighting dimmed and flickered just as they had in the mortuary. Proust looked down at the jar with a slight smile crawling across his lips. “Some fools would like you to believe that our world began with a big bang, but we all know that something cannot come from nothing. Unless of course, this something were eternal.”

 

“The cosmos is not how it seems.”

 

The air around the Harlequin was beginning to shift and shimmer with a chartreuse glow spreading across the room. From a nearby intercom, a static voice called out from somewhere higher in the mill.

 

(Jenna Wilcox to loader four; Jenna Wilcox to loader four.)

 

Billie gave her shotgun a forceful pump. “I think you might want to put that thing down, like, right the fuck now.”

 

“It would be my pleasure.” He said, looking not to Billie but right into my eyes alone. “Ashes to ashes Mr. Harris, ashes to ashes.”

 

I leaped to the ground with both arms ahead trying to catch the falling jar just as Billie fired a round into the good Reverends sternum. He fell with a death rattle caught in his throat, a shotgun shell fell still smoking from the ballistic explosion, I fell with a kick of dust in my face, and the Harlequin No.7, for the second time in rational memory, shattered as it hit the cold concrete floor of the Charlottesville Paper Mill, in the sub-basement ventilation room where the dehumidifier had caught fire by alleged dust particles suspended in the air. Several bolts of chartreuse lightning splintered off into every possible direction, coupled with that all too familiar, unearthly laughter.

 

If it was a joke, it must have been on us the whole time.

 

“It’s a funny thing when you regret, the things that haven’t happened yet.”

 

“I don’t want to wake up from this nightmare, because whatever’s out there must be, no, has to be worse than anything I could scarcely imagine. I’m so sorry Jenna, I couldn’t stop it from burrowing its way into your mind, into your life, into everything you know as yourself. No one wants to die, to undergo putrefaction, to be devoured by carnivorous microbes and processed into methane and sulfur dioxide. Nobody wants that, but at least it’s a natural end, the same thing everyone has to go through eventually. The thing that happened to you, what I let happen, that could have been avoided.  I’m so sorry, so sorry. I don’t know where they come from, or what they want, but one thing these joyless harlequins have taught me is that sanity is a fragile thing, and that there was never anything to be done in the first place. Goodbye Jenna, I will always love you… unless they take that away too.”

 

-          The Wilcox Journal, 1989

 

I woke up in the passenger seat of my charger, my head half tilted out of the window in the way of a stiff North Carolinian breeze. The stars were bright, maybe they had always been bright and this was the first time I noticed. It didn’t matter, what mattered was that Billie and I had made it out alive, or at least alive enough to be aware of it. She was driving in a sensible way, a highly uncharacteristic example of her piloting skills, but still, I knew that she was the one who dragged my unconscious body across the weeded parking lot after I passed out like a frightened French  schoolgirl with skinned knee.

 

“Hey there buddy! You’re finally awake!” I was too focused on the sky to see her face, but I could tell by inflection that Billie was about to insult me. “I was worried that your ovaries were giving you lady trouble there for a moment. Glad you got over it.” There was that shitty attitude I had been expecting.

 

“Just take me back to my house. I don’t want to think about things anymore.” Billie didn’t say anything, but she slammed her foot down onto the gas pedal in agreement. My head was in a state of absolute agony, so I tried to relax and close my eyes for the rest of the drive.

 

We found ourselves back in Charlottesville proper no more than twenty minutes later, Billie easing the charger into my driveway at a time of night that didn’t synchronize with my wrist watch. Part of me was trying to forget about the conflicting memories of the paper mill, the other part was trying to drag its legs towards the front door without Billie’s help.

 

“Come on,” she said, “we can figure this shit out in the morning.” Billie went straight for the bathroom, leaving me standing alone in my living room trying to think of what problem needed to be dealt with first; checking on the Harlequins stored in my fridge or dealing with the throbbing headache with a bottle of Irish whiskey. Both things could be found in the kitchen, so that’s where my feet went, flicking the light switch on my to the liqueur cabinet as I walked across the linoleum floor. Popping the cap followed by a six second gulp, eyes watering as the burn in my throat erased the pain behind my skull, I turned towards the refrigerator. Just as before, he was standing there with a smug bastard smirk across his face, hands held behind his back. I lowered the bottle from my lips in the manner of a disgruntled postal worker, because through rain or shine, I just couldn’t seem to get rid of this asshole.

 

“Proust, what the fuck are you doing here, and why are you alive?” I thought it was a fair question. A chest full of birdshot usually keeps them down.

 

“Well, I was just going to take back the little cherubs that you stole, but it would seem that you’ve figured out how to kill the miracles.” Yeah, one man’s parasitic monstrosity is another man’s divine intervention.

 

“I dosed them in hydrogen peroxide before saturating them in a high potency formalin solution. It seemed to the job of preventing their necromorphic tendencies.”

 

“Clever boy.” He said back to me, grinning with that fake smile, more teeth than pleasantry. “Unfortunately for you, and luckily for me, there remains one more left to be freed. But you probably don’t remember receiving the gift, do you? No, you wouldn’t, because you have the heart and soul of demon, a filthy blind thing.” Proust removed his hands from behind, procuring a sawed off double barrel. “I can make this easy for you, or very, very difficult.” I took another swig of whiskey before making up my mind.

 

“Ashes to ashes reverend, ashes to ashes.” He managed to fire off a round just as the bottle smashed across his face, but it went into ceiling rather than my gut. He didn’t get a chance to try again, because I was already on him, twisting his wrist until I felt it pop under the pressure. He grunted in pain through that clenched smile as I threw his head into the sink, stabbing him in the back with a dirty fork while bubbles burst from beneath stagnant dishwater. I pulled him out just as Billie rushed to the scene. She started to say something but I couldn’t hear her, because by then I had Proust pushed up against a wall with my left forearm pressed across his windpipe.

 

“You’re the only demon here!” I screamed into his bloody face. “The difference between us is that I can actually fucking see it! I don’t know what your goddamn plan was and I don’t want to, and I don’t need to know anything to see how your pathetic miserable piece of shit life needs to end!” I punched him repeatedly, over and over regardless of the pain, breaking several fingers as the knuckles connected to teeth. I didn’t even care and I didn’t stop until his laughter ended with a cough of blood and vomit.

 

“This is how you found out. This is how it ends.”

 

I emptied my savings account and gave everything to Billie, all of my money, all of the tapes and notes and everything that remained of the harlequins. I told her to give it all to someone who would know what to do, told her to get as far away from Charlottesville as she could, to get as far away from me. That was two days ago. She left yesterday, the same day I buried Reverend Proust in the weeded over patch in the back of the Union Street Cemetery.

 

So here I am now, standing with back to the freshly dug hole that will serve as my home for rest of eternity, a home I will never know from behind the endless sea of cognitive oblivion. I don’t want to live with, knowing that it’s been there in the back of my head, controlling my mind in subtle ways since a time I can’t remember because it won’t let me.

 

As I start to raise the snub nose to my mouth, I hear it again.

 

“You know what he said right? How we choose who we want, regardless of time or place. The polyps are just a lesser form of growth, a left over breeding mechanism from eons of evolution, no longer needed but still indulged.”

 

I try to ignore it, but my hand goes numb, and the gun drops to the ground. I’m panicking now, trying to reach down for it but it won’t let me. I’m not in charge anymore.

 

“The joke is on you. It will end when I say it does.”

 

Fade to black, again.

 

Credit To: Stephan D. Harris

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The Crawlspace

July 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Um… hi there. I guess you could say I’m writing this as a cautionary tale to those who plan on studying abroad in future. I don’t mean to discourage you from going in the first place, it’s more like I just want you to be aware of this so that something like this doesn’t happen to you too.
I guess I should explain a little bit. Last summer I was selected to participate in the study abroad program that would be centered in Rome for several months. Like anyone would be, I was elated. I had never been out of the states before, so this was going to be a real adventure for me.

In the weeks that followed I happily packed anything and everything I could fit into my suitcase. (I will be the first to admit that I had way over packed for this trip.) I was nervous about leaving my parents for the first time but I was also excited for the newfound freedom I would have while in Europe. Before I knew it my parents were dropping me off at the airport, and I was boarding a 19 hour flight to Rome.

Despite being long and tedious, the flight wasn’t all that bad. When I exited the airport I was greeted by the program supervisor and several other students who would be studying with me. They were about the same age and all looked just as excited as me. From there we went to our mandatory orientation meeting, and afterwards we went to pick up our apartment keys.

In the months that preceded the trip, we were responsible for getting to know our would be roommates as well as finding a place to stay that we could all afford. There were three girls I would be staying with. They were all nice enough and made an effort to make me feel welcome, though I will admit it’s a bit hard to get close to the group of preformed friends. But despite my slight alienation, it seemed that things were all going to work out well. All of us were on a similar budget plan, and by that I mean none of us really had much money to spend. Because of this we were all on the same page while searching for the cheapest apartment we could find.

After several days of searching we stumbled across an ad for an ancient apartment located above the Campo di Fiori. That was a prime location and we couldn’t believe it that it was still available, no less listed for an unbelievably low price. This immediately sent alarm bells off in my head. The place was enormous yet the rent was cheaper than the much smaller apartments in a far less desirable part of town. However reason never really wins out in a group of excited young women. They had already made up their minds and if I would be staying with them this was my only option.

We each received our own set of keys as well as a map with walking directions. Because of its prime location it really didn’t take us long to get there. The Campo was amazing. During the daytime it was filled with a vibrant market, while during the evening it was lined with lively street performers. All of the apartments surrounding it looked to be ancient, so ours really didn’t stand out all that much. After circling the square three or four times we finally noticed the number nailed to the front of a massive old wooden door. This would be our home for the next three months.

I fought with my keys for a moment until there was an audible click of the heavy old lock. The thick old door swung forward with a screech. We were then met with a long winding staircase. We all looked at one another and groaned. None of us had accounted for the fact that the building had been constructed before elevators were common. So three sets of stairs and countless complaints later, all four of us, with luggage in hand stood outside our new front door. Once again I reached for my set of keys and fought with the stubborn lock. As soon as the front door was opened there was a stampede of young women trying to claim the best rooms. Being a three-bedroom apartment, it meant that two of us would have to share. I personally didn’t really care so I let the others battle it out. When the dust had settled, I found that I would be sharing a room with a girl called Stephanie. That was fine with me. Stephanie was nice enough and she was also very quiet, my ideal feature in a roommate.

Over the course of the rest of the day we ran around exploring our new home. There were two bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a living room with an ancient TV. Once again I began to feel uneasy. Just how was it that we were able to get all of this for such a low price? But before I could finish the thought I was interrupted by a fit of loud squealing. My initial reaction was to panic, however I soon learned that all the noise was from excitement. Down at the other end of the apartment near the front door, apparently there was another part of the flat we had missed. I followed the noise until it led me to a long dark hallway. There at the end, behind the group of squealing women was a washing and drying machine. For those of you thinking “what’s the big deal?”, I should explain that these things are incredibly rare in Rome. Generally exchange students have to wash their clothes by hand in the sink before hanging them up to dry. What was a luxury item like this doing in such a cheap apartment?

Just as the screaming quelled it picked right back up again as the girls noticed a door adjacent to the washing machine. Beyond that door was a master bathroom. It had a balcony, a claw-foot tub, and even a bidet. The girls immediately started fighting over “who’s bathroom this was going to be”. I didn’t really see why we couldn’t share, but apparently the others were dead set on having ownership. As it turned out it ended up being my bathroom. Stephanie had made a logical argument that because she and I had to share a bedroom, while the other two each got their own, it was only fair that she and I got share the master bath. And I’ll admit that at first I was actually kind of excited, it was after all, a really nice room. However over the course of the next several weeks I began to grow more and more wary of the room. I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s like every time I went into that room I could feel something’s eyes on me. And the voyeuristic element wasn’t really what had me so unnerved. It felt like whatever was watching me was angry, that it didn’t want me there and that it wanted to hurt me.

I began doing everything in my power to avoid the room. I asked Alisha if she would mind if I were to use her restroom occasionally. I made up a lame excuse about how it was far more convenient since her room was so close while my bathroom was at the other end of the flat at the end of the very long hallway. She happily agreed though, when I told her that she could use my bathroom anytime she liked. This worked well for a while. For about the first two months of my trip I was able to completely avoid the eerie room. It wasn’t until the final month that everything began to unravel. One night as I prepared to brush my teeth, I found that Alisha was already occupying her bathroom. I could hear giggles coming from down the hallway, it was clear both Stephanie and our other roommate were both getting ready for bed in the master bath. I decided that since there was strength in numbers, it would be all right just for tonight.

So I made my way down to the large bathroom where I joined the boisterous girls in brushing my teeth. They were in the midst of some conversation when Lindsay, our other roommate, had broken into such a furious fit of laughter that she had to lean on the wall for support. But suddenly she jolted upright as if she had been shocked. We all looked at what had been the cause of her reaction: there on the wall, about the same level as the bathtub was a tiny door. None of us had noticed it because it was the same color as walls. The landlord had even painted over it. Naturally this made me a bit nervous. Whatever it was, the landlord clearly didn’t want anyone opening it. But as usual, throwing all caution to the wind Lindsay reached for the handle and began tugging with all her might. Stephanie clucked her tongue in disapproval before pulling out a small pocket knife. She began delicately carving along the seam of the door. I wanted to beg her to stop, but I really didn’t have the energy to argue that night. So within a few minutes, Lindsay had yanked the little door open with a loud crack.

It was… a crawlspace. It was fairly large. My guess would’ve been you could have fit at least three or four people in there. I was rather curious as to why the landlord would’ve sealed up an empty little room. While I thought about this, Stephanie and Lindsay began calling for Alisha to come see their new discovery. She was just as excited as they were when they first discovered it. However, as could be expected, this excitement waned over time and eventually the crawlspace was just turned into storage for a few towels and laundry baskets.

In the following days after the unsealing of the crawlspace, things started to go from eerie to downright terrifying. Annoyingly, Alisha had changed her nightly routine so that I could no longer use her bathroom in the evenings. Once again I was back in the large bathroom, all the while, the feeling that I was being watched growing worse and worse. I began to get so paranoid each time I went into that room that I would literally jump at the slightest noise of pipes settling, and as soon as I was finished I would run at full speed down the hallway and close the door behind me. For some reason I seemed to be the only one feeling this way. It’s not like I could’ve told the other girls either. I was already enough of an outcast as it was. So I just kept to myself and hoped it would go away eventually.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. One night as I was getting ready for bed, I found myself alone in the bathroom. As I stood in front of the mirror brushing my teeth something set the hairs on the back of my neck straight up. There was a faint rustling noise. Not the kind that could’ve been caused from my roommates at the other end of the flat. Any noises caused by them would have had to have been quite loud to reach me all the way at the end of the long hallway. No this noise was very faint, the sound of someone gingerly shuffling things around. I stood completely silent, terror filling me. The soft rustling noise was coming from inside the crawlspace. I turned on my heels and ran down the hallway to grab the attention of my roommates. I tried to explain to them what happened, but all that came out were incoherent murmurs.

Eventually I managed to stutter “S-Something. Something’s inside the crawlspace!”

They looked at me with fear and confusion in their eyes. As a pack we moved together down the hallway into the bathroom. I nearly fainted when I saw the tiny door hanging fully ajar. Though this discovery filled me with horror, Alisha immediately pointed to the balcony’s sliding door. Stephanie had left it open to air out the bathroom after having taken a shower several hours ago. She peeked her head out the door and pointed to the slanted rooftop adjacent to ours. There was a pigeons nest occupied by few birds. The girls surmised that a pigeon must have found its way in and was the cause of the disturbance. They all had a good laugh as we made our way back to the living room. I pretended to shake it off but I knew it was not a pigeon that caused the rustling noise. First off, the tiny door had been shut tight all day. None of us really cared to leave it open because it smelled quite musty inside. And secondly, the door had been shut when I left the bathroom, I am certain of this, yet there it was wide open when I returned. You’re not going to tell me that a pigeon knows how to and is capable of opening and closing a door all by itself.

It was at this point that I began to suspect that something was terribly wrong with this apartment. When I got back to my room I pulled out my laptop and called my best friend via Skype. She had always been the skeptical and methodical type, however she also kept an open mind towards things that were hard to explain. I decided that out of anyone she was probably the best to talk to about my situation. As I expected, she was initially quite doubtful. Though she also agreed with me that a pigeon was quite likely not the source. She asked me if I had any photos of the crawlspace. She said that if she could see it, that would help her to understand a little more clearly, and possibly help her to come up with a more logical explanation.

Relieved at her willingness to at least hear me out, I reached for my camera and made my way back down the eerie hallway. When I arrived I found, to my relief, that the door was still closed. I stood in front of it for a moment, gathering my nerve before finally pulling the little door open. Despite the clutter left inside by my roommates, it was empty. I snapped a quick photo before closing the door once more and running back to my room. I immediately plugged my camera into my computer and uploaded the photo. When I finally opened the image, I was petrified by what I saw. There in the upper right-hand corner was a face, baring its teeth at me. My whole body began violently shaking.

“Dear God. That thing is in our home!” I muttered to myself.

Fear began to overtake me. Someone had sealed whatever it was inside of that crawlspace, and we had let it out. I was so absorbed in my panic I didn’t even notice when my roommate returned. She was so blissfully unaware of the imminent danger we were in, yet even if I tried to warn her she would not believe me. I was at a loss of what to do, and finally decided that I would deal with it in the morning. Though not by a large amount, I did feel braver in the sunlight. From there I attempted to get some sleep. Though for the first time ever since being there I closed and bolted my door before getting into bed. Stephanie eyed me suspiciously while doing so, but I just told her jokingly that Lindsay had been sneaking into our room the previous nights and had been stealing my nutella. She laughed heartily, shaking her head before settling down for the night. I will admit that the only reason I was able to find any sleep that night was because of her presence. Something about not being alone can give one a sense of false security.

It was about two o’clock in the morning when the sound woke me. I had always been a light sleeper so the faint noise was enough to stir me. It sounded like a door being pushed open at the other end of the flat followed by footsteps. But these weren’t just normal footsteps. They were far too fast. It sounded like someone was running at full speed from the foyer to the living room and all about the apartment. But these weren’t heavy footfalls like the kind you would expect from a running person. They were very light, almost unnaturally so. My initial reaction was to assume it was either Alisha or Lindsay, so I got up and stuck my ear to the wall behind me that separated Lindsay’s room from mine. I could hear her faint but steady breathing. She was clearly asleep, it wasn’t her. I then crossed over to the other side of my room near the door and once again stuck my ear to the wall. Alisha’s snoring was quite audible, there’s no way it was her. I slowly began to grow fearful as I turned in a last resort to see if Stephanie had perhaps gotten up, but I could plainly see her resting form silently rising up and down. A shiver went down my spine and I nearly screamed when I realized that the footsteps had come to a stop outside of my door. Despite all the lights being out, I could clearly see the looming dark shadow of a form through the tiny crack at the foot of my door.

I dared not move. Whatever it was, it was just standing there. Waiting. Then to my horror, my doorknob slowly began to jiggle. Gently at first but then growing violent at the realization of it being locked. The noise of it eventually woke my roommate. She sat up, blinking in confusion. That instant the jiggling of the doorknob stopped. She asked me just what the hell I was doing and if I knew what time it was. I told her it wasn’t me! I told her that whatever had opened the door to the crawlspace the previous day had come back. But she just furrowed her brow at me and said that I needed to get more sleep.

The next day I made an appointment with my programs supervisor. I told him that I just needed to go home. He tried to tell me that I was just homesick and that it would pass, but I insisted. He eventually gave up and let me call my parents. They were confused but understanding. They were able to change the date of my return flight to the following morning. I really wanted to get out of there that day, but understandably that was the soonest they could manage. Unfortunately this meant that I would have to stay one more night in the apartment.

When I returned I tried to tell the others about what had been going on. I knew I was going to be getting out of there and would be out of danger, but I was still immensely worried for their safety. But none of them took me seriously, they looked at me as if I was a mad woman. They didn’t say anything but I was sure they all thought I was going home because of some sort of mental breakdown.

At that point there was nothing I could say that would convince them. So that night I locked my door and hesitantly went to bed. And right on cue, once again around two o’clock in the morning I was awoken by the rapid footsteps scampering around the apartment. I could hear the door to the bathroom begin to creak open, followed by the door at the end of the hallway. The footsteps grew louder and faster as they moved through the apartment. And finally, once more they came to a pause outside of my door. I could hear breathing this time, slow and heavy. I sat up in panic, and to my horror I saw that Stephanie had forgotten to lock the door behind her after getting up to use the restroom.

It was right outside my door and I did not know if I had time to jump up and try to lock it before the thing realized there was nothing blocking its way. I hesitated a moment too long and by the time I had sat up straight in my bed, the handle slowly began to turn. I froze in terror as the door cracked open revealing my tormentor. It stood there ominously in the doorway, staring me down. It’s eyes protruded slightly from its skull and gave off a very faint bluish light. It didn’t appear to have a nose, only slits where the nostril should have been. It had the teeth of a man, but had no lips, giving it the impression of an eternally toothy snarl. It’s grayish white skin was waxy and stretched tight over its bony face. The rest of its skeletal form was hard to make out as it was almost entirely enveloped in shadows.

After pausing for a moment in the doorway, it began to head toward me. As it moved, its body let out sickening cracks. I sat there, still petrified by fear until it had made its way to the foot of my bed. It’s heavy breaths were deafeningly loud. I don’t know how Stephanie slept through it. The air had begun to smell sour and stagnant.

With frightening speed, it jolted to the other end of the bed, mere feet from me. I gagged at the smell of it, like sulfur and rotting flesh. Slowly it unfurled one of its along the gnarly hands and proceeded to reach for me. Not until it was several inches away did I finally find my voice. I screamed as loud as I possibly could and it halted in its tracks. Stephanie shot up from her bed, visibly frightened. The creature hunched over on all fours and fled from the room with unsettling movements that recalled those of the spider. A moment later Stephanie switched the light on and looked at me furiously. She demanded to know what the fuss was all about. I told her exactly what had happened, but she just called me a nutcase.

The taxi came to pick me up very early the next morning. The sun had not even risen by the time it arrived. None of the girls came to see me off, but I expected this. After loading my luggage into the trunk I climbed into the back seat of the old cab. It had driven right through the square and was sitting at the base of my apartment. When I leaned to look out the window I could see where my room had been. My face contorted into a mixture of panic and concern. There, looking out of my old window was the creature. It’s unblinking eyes bore into me and it’s lipless mouth curled into a snarling grin. Before I could say anything, the cab driver had taken off, leaving that hell house far behind.

I tried to warn them. I really did. I did everything in my power to try to warn them of the danger that they were in, but none of them listen to me. There was no way I could’ve stopped what happened after I returned home. You see, several weeks after returning to the United States I received a phone call from the program director. He informed me that a day before the program ended, all three of my past roommates had been reported missing. The authorities had no idea just how long they had actually been gone for, as they were only recently discovered to be missing when the program director went to check on them after none of them made it to the end of the program wrap up meeting. They assumed it had been at least a week or two, since all the food in the apartment was expired. There was no sign of forced entry, and no valuables were missing. The only notable detail mentioned in the report was that when they arrived on the scene, there was a strange little door hanging ajar in the bathroom. And when they approached it, they were met with a powerful odor coming from no visible source. The official report has them declared as missing, but I know that they’re all dead.

I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have made it out with my life. I think the only reason I’m still alive today is because I fled thousands of miles and across an ocean. Despite their unwillingness to listen, I still feel an unimaginable amount of guilt over what happened to those girls. That’s why I’m writing this now. I may not be able to go back in time and save them, but maybe I can prevent this from happening to you. Please, PLEASE heed my warning. If you ever get the opportunity to study abroad, keep this in mind: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And WHATEVER you do, don’t stay on the third floor of the ancient yellow apartment complex above the Campo di Fiori. There’s something there. Something evil.

The Crawlspace

Credit To – Kaitie H.

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The Old Warehouse Hotel Down In New Orleans

July 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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When I was younger I used to work as a night auditor for a very popular hotel chain in New Orleans. This particular hotel was once an old warehouse in the Central Business District. It had a long history that dated back to the Underground Railroad where tunnels built throughout the building were used to secretly lead slaves to boats on the Mississippi River. When the hotel owners started to demo the property to convert it into a hotel, they found old distillery equipment used during the prohibition days. The building was saturated in fantastic and interesting history.

I was told that during the renovation a decision was made to keep much of the existing brick and woodwork. This gave the hotel an intriguing historic and warehouse feel to it. While it hadn’t been occupied in nearly 40 years, the guts of the building were amazingly in great shape. It had such an interesting vibe and New Orleans is known for attracting the most interesting of guests for Mardi Gras and JazzFest. I loved it there, until the night I quit.

It was close to 3:30am when one of the guests stumbled in with a woman who frequented the hotel as a “guest” of our guests. She was one of the unspoken of perks that our concierge desk would provide when requested by only the most distinguished of guests. An incredibly beautiful, tall black woman, Diamond never had a problem getting work and she tipped us at the front desk, security and the concierge incredibly well for turning a blind eye to her activities. Being a professional flirt and me being bored out of my mind most nights, we often found ourselves having conversations when she finished her “shift.” The stories she would share with me to this day still boggle my simple mind.

Being that she had “worked” in the hotel longer than I had, she would tell me these stories about a certain row of spa suites that were visible from where I stood at the front desk up to the mezzanine. She mentioned how strange things would happen in those rooms when she or one of her girlfriends would visit them at night with at client. They were strange things like shadows, moving objects, flickering lights, and voices. I always took it as her showing off her art of storytelling and the fact she knew I often worked the desk alone at night; a point she often made when failing to meet her personal quota for the night.

On the night I quit, however, she was not her usual self. Fact of the matter is I didn’t even speak with her that night or any night thereafter. The last time I saw her she was running naked and screaming right out of the front door of the hotel. I remember hearing her first, through one of the spa suite rooms on the mezzanine. When I looked up to investigate the location of the sounds, I saw her hurl open the door of room M106 and watched her haul ass down the glass-walled hallway, down the stairs, and out to the street. I just stood there watching her in the shock and awe of the moment. Here was this voluptuous woman flopping all about, screaming, petrified and covered in something and all I could do was gawk. The moment she ran out of my sight, I sobered up and immediately gazed up at the open door of room M106.

After staring up at the wide open entrance of the room on the mezzanine for about a minute, my stomach dropped every time I saw a shadow change within the room. Soon, Bill, the lone security guard on duty, whipped around the corner from the back office area where he often took naps and quickly started asking me questions. Her screams woke him up. I pointed up to the room and tried to explain to him what had happened. He immediately called the police for backup and per protocol we both started to make our way up to the mezzanine level, eyes transfixed on the open door waiting for the drunken man to stumble out of the room. As we reach the hallway, other guests started peeping their heads out of their rooms to see what the commotion was about. We quietly hushed them back into their rooms for their own safety.

As we approached the doorway, Billy pulled out his gun and called out to the guest. There was no response, but we started to hear a very audible humming sound, almost like a rapid buzzing. When we entered the suite we could see the king size bed at the end of the hallway. This was one of the smaller spa suites that had a bed, an armoire with a TV, a desk and a jet-spa bathtub cattycorner to the bed. The bed was unkempt but empty and we couldn’t see the rest of the room from the hallway. So we moved closer in and with ever step the humming began to get louder and the shadows on the walls seemed to be floating back and forth like they were waves in the ocean.

I called out again to see if we could get an answer but we did not. We moved closer to the edge of the hallway, slowly and terrified. That’s when we began to see them. The cause of the shadow was everywhere and on everything. They seemed to blanket the entire room, on the bed, on the walls, in the air. Then we turned the corner.

Under the heat lamp above the bathtub spa there it was; a huge tent-sized swarm of angry and hungry termites. In the tub laid our naked guest, covered in termites, being devoured by termites. His body was marked by broken wings and small drill holes all along his skin. His eyes partially liquefied from the incessant digging of the termites. This once portly white man was reduced to a shade of red, brown and gray of crawling skin. The sight and swarm made it unbearable to stay and Bill and I ran out of the room, tripping over each other in our haste.

When the police arrived, they turned off the lights to the room and the swarm almost vanished instantly into the old wood beams that lined the room. A blanket of dead pests covered the room and the crunch I remember hearing as we walked through the room haunts me to this day. I was told Diamond suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after the incident. She supposedly said that the man started to get very rough with her and that a shadow floated out of the cracks of the wood and startled the guest. He fell back into the tub and that’s when the swarm manifested itself. The cause of death was a traumatic brain injury, but it wasn’t from the fall, it was from the nesting of the termites.

To this day you can still rent room M106 at the old warehouse hotel down in New Orleans. It is just under a different number.

Credit To – StupidDialUp

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The Van Ness Asylum

June 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Being a devout fan of Creepypasta’s true story section, I felt compelled to share my story with other users. While it is nice to provide all of you with a chilling, and entertaining story, keep in mind I have a much greater goal in mind.

Before my experience two days ago (May 3rd and 4th, 2013) I was a very skeptical person; not just in the paranormal, but in all areas of life. Should something not be able to be factually proven, it was simply not true. While I was always interested in death, the paranormal, and ‘spooking’ myself in general, I had always been a hard-headed person who never believed that there was any truth to it all. I simply wrote things off as, “an interesting story” and never genuinely believed that in anything, “unexplained”. Following my experiences however, I’ve come to terms with the fact that just because things do not follow our illusion of reason, does not mean that those things aren’t actually valid.

As I had stated before, I have a greater goal in mind higher than simply entertaining my fellow Creepypasta members. Contrary to my previous belief, there are things in life that cannot be explained. Like the beginning of the universe, and life itself. We can trace things back in theory, 13.7 billion years ago with the Big Bang; but the further into it you go, the more questions arise. “And what before that, and before that?” Great wars have been fought over the topic ever since the beginning of man itself. We are all fighting and scrambling to answer the unexplainable origin of the beginning of the universe. Why? Simply put, we are very intrigued about a topic that is so complex, and abstract, that it could never be explained.

This is why the Creepypasta stories, true or false, are captivating. We all want to feed our hunger with a glimpse into the irrational world of the paranormal and incomprehensible. My goal above all is to show my peers that you must keep an open mind, and simply give into the inevitable truth that some things in life cannot be explained.

I apologize for the long prefix, but I felt it was an absolutely necessary one. Here are my experiences of May 3rd and 4th.

Seeing as how it was a Friday on May 3rd, I was very glad to be on a small but much appreciated break from work and school. Naturally, I did the old teenager cliché of spending the night at a friend’s house. As usual, I indulged in playing video games, and criticizing old classic movies with my good buddy, Cris. We were a couple of film buffs who loved share impressions of actors, and poke fun at poorly done special effects, etc. The night was honestly going great in true weekend fashion. My friend and I had just come to the realization that he could do a pretty good Nicolas Cage impression, so we spent a large part of that night laughing and talking like him at random points in our hangout.

When I had attempted to follow in and give the impression a try, he shot me down and ridiculed me for doing a bad job. I shrugged, and tried to laugh it off but he continued to pursuit berating me. Eventually, I grew tired of his negative criticism, and we had a small argument. It was no big shouting match or anything, we were used to this sort of thing because we made fun of each other on such a regular basis, it was only natural to have a small little fight now and then. We always got over it within a day or two. I felt the best course was to gather my things and ride my bike home so we could both cool off a little.

I was a little reluctant to bike home because it was really late already. I was no stranger to riding home in the dark, it was actually sort of routine because I got around a lot. It seemed I was always riding home in the late hours from someone’s house. This time was different however because it was now 1:24 AM (May 4th now). I had only ever ride my bike out past midnight only once or twice before for an absolute emergency. I refrained from riding when it was very late because I always had a fear of gangs and other not-so-great characters who tended to be out at that time of night.

Clouded of my better judgment by pride and anger though, I put on my backpack, hopped on my bike, and started off. I recall the cool summer breeze that I had felt as soon as I began to ride home. It was very therapeutic to feel the wind relieving me of my stresses. I was now confident that I had made the right call to leave my friend’s house, rather than stay there and wait in awkward silence until we both went to sleep. I continued to ride home for another ten minutes. At this point I was at a crossroads. Do I ride down Van Ness? Or turn, and head towards the main road, where the prostitutes and gangsters usually hung out?

I continued to go straight and head down Van Ness. Although this seemed like a no-brainer, it took some thinking, and a fair amount of guts. Van Ness was a very tranquil street. It was filled with tall pine trees, little traffic, and certainly no shady characters like Blackstone. It was the quintessential biking trail for the town during the day; a bikers paradise. At night however, it was much different. Van Ness was a bit off a historic part of town, so it did not have street lights. There were so many trees, that even the moonlight could not sneak through to illuminate the street. Me and my friends frequently joked that this was the darkest street in the world. Aside from being very dark it was also very quiet, even the sound of crickets would be relieving because you would know that you were not completely alone.

I had been riding on the street for a while now, and only had about three-quarters of a mile remaining until I was on my street. I had gotten kind of used to the street and was no longer nervous about the ‘spookiness’ of the street. The solitude was actually quite refreshing.

During the day, I frequently rode down Van Ness, as I had mentioned it was a ‘Mecca” for bike riders. I was very familiar with all of the buildings and fields on the stretch of road. So, when I saw an unfamiliar building, it stuck out like a sore thumb. At the end of a long, dry field stood a tall menacing, mansion of a home. Like straight out of a classic horror movie. I could totally imagine a thunderstorm in the background adding to the horrifying look of it. I stopped pedaling, and slowly passed the building by. The curiosity of the building began to burn a hole in my head. I knew that if I did not stop and analyze the building, I would lose sleep wondering at what I had missed.

I turned around and dismounted my bike, and stared at the building in awe. On the front of the building was a green text, the same green that was used on this historic part of town in Van Ness. I was nearsighted, which meant that I need to wear my prescription glasses to see far away. I reached in my pocket and realized that I had left my glasses at Cris’ house in my hurry. I decided that I would have to get a closer look if I wanted to read what it said. I was way too enthused to simply call it a night on that note. I had to at least read what it said.

I stepped onto the crunchy dry field and proceeded to walk towards the building. My imagination was running wild, thinking of what on earth this sign would read. My mind is drawing blanks now as to what I thought it could have said. Finally I got close enough to make out the words. “Van Ness Asylum” Under that what smaller subtext that I could not yet read. I did not know if I should continue to walk towards it, and run like hell out of there. Once again, I figured, I have to at least read it. I walked a little closer and read the smaller text,” 978 N. Van Ness”. I was so puzzled. I was so sure that had I seen this terrifying building before, I definitely would have looked inside of it, and at the very least remembered that it was there. It’s not very often you see an asylum you now.

Second, why would there be an asylum in the middle of all of these nice homes in the first place. All of the homes surrounding, and the asylum itself looked to be built around the same time period. The homeowners would have gone mad had they known a looney-bin was built right next door. The asylum was obviously abandoned as shown by the broken windows and poor upkeep. So at the very least, why wouldn’t the neighborhood have at least petitioned to have the building torn down in recent years?

None of this was adding up. I decided I should call someone and at least get their opinion. Should I go in? Then the grim reality reminded me that it was now about 2 AM. All of family and friends were asleep. Maybe not Cris, but he was mad at me. I contemplated going in, and paced back and forth at the idea.

My entire life, I had been kind of a play-it-safe type guy; afraid to branch out and try new things. In the past two years, I had tried to embrace the spontaneous life and tried to learn to say yes. I had to be absolutely nuts to go into an abandoned asylum on a dark street at two in the morning, by myself mind you. “But imagine what you’d find?” I recalled watching YouTube videos of people who would break into condemned asylums and see what they found. The idea fascinated me, but at the same time, I didn’t think I had it in me. “I couldn’t possibly, could I?”

Once again, clouded by my better judgment; this time by intense curiosity and the drive to take a chance and explore, I proceeded to look for an opening into the building. I circled the building and gave reasons like, “That hole is too small…” or “I’d rip my shirt there…” soon I realized I was making sorry excuses to delay the exploration. I psyched myself up, and crammed myself through broken window.

I saw no signs of graffiti, old soda cans, or cigarettes that would imply that anyone has been in here since it was boarded up and deserted. That scared me. If someone had been in here before, I would have at least known that they whatever dangers may be in here, someone had encountered before me. I had a very annoying habit of scaring myself when having a clear, non-timid mindset was very important. I had a flashlight that I attached to my bike that I used to navigate the dark, cold building. Because this was virgin ground since the boarding up, the inside of the asylum was very well preserved. The white, flawless tile flooring still looked very sterile.

Trust me when I say, neatness was much more scary than if the place was a wreck. It was very freaky. Papers were scattered about from when they were extracting files and sensitive patient information, but other than the papers, the place was pristine. Spotless, no mirrors broken, no cracked porcelain toilets, no piss and excrement all over the walls like you would expect.

Next, I focused on paying attention to where I was and where I was headed. Where were the patient’s bunks, where were the operating rooms, and where was the morgue? It seems I was in the admissions area, where you would be checked in and out. I walked down a narrow hallway and found a cluster of operating rooms. Complete with the anti-septic metal tables, stripped of all warm, comfortable sheets and pillows. I didn’t find any scalpels, or bone-saws. I presume they removed those for health concerns. I scavenged through drawers and found surgical tubing, respirator masks, and sterile gloves, still sealed in the boxes. It was so odd to see that aside from the scattered papers, and no chairs, or furnishings, the place still contained a lot of things necessary to keeping an operational medical facility.

I continued through the asylum and found that the pattern on the floor had changed, the tiles were a different color, almost like a yellow brown, and the tiles were smaller. I noticed that every few feet there were drains on the floor. I looked up and around and saw lockers where I assumed scrubs and other gear was stored. I put it all together, and made the conclusion that I was in the morgue. The drains had been strategically placed to allow for the draining of blood on the floor. A truly haunting thought.

My whole time in there, I heard a few creaks, and whatnot but just blamed them on my stepping, and the age of the building. I had been in there about six minutes when finally I heard something that absolutely made my stomach drop. The only thing that I could assign the sound to was a drawer of a morgue refrigerator slamming shut. (The large lockers where the dead are stored before burial) I did not explode and bolt out of there. I knew that if I had done that, I would have gotten scared that something was right behind me chasing me. I tried to keep calm and walk out of that place without panic, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I had never been so scared in my life. After an eternity it seemed I jumped out of the window and landed back on the porch of the Van Ness Asylum. I ran through the field and got on my bike and rode home. It’s not like my endeavor was over, I still had to ride nearly a mile home in anguishing fear on the dark deserted streets of Van Ness.

Soon, I was home safe and sound. I was so shaken up I didn’t think that I could return to living a normal life again. Falling asleep that night was very hard. I pushed through it, and the next day I felt a lot better.

Now, I suppose I could have sullied the story by making up some bullshit about how I saw a figure, or something touched me, or there was blood all over the walls. I know that some people would prefer to have some truly horrifying experience to make this long story all worth it, but I wanted to stay true to heart, and not spoil a true, and scary story. Need not worry however, the story is not over there.’ Here is the paranormal, truly unexplainable part:’

I called up my friend Cris and it seemed the both of us were done being mad, I told him about what had happened, and told him I’d meet him at his house in about an hour. I rode to his house and was there in about 40 minutes. I was very excited to tell him about it in person.

He was so amazed, that he decided he wanted to go and look at the asylum for himself. He also rode down Van Ness at least twice a year and did not recall seeing an asylum, night or daytime. I was very much still traumatized by last night, but I really wanted to show off the fact that I had gone into that scary fucking house all by myself. We decided we’d both take a bike ride down Van Ness to see the building.
When we arrived there at about 3 PM, thirty minutes later, we had some trouble finding the house. I recalled the length and shape of the field of the asylum, and I saw a field that matched it, but saw no menacing asylum on top of it. This didn’t make sense, it didn’t add up, just like the asylum being there in the first place. I didn’t understand. But as I stated earlier, there are just some things in life you cannot explain.

Credit To – Frankieseshy

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On a Hill – Part II

May 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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He awoke to the silence of the earth. Wisps of broken grass touched his cheek as the wind carried them away to an unknown destination. The sky was black, while no truly living thing stirred. John did not know how long he had been unconscious, but the blanket of stars above left him in no doubt that it had been for at least several hours. The sickness remained, though not as potent, but the wound in his side still wept blood. Rising to his feet it became clear that his body was still under the effects of whatever was on that hill. In the intoxication of it, the world still possessed a fluid, watery form, but on closing his eyes for a moment he felt that he had somehow become accustomed to it, at least to the point where he could gain his bearing and find a route to escape.

Luck was on his side as the moon was present above, albeit only as a partial, waning crescent. This provided him with enough illumination to gauge the strange world and its shapes which surrounded him. He was unsure if he remained where he had fallen as the ancient standing stones, which he remembered vividly and with no little sense of dread, were nowhere to be seen. But as he stood there with his hand vainly attempting to stem the blood from his side, a frightening realisation crept towards him. John found it difficult to convey to me in simple words what that was, but he described it as ‘the rules of nature upturned’. Nothing seemed to make sense, for a moment he did not know who he was, why he was there, and what abominable source was causing such illness in him. He seemed to retain the knowledge of the hill and a memory of the church, but his thoughts were turbulent and disconnected. Fleeting moments of identity would quickly be surpassed and replaced by utter confusion. But regardless of the affliction, one constant remained; his instincts pleaded with him to leave that place immediately. But in this fragile state of mind, he could not tell which way would lead him down to the land below, and which route would send him upward, to whoever or whatever sat on the summit. The sensory intoxication was an experience unlike any other – the world unravelled.

A smell of sickness tinged the air. Whether it was his own vomit or the illness playing tricks, he did not know, but within that stench there was something else. A smell of dampness mixed with the unsettling scent of burnt hair. It became so strong that it began to sting John’s eyes, which only furthered his disorientation. Though his eyes were clouded by tears and the world seemed wrong, he now sensed what he could only describe as a presence. The musty smell increased in potency and as it did, John let out a cough. The response to the noise was distinct, and though he believed that it was impossible to know the mind of someone – something approached and it did so with malice and hatred as its companions.

Terror now turned to fleeting purpose as he quietly wandered passed shadowed trees and amongst the wild grass hoping to find his way out. Staggering as he fumbled his way through the darkness, the pain in his side grew and thoughts of dying out there on the hill, never to be found by his loved ones, became apparent. For a moment he thought that he would collapse once more, but while the sickness intensified, it was now accompanied by the sound of dead grass and wilted flora being thrust aside, as something trudged through the undergrowth nearby. John’s vision was now so poor that he could not tell which way was forward and which back, and in fleeting moments of clarity he felt repulsed by the idea of ending up back at the church or the stones, or graves – unsure of what they had been. He was utterly lost, and something which called that hideous hillside home now approached.

Be still.

But silence, nor darkness could shield him. No realm of oblivion could provide obscurity, for a wickedness as old as the earth now stalked a man who once laughed in the face of superstition and myth. The air grew denser and what little light the sliver of moon above provided, diminished as though it were being sucked deep into the ground with no escape. Then, nothing. The noise of branches and grass being broken and pushed aside ceased, and in its place a void of sound, almost unbearable. At the end of his nerves, John could feel any remaining vestige of hope or escape abandon him. It was close, its breath could be felt upon the air; foul, rancid, as of something which long ago lived and yet had not relinquished the desire to cause hurt and pain. Then movement. Dead leaves cracked under its weight, the long grass which had seemed so impenetrable, so dominant now torn and broken with each shuffling stride. The only thought in John’s mind now was to hide. Slowly, his breath stuttered and quietly gasping, he sank into the long grass, and there he lay; silent, terrified.

The presence was closer still, and in the darkness he thought that at times he could see the vague shape of a figure wandering just out of reach. It circled slowly, coming closer then retreating as if searching the ground meticulously. Then finally, the sound of its cumbersome footsteps grew distant, and then ceased. John breathed a sigh of relief.

Then a hand touched his face.

Survival now took him and with a yell of utter terror he rolled onto his side. Searing pain ran through his body, as his own weight and motion thrust an uneven piece of ground deep into his wound. A low grown escaped from whatever monstrosity stood before him and then, without knowing which way to proceed, John became motivated by a new impetus, jumping to his feet and bolting in a random direction, hoping beyond hope that it would lead out of that madness. That nightmare.

Trees and grass flew by in the pitch black of night. A thick miasma of sickness and burnt hair encircled everything, eliciting convulsive retching as he ran. At last he knew where he was, he had his bearing and it was one which he hoped he would never possess again. The church loomed tall and twisted before him. Something hurtled through the trees behind and in a moment it would be upon him. At least he knew which direction to go, running as he did to the side, towards the path which he had ascended earlier in the day, a worn track which would lead him to safety. But the land appeared unfamiliar and unnatural. The very shape and construction of his environment seemed to have bent to an unknown and malevolent mind. He had to continue on, to get away from what pursued him. The path must have been in that direction!

Then, finally he broke through a line of bushes and trees into a clearing. His heart sank to depths he did not know. There stood the church once more, but it appeared different somehow. By night the building seemed to possess a more sinister and bizarrely altered form from its daytime persona. For a moment John imagined its steeple to be not of rock, stone, or concrete, but of vine and earth and wood, spiralling towards a heaven which had long since spat it out at the world.

The rustle of trodden leaves approached once more as he stumbled and gasped for air. The pain from his wound was now almost unbearable, each step forward accompanied by an internal, blinding, tearing sensation. Forced to flee across the face of the church by his stalker, John moved as best he could, staggering and limping, weak and exhausted, entering a thick network of brambles and thorns. His clothes caught as the barbed appendages of the plants scratched at his face and arms. It was no use, he could not outrun what was coming. Looking over his shoulder, someone was clearly ripping through the branches only a few feet behind.

Fear coursed through John’s veins as his stalker now bore down on him. Letting out a cry of pain and anguish, the thing amongst the branches seemed to stop for a moment, observing him struggle, his hands cut and grazed by thorns. John pulled and grabbed at the thicket in front trying to escape, and then to chill his bones once, the figure behind stared, letting out a harrowing groan – somewhere between a laugh and a sigh of satisfaction. It began moving at great speed, breaking through the entangled cage of thorns and branches with ease, closing in quickly.

With a scream of pain and disbelief, John finally broke free of the thorns’ embrace, but despair haunted him. There the church stood once more, almost mocking, twisted and warped in ways that no human architect could conceive of. Staggering with little fight left, he moved passed the church once more as his assailant broke through the tree line, rushing towards him. John increased his pace as best he could, but by now he could muster little speed. The heavens now opened, and swathes of liquid poured over the church, flowing to the ground beneath which quickly became sodden and water-logged.

John’s strength diminished as he fell to his knees, admitting defeat as a hunted animal relents at the end. Then, salvation. From far away shone a light. One which beamed and broke through the almost impenetrable surrounding thickets. Something to hold on to. To hope. An anchor to follow, a light from outside that terrible hill. As the sound of his pursuer neared, scrambling across the grass in darkness, one last surge of energy awoke John from his terrible fate. The sight of light and life reignited what small vestige of hope remained. He screamed in agony as he lifted himself to his feet, the rain now lashing down upon him, drenched to the bone, pouring into the hole in his side. But it did not matter. All that mattered was that light, and the safety which it promised. Limping as quickly as he could in its direction, he thrust himself into the vines and branches of the entangled woodland, fear overriding any pain brought about as thorns scratched and cut at his skin.

Yet, he was making progress, and the light began to loom larger and larger; vibrant and sustaining. It was clear now that he was heading downhill and as the momentum of his trajectory caused stumble and fall after fall. It also increased his speed markedly. Flashes of memories not his own once again invaded his mind, thoughts of anger and hatred filled his vision; images of the church never empty yet absent of the living – as the priest reared his hands, so bowed the congregation’s heads.

Confusion was beginning to seep into him again, and the smell of burnt hair once more filled the world around. Though cumbersome, his stalker could be heard increasing pace, yet it seemed more agitated than it had before. Angered, perhaps even frustrated. John felt sick with panic, the blood now pouring from the wound in his side, unimpeded. Just as the light seemed closest; the promise of redemption, safety, and escape loomed near, he flew down a steep incline of grass, slipping in the wet mud and tumbled at speed to the ground. Pain, exhaustion, and hopelessness ruled supreme as his body, already battered and bruised, came to rest on top of a large fallen tree trunk.

The clambering footsteps drew near, and as they did so John thought to himself that he and that which he laid upon had both been victims of a cruel and hidden evil which called that hillside home.

‘Come on, son. Get up! Get up!’ a voice yelled in the darkness, almost drowned out by the now fervent breaking of ground and grass behind.

The world seemed warped, but as consciousness now prepared to wither once more from his mind, clarity returned and John realised where he was. His body was slumped not against a fallen tree, but against the wooden gate which marked the boundary of that terrible place.

Something was close. That thing which had been hounding him in the dark only a few feet away.

‘Move, it’s nearly upon you!’ cried the now familiar voice of Dale.

With one last movement, with the final piece of life left in him, John R—— opened the gate, falling face down into a puddle by the roadside.

III

I sat transfixed, the words flowing from John in stuttering fashion, yet with a conviction and reality which I found difficult to ignore, regardless of my scepticism. This man believed with every fibre of his being that what he had told me was the truth. Dale had apparently went after him, against the wishes of the other villagers, he had long ago lost a son and did not wish for anyone else to succumb to the apparent malevolence of the hillside. The landlord, being an old friend of the farmer’s, eventually gave in and both men travelled to the foot of the hill in the hopes that John would find their light in the darkness; follow it, and be the first to escape from there in living memory. No matter how much they wished to help though, they would not dare touch that gate, nor cross the hill’s threshold. John had to do that on his own, and he did so just as his pursuer leaned over him.

I remember letting out a sigh of relief as he finished the last of the wine in front of the fire. There was a moment of silence between us, and I realised that the entire bar was bathed in an anxious reticence. One which was almost tangible, as if those present wanted to speak, but dared not.

Finally I spoke, attempting to be as reassuring as possible: ‘That is an amazing story, John, but it is just a story. I’m sure there is a rational explanation for it all.’

He bowed his head gravely, staring at the floor.

‘If it’s just a story, then why can’t I leave?’ he said, looking up at me with an expression half caught in fear, half trapped in desperation.

‘What do you mean you can’t leave?’

‘I’ve been here for three months!’ he shouted. ‘I sometimes wish Dale had just left me there.’

‘John,’ I said, leaning over and resting my hand on his shoulder reassuringly,‘You can leave whenever you want.’

But I could see from his expression that he did not believe me. He had been consumed by whatever myths and superstitions the locals had fed him. I concluded that his psyche had been poisoned. Of course I felt that the land lord and others meant well, but I was sure that a conventional explanation would hopefully cure him of his afflicted mind.

‘I’m going to Glasgow tomorrow,’ I said cheerfully. ‘Why not join me? The bus will be here in the afternoon and we can travel back together. But… Of course, I’m forgetting, you have your car with you. Please don’t think I was fishing for a lift.’

I laughed, but John just stared at me grimly, then answered: ‘ My car is sitting out back, wrecked.’

‘Really? I hope it’s not too bad. What happened?’

‘It took me several days to recover after my experience on the hill,’ he said mournfully before continuing, ‘but when I felt up to it I packed my bags, thanked Dale and the landlord, then drove out of the village. A couple of miles into my journey the rain came down in sheets. Visibility was terrible, but I just wanted to leave. I lost control of the car and went straight into a tree. I was survived, but the car is a write-off.’

‘Well, accidents happen. As long as you were OK. How about another drink?’ I said standing up. As I did so, John grabbed my arm forcefully.

‘It was no accident. There was something else on that road. I saw him standing there. A man… I think. At least, it appeared like a man. I swerved to avoid him.’

‘And a good thing too. The last thing you would want around here would be to accidentally kill a local.’ My jokes once more did not appease his frustrations.

I sat back down as he conveyed to me his predicament. After the incident with the car, which was towed back to the inn by Dale, John tried everything he could to leave. Each time he attempted to use the local bus there would be a problem. It would breakdown, or there would be a landslide stopping it from entering the village – he even claimed that was why I had been stranded over night, because he had intended to take the bus again that day.

The man was adamant. For three months he had been a guest at ‘The Laird of Dungorth’, and yet no matter how he tried, he could not leave the outskirts of the village. Several times he had even tried to hike to the nearest town, but on each occasion he was beaten back by bitter and perilous weather which appeared without warning. He had even tried to phone for help, but his mobile phone seemed to have no signal, while using a land-line resulted in a continuous static. The same applied for anyone who tried to make a call on his behalf.

While I could not explain everything that had happened, I was certain that a series of rational and conventional events could account for each. It seemed madness that someone so obviously intelligent and articulate be made to believe such nonsense. I genuinely felt sympathy for the man.

‘You are the victim of a self fulfilling prophecy,’ I said confidently.

‘What do you mean?’ John replied.

‘I’ve worked in many villages like this. You come to an old part of the country with a haunting landscape. It seems like another world compared to the modern life of London. Then you are provided with paranoia fuel. A myth that the locals believe about a cursed part of the land. Taking all that in, you have some terrible luck hitting a tree with your car, and before you know it, you believe the whole thing. Perhaps you even imagined the figure on the road. Maybe even the whole encounter.’

‘What about the hill?’ he asked, obviously intrigued by any possibility that escape could be achieved.

‘Probably a placebo effect from all the stories you’ve heard. That or, who knows, maybe you had food poisoning or a virus of some kind and hallucinated the entire thing. Maybe there’s even some nut up there living in that church.’

It was obvious that he remained unconvinced, but I felt that it was my duty to take this poor soul out of that village, back to Glasgow where he could hopefully make arrangements to get home. I had seen the damage that unfounded beliefs could cause amongst people and communities before, and I was genuinely appalled by it. I just wanted to help.

‘Tomorrow, we’ll get the bus together and I’ll buy you a pint in Glasgow.’

He never said much in return, other than nodding his head reluctantly in agreement.

IV

The next day I rose early with a singular purpose. While I had to get home to work on my assignment, the bus was not due until the early evening, which gave me just enough time to persuade John to come with me in the most dramatic of fashions: To go to the hill myself. I knew that if I returned without any of these strange experiences that perhaps he would forget about the superstitious nonsense which the villagers had afflicted him with, and leave on the bus with me. I must also confess that I was utterly intrigued by the idea of the place, and while I had absolutely no doubt that John’s experiences were mistaken, I actually felt that there might be an article, or even a story in the whole ordeal. As a writer, such opportunities rarely present themselves.

Before I left I spoke with him and made my intentions clear. He pleaded with me not to go, that his fate need not be mine, but after much protestation he accepted that I would not be dissuaded, and reluctantly agreed that should I return without paranormal, supernatural, or otherworldly incidence, that he would leave for Glasgow with me.

After providing me with directions – ones which I was sure would not be forthcoming from the villagers – I made my way out to the supposedly tainted hillside. I must admit that when I saw it at first it did appear… odd to me. Misplaced somehow. But again, I counted this as the subconscious effect of John’s tale. The environment appeared to be just as he had described. At least that much was accurate. The road was blocked with rubble and rubbish, and I too found the wooden gate lying at the foot of the hillside. There was even a stain of blood upon it, certainly making the conclusion of his story more believable. The thought of some maniac up there did give me pause, but even if someone had chased John through the undergrowth, they had probably moved on after being confronted by Dale and the land lord. In any case, a badly wounded John had been able to escape, so I felt confident I would be fine.

I did not feel anything out of the ordinary as I crossed the threshold, and while the tangled weave of trees and dead grass did provoke feelings of decay, I was surprised by just how innocuous and commonplace the environment felt. After climbing the steep path which clearly had been used numerous times in recent years, I reached a spot which was reminiscent of John’s descriptions.

And there it was. Obscured from the world by a wall of leaves, rotting wood, and grass: The church. I was significantly surprised as I had thought such a building would surely have been part of John’s hallucinations and I concede that I began to feel slightly unnerved by its existence, and hesitated for a moment before proceeding. I’m embarrassed to say that had the area not been illuminated by the morning light, I may even have considered retreating. But I did not.

The church was fascinating, and I, at the very least, wished to see if it was as John had said, with an altar undisturbed inside. It was not difficult to gaze inward, though I shuddered slightly remembering the description of the door being partially blocked by debris, yet it lay wide open unimpeded, and this discrepancy did give me pause once more. Yet, there I stood, at the threshold peering inside. It was exactly as he had described; the floor strewn with rubble from a failing roof, the altar raised up ahead, an inscription – which by now I had no doubt did indeed read as John had stated – and the doorway leading downstairs to an unknown destination.

You must understand that at no point did I genuinely think that something supernatural resided there, the very idea seemed laughable; but I did began to question my safety. Thoughts of a hermit or mentally deranged recluse living under a remote church did not fill me with confidence.

‘Hello? Is anyone there?’ I shouted, my voice echoing up towards the rafters above.

With no reply, I castigated myself for being so paranoid and stepped inside. Carefully I negotiated the rubble, noticing droplets of blood on a broken piece of wood which I assumed were John’s. Thoughts of blood poisoning now entered my mind: Perhaps the wound in his side caused the hallucinations, at least the ones which occurred afterwards? That could have explained his disorientation.

The altar stood as he had stated. Realising that I may need to prove that I had been there to reassure the man, I took out my phone and started taking pictures of the church interior. With each flash the hall lit up, and as it did so my mind crept back to John’s descriptions of a zealous priest and a fearful congregation huddled under the protection of the church – but protected from what?

Turning to the darkened doorway which led underneath the building, I felt my heart begin to race at the prospect of descending the stone staircase, but I was compelled to, although not for entirely altruistic intentions. Yes, I did want to show John that there was nothing down there, and that the beliefs which seemed to hold him paralysed within the boundaries of the village were unsubstantiated; but I also wanted to know what lay beneath, myself. Why did this church have a subterranean level? Was there a crypt? My curiosity piqued and my mouth watered at the possibility of a published article describing my discovery, of an unknown archaeological find with perhaps an important and valuable relic or two within.

As I approached the door, I could feel the cold air breathing from below. Using the light from my phone, I calmed my nerves which had begun to grate on me and looked cautiously inside. A steep and narrow flight of stairs dripped down into the ground beneath. The walls were darkened grey and seemed to have been carved or formed with far less care than the rest of the church. I shouted down there once more, but again no one replied and I therefore assumed the place to be abandoned. As I descended, I was surprised by just how long the staircase actually was, and by the time I reached its conclusion estimated that I was at least fifty feet beneath the old church. It appeared peculiar to me that a level would be so far beneath the ground and questioned to myself the purpose of it – why had the architects, builders, or followers of the church dug so deep.

At the last step I composed myself, and turned to face a darkened doorway at the conclusion of the staircase. The blue light from my phone illuminated everything around. What I saw deeply disturbed me; a large room, the floor littered with rags, stone, and human bones. I could not tell how many bodies had been left to rot there, for they were too numerous. The chill in the air was pronounced, and I felt frozen to the core not just by the cold of the stone which surrounded me, but by the sorrowful feeling I felt inside. It was almost as if I could imagine people huddled down there, spending their last moments hidden from the sun. The very impression I had, was that they had died there, yet I did not know why I was so convinced of this.

Taking a few pictures, I then entered what I can only describe as… a mass grave. I was careful to not disturb the bones, but I am ashamed to say that I felt the crunch of a few under foot. To the right lay a doorway leading into another chamber, and while I did not wish to disturb the tomb any more than I already had, I felt compelled to know the entire story. That is, what else was down there.

Above the doorway sat a stone cherub, carved with a degree of artistic flair, putting it at odds with the room full of bones, but the childlike face wore a strange grin upon it. Not of joy or playfulness, but of taunting and sadomasochistic indulgence. The very sight of it left me with a feeling of revulsion, and so I quickly entered the other chamber to be removed from its gaze.

Inside was a large room, much grander than the one before. I could tell immediately that something of importance to those who had built the church had once been housed there. The walls were adorned with beautifully carved symbols, some Christian, but many of a nature I could not identify. In the centre of the room lay a block of solid stone three feet across. A large hole lay to its side. On the rock was the following inscription:

Here lies the father. Loved by some, hated by many.

As I pondered the epitaph I peered into the hole. The grave was vacant, but I was glad that I had seen it before walking around the room, as it was deep and wide enough to have given me a nasty fall. Being stranded down there with a broken leg was not something that I wished to consider. The dirt inside the grave was stained black by what looked like a deposit of charcoal throughout, and the fringe of the hole was surrounded by a circular pile of dirt. I assumed that grave robbers, or perhaps those who had ‘hated’ the man, had removed his body long ago.

The air of the place was beginning to affect me intensely. Each breathe inward was jagged and cold, and the discomfort was such that I decided I had seen enough. While taking a few pictures to document the tomb before leaving, the flash from my phone brought something on the floor into sharp focus. Covered in earth and dirt lay a book which poked out slightly from the ground. Gently blowing the dust from it, I carefully lifted it up, resting the book on top of the makeshift gravestone.

The binding was ancient, peeling slightly as I ran my hand over it. The dark red cover, which I could not identify the material out of which it had been made, spoke of time gone by and of stories lost yet important. Deep down I knew that such an item should be removed carefully and studied by scholars, but as a writer, my passion for a story compelled me to see what it contained. Opening it, I was amazed. This was a chronicle. A hand written account of the history of the church, its congregation and the hillside. A snapshot of a people long since forgotten.

It was written in a linguistically confused tone, as the wording seemed to be a mix of Old Scots English and phrases in a language unfamiliar to me, one which I assumed to be Celtic or Gaelic in origin, however, the passages in Old Scots I could read to a degree. What follows is a loose recollection of what had been inscribed there.

***

In the 15th century a group of refugees came to that area in search of a place they could call home. The valleys – or glens as they are known in Scotland – were uninhabited at that time, as too was a strange hill which dominated the landscape. The people were from a place called Dungorth, and they had escaped from the laird there who had ruled that region at the time; fleeing his persecution as he was a brutal and merciless ruler who punished all who did not follow his beliefs.

In all they numbered only in the hundreds, and while their elders wished to settle in the glens, a prominent priest amongst them claimed that to bless the lands, and to ensure that no ills would befall their community, the hill must be settled first – a beacon of holiness casting a shadow of protection on all below. While some were suspicious of the man’s fascination with the place, he was known for his kindness and as one whose judgement could be trusted. Disheartened, the elders began to follow his example, as it was typical of the time for people to be God fearing. There, on that isolated and baleful hillside, they built a small settlement, but almost immediately a few of the settlers began to fall ill. A sickness which could not be explained and which often resulted in a feverish madness.

The priest blamed a number of standing stones which were peppered throughout the hillside, remnants of – to him at least – an old and heretical religion. It was decided under his supervision that the people should build a church. With the presence of consecrated ground, it was thought that the effects of whatever resided on the hill previously, would be eradicated.

They were wrong.

Despite their efforts the sickness only grew worse, and many began to suspect that the priest himself was in league with the abhorrent forces at play. Some of the elders rose up against him, but under his orders, members from the church congregation executed those who rebelled. Fearing for their lives, many of the settlers who were outraged by the priest and his followers, fled in the night, escorting the remaining elders to the lands below. Most made it off of the hill, but some returned wailing and frightened, believing themselves to have been stalked by uncertain and unearthly figures in the woods, unable to escape. To save their lives, they pledged undying fellowship to the priest and his church.

Claiming to be receiving visions from the almighty himself, the holy man assured the villagers that if they carried out his explicit instructions that they would all be saved. Each night they gathered in the church as the priest spewed forth his visions and damning, seething hatred for those who had left. It became clear to some that he had gone mad, but by then the man had formed a strict and brutally loyal conclave of followers who hung on every word and prophecy, making any rebellion sure to be a violent, bloody, and uncertain one.

Many spoke of dreams without form, blinded by darkness, and several families were found in their homes, suffocated in the night. The priest blamed those who had escaped and told stories of how they were the source of the darkness which had persecuted his people, cursing them to a desperate end. Bitterness and anger swept through the community and several villagers were selected to descend the hill and bring back the elders who were to be judged and sacrificed if need be. But no one could leave. No matter how hard they tried, the church loomed large, no matter which way they walked, down or up, they would appear where they had begun, confused and disorientated.

The sickness spread, and the village watchmen one by one were found choked and mutilated in the streets, with witnesses claiming to have seen strange entities prowling around at night. In the panic, those left had no option but to cling to their religion for salvation, in the hope that the church would protect them. They huddled together underneath its roof, in abject terror for what approached from the shadows outside.

Here, the writing changed markedly, becoming jagged, fervent, and more pronounced. The priest himself had taken over from the town chronicler who he had deemed to be unsatisfactory. Several pages followed, pockets of English entangled with what looked like Latin, and a number of unusual and indecipherable languages. Each page was filled with pain and scorn for those who had left, and then, the words just stopped.

***

Standing there in that Stygian and foreboding place, I ran my fingers across the spine of the book and could see clearly that the last page had been torn out. What it could have contained, I did not know.

I felt overwhelmed by the account which I had just read as a very real and palpable fear surged throughout my body. The thought occurred to me, that the accounts of the sickness which had plagued the exiles of Dungorth seemed remarkably similar to John’s experiences. I could not avoid the coincidence and I began to suspect that something had in fact affected him after all; something tangible. Perhaps a contaminant in the ground. A poison maybe? I had read about pockets of methane gas escaping through the earth and at sea which had killed many, but it was not out of the question that something similar, perhaps in a smaller dose could in fact have caused mass hallucinations, sickness, and even madness. It was the most feasible explanation I could come up with. Yet, why had I not been effected? Perhaps, as the chronicle had stated, some people were more immune to the contaminant than others.

My attention now turned once more to the grave, or at least what was left of it. I wondered what the people did with the body of that loved but hated priest, assuming that was who ‘the father’ referred to. Did they re-bury it in another location? Perhaps his followers were worried that his grave would be vandalised. The answer became clear to me almost immediately: They had burned him in his grave, under the very church he had built; the hole where his body once lay, now marked eternally by the blackened stains of smoke and ember. I shuddered at the thought that he may have been thrown down there and set alight while still alive.

The air now grew noticeably colder, but this was not what marked the beginning of my ordeal. I leaned over, looking closely at what I saw on the rim of the grave. I could not bring my self to believe it. There on the brim of the hole was a callous signature left by the church’s former attendant. In the darkness I must have missed it, but now it was unmistakable. There on the edge of the grave was a hand print, blackened and burned, as of someone clawing their way out of their eternal and forsaken pit.

My breath spiralled slowly out of my mouth, congealing in the icy surrounds while my heart raced at the mere possibility of what had risen from that hole in the ground. As the air grew colder still, I stood up and made my way to the foot of the stairs – I had to get out of there, into the sunlight, into the open. It was then that I heard it. At first it was merely the impression of a sound. Then more definite, rising in intensity and clarity. Something stirred above.

People. Many of them, groaning and lamenting, crying for their lives in unison. Chants in the darkness, both Christian and of something older, a fetid religion that had best been left in the ground. As the wails of misery ascended, a single voice rose up out of the cacophony. Deafening and terrible, it spoke of the end of days, of betrayal, and of unimpeded sin. The voice yelled and screamed, renouncing all who did not listen, a vengeful sermon from that stone altar above.

I cannot put the fear I felt into words. Alone in the cold darkness of a defiled crypt, with no way out other than up and into that church hall where something hideous now relived forgotten and terrible times. The screams grew louder as the banging and scuffing of feet rushed towards the staircase, towards where I stood. Such pain in those voices, I ran in terror as they flew down the ancient staircase towards me.

Without thinking, I jumped down into the empty grave switching the light from my phone off and found myself cowering, shaken to my very core by the agonising voices which cried out against the world, and one another, in the next room – hate and utter despair at evil both outside and in. The roar of agony increased, men, women, children weeping and cursing a God they believed had forsaken them. Accusations, persecution, and the tearing of flesh. Then, silence. I clung to the bottom of that charred grave with my fingernails etched into the soil. Any scepticism I had for unseen and hidden forces had receded. Shaking violently in the cold bleakness, I waited for several minutes before switching the light of my phone back on.

Peering over the brim of the grave, I pulled myself silently onto the floor. The rooms were empty, all but for the broken bones and skulls of countless lives ruined by whatever evil lay in that hillside. I finally plucked up the courage and with nerves shredded and beliefs shattered, I climbed the stairs slowly, scared rigid at the thought of what might be waiting for me at the top, but it was my only way out, and I would be damned if I was going to end my days the way those poor people had, cowering deep below.

The hall was empty. As quietly as possible, I crossed the room negotiating debris and rubble quickly but quietly, cutting through an oppressive silence, finally exiting through the doorway to the open air. Once out of the church I fell to my knees, quivering with anxiety as I tried to process the entire experience. My mind then flew back to what had been in that grave, and more importantly, where it was now. Then I knew. Running as fast as I could through bushes and thickets, I reached the path quickly, unimpeded by whatever evil had blocked the settler’s escape, but I did not stop, half filled with terror at what might have been in pursuit, and half pleading for my instincts to be wrong.

The air burned in my lungs as I rushed down the path, within minutes the wooden gate was in sight and I was off of that wretched hill, a place I would never tread again. Not for money, not for a story, not for anything. I would have breathed a sigh of relief at this thought, but that was not in my mind. I had to get back to the inn as quickly as possible. Continuing to run as fast as I could, I fought exhaustion and the limits of my own body, and after a time across field and hedgerow, finally the Laird of Dungorth inn came into view.

Staggering towards the old building, it was then that I heard it. Screams, of agony, of terror, and for mercy. I knew instantly where and by whom. A new found jolt of stamina found me as I broke into a sprint once more, bursting through the doors into the bar. There, the room lay in silence. Villagers sat staring at their drinks while the landlord himself stood motionless, his eyes pointed to the ground. The screams continued from the rooms above. I begged and pleaded for someone to help me, but none would listen. Realising I was alone to confront it, I broke for the stairs, but the landlord forcefully intervened, dragging me back, his arms wrapped tightly around my shoulders.

‘Leave him son, you can’t help!’ he yelled as two other men attempted to restrain me.

I thrust my elbow into the stomach of the landlord behind and then barged passed the two men, knocking one to the floor. Tearing up the stairs I followed the awful cries straight to John’s room. The door was locked. Thrusting my shoulder against the door, again and again, it cracked and splintered against my efforts. With each strike I heard the garbled gasp of something unearthly inside in response. Finally, the door gave way and in I went.

For a moment I glimpsed something which looked like a man, at least something which once was alive. Blackened and burned, it turned its head as if to stare at me – I cannot say whether it truly saw me as it had no eyes to speak of. In its grip was the crumpled and lifeless body of John R———.

Then, it turned, wriggling through an open window, carting the poor man’s body behind. They were both gone.

The room then took on a volatile and fluid appearance. I do not know if it was the exertion of my efforts or just being in proximity to that grotesque miscreation, but a sickness overcame me, seeping through my stomach, and as I lost consciousness I cried out in helplessness.

V

That was several days ago. It seems I banged my head against the floor when I collapsed and somehow injured my leg in the process. The village doctor who examined me prescribed some antibiotics for what he believed to be a stomach infection, and a sedative which helped ease my anxiety. With little else to occupy me, I have committed everything I can remember about this entire horrid ordeal to paper. After all, a writer writes.

Yesterday I visited John’s Room for the first time since he was taken. It was silent, and it felt empty in a way I have never truly known before. An absence of life is the best I can describe it. The place lay ransacked, his belongings still strewn across the floor. I assumed that no one had been in there, the land lord was probably too frightened, but I do not blame him. As I turned to leave the now vacant room, I noticed one item which looked out of place – it did not belong. On John’s bed lay a withered and stained piece of paper. I knew where it had come from without even needing to read it, the last page of the chronicle, the account of those who had settled on the hill. A maze of repeated phrases in arcane and forgotten languages spread out across the crumpled and fragile paper, but one in English stood out. It simply said ‘No One Leaves’.

I do not know what to make of anything any more. I feel exhausted, yet my mind still picks over the last few days piece by piece. I am wracked with guilt, somehow I feel my very presence on that hill brought whatever that was back down here to take John. Otherwise, why did it wait so long?

My last thought on the matter is that perhaps I’ve just been lucky, that I visited the hill when that thing wasn’t on it probably saved my life. In any case, regardless of how the villagers wish to explain this I will be reporting John’s disappearance when I arrive in Glasgow, and asking the police to take a look at the number of residents who have went missing in the area over the years. I think they will be surprised by the number.

Home seems a million miles away, but I know that I will be there shortly, to my own bed, another world far away from the events of the past few days; perhaps there I will be able to put this madness into context. I have never been so homesick. Hopefully I will be there in a matter of hours, although, the bus out of the village is running a little late.

The End

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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Update from the author: Hi everyone. I’ve just self-published On a Hill via Amazon. I’m not asking anyone to buy it, but if you did read it and enjoy it here, if you could take a couple of minutes to rate it by clicking here and share it, that would be amazing. Sorry for the gratuitous self promotion. Thanks again for reading!

~ Mike

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