The Old Mill of Playland

September 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Sometimes I miss the dreamy sensations that came with childhood, like the excitement of visiting an amusement park. Back then they seemed like dreamlands nestled in reality, and it was as though no kid could wait to visit them. My younger brother and I were no exceptions. Whenever summertime rolled around, we would eagerly count down the days until Playland opened its gates.

Never heard of it? Playland is a very old amusement park in our hometown of Rye, New York, and it was always the place to be when we were kids. I made many fond memories at that park: the first time I rode the famous Dragon Coaster, playing frisbee on the park’s beach with my brother and father, and the night my crush kissed me on the cheek as we watched the fireworks display from the boardwalk. One particular memory, however, overshadows the rest.

It was the night our adult sister and her boyfriend had brought us to Playland. The four of us had spent the day riding the coasters, playing minigolf, and so on, but what my brother and I were really looking forward to was going on the dark rides (you know, those indoor rides through dark tunnels with different scenery and animatronics). At the time, there were rumors going around that all of Playland’s dark rides were going to be shut down, so we were adamant about paying them our final respects. My brother insisted on waiting until nightfall before riding them, so I assumed he wanted to go on the Zombie Castle or the Flying Witch first. But once the sun had disappeared behind the sealine, instead he hurried us to the tamest of the dark rides: Ye Old Mill. While the other two dark rides take you through castles infested with zombies and monsters, this one takes you on a boat ride through caves inhabited by Disney-esque gnomes and trolls. I asked him,

“You want to ride this one first? I thought you were our main thrill-seeker.”

“Yeah, I am,” He replied. “But I want to try something.” I could hear a bit of mischief in his voice.

“Try what?”

“I heard that if you go on this ride alone at night, you can see a ghost at one part!” Okay, so it was clearly only a rumor he had heard at school, but what would one expect from a 9-year-old? I (who was 11 at the time) just brushed it off, although I was, admittedly, a superstitious kid. “Just wait here, I’m going on first!” He turned to run to the ticket booth when our sister swiftly stepped in front of him.

“No you’re not!” She snapped. “Don’t you remember what happened last year?”

“Oh, yeah…” I muttered to myself. I had almost forgotten about the incident that had occurred on the ride looming above us, a tragedy that had played out like a horror story.

You see, Playland has a small record of deadly accidents, one of which occurred in 2005. A 7-year-old boy had gone on the Old Mill alone, having passed its minimum height requirement. His mother, who had been waiting outside, was terrified to find that the boat he was riding in returned empty. The news later broke out that authorities had discovered his body stuck beneath one of the conveyor belts used to move the boats, under more than 2 feet of water. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident and inspectors found nothing wrong with the ride itself, so it was believed that the boy became frightened and climbed out of the boat in an attempt to escape. According to the boy’s autopsy, the cause of his death wasn’t by drowning, but blunt force trauma to the head.

“He’ll be fine as long as he stays in the boat.” I said. Sis frowned at me as my brother nodded in agreement. Even though I understood why she was worried, I thought she was overreacting. The Old Mill was one of the safest rides in the park, and our little thrill-seeker didn’t scare easily.

“Look, you two can just ride it together. The ghost might appear anyway, right?”

“Yeah guys,” Her boyfriend chimed in. “You can take it like a pair of ghostbusters!” The cheesiness of that line made me laugh, as did the face my brother made in response. I said to him,

“Sounds fine to me.” He just sighed in defeat.

“Oh, all right.” As my brother walked up to the booth, Sis put a hand on my shoulder and quietly said,

“Don’t let him do anything stupid, okay?” I turned to see her face dark with concern. Hell, she sounded like she expected us not to come back. What did she think our brother would do? Jump ship and hide in the scenery? Sounds silly, but it was technically possible. The Old Mill has narrow concrete paths running along the walls for staff access, so people could hop out of the sluggish boats and go exploring. To try and calm her down, I placed a hand on her shoulder and said,

“Okay, I won’t let him get eaten by the robot gnomes.”

“Oh, shut up and go already!” She gave me a playful rap over the head before checking out the nearby game booths with her boyfriend, leaving my brother and me to board the ride. With no line in front of us, it was only moments before we boarded one of the boats and were on our way into the Old Mill. Rounding the first bend, we were greeted by an animatronic gnome in mining gear perched on a pipe above us.

“Welcome to Playland Waterworks!” it announced in its usual Western accent. “We’re keepin’ it flowin’ down here! But stay in the boat and on the main waterways. There’s hungry trolls hiding in those back caverns!” With that, the boat drifted into the unlighted tunnels ahead.

Do you ever get the feeling that a room seems darker when you know it’s dark outside? Never having been on the Old Mill at night, I was getting that sense. Aside from the lights on the scenery, the tunnels were completely black. I tend to get a little anxious in really dark places since my eyesight isn’t the greatest, but being with my brother helped alleviate that anxiety. For the first couple minutes we just poked fun at the scenes we passed, which consisted of the gnomes performing generic mining duties: digging for gems, blasting stone with TNT, and accidentally blowing each other up (in the cartoony “covered-in-soot” way, of course). At one point I asked him,

“So, when’s this ghost supposed to appear again?”

“I don’t know.” He replied with a shrug. “But it wouldn’t be in here, it’s too bright. Maybe if we’re really quiet…” We had just entered a room full of mock machinery, the set brightly lit. Both of us went silent, so I just listened to the bouncy music playing over the speakers. I heard a sharp clicking sound a couple times as we passed through the room; assuming it was the music skipping or something, I ignored it and thought about the accident. That kid must’ve been really afraid of the dark, that or the “scarier” scenes got to him. But still, to frighten him enough to want to climb out of the boat…My contemplation abruptly ended when my brother turned excitedly towards me.

“This could be it! Get ready!” This is where the memory becomes more vivid for me, as though it happened last night. Ever since I was little, this particular part of the ride struck me as foreboding: as the boat made another turn, the comical music emanating from the machine room faded out, overtaken by the sound of gusty winds. A white strobe light flickered in the distance while faux thunder echoed through the corridor, creating the illusion of getting caught in a summer storm. The chilling atmosphere was amplified by light mist spraying about, surrounding us in a cool embrace. ‘There’s nothing here,’ I thought to myself, ‘Nothing here except us’. But then, I heard it again: Clickclickclick, just like in the last room. Without the music and voices of the animatrons, I could hear it more clearly; it reminded me of the sound a dog’s claws make when it walks across a hard floor. I glanced around, even though I couldn’t see a damn thing, and tried to locate the sound. Then it occurred to me that the only “floors” around were the paths alongside the boat…

“Hey, do you hear that?” I asked my brother.

“What?”

“That clicking sou-” A crash of thunder suddenly burst from the speakers, cutting me off and making my heart leap. But what frightened me more was that as soon as the thunder rang out, I thought I heard something splash in the water behind us.

“What? Did you hear the ghost?” My brother asked.

“N-no…” I stammered. Disappointed, he turned away from me without even noticing my unease. As our lonely vessel drifted beyond the stormy hall, I listened carefully for the clicking sound again. Clickclickclick; There it was, sure enough. ‘What the hell is that?’ I thought. I was beginning to think it was just in my head, but then I heard something else alongside it: Clack clack clack. It was just like the clicking, only…heavier. Sharper.

“Go back, please!” A worried voice warned us. I noticed we were drifting by the next scene: a gnome with a lantern waving at us from a small cliff. “Last chance! They’ll get ya for sure! Please, don’t go back there!” From that point forward, my imagination started to run away with me. I began to think the puppets were trying to warn us of some real, imminent danger, regardless of the fact that they were only reciting their usual lines. I wasn’t even focused on the scenery anymore, instead fearfully staring at the floor of the boat while my mind ran wild. If a ghost were haunting the ride, would it try to hurt us?

“I warn you, humans!” I heard one of the troll puppets shout. “Go away now!”

What if someone who had come in before us decided to hide in the scenery and scare whoever passed by? What if that person was dangerous? Or maybe, instead of some phantom or adolescent trickster, we were being watched by…something else?

“It’s too late now.” Another troll said, letting out a low, wicked laugh. I finally looked up, recognizing the scene in front of me: the troll was stationed next to a sharpened log suspended by vines; a trap. The log suddenly swung forward as the tunnel was engulfed in darkness, a crashing sound played moments later. Just before the crash, I let a scream slip out as I heard another splash. This time, it wasn’t as far behind.

“What?! What is it?!” My brother shouted back in surprise.

“D-didn’t you hear that?!” I stammered. “Something’s in here! In the water!” He paused a moment, as though to say he had been hearing something as well throughout the ride.

“Y-you better not be joking!” He was trying to sound tough, but he couldn’t mask the fear in his voice. The trepidation I had felt since the stormy hall had finally overtaken me. I was on the brink of tears, glancing every which way to find the source of that godforsaken sound of claws on stone. I hoped and prayed that we would come to a tunnel with more light and fast–
Clickclickclick

I held my breath, frozen in terror. Whatever was making that sound was right beside the boat. For the first time, I heard it breathing; it took in quiet, shallow, croaking gasps as if it was struggling for air. It wasn’t the mournful moaning of a child’s spirit, however. No, it didn’t even sound human…I had to know. Despite the temptation to just hide my face in my sweaty hands, I had to know what in God’s name was following us. Summoning whatever little courage I had, I slowly turned my head to the path on my left. Fear pierced my heart as I met the incandescent gaze of two green, unblinking eyes. They were wide and blank like those of an angler fish, but I couldn’t make out the head they were attached to. I heard its claws lightly click against the concrete as it crept alongside the boat, its eyes locked onto me. Shivering, I took in only quick, stilted breaths, afraid that any sudden movement or sound would cause it to attack. I wanted to warn my brother and tell him not to move, but before I could…

“What’s that noise?” He asked meekly. I heard his body shift as he turned to face me. Suddenly, he let out a scream, clearly seeing what I saw. The creature immediately averted its eyes from me and locked onto my terrified brother, responding to his scream with a loud hiss. It darted past me and leapt towards him at alarming speed. My brother cried and screamed in pain, snapping me out of my fear-induced paralysis. Without thinking, I reached out to pull the infernal thing off of him, fumbling in the darkness until I got a hold of it. It wasn’t very big, but it was powerful. The rough scales that made up its exterior dug into my skin as it writhed and squirmed relentlessly in my arms. I was about to throw it overboard when I suddenly felt several claws strike me across the face. I shrieked and clasped my hands to my face as the damn creature slipped free.

“Get it away!!” My brother cried. “It’s going to kill us!!” Wiping my eyes of what was either blood or tears, I turned around to see those faint green eyes burning into mine. All at once I felt a churning blend of fear and rage, and as it approached again I swung my leg as hard as I could. The creature let out what sounded like a gasp as my foot slammed against it. Realizing I had the upper hand, I rushed forward and kicked at it again, and again, and again before backing towards my sobbing brother. Still unable to see anything in the darkness but those eyes, I watched as they unsteadily turned from us and disappeared over the rear of the boat with a splash. To my relief, the boat was just starting to pass one of the next scenes, offering us just enough light to see.

“Quick, it’s gone! Get out of the boat!” Thanks to the adrenaline coursing through me, I was able to pull myself onto the concrete walkway beside the set and my brother after me. I could see his wounds in the dim, orange light. His legs were scratched up as was his chest, visible through his torn shirt. But his worst injury was on his left arm, drenched in blood; he was tightly clutching a large mark between the wrist and elbow.

“It bit me!” He sobbed repeatedly. There was no way in hell we could stay any longer.

“Come on, we need to get help!” I choked out, trying to catch my breath. Thankfully, he was still able to walk. By sticking close to the wall, we were able to find our way to the next set without falling off the narrow walkway. The scene was of a troll cutting down a tree, so I knew we were close to the end of the ride. “Don’t worry, we’re almost there! Almost…”

Clack clack clack.

The familiar sound stopped us in our tracks. I began to tremble, ready to sob out of utter disbelief. ‘No, no that’s not real!’ I told myself. But what followed was unmistakable: a furious, hissing roar right behind us. Instinctively I turned around, just in time to see another glowing pair of eyes charging in our direction.

“RUN!” I screamed. We bolted towards the end of the set as the second creature entered the room. I looked back for a moment to see how far behind it was, catching a blurry glimpse of its appearance. It was some ungodly animal, larger than the other one, clawing its way toward us like an enraged crocodile. Its eyes burned bright yellow-orange like twin torches, and its teeth seemed to be bared and jagged. All I could see of the body itself was a greyish-red color, but I wasn’t about to stop to get a closer look. My brother and I scrambled into another black corridor, the longest in the entire ride, and saw the light of the last set visible at the end of it. I thought we were in the home stretch, but the next thing I knew, something clamped onto my right leg. I fell forward and hit my head against the floor, calling out to my brother and reaching out with my arms.

“What happened?! Hurry!” He cried.

“I can’t!” I cried back. I felt the creature tug on me, sending a splitting pain through my leg. Thinking I had been bitten as well, I looked behind and saw that the glowing eyes weren’t that close to me at all. I quickly realized that it had ensnared me with some kind of appendage. With his arm hurt, my brother couldn’t pull back, which left only one option. “Get help! Get out and get help, now!”

“What?! But it’ll–!”

“Go now! Run!” With that, I heard my brother’s crying grow fainter and fainter as he hurried to the end of the tunnel. The beast growled as it tugged on me again, pulling me closer to what would certainly be my demise. I desperately felt around for anything to grab onto or use as a weapon, to no avail. I tried to grip the edge of the walkway and pull myself free, my mind overrun with thoughts of my family, the memories of that park, and the child with whom I was about to share a final resting place…

Then, the creature’s growling became a dry hiss, croaky and shallow like that of its smaller counterpart. Its tugging was more frequent, but not quite as strong. It wasn’t clear to me then, but I now believe that it was losing its breath. In one last attempt to escape, I kicked at my right leg with my left, trying to hit the spot where its extra set of jaws had latched on. Again, and again, and again I kicked with all the strength I could muster. Finally, unable to last above the surface any longer, the creature released my leg and leapt into the water. I watched the fiery glow of its eyes fade as it swam back into the depths of the Old Mill. Fearing that it would return, I didn’t waste any time trying to get away. As I crawled toward the light of the last set, battered and bleeding, all the trauma I had endured suddenly caught up with me. My head throbbed violently and my arms grew weak, the whole world melting into a bleary mess before my eyes. The last I recall of this nightmarish memory is the glint of a flashlight, the garbled voices of Playland staff members, and the last animatronic gnome shouting, “I warned ya! I warned ya!

I awoke the next day in a hospital bed. My dear younger brother was in the bed next to mine, still asleep. I would learn later that day that he had stumbled out of the ride pale and hysterical, screaming over and over that there was a monster in the ride and that I was going to die. God in heaven…Our little thrill-seeker got so, so much more than what he bargained for. We all did. The authorities later concluded that we had been attacked by wild dogs that had somehow found their way into the ride. What other explanation could they give? There haven’t been any incidents like this since then, so I can only assume the real culprits no longer reside in the Old Mill. Only God knows what they were or where they are now. Those soulless, incandescent eyes continue to haunt me, and perhaps they always will. Even more haunting, though, are the terrified cries of my brother. It brings me to tears to think what could have happened if I had let him get on that ride alone.

Credit To – ClockworkCreeper

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Case Report 7591

September 4, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Details of this story have been changed or censored by the State Court of Illinois and by those person’s involved in this case whose safety or reputations could be damaged by such information being released to the public.

In 1959, a small town in Illinois suffered from an economic blow after a Chevrolet automobile factory was shut down. During their period of decline, many of the citizens tried to bring forward their own personal ideas for reviving the economy. A man named Travis Leroy, who owned a large plot of farming land near the edge of town, decided to use the opportunity to pursue what he claimed to be a long forgotten childhood dream of his and opened an amusement park in hopes of bringing in tourism from nearby cities.

Travis wasn’t very well known by the rest of the town and had always been fairly quiet, but he had never said an unkind word to anyone and he’d didn’t have a single enemy to speak of. A few of the other men in town were hired to help plow the land down and assemble the buildings and decorations for the mechanical rides and carnival stands. Most of the rides were generically shipped in and set up on spot without much effort, but there was one custom attraction in particular that was assigned the most care and preparation by the founder of the project. It was an original idea of Leroy’s that he insisted on including in the park, as it was one of the few things he had specifically envisioned as part of its final opening.

It was a slow indoor track-car ride that would be lit and decorated to appear like an enchanted forest, complete with different animatronics of animals and lifelike statues of pixies, fairies, and other magical woodland creatures. Leroy personally had the statues and moving figures brought in from a larger outside company, and the rest was easily constructed with nearby shrubbery and donations from the town’s taxidermist.

Before Travis officially opened the park to the public, he insisted on doing a final walk-around on his own as he marveled the creation and assured himself that everything was perfect for its first day of general admission. Once it was approved to his standards, the local children were abuzz with anticipation to see it and the attraction was an immediate sensation in the region. The park was successful for many months and was immediately bringing in more revenue and income to the surrounding community, as well as to all the townspeople who were employed in many of the stands and vending booths.

As a whole the place was well-loved by all and commonly visited, but as time went by it was clear that the enchanted forest was not entertaining as many guests as some of the other rides or games. However, when it was suggested to Leroy by any of his employees or associates to shut down the ride, he would immediately cast off the idea and become seemingly offended. Because it wasn’t using up very much of the profits on maintenance or repairs, the majority of those who asked never argued otherwise and the subject was eventually dropped completely.

After a few years of the theme park thriving and growing, one of the local four-year-old boys was reported missing after disappearing in the ravine by his backyard on the outskirts of town. Traces of evidence were found in the brush near the other side of the creek, a shoe and some locks of hair, but there was no sign of blood or violence. The case was eventually concluded as an animal attack and closed by the parents and the department of the state.

Even after its close, some citizens were suspicious of the lack of evidence or remains found of the toddler by search parties or authorities. The suspicions never came to much fruition, as coyotes and wolves stalking unwatched pets and children was not uncommon for the area. Then, five months later another child went missing in an outside county. It was nearly an hour’s drive to the park and its town, and thus was barely noted by many around.

At least not until the town’s sheriff and pastor brought to attention that the circumstances of the missing child, as well as the lack of evidence and general surroundings, were very similar to each other. Upon the pastor’s further investigation, it was also discovered that the two children were very similar in appearance. They both had dusty blond hair near the same length, and were both round-faced boys with similar heights and complexion. Police launched into further investigation and were unable to find any other connections over two weeks of questioning and researching each victim’s family. About a month into the reopening of the cases, the mothers of the boys noted that they had both taken their children to the local theme park within three weeks of their disappearance and notified the detectives.

The entire staff was interrogated over the matter and the lot was inspected, but most of employees were unaware of the disappearances even occurring and there was no suspicious findings in the park. Travis Leroy was put under the most thorough questioning, being the owner of the property and main executive manager of the establishment, but answered the majority of the questions with ease. He had seen neither of the boys in the park the days they visited and spend most of his time during park hours in his office or in the maintenance back lots.

The case was again closed without further evidence until another disappearance a few miles down the ravine from the brush the first child’s traces were found. This child was a girl of three, but again matched the appearance of the other boys having short blonde hair and round, rosy cheeks.

After the parents of the girl were brought in for search and investigation, it was soon discovered that they had also just visited the theme park only a few days before. The park was then officially shut down by authorities until further notice for a intricate search and investigation, much to the outcry and complaint of the town receiving its valuable income. The rides were dismantled and the offices were cleared, but no undeclared components or secret areas were found anywhere. Even after a search of Travis Leroy’s living quarters and the homes of a few other managing staff members, nothing was found to be connected to any of the missing children. The only area noted by detectives that had yet to be investigated was the building housing the forest ride due to the lack of installed lighting and commonly used exits.

Because the only usable lights in the ride were the colored atmospheric yard lamps set up through the trees and across the ceiling, the police did the majority of their search using flashlights and lanterns. Nothing was found out of place on the track or in the cars themselves, and most of the officers seemed to be somewhat impatient to leave the area. However, the head detective became especially curious of the few display cases set up through the ride of the fairies and sprites. He requested that Leroy allow him into the cases, which Leroy denied by saying they were completely sealed off in glass and had been since the opening of the park. The detective was still unsatisfied, but let the owner and his employees off without a problem.

Later that night, according to the head detective himself, the detective used his warrant of the premises to search the ride again on his own and attempt to find a way into the cases. He wasn’t able to manage a way in, but what he did discover was that the sealant bordering the corners of the glass paneling was still fresh, suggesting it had recently been opened and resealed. This peaked the detective’s concern enough to request another search of the building with assistance from the other officers on the case. Leroy was insistent that opening the cases would permanently damage the integrity of the display and the ride’s condition, but after several different debates of policy and warranting, the police were finally able to surpass Leroy’s complaints and permitted inside under state policy.

On March 18th, 1963, a party of seven different police officers and investigators entered the enchanted forest ride in search of further evidence of the missing children. After only two hours of inspection and investigation that day, the park was immediately dismantled and the town nearby went down in local infamy, despite most citizens not knowing the details of their discoveries. What was found in the ride was said to be so disturbing that the photographs taken for evidence were strictly kept from the public and many of the officers in the party refuse to recall the experience.

The group of authorities walked into the building and followed the car track around its winding bends and turns through the different displays before stopping at the first glass case about halfway through the ride. Armed with crowbars and paint scrapes, the police were able to separate the first two panels and split the rubber-like seal in a little under an hour. Immediately the scent of stale air and embalming chemicals were evident from the box, which was not unexpected due to the amount of taxidermy animals in the case to complete the forest ensemble.

But there was a different smell beneath the formaldehyde and thin layer of dust that left the party uneasy and a few feeling ill. It was described as a bitter scent with a hint of sweetness, similar to that of spoiled meat and rancid flowers, as one described. As the men delved further into the case, they seemed to agree that the smell was emanating from the statues and figurines.

The head detective approached one in the middle; a small dark-haired sprite in a homely outfit of overalls and hat who was staring curiously up at the ceiling and holding a preserved bird perched on his fingers. He peered closer at the figure’s expression and stared into its lifeless glass eyes before quickly being overpowered by the previously noticed smell. Covering his face with his sleeve, he continued meticulously inspecting the sprite to find what the source of the odor could be. While searching it, he noticed that there was almost a faint hint of freckles on its cheeks under what looked like a thick layer of lacquer or resin. What happened next sent the whole of the group into a fit of disgust and one man had to rush from the building to vomit outside.

The detective raised his hand to scrape away a layer of the enamel from the sprite’s face and sample it for later testing. But instead of peeling back a flake of enamel, a large chunk of the figure’s cheek fell away under his fingernail and dropped to his feet. Beneath the layer of flesh-tone covering was what seemed to once be living, raw flesh and muscle, long congealed and dried from years of preservation and stagnant presence in the glass box.

The detective quickly swabbed the flesh for sampling before excusing himself outside, as the smell and the atmosphere of the area was becoming too overwhelming for him and the others to handle. More authorities were sent in after and the rest of the displays were opened, all proving to hold the same grotesque odor and stale air of unease. All figures and statues were inspected, and almost all proved to show the same conclusion.

After the entire ride was emptied and investigated, a total of 17 children’s remains were recorded to be held in the ride’s displays, three of which were the bodies of the missing boys and girl from the previous months. A few were unidentified, and the rest were found to be long-lost children of the nearby townspeople or others from a near area. The youngest child found, an infant no older than twelve to sixteen months, was found to be the son of none other than Travis Leroy himself who was said to have died at birth along with his departed wife.

Leroy was immediately arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of all seventeen children and the park was permanently closed. Most of the other rides were dismantled and returned to their original owning companies, but the majority of the citizens refused to approach the building of the enchanted forest. The townsfolk held to the strict belief that the land was drenched in evil, and ill fortune would come upon any who entered it again.

An outside construction team, unaware of the lot’s past, was hired to dismantle the building a few years later. They refused to complete the task after being unable to remove the sickening smell and reporting sounds of children’s distant laughter. The town left it abandoned after that, but kept very careful watch on it to keep any outside tourists or journalists from breaking in.

To this day, the building still stands with the other scraps remaining of the park on the plot of farmland near the edge of town. There have been no reported entries of the building or visits of the property since.

Credit To – iwasfriendswithaghostonce

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The Black Woods of Beaumont Chase

September 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Daniel Warrington leapt to his feet. The fire roared and crackled in the hearth and the wind gusted outside and for a second he doubted whether he had really heard it – a second, heavier crash, like a great clap of thunder swiftly relieved him of such foolish notions. He rushed across the drawing room, his plush burgundy smoking jacket billowing out behind him, shoving aside an armchair in his haste, and emerged into the entrance hall to see the stout oak doors rattling in their frame. He snatched the Sharps model-1874 from its stand above the fireplace and dashed across the brilliant marble floor, feeding a new cartridge from the stash in the pocket of his smoking jacket into the chamber. Too late, he flung open the doors only to catch the briefest glimpse of an immense bulk retreating into the circle of trees.

He returned his attention to the doors – deep gouges in the wood, the lower panels splintered and dented. He slammed his fist against the doorframe in frustration, ignoring the hot lance of pain that pierced his hand.

Daniel Warrington had had enough.

This was the third incident of its kind to occur since his taking up residence in Nighthill Manor two months previous. Pausing only to pull on a pair of worn-leather boots and a demur brown scarf, he considered rousing his manservant, Dunwald Marsten, to accompany him, but decided against the idea. The old man was probably tucked up in bed by now – there was no reason to disturb him. Whatever it was that walked the woods of Beaumont Chase and menaced the Manor, Daniel Warrington would deal with it himself. After all, hadn’t he faced down enormous black bears during his months on the Continent; looked death in the sharp yellow eyes deep within Peruvian rainforests; slain a great white lion, King of the African plains, with nothing but a blade and his bare hands?

Determined and resolute, Daniel Warrington strode out to meet the night. The air was frozen and the skies empty. Before him at the clearing’s edge loomed the woods: a vast black wall of frostbitten limbs and flaking bark. The wind – at least, it was probably the wind – howled between the slender trunks and seethed in the clusters of tall dark pines. Pale icicles, thin and crooked like skeletal fingers, scintillated as Christmas baubles hung from a tree – a black, dead tree.

As he crossed the clearing, his hand fell to the LeMat belted at his hip. Deemed far too superfluous and unreliable for field use by the US Army, he had managed to procure one of the few remaining prototypes from a customs officer up in Birmingham. In addition to the revolver and the Sharps, he carried a long, thick knife with an elaborate deer-bone handle sheathed at his waist, a gift from an elderly knifemaker by the name of James Black several years previous – the blade had since tasted the blood of almost every animal that walked, crawled or swam upon the face of the earth.

Regretting not taking the time to change out of his smoking jacket, Daniel Warrington gritted his teeth and trudged on through the biting cold. Tracking the mysterious beast was proving to be exceedingly difficult. Having neglected in his haste to bring a lantern, it was all he could do to discern the sporadic trail of odd, hoof-like prints. Their distinctive cleft, although somewhat more pronounced, reminded him of the tracks of the curious black-and-white striped deer that ran freely across the African plains, with but a single difference; these were sunk far too deeply in the snow, incongruous with the weight of such an animal. Whatever the beast was, it was of a most prodigious size.

For minutes that dragged like hours he plodded onwards by the sickly light of the moon, the only sound that of fresh snow crunching beneath his boots. The wind nipped cruelly at his exposed face and hands, bringing with it a faint mist that flowed around him in shreds and tatters, snatching at his clothing with ghostly, insubstantial fingers. His every breath fogged the air with an ephemeral white cloud and seemed to draw the seeping chill ever deeper into his body.

Something moved in the outer darkness of his periphery; by the time he had levelled the Sharps it was gone – if it had ever been there at all. The darkness was enfolding now, a great all-encompassing blackness held at bay only by thin shafts of moonlight. A branch snapped to his right, and he whirled in time to see a dislodged clump of snow thud to the ground. Taking a deep breath, he once again levelled the Sharps. His mind was calm and still, a vast frozen lake in midwinter’s grasp. The weight of the stock in the hollow of his shoulder felt good. It felt right.

It had been far too long since he’d seen the spark of life fade from the eyes of a dying animal.

Slowly, cautiously now, he picked his way between peeling silver birches and over the fallen trunks of once magnificent oaks. Alert to even the smallest motion, he hunted in silence, pressing onwards into the woods, deeper than ever before.

Eventually the tracks halted at a great twisted snarl of brambles stretching taller than a man. There was no sign of his quarry passing through, and truly the tracks continued in no other direction. Fighting back disquiet at the idea of an animal so large capable of clearing such a barrier with a single leap, Daniel Warrington slung the Sharps over his back and unsheathed his knife.

He would need to act swiftly now.

Stumbling forth from a narrow tunnel of thorn and tangle, Daniel Warrington emerged into a misted clearing. Damp from the moisture in the air, lank locks of hair clung to his forehead. His face and hands were sliced in several places, and his smoking jacket was all but ruined. Dunwald Marsten would not be amused.

He straightened and unslung the Sharps, taking stock of his surroundings. The wall of brambles encircled the entire clearing, and it appeared he had forced his way through at one of the lowest points; in places the brambles grew around the overhanging branches of nearby trees, crawling along their drooping limbs like sinister barbed snakes. All across the clearing spires of rock jutted upwards from the mists, their twisted points scraping the caliginous skies. Small, trembling gouts of white had begun to spiral down, but Daniel Warrington barely noticed. His attention was elsewhere.

It was not often that Daniel Warrington found himself at a loss for words – now, he could barely remember to breathe.

Dominating the centre of the clearing and towering over its surroundings was a dark Cyclopean monolith of impossibly immense proportions. Plainly visible upon its surface were an array of nightmarish bas-reliefs, upon which the gibbous moon shone sickeningly. Thin tendrils of mist curled up and around the hideous obelisk, crashing against its sides like churning ethereal waves.

Mother Nature took a deep brief, and the night itself fell still.

Deep within the mists, something moved.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

He could feel it now – the beast’s eyes were upon him. The fine, downy hairs on the back of his neck stood erect, and his skin rippled with gooseflesh.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

The sound echoed hollowly across the clearing. He sighted down the barrel of the Sharps and willed his trembling hands to still. Shifting anxiously beneath the gaze of that loathsome monolith, he watched and waited.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

The stag shambled forth from the swirling mists. A blackened crown of jagged antlers twisting in all directions adorned its head; as the beast sauntered past the monolith, the tips of those dreadful antlers screeched across the black stone. The Sharps dropped from Daniel Warrington’s shaking hands, clattering away across the ground. The stag’s jaw lolled wide, revealing a maw bulging with pointed yellow teeth, akin to those of the sleek tiger-striped sharks of the west Pacific. Only now did he understand the truly monstrous proportions of the beast; its head stood fully twice the height of a man, above which loomed the terrible antlers. The monster’s snout glistened wetly in the waxing moonlight, and its tattered fur seemed to crawl and shift as though it were a living carpet of chitinous beetles. Patches of yellowing bone shone through its coat; fur and skin clung to its forelegs in patches, like moss to the trunk of a rotten tree. Dark rivulets of blood trickled from the hollows of the beast’s eyes; a pair of vast, empty holes in which green flames guttered and billowed.

The stag snorted, stamping its foot with a sharp crack like a gunshot, causing a murder of sleek black crows to take erupt in flight from a nearby tree. Coils of mist drifted lazily around the beast, never quite coming close enough to touch its slick black fur. Its hooves were bloodied bone, heavy enough to crush a man’s skull to dust beneath their tread. And then it spoke; a guttural, rasping sound abhorrent to the minds of men.

At this, some hidden string, pulled taunt in fear, finally snapped, and the LeMat leapt into Daniel Warrington’s hand as if it had been there all along. He flipped the lever on the end of the hammer up, causing the striker to fall upon the primer set directly below it. The stag let out a monstrous bellow, lowered its head and charged. Daniel Warrington took careful aim, drawing a bead atop the beast’s skull.

The stag roared; as did the LeMat. The blast of buckshot from the revolver’s secondary barrel disintegrated the top of the stag’s head. Something coiled and dark pulsated amidst the ruin of its skull, shifting and oozing against the splintered bone.

The beast hardly faltered.

Daniel Warrington could only stare, horrified, as the wound immediately began to heal, bone reforming before his very eyes – the skin, however, remained absent, and he at once understood the significance of the many bald patches speckling the creature’s hide. How many before him had tried and failed to slay this dark, majestic horror?

Razor-sharp antlers gored his stomach, and then he was tumbling across the frosted earth towards the monolith. He pressed a hand to his stomach, and felt what seemed to be a handful of snakes squirming against his palm. Blood seeped between his fingers.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

The stag towered over him now, whispering blasphemous insanities of the Old Gods which dwelt beneath the earth and deep down in the seas and in the dark, forgotten places of the world where the stars had never shone. Dreadful images began to form in his mind, of nameless monstrosities uncoiling beneath the earth and Polyphemus-like creatures emerging from the oceans.

The insignificance of man crashed down upon him – followed momentarily by the stag’s hoof, which fell with a sickening crunch, the splitting of a ripe melon.

Daniel Warrington thought no more.

Dunwald Marsten sat in the darkened library, reading by the guttering flame of a candle burnt nearly down to the stump – a leather-bound tome of substantial thickness, The Midwinter World. But the book was Midwinter World in name only – the cover concealed a far more sinister tome, one which had previously resided for many years under lock and key in a sub-basement of the British Museum – hidden by fools who possessed neither the strength of mind nor the courage to conquer the horrors bound within the book’s wafer thin pages.

From the walls of the room, glassy eyes reflected the candlelight, inch-long yellowing fangs frozen in snarls of anger and roars of defiance. It sundered Dunwald’s heart to see such beautiful, magnificent creatures murdered for the cruel sport of a single man. His gaze wandered to the umbrella stand in the far corner, fashioned from the foot of a majestic white rhino, and he felt the familiar fires of hatred flare up in his chest. That Warrington had the nerve, the gall to slaughter even a single one of Du’zu’s precious children grated on Dunwald’s very sense of being.

Well, it would not happen again. Yshmael would see to that.

Thin, wavering shafts of moonlight filtered through the picture window, picking out every scar and crag on Dunwald’s tanned, calloused hands – the hands of one who has spent a lifetime in the wilderness, wandering the secret untamed places of the earth.

The book at his fingertips remained dim and dark, the light itself refusing to touch such blasphemous pages. This suited Dunwald perfectly – some things were born only to dwell in darkness.

Dunwald drew the flickering candle closer, leant forward and continued to read.

…from the earth where groweth dark wood, into any time when the Rites are spoken, can the holder of the Knowledge summon The Walker, child of Great Du’zu, He who dwelleth in the vast Wilderness between the worlds and eateth the soul and flesh of Man, He that roams when the moon wanes yellow and is called Yshmael. Only in supplication to The Walker of the Worlds Between can one escape the Wrath of Du’zu…

Credit To – Tom Farr

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The Wicker House

August 30, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Of course everyone claiming residence in Arthur’s Wake knows tales associated with the Wicker House. It seems that every small province plays host to some structure of ill repute which, as if by supernatural magnetism, draws rumor of ghosts and bogies, wrapping the timber and stone of its foundation in a shroud of darkness and horror. In Arthur’s Wake, the Wicker House fills this odious task.

Scant days after arriving in town, while taking the time to familiarize myself with the local watering hole and its residents, I became introduced to the well known superstitions surrounding the Wicker House. As a man of science, I knew any truths to be found in these outlandish stories were likely embellished to points unrecognizable. Nothing was first hand; all experiences were from a friend who knew a fellow who may have seen something. It is the provincial mind which transforms wild dogs into wolves that walk like men and interprets astronomical phenomena as harbingers of certain doom. Still, my curiosity sufficiently piqued, I endeavored to better inform myself upon the subject through more objective means. To my great surprise, while failing to confirm the more supernatural claims of the tales, the town records in the basement of the local library did provide aspect to a most sinister reality all their own.

The house was built in 1920 by the millionaire Tomas Wicker who, in addition to being both a successful oil prospector and fishing magnate, was by all accounts completely insane. No one knows what first drew Wicker to Arthur’s Wake. Some speculate this as the first outward sign of his impending madness. What is known was that the foundations of the house which would come to assume his name were poured almost immediately upon his arrival.

The structure was supremely modest for a man of Wicker’s means, rising a mere two stories in height and composed of scarcely a dozen rooms plus cellar and attic for storage. The house was built on Blackwood Drive, a major tributary of the town’s main street, and close to the industrial center, such as it was. The plot itself consisted of about a quarter acre, the yard home to a few blossoming trees and a small garden, the whole of which was surrounded by a high wrought iron fence accessed by a similar gate. The posts of this formidable perimeter were topped by wicked spikes to discourage would-be trespassers. Construction concluded rapidly and the autumn of 1920 saw Wicker take up residence in the house accompanied by a maid, groundsman, and his wife.

The lady of the house quickly became the subject of gossip among the townsfolk. During the construction Wicker had boarded his wife in parts unknown. None could recall when she arrived at the house; one day she was simply there. As the groundskeeper cared for the exterior yard and garden and the maid handled all domestic chores including trips to market, the lady was herself never seen to exit the house. Due to this complete lack of socialization, the townsfolk did not learn so much about the woman as her Christian name. The servants themselves shed no light upon the subject. The man hailed from a remote part of the Dark Continent and the woman appeared to be a mixed-breed, vaguely of the Orient. Wicker had acquired the service of each while abroad for business dealings and neither spoke a word of English. Naturally, the Lady Wicker was the object of most persistent rumor.

Early speculation was she suffered from some exotic malady which left her drawn and bedridden. These theories were repudiated by those few who would occasionally spy her from the street. In each case she was seen exclusively at night, staring forlornly through the second story window of what was assumed to be her bedchamber, lit only by candlelight from within and to all appearances the picture of health. Additionally, there was little chance the typically damp and sunless climate of the Wake would be prescribed to improve one’s constitution by even the most inept of physicians. As common folk are wont to do, with a logical explanation absent more fantastic theories were crafted. Some began to speculate the woman was a witch, others an enslaved angel won by Wicker whilst dicing with Satan. What all who observed her agreed upon was her singular beauty.

I gleaned much of this information from archives of the local paper, especially one curiosity piece which was accompanied by a photograph of the lady in question. The scene was just as I had heard described, the single lonely prisoner peering through the window and across that terrible iron fence into the darkness of the night. The photograph was muddled due to the quality of the prehistoric equipment and the lack of natural light, effectively obscuring the lady’s features. Indeed it was difficult to distinguish whether the blurred form was in fact human, though it did project an impression of unmistakable femininity. And yet, even through that grayish haze I could perceive a certain piercing, almost hypnotic quality of her eyes.

Wicker himself was something of a mystery though considerably less so than his bride. An attractive man, tall, dark haired and well featured, many a young woman found herself unequivocally jealous of the seldom observed Lady Wicker. Though often away for long periods on business excursions, at home Wicker would frequent the only drinking establishment in the Wake, an illicit locale consistently ignored by the well-bribed police force charged with upholding Prohibition. Although he had no one in town that might be explicitly named ‘friend’ Wicker was known to purchase drinks for the house on his occasions of patronage and was as such engaged in conversation by no few number of fellow revelers.
It never took long for Wicker’s tongue to be sufficiently loosened at which time he would regale his latest passel of hangers-on with fantastic stories of his journeys abroad; forbidden hoodoo rights in the Caribbean, strange tribal sacrifices in the heart of Africa, dead men who walked in Eastern Europe, and countless others, each one stranger and blacker than the last. Though Wicker never spoke of his wife directly, these tales only served to expound upon the rumors of her origins.

Things progressed much in this way for some five years. Wicker would travel and carouse upon his return. The servants went about their business without comment or complaint. The townsfolk gossiped. The lady remained a shut-in. The horror occurred without warning.
The events that took place on the eve of Samhain, nineteen hundred and twenty-five have gone down in the history of Arthur’s Wake as unembellished fact. Among the town records I discovered the report of the patrolmen dispatched to respond to the disturbance at the Wicker House. I will summarize its contents directly.

Tomas Wicker returned from his latest trip abroad on the thirty-first of October. Having stopped briefly at home, he arrived at the aforementioned drinking establishment in a clearly agitated state. The always impeccably dressed Wicker was sloppily garbed, one shirt tail hanging out of his trousers, shoes scuffed beyond repair. It was obvious he had not recently bathed or shaved, his well-groomed hair was mussed, and his eyes were bloodshot and wild. Approaching the bar he apprehended an entire bottle of liquor, took several long swallows without use of a glass, and ignored all attempts of other patrons to engage him in conversation. Taking a final drink from the bottle he placed his wallet and the entirety of its contents on the bar, smashed the now almost empty receptacle upon the ground and exited with the astonished eyes of all present following him. That this entire portion of the episode occurred within a completely illegal establishment is not lost on me, although it apparently was on the investigating patrolmen. As I have said, they were well bribed.

That no mortal eye remains which observed what happened next is surely proof of a merciful God. The two patrolmen who first came upon the scene were summoned by terrified reports of shrill cries and demonic cackles. Long-term veterans and hard men both they were nevertheless ill prepared for what they would soon find at the Wicker House. Armed with a lantern and clubs in hand the men carefully approached the dwelling now ominously quiet.

The great iron gate was open askew as was the oaken door at the top of the steps leading to the interior of the house. Receiving no response to their shouted inquiries, the patrolmen cautiously entered the foyer and proceeded to search the ground floor. They found the first horror in the kitchen. The maid had been tied with thick hemp rope to a large table, limbs spread and secured to each of the four legs. She was naked, the butcher knife which had been used to slit her throat permanently sheathed in her heart. Glistening blood dripped from the cruel altar, slowly pooling on the floor while tell-tale splatters painted the walls like macabre decoration. The patrolmen shared a glance of mutual, unbelieving dread, tightened their grips upon their clubs and continued to search the premises in complete, terrified silence.

Having determined the cellar empty through a brief yet understandably taut examination, they exited the back door to the yard and discovered the groundsman’s body. A thick wooden stake had been erected in the center of the garden and crossed by a perpendicular beam. The man hung naked, suspended from the crossbeam by spikes harshly driven through his wrists and ankles in a grotesque simulacrum of Christ’s crucifixion. He had been disemboweled, ropey innards pouring out of his belly dripping blood and excrement.

Horrified, the patrolmen reluctantly agreed that a premature conclusion of their search to summon reinforcements would provide a very dangerous murderer a chance at escape. The men reentered the house and agonizingly proceeded up the winding stair to the second floor. Systematically they searched each room, uncovering nothing until only one remained; the bedchamber of the elusive Lady Wicker.

Eyes wide, heart pounding wildly the lead man slowly eased the latch. Raising their clubs the men burst through the door and stopped dumbfounded. The room was completely dark and empty, devoid of trappings or furniture of any kind. By the thin beam of their lantern light the men saw that strange occult symbols had been scrawled on every surface of the room though those on the far wall had been somehow marred. Of the murderous Tomas Wicker or his mysterious wife there was no sign.

A noise from above alerted the men to their quarry’s location. Returning to the hall, they spied a trap door operated by a string which, when pulled, revealed a ladder leading up into the lightless storage space of the attic. The two patrolmen stared at the entrance yawning black and wide as the maw of some infernal creature, beckoning fools to wander to their doom. Unable to decide who would proceed first, the men threw evens. The unlucky loser took the lantern and ascended the ladder.

He stopped halfway through the aperture, lantern held high to better diffuse its light and ready to beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the hallway below. The attic was in a state of disorder, strange souvenirs of Wicker’s trips abroad stacked haphazardly throughout. The constable slowly played his beam about, gradually revealing each disjointed mound of clutter. At last the light fell upon the attic’s far corner revealing the huddled gibbering mass of the man they sought.

Or what had been the man. Indeed whatever reason serves to separate man from beast had, sensing it was no longer a suitable dwelling place, fled the form of Tomas Wicker. The handsome features were gone, replaced by deeply sunken cheeks and a hideous grin. As the patrolman stared terrified, he could see the creature was covered in the blood of his victims left below. Hands about his knees, Wicker slowly rocked, babbling to himself.

Joined by his fellow, the constables steadily advanced. Arms outstretched they readied to seize the thing that had been Tomas Wicker when his mad eyes shifted upon them and the muttering stopped. In a moment of seeming clarity he whispered, “She’s gone,” before emitting a maniacal howl and leaping to his feet. Taken aback, the patrolmen hesitated, affording the lunatic room to bound past them to the window and hurl himself through the glass. His desperate shriek gave way to a sickening thud.

The men rushed to the broken window. Far below by the light of the moon they saw the body of Tomas Wicker jerk spastically, impaled by the wicked spikes atop the iron wall. By the time the patrolmen descended from the attic, the hideous motion had mercifully stopped.

The remainder of the report is, compared to the extraordinary events that had thus far taken place, remarkably mundane. Determining that the murderer was indeed dead the patrolmen called for reinforcements. The house was searched in detail and much speculation was made regarding the fantastic totems and fetishes populating every nook and cranny. All who set foot on the premises were in unanimous agreement that Tomas Wicker was unequivocally mad. Most confounding of all, there was no sign to what fate befell the mysterious Lady Wicker. Taking the lunatic’s final utterance as related by the patrolmen, the investigators deduced that the lady, tired of being regularly abandoned, had fled to parts unknown during Wicker’s latest trip abroad. Upon his return the shock had been enough to push the man into a murderous rage. Since virtually nothing was known of the woman, neither whence she came nor even her proper name, no search was mounted and the case dismissed.

It is from this point that the tale departs from the realm of logical reason to instead delve into the twisted byways of urban legend. About a month after the death of Tomas Wicker was when the disappearances began, the investigation of which ultimately lead to my arrival in Arthur’s Wake.

Parents would put their children to bed at night and find them gone the next morning. Exhaustive searches of the Wake uncovered nothing. Strangers new to the town were accosted, imprisoned and, in one instance, lynched by a frightened mob. Some questionable “evidence” was found on the man’s body after the fact, and the police happily declared the case closed with the suspect too dead to proclaim his innocence. That the pattern of disappearances has continued for more than sixty years would suggest they were mistaken.

I have been unable to identify the first to claim seeing a strange light emitted from the long abandoned window of the Lady Wicker’s bedchamber, nor the one who swore he heard the sound of children playing as he hurriedly passed the accursed house. I do know that the tales have spread and grown to the point they are not so easily dismissed. Shortly, I will ascertain any truth to them that may be.

Slender tendrils of fog quest hungrily between my feet like living things as I approach the ruins of the Wicker House. Pushing through the rusted iron gate, a trick of the moonlight suggests a soft glow emanating from the second story window as if from a candle lit within and, were it not impossible, the visage of a beautiful woman stares down and smiles at me approvingly. My hand tightens on the knob as children’s laughter reaches my ears. I open the door.

Credit To – Shadowswimmer77

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Green Valley Alarms

August 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I took the last drag of my cigarette and inhaled a deep breath, savoring the carcinogen-filled smoke inside my lungs before I drew it out again. I looked down at the smoldering butt in my hand and took a gander up at the green trees that surrounded my back yard. Modest, all-consuming green trees which everybody here claim are what make this little town so damn pleasant. More like smothering if you ask me, I’ve always been more of a city boy myself. Whereas most people around here find the streets of Los Angeles overbearing and nauseating, I’d gladly give up those pretty, green trees for apartment buildings and taco stands. There’s something mysterious about the mountains, something lonely, something desolate, and every once in a while things happen out there that just aint right.

Let me tell you a little something about where I used to live. “Green Valley,” it‘s called. And believe me, there is no false advertising in the name. The little mountain town in the heart of Southern California is greener than an over-enthusiastic Irishman on St. Paddy’s day and covered with a heavy layer of wild shrubs, foliage, and modest-sized trees. There are only 2 real streets in the town (by real I mean frequently traveled on by the town’s residents and commuters). First, there’s “San Francisquito Canyon Road,” which weaves down through the mountains for about 20 miles and puts you right at the edge of Valencia. Then there’s “Spunky Canyon Road,” which most of the other streets in the town branch off of as it connects up the neighborhoods. Commuters traveling between the Antelope Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley drive up and down San Francisquito Canyon every day which also provides a quick way for families and teenagers to get to Magic Mountain from Palmdale or Lancaster, if they don’t feel like taking the freeway. Given it’s heavy traffic at times, winding curves, razor-sharp corners, and drivers who fly down the damn thing like they’re practicing for the Daytona 500, it’s seen it’s fair share of accidents over the years.

Now, one thing I always found quite interesting is that, years ago, someone thought it would be a good idea to have a loud, booming alarm system set up in the Green Valley fire station that alerts the locals when there’s an accident in the canyon. Given that there is no cell phone reception anywhere, the alarm provides a means of communication to the residents when San Fran is blocked off due to a car crash. It’s not a bad idea and I never would have had a problem with it, except…there is just something really off-putting about this alarm. I always thought it sounded like the type you would hear at a government facility when they’ve discovered that a nuclear bomb is about to be dropped and blow the whole fucking country to smithereens, or that some deadly, flesh-eating virus has escaped from a laboratory and is quickly seeping into the air of our neighborhoods. Which aren’t the loveliest thoughts when you’re laying in bed at 10:00 at night in your underwear and you hear this loud, belligerent siren suddenly rattle through the streets and penetrate you to the very core. It’s just…disturbing.

But anyways, that’s not too important at the moment. What’s important is that on this day, on this evening, I had just smoked my last cigarette down to the filter and I was in dire need of more to carry my nicotine fix throughout the night. This meant that I had to make a run to the little gas station on the corner of Spunky and San Fran where the canyon meets the main residential area of the town. I had just disposed of the cigarette butt in the trash can and was walking back to my front door when I heard the alarm pierce through my ears. It stopped me in my tracks. That familiar, low yell of the siren rang in my head and I instantly felt a wave of compassion for the sorry saps who had just crashed their car in the canyon. I had hoped it wasn’t as bad as the one I saw a few months ago on my way home from work in which a small sedan going about 90mph, had a head on with an SUV about 30 feet behind me while I watched the carnage from the rear view mirror of my truck. “Poor bastards,” I said out loud as I continued my strut inside to grab the truck keys. Then something struck me and I paused, mouth agape and listening attentively…There’s something slightly off about this one. I couldn’t really tell for sure but it didn‘t seem to be coming from the fire station, it was too distant; and what’s even stranger is that there was this unsteadiness to it. It was dying down a little and then coming on strong again in waves and changing in pitch too. The dynamics were totally off. It had a beckoning, sorrowful longing to it like a wild animal with his leg caught in a hunter‘s trap. I wasn‘t just hearing it, I was feeling it too; my insides felt like they were being grabbed and pulled towards my legs like silly putty. I was getting more uneasy by the second.

“Of course it was weird,” I thought, but I had other, more pressing priorities at hand than sitting around pondering the peculiarities of this alarm. My nicotine craving struck again and I was suddenly in the truck cruising down the road towards the corner store to get to those sweet, sweet Newport menthol-smokes. I turned on my headlights as I navigated the small stretch of asphalt that leads to the gas station about a mile from my cozy, little 2 bedroom house. It was summer time and the clock on the dash told me it was 8:30pm. Summer days are pretty long out here and the sky was at that stage right between dusk and twilight where everything I passed had a subdued glow about it. The road was not yet a complete mass of darkness without my headlights, but it was close. I saw silhouettes of bushes, hypnotically flailing side to side in the distance as I approached the gas station.

When I pulled in the thought gradually crept into my mind over the next few seconds that I was staring at an empty establishment. There were no cars at the pumps or even the familiar employee trucks in the parking lot. It wasn’t that business was just slow or anything, I mean the place was totally abandoned. Where the hell was everybody? “And what the fuck,” I thought, as my eyes caught the dim OPEN sign in the window who’s lights were not flashing in their usual neon red; “the place is closed?“ It’s the one night the bastards decide to close early and I happened to have just burned my last cig of the carton. Damn, just my luck. I pulled up in the parking lot and parked my truck so I could think about my next move. I saw the metal gate behind the big double doors then looked over to the empty chairs still lingering out front where Frank and Tom shoot the shit every day on their cigarette breaks. Call me what you will, but I was not about to go the whole night without that sweet taste of tobacco; so I walked over to the two chairs in hopes that Frank, or Tom had left some butts for me to scrounge up and hold me over until morning.

I was in luck! They had left their ashtray right between the chairs and there was even a half smoked stogie still burning, emitting broken coils of smoke like tiny ghosts dancing in the moonlight…I must have just missed them. I gained some amusement at the thought of them on their first break tomorrow trying to figure out how in the hell thirty cigarette butts apparently just jumped up and disappeared from the tray. Then I remembered that Frank still hasn’t returned my power drill I let him borrow two and a half weeks ago (“just for the afternoon,” he had told me) and my amusement turned to out-loud laughter. “Ha! Let that bastard think it over.” Frank was a good guy but he had a reputation of holding onto other people’s things for a little longer than he should.

I turned and walked back to the truck a little shamefully, feeling like a grimy, cigarette-butt scrounging bum and gazed at the Canyon road…Not a single damn car, that accident must have been pretty bad to block the whole road like that. There wasn’t a single vehicle driving the streets. I looked back at the two chairs then to the road again; that’s when I first noticed the feeling. Something just wasn’t right about all this. In my 2 years of living in this little hole in the mountains I had never seen the corner store close early. And given that Frank or Tom’s cigarette was still lit in the tray, they must have rushed out of here in a real hurry. Feelings aside, the day had been uneventful up until this point and I was bent on knowing what the hell was going on so I decided to take a drive down the canyon a little ways and see if I could take a peek at that accident. It sounds morbid, I know, and the last thing I wanted to do was get in the way of an ambulance or a cop if someone was seriously hurt but I was putting it together in my mind and figured the emptiness of the gas station and the alarm going off may be connected in some way, plus the dull day had stirred up a sense of adventure in me that was not subsiding so I lit a re-burn and took off down the road. Danger is the heart of adventure.

I was just about to give up and head back when I saw it. It was dark now and a tiny little light was shining a ways down the canyon on what appeared to be the side of the road. There were still no damn cars which had begun to give me a slight case of the jitters and the creeps all at once that manifested into my hands which were now slightly tremoring as I gripped the wheel of my Ford with white knuckles. My mouth was drier than a barrel of hay. A wave of panic shot through me as I started to worry I might actually be having a mild seizure, a ridiculous notion. I had never had one before and I was pretty sure the symptoms didn’t match up even in the slightest. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and continued accelerating towards the glowing anomaly down the way which was approaching faster than I had anticipated, swerving and slowing to accommodate the sharp bends in the now dark mountain road. I thought for sure I would have seen somebody by now but there was…nothing. No ambulances, no cop cars, no angry commuters coming up through the road, speeding and pissed off for getting held up by a car crash on their way home from work. It was beyond strange for this usually bustling canyon and my better judgment was telling me to just go home to my blood hound who was waiting for his 2 scoops of doggy chow and forget all about this damn excursion…but I just couldn’t. When I set my mind to something, I follow through and have a mighty hard time dismissing it. So as stubborn as I could allow myself to be, I pressed on. And in God’s name and all the creatures in the world do I wish now that I hadn’t.

The small light was becoming ever more apparent as I approached it slowly on my right side. There was something so mesmerizing about it, yet sinister like a shimmering lighthouse guiding lost ships towards some hidden, rocky shore. I was a defenseless fly drifting closer and closer to a fluorescent bug zapper, right before he gets torched and turned into a thousand specks of ash blown away by the steady, warm Summer wind. I began to make out the shape of a car in the darkness. That’s what it was alright, it was a car, with the interior light still on and the driver’s side door swung wide open. I pulled up in front of it on the side of the road with my headlights glaring down, turned the ignition, removed the key, and sat in the deep silence; silence which after a moment was broken by the sound of an owl emitting a large hoot up in the trees somewhere. My mind raced as a million thoughts rushed through me at once. The most prominent one being that this must be the car that triggered the accident alarm earlier and it had been in some kind of wreck; but if that were the case, then where the hell were the ambulances and the cop cars that I had nervously expected and the crowd of people that usually linger around an accident to gossip and make sure everything‘s alright? There is no way they kept driving by this peculiar looking scene without offering some kind of help. People have their downfalls, but they are nonetheless eager to help out their fellow man when in dire straights. And we’re a curious breed, no doubt curious, which is what left me so baffled as I stared out my windshield. It’s coming.

My personal curiosity was at an all-time high as I stepped out of the truck and approached the car. I left the headlights on to provide me with some illumination. It appeared to be in decent shape until I circled around to the driver’s side. There was a monstrous sized dent in the door that stretched all the way to the front fender. The window was smashed out, but no glass on the ground as far as I could see; and no driver anywhere to be found. It was a puzzling scene. I stepped back to observe the damaged vehicle a little better and that’s when it hit me again…the feeling. It came on stronger now and I began to tremble harder. I shouldn’t be here. Something was horribly wrong and I knew it. And not just in a “someone got hurt,” kind of way; this was different. I even felt it in the air; there was an oppressive musk that weighed on me making me feel like my legs would give out at the slightest movement. I looked up at the trees, even they were different; they appeared to be cowering back away from this wrecked hunk of metal in front of me as if they themselves were terrified of this intruder in their quiet little home. “That has to be my imagination,” I thought. I felt like I was trapped in some dreamlike landscape and any moment I was going to wake up in my bed submerged in a pool of sweat. No, not a dream, a god damn nightmare. “Where the hell is the driver?” I couldn’t help but wonder.

I leaned against the side of the car with the door still open and began to rationalize the best I could. As I looked down, thoughts moving and circling around in my mind, something caught my eye. There was a trickle of blood in the dirt by my right foot. I looked up further and there was more blood, and more. It was a trail leading away from the car so I followed it with my eyes until it was out of the car light’s reach and taken out of sight by the night. A chilling realization crept into my mind; whoever was driving the car had gotten out and ran into the forest. The next thing I knew I was grabbing the flashlight from my center console and aiming its beam at the blood trail leading from the side of the road into the trees. Whoever it was that had been in this vehicle was badly hurt. I walked a little to get a better view and saw a break where a small beaten path was winding up through the trees and into the mountain. That must be where he ran off to.

The questions that had dominantly plagued my mind since the gas station had become secondary when I realized this person is probably in need of some serious help. I was getting a hold of myself a little better now and that rational part of my brain that had been temporarily hijacked was starting to make its way back. Even so, the mixed emotions I had at that moment could have torn me in two, but I knew deep down that if there was someone dying out there and I had to hear later on the evening news that this man or woman had bled out in the mountains of my little town, I would have never forgiven myself. Arguing with that other half of me had suddenly become fruitless, now was the time to act. Even though every bone in my body was telling me to just go back home and call 911 or maybe wait here for a moment for the ambulances that would eventually arrive, I didn’t. Flashlight in hand, I headed up the trail.

I immediately saw more blood as I headed up the winding path. The beam from the flashlight illuminated the way as I stepped over fallen, dead branches and leaves. The drops weren’t huge but they were enough to know that whoever was bleeding had taken a serious injury back in that car and was out there cut to all hell. I entertained the thought at this point of at least turning around and snatching my .45 pistol from my house and rushing back here quickly just in case I run into some kind of trouble up there but I was just too far and I didn’t want to risk getting to the victim after it was too late. I had remembered reading somewhere in a magazine or journal that a person will die when they have lost 40-60 percent of the blood in their body and by the looks of it, my missing man was getting there, fast. I stared at the quarter-moon sky, which hadn’t been providing me with jack-shit as far as moon light goes, then back down again and continued on. The drops began to get bigger as I progressed up the trail. I paused to take a look at a peculiar looking one that seemed to have a chunk of something white and slimy stuck to it. After a good few minutes of brisk walking I noticed that they weren’t only getting bigger now but also thicker and more pronounced. I was reminded of my own mortality as I followed these crimson puddles of dense fluid that leaked out of this broken human being and sat coagulating and festering in the cold earth, or maybe out of something else, it’s easy to forget how fragile our bodies really are when you’ve never really had an accident. They suddenly veered off the trail and I caught one with my flashlight on a branch about as high as my head. Then I heard something…

I couldn’t quite make it out but it sounded like the low chatter of someone’s voice. I looked through the trees where the blood on the high branch was dripping from and I could vaguely see an area that had been trampled through. The voice definitely came from that direction. I climbed in through a small opening the size of a crouched man and began to cautiously follow this trampled wonder through the trees. My senses were wild, heightened to the point of animalistic intensity in the cool darkness. I saw more blood on the branches and then stepped in a small pool of it. I shined the flashlight down and observed more of that white, slimy crap that I saw earlier. It looked gut wrenching. If I had stared any longer I would have been at risk of losing my dinner. I felt stomach acid arise in my esophagus and slowly make its way back down again. “What the hell was it?” I thought to myself as I crouched to get a better examination of the shimmering white pieces against their dark, scarlet background. They looked something like chunks of peeled grapes, if peeled grapes were white. My concentration was interrupted when the chatter started again, only this time it was much closer and almost directly in front of me. It sounded like some one mumbling to themselves and I knew it had to be my man (or woman, although I thought this was unlikely by now). I flared with bursts of excitement as I headed closer to the sound, rushing through the trees branches and low bushes as I continued on the trail. They were cutting me up something fierce, but I didn’t care because at that moment I saw an opening amidst the branches. I made my way through it and fell to my knees with a hard thud as I tripped over a stray branch that caught my shoe just right.

Sharp needles dug into my palms as I hit the ground. “Ouch!” I said out loud in much more than a whisper. The flashlight slipped and launched a good couple feet away from me during the fall. I winced a little and returned to my feet, brushing the leaves and dirt off of my clothes. It was at this point that the environment had my full visual attention as I studied my surroundings with a deep, penetrating gaze. My mouth suddenly dropped. I was in a clearing, at least it appeared to be a clearing until I shined the flashlight down to my feet. My eyes accompanied my mouth and grew from astonishment. I had been walking on top of smashed bushes. All around me in almost a perfect circle 20 feet in diameter these bushes had been collapsed and laid down to create a perfect surface to walk on. It was utterly bewildering. I shined the light around some more with my continual countenance of pure awe which was now permanently attached. “This doesn’t just happen in the middle of a group of trees, someone made this.” I thought. Every bush had been pressed in exactly the same fashion as the next and snapped at the same height to create this perfect platform of shrubs.

I barely had time to wonder when I heard it, that mumbling again. It startled me this time. A shudder went through me like a bolt of lightning and I frantically pointed the flashlight in the direction of the noise. The blood drained from my face and I went completely cold. By the edge of this platform on the opposite side of where I was standing there stood someone with their back towards me. It was indeed, a man. He was wearing a collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up and black slacks. His arms were at his sides and I saw a trickle of blood running down his right one. His head was faced downwards and he remained perfectly still like a statue.

“Sir!” I called out. “Sir, are you alright?”
No response.
“I saw your car down there, were you in an accident? Are you hurt?”
Still no response.

I did nothing for a moment. I just stared at him waiting for some kind of communication, but I got none. Then it hit me again, hard. There was a pressure that rushed inside my head which felt like a million bees swirling around my brain. It was pressing on my shoulder blades, weighing me down almost to the point of collapse. Every part of me was screaming, pleading to get out of there. I was a hair away from bolting the other direction as fast as I could to my truck. Go! Run! “What the hell am I doing here?” the thought returned. I took another look at him. It was all wrong, just plain wrong. But I had to hold on a little longer, now was not the time for another internal argument. I brushed it off the best I could and began to walk forward towards him slowly, eyeing his frozen limbs with great caution. I heard the branches crunch beneath my feet.

“I…I’m bleeding.” he spoke. His voice was calm, soft but with a hint of something else. I have never heard anything like it.
“Yeah, you are. Looks like you’re hurting pretty bad, too. Why don’t you let me walk you down to my truck, it’s just down the road. We gotta get you to the hospital.” I pleaded with the man for any excuse to get away from this creep show.
“They…they got me.”
“Wh..who got you? Is that why you’re bleeding? Did someone a..attack y..you?” My voice was quivering and I was shaking all over. I could barely articulate my words.
“They think they can have this place but…”
“but…” He was heaving in deep breaths.
“but they’re wrong…”
“This one’s mine!!!” His voice deepened to something atrocious as he yelled.

The force of his scream flung me backwards and I fell on my ass dropping the flashlight. I got to my knees and began to fumble around like a frantic lunatic in hopes of recovering it. The bleeding man turned around slowly, walked closer to me, and leaned down a bit. I found, curled my fingers around, and immediately shined the flashlight in his face all in one fluent motion. I surprised myself with how fast my movements were which gave me a small sense of control amidst the chaos. And then as quickly as it came, the brief joy I felt had fled…what I saw paralyzed me to the spot. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even breathe. There was the handle of a small knife sticking out of his eye socket which had been lodged into his head through his left eyeball. There were slimy chunks of white stuck to his cheek. He was peering at me through his one good eye. I was trying so hard to keep my thoughts together which had now become a jumbled blur. I was floating in the night sky. “There is no way he could still be alive after a wound like that, the blade must be halfway through his brain,” I thought. He gazed at me for a split second and with a raspy, low voice he leaned in closer and lividly shrieked “You’re all going to die!”

Just then his head starting jerking in short, rapid movements from side to side, impossibly fast. An inaudible gibberish began to come from his mouth which sounded like the mumbling I had heard earlier. In between a burst of jerks, he grinned forcefully to reveal a repulsive set of rotten teeth. His eye rolled back and his head was moving faster. The incoherent mumbling got louder and louder.

Before I knew it, my paralysis subsided and I was on my feet sprinting as fast as I could move while taking in heavy, deep breaths. I got back to the trail at lightning speed and took one look back to see if he was behind me. What I saw then, I will never forget. A beam of light appeared out of thin air and began to consume his body as he continued to go through his bizarre, terrifying episode. He stuck his legs in first, they disappeared and he began to lower his arms into it. Half of his torso and head were still sticking out while convulsing and spewing his incoherent babble. He roared and exhaled a stream of green vomit which flung around him in a circle as his head was spinning and splattered onto the collapsed bushes. I didn’t stop to watch any longer, I booked it as fast as my legs would go; down the trail to the side of the road I went until I saw my headlights. I jumped feet first into the truck, fumbled with putting the key in the ignition, heard the roar of those sweet six cylinders, jerked it into gear and with dirt roosting from my tires I was out of there.

It’s all over.

…..

The next morning I took a little trip to the gas station. Frank was sitting out front in his usual smoking chair puffing on a Marlboro red. He moved his gaze from the cement walkway as I saw the logo of his faded trucker hat with the two criss-crossed assault rifles ironed on the front jerk up towards me. He squirmed in his seat a little bit as I approached then forced a stupid smile. I parked my feet directly in front of him and stared into his aging, wrinkled face. I should have expected his loud-mouth to start gabbing before I could get a word in but somehow it still surprised and irritated me.

“Billy, how you doing brother,” his mouth moved as anxiously as he did in that aluminum chair he probably took from an outdoor furniture set. “Hey listen, I’m gonna need that drill for a little bit longer. You see, me and the wife are fixing up the barn and I thought I’d put some more shelves in. Say, what do you make of this? I could have sworn there were a whole mess of cigarette butts in this ash…”

“Where the hell were you last night?” I interrupted him. I was in no mood for his rambling, not today.
“Wha.. what are you talking bout?” He said, perturbed by my interruption.

“Last night, why did you close up the store so damn early?”
“Oh, well…some funny things was happening and me and Tom thought it best to just call it quits for the night.” He looked troubled when he spoke, with a slight wave of bewilderment and irritation. like I was trying to force some taboo topic from his mouth that he had thought he’d never have to actually bring up in conversation.
“Funny things?” I said. I was all nerves.

“Well, yeah. You see the power went out in the whole place about a quarter past 8. Couldn’t see a damn thing. Have no idea why, either. Tom checked all the breakers and they seemed to be in order.”
“So why didn’t you just pull out the generator?” I said. “People need their gas and smokes.” My mind was running and I was caressing the corner of my flannel shirt between my thumb and forefinger. He could tell things weren’t well in Billy Town. My face was ghostly pale, I knew from the glimpse I had caught of myself in the bathroom mirror before heading out, and black circles were starting to form under my eyes from the restless forty-five minutes of sleep I had gotten.
“Well, that’s just it,” he said. “Hadn’t been a car come up that road for nearly an hour. Usually that time of night is busier than hell with the folks commuting from work and what not.”
I met his stare while still caressing my shirt…
“You feelin alright Billy? You aint lookin your freshest this morning.” He said sounding genuinely concerned. “Looks like you had a meeting with the devil himself.” he followed his words with a nervous chuckle but didn’t take his eyes off of me.
My heart began to jump a little and I felt the shakes coming on. “I…I’m fine.” I said “Just…never mind. I’m gonna go grab a pack of smokes.” I suddenly realized I wasn’t in the mood for this.
“Well hold on now Billy, there’s something else too if you really wanna know.“ He said as he grabbed hold of my arm during my attempt to escape.
“Something else?” I managed to sound a little more enthused.
“Nah, forget it.” he said.
“Frank, what are you talking about?” I had to know now. Whatever it was it couldn’t do much more damage to my already fractured state of mind this morning.
He eyed me up and down with a look on his face that said you know what kid, fuck it, just go grab your cigarettes. I don‘t think you can handle what I have to say considering you look like you’re gonna go running behind those bushes like a scared puppy dog if so much as a loud car drives by. But after a long while he came out with it and when he was finished, the comfort of those bushes didn’t sound like a bad idea.
“Well, me and Tom just had this funny feeling,” he began. “You know how sometimes you just get a feeling, Billy? Like when you know something aint right? It was just this funny feeling that me and Tom both kept gettin…like….”
“Like what?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“We couldn’t tell ya really, and looking back on it sounds kinda ridiculous now. But well…it was like we just shouldn’t be there.”
I gazed at him, flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe it.
“It didn‘t have something to do with that alarm going off, did it?” I asked with a hint of hopefulness in my voice.

“Alarm? What alarm? Hasn’t been an accident in the canyon for nearly 3 weeks.”

…..

I moved to Los Angeles 6 months after the whole thing and quit smoking. After my conversation with Fred I bought my cigarettes in a dazed panic and rushed back to the safety of my home where I locked all the doors and windows, drew the curtains, and dozed off into a few hours of dreamless sleep. I had anxiety issues for a few weeks and had to take some time off work. About five days into my vacation, a Jehovah’s Witness came to the door and I nearly had a heart attack; I guess they got the idea to start soliciting to the smaller towns in Los Angeles County which I can safely say they won’t be doing again, well at least the kid who came to my door won’t be. I’m sure he’ll door knocking in more populated areas from now on considering how fast he booked it out of here when he heard the cock of my 12 gauge shotgun letting him know I‘m not in the business to be opening my door to strangers; poor bastard made it to the end of my drive way in about two seconds flat. I kept thinking anybody and everybody was that…thing, in disguise. I turned my phone off and permanently moved my shotgun to the nook by the front door as well as kept my .45 pistol tucked into my pants while I pranced nervously around the house, checking the windows every five minutes. It sounds stupid now but I thought for sure it was going to come looking for me and I sure as hell wasn’t going to take any chances.

After about a month, I realized I was turning into a paranoid, reclusive, wreck and I hated myself for it so I decided to face my fear and take a drive down the canyon to that little spot where I had first seen the car. I parked the truck near it and got out to gather whatever information I could find. I wasn’t just facing my fears, I was looking for answers and by God did I have a lot of questions. Some tire tracks were vaguely visible in the dirt where my original meeting with the car had been but there’s no way they could have belonged to my truck or the busted up sedan, our tracks were long gone by then, blown away in the summer’s wind. The blood was gone too. I took a walk up the trail again, re-tracing my steps from that night. I never found the bush platform or the opening in the trees, or the “man” anywhere, it’s like he was never even there. That’s not to say it didn’t happen, I know what I saw. There was something on the road that night, I knew it and everybody else knew it. That’s why there wasn’t any cars because just like Frank, the people who usually travel that road had enough sense to stay away from it and take the freeway home. Some call it intuition; we all have those built-in alarms that draw us towards great and beautiful things as well as steer us clear from danger. They knew there was something evil in that canyon, some abomination. That’s what it was, an abomination. What I think, is that…thing, was calling someone or something that night to take it back home because it knew it had been bested and, god knows why, but for some reason I was susceptible to its call. I chose to ignore my instincts and it almost cost me my life. Anyways…I can’t do anything about it now but carry on living and learn from my mistakes. I have no reason to fear it for I know it’s gone far away from here. But you know, sometimes on the darkest of nights as I stare out my third floor apartment window at the late night city traffic, I get this funny feeling it wont be gone for long. And you know what? If it does happen to return and our paths do happen to cross again, I’ll be ready, and this time I won’t choose to ignore my inner alarms.

Green Valley Alarms 1

Green Valley Alarms 2

Green Valley Alarms 3

Green Valley Alarms 4

Credit To – Ryan Berg

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Walburton Park

August 13, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Curtis held on to an unfulfilled joy for exploring.

The prospect of discovering new places always enthralled him, and often, whether he was just lazing around at home, slacking off during a lecture, or just hanging out on a sober night with his friends, he would often daydream of travelling the world to diverge himself in the vast cultures of many countries.

Unfortunately, he was unemployed and was still living in his home town after 21 years. Also, he came from a lower-middle class family who couldn’t afford many luxuries, especially in this lousy economy, and after all the CVs he had sent out, and all the interviews he had stressed himself through, he just couldn’t seem to get a full or part-time job, no matter what. He didn’t have the resources to travel to places abroad. He couldn’t even drive, so his options were limited even in his own local area.

His impatience and unrest to break free from the small town to explore the world was rapidly beginning to catch up with him, so he did his best to satisfy this need by walking the dog everyday. He would go to pathways and nature walks he had never walked before, explore forests and lakes that were well out beyond civilizations’ way, and climb up steep hills in the countryside and gaze around at square miles of fields, forests, and hills. If he was walking the dog through his local neighbourhood, he would even go into housing estates he had never been to before, just for a change of scenery; to see what the houses there looked like. He even had a peculiar habit of estimating the demographics of estates he visited, based on the type of houses they lived in and the cars they drove.

Today, he decided he would walk the dog by the nearby pond. Recently, he had been frequently going to a forest a few miles out, and he hadn’t walked the dog by that lake for around a fortnight now. The surroundings of the forest were starting to become all too familiar to him now, and seeing as Spring had just arrived, the scenery would not be changing anytime soon. The thirst for a change of scenery was really beginning to tickle his throat.

So he grabbed the leash, strapped it on to Sylvester (who heard the sounds of the leash being removed from the drawer, and in his usual response, ran eccentrically into the kitchen), and headed out to the nearby pond on an unusually scorching April afternoon. He walked by the row of identical houses that he lived on, imagining taking breathtaking pictures of giant castles in Germany. After that, he walked through tufts of grass and straws of chickweed at the rusty, abandoned railway road, dreaming of drinking bourbon in a red barn with people he just met in one of the rural states of The USA. Finally, before he crossed the road to the park where the pond was, he envisioned touring through the Southern French countryside, embracing the sweet smells of France’s wine country; he envisioned relaxing to the sound of oars splashing the water, while slowly sailing through the rippling canals of Venice; and he envisioned gazing up at the empowering pyramids of Ancient Egypt with the desert sun roasting his milk-pale skin and bleaching his brown curly hair.

Yet when he reached the lake, it only made him depressed that he would most likely not be visiting these countries anytime soon, and frustrated at the fact that after all the painstaking job-searching he had done, that he was still unemployed and lacked the resources to satisfy his travel-hungry mind. Trying to ignore his annoyance and to just enjoy the beautiful, sunny day, he approached the section of the path which started down a short but steep hill, and which diverged into a left path and a right path in the shape of a bident. From here, he could gaze at the rippling pond, sapphire in the flourishing sun; at the flat plains which surrounded it, deceivingly emerald on this bright April; and at the fancy new private hospital which had only been recently built. Looking at the colourful, sharp design of the hospital, his attention caught the entrance to a small housing estate which was located right beside it.

It was not that Curtis had never noticed this housing estate before, he had just never thought to journey into it. Walking by it all these months, he had only ever noticed two things about it; he had always seen its large green area just past the entrance, which had a single sycamore tree sprouting out from the middle; and the centre road, which all other lanes in the estate emerged from like branches from that tree. The main road of the estate had also been a hill, although its steepness had been rather more subtle than the sharp drop of the hill which he was standing on right now.

Curtis wondered whether the houses all looked different, or if they all looked the same. Perhaps there were sections to this estate, where the houses all looked the same in their own individual section, but the design of these housing sections were all unique. He wondered what brand of cars the neighbourhood in general owned, what their gardens looked like, and perhaps he could get to glance into the inside of their houses. Gathering all this information, he could try guess what kind of people lived in this estate. He yanked Sylvester’s leash, and trotted down the left path of the steep hill.

He crossed a small stone bridge over one of the stream which fed into the pond, took the path around the large, circular plain surrounding the pond, and started walking on the footpath beside the road. He continued walking until he was directly opposite of the entrance, waited for the two oncoming cars on either side of the road to pass, and jogged quickly across the road when the second car had driven by. Imitating Curtis, Sylvester sprinted ahead of him in a sudden burst of excitement.

“Walburton Park” was etched into a sparkling, light-grey boulder in all-capitals, which sat on a small patch of grass on the corner of the road. There were three houses on either side of the road at the entrance, and all six of them were small, white, two storey houses. After the houses was a cross roads. Down both the left turn and right turn, there were seven medium-sized, two-storey, redbrick houses on either side of the streets, totalling 34 houses at the entrance. The road continued on to a t-junction at the very back of the estate, and there, the right street was about equal length to the two streets at the entrance, and the left street was much longer than the rest of them.

The houses on of both these streets were nearly twice as big as the houses at the entrance. All houses were on one side, while the other side was a field separated by a line of old, large oak trees. They all had two main parts to them; one part was a white two-storey, while the other was a brown dormer bungalow. There were four of these houses on the right street, and another ten down on the left street. Before that, there were two green areas in between the crossroads and the houses at the t-junction. One was the clean-kept, well-maintained green area with the large sycamore tree spurting out from the middle that Curtis had always seen, whereas the other was a shaggy, overgrown green area with a swing-set and a slide, surrounded by three grey concrete walls. Curtis had never noticed this area before, despite all the times he had walked by this estate.

While Curtis was walking down the street observing the ten large white and brown houses, something odd occurred to him. As nice as this estate was, it was eerily quiet, and from what he had seen so far, was totally deserted. Of course there was nothing wrong with these quiet estates. In fact, if Curtis had noticed groups of hyper children playing around here, he would more likely have shied away from coming here in the first place. However, Curtis had not seen a single soul. No children out playing around the sycamore tree or on the swings, no middle-aged people sitting on their sofas watching television, or even any senior citizens out gardening, basking in the glorious sunshine. The quiet wasn’t just attributed by the absence of people out and about though; Curtis couldn’t even hear any cars driving on the main road he had crossed to get here, or on the road which he knew was beyond the fields and rows of tall oak trees. He didn’t hear the trees sway in the wind or even hear any birds tweeting. All he could hear was his own footsteps and the ringing of Sylvester’s collar as he trotted alongside him.

Curtis reached the end of the cul-de-sac, turned around, and decided to have a look at the four houses down at the other side of the estate. While walking, he looked up at the trees, swaying silently in the brisk spring wind. He noticed that grey clouds were beginning to quickly accumulate from what he guessed was a west-south-west direction. He checked the time on his phone. It was 15:30 exactly. He decided that he had enough time to have a look around the remaining streets of the housing estate, before making his way back home before four o’clock.

When Curtis reached the top of the right street, it looked as if the four houses here were exactly the same as the ten he had just observed. This street was slightly curved however, so he continued walking just to make sure that he wasn’t going to miss anything. Slowly, the hidden remnants of the last two houses emerged from behind the front two houses, and to his disappointment, Curtis found that they were in fact just the same as all twelve other houses at the back of this estate. This anti-climax, however, was short-lived, as almost immediately Curtis had noticed a sharp right turn just after the last house. Quickening his pace, he observed that this newfound section was identical to the two streets of two-storey redbrick houses at the entrance of the estate. Curtis looked back at his phone. 15:41. He walked forward, looking at the Volvo parked in the driveway of the first house on the right…

…and was then halted unexpectedly. Dazed for a very brief moment, he turned around to find Sylvester sitting down, all four of his paws pressed into the concrete.

Curtis jerked on the leash twice more, urging Sylvester to walk on with him. “C’mon boy! C’mon! C’mon Silver, c’mon!”

Sylvester continued to sit stubbornly, staring solemnly at Curtis with those wide, watery brown eyes. Curtis stared at him, defeated. Had Sylvester been a Chihuahua, a Jack Russell, or even a King Charles, he could have dragged him down the street easily enough, but he was a well-fed, sturdy Weimaraner, who Curtis knew would have put up a tough fight. Curtis whipped the leash up in the air feebly, then Sylvester sprang to a stand with his ears pricked, and followed Curtis away from the street of the hidden fourteen houses.

Curtis led Sylvester to what looked like a young Ash tree, growing amidst the old, looming oak trees. He tied the leash around it, and bent down to rub Sylvester reassuringly. Sylvester tried to lick at his face and sprang at Curtis, as he walked down the street away from him, but was jerked back by the tight knot which secured him to the tree.

Trying his best to avoid the guilt from Sylvester’s puppy eyes, Curtis walked along the middle of road, glancing at all the redbrick houses without looking back. All houses appeared in good condition on the outside, although a few had messy, unkept gardens. Curtis counted six of these gardens, five of which had at least one children’s toy recklessly skewed about somewhere. It reminded Curtis of the discomforting, empty, overgrown green area with the cheap slide and swing-set near the entrance of the estate. The remaining gardens had their edges and corners blemished with haphazard bunches of flowers, their colours vividly clashing, yet relievingly soothing to the eye. Their lawns were flatly even and fresh spring green, and one or two had a few rusty coloured tiles matching their redbrick house, just as a cherry on the icing.

Curtis reached the end of the cul-de-sac, marked by a mossy, grey concrete wall with long green grass at its bottom corner that towered at what Curtis assumed was at least 15ft tall. Following it up to the top, Curtis noticed that the sky was completely overcast with thick, light grey altostratus clouds. Fearing the small risk of rain, Curtis decided it was best to head home straight after this, also deciding to observe the types of cars on his way out. Looking around at a few Volkswagens and Hondas, and remembering that one Volvo at the very first house on the right (which was now the very last on the left), Curtis looked for the car at the house directly opposing that one. While doing so, the same eerie thought from before struck him from out-of-nowhere.

While it was weird enough to have absolutely no human activity on one stretch of housing in this estate, it was getting all too unnerving now for him that there was no people on this street either. Again there were no children playing, elderly gardening, and not even anyone sitting in their front rooms, from what Curtis could remember.

While approaching the left turn back onto the street at the back of the estate, Curtis noticed something stark that made him halt and recoil in swift panic.

Sylvester was gone.

Curt’s muscles intensified, he was breathing heavily, immediately sprinting, profusely panicking and cursing himself for leaving the dog all by himself. “SILVER. HERE BOY. COME HERE SILVER.” he said loudly and desperately while running at a sharp pace. He whistled thrice, and loudly called for him again. “HERE, SILVER SILVER SILVER. C’MON BOY.” He was approaching the turn when he began to shout for him, straining the muscles in his dry throat. “SILVER. SILVER. SIL-‘’

His shouting was brought to a halt, as sudden confusion washed away Curt’s fretting. He should have been running on the road between the oak trees and the large brown and white houses. However, unease was tingling down Curt’s spine, as he looked around at the redbrick houses, standing only a few feet away from the tall, mossy, grey concrete wall which marked the end of the street he had just turned away from.

Curtis was anxious, wondering how he had just unexpectedly hallucinated or daydreamed that whole fiasco. But as he looked back up to the top of the street, Curtis saw once more that Sylvester was nowhere to be found. Curtis sprinted again, his thoughts a little more collected and his worries pushed aside briefly. As he approached the turn for the second time, Curtis noticed that the leash was also missing, signalling to him that someone had found Sylvester and took–

He looked around at the redbrick houses, standing only a few feet away from the tall, mossy, grey concrete wall which marked the end of the street he had just turned away from.

Curtis was frightened. He had definitely not hallucinated that. ‘If I had, why would I be panting so much?’ he thought to himself. He sprinted once more, faster than the previous two times. He was fatigued, but he kept himself motivated by that thrive to break free from the seemingly-infinite maze. He was thinking to himself again. ‘Perhaps if I just try to glimpse at the white paint of the house around the co–

He looked around at the redbrick houses, standing only a few feet away from the tall, mossy, grey concrete wall which marked the end of the street he had just turned away from.

He was dreaming. He trembled fiercely and glanced around frantically, feeling like he was going to go blind if he stared at one thing for more than three seconds. His energy was absent from all the running, but he kept walking, doing-so rapidly while swirling his vision around in circles, his only motivation fear and despair. The Ash tree that Sylvester was tied to jumped back and lurched toward him every few seconds, like his rapidly beating pulse. His shaky legs attempted to pick up a jog once more. Trying to glimpse for one of the white houses again, he peered intensely through any gaps, blotches appearing quickly in his central vision while his outer vision blurred. When he couldn’t find even a hint of white housing in any gap anywhere on this street, Curtis clutched his head into his hand, flailing his legs into a chaotic run towards the left-turn, only hanging onto a thread of hope th–

He looked around at the redbrick houses, standing only a few feet away from the tall, mossy, grey concrete wall which marked the end of the street he had just turned away from.

Curtis lay down on the cold concrete in the shape of a foetus, burying his face into the warm, dark depths of his palms, his emotions latent on his pale, blank face apart from the wordless tears which gushed from his hazel eyes. He unintentionally scratched his brown curly hair against the harsh surface of the road, refusing to look at any of his surroundings. Curtis was surrounded by unchanging scenery, and total, maddening silence. There was not a single soul to share or polarize his never-ending suffering.

Hundreds. Hundreds of dead arms slowly materialized from beneath the nucleated evergreen trees where Curtis had submerged himself into. Rotting flesh, crusty and glistening, the colour of mixed pale grey and deep blue. From all floors on the houses; behind the numerous windows in all the large, white and brown houses, bodies of pale grey and faces of deep blue, with large circular black eyes, thin, stitched lips, and noseless faces, scratched softly at the window, sometimes drumming all five fingers on the glass. You couldn’t hear the sound, but the vibration left an echo in your chest, an echo so dense it was like a protected kick from a startled horse. Their vacant eyes spoke the messages that the muscles of their stitched mouths struggled to.

Sylvester snarled at the slow-moving arms, and barked viciously at the dead eyed children emerging from the sewer. Sylvester whined for Curtis to return, and with every passing minute, the sky turned an even deeper orange.

Sylvester pulled full force away from the black, dying tree. Each leaf that fell onto his back was scorching him. The deceased children swayed from side to side, slowly moving in on helpless Sylvester. Not a sound could be heard from anywhere, as Sylvester violently shook the leash which had bound him. Sylvester snarled and barked viciously once more, in a futile effort to intimidate the emotionless, dead children still swaying slowly toward him.

Sylvester turned away from them and then towards the tree. He walked backwards, until the leash was at its very-most strained. Then, he shook his head rapidly from side to side, tightening the grip of all four paws that were submerged into the muck. Slowly, the leash began to slide over his neck, the nylon scraping painfully at the back of his ears. The ball in his throat became rapidly swollen as he struggled to breath with the collar wrapped so tightly around it. The heavy friction made the collar slip past his ears extremely slowly, awfully anxious about the emotionless, dead children swaying toward him painfully slowly.

His vision blurred when his head jerked back violently and when the air flooded back into his lungs. The moment he released himself, a pale grey arm swung toward him and their rust-coloured, razor-sharp nails dug past his thin silver coat and into the soft tender flesh just above his hip. Sylvester yelped, then snarled and barked mercilessly at the noseless, stitched mouth, void-eyed, dead child, sinking his teeth into their ice-cold flesh. The child stalled and pulled away, with just enough time for Sylvester to dash away from them.

He galloped left, down the subtly steep hill. The orange sky swirled like a gyroscope right above him, but Sylvester never looked back once. He galloped towards the entrance, where a slit of light shone blindingly bright in the dead centre. Surrounding the blinding light, was nothing but total darkness. The pale grey, deep blue bodies of men, women, and children hung, gloomy and still, from the thickest branch of the withering, black, dying sycamore tree. Sylvester stopped to snarl and bark at the dissolving children sitting on the swings, and the eyeless men and women drumming their fingers on the windows from the small white houses at the entrance.

Sylvester continued running and running and running, running towards the blindingly bright light, until it was that, that was all he could see. At that moment, the entire world seemed to shift entirely onto one side, while Sylvester could see nothing but blindingly bright lights, hear absolutely nothing, and floated in the air, feeling gravity pull him to the left.

Sylvester landed onto his side, a sharp pain throbbing just above his hip, and a dull burning sensation all over his back. He barked a few times while his vision spun around dizzily in his mind. A few seconds later, after he rubbed at his eyes with both his front paws, Sylvester looked around him curiously, readying his teeth to snarl. Families of smiling adults and playful children were walking around the lakes with their noses and eyes in tact, and their mouths unstitched. Cars were driving on the roads and the sounds of birds tweeting and ducks quacking still echoed through the beautiful, sunny April afternoon. Sylvester loosened his jaw, and started to pant.

All that was missing was Curtis.

Credit To – CrashingCymbal

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