The SCSI Temple

February 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM

The first time I met Ada Klesco, she caught ahold of my hand and held it for a very long time. At first, I assumed that it was just a handshake, but there was no particular movement involved. We just stood there, in the living room of a house on Lago Street that our mutual group of friends tended to drift in and out of, palms warped inwards onto one another. I began to panic after a few seconds and attempted to retract my hand in a way that could still be interpreted as polite, but she strengthened her grip. I recall a feeling of resignation as I let my arm go limp. Everyone else was in one of the back bedrooms at the time, crowded around someone’s computer, watching a music video or something. Neither of us said a word. At some point, our hands just loosened and fell apart. I’m coming up blank about the rest of that night.

I happened to see her nearly every single day during the following three weeks. Ada would miraculously appear in the chip aisle while I tormented myself over whether I should buy aged cheddar chips with a waffle cut or go the kettle-cooked-salt-and-vinegar route, and she’d pluck a bag of chips from the shelves without so much as a glance towards the brand name or flavor. I would be with someone like Gary Leqat, or maybe Sylvan “Gorlop” Tidd, walking around Groever Plaza in the early afternoon; that person, whoever he was, would get a text from her, and the three of us would go to a restaurant and eat a meal together. She would always sit by herself on the other side of the table or booth. Now that I think of it, I can’t remember anything she said during this period of time. I used to come away from these lunches and dinners with a terrible headache, though, and the impression that she had had a shrill voice and had spoken incessantly. In any case, I made it a point to seem undisturbed whenever we would cross paths. Eventually, I got so used to perceiving her in my immediate environment that I began to forget she was there.

Then it was the 10th of October. I was back at the Lago Street house, sitting in a corner of its huge living room. Gary was there. He looked very pale and seemed to have some sort of ketchup stain at the corner of his mouth; his girlfriend, Janet Cund, had gone missing two nights before and his mental state was rapidly corroding. Kestor Philips was there that day, as well, wearing a new variation of his experimental saran-wrap clothing. He sat in the center of the bare hardwood floor near a clean space where there had once been an entertainment center and tapped on a small pair of bongo drums. And then there were two or three other people I didn’t know very well, all wearing jerseys, who were standing together in the doorway leading into the kitchen, talking about something idiotic, like maybe the World Cup.

It was about three in the afternoon and we had nothing to do. The day was unusually warm and bright. The wallpaper in the living room was curling up at the seams from the constant humidity and I was starting to feel somehow asthmatic. There seemed to be cake mix sprinkled all over the baseboard near where I sat. I closed my eyes for a long time once I’d noticed a pile of empty Corn Nuts bags crammed into the corner of a windowsill.

Twenty minutes must have passed before I opened my eyes again but, when I finally did, it was just in time to see Ada sidestepping through the front door with a bottle of cheap vodka nestled in the crook of her arm. Everyone in the room turned to look at her for a split-second, but no one said anything. She stepped over Kestor’s legs and pushed past the sports guys into the kitchen, where I heard her fixing a drink. She came back out with a cloudy tumbler full of nothing but the vodka and immediately sat next to me. I started to say hi, but gave up when she turned her head towards the rest of the room and swallowed half of what was in her glass. Gary was staring at her for some reason. I think his hands were trembling.

Then she turned around so fast that the tips of her pale green hair stung my corneas.

“Here, have some,” she said with the glass held out and sloshing under my nose.

I was suddenly relieved by the possibility of getting drunk while the sun was still out, so I finished her vodka in a single gulp. My chest blossomed with the wormy heat of the alcohol.

“Thanks,” I said, “that’s exactly what I needed.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I came,” she said.

Under other circumstances, I would have been frightened by such a response, but I was somehow already tipsy. I began to really pay attention to Ada in a way that my sobriety had deterred me from doing before, taking in everything she said and did with a drugged sense of humor. She sat there in front of me on that sagging corduroy couch for the next hour, telling things to me. I don’t know if they were anecdotes about herself or regurgitated news headlines. It could have been anything. I just don’t remember. Although, I do remember suddenly snapping into an intense focus halfway through something she had been telling me about broken piano wires and noticing for the first time that she always wore various shades of yellowing beige. She was wearing khakis and a puffed-up Members Only jacket with thick, finely woven cuffs. I studied her technically unattractive face, with its lunar surface of chicken pox scars and its rectilinear nose. She seemed to me the type of girl who was really quite mentally dangerous, who might be into some hellish secret hobby. I was beginning to see how she might be somewhat desirable in the right context.

While this was going on, the house began to fill up with people. I found it hard to pay attention to what they were doing. I vaguely recall that someone started bickering with Kestor about how loudly he was playing his bongos. Someone else brought in an old CRT television and began to hook up a Nintendo 64; later I heard the muffled clank of the giant mechanical fish in that one level of Banjo Kazooie, swimming around in the abyss.

After about two more tumblers full of the cheap, silty vodka, Ada stood up and asked me if I wanted to walk to a cool place that she had found out in the industrial developments by the mall. The heat in the living room had grown extreme as more people flooded in; I agreed with almost no hesitation. When the slightly cooler air from outside hit me on the doorstep, I realized that my clothes were entirely saturated with sweat.

Out on the curb by the mailbox, I saw Gary sitting with his head in his hands, leaning against the crushed bumper of a white Corolla. He was very still. In fact, looking back, it was almost like he wasn’t breathing, but I hardly registered any of that. We set off down the street, the legs of our pants catching seedlings from the bobbing yellow weeds poking up through cracks in the asphalt.

We must have walked for hours—this is another span of time that seems to be completely erased. My memory comes back in at the point where we were standing in front of a towering warehouse that I had never seen before. Its outer walls were dizzying expanses of corrugated aluminum that could have been miles wide. The sun was setting and dyed the sky purple and orange as it sunk below the horizon. There were narrow windows that formed unbroken vertical lines up the several floors of the building, starting at the junction between the narrow lawn and the concrete foundation and ending at the very edge of the diagonal roof. Bright white lights were on inside. I could see people in pressed work shirts and suspenders, weaving past each other, carrying manila folders and coffee mugs.

“My dad works here, actually,” Ada said.

“What? I thought you had just found this place.”

“I mean I found out about it. But, come on, we should go inside. It’s fucking nuts in there.”

At this point, I was still tipsy, but I was suddenly starting to feel very unwell. I figured that it was probably the vodka roiling in the empty pouch of my stomach, but I think now that it must have been some suppressed instinct to sprint away from the place at top speed. Instead, I took great care not to upset myself further as I followed her up a long incline of concrete stairs. We reached the entrance, which was a set of glass doors that led into a long dark brick hallway with a funky carpet, whose pattern hadn’t been changed since perhaps the early 90s, complete with abstract polygons and renegade yellow corkscrew designs on a deep purple background.

Ada took one of my hands in hers and wove her fingers through mine. With her other hand, she pulled on the chrome door handle, which gave with a ratcheting screech as if it had not been used in a long time. When we began to walk down the hallway, I realized that there were no lights on at all, at least not on that floor of the building.

“Hey, do you even know where you’re going?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s pretty easy to figure out. We just need to go into the big room. It’s like an indoor courtyard. You’re not going to believe this.”

“Believe what? Is there something you haven’t told me?”

The tone of Ada’s voice shifted in her response; she had caught on to my growing unease.

“I’m just doing that thing people do when they want to sound like they’re saying something exciting. Let’s just keep going. This is a fun adventure.”

Eventually, I lost visibility altogether as Ada dragged me along at a kind of terrifying pace through the blind chaos of the muted halls. We would suddenly turn a corner as if she could see in the dark. We never even came close to clipping the walls or anything. Along the way, her hand was beginning to tighten and hurt me a little bit, but I was still inebriated enough to ignore the discomfort.

We went along that way for a long time, maybe a half-hour or even more. My legs became very sore and began to lose feeling. Towards the end of this mystifying passage, the toe of my sneaker slammed into something hard, which shattered, permitting my foot to collapse into the interior of whatever it was I had accidentally kicked. It seemed to be a conglomerate of plastic and metal on the outside, because I could hear its angry clattering against the bald carpet. Based on its dimensions around my foot, I would guess it was some sort of computer monitor. Only there was another texture I became aware of as I thrashed around trying to free myself. Something cold, stringy, wet, spongy, sticky. Like a cadaverous organ that had chilled on the coroner’s table. I somehow decided that laughter was the best response, but the understated bark that shot out of my mouth was a pathetic lie, and Ada saw through my pose. Her grip clamped down on my hand, harder than ever before. I thought I felt something prick my skin for a moment.

“Fuck, that hurts. What is that, a thumbtack or something?” I asked.

“Sorry,” she said. She didn’t say anything else.

We kept going and, a little bit further down that last stretch of hallway, we stopped in front of what turned out to be a set of wide plexiglass doors. I could see a blue glow on the other side through the scuffed translucent material. Then Ada was suddenly behind me. She pushed me into what she had earlier referred to as the “big room.”

This is the part of the story that I have the most trouble remembering as a coherent whole, but I have managed to retain certain mental snapshots of what followed:

1) An indoor chamber that is at least one square mile in area, with a ceiling that seems to go up several floors higher than the exterior of the building would let on.

2) The blue glow coming from old computer screens with rounded corners, which are embedded in a jagged spire rooted in the center of the big room. The base of the spire is at least 300 meters in diameter, choked in a tangle of what at first seem to be tree roots, but are not; are instead thick bundles of grey electrical wire.

3) Ada standing within the perimeter of this glow. Her eyes seem to have a light all their own. She’s holding both of my hands in this snapshot. But her hands are not really hands anymore. They’re hard and blocky with glinting shelves of metal poking out of what used to be her knuckles.

4) A blurred struggle. Glaring white lights have come on in the room. I may be falling to the floor because Ada is looking down at me. My hand is in front of my face. There is a neat rhomboidal grid of fifty holes that has been punched clean through the meat and bone

5) Almost a mile away across the room, humanoid figures with harsh angles in their shoulders and heads that almost blend into the white interior of the room, except their outer shells are a little bit dimmer, almost yellowed, as if they’ve been in an airtight room full of cigarette smoke since George Bush Sr. was in office.

6) I’m back in the dark hallway in this one, but I can see ahead of me since there are several sources of the blue glow at my back, throwing my shadow in a hundred different angles across the awful pattern in the carpet. Almost out of range of this glow is the thing I think I had kicked going in the other direction. It really does seem to be a computer monitor of some sort, but it’s got an odd fluted curve followed by a swooping bulge in its side that is oddly reminiscent of a skull. These contours flow seamlessly into a laser-cut fan vent. A thick maroon liquid has hemorrhaged from this vent.

7) Back outside of the warehouse. I’m near the side of the building, passing closeby one of the windows on the first floor. In the melee of my escape, something has collided with it, creating a radial pattern of cracks in what turns out to be an LED screen of astronomical resolution. The bustling businessmen are frozen in the middle of their tasks, stuttering between two frames of the video feed where the pixels haven’t gone dead.

8) I’ve rounded a corner of the building and am looking over my shoulder. I see Ada clearing the corner as I struggle to get away. One of her arms has swung out in front of her. At the end of it is the reinforced plastic base of a computer cable of some type. Her hand has become some sort of pronged interface port. It is covered in drying blood. I presume it is my blood.

9) This is the final snapshot—something shiny and plastic hurtling toward my face. I can’t determine what this object is, and it almost dominates the entire mental picture, but I can see just below its blurred outline scores of beige plastic feet, some of which are covered in mud and clumps of grass.

That’s all I have left of the experience, really. That and a huge hospital bill to look forward to. As I type this account into my laptop, I’m lying in a bed in the Groever Life Center. The doctors say I have suffered a subarachnoid skull fracture and that I’m lucky that I even know who I am anymore. Oddly, they’ve said nothing about the holes in my hand, even though the nurses appear to be cleaning it and replacing the bandages while I’m asleep.

I’m starting to notice something kind of troubling, though. Even though I’m pretty sure the things I remember from that warehouse are probably just confusions caused by my head injury, the holes in my hand are definitely there. And now the veins in my forearm are starting to straighten out and form right angles where they branch off.

I’m not sure who I should talk to about this.

Credit: Charles Ybdis


February 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts during the 90s. It was a great time and place to be a kid. Our Main Street was chock-full of kid-friendly activities. There was an enormous outside go-kart track with a huge arcade full of the best games from the 80s and 90s. I remember spending hours playing the alligator version of whack-a-mole. Then, just down the street, was Tune Town. It wasn’t anything special, just a typical 90s music store, but they had a cute little dog with a bandanna who was in all of their T.V commercials. Though I’ve long forgotten the little guy’s name, he was really cute and whenever I’d go in to buy a new cassette tape, he’d be there to greet me at the door.
Out of all the places I went to as a kid, Funland was by far the greatest. It had its own go-kart track, a small one for little kids and a larger one for bigger kids. It wasn’t as big or fancy as the one down the street, but it was still fun. There were batting cages too, lots of them. It even had a small arcade, mostly filled with Pinball machines, Pac-Man and the always popular Simpsons Arcade Game. But the best thing about Funland was the mini-golf course. It was the only one in the area at the time, and in the eyes of a ten-year-old kid, the place was HUGE. The iconic spaceship with the Funland logo sat in the center of the park. You could see it from the street, along with the giant giraffe statue which stared out into the parking lot, smiling down at you as you entered. There were other memorable statues too, including a pink elephant and a large dollhouse that sat in the back corner. But the greatest part of the entire park was the 18th hole. On the outside, it just looked like a ordinary outhouse. If you got a hole-in-one, not only did you get a free game, but the outhouse door would swing open and you could hear the sound of a toilet flushing, along with the hiss of the hydraulics that moved the animatronic inside. It was a funny looking humanoid dog wearing overalls, with one strap hanging down off his shoulder as if he’d just pulled them up. His eyes would blink, his jaw would move and his arm would rise as he pointed at you, scolding you for disturbing him, “Hey! Whadda think you’re doin’? Get outta here!” he’d yell, in a goofy attempt at a Southern accent. Then the door would close and you and your friends would have a good laugh before you left. Every time I went there, I couldn’t wait to see that dog.
Like all things from childhood, the fun of Main Street slowly faded away. I think the go-kart track and arcade were the first to go, sitting abandoned for years before being turned into a Day Care Center. They still kept the track, having only gutted and rebuilt the arcade to serve their needs, so it just sat there in the back with one or two remaining go-karts frozen in time. Then Tune Town went out of business, unable to keep up with bigger music chains like Newberry Comics and F.Y.E. I imagine that cute little dog has to be dead by now. Last to go, of course, was Funland. It was painful to see it start to rot and decay in its last few years of life. The paint on the animal statues faded, the eyes of the giraffe looking sadly out into the emptying parking lot as less and less visitors came to see it.

When the park officially closed, I was heartbroken. By that time, I was in high school and it had been a long time since I visited the park. I used to drive by on my way to work, watching it slowly deteriorating away. The elephant eventually tipped over onto its side, the chain around its huge stump of a foot that had been keeping it latched the ground was now visible and exposed. The doors and windows of the dollhouse were broken and shattered as if it were a real abandoned house. The outhouse door remained closed, the wood cracking with age. I could only imagine what the poor animatronic dog inside looked like.
Eventually, nature reclaimed the once thriving park and I could no longer see into it. All that remained visible was the head of the giraffe, peeking over the rusted fence. Curiosity got the best of me, so I gathered my two friends Kevin and Zack one night and we decided to break in and check it out. As we walked up to the surrounding gate, I looked up at the giraffe. It was the first time I noticed just how creepy it looked. Its yellow coat of paint had almost completely faded, leaving only its brown spots and huge, almond shaped black eyes. Continuing on, we snuck into the back of the park near the batting cages. Zack brought a pair of garden shears and cut the fence open, just enough for us to squeeze through. As I entered the park for the first time in what must have been over decade, I looked around in complete awe. Everything was just how I remembered it. The go-karts were still on the tracks, the batting cages still had balls in them…but the arcade was all boarded up, and the mini-golf course was covered with trees and was damp with overflow from the nearby swamp. I sighed, saddened by the sight of what was once a happy and magical place from my childhood. The feeling the old abandoned park gave off at night sent a shiver down my spine. I never really noticed how creepy it was until then.
We went through the course in order, starting at the 1st hole. There was nothing special, just the usual challenging mounds of fake grass, now moist with rain; the swamp hadn’t reached that far yet. As we continued, we walked past the pink elephant, now a shade of ghostly white. He lay on his side, eyes staring vacantly out into the park, as if he had just expired. I ran my fingers over his massive head before moving on. The dollhouse was the next memorable thing we came across. It looked like a miniature haunted house. I half expected the broken doors and windows to be boarded up like the arcade was. But you could still see inside, the little pieces of furniture were all toppled over and spilled out on the ground. This is the part of the park where the swamp had touched. The smell wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be; the town was covered with swamps as it was. We couldn’t reach the entire back section, unless we wanted to wade through the disgusting water. Our only choice was to head straight to the 18th hole.
Finally, the part of the park I wanted to see the most. More than anything, I wanted to see that dog again. It was half nostalgia and half an excited sort of fear of what it would look like. Was it even still there? Was it in good condition, preserved by the outhouse? Or was it like everything else in the park, sad and neglected after all this time? I couldn’t wait to find out.
“Did you bring it?” I asked Kevin.
He nodded and handed me one of his dad’s golf balls. I held it in my hand, sighing deeply as I ran my thumb over the grooves. I had stepped up to the outhouse and peered underneath where I knew the hole would be, when there was a sudden flash of light, temporarily blinding me.
“What the fuck, Zack?” I complained, blinking away the white-yellow spots in my eyes.
“I was just trying to help,” he replied, moodily. “Let’s just hurry up and get out of here.”
“Yeah,” added Kevin, “This place is giving me the creeps.”
“Not until I see him,” I snapped.
I’m sure I must have sounded crazy. I was talking about the dog as if it were a person. To me, he was more than just some sideshow attraction to be gawked at, he was a part of my childhood. It was like I was about to meet an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in ages.
My friends didn’t reply. Zack simply kept his flashlight pointed beneath the outhouse and Kevin sighed in annoyance, tapping his foot impatiently. But now we could all see it: the hole; the white tube in the ground that brought the golf balls back into the little hut at the entrance that once contained all of the golf balls and clubs. It was barely visible over the mound created by the fake turf, but it was still there and I had a clear shot. I placed the ball on the ground and, aiming carefully, rolled it towards the hole. We could hear the ball enter the pipe, the sound of it swirling down into the ground echoing in the silent park. Zack and I stepped back beside Kevin, the light now shining on the outhouse itself. I clenched my fist in anticipation, wishing with all my heart that it would somehow still work, that the door would open and the dog would still be there.
It was a stupid wish.
We all jumped at the sudden sound of the once familiar flushing noise, now slightly distorted. Then the doors began to open and the loud hiss of the hydraulics resonated through the night. We stood there breathless and silent. It worked! We actually made it work! After all these years, I’d finally get to see him again. I was so happy that I could feel the sides of my mouth curl up into a magnificent smile, as if I were a child opening a present. …But the present wasn’t what I had been expecting at all. There he stood, my once familiar friend, my reward for getting my hole-in-one…but I could hardly recognize him. The fur that covered his metal frame was matted and wet, and his overalls hung loose around him, like it would if someone had lost a great deal of weight. My breath caught in my throat, which was now suddenly dry. I swallowed softly, eyes widening as they traveled up to the dog’s face. It was a horrible, hideous sight. The fake fur on half of his head had torn away, exposing the wires and joint mechanism in his mechanical jaw. I never remembered him having teeth. On the same side, his plastic eye had sprung from its socket and now remained dangling by his torn cheek. Then he blinked, the mechanism on the broken eye shuddering around the exposed wire, releasing small sparks. More sparks flew as his arm shot up with a clang and the hinge of his jaw creaked as his mouth flopped open. He spoke…
“What do you think you’re doing?”
The funny Southern drawl of his voice was completely gone, replaced by something raspy and angry, and although I could hear the chilling distortion in his voice box, he sounded more human than I ever remembered.
Kevin ran. He didn’t even look back. Zack dropped his phone and slowly backed away, screaming as he stared into the dog’s one good eye, which seemed to turn on him at the disturbance. Then somehow the dog moved forward. He wasn’t programmed to walk. As far as I knew, the hydraulics attached to his back only sat him up. He wasn’t supposed to walk, but by God, I saw that once funny animatronic dog from my childhood step out of that old, withered outhouse towards us. I stood there, frozen in fear, staring at it.
“F-Fuck this!” I heard Zack utter before her too left me.
Now I was alone. With “him”.
I had spent so many years thinking about this very moment. I spent countless hours thinking about this dog and wanting to see him one last time. But I knew then I should never have stepped foot into that old park. My childhood was dead, as broken as the wires and metal rods that barely held the dog together.
He seemed to watch Zack go, his good eye turning with a cracking sound as he watched him disappear into the darkness. Then it turned on me.
“Get. Out,” he commanded, his arm still pointing, now in the direction of the parking lot, where the headlights of Zack’s car had just turned on.
I didn’t move. I could only stare. Was this some sick nightmare? Some bizarre fantasy my brain thought up to get my mind off a time I could no longer return to?
The…the THING stepped closer, its disfigured face near inches from my own. The smell of wet dog seemed to invade my nostrils.
“GET OUT OF HERE!” it boomed, the voice box short circuiting as if it had exploded before slowly fading out. It sounded like multiple voices had spoken, all deep and aggressive, almost demonic.
This time, I listened and ran as fast as I could through the park, which was dimly lit by the headlights of the car. My eyes darted around, the once familiar area now seemed foreign and strange. I couldn’t tell where I was going. I heard the sound of children laughing, the trumpeting call of an elephant…and the clanging and grinding of metal gears.
When I finally reached the fence, I tried sliding through the hole we came through, but I got stuck on something. I looked down to see if my jacket was caught, but it wasn’t. Then I looked back. Staring right into my eyes was one white plastic eyeball with a painted on black pupil. My eyes widened, staring back into that black spot as if it were a hole, ready to swallow me alive. Then I discovered the reason I was stuck…the hand of the animatronic dog was gripping the back of my shirt. I KNOW that hand was supposed to be stuck in a pointing position; it didn’t have any mechanical function to actually open and close. But then again, the dog wasn’t supposed to be walking anyway.
“You shouldn’t have come back,” I heard it whisper, sending a chill up my spine.
Then it released me with a shove and I fell through the opening in the fence. Scrambling to my feet, I ran to Zack’s car, not once looking back as he sped off down Main Street.

It’s been five years since that night. I don’t talk to Kevin and Zack much anymore and we have never once spoken of the incident, not even on the car ride home. I never drove down that stretch of Main Street, either…until today.
It was late and the road I usually take had a detour which led me right to it. What harm would driving by do?
I should have known better…
I tried not to look. I really did. But I just couldn’t help sneaking a peek. I couldn’t see much through all the rain, but I noticed the large ‘For Lease’ sign that now hung on the fence. The giraffe was gone or perhaps it had fallen over and was hidden under the thick brush. With a sigh, I continued on, trying to push the memories of that night out of my mind.
My windshield began to fog up from the indecisive New England weather, so I put my defroster on. Then I noticed something… Instead of clearing from the bottom up like it normally would, my windshield began to clear in patterns. It had formed words. I stared at them, hoping with all hope that it was just a fluke or a fragment of my imagination. But the message was clear.

When the police asked what caused me to crash into the pole just outside the abandoned park, all I could do was wrap the blanket they gave me tightly around myself as I stared back towards the bushes and trees that concealed the location of the 18th hole. “…Dog,” was all I could tell them, “It was that dog…”

Empty House

January 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Bored teenagers pick the worst places to hang out. Of course, this was the east end of Long Island where all the teenagers are bored. There’s nothing to do during the day if you’re not into sun and surf, and even less in the evenings. Summers are full of tourists, traffic and night clubs; convertibles still running outside of stores. The rest of the year, it’s quiet. And in the winter… desolate.

I was out with a group of friends that night. Well, they weren’t really my friends, but we hung out. They’d always drag me somewhere creepy in the dark to get high. Usually it was some place in the woods where I can’t see my hand in front of my face. One time it was an old betting track that had been condemned. Then there’s the obvious one: a cemetery. Nothing says ‘buzz kill’ like being surrounded by dead people. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if it was better than staying home alone.

By far the worst place they took me was the site of ‘The Montauk Project’, an abandoned military base where people claim they did experiments with time travel and mind control. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, the guy who took us there, Mike, told all these bullshit stories about feral people living in the tunnels. We even went up to the roof of a ten or so story building that was rusted and decaying inside. Not only am I afraid of heights, but the roof was sloped on all sides which made me feel like I was falling off.

“This is kinda creepy. Where are we going?” I asked, hoping it would be tame in comparison.

“We’re going to an abandoned house,” said Mike, much to my dismay. People had often tried getting me to go to abandoned houses, but I always refused. At least those other houses were near a main road, but wherever we were going was far off the beaten path. We had been driving for a while in the pitch black, down some road that felt endless. I couldn’t see in front of us either, since the car we were following was blocking the view, and Mike was driving pretty close.

“It’s not really abandoned,” said Jeff, from up in the passenger seat, “It’s just empty. It was built recently but I guess they haven’t finished some stuff, like the wiring and the locks.”

I wondered why anyone would build a new home in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing but trees lining the road we’d been on, and it was a long road. I was relieved to hear that the house was new, since abandoned houses are usually decrepit and falling apart. They remind me of places you should never go; places where horrible things lurk in the corners and under creaky floor boards. And let’s not forget splintery wood and nails jutting out in all directions, just waiting to pierce drunken teens in the darkness.

In the back seat with me were two alternative-hippy girls. I think it was the first time I’d met them, but I’m not sure. Some people are memorable, while others are just people. Mike and Jeff were probably trying to hook up with them, but I doubted they’d succeed.

“Oh my god, this is gonna be so cool!” one of the girls proclaimed, while the other giggled. Cool, huh? I wasn’t convinced. I suppose when you’re an outgoing person in a place with little excitement, you have to travel to empty houses in the middle of nowhere to get your kicks. As for me, outgoing wasn’t my thing.

When we finally pulled up to the house, the first thing I noticed was the uneven ground all around it. Nothing says ‘unfinished home’ like piles of dirt, unfilled holes, and a view of the foundation. At least the architecture was nice and simple. It was basically like a quasi-modernist rectangle with a lot of tall windows. I was always jealous of my friends who had modern homes. My parents had to be different and go with country charm. Once both drivers shut off their headlights, all I saw was black. We filed out of the cars, and a couple people with flashlights led the way up to the house.

“Ow, shit!” someone shouted. It was Melanie, the one girl that I had actually talked to a little before. She must have rode in the other car because she used to go out with Mike, and now things were a little uncomfortable between them. I didn’t really know the guys in the other car, but at least I knew Mike and Jeff, and I guess Melanie. “Watch out for these holes, guys. I just stepped in one and flippin’ almost broke my foot.”

The girls guided Melanie the rest of the way up to the sliding glass door, where Mike opened it, and in we went. Inside it was your typical, upper middle class Long Island home. The walls were blank white, devoid of any fancy trim, with that shiny wood flooring that doesn’t quite look real. There was a kitchen to the left, and a huge room to the right with a two-story ceiling. The front wall consisted mostly of large, paneless windows, while the back wall was solid and bare. Stairs led up to a second story, complete with an indoor balcony.

In the far corner of the room was the only furniture; a ratty couch and broken armchair that both looked like they came from a junkyard. They sat in front of a fireplace, with small stacks of paper strewn around them. By the looks of it, someone had been squatting there. I assumed it was Mike and his friends.

“Why is there furniture here?” I asked Mike.

“I don’t know. It was here when we found the place. The rest of the house is totally empty. Those papers weren’t here before, though.”

“That’s so weird,” was my typical response to unusual things. The last thing I wanted to find at that house was something unusual. Without the flashlights it was too dark to see, and I hate being in unfamiliar places in the dark. At least our voices echoing through the house gave me a little bit of comfort. It felt like everyone was close by at all times.

One of the guys I didn’t know called us into the kitchen to smoke weed. We were using a really short pipe, and I ended up burning my nose with the lighter. We all burst into hysterics, which lifted the little bit of tension I was feeling. I always seemed to do something funny by mistake when hanging out in a group. Perhaps that’s why this particular gang of misfits liked having me around.

After we lit up, a few of the girls started exploring the house. Intimidated by the darkness, I decided to hang out by the fireplace where Jeff was making a fire. Not having a flashlight made me nervous, and the light from the fire was a fair substitute. I sat in the cruddy armchair, sipping a beer, as Jeff was checking out the papers.

“What is all this stuff?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Some kind of medical stuff. Look,” he replied, handing me a few sheets. They looked like pages torn from medical journals; diagrams of human anatomy and such. Maybe they were photocopies, but in the dim light of the fire it was hard to tell. It was odd that someone would bring so many random papers to an empty house in the middle of nowhere, especially if it was a squatter.

“I figured these would be someone writing a book or something,” I said.

“That’s what I thought. Maybe someone came here to study.”

“This is a really weird place to study. And then to just leave it all here?”

“Creepy, huh?”

“Kinda,” I replied sarcastically.

By this point I was getting pretty bored. Sitting on trashy furniture, surrounded by stacks of mysterious papers, in a dark house, with people I didn’t know that well. I’ve only mentioned Mike and Jeff by name because I can’t remember anyone else’s, except for Melanie. She was as creeped out by the Montauk Project as I was, so we bonded a little. I could hear her voice from the second floor as she and the other girls were getting excited about something. They hurried down the stairs, with Melanie waving a jumbo-sized sheet of paper.

“Guys, check this out! It’s so freaky!” she elated, holding up some sort of crude drawing. It was the outline of a child in black marker. I recalled making those drawings in elementary school. A kid would lay down, and another would trace their body with magic marker or crayon. Only in this case, the hands had been colored in red.

Jeff was the first to say, “What the fuck?”, but we were both thinking it. The mysterious papers were bad enough, but now a mysterious drawing? For a moment I wondered if some of the guys were playing a practical joke.

“It was in one of the rooms upstairs,” said Melanie, “All the rooms were completely empty except for this.” She, along with her two friends, seemed playfully frightened. The kind of frightened you would expect from someone watching a scary movie they know isn’t real. Regardless of the odd nature of the drawing, it was the only interesting thing that had happened since we got there.

“The weirdest part is the hands being red,” I said, “It’s so weird.”

“Right?” Jeff concurred.

“I wanna take it home!” Melanie squealed.

“Why?” I asked, “It’s fucking scary. Why is it even here?” We had fun coming up with explanations, which helped me forget how disturbing it was. Maybe some kids were hanging out in the house and made it. But we couldn’t figure out why they would have brought a huge piece of paper. Then we thought it could have been made in school, and someone brought it to the house. Still, none of our theories could eliminate its somewhat sinister presence.

Mike and the others came over to see what we were doing. Soon we were all discussing the fate of the drawing. Melanie seemed to like it, but the rest of us were more superstitious. Our excuses for its existence started getting silly, as you might expect from a group of inebriated teenagers.

“What if it was made by a ghost? We shouldn’t touch it!”

“Maybe there’s a ghost of a little kid living here, and that’s why no one’s moved in yet!”

“Someone probably cut off his hands and that’s why they’re red!”

Once we ran through every ghost story cliche we could think of, we came to the consensus that the drawing would stay. Melanie laid it on the armchair to make it look like it was sitting. The other girls were going up to the roof, and Melanie asked me to come.

“I’m afraid of heights, remember?” I was hoping that would be enough to make her leave me alone. Last time we went up on a roof I swore I would never do it again.

“Oh, come on. You’ve just been sitting in here the whole time. Besides, the roof is really cool. You can’t fall off unless you try.”

I gave in and followed her up to the second floor. We squeezed through an open window onto the roof where the other girls were smoking a bowl. The middle was flat, surrounded on all sides by upward slants. My fear didn’t come into play, which was a pleasant surprise. It was probably the coolest ‘hang out’ roof I’d seen. While the girls and I laughed over nonsense, Melanie walked up one of the slants to a peak so she could look down.

“Melanie, don’t fall!” the girls said, almost in unison.

“Oh shut up. I’m not gonna fall,” Melanie grumbled, shining her flashlight around. For a minute she was silent, then asked, “Can someone come here for a sec?” One of the girls went up to join her, and Melanie pointed to an area in front of the house. “Isn’t that where we parked?”

The five of us went downstairs, and Melanie approached Mike and his friends.

“Did you guys move the cars? I didn’t see them from the roof.”

Mike replied with a confused, drawn out, “Nooo?” as he turned to look out the windows. He tried shining a flashlight but it reflected off the glass. They all went outside and immediately started swearing. The cars weren’t in front of the house. After circling the entire perimeter, it was confirmed they were gone.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Mike yelled, his voice disappearing into the sky. I started to wonder again if some kind of joke was being played. Maybe one of the guys moved the cars down the road and then walked back, just to freak everyone out. No one heard them start up, though.

“Okay, who moved the cars?” the other driver asked. I hadn’t had much contact with him, and he seemed a little high strung, so I was slightly freaked out by the possibility that he might be aggressive.

“I didn’t. Did you?” Mike said, looking at Jeff.

“No, dude. I wouldn’t move your car, let alone both of them.”

“Seriously, guys. This isn’t cute,” the guy said, “I want to know if someone stole my fucking car, or if you guys are playing a fucking joke.” I could tell this guy wasn’t going to put up with any shenanigans. Mike and Jeff were a little caught off guard that they were being accused. Someone suggested to do a pocket check, and it turned out they still had the keys to both vehicles.

“This doesn’t make sense,” said Jeff, as we all started murmuring. This time it wasn’t any fun trying to figure out the mystery. How did two cars just disappear? The girls were crying now. Well, not Melanie. The guys were cursing up a storm, especially the driver of the second car. I’ve decided to dub him ‘angry guy’. Not that his anger wasn’t justified, it was just his most prominent trait. I had nothing to contribute to the situation, so I just waited for everyone to figure out what we were going to do. The only thing that mattered to me was getting home sometime in the next century. It took a while to face reality, as unbelievable as it was, and we eventually started walking home.

Everyone was silent. The only sound came from our footsteps and the twitter of crickets. There was just enough moonlight to see the barren trees arching over the road. It was going to take a few hours to get anywhere that had streetlights, and we were all exhausted. ‘Angry guy’ was walking ahead. No one wanted to be near him, afraid he would blow up again once everyone was getting cranky from walking so far. Not that we could blame him.

“Hey, can we stop for a minute?” asked one of the girls. We collectively agreed it was a good idea, even though we had only been walking for about twenty minutes. There was a sense of denial that we were still so far from home. Jeff packed a bowl and we passed it around.

As everyone waited for their turn in the cipher, we talked about what to do when we got home. Jeff suggested going to the police, as if that wasn’t obvious. Mike started spewing some crap about how he knew people who could track down the cars, like they were the A-Team or something. ‘Angry guy’ didn’t say anything. I just wanted to go home.

“Did everyone get a hit?” Jeff asked, making sure no one got shafted. As everyone looked at each other and nodded, the girls noticed something.

“Hey, where’s Melanie?” Suddenly, everyone realized that she wasn’t there. The flashlight holders scanned the area but there was only trees and dirt road. We each called her name several times, but it just echoed into the night air.

“This isn’t funny, guys. Where’s Melanie?” We spread out a little, continuing to call her name. If she was playing a joke on us, it was in enormously poor taste. Everyone was frustrated and bewildered by the vanishing cars, and this wasn’t helping.

“Fuck!” Mike shouted, “Where the fuck is she? We can’t keep going if we don’t know where she is.”

“Dude, let’s just leave her,” one guy joked.

“Are you stupid?!” shouted one of the girls, “She’s our friend! We’re not just leaving her in the middle of nowhere!”

“Maybe she went back to the house,” I suggested. Everyone stopped talking for a moment, contemplating the possibility that she did indeed go back. I wasn’t really serious, though. What idiot would go back to the house without telling us? And why? After more grumbling, cursing and arguing, we decided that a few of us would go back to the house while the others waited in case Melanie really was messing with us. If she was, then she just lost some friends. I volunteered to go, since waiting for an unknown length of time seemed worse in that moment.

On the way back to the house, the two girls, Mike, and myself, discussed the whole situation. We had come to an empty house in the middle of nowhere to party, only for our transportation to vanish, and we couldn’t explain it. Mike came up with this theory that the cars disappearing was some sick joke, and that Melanie was in on it. He implied that she got some guys who could hot-wire cars to drive them away so we would have to walk home. Then she ran back towards the house and they picked her up. The girls seemed offended but they were tired of defending her, so they just shrugged it off.

As we finally arrived back at the house, my stomach dropped upon seeing it again. I cursed myself for volunteering to come back. I guess I wanted to know sooner than later if Melanie was okay. Approaching the sliding glass door, we were surprised to see it was open.

“Did we leave the door open?” asked Mike.

“I’m almost positive someone closed it,” I replied. If there was any reason for it being open, it had to be that Melanie went back inside. As we entered the main room, the house felt emptier than before. I noticed that a lot of the medical papers were in the fireplace, and the contour drawing of the child with red hands was gone. We searched the kitchen while calling for Melanie. It was clear she wasn’t on the first floor, so we headed upstairs.

“I’m going to be pissed if she’s not here,” said Mike, “because then we came back for nothing.” The girls just ignored him and went to search the rooms, while I split off to go check the roof. The window was still open, and I squeezed through. If I expected her to be anywhere, it was here.

The roof was empty and silent, with a gentle breeze blowing. I could almost see over the treetops, which made me feel stronger than my fear of dark forests. For a moment I forgot that we were looking for Melanie, until I heard the girls panicking inside. I quickly squeezed back through the window and ran to see what was up. Mike and the girls were looking at something in one of the empty rooms.

“What happened?” I asked. Mike shone the flashlight at a spot on the floor. Reluctantly, I approached and looked down, as the girls gripped each other, sobbing. There were two jumbo-sized sheets of paper, taped together to make one larger sheet. Drawn in marker was the outline of a girl, with only the hands colored in red.

Credit: Umbrello

The Price is Right

December 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM

The Careys had spent months searching for an apartment in the city. After sleeping on friends’ floors from July through the beginning of September, they were ready to have a home of their own. Their friends had been more than welcoming, but the search was growing tiresome.
“Hon…” said Owen from the couch one night as he scrolled through the online listings once more, “Hon, there’s one in Lakevi-…oh wait, nevermind.” The white glow of the screen lit up his glasses as he sat in the near darkness of another friend’s apartment.
“Owen, let’s go to bed,” said Mal from the doorway. She looked endearingly at her husband and sighed with a sympathetic smile. “Come on, you’ve been looking for hours.”
She crossed the wooden floor to sit on the couch by him. The old boards creaked beneath her bare feet. Mal put her chin on Owen’s shoulder but his eyes remained on the screen.
“Just one more…” he muttered, half to her and half to himself. “Mal, what do you think of this one in Wicker? It looks really good on here, but…” His voice trailed off as he scanned the glowing page. His eyes were sore. “But the price—that can’t be right?” His thick brows elevated.
“That looks nice, Owe. Come, let’s go to bed.” She reached across his lap and slowly pulled the top of the screen closed.
“Alright,” said Owen. “That last one looked really good. Let’s check it out tomorrow.”
“Oh, I have that thing with Beth tomorrow, but you go! Go look at it for us.” Then, almost to herself she added, “hope I don’t have that dream again tonight.” They rose to walk to the guest room. Owen rubbed his tight neck; he didn’t realize he had been hunched over so long.

Owen and Mal had moved to Chicago four months after they were married. Both were from Arizona, he from Flagstaff and she from Phoenix. Their wedding was beautiful and lush. They were beautiful. They had moved to Chicago so his web design business could finally get off the ground, and she could connect with the fitness community in Chicago.
Malorie was a marathoner. She was the fastest female at Phoenix U, but nowadays it was a hobby. For a brief time before meeting Owen, she had tried to launch her own line of snacks for runners that replaced electrolytes and boosted energy called Malorie’s Calories.
When the idea failed, she went by Mal.

The next day Owen and his friend David drove to Wicker Park to look at the house. It was situated just several blocks north of Six Points, Wicker’s central hub, in a beautiful lane lined with green trees and brick sidewalks. Every house appeared to have been designed by a different architect, providing an eclectic appearance of a giant mosaic. The house was on the center of the block, edged on one side by a very postmodern glass house, and a tall brown brick home on the other.
The house itself was nice enough. It boasted no spectacular features compared to the rest on the block, but it was beautiful in its own humble respect. Whitewashed wood paneling fronted it, with green trim and a red brick base.
“Wow,” said Owen, looking over the building the way a child stands before a bakery window with his finger on his lip. “I seriously can’t figure out why the price is so low.”
Dave had accompanied Owen on a number of house hunts since he had arrived in the city. “Let’s look at the inside,” he sighed. “Maybe that’ll explain it.”
They ascended the steps and knocked on the green door. Getting a closer view of the house only made it more appealing to Owen. A relatively well-kept garden sat just below the front windows on either side of the front porch where a smattering of colorful flowers were in full late-summer bloom.
The door opened and a woman in her northern 60’s appeared behind it. She smiled gently as her bright green eyes smiled up at the men.
“You must be Owen,” she said, extending a small shriveled hand. Her skin was soft and cool, and when she smiled, her lips dug deep into her cheeks. She told them her name was Ava.
“Please, come in,” she said, stepping back from the door and opening it wider.
“Oh, thank you,” said Owen.
“Can I get you anything?” she tossed over her shoulder as she walked back toward the kitchen.
“Uhm. No ma’am, we’re fine,” he called back as they entered, scanning the interior of the house. It was small enough to be cozy and large enough to host get-togethers. Dave and Owen both took turns throwing out courteous questions to show their interest, but Owen had made up his mind. The worn white walls and hardwood flooring added character, and the location was ideal.
“It’s all so great,” said Owen after Ava had shown them throughout the entire building, “but if I may ask, is there a reason the price is so low? I mean…”
Ava looked at the ground and for a moment, her warm demeanor dropped. Half a second later, she looked back up and smiled wearily. Her eyes suddenly seemed like they were a foot inside her head as she spoke through the forced grin.
“No reason,” she nearly whispered, pushing her well-worn dimples back into her cheeks. And after a moment, “I’m just ready to move on, get somewhere quieter. Out of the city.” She turned and walked back to the kitchen. “Please, look around all you want, gentlemen,” she called back through the door.

The next day, Owen parked the car in the nearest spot he could find, two blocks away, and he and Mal walked to the house. He hopped alongside her, still reeling with disbelief that he had finally found their home. They were three houses away when Mal’s pace slowed.
When Owen looked at her, her eyes were wide and her feet were dragging.
“Mal?” he said, “Everything alright?”
She paused for a moment. “Owe, this may sound crazy, but you have to believe me.”
He nodded, encouraging her to go on, thoroughly confused.
“You know that dream I’ve been telling you about? The one I have every couple nights?”
“Yah.” He wished he had listened better when she had described it.
“I think this is the street from my dream. I know it sounds crazy, Owe, but I’ve seen this street before. Exactly like this, as it is today. Sometimes it’s night, but also like this.”
Owen was nodding sympathetically.
“And, I always walk up to that house over there.”
Owen froze.
She was pointing to the house. Their house.
“What happens then?” he asked.
“Well, I knock on the door, and then wait. Right when the door begins to open, I wake up.”
Owen felt his neck tense again. He tried to brush off the whole thing, hoping it was mere coincidence. They knocked and Ava answered with a big, wrinkled smile.
“You must be Mal!” she cried, reaching up to embrace her.
Ava and Owen walked Mal through the whole house, Owen showing her every unique feature and special corner of the building. By the end of the tour, Mal had nearly forgotten her dream and had been swept away by the whimsical interior of the property.

On the drive home, Mal asked why the price was so low.
“That’s exactly what I asked her,” replied Owen. “I guess it’s just her time to move on and she’s in kind of a rush to get out of the city.” He chuckled, “I guess at that age, you need to make decisions a bit quicker.” His wife elbowed him while he drove.

The next weekend they moved in. By the first night, boxes littered every room and their bed was a queen sized mattress lying on the ground. They were exhausted.
Mal went to the bedroom while Owen got some work done on the computer. He had already made a few connections in the city, and business was quickly picking up. He was good at what he did.
About an hour later, there was a knock at the door. Owen looked at the clock in the corner of the screen and shook his head. It was almost eleven. Muttering under his breath, he pushed himself up onto his feet and walked to the door. Fidgeted with the locks. When he got it open, he looked out on the porch and no one was there. He leaned out the doorway and looked up and down the street.
He shook his head and closed the door. “Kids,” he muttered to himself. And then, “old lady couldn’t take a joke.”

The next morning Owen told Mal about the pranking.
“It’s no big deal,” she said, smiling and smacking his arm. “They’re just welcoming the new people. We’re like the new kids! We’ll meet them soon and it won’t happen again! Lighten up!” She laughed. Mal finished her breakfast and left for an interview with a gym only a few blocks from the house.
The next few days blurred together as the two of them unpacked their belongings and filled in the barren places in the house. Mal got the job and Owen began catching cabs down to the Loop several days a week for meetings with new clients.

Two weeks later, they were asleep when there was another knock on the door. Neither one stirred for a moment until the knock came again, louder.
“Mm-I’ll get it,” slurred Mal as she threw her long legs off the bed and stood up. After dressing, she shuffled to the door and looked outside.
No one was there.
Mal froze as she fully woke up and remembered.
She had been having the dream again.

Credit: Ethan Renoe

Scream City

December 29, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Recently, a group of friends invited me to go with them to one of those haunted attractions that pop up when it gets close to Halloween. I wasn’t too keen on the idea. I love scary stories and movies and the like, but the apprehension that comes from knowing something is about to jump out and scare you, not to mention how close the actors get to you, is almost more than I can handle. But since I love Halloween and hadn’t got much of a chance to celebrate it, I tagged along.

The place was called Scream City, so named because it had a loose city theme. It had all the typical haunted house fare, complete with a long line. We managed to pass the time by telling scary stories as the occasional worker dressed as a zombie or insane clown rattled the chain-link fence surrounding the queue and screamed. As we approached the entrance, a man dressed as a witch doctor led us and a few others through the door, where he explained the rules. No running, no touching the actors, if you have a heart condition we are not responsible, and so on. As he wrapped up his spiel, he pressed a button and the steel double doors behind him swung open. We walked past him and into a living room while the doors creaked shut behind us.

The room we stood in looked like a cheap motel room. As the rest of the group filed in I took a look around. Stained, blue carpet covered the floor and in the middle of the room stood a recliner, facing a television that blared silent static back. In the recliner was a seemingly long dead man, his gaunt face partially obscured by stringy black hair. An overturned bowl of chips sat in his lap, and one skeletal hand clutched a TV remote. As we crossed the room and walked through the door on the opposite side, the emaciated figure in the chair sat bolt upright and screamed at us, the sound drowning out as we fled into the next room and the door slammed behind us.

We stood in a hospital, beds lining either side of the narrow pathway that led to the next door. A window on the left wall betrayed the “city” setting with its view of a grassy field. There were four beds on either side, one of them covered in blood and gore. The last bed on the right contained a human-shaped lump beneath its covers, and a chorus of screams erupted behind me as the actor tore the covers off, revealing his mangled face. He laughed maniacally as our group filed into the next room.

This room led us past a church altar, a large, upside down cross hanging behind it. On either side of the altar, stained glass windows let a small amount of multicolored light to seep into the room. In front of the altar stood a woman in a wedding dress. Her dress was torn and frayed, and red stains marred the otherwise pure white garment. She was sobbing, and clutching the hands of the lifeless, skeletal corpse in a tuxedo that stood across from her. As we approached the open door on the other side of the room, the bride let go of the dummy’s hands, and it fell to the floor unrealistically. She turned to us, revealing her pallid, tear-stained face and began screaming wildly.

We passed through the open door into what looked like a factory floor. Our footsteps on the hard concrete floor echoed through the nearly empty room as we approached the only furnishing: a conveyor belt that ran from one wall to the other. At the far end was a large, somewhat phony-looking circular saw blade. A dummy was bound and laying on the belt on the opposite end, slowly approaching the blade. A speaker somewhere within the dummy created distorted screams. A man dressed in safety gear laughed maniacally as he pushed down a lever beside the blade, causing the conveyor belt to speed up slightly. No one in our group so much as jumped when we passed the plastic blade and entered the next room.

We strolled through a graveyard, iron fences on either side of the path separating us from plastic tombstones and zombified actors who groaned and shuffled, one of them approaching the fence to reach for a girl towards the front of the line. At the end of the path stood two open doors. Between the fences was a figure in a black cloak, his face invisible under the jet black hood. He clutched a large, prop scythe in one hand. The door to his left revealed what appeared to be a long hallway. The door on his right opened only into pitch blackness. He pointed to the left as member of our group approached him, obediently entering the hallway. This pattern repeated until I approached, bringing up the rear. He quickly moved his hand and pointed towards the dark doorway. Normally I would be hesitant to continue by myself, but considering how unimpressed I had been up to this point, I smiled and strolled into the inky darkness.

I heard the door close behind me as I observed my surroundings. Rather, I tried to observe my surroundings. It was so dark I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I also noticed that it was cold, so cold I could have believed I was outside if it wasn’t for the unnatural blackness surrounding me. I felt around for walls but found nothing, so I just continued straight, hoping I would soon see something.

My wish was granted after a minute or so of walking, as a door, outlined by light gleaming through its cracks, came into view. Relieved, I opened it and walked into…the graveyard I had just been in.

The grim reaper figure was missing, as were the actors. The room was apparently lit by a black light, as a deep blue tint covered the otherwise familiar room. The gravestones looked much more realistic, so much so that, if not for the cheapness of the rest of the attraction, could have convinced me that they had sprung for real marble. Large, plastic tarps covering amorphous piles littered the patches behind the iron gates. I slowly approached the doorway on the opposite side, jumping and letting out an involuntary shout as something rolled out from beneath one of the tarps. The object was a very real looking corpse. This had to be an actor, and I was impressed by his ability to lay still for so long. Wanting to allow him a break, I shuffled through the doorway and into the factory room.

The first thing I noticed was the saw blade to my left now looked very real, a far cry from the cheap piece of plastic I had seen earlier. This room showed the same eerie blue tint as the previous rooms, as did the rooms that followed it. The bound dummy was missing, and I was startled when I noticed the actor in the safety gear was staring at me, an impossibly wide grin on his face. Without breaking eye contact or changing his expression, he slowly lowered his wrist onto the saw blade. The blade’s shiny silver was soon stained with red as it severed the man’s hand at the wrist. Blood continued to spurt from the wound as he brought his arm back to his side, his smile unchanged. The man remained like this, staring into my eyes for several seconds before he simply collapsed to the floor. I was thoroughly creeped out by this, and equally confused as to how the attraction’s designers had managed to pull off that trick. They must have hired a special effects expert or something, I thought to myself.

A hollow thumping sound rang in my ears as I entered the church, and its source soon became evident. The bride knelt next to the wooden altar, slamming her head into it every few seconds, almost rhythmically. Her eyes, unfocused and unblinking, were locked in a thousand yard stare. I was pretty freaked out at this point, and simultaneously satisfied that I was finally getting my money’s worth. I braced myself and entered the hospital.

Each of the eight beds now had shapes beneath the covers, though many of them looked large enough to be two or even three people. I noticed the most significant difference between this room and its counterpart when I glanced at the window. The field had been replaced by what looked to be a view from a second or third story window, overlooking a large city. I skirted between two of the beds and approached the window for a closer look. Skyscrapers stretched out into the distance, and one close to the window was burning, the orange glow of the flames reflecting in the mirrored windows of the buildings surrounding it. I looked down to the street, expecting to see a firetruck, but instead I saw an empty road. There were no cars at all, not even parked on curbs. Just inside an alleyway was a tarp covering a large mound, very similar to the tarps I had seen in the graveyard room. A man stood opposite it, his back pressed against the wall of the building behind him. He cautiously peeked his head around the corner, looking both ways before he began walking down the sidewalk away from me. Suddenly, a ground floor window of the building he was standing next to shattered, spraying him with glass shards. Before he could recover a man leapt through the broken window onto him, pinning him to the ground. To my horror, the new arrival sunk his teeth into the man’s neck, pulling off a large piece of flesh and swallowing it. I wasn’t keen on seeing what happened next, and instead entered what I hoped was the final room.

The recliner was now overturned, laying on its back in the middle of the room. The gaunt corpse of a man that had been sitting in it now hung from a noose above it, the rope swaying back and forth almost imperceptibly. I could tell from the constantly changing glow that the television projected against the back wall that it was playing something other than static. As the screen came into view I saw it was a newscast, a young blonde reporter clutching a microphone in the foreground standing in front of a backdrop that could have been a warzone. The television was apparently muted, as I couldn’t hear anything she said, but I didn’t need sound to see how nervous she was. It wasn’t the jitters you may expect an inexperienced reporter to exhibit, her expression was one of pure fear. She constantly glanced over her shoulder and even dropped the microphone once. The banner spanning across the bottom of the screen read “RIOTS BREAKING OUT WORLDWIDE.” Beneath it, smaller writing proclaimed “Law enforcement resorting to violence to contain civil unrest.” The young lady’s nervous reporting was sometimes replaced with what looked like scenes from horror movies: two women beating a man to the ground and then kicking and stomping on him until he stopped moving, an entire mob descending on a police officer so that only his wildly flailing arm protruded through the mass of bodies, its movement soon slowing and then stopping altogether…similar scenes played out as the broadcast continued, each one bearing the name of a city in the top left corner. Chicago, Philadelphia, Beijing, Paris…worldwide didn’t seem to be an exaggeration. Eventually, the young woman returned, looking as scared as ever. After a few seconds of silent reporting, she stopped short, her eyes locked on something that seemed to be just behind the camera. Her face contorted into a scream just before a figure leapt out from behind the camera, tackling her to the ground. I could see her legs struggling to get leverage to push the figure off to no avail. The rest of her was obscured by the broad back of the figure that sat on her, stooped over her like the closed top of a convertible. In a scene that was becoming familiar, the reporter’s legs soon went limp. The man that had attacked her turned to stare directly into the camera, his blood-covered mouth spread in a wide smile. He sat there, unmoving, unblinking, for several seconds before he charged at the camera. I briefly felt like I was looking into a running washing machine as the camera apparently toppled over before the screen cut to blackness.

The abrupt end of the newscast brought me back to reality, wondering how long I had actually been watching the television. Remembering that my friends were probably waiting on me, I hurried through the door that led to the exit of the attraction. I quickly spotted the group I had arrived with and excitedly described what I had experienced.

“Wow!” my friend Rob spoke up, “the rooms we went through were just as lame as the rest of the place. Wish we had gone with you.”

Before we left the place for good, I approached the witch doctor that ushered us in at the entrance.

“Hey, man, you should send everyone through the backwards part, it’s seriously scary!”

He looked confused. “I…don’t know exactly which part you mean, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. Have a good one.”
At first, I assumed he was messing with me. After all, it was his job to scare me. But as I thought about the look on his face and the way he had told me he didn’t know what I meant it occurred to me he was either a very good actor, or genuinely had no idea what I was talking about. While this was unsettling, it isn’t the reason I’ve had trouble sleeping for the past week. The image that I see every night when I wake up drenched in sweat isn’t the look of confusion that spread over the man’s painted face when I gave him a piece of advice. It’s the white numbers that stayed constant on the bottom right corner of the screen as the newscast played, giving the date as October 31st, 2037.

Credit: DoubleDDucky


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