The Crying Room

March 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The end of the hall finally arrives, and on Todd’s left a door marked 129. The keys jangle as he spins them idly on his finger like a gunslinger just after the kill; then he notices the grimy film coating his fingers from touching the key ring. One more thing nobody bothers cleaning.

Todd slides the key into the door handle. The lock snaps back like cracking vertebrae, and behind it is a sound like a gasp or sob inside the room.

Todd hesitates, listening. The entire building is silent as if it were abandoned. He pushes the door open and flicks on the light, maybe a little hastier than he’d admit.

Standard room. Small table by the window. Wooden vanity with a cracked mirror. Small entertainment center with television set and videogame console. Queen size bed with green comforter (read as, mite nest), which Todd promptly tears off the mattress and tosses in the corner. Bathroom so claustrophobic the door almost touches the toilet bowl when it opens. The one thing giving it personality is the presence of the missing author’s things — mostly textbooks and notebooks — which haven’t been moved or claimed yet. The bedside clock reads 9:31 P.M.

The room is quiet.

Todd closes the door with his foot, tosses the key on the vanity. He pulls a packet of bleach wipes from his back pocket and begins wiping down the doorknobs, the TV remote, and the faucet handles. He takes twenty minutes to wipe down the toilet’s seat and lever.


Todd Kline maintains the most abysmal rooms at the Nimbus Hotel. He used to clean the cadaver room at the university, so the eerie and the disgusting have little effect on him.

He’s lost track of how many years he’s been a room attendant there, but it’s been long enough to know the hotel should be shut down and the building condemned. The shit he’s seen would turn tourists off of hotels forever. The beds are a vast culture of germs and dust mites: attendants don’t wash the comforters between tenants unless they’re visibly stained on both sides. The bathrooms have such thick layers of fecal particles that tenants ought to be showering with their shoes on. And God knows what’s crawling around in those “clean” drinking glasses.

That’s all standard fare for a veteran hotel worker, though. It’s the special, gruesome little touches that make Nimbus stand out from the other germ bordellos.

Last year he cleaned a handsome spread of gooey feces out of the bathtub in 222. Gladys, Dave, and Bernie all refused to touch that one. They wouldn’t touch the crusty clumps of God-oh-God-please-don’t-be-semen in 114’s comforter, either — stone solid like petrified gum. It was a miracle Todd managed to scrub it all out.

The same year as the tub-shitter and the bed-gum, a lady got scabies from sleeping in room 313. Gladys checked the bedspread and found it swollen full of mites, fleas, and ticks. Todd had to ball it up, stuff it in a garbage bag, take it to a stretch of desert highway and burn it. The lady got reimbursed for her stay. Todd got seven or eight fleas.

All of that still doesn’t top the crown jewel from two years ago, when they got a complaint about a sweet and sour stink in Room 106, and found the source — stuffed between the mattress and the bed frame — was a dead hooker. Todd was the only one who didn’t puke when the body was found, so Todd got to sanitize the room after the police hauled it off.

Somehow the Nimbus Hotel is still in business, boasting that “A stay in a Nimbus Hotel is like sleeping on a cloud!”

A cloud of shit-caked fleas that feed on dead hookers.

All Todd’s jobs at the Nimbus Hotel are dirty jobs. When the other attendants refuse to clean the filthiest of filth from the bedsheets, bathtubs, or TV remotes, Todd has to drop whatever he’s doing and go take care of it. He’s the only one who’s ever had the guts or the know-how (and you can bet he won’t let anyone forget it). Nothing scares or even discourages him, however weird or gross.

That’s probably why Manager Ed asked him to spend the night in the Crying Room.


Its proper name is Room 129. It’s had eleven tenants in the last two months and not one of them stayed the entire night. Some stayed for less than an hour. They usually packed their bags and fled without giving an explanation or asking for their money back (a few had even abandoned their luggage). Four of the eleven just vanished. Todd and the others presumed those tenants had left in the night.

Only one asked for a refund: Jervis Liddel, a pasty, balding lawyer with a bulbous nose and huge grandma glasses who had haughtily announced he was staying for a week. He’d barely been settled in for an hour when he came back to the lobby whiter than ever, his hands trembling and his teeth chattering as if he were standing in a snowy wood without a jacket. He took his money and launched through the doors like a missile.

Todd was chatting with the pretty new clerk, Melissa, when the Crying Room’s next tenant checked in: a middle-aged schoolteacher lady named Fran Carlyle. She came into the lobby at ten to five, made pleasant conversation with them about the book fair up the street that she’d come to help with, asked if there were any good restaurants about, then took her key and went to her room.

Melissa got the call on the lobby phone around nine. The voice on the other end was hoarse and just barely above a whisper.

“Can you come down to Room 129 please?” it said.

“Uh, is this Miss Carlyle?” Melissa said.

The voice seemed unsure. “Yes.”

“Miss Carlyle, is everything okay?”

She was quiet for a while, then said, “I…I think someone is in my room.”

Melissa didn’t waste any time calling the police. But they didn’t find anyone in there except the teacher, and she seemed a mix of frustrated, embarrassed, and terrified. She explained that she’d been reading in bed and heard a voice — a young boy or a woman, she wasn’t sure — crying and sobbing silently somewhere in the room. The police were pretty irritated when they left and the teacher seemed desperate for someone to believe her. She’d frightened Todd pretty good trying to make him stay with her.

She was gone the next morning. Her car was still in the lot. Everyone assumed she must’ve run screaming into the night like in a cheesy campfire story.

Sometimes a tenant in room 127, 128, or 130 reported hearing someone sobbing next door, usually late in the evenings. One guy had actually knocked on the door to the Crying Room and asked if everyone was okay in there. The sobbing stopped, and the room was quiet for two days.

The last guy to stay in 129 was a mediocre writer of children’s lit, Benjamin Hammond. He’d heard about the Crying Room and wanted to stay in it for a night or two. He was working on a book about childhood night terrors — closet monsters, bogeymen and the like — and thought studying Room 129 would help his research. Like the other three vanishing acts he was gone the next morning; but later that same day the college girl staying in Room 127 filed a complaint with Ed, saying the rowdy lovers in 129 had woke her up late at night.

“I had an important interview today and only got about five hours of sleep for it,” she said. “I wake up to those two wrestling next door like they’re the only ones in the building, one of ‘em going on with this pathetic whimpering and another giggling like a child. I pounded on the wall and told ‘em to keep it down, and the racket stopped, but they’d woke me up at midnight all the same. I mean, guys and gals gotta have fun now and then, but goddamn…”

Ed shared this little anecdote with Todd and the others. They all knew the author had checked in alone.


Ed sat everyone down in his office earlier today and said he wanted something done about Room 129. The other attendants were so scared they wouldn’t be caught dead in there. So it was up to Todd to save the day — “like always,” he’d reminded his coworkers as he patted each of their scowling heads — and that’s why he was walking down a green carpeted hall stinking of fresh paint with a hotel key in his hand instead of driving home to the comfort of his apartment.

“Stay the night in 129,” Ed said. “Figure out what’s going on in there. Maybe it’s a prank. Maybe it’s a ghost! Who knows? Figure it out and there’s a raise in it for you. I can’t afford to keep losing tenants. Bad publicity.”

“It’s a prank all right,” Todd thinks, reflecting on the meeting, “to see if they can break me. What a waste of time and effort that could be spent actually cleaning this dump.”

Bad publicity. Todd thinks of scabies and dead hookers and wrinkles his nose.


Todd wakes suddenly in the night and finds himself sitting upright, staring into darkness. The unfamiliar bed startles him at first, but with a groan he quickly remembers where he is.

His heart kicks the inside of his throat like he’s been jogging for the last hour. He has trouble breathing as if the air is made of lead. Neither of his arms will reach over to turn on the bedside lamp. They’re frozen stiff. He can’t remember what nightmare could have pulled him so abruptly out of a sound sleep or put him in such a frightened state.

Was it a nightmare that woke him? Or was it that icepick jab in the pit of his stomach — jabbing him still — trying to tell him that someone came into the room while he was asleep? Ten minutes pass as he allows his eyes to adjust to the dark, but the room is deserted except for the comforter wadded in the corner; quiet except for the sound of his own uneasy breath.

Todd’s muscles soften and he releases a long sigh. Skimming through the author’s notes before bed was a mistake, all right. Late night thoughts of boogeymen and closet monsters and Baba Yaga have made him as paranoid as a five-year-old. He lies down again. Takes in another lungful of stale air.

An hour later Todd wakes up again. Someone is weeping silently nearby.

He bolts upright and scans the room. There’s nobody. The shape in the corner is still a wadded comforter. His head still swimming from waking so suddenly, he loudly mumbles, “Whoozere?”

The room is quiet. It stays quiet for the fifteen minutes Todd sits there, listening, wondering if he had heard anything at all. Angrily he swats the missing author’s notebook off the bedside table and goes back to sleep.

Todd has barely slept a half hour when he’s awoken once again by the voice. It’s unmistakable this time: a delicate, miserable voice trying shamefully not to cry too loudly.

Now Todd’s mind is crisp and clear. “Who’s there?” he whispers.

Like before, the voice holds its breath. After a few minutes it starts crying again.

Todd can’t pinpoint the source of the voice: it seems to come from all around him, from the room itself. He climbs out of bed to get a better bearing. He plants his feet on the carpet and stands up, wobbling slightly.

The weeping suddenly stops.

Something made of old leather paws at Todd’s ankle.

Survival instinct takes over. Todd’s feet leave the floor as he lunges forward like a rabbit escaping a snapping bear trap; he twists in midair, crashes headfirst into the wall and lands on his side. Barbs of pain drip through the joints of his skull and fill his eye sockets. His ears are ringing. He might have cracked one of his ribs. He doesn’t care. The bed has a firm hold of all his brain’s conscious functions.

There’s nothing where his feet had been. But Todd knows there was something a moment ago.

The voice starts crying again.

It can’t be coming from under there. Nothing could live under there for two months.

Todd inches steadily forward — eyes never leaving the spot by the bed where the thing touched him — and turns on the bedside lamp. Somehow it makes the void beyond the bed skirt even more sinister.

Seemingly of its own free will, Todd’s hand reaches for the bottom of the skirt. The crying stops when his fingers brush it.

It’s Ed, Todd thinks, his blood sizzling like cooking oil. Or Gladys. Bitch blubbers like that all the time.

Todd bites his lip and puts his ear to the carpet inches from the bed frame. He pulls the bed skirt upward, a montage of angry curses on the tip of his tongue.

The hand that reaches out to greet him is vaguely human.

The ancient eyes staring at him from the shadows are not.

Suddenly Todd doesn’t care if it’s a prank. He doesn’t care if there’s a raise in it for him. And in the next ten seconds he doesn’t care that he’s running across the hotel parking lot in his boxer shorts.

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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March 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This would be the second house tonight. He knew Cory would be angry, sure – the man was always trying to stick to his “rule book,” and the first Law of Cory was to avoid same night hits – but they were running low on pretty much everything. Harry wasn’t about to starve because of a stupid rule made over whiskey shots and a little pot; besides, pissing off an already touchy brother was just the cherry on top.

It wasn’t a big risk anyway. He wasn’t across the city, teasing the suburbs. This was Canvastown! If he pissed on a station wagon’s hubcaps, he would probably get little more than a few cheers. Once, back in their more exhilarated days, he and Cory had found a whole briefcase of tiny coke baggies down here – easy pickings. Then again, Cory hadn’t stopped checking the windows for two weeks afterwards, whispering about “the dealers” in his damn sleep. Jumpy little fucker, he was.

Now Harry stood in front of the most rundown house he could find that still had a number on it. He was on Miller Street, a dumpy lot of half-vacant “homes” (if you bothered to name them). As he stepped out of the faltering streetlight and down the weedy, nearly nonexistent front sidewalk, barely worried about his surroundings this far from downtown, he peered vainly between the molded boards covering the front bay window. If this shack is completely empty, he thought, I might as well head back. On the flip side, it could be filled with merry crack heads; that was a risk he had to take.

There was something special about this house, however. Occupying the front window was a small cardboard sign, meager yet significant. He could see some of its washed print through a gap in the wood. “Al’s … Care.” Harry could also make out a handwritten “registered” seal of approval poking out in the corner. There was a dull piece of rainbow topping the seal; it gave him the fucking creeps.

Harry watched his footing carefully as he climbed the creaking front steps, avoiding patches of fallen concrete. The dips in the stone looked like they would devour his leg if possible, biting down with rusty foundation wires. He laughed, glancing at the entranceway’s absent doorbell slot, and considered knocking on the door. Easy pickings.

The door opened before he could touch the knob, swinging with a press of his shoulder. The ease took him by surprise, and Harry reached for a crumbling barrier as he stumbled forward. The floor inside was completely collapsed, black except for a few stabbing lengths of smashed floorboard.

Who leaves a pothole in their front entranceway? Even the slummiest of idiots usually threw a board or two over gaping holes in their house. The pit did not reveal its depth, but it was certainly dark enough; as he bent down in an attempt to see past the blackness, a thick waft of putrid scent slapped him in the face – a dead rodent, he guessed. Suddenly, his hand itched for the doorway behind him. There might be something worth his time in here… but man, this place… smelled.

The house reeked of inactivity. Moonlight was Harry’s only guide as he tiptoed across the rotting wood, dodging more fallen floors and strange pits. Dust, thick and ancient, filled his nose as he gasped in the kitchen’s doorway – a massive rat stood up in the sink it was nosing around in and scattered, leaving a trail of decomposing casserole behind it. He gagged as he stepped over another pitfall, holding his right arm to his nose as his left acted as a leading companion. He noticed a glint, approached it, and found nothing but assorted silverware. Then, after a moment of near puking, he turned right around and quickly made his way back to the foyer. The kitchen was rancid.

Now he caught himself looking longingly at the hanging front door, glancing at the fresh air outside. He shook his head, scolding himself for being such a coward. This house wasn’t so different from some of the others he had been in – a little smell wasn’t going to drive him home with his tail between his legs. Cory would never stop laughing.

He changed direction and walked down the right hallway instead, checking each darkened room as he passed by. Thankfully, the floor seemed to be intact here. Harry began to get excited. He was starting to see some positive signs – objects that might mean goodies.

The first room belong to a little girl or maybe a young teen. The walls were painted a dull, sick pink that flaked off like dying bark. He could see a couple still-coherent stuffed bears, a remnant pile of old books, and a TV dinner tray rotting beside an old dresser. In the center of the room, the largest hole yet spread its dark jaws under a bladeless ceiling fan. Across the room, rusted metal bars wrapped around the inside of a small window. Harry knew that the neighborhood was bad, but still uttered a low chuckle at the bars.

The next room was like the first one with a few key differences; the similarity poked at his stomach, though he wasn’t sure why. Instead of pink, a cold blue painted the walls. Matching bars covered an identically tiny window, and the same bears stuffed the room. There was a hole in this room as well, but the pit was off-centre and to the right instead. In the middle of the room lay at least ten crammed cots, each one molded over and riddled with insects. How many damn kids did these idiots have? He stared at the black pit for a while longer before continuing down the hall.

The last couple of doors had to be kicked open; the last one did not exist. The room at the end of the hallway was so plain that it stood out – its walls seemed to be plastered and unpainted, and its floor contained no hole. A single, neatly folded bed sat in the corner, seemingly untouched by the house’s atmosphere. Harry checked the room for any valuables, but found nothing – there was nothing really to search. No dresser, no bedside table… not even a closet or chest. He frowned and left, heading back into the blue room next door.

The room seemed even more eerie from the inside. The bears watched him sadly as he stood in the center of the room, his feet next to one of the moldy cots. In a way, he almost felt trapped – it was as if the bars on the window were taunting him with their very presence. Then he saw it. The whole room was covered with the weeping blue paint – everything but the edges of the window. There, it had been scraped off. Claw marks stretched outwards on either side with half-chipped paint bordering each scratch and blood creasing in between.

Suddenly, the house didn’t seem worth it.

Before Harry could turn around, the door slammed. He screamed and turned, bolting for the wood and slamming his fists against it. The lock had been snapped when he kicked the door in, and now someone was holding it shut against him – he could feel it give way a little bit with each hit before slamming back against its frame.

“HEY!” he bellowed, now attempting to shoulder in the door. There was no answer – only a whispered clicking as the door held back with impossible strength. “I’LL KILL YOU!” he screamed.

“Naughty, naughty,” a voice whispered from the other side of the wood, breathing deeply with each slam against the wood. “You haven’t learned your lesson… Timeout isn’t over yet.” The voice gave Harry chills, and he pressed harder than ever.

“Let… me… OUT!”

“Can’t do that, door must stay locked. Timeout isn’t over yet. Not ’till you learn your lesson.”

Harry took a heavy step back, preparing himself to full-out tackle the door. His foot collapsed into the ground. Motion became a blur and pain ripped at his legs as he found himself falling, collapsing through the rotted ground into darkness.

He passed out.

When Harry opened his eyes, the first thing he did was whip out his lighter. Angry and desperate, he flicked three times before the casino device divulged its flame. He wished it hadn’t.

He was in some kind of basement. There were no windows, no doors… all he could see beyond the shadows were odd shapes and piles of wood. He tried to turn, twisting his body to search his surroundings, only to find that his legs were unwilling to cooperate. One leg was severely displaced, a smooth white bit of his femur poking its curious face out of one side, while the other was penetrated by a sharp piece of floorboard or something… he couldn’t look long enough to tell. Harry moaned and turned to his belly, sliding the lighter around as he moved.

Above, he could see the original hole from the boys’ room. Below it laid the shadowy outline of an obtuse mound – a pile of little, barely composed bodies. The boys seemed to stare at him, their empty sockets pleading him to end their punishment… to finally let them out of the room decomposing around them. Harry whimpered and turned away, unable to look anymore – he could now see the second pile of bodies, just under the faint outline of the girls’ room’s hole.

“Now, now, you can’t come out… you haven’t learned your lesson.’

From above, the man’s faint voice broke out again. Its delicate, routine charm echoed throughout Harry’s new abyss as the sound of a door slowly swinging shut punctuated his dialogue.

“Timeout isn’t over yet.”

Credit To – Vincent

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Abigail’s Run

February 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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October 31st 1691

‘’Hurry,’’ Deliverance whispered, her voice softer than the light breeze which tousled her lank grey hair. ‘’Bury it, child, bury it deep.’’

Tucking a wayward strand of raven hair behind her ear, Abigail continued scooping up handfuls of soil and tossing them into the hole. Tears streaked her dirty cheeks, and her thighs were still damp with warm blood and tar-like ichor from the birthing. She glanced at her mother, and felt a tinge of fear at the worried expression upon the older woman’s face, a usually unreadable mask, completely devoid of emotion.

The thing in the hole squalled and shrieked with its newborn lungs, sending another chill of fear down Abigail’s spine. A spindly arm protruded from the dirt, grasping weakly at thin air before falling limply away. Sobbing, she dropped huge clods of soil atop it, until only its twisted spine and snake-like nose could be seen.

Soon even they were gone, and the hole was filled once more.

‘’Come, girl, we must be away.’’ Deliverance chided, putting an arm around her stricken daughter and leading her out from beneath the overhanging branches of the willow tree and back towards the house. ‘’It is done now. It’s over.’’
Abigail Hobbs, having buried her firstborn mere hours after its birth, could do little more than weep at the horror of it all.

October 31st 2005

Scores of children fill the streets: Vampires, werewolves, ghouls and gremlins galore. Sheeted ghosts gambol beneath the hazy glow of streetlights and luminous skeletons cavort amidst the shadows. And look, over there next to the birch on Ms Reeves’ lawn, why, is that the Frankenstein Monster? There he goes, staggering onto the sidewalk with a stiff-legged gait, his torn suit jacket flapping in the wind and his candy bucket swinging side-to-side. A clown in a pair of voluminous yellow pants dashes past him in a blur of colour, a painted, pallid mask with a bouncing red nose, the curls of a garish purple wig bobbing with each step. Jack o’ lanterns stand sentry on every porch and doorstep, taking in the colourful procession of costumes with gouged triangular eyes that flicker with a faint orange light. A gust of wind billows along the gutter, kicking up sun-bleached crisp packets, golden autumn leaves and a tattered yellow flyer. Witchcraft Heights Summer Fete, the bold type headline reads, below which the date August 12th is printed in flamboyant primary coloured lettering.

But of course, those dog days of summer are long gone. The days have grown short now, and long-legged shadows chase laughing children home from school, kicking up golden-brown storms of autumnal foliage as they play. And as the span of daylight withers and dies, so does the dark majesty of the bleakness ahead begin to bloom. The summer is dead and buried; the city is slipping into winter’s cruel grasp, where it will remain, a frozen snowflake of concrete and glass, until the thaws of spring. Now is the time when the darkness beneath the bed and the gloom beneath the stairs take on an altogether more sinister undertone; the time when the creaking you hear while tucked beneath the covers could easily be something with far too many limbs scuttling stealthily towards you; the time for ghost stories to be recounted in dimly lit bedrooms as the wind howls outside and rain sprays the window.

Tonight is Halloween and Brandon Knight is running late. Out of work by seven and home by quarter to eight, with just enough time to shower and freshen up before meeting his girlfriend, Kathy. That’s the plan, and everything is running on schedule until a pair of young mothers arrive in search of outfits for their toddlers. Of course they spend twenty-five minutes debating whether to dress the excitable children as pirates or astronauts, before predictably settling on a pair of witches instead, and of course it is twenty-past-seven by the time Brandon has ushered the squealing children from the store and locked up.

So now a quandary presents itself; does he rush home to shower and run the risk of showing up late, or does he head over to Kathy’s place early but smelling like something stagnant that has crawled from the depths of the town dump? It’s the clothes that finally do it for Brandon; he can’t take Kathy on a date in his Craft Castle uniform. After all, isn’t it bad enough that he spends eight hours a day five days a week wearing a cap so orange it’s practically luminous and a lime green polo shirt trimmed with sunburst yellow?

He has almost resigned himself to the fact that he will be arriving late at Kathy’s when inspiration strikes; he will take the Pumpkin Trail, the Grinning Pathway. He will walk the Witches’ Draw. To hell with the stories – something flitted across the edge of his vision, a scuttling mass of pale sticklike limbs – and to hell with the fact that they kept him awake for hours when he was younger. Right now, the path through the pumpkin patch that grows almost the entire length of the vacant lot between East Willamette and Mill Street has one distinct advantage which illuminates Brandon’s mind like a spotlight: it cuts his journey down from forty-five minutes to a mere twenty-five. Perfect. He’ll definitely make it on time now.

So instead of crossing, Brandon hangs left on East Willamette. A gaggle of zombie cheerleaders giggle as he passes them by, their prom queen faces and coltish legs stained crimson with streaks of gore, but he pays them no heed, and throws only a perfunctory glance over his shoulder upon arriving at the high-boarded wooden fence – I could hear them whispering to me, they had mouths that nobody had carved – before stopping at the loose plank that every kid in Salem knows, the one that every kid in Salem avoids. When he was younger, on the days he’d been late out of school and the shadows had grown long, he would run past that tilted piece of wood as fast as his feet would carry him, convinced that something sinister lurked beyond.

But of course, that was years ago. Tonight, he simply holds the plank aside and squeezes his slim body through the gap into vacant lot.

The black asphalt trail at Brandon’s feet snakes ahead of him like a discarded liquorice whip, curving around an old, blackened tree stump before disappearing into the impossibly tall stalks of corn. Most of them are little more than shrivelled brown husks now, wilting and falling apart, but they are still packed tightly enough to obscure whatever lies beyond them. Brandon pulls his hood up, adjusts his rucksack and bulls on ahead.

Back on East Willamette, the teenage zombies are heading to a house party a couple blocks over. Jennifer Fisher, an ample-chested med school student dressed as an undead nurse, lingers to peer into the gap in the fence the guy in the flannel jacket just ducked through. She thinks he’s sort of cute and likes the way his wavy hair hangs down past his shoulders, despite the dorky looking cap he’s wearing. If he’s slipped behind there to smoke a joint or something and is still there, then she’ll invite him to come along with them. She leans forward and sure enough there he is, squatting with his cap off and his back to her in the shadow of something that looks a lot like stalks of corn.

Jennifer grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She’s never heard the stories about Abigail’s Run; she doesn’t know any better. She calls out to the boy and his head whips around to face her.

A long scabrous tongue rasps across a lipless mouth. Maggots writhe amidst decaying flesh and a fly with shattered wings crawls laboriously across an unblinking eye. Something terribly thin, crouched on stick-like limbs with faint wisps of hair hanging from its mottled scalp, turns its gaze upon her.
The bottle of Smirnoff Ice she has been carrying slips from her grasp and shatters on the pavement, drenching her new sneakers and slicing her ankles. The thing that Jennifer mistook for a boy darts away into the gently swaying stalks, and only then does Jennifer realise the source of the shrill sound she can hear. It’s her; she’s screaming.

Husks of corn cling to Brandon’s jacket and jeans like withered brown spiders, and he has somehow lost his luminous cap, the absurdity of which he finds quite amusing. Pushing the last of the cornstalks aside, he emerges once more into the – relatively – open air and gasps at a sight long imagined but never witnessed.

A knobbed alley of pumpkins stretches as far as the eye can see, flanked on either side by high-boarded fences that tower over him. Some of the pumpkins are the size of his skull; some are larger than his Great Dane, Alaska. But all of them share a single defining characteristic: they have all been carved. Jagged mouths zigzag across bulging orange skin, sly knowing smiles lurk beneath slanted triangular eyes and distended ovals scream in perpetual terror. Some are more elaborate than others, and Brandon’s gaze lingers for several seconds on a bloated pumpkin with downturned eyes and a drooping mouth growing near his feet. Without fully knowing why, he stomps on it, smashing through ribbed skin and soft innards with ease. The entire thing caves inwards and orange tinted liquid begins to seep from the wreckage, yet those downturned eyes continue to stare up at him.

He can’t quite discern whether those eyes belong to a face that is weeping or laughing. He decides that it doesn’t matter, and that he really doesn’t care. Does a pumpkin even have a face, or is it a head? Can you have a head without a face?

As he tentatively picks his way through the sprawling pumpkin patch – for some reason, stomping that first pumpkin has made him uncharacteristically nervous – Brandon begins to wonder why the fences on either side of him are so damn high. North Willamette is lined with those looming townhouses, the ones with stone gargoyles crouched on the eaves that look about five-hundred-years old, yet the fence that runs as far as he can see does little to mirror their gothic architecture. No wrought iron gates, no elaborate iron railings, just those huge, imposing panels. They must be thirteen, no, fourteen feet high, and he can barely make out anything beyond their impassive brown finish. Their height, combined with the narrowness of the grinning pathway, leaves him feeling trapped and claustrophobic.

Strangely enough, it doesn’t leave him feeling alone.

It can smell the meat on the wind, and when it presses the object in its hand to the slits on its face, the pungent stench increases tenfold. It moves silently on all fours through the cornstalks like a scurrying rat, contorting its rake-like body so that its chin faces the sky and arching its spine in anticipation. Stick-thin limbs protrude at odd angles as it hurries towards the children. Towards its precious children. Exploding from the corn in a silent flurry of motion, it snaps its torso around and twists itself backwards.

Now it walks like the meat.

The light is fading, but its eyes are milky white and attuned to lightlessness after years of crawling through tunnels of Stygian blackness; they pick out every detail of its surroundings with the precision of a hunting Kit Fox. It hobbles forwards, forked tongue lashing the air. Husks of corn are caught in the folds of its decaying skin, and pieces of flesh have been ripped away by errant stalks to expose the yellowing bone beneath. A beetle crawls through a hole in its cheek, and is immediately torn apart by rows of shattered teeth, filed to points during long hours spent in places beneath the city upon which light has never shone. Pus oozes from open sores and angry red wounds writhe with clusters of fat yellow larvae.

At the edge of the orange carpet, it stops. It falls to its knees and shrieks, tattered, disused vocal cords rasping and screeching in a choir of shrill insanity.

It holds the broken body of one of its many children. Fat chunks slip through slim fingers and frail palms sticky with mush and liquid pound the ground in agony. It looks into the funereal eyes of its dead child and howls in atavistic fury. With bones cracking and joints grating, it drops down to all fours and shoots away into the darkness.

The wind is picking up now, and it carries to Brandon the shrill screams of gleeful children, high-pitched shrieks of excitement mixed with giggles of glee. He smiles ruefully as he walks, keeping one hand on the fence so as not to lose his footing, remembering how long it’s been since he was that small, running from door-to-door dressed in a long red trench coat and his dad’s fedora. Spawn was always his favourite comic book character.

He is startled from his reverie by the thing almost directly in front of him; he would have walked straight into it had he not looked up just at that precise moment.

Before him is a pumpkin the size of a small dumpster, its gargantuan bulk spilling across the Pumpkin Trail and threatening to bar his way. It has been carved with the visage of a mirthful clown, and the young man can almost see the mummer’s flabby jowls quivering with silent laughter.

But he’s been walking for a good fifteen minutes now, so he must be nearing the end of the Witches’ Draw. He’ll be damned if he’s going to let an overgrown vegetable – or fruit, whatever the hell a pumpkin is – stand in his way. He scrambles up the side of the thing, using its laughing mouth as a foothold, and is about to slide over it when a thought strikes him.

Maybe he can stand on the giant clown to peer over that soaring fence. A quick peek won’t hurt, just enough to satisfy his gnawing curiosity. He boosts himself up, his fingers scrabbling for purchase against the fleshy orange surface, and manages to pull himself up.

Before he can lean forward to peer over the fence, something flickers across the edge of his vision, and he feels a sudden awareness of scrutiny. Turning to his left and squinting into the darkness he finds nothing, and is about to turn away when a dark shape flits from the shadows.

Whatever it is, it’s moving low to the ground, like a dog or a cat, except a lot larger. It picks its way through the pumpkins with ease and fluidity, limbs turning at all angles and feet reaching high above its shoulders as it sweeps down the trail. A brief spell of moonlight gives him a true glimpse of its emaciated form and drawn, pallid skin, and warm urine seeps through his jeans. Whatever that thing is, it could have crawled straight out of the potholing-gone-wrong horror flick he’d watched with Kirsty over the summer.

Brandon loses sight of it, and for a second he allows himself to believe it an imagined terror, one born of far too many Hellraiser comics and late-night readings of Clive Barker novels. Then the creature leans forward, squatting atop a lumpy pumpkin…and looks straight at him. Unable to process the horror of its face, Brandon snaps his gaze downwards, towards those terribly-thin arms, and balks at the familiar orange cap clenched in one of its hands.

Before it has even begun to scuttle towards him, Brandon is leaping from the giant pumpkin and sprinting in the opposite direction.

From the window of 168 North Willamette’s drawing room, Augustus Dowell, seated in a plush leather recliner, watches his red Doberman pinscher, Maxwell, lope about the garden. He takes a sip from the glass of bourbon cupped in his hand, his watery eyes never leaving the hound. In the process of ferreting through the carefully-maintained bushes lining the rear of the garden, the Doberman freezes, its wiry body going rigid and its ears standing erect, and whips its head to the side. Seconds later, it launches itself at the fence, standing on its hind legs with its forepaws scrabbling against the wooden panels and barking ferociously. Augustus’s attention immediately shifts to the top of the fence, scanning the wicker dolls that hang lifelessly there. He lets out a deep breath he hasn’t realised he is holding after counting the seventh doll. Yes, they are all there; everything is in place, meaning that his property, and by extension his family, are protected.
Whatever is going on beyond his boundaries is none of his business, nor is it any of his concern.

‘’Augustus, bring Maxwell inside will you?’’ His wife, Constance, asks from the landing. ‘’He’s making an ever-so frightful racket.’’

‘’Of course dear.’’ Augustus replies, glancing a final time at the wood-and-wire constructs dangling from the fence before turning away. ‘’I’ll fetch him in right away.’’

Brandon, his uneven breathing becoming ragged, finds time between bouts of mind-numbing terror to curse himself for dropping out of Phys. Ed. If he’d never met Kathy in the art block that night, and subsequently decided to switch subjects, perhaps he wouldn’t be so damn unfit. The thought of her spurs him on, though, allowing him to draw upon reserves of energy he had thought long since expended.

He dares not turn around, lest that skulking thing be inches away from him, reaching for him with skeletal arms and-

Brandon barrels straight into the corn and for several seconds doesn’t understand what’s happening, batting at the stalks all around him in fear before he realises. This patch of cornstalks must mirror the one at the entrance he used, forming a barrier of sorts between the pumpkins and the real world. Meaning that he’s almost at the exit.

His joy is short lived as something hurtles past him and bare skin brushes the leg of his jeans.

He staggers to the side until his shoulder connects with the fence. Biting down a curse, he whips his head around, expecting the creature to be beside him. He can’t hear a thing, which is much more disconcerting than if he were to able hear it moving about. At least then he’d know where it was.

With his back to the fence and one splayed hand feeling the way forward, he inches slowly to the left, fearful of making even the slightest sound. His heart is thudding somewhere in his throat, and adrenaline is coursing through his veins like electricity. Everywhere he looks he expects to see it, leering out of the corn towards him. A subtle shift directly ahead causes him to freeze; a stealthy scratching that sounds as though it is directly beside him. His sodden boxer shorts become damper still. Suddenly, the thing has him, he can feel its spindly fingers scrabbling against his leg-

His phone. His phone is vibrating. Frantically trying to wrestle it from the pocket of his jeans, all the while aware of every subtle movement around him, he succeeds in doing so just as the incoming call notification shifts from vibration to an audible tone. Brandon does the first thing that comes to mind.

He turns and throws the phone as hard and as far as he can, back in the direction from which he came. It begins to wail and jingle as it spins through the air, and something shifts in the corn to his right – to his immediate right, inches away – and shoots off after it.

All pretence of stealth abandoned, Brandon smashes his way through the corn, bursting free of the clinging stalks seconds later and almost running head first into the chain-link gate that bars the exit onto Centre Street. There are signs covering the gate, so he can’t see them, but he can hear the blessed sounds of children shouting, parents chatting, and sirens wailing. Even the incessant hooting of impatient taxi drivers sounds like music to his ears.

Brandon scrambles up the chain-link and thuds down onto the pavement, narrowly missing a passing group of children and their parental escorts, who throw him scornful you-should-know-better-at-your-age looks, seconds before something crashes against the gate from the other side. He whips around, horrified, and begins to back away as various sections of the chain-link begin to subtly sag inwards, as though something were testing for a point of weakness.

He can’t see anything through the gate; signs and notices cover it entirely, having been crammed together side-by-side. WARNING CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS, one reads; UNSAFE SURFACES screams another in bright red lettering. A vivid red and yellow PRIVATE PROPERTY – DO NOT ENTER board runs the length of the gate, and as Brandon’s eyes shift to the right of it his pupils dilate and his heart drums a frantic tattoo against his ribcage.

Staring through the small slit between the PRIVATE PROPERTY board and its neighbour, a green heptagon with oriental lettering, is a listless, pupil-less white eye; below it, the vaguest impression of a row of pointed teeth clasping the chain-link and something serpentine and dark snaking along the side of the sign. Slim, hairless fingers scrabble at the links like pale overgrown spiders.

Brandon staggers away in horror and instead of finding the sidewalk his foot finds only empty space. Pinwheeling his arms but unable to keep his balance, he tumbles backwards.

Sahj Patel is on his way back to the depot when the man – a kid, just a kid really – falls backwards in front of his bus. He’s only four miles-per-hour over the speed limit, but at this distance he doesn’t have a hope in hell of stopping in time.

Something crunches sickeningly beneath the wheels, an elderly lady at the rear of the bus screams and a mother hugs her son to her chest. Sahj is out of the vehicle in seconds, but the way one of the wheels nestles in the kid’s chest tells him that he is already too late.

Only while he waits for an ambulance, tears streaming down his face and breath coming in huge wracking sobs, does he realise exactly where on Centre Street he is: the entrance to that accursed alley. Witches’ Draw, they had called it when Sahj was a child. Of all the places, he thinks, and slams his fist against the gate in frustration, tearing down a cluster of small wicker figures hung there by children in his anger.

Behind the gate, in the softly swaying stalks of long-dead corn, something stirs. A sickly crescent grin splits a pair of scabrous lips.

Free at last.

Credit To – Tom Farr

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Phantasia Forest

February 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I remember Phantasia Forest. I bet I’m one of the few people willing to admit that, and I’m probably the only person who remembers it for all the good instead of all the bad.

I’ll never forget the summer it opened – the summer of 1954. I knew I was in for something special when I saw those massive, brilliantly-colored mushrooms decorating the parking lot. As I marched past the cement toadstools, I came upon a castle. Yes, an honest-to-goodness pink castle. My eight-year-old brain practically exploded.

The first thing that greeted you on the other side of that castle was a sculpture of Humpty Dumpty. He sat perched on his stone wall, pointing you towards the winding path that stretched from one magical scene to the next.

As you walked along, you saw a statue of the Pied Piper leading away a group of hypnotized children. Then there was a big fibreglass shoe with crooked windows and a plastic slide.

Beyond that, you found yourself in front of a two-storey house – only this was the house from “Hansel and Gretel.” The walkway was lined with monstrously large candy canes. Gumdrops were scattered across the gingerbread walls. Chocolate balconies overlooked the garden, and a chimney in the shape of an ice cream cone poked out of the sugar-frosted roof.

You could get lost exploring the gnome village – all those rustic huts and leering faces. Eventually, you arrived at Old MacDonald’s Farm, which was a petting zoo with rabbits, goats, pigs, ducks, sheep, you name it. If you wanted, you could even hitch a ride in Cinderella’s pumpkin coach!

Of course, employees were dressed up everywhere you looked – Alice, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, even Mother Goose herself. It was a living tribute to the imagination.

You have to understand something – before Phantasia Forest came along, theme parks didn’t exist. Back then, you were lucky to find a few kiddie parks here and there, but frankly, they weren’t much. Some old merry-go-rounds, a couple of dusty ponies, and a bunch of picnic tables covered in bird crap – that was it.

Phil Ballard dreamed of something bigger. Phil was a local businessman. Owned a few different stores around town. Everyone seemed to know Phil. Everyone loved him. Every town probably has a Phil Ballard – the upstanding citizen, always quick with a smile and a handshake.

Kathleen, his wife, was like that too. She came from a prominent family and spent a lot of her time volunteering, working with charities, hosting fundraisers. I remember my parents going to a few of those. All in all, Phil and Kathleen were the perfect couple – they had money, friends. The only thing they were missing was a little bundle of joy to call their own.

It took him a while, but Phil managed to secure twenty acres of land just off the highway. In a year, he had a park dedicated to all the classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The place was an instant hit. I remember the crowds of tourists – I’d never seen so many out of town license plates before. We must’ve had thousands of visitors that summer. It was a huge boost to the local economy. The hotels and restaurants all cleaned up. Newspapers were mentioning us all over the country. If Phil was a hero before Phantasia Forest, then he was a downright saint afterwards.

There was a rumor that a fellow by the name of Walt Disney had dropped by for an afternoon, looking to find some inspiration for his own little park. I’m not sure if that story is really true or not, but it should be.

Phil even had some of the employees dressed as his own original characters – a wacky lamb with the legs of a spider, a man with three twisted heads stacked on top of each other, and a cheerful little imp who wore a blood-red robe and always carried his trusty cat o’ nine tails. I don’t think any of them ever spoke, but that’s what gave them their charm. “Ballard’s Bozos,” Phil called them.

I was having so much fun that summer, I did my best to ignore the silly things some of the other kids were saying – like how the costumes for Phil’s characters didn’t have any zippers. Apparently, the rumor started when the kids overheard a few staff members talking about how no one knew who was really underneath those oversized masks.

I can’t blame the kids, but the staff should’ve known better. So Phil hired some outside help and didn’t tell anyone – it helped maintain the fantasy. Brilliant idea.

Much harder to ignore, though, was the news of Kathleen’s death. She had drowned in her bathtub after overdosing on some medication. It hit everyone like a sledgehammer. Phil, God bless him, shouldered his grief with grace and dignity. He was still the same old Phil – always smiling, always quick with a handshake.

After a few weeks, things started to feel normal again. But then came that weekend in August. I went to bed after a glorious Saturday at Phantasia Forest, expecting to do the whole thing all over again when I woke up. How wrong I was.

At first, the news said that eight kids had gone missing, but my friends told me the number was really nine. I guess numbers are beside the point. Kids were missing, plain and simple. I didn’t know any of them, but they were children just like me – innocent little children, gone in the blink of an eye. Everyone had a theory – kidnappings, runaways, mass suicides, ritual sacrifice, freaking alien abductions.

The only thing the poor youngsters had in common was their last known location – Phantasia Forest. Well, of course! All the kids were there. That hardly proves a thing. But for most people, it was enough to get them talking.

They said that Kathleen’s family never believed her death was accidental, that she was even pregnant at the time. Others said she’d been worried about Phil’s behavior for months. He was obsessed with his theme park, one story went. He was talking to himself behind closed doors, went another. The craziest one, by far, was that he believed his Bozo characters weren’t characters at all, but that they had actually climbed in through his window one night and told him to build Phantasia Forest.

What a load of nonsense. I suppose the Bozos even convinced him to kill his wife and unborn baby. The police never found a shred of evidence that Phil hurt Kathleen or anyone else for that matter.

But did the busybodies care about evidence? Not for a minute. They were all convinced that Phil had something to do with those missing kids – he buried their corpses under the gnome village, he turned them into statues, blah, blah, blah.

In less than a month, Phil had gone from the town’s favorite son to the town’s favorite boogeyman. It was all too much for him. The workers found Phil one morning in the gingerbread house. He’d slipped in at some point during the night and hanged himself. No suicide note. The townsfolk got their wish. A good man was dead.

Phantasia Forest was shut down for the winter. It reopened the next spring under new management. Unfortunately, the damage had been done. People stayed away, attendance shriveled up, and to make things even worse, Disneyland opened that same year. Phantasia just couldn’t compete.

The park was shuttered later that fall, this time for good. I kept waiting for it to be turned into a strip mall or condominium, but for some reason, that never happened. Phantasia Forest just sat there, year after year, those beautiful statues and buildings left to rot. You can still see the pink castle spires from the highway, peeking out from behind the treetops. Giant holes pockmark the fake brickwork, giving you a nice view of the skeletal rebar frames.

I’m sometimes tempted to drive down and take a closer look. Fat load of good that would do, though. They had to put up a barb-wire fence to keep out all the vandals. I suppose I should be thankful. Seeing the place abandoned and decaying, it’d just remind me of how much time has gone by, of how that little eight-year-old kid is now an old man with a bad back and an arthritic knee.

But finally, some good news – I just heard a local businessman is planning to renovate the park. He’s going to make it bigger and better than ever before. And I’ll be the first one through those castle gates, right along with my grandkids. They’re going to have the time of their lives – exploring the gnome village, climbing in and out of the gingerbread house, playing with the funny Bozos.

We’ll be there because Phantasia Forest is still a wonderful dream, and like Phil always said, “You can’t kill a dream.”

Credit To – Michael Cahill

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So That’s What Happened…

February 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It is the year 2037.

Yeah, okay. I know it’s a cheesy way to start a story, but I just feel that it’s worth mentioning. Especially since it happened 25 years ago. I can’t help but think if I could have saved Jimmy. After all, it was my idea. I dug up the story back then. And it was me who wanted to see what was going on. If only I didn’t let him enter that house…

Alright, I’m sorry for being so unclear about what happened exactly. Allow me to tell you something about myself first. I’m Simon, 53 years of age, divorced, no kids, 1 cat. I work as a newspaper reporter. I have always had a very curious nature, that’s why I like my work so much.

Even though I like my work, my cat and my lifestyle, I haven’t felt at ease in my home for the past months. I don’t know why, but I have the feeling that it has something to do with the loss of my good friend Jimmy. And I don’t mean ‘loss’ as in ‘I’m very sorry for your loss’. No, I actually lost him as in ‘he disappeared, never to be heard from again’.
I have buried the events of that day deep in my head and almost forgot about them, but during the past months memories have resurfaced.
Anyway, I don’t like it here anymore, so I asked for a job transfer and got it and I am about to move to a different town.

Perhaps you’re wondering what exactly happened to Jimmy? To be honest, I have no idea what happened after he went in that house.

25 years ago, while I was browsing the internet looking for some interesting things to write about, I stumbled upon a story about a house that had been empty for 135 years, but was never torn down. Interestingly enough, it was a house that was situated not far from my own place. There were some pictures of the house too. Curious as to why the house had been empty and neglected for all that time, I tried contacting the person who had posted the story online. But I never got a response from the poster. So I went to city hall to ask around.

I questioned several archive workers, but none of them were able to tell me something I didn’t already know about the house. They asked me where I found the information, the story. I told them I found it on the internet. I asked almost everyone at city hall who could had known something about the place.
But nobody knew anything, or didn’t want to talk about it. Frustrated, I left city hall and went to the house to take a look at it myself. I called Jimmy, my old high school buddy and the photographer at the newspaper , to come over and check it out with me.

Jimmy was always up for some fun. I drove to our workplace to pick him up. He was always carrying his camera around. He jumped into the car and asked me where we were heading. I told him my story and he looked at me, smirking.

‘I’m serious man,’ I told him. ‘So I was at city hall, and nobody seemed to know anything about that house, some of them even tried to evade my questions, as if I was nuts. And when I asked why the house hadn’t been demolished yet, they just told me that they didn’t have any clue.’

Jimmy’s facial expression changed. He was thinking. I knew I awoke the journalist inside him and that I got him excited for the story.

‘Alright man, let’s do it! Let’s go check it out! I got my camera ready so let’s have some fun, yeah?’

We drove to the building and after we arrived we immediately got out of the car.
‘This is it? Really?’ he said while looking at the building.
‘Doesn’t seem that unusual, huh…’ I replied.

I took the photos of the house out of my pocket and held one of them next to the house to compare. The house in its current state was located in between two large modern buildings, in a busy street. There was a lot of traffic on the road and just as many pedestrians walking around along the sidewalk.

‘Either this house has been renovated in the past 70 years, or someone has a master’s degree in photoshopping.’

Jimmy leaned in to take a look for himself.

‘Well, had you shown these pictures to me before, I wouldn’t have come with you,’ he said, smiling.

‘Come on, let’s enter.’

‘You boys don’t want to do that, really.’

A young woman stood next to us. She looked stunning. Green eyes in which you could lose your ways and long straight black hair. Both of us were looking at her, just admiring what we saw.

‘Hey… you two have never seen a woman before?’

We snapped out of it and we only just realized what she had said to us.

‘I’m sorry, what did you say? Why shouldn’t we do that? You seem to be the first one who actually is willing to tell us a thing or two about the house.’

‘You two are reporters? It’s not really smart digging up stuff that’s not supposed to be dug up… I’m just saying. Why shouldn’t you go in? Because if you do go in, you never come back out.’

Jimmy laughed. But she didn’t. She looked dead serious.

‘Come on… we’re not kids anymore and we certainly don’t believe in fairytales either. What’s the real reason we can’t go in? Did you hide a body in there or something?’ I replied to her, laughing.

‘Well look, I’m just warning you. There’s something bad going on in that house and I just hate to see something bad happening to a couple of handsome young fellas like yourselves.’

Jimmy asked her: ‘Hey, are you single?’
I cut him off and continued questioning her.

‘So be more specific please. You say that anyone going in there doesn’t come back out? So what does that mean? There’s a killer in the house? Death traps? Gas leakages? Surely, if that was the case, city hall already would have had this building torn down long ago.’

‘I can’t tell you, because I don’t know what is in there. All I know is what I have seen happening. I live in this neighborhood too, you know. And I can always see it happen. People go in, but they never come out. It’s an empty building which the government doesn’t care about, which makes it ideal for homeless people to sneak in, expecting a comfortable stay.
So either there has been a huge hobo party going on in that house for the past 50 years, or every hobo that went in there died or disappeared without a trace. You may guess which option I find more plausible.’

‘If that’s the case, why haven’t you ever called the police about this? You seem to know enough to inform them about it…’

‘Buddy, I’m sure you did plenty of research about this place before coming here. And how many people were really interested in sharing information with you?’

She glanced at us for a moment, we didn’t really know what to answer.

‘That’s what I thought. So if no one cares, why should the police think any differently ? I’m just trying to do you two a favor and save your lives here…’

I looked at Jimmy and he looked back at me. Her story, crazy as it may have sounded, made some sort of sense. Indeed nobody wanted to talk about the house, just like she said.

‘What do you think? We go in anyway?’

Jimmy was thinking. He looked at the house and back at his camera a couple of times. There surely was a good story here. Jimmy nodded.

‘Alright Simon, since I have the camera, I’ll go in, take some pictures. Perhaps a few good pictures of the hobo fest going on in there’ he said with a wink to the woman.

She didn’t seem to like his joke at all.

‘So let’s say there’s a good story to write here, do you think we could use your knowledge of this house in our article, miss…?’

‘It’s Samantha. And sure enough, I will provide you with some good material to write about.’

I felt really good about this. I still was very skeptical about the house and the things that were supposedly happening there. But even if there wasn’t something to write about, at least it would have made for a good horror story.

‘Alright Jimmy, you go in and take some pictures. You’ve got your phone with you? Keep me posted about everything that’s going on in there, okay? If anything out of the ordinary happens, take a picture and call me if there’s something wrong. I got my phone with me, so I’ll be here waiting for your call, alright?’

‘Sure thing buddy, I’ll just go then. Hey Samantha, Simon, smile!’ he said and he quickly took a picture. The polaroid camera spit out a picture. He grabbed it, waved it around, looked at it and seemed to be satisfied with it.

‘Lovely couple!’ he said, and he started walking to the door of the building. He opened the door which strangely enough wasn’t locked and closed it behind him. I took my phone out of my bag and switched it on.

The first incoming call appeared on the screen. I picked up and looked at Samantha who was anxiously biting her nails.

I smirked when I heard Jimmy’s comments. Always the joker. He hung up shortly after to explore some more and to take pictures.

A few minutes after he hung up, he called again. I picked up and put it on speaker phone. I listened to what he had to say. And it didn’t sound good.
He was talking about not feeling too well, being dizzy and seeing… faces? I talked to him, but he kept asking me to respond. Was my microphone broken? No… It was a brand new phone, so it couldn’t possibly have been that? I noticed some desperation in his voice and shortly after that, he hung up.

I tried calling him back, but I got a dead tone as soon as I had dialed his number. Only a few minutes later , I got another call from him. I tried to pick up, but the phone didn’t let me, no matter how hard I pressed the buttons. The phone stopped ringing after a minute… I looked at Samantha, but she kept staring at the phone. Shortly after that, the phone started vibrating.

It was the recording call voicemail service. Thank god I downloaded this service. It always came in handy if I needed to hear back a conversation. Very useful for a journalist.

I opened the service and saw that I had a new voicemail message from Jimmy, it came in shortly after the service recorded my previous conversation with him. I listened to the message…

It sounded as if Jimmy had lost his mind…

‘I told you didn’t I?’ Samantha said panicky while pointing at the phone hysterically. ‘This is what happens in that house!’

I didn’t really know what to do. I looked at her, then back at my phone, then back at her.

Another voicemail message appeared. I listened to it: Jimmy was screaming for help.

In a moment of panic and concern for Jimmy, I dropped the phone and ran to the door of the house. I tried to open it, but it didn’t open. It was locked. I started bashing the door, tried kicking it open but no luck. I ran around the house to see if I could find a window to smash in. But there weren’t any on the side or the back.

I ran back to my car to pick up the phone I dropped. I wanted to call the police. Samantha was still standing there. She shouted to me: ‘The police can’t come! Your friend is doomed!’

‘Well, can’t you do something then?! You know this house, you should know what to do!’

‘Why should I know?! I have never been in there! I don’t even know what exactly is in that house! I warned you both! But you wouldn’t listen! And now your friend is in there!’ she kept shouting at me.

I tried to call the police, but my phone didn’t dial. In the meantime I had received two new voicemail messages.

Jimmy’s messages made less and less sense every minute. What was he talking about? There seemed to be someone… something with him in that house. I listened carefully to the things he said. In the last message he left me, he mumbled:

‘… where’s the door?!’

I looked up from the phone to look at Samantha and saw her staring at the house. I looked up and understood why she was staring. The door was gone. The windows were gone. There was nothing but bricks and a roof…

Samantha was just standing there with her hands in her hair. I looked around and only just noticed at that moment that the busy street turned completely empty. No car or pedestrian to find. I couldn’t stay there without doing a thing so I put my phone in my pocket and started running towards the nearest building to look for help.

‘Stay there! Keep an eye on the house!’ I shouted to Samantha.

The adjacent building was a big apartment complex. I ran to the front door and started to press every button there was to press. I waited impatiently, then pressed the buttons again.

No dice. Nobody seemed to be home. I turned around and brushed through my hair franticly, thinking about what to do. I took the phone out of my pocket again, to find yet another voicemail message… I listened to it while running back to the car. Jimmy still wasn’t making any sense.

I ran back to the house and to the car. I moved passed Samantha, got in my car and dropped my phone on the passenger seat. Think… Think carefully. I laid my head on my arm on the steering wheel, closed my eyes and tried to understand what had happened in that past hour. I knew I couldn’t leave Jimmy to die there. That was the only thing I knew for sure. Only a few seconds had passed when I heard my phone rang. I took the phone without looking and tried to pick up. It did this time and I heard Jimmy’s voice. However I didn’t really know what I was hearing…

I opened my eyes rapidly after hearing what Jimmy had said and I threw open the car door. As I did so, I heard a loud curse and there was something falling on the ground. Surprised, I jumped out of the car.

A man laid on the ground, grinding in pain from the slam of my door. The roads and pavements weren’t deserted anymore. I gazed around me and people looked at me as if I was some kind of bully, or a madman.. I turned around to face the house. Its doors were back, as were its windows.

‘Hey, are you going to help this man or not?’ a woman on the street asked. I looked around, trying to find Samantha in the sudden crowd that had appeared back on the streets, but I didn’t see her. I swallowed, turned around and back a few times to look at the house and without saying anything, in a moment of pure panic and confusion, I got back into my car and drove off, straight back home.

After a day at home I went to the police. They already had been looking for Jimmy, because he never returned home that day. I told them I knew where he was and that I would lead them to the house. I was sure about the location, the street, the surroundings. It was all so clear in my memory. However when we arrived at the place… there was no house. I couldn’t understand it. I tried to play the messages that Jimmy had left me to the police, but my phone kept on refusing to function. The police got mad at me for wasting their time. I didn’t know what else to tell them, they just wouldn’t believe me.

For days I waited in my car. I spent hours walking back and forth through the street to see if I could find the house. And I waited for her. I waited for Samantha. She said she lived in the neighborhood, so I started looking for her name on the address plates on the houses of that street.
Samantha was the only one who could prove I wasn’t going crazy. Because she had been there too, she had seen it all happen. And I knew she could explain everything, I just knew it.

But she never showed up, I never found her place either. And I really felt like I was being insane. Out of pure frustration, I threw my phone in my basement, never to look at it again. Over the years, I buried the memories of that day deep down in my mind, I tried to move on. And I succeeded to do so, until recently.

I remember it all so well. I guess this really is the reason I don’t want to stay here anymore. After 25 years, the past has finally caught up to me. I am replaying the events of that day over and over in my head as I am packing and organizing my things.

It’s early in the morning. Yesterday I went to bed early. I spent most of that day cleaning and packing. Today it’s time for me to clean out the basement.

Christ, what a mess. I flick on the light of the basement and walk down the stairs to look around to see if I already can see some things I want to take with me. There’s a lot of junk I haven’t touched in years. At the bottom of the stairs I take a look at the floor which is scattered with all kinds of objects. I rest my hands on the back of my head, thinking where to start cleaning.

Suddenly the door slams shut on top of the stairs. It scares me. Must’ve been my cat. I take yet another look around. With a flash, the whole room turns dark and I can’t see a thing anymore.
Damn it, these old light bulbs are worthless. Slowly my eyes get adjusted to dark and I can make out some objects laying around. But I also notice that the room isn’t completely dark. I can see a very small ray of light, shining through the pile of junk along with a muffled ringing sound.

I wonder what it is. I try and find my way towards it, stumbling over all the stuff I collected over the years. I trip over an empty bottle and land right in front of the illuminating object. I pull it towards me and notice that it’s a phone.

Not just a phone… It’s the phone I had with me 25 years ago. After all those years… it can’t still be working?

I look at the screen and I see that the recording call voicemail service is still running. My curiosity tempts me… That entire day has been engraved in the deepest part of my memory for 25 years. And the past few months I wondered if it actually had happened, or if it has just been my mind playing tricks on me.

I play the recorded conversations and voicemail messages, just to find out…

Current user: Simon
Last login: 14-11-2012
Received calls: 9
Missed calls: 6
Voicemail messages left: 6
Old voicemail messages: 5
New voicemail messages: 1

From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: Yes
Call duration: 20 seconds.

“It’s been one minute since I entered the house. A challenge is laid upon me, I can make it. I know I can. Haha…
Hey Simon, my mouth feels dry.. Did you bring some water? I forgot to take some with me. Hang on, let me go find a water tap real quick. I’ll call you in a minute.”


From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: Yes
Call duration: 52 seconds

“Hey, it’s me again. Listen, I feel a bit weird, my thirst isn’t really gone. If it’s even thirst that I feel. Uh Simon… My mind is getting a bit blurry…
I’m starting to see faces on the wall.
No…, not faces. A face, a beautiful one. I try to touch it, but as I get closer it starts fading away. Simon? Say something… Simon? Why aren’t you responding? Hello?”


From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: No
Voicemail message left.
Message duration: 30 seconds

“What in god’s name is happening to me..? I feel like I’m losing my mind, man. The room gets darker by the minute, yet outside it’s as bright as can be. I can’t see you guys through the window. Are you still there? Why aren’t you talking to me? Simon? Pick up the goddamn phone!”


From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: No
Voicemail message left.
Message duration: 25 seconds

“I’m not sure if I can take this anymore. The face won’t disappear. Simon, I’m begging you… Help me… The room is spinning, man. I feel like it is. STOP WHISPERING TO ME!!!! JUST GO AWAY!!!”


From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: No
Voicemail message left.
Message duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

“Simon? Dude.. pick up! Listen… I just looked into a mirror and looked into my eyes. Those aren’t my eyes. She stole my eyes! She stole my fucking eyes! I got her eyes! beautiful eyes… I just smacked myself onto the head to wake myself up from this nightmare, but it doesn’t work.

I don’t want to get up. Simon, she doesn’t listen. STOP TALKING TO ME!
I’m scared, petrified. What was a beautiful face before, just turned into a black cloud of darkness and pain. I don’t know what to do… Why won’t you pick up?!”


From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: No
Voicemail message left.
Message duration: 1 minute, 14 seconds

“She isn’t real. I keep telling myself. What? Simon, pick up the phone for crying out loud! Where are you? She’s screaming now, it hurts my ears…
Seriously, every time I close my eyes, her face is there. Every time I open my eyes to escape, she’s there. I can’t get away, she’s everywhere. Where’s the door?!”


From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: No.
Voicemail message left.
Message duration: 20 seconds.
“Always looking, always there. That’s what they said. That’s what I said. Hahaha always.
Huh?.. She’s gone.. I can feel it. She left! Simon, are you there? She’s gone!”


From: Jimmy
Dated: 14-11-2012
Picked up: Yes.
Call duration: 9 seconds.

“Simon… she’s back. I can feel her again… Simon. It’s Samantha…”


At the end of the final message, I really don’t know what to think. I’m just sitting here with the phone in my hand, my other hand covering my mouth. I know I wasn’t crazy!

All of a sudden the phone starts vibrating. I let it drop out of my hand and stumble backwards.

Curious, yet frightened, I pick up the phone again to check out why it vibrated.

‘New missed call.’
‘New voicemail message.’

Hesitantly, I click the play button and put the phone to my ear. My heart skips a beat when I hear the voice of the person through the speaker.?

As I reach the end of the message, I hear the basement door getting locked from above. I quickly run back up the stairs. At the top of the stairs I try pushing the door open, but it’s stuck. I only just notice now that there’s an item pinned on the door. I take it off and look at it, illuminating it with the light of my phone.

It’s a picture of me, a picture of 25 years ago. The picture of me in front of the car, the picture that Jimmy took of me and Samantha before going into the house… However there’s no trace of her on the picture…

Suddenly I hear a faint whisper rushing through the room and I don’t dare to move anymore… The words from the voicemail message still echo around in my head and blend in with the whisper that’s rushing through the air. I start bashing and kicking the door to try and open it, but the door doesn’t budge. I turn around to see if there’s another exit, but there isn’t. I turn around again to try and break through the door, but… where’s the door?

I understand now. This is what she did to Jimmy. And this is what will happen to me…


From: Unknown
Dated: 14-11-2037
Picked up: No.
Voicemail message left.
Message duration: 57 seconds

“Hi Simon. I told you I would provide you with some good material to write about. So why didn’t you write? This was such a good story. I was waiting for you to spread the word about the house… You needed to bring me new victims, just by doing what you do best. Writing, being a journalist, making people visit the house. I can’t keep doing all the work myself. I already did that 25 years ago when I posted the story online…

You were supposed to tell the world about me. What a waste… What a shame. I think I’ve waited long enough for a new victim though. I’m done waiting. You’re next.

Oh and it will be your house that the next journalist will visit. Much love, Samantha.”

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The Eternal Suicide

February 10, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It seems archaic, putting pen to paper in this day and age. Hell it’s been so long that I am archaic. I figured after so long, I should at least retell my story on the off chance I succeed tonight. It’ll take some time but the true question is do YOU have the time to listen? Well, I have time, that’s all I truly have left: Time.

A military unit was sent into the heart of Africa to quell a rebellion that was causing problems around the area. They had holed themselves up in an area that the locals feared and only spoke of in hushed whispers. My squad was sent in to kill or disperse the rebels and for years I have cursed that day. Why did I ever volunteer for that mission? Why did I allow myself to want such a terrible burden? As they say, the road to hell is filled with good intentions.

The valley they had chosen was well defended. Surrounded by rocky walls, covered by thick foliage and only accessible by a thin crevice found underground, this place was a natural formed fortress.  Legend says that this place was once home to a man, a woman and their many daughters. The woman was young and beautiful and her children were equally so. As the years went by the mother began to age and the children grew more and more beautiful. One night, the eldest daughter and the mother were speaking in private as they often did. The daughter claimed she was even more beautiful than her mother. The mother laughed and told her that her beauty was unmatched but the daughter persisted and persuaded her to look into a nearby stream and see for herself. When the mother did she was horrified to find that she was indeed less beautiful than her daughter. Time had given her wrinkles, white brittle hair, and cloudy eyes. In a fit of rage she grabbed her daughter by the throat and shook her, she shook her screaming at her that she had stolen her beauty. The daughter tried to fight back but quickly succumbed to her once loving mother. After she was dead the mother looked once more into the stream and saw her beauty returned. Overjoyed she returned to her home, claiming the eldest daughter had left to find herself a husband.

Years passed, and once again the mother began to age. Slowly at first but then faster and faster she aged, growing feebler with each passing day. Again she took the now eldest daughter to the steam and spoke to her. Before the daughter could say a word she was strangled by her mother, and as her life faded away the mother’s beauty returned. Again and again she did this until she was left alone with her husband. One day the husband went for a walk with his wife and they came upon the same stream. As they spoke he tripped upon what he thought was a root. When he examined it he saw that it was a bone. The mother insisted it was merely an animal bone but her husband continued to look and soon found the remains of all of his daughters. Enraged he turned to look at his wife and saw that she was reaching for his throat as well. He quickly subdued her and then trapped her in a small cave at the far end of the little valley. He prayed the gods curse her with the immortality she so desperately wanted. The gods obliged him and since that day a small stream flowed from that cave. It was said to be the mother’s tears. Tears of sadness, regret, anger and even madness that flowed from that cave, from the woman cursed with immortality.

When my squad arrived at that cursed placed we knew nothing of the legends. We knew our mission and nothing else mattered. However, fate rarely has the same goals in mind for those it has power over. When we arrived, the rebels camp was destroyed, the smell of blood and gun powder pervaded through the air. We found bodies that were riddled with spears, knives or cut to ribbons. Nothing made sense; it was like a scene out of a western. We searched but found no sign of whom or what could have done this. We stopped our search by a stream and radioed in our findings. I knelt by a stream and drank heartily, washing my face and hair as I waited. As we awaited a reply, a solider to my left let out a gurgling choke, a spear had made its home through his throat. We immediately took arms and searched for who had thrown it. More spears flew, and two more soldiers fell dead. The remaining three of us ran towards the exit. War calls could be heard behind us and ahead of us. I ran for all I was worth, passing my comrades and reaching the exit, only to find the exit blocked by two men dressed in black. I opened fire with my gun and cut them down as I ran through the entrance. I looked back, to my dismay, I saw my friends speared and decapitated behind me. I pulled a grenade and threw it at the entrance with a scream of hatred. It did its job and the small entrance collapsed in on itself, but not before a spear was thrown and caught me in the chest. By some divine luck of the thrower it missed my protective plates and ran me through.

I collapsed on the cavern floor, bleeding profusely and screaming with all my might. I was trained in basic first aid but I ignored everything Id been taught and pulled the spear out of my chest. I could tell by the blood Id lost that I’d be dead before I could make it out. I did my best to staunch the bleeding and took some morphine to bring down the pain. After that I slowly got to my feet and stumbled out into the light before collapsing, welcoming the blackness that surrounded me.

I awoke in a hospital bed, hours later. Astonished, I sat upright and tore at the bandages till I saw the scar. A thin line over my heart was all that remained of the ghastly wound. I must have been babbling for quite some time because a nurse soon came over to ask what was wrong.

“I was stabbed through the heart with a spear! I CAN’T STILL BE ALIVE! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!” I screamed, anger bleeding through my words.
“Sir, you had a simple slash wound. It barely reached your ribs. Please calm down.” She replied.
I couldn’t believe it. I ran from the hospital as soon as I was dressed. I booked the first flight I could find from that horrible country back home. I hitchhiked home and I never spoke of what happened to me. I couldn’t face it; I couldn’t believe that I had nearly died that day.

My dreams were haunted from that day on. I saw the spear impaled through my body again. Saw the remains of my comrades reaching out to me. Their eyes were full of spite at the fact that I had survived were they had not. Every night I woke screaming how sorry I was for surviving, for leaving them behind. Years passed by, far quicker than they should have. Ten years to the day and my body was still the same as it had been. My family aged but I still had the glow of youth I always did. The doctors called it a modern miracle: I couldn’t age!

At first I saw it as a gift, some cosmic repayment for seeing that place and losing so much there. Then one day, while driving with my family it happened. A semi truck ran a red light and slammed into the car, flipping us end over end. I was thrown from the back seat and skidded across the road like a rag doll. At first I thought another miracle had happened. I felt the pain of road rash and bruises that would accompany the bouncing around before that. Then I looked down and saw all the damage. My rib cage was obviously crushed, my leg was bent backwards at a horrible angle and a piece of the car had found its way through my throat. I lay there, once again welcoming the warm, dark embrace of death once more.
Again I woke in a hospital bed, groggy, exhausted and confused beyond belief. I looked over and saw a sheriff sitting beside my bed. He informed me that my family had died in the car accident and that by some miracle I had been spared. I looked myself over and saw my chest was back to normal, my neck was wrapped in gauze but when I tore it away all I found was a star shaped scar. I wept, I wept for hours. Screaming at everything and nothing, I wanted to die. I wanted the same fate as my family. Eventually I checked myself out and just started to wander around.

I never ate, yet I wasn’t hungry. I never drank, and yet I didn’t feel thirst. How many years went by, I’ll never know. Sixty? Seventy? I stopped keeping track. There I was, the man stuck in time, given the gift of life for all eternity, yet all I wanted was death. Everyone I knew was dead, and each night when I slept I saw their faces, twisted in death from trauma, age and most of all jealousy. They hated me and wanted to rip me apart. Each night I saw the same images and every time I’d wake with such fear and sorrow at my existence.

Now, as I sit here with all the time in the world, I want to warn you. Eternity is a long, LONG time. I’ve seen horrible things, and greatness. Now all I want to see is my tombstone. Holding the loaded shotgun to my throat, so that the shot will go straight through my head, for the eighth time tonight, I know now that this is nothing more than a curse. I know that this won’t end me, I know that every time I cut my head off it’ll stay alive till I pick it up and put it back on, and I know that each time I hold a grenade in my teeth it’ll just put me out for a little while. At this point that’s all spend my time on, it’s the only thing that I can do to keep the nightmares at bay. The eternal suicide, that what I think I’ll call this. Now if you excuse me, I have many more attempts before I resign myself to more nightmares.

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