The Apollo Inventus

July 27, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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I hope to God, that this is the right thing to do. This is what he told us to do. This is the precaution he told us to take. That’s what I’ll tell myself to help me sleep at night.

***

The following is the main body of the transcription of the Apollo Inventus flightcrew personal communications as recorded on the Personal Data Storage Device (PDSD). Collected tapes containing voice recorded ground elapsed time (GET) were forwarded to the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas after retrieval. Transcription of these tapes was managed by my peers at Test Division, New Apollo Spacecraft Program Office.

The Apollo Inventus mission was flown December 17, 2009 and its status is still currently under evaluation [June 17, 2014].

Communicators in the text are identified as follows:

CDR Commander Padraig F. Dennison

00 00 00 24

“You lied to me. You’ve been lying to us all. You sent me up here thinking you knew what it was. You sent me here as your goddamned guinea pig. You knew I’d die up here, but I won’t; I can’t. It’ll never let me die. It told me that. It told me everything. It told me what you know about it, and what you think it is. You were so wrong. You’ve sent me to hell without realizing, and it’ll keep me here forever; for eternity. I’m a prisoner, like you. This is happening because we broke the rules; the ancient rules set out by its ancestors. The rules are just for us, and we’re not supposed to understand them. We’re meant to obey them; we’re meant to die by them. It wants to contain our cancer, before we spread it. It knows what happens. It wants me to tell you, so you never try anything like this again. This isn’t what we’re supposed to do. This isn’t for us, it never will be. It’s important you understand that you can never come back here again. It’s important that you understand why that is.”

00 00 01 32

“I first became aware of extreme disorder about 4 hours after touching down at Autumn Base, and it was about 12:50 am on the monitor when the first incident started to occur. I spent the first 3 hours after touching down trying to re-establish communications with Houston, but it is my guess now that I was just being ignored. I was preparing tools and finishing the final calibrations and I had just put my suit and helmet on. I was about to leave the Inventus to conduct the geological tests outlined in my brief when I noticed that outside the craft, through the port hole on the exit latch, there was a dense layer of dust, hovering in a kind of stasis off the ground. This was at about 12:52 am. It was like a sandstorm, except everything was still. Then everything got dark, like a thick fog had rolled in, and then the tremors started. It was like the ground had a pulse and it rattled the shuttle violently, at intervals, maybe 2 seconds in between. There was a noise, too. It was like something was resonating through me from the ground, a kind of low humming noise, and it got louder and louder until it was like it was coming from inside my own skull. And then I saw him.”

00 00 02 15

“I watched his head come into view in the porthole gradually, as he climbed the last few steps on the ladder up to the hatch, and then he just watched me. I watched him back through the window; hoping to God It was some sort of hallucination. I tried to see his face, but I couldn’t see into his helmet through his dark visor and the mist. Then he brought a rock over his head, and began beating the porthole window with it. Between that and the tremors, I didn’t know what to do. What could I have done? They don’t prepare you for that kind of stuff in training. The first thing I did do was try to wake myself up, but obviously I wasn’t dreaming. I was terrified the tremors or the astronaut would cause some sort of irreversible damage to the shuttle, so I tried to take off; I tried to abandon my mission; I tried to get out of there. When I went to set up for lift off I noticed the banging on the window stop. When I turned to see what was happening at that point, there was a sudden, stronger, deeper movement in the ground. And then everything went black.”

00 00 03 12

“I wasn’t sure how long I’d been out for, but my oxygen gauge was telling me I’d used about 70% of my reserve; I don’t remember exactly how much. I woke up outside the shuttle, on the Moon’s surface, about 50 meters away from where I’d landed. That was my first time ever stepping foot on the Moon. I had no idea what was happening. I still didn’t know at that point whether I was hallucinating, or whether I was imagining things, or I don’t know what. The tremors had stopped and it seemed the dust and rocks had settled back on the surface while I was unconscious. The mist was gone too, and that humming noise. It was as if nothing had happened; just dead silence. I spotted the Inventus in the distance and started making my way towards it. Then as I got closer, I noticed a strange rock between myself and it. It was paler than the rest and longer too. Looking at it, it was noticeably distinctive from everything else; lying kind of skew-ways and lumpy. Then I saw it wasn’t a rock at all. It was the man, the astronaut from before. I stopped and watched. I tried to get a grasp on reality. I figured it couldn’t be real; what I was experiencing, but he stayed lying right there, motionless. And then he started to get up. He got up slowly, stopping on all-fours for a while, before getting completely to his feet. Then he started on his way back to the shuttle.”

00 00 04 18

“I kept about a 10 meter distance from him up to the ladder. When he got to it he started doing what I was hoping he wouldn’t do. He climbed it, halfway, and reached to the entrance latch. Then he got back down and lifted another rock. That’s when It happened the second time. The dust and rocks rose off the surface for as far as I could see. The deep pulse in the ground started beating again and that thick, dark fog just kind of materialized. I could barely see 5 meters in front of me. And that sound too, but it wasn’t really a sound. It couldn’t have been a sound. It was as if it was originating inside me; like it was vibrating through me. I could feel the hum in every inch of my body, and it got gradually louder. The astronaut seemed as concerned as I was. He got back up the ladder and started trying to break through the porthole again. My fear of being stranded out here gravely outweighed the fear of the astronaut, so I went after him.”

00 00 04 45

“When I got to the bottom of the Inventus’ ladder I reached up and wrapped my arms around the man’s suit, and with my body weight I dragged him off the and onto the ground. In a kind of desperate attempt, he swung at me with his rock hand. It struck my elbow that I had raised to it and I took that as my opportunity. I managed to prise the rock from his grip – I remember it being pretty weak – and then he stumbled back and took a moment to what looked to me like he was trying to catch his breath. He just stood there silently, kind of leaning forward a bit. That didn’t tell me much at the time. I stood there for a second too, as the adrenaline peaked, just looking at him in confusion, and fear. I was trying to see into his helmet, to see who he was… or what he was. Then he started coming towards me again, slowly, but intently. I put my boot out and planted it into the stomach of his suit, just to keep him back, but his legs folded and he landed face down in the dust. I watched to see if he was going to get back up, but he didn’t. Then my gauge pinged again. I had very little oxygen left in my tank at that point. I had to get inside the shuttle; I knew it was my only hope of getting out of that mess, whatever grossly underestimated mess I thought I was in at the time. I turned and put my boot on the first step of the ladder. I could see the man behind me in the reflection of the Inventus. I turned around to look at him one more time, before I climbed the ladder to the hatch; I don’t know why. He was sitting upright, his arms limp at his sides, staring at me through his dark visor, but there was something different about him that time. Then the ground gave that same, sudden grinding movement… of monumental proportion, and everything went black again.”

00 00 06 01

“I woke again on the ground outside the shuttle. My eyes burned and my ears were ringing. I had to fight with all my strength to not vomit inside my own helmet; I felt like I’d been brought back from the dead. I lay there until I could think straight, and then I noticed my gauge had been pinging while I was unconscious. I saw that my oxygen levels were critical. That was when panic started to really set in. I got up slowly so I wouldn’t pass out and spotted the shuttle about 30 meters away. I was so desperate to get back in there. I was desperate for oxygen… and to get away from this place. It was obvious something unprecedented was happening, even though I didn’t know what exactly. I had to get back before the tremors started again, and the fog, and the blackouts. I knew I was in a terrible situation, but I had no idea how bad it really was; how bad it was for all of us. I got to the shuttle eventually. There were moments I thought I would pass out, but I managed to get there. It was getting harder and harder to draw breaths and my head was getting hot. I climbed the ladder halfway and checked the entrance latch. It was locked. ‘The man’, I thought; ‘The man was using a rock, that’s the only way to get in’. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was desperate. I had my mind on the oxygen reserves inside; I had my mind on my family, on home.”

00 00 07 05

“This was meant to be a textbook mission. I mean… I was meant to come home! When I asked why it wasn’t going to be public, you told me it was for security reasons, and other reasons that weren’t relevant to me. I trusted you; why shouldn’t I have? I put my faith in all of you. I knew it was important, I understood that I was doing something that others couldn’t know about, but you kept so much from me. I put my life in your hands and you threw it away like it was nothing, and for what? You manipulated me. You threw me to the wolves. I wanted a story to tell, but not like this. I want to go home. This can’t happen to me… why did you let this happen to me?” [Sobbing and uncomprehend-able muttering from Captain Padraig F. Dennison until 00 00 14 19]

00 00 14 30

“After remembering the astronaut while standing at the locked hatch, I remember getting dizzy. I got off the ladder and found the easiest rock to carry, like I had seen him do, and then everything lifted off the ground again.”

00 00 14 42

“The rocks and dirt just hung there motionless like before. The fog materialized and everything got dark… and hazy. The hum started vibrating through me, louder and louder, and the surface started to pulse; that same primal series of beating coming from deep inside its core. The thought did cross my mind at the time, that it was as if it was alive. I got back onto the ladder, trying my best to hold on; the tremors were rocking the shuttle intensely now. Then I got to the top. I got to the hatch and looked through the porthole, and I saw myself. Not like a reflection, like a man inside the shuttle, only it was me. He stood there in his suit and helmet and just returned the stare. I saw the oxygen tanks on the racks to his left, and the screen that read 12:53 am to his right. I could see what was happening now; it had happened already before. I was not able to breathe at that point, and the pinging from my gauge was deafening. My tanks were empty. I held my last breath and with the rock I started hitting the window. I was trying to break it; there’s an emergency release on the other side, but then something grabbed hold of me around my waist. It was the same man as before. It was me. He pulled us off the ladder, away from the latch; away from the oxygen, and onto the ground. My chest burned, I couldn’t hold it any longer. I swung at him with the rock but he easily blocked it. Then he took it from me. I felt the blood rush from my head. My eyes leaked tears into the helmet and my vision spun. I stumbled forwards and felt him kick the last breath out of my lungs.”

00 00 15 56

“I lay there flat on my stomach, in agony. My eyes felt like they were going to pop, and my chest was clenching up so hard I thought it would burst. I felt its pulse rattle my helmet at 2 or 3 second intervals. The humming noise got louder and louder until I felt like it was shivering against my soul. My vision faded and I felt my life stutter. I felt it leak out of the cracks in my broken spirit. I felt it with every convulsion, and then it spoke to me.”

00 00 16 22

“It spoke to me without words, but I understood. It was instantaneous, like a flash, but less than that. All at once it told me. It flooded me with its knowledge, its evil, and it was terrifying. It’s not a God, but it is a creator. It’s a creator AND a destroyer; a manipulator. It’s an observer, an instigator. It’s our mother and our father, but it’s not our friend. Its nature is insidious. You lied to me. You’ve been lying to us all. There’s no flag up here. There are no footsteps, or milestones; I was the first. We have no history up here, we have no right to. You had no right to come here at all. It wanted to show me, so I could tell you. It wants to send a message. There are rules that you don’t understand. Rules that are beyond what we will ever be capable of understanding. But you need to know they’re there. The Earth is our prison; a cage. IT is our warden. That’s why it floats up here, watching us. You weren’t meant to leave. You’re never meant to leave! This is our punishment, and has been since germs turned to fish. You knew it was alive. You were trying to contact it. You fools. You sent me here to poke it, to see if it was awake. You thought maybe it could help us; it will help you die alone on your miserable blue sphere, away from the rest of the universe.”

00 00 17 52

“You’ll come back for my tapes, you’ll want them. It wants you to have them. A group of you will go public with them shortly after the investigation, and leak it all. This will trigger a series of events that will lead to the end of man. It will decide to speed up this process when it begins, and then it will take all of you as well, to where I’m going shortly. I hope we do burn together some day. It knows everything from now until the end, and now I do too. You need to destroy these tapes, discredit the transcripts. Do this by any means necessary before they can be leaked to the public. Make it so that nobody will ever believe their authenticity; it’s the only way. Then you need to leave this place alone. It will keep me forever, as a reminder to you. I don’t need food or air anymore; I’ll never die. It did this to me; YOU did this to me. There’s nothing for you here anymore. This place has a deep, dark evil living inside of it. It’s alive; it’s conscious. Please, never come back. Never leave Earth again.”

00 00 18 54

“At this present moment I’m just lying here recording this message, waiting for it to send me away. It brought me back from the edge just as I was about to die. It filled my lungs with air, and I almost choked on it, like I’d forgotten what it was. Soon I won’t need it anymore; I know that it’s only temporary. My eyesight and hearing came back almost immediately. Its pulse deep inside the core still rattled my helmet, and the hum still resonated inside my skull. I sat up slowly, through the floating layer of dust and saw the Inventus and the man on the ladder. I knew exactly how it would happen; it had happened already before. He climbed the last two steps and turned back to look at me through the layer of floating debris. Then the ground tensed and heaved, and they were gone.”

Notes:

Recording stays active after the speaker has finished until 00 00 27 53 before being manually terminated by the speaker. The sound recorded during this period mainly consists of the speakers breathing and sobbing. A snippet of an adult male’s voice can be heard just before the recordings termination. The location of Captain Padraig F. Dennison by his own account during the period of time which he records these messages would have made it impossible for noise outside of his space suit to be picked up by his Personal Data Storage Device (PDSD). The voice heard in that snippet has been confirmed to not belong to Captain Padraig F. Dennison.

It should also be noted that during the retrieval mission conducted by the Apollo Memory, no trace of the Apollo Inventus shuttle was found at Autumn Base in relation to where Captain Padraig F. Dennison’s suit was found and where he claimed to be speaking from in the recordings. Captain Padraig F. Dennison’s space suit was found in close proximity to Autumn Base and the tapes were collected from there. Captain Padraig F. Dennison’s body, however, was missing from the suit and was never located by the flightcrew of Apollo Memory. The crew reported that Captain Padraig F. Dennison’s space suit was completely intact on inspection, but that the lunar surface area where it was found on appeared to have suffered extensive burn damage in a 3 meter radius from an unidentified source.

***

I am still gravely unsure as to whether or not I am leaking this, or discrediting it. What I am certain of however, is that regardless of whether or not it comes for us, I will burn with Padraig F. Dennison someday for what I’ve done to him, along with everyone else directly involved in the Apollo Inventus mission. I feel that I may be joining him a lot sooner than I had previously anticipated.

Forgive me please, if I’ve damned us all. Forgive me, Padraig F. Dennison.

Credit To – Coffeey

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Nobody Lived In Flat Number Six

July 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Nobody lived in flat number six. As far as we were aware, it was empty. The date was October 1992 and my wife and I had moved in almost two months ago. We had bought flat number five, and were quite content to live in it – it was a neat, cosy little apartment with a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, and one room which merged the living and dining spaces.

Not to mention, it came cheap and was only a ten minute walk from the train station. Sure, the wallpaper was a little fuddy-duddy, and the kitchen designing was a little seventies, but with a bit of paintwork and a few trips to the furniture store, we would hopefully make it work.

The little outer London neighbourhood was appealing, too. It was the kind of idyllic suburban places where there is enough traffic on the streets to reassure you that you aren’t in the middle of nowhere, and there is little enough traffic to let you get to sleep soundly. The high street had everything, too – a doctor’s surgery, an optician’s, a dentist, and a Tesco supermarket.

At any rate, we were feeling nicely settled in by the end of two months, and had high expectations of our new life in England. You see, we came over from the States, and in spite of the fact that the English speak the same language as Americans, there were aspects of living over there that were entirely alien to us. It was home, but yet it wasn’t quite home.

The weather was also something of an issue – not a disappointment, though, as we had had a great deal of forewarning about the clouds and the rain that fill England’s skies in the autumn and most times of the year.

Perhaps now I should turn the focus back to our new home. Ours was number five out of six flats which belonged to a tidy apartment block with the name ‘Gretel Cottage.’ It was situated midway along a street which held a mix of detached houses, blocks of flats, and even a few guesthouses.

Gretel Cottage had three levels to it: on the ground floor the hallway led to flat 1 on one side and flat 2 on the other, on the first floor flat 3 shared the landing with flat 4, and likewise flat 5 shared the second floor’s landing with, well – with flat 6. There were no other levels.

In our first week there, we had taken time to get to know the residents of the other flats – rather, they had taken their time to come upstairs and greet us. They were a friendly lot, for the most part.

There was a Ms. Miggins in number 4, a Mr. Smith in number 3, a Frenchwoman in number 1, and one other fellow in number 2. Remarkably, not one of them could have been younger than sixty-five. I was twenty-four and my wife twenty-five. Yes, I guess we did feel a little out of key with our neighbours. They never seemed to go out unless for groceries, and that seldom. We went out daily.

More remarkably yet, not one of them didn’t live alone – widowed or divorced. I suppose it’s a lonely time, old age – you get the feeling that nobody wants to talk to you, you feel detached from your loved ones.

Back in our apartment in Ohio, literally all of our neighbours had been young couples or families. There had been a great deal of noise over there: we heard children’s shoes bumping along down hallways and a great deal of both grown-up and children’s laughter. Sometimes we even heard quarrels, and parents scolding their children – and of course that meant very loud crying. But we had been surrounded by life and youth, and the place had seemed brighter and cheerier.

Gretel Cottage was different. It was nice and quiet – so quiet that sometimes it felt lifeless. Perhaps the dreary weather added to it, but the lack of sound gave the building a subtle lonesome feel about it. It was sad, in a way. Actually it was a bit eerie.

The good thing was that we spent less time at home than we did outside. We both worked the standard nine-to-five office jobs in the inner city, and returned home at about seven. As for weekends, we went out pretty much all day, both days, and came back at times ranging from six thirty to beyond midnight. When home, we were either watching the telly, making dinner, or simply unwinding. Sometimes we went to the gym. Sometimes to the cinema. Sometimes we just sat and talked and talked and talked. We had a good time, I’ll admit.

And then there was flat six. There was nothing immediately remarkable about it – it had an oaken door and front porch identical to all the others, with a knocker and a bell and a bristly brown doormat. A brass ‘six’ was fixed into the middle with nails. Nobody had opened that door to greet us on our arrival, and after a week of seeing not a thing go in or out, we assumed that the flat was empty. And what could be wrong with that? Nothing, right? Well – I know it sounds childish coming from a man of my age, but there’s something very slightly unnerving about an empty house. I’m sure you’ve all had a house on your street with no dwellers in it, and I’d bet many of you sometimes got the chills when you walked by it in the evening. Come on – admit it, empty, abandoned houses are creepy.

Well, with flat six, it was like that but… different – worse. All day and all night the empty flat was literally on the doorstep of our home. When we opened our front door to leave in the morning, that ominous door stood in wait for us, looming. When we returned home, we would turn the key in the lock and know that the dreaded door was behind us. Imagination would make us wonder ‘what’s in that flat?’ and ‘what if it opens right now and comes out?’

Alright, fair enough – that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It wasn’t really that bad – just a little weird, that’s all. And I’m ashamed to tell you this, but when I said ‘we’ and ‘us,’ I ought to have said ‘I and ‘me’ because to be honest with you, my wife didn’t feel in the least put off by flat six.

Yes – yes, I know. It’s shameful, I’m a jumpy, nervous sissy – I admit it. We had different teenage years: she went out and saw all the horror films she could, while I saw few enough as to get the creepy side of my mind working but not enough to dampen my imagination. We still went out for a scary one now and again, but I was never the one who suggested it.

Now that I’ve given you more than enough background knowledge on myself and my life at the time, and now that you have an idea of how brave a man I am, I should probably hurry up and tell you about some of the things that happened in late October 1992.

Nothing truly weird took place until the postman came one Monday. I remember I was sitting at the table with a plate of half-finished scrambled eggs, a cup of tea, and watching the BBC News. There was a scuffling of paper being shoved through the letterbox, and the damp clank as it fell shut. My wife was back in a moment with two letters. One of them, she explained, was an advert from some insurance company, and the other was a bill. She left them on the table and we returned to breakfast and the news. So far, so good.

Then a few minutes later we tidied up, switched off the television, and stepped outside. Something struck me as off as soon as we locked the door behind us. It hit me in a second – there was an envelope lying on the doormat of flat number six. My eyes searched the door and I noticed that there was no letterbox – or, rather, that the letterbox had been boarded up. I didn’t need to point out the envelope to my wife – you couldn’t miss it; a neat white rectangle, yellowish at the edges, sitting unobtrusively on the doormat. She gave a puzzled frown, looked curiously at it for a while, and then made a start as if to go and look at it. I caught her by the arm immediately, for some reason.

“What’s up?” she asked, even more surprised by my reaction than by the envelope.

“Don’t –“I began, clearing my throat and not letting go of her nor letting the envelope out of my sight, “Leave it.”

She looked at me with a kind of pitying smile, shook her head, and told me that I was being silly – but she listened, thankfully, she listened. I sighed and thanked her; I just didn’t want her to go anywhere near the letter, it didn’t feel right.

I got a strange call that day at work, during my lunch hour. I had just finished my smoked salmon sandwich, and was about to tuck in to a cookie when my phone began to ring. It wasn’t unexpected or anything, because I get calls all the time when I’m at work from colleagues. It wasn’t a colleague – I could tell as much.

“Hello? Who’s this?” I asked quite clearly, but all I could hear was the crackly hiss that you hear in the background of a call.

“Hello? Hello?” I asked.

Then I can swear I heard laughter – a kind of gleeful snigger, as if it might be some teenager prank-calling me. But I was not sure if it was a teenager; it sounded old – kind of weird. I was a little weirded out, so I hung up and checked the number. Strangely enough, the number was very similar to the number of our flat, but two digits were different. “I guess it’s a neighbour or something – maybe the estate agent.” I told myself that, but I wasn’t so sure. The estate agent wouldn’t have laughed at me like that.

Then something else weird happened. I got home before my wife, and was just turning the key in the lock when something made me look back. The envelope on the doorstep of number 6 – it was gone. I stared hard at the door for a while, and it seemed to stare back at me. My imagination threatened to scare me, so I opened the door to my own flat as quick as I could, and shut it behind me. I remember I felt a little anxious for my wife to get back soon. Something about the letter being gone had me creeped out – somebody was living in flat number six, and they had come out to pick up the envelope while I had been away.

I turned on the TV and made myself a quick cup of tea, sitting, brooding, and not really watching the screen as I waited for my wife’s return. When she came back, I told her to wait in the flat while I checked something outside. It was pretty abrupt and unexplained, but she waited while I ran down the stairs and out of the building to check the windows of flat number six. I saw that the curtains were drawn, and the panes had been in need of a clean for ages. When I got back to the flat, my wife had also noticed the absence of the letter. She was standing just at our doorway, and pointing at the doormat of flat six. “Have you seen-?” “Yeah I know,” I butted in, “there’s somebody there – I’m pretty sure there is.”

She strode up to the door of number six, and was about to ring the bell when I cried out to her, “Don’t do it!” “What’s up with you, Matt?” she looked at me in a slightly concerned way, and then raised a hand to ring the doorbell. “Please don’t – I don’t like it!” I protested like a child. “I seriously don’t get you sometimes,” she shook her head, “this is stupid – I’m going to ring it.” And she did. We listened, her calm and ready to greet whomever it was, and me tense and not sure if I wanted to meet them. As I had half-expected, nobody answered or even seemed to move inside the house. If the whole envelope incident hadn’t taken place, then we would have been convinced it was empty.

“What the hell? There’s nobody there – I suppose they’re out.” My wife assumed that in her realistic, matter-of-fact way. “Out?” I protested, “They’ve never been out as long as we’ve been here. There’s somebody there, alright, but it’s some kind of antisocial weirdo. Either that, or they just died a while after they picked up the letter!” I don’t know why I said the last bit, but it got me even more freaked out.

“Maybe, Matt,” my wife began, as we made our way back into our own flat, and as she turned the living-room light on, “maybe there’s nobody there, and the caretaker simply picked up the letter as it hadn’t been taken.” I wasn’t a hundred percent convinced, but that was fine with me – I liked that explanation a lot more, so we stuck with it and ate dinner. “Oh, and by the way,” my wife asked me later, as we got into bed, “did you get a call today at about two o’clock?” “Yeah – a weird one, with some guy laughing?” “Yeah… I got something like that too.” “You did? Who do you reckon it was – not many people here have our numbers, you know.” “I’m not sure. I expect it was the estate agent’s kids playing pranks – maybe got our numbers off their dad’s phone.” I agreed, but I didn’t stop thinking about that until I fell asleep. I dreamt about flat six, that night. I dreamt that I opened the door to it, and could only see pitch darkness inside. I dreamt that I listened in, and heard that same sniggering laughter coming from somewhere in the darkness.

On Tuesday night, I came home to find that I had forgotten my keys, and that my phone had run out of battery. You can imagine how frustrated I was when I found that my wife was not home, and that I had to wait on the landing for her to get back and open the door. You can imagine how anxious I grew when she wasn’t back an hour after the usual time, and I couldn’t get through to her. And I bet you can imagine how uneasy I got as I sat on the landing, within three yards of the door to flat number six. You know when you’re alone and vulnerable to getting spooked, you seem to think of the last things you would like to spring to mind when you’re feeling tense. Last night’s dream, for instance, kept playing upon my mind and I thought that at any moment the door to number six would burst open and something would come out and see me, and I would see it. Clearly, my wife was trying to get through to me, as I could hear the telephone ringing inside our apartment – she expected that I had got home. I was glad that she was alright, and able to ring me, but it made me nervous to think that she was probably getting anxious about me as well.

Then I looked at flat number six’s door again, and I could swear I heard a ‘click’, a tiny noise, come from somewhere inside that apartment. I frowned and listened closely, but didn’t hear anything else.

After that, I went outside to escape that dreaded landing for a while – she still wasn’t back and it was nine-thirty. Heavy rain started, and forced me back inside and up to the landing. I was almost considering asking a neighbour for a phone to call her (yes, at that time of night), but to my great relief, at a little after ten o’clock, she came up the steps to the landing and was startled to see me slumped on the floor outside the door. “Thank goodness, I was getting worried about you, where have you been?” I got up and spoke rapidly, catching my breath. “My colleague offered to drive me home – but the traffic was horrendous out there. I tried to call your mobile, but it’s out of battery, isn’t it? What about you? Why aren’t you inside?” I explained apologetically that I must have forgotten the keys inside the apartment in the morning.

She sighed, unlocked the door, and we stepped in. While I searched for my keys (they were strangely not on the key hook), my wife turned on the lights and I heard her gasp a little at the answer machine. “Look how many missed calls there are on the telephone!” “Yeah – you must have been calling me non-stop,” I told her, “I only called you twice on the home phone – there are like six missed calls, and – hang on. Come over here.” “What is it?” I hurried to see what had put the worried expression on her face. I looked at the numbers for the missed calls: two of them were my wife’s mobile phone number, and the other four numbers were the same number. “It’s the same number as those weird prank-calls we got yesterday,” she seemed now more irritated than nervous, “goddamn kids!” She deleted the missed calls, and we went to bed without dinner (it was a bit late, and we were both exhausted). I never found those missing keys.

Wednesday was worse. I got more calls from that number, but the hoarse, unfriendly voice at the other end was saying things now. I was shocked – intimidated, even – by what I was hearing. The voice was saying the vilest things, talking about rape, murder, and using pretty much every swearword in the book. The thing that really got me scared about the calls were how much the person at the other end seemed to know about us – he knew my name, my wife’s name, and that we were from the states, as he referred to us as ‘filthy yanks’ more than once. I made up my mind to report this fellow at some point, and as I was on my bus home, I blocked his number. There was peace for a while. And then – just when I thought I wouldn’t hear any more from that nasty, irritating sonofabitch, my phone rang again. I was amazed to see what I thought was the same goddamn number calling, but then I realised that it was not that number. It was OUR number. Somebody was calling me from my own home. I picked up and asked frantically if it was my wife at the other end. That ominous crackling sound followed, then that same mocking, sniggering laughter. It took me a few seconds to register how serious the situation was, and when I did, I almost vomited with anxiety.

I jumped off the bus, sprinted home, burst up the flights of stairs, and came up to the landing where I collapsed with sheer, utter terror. The door to number five was open.

“Oh my God!” I cried aloud, and staggered to my feet, rushing into my flat to catch the intruder. There was nobody there when I looked, so I rushed out of number five, and broke the door to number six open with by force. Hell – I would have gone in there and showed that thing what happens to people who mess with me, but when I saw that bare, empty, dimly-lit hallway beyond the door, I could not force myself to enter that place. I was a coward, and I collapsed and I fainted.

The police searched flat number six very thoroughly when they arrived, and also looked around our flat, as me and my wife stood on the landing in between and just stared into space. We felt violated – as if somebody was deliberately trying to make us feel unwelcome in our own home. She even suggested moving out, which was drastic – I don’t blame her; she had received a few of those calls lately as well. We were reassured, if not a little frustrated when the police claimed that they had found nobody in either of the flats. Interestingly, flat six had been empty after all – we ourselves even took a look around in there and found absolutely no traces of anybody living there. There wasn’t a phone in flat six either, so whoever was calling us couldn’t have been living there. Further investigation showed that the envelope had actually been meant for Ms. Miggins in number 4 downstairs, and she had checked upstairs, because her son who had sent the letter had in the past mistakenly addressed his letters to number six. My fears about flat six had obviously been sheer paranoia – there was nothing to worry about, so it seemed, in flat six.

As for my keys, they were found lying on the landing outside the flat – the intruder had obviously dropped them there before he had made his getaway.

We gave the police the number that had been troubling us, and they told us sincerely that they’d look into it and arrest the perpetrator for breaking and entering, as well as for going against the 1988 Malicious Communications Act.

More or less as reassured as a person can be after having their home broken into, we both thanked the ruddy faced inspector and the four constables before bidding them Good Night and closing our front door. We sighed and fell wearily onto the sofa and watched the TV for a while – it was some kind of sitcom, ‘Fawlty Towers’ I think it was called. We fixed ourselves a small dinner and watched in front of the telly, laughing at the bits we found funny, and laughing anyway at the bits that weren’t too funny. At about 11:30 we turned off the TV, washed the dishes, and turned in for the night.

Settled into bed, I was about to turn off the bedside lamp when my wife told me to wait a little. She had her mobile phone in her hand and a kind of smirk on her face.

“Why don’t we give the prank-caller a little taste of his own medicine?” she suggested, “He won’t like being called up at this time of night!”

“Sure do it,” I said, liking the idea as soon as I heard it, “what are you going to say to him?”

“I don’t know – suppose I’ll just make creepy noises or something. Anything to get back at him.”

“Sure, go ahead!”

She dialled the number and we were chuckling to ourselves gleefully as she called. We were quiet for a while, grinning stupidly while the phone connected. Then a noise from our living-room wiped the smiles right off our faces.

A phone had started to ring in the living-room.

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Home Improvement

July 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Jim and Mary couldn’t wait to buy that house up in North Hill. They lived in it for one day and then they couldn’t wait to get outta that town, and they told me they’ll never move into another house for as long as they live. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, ‘til Mary gave me the details. Jim won’t talk about it even if you threaten him.

It was a gorgeous old house like somethin’ out of a 1950’s suburban family show. Single story, two bedroom home with walk-in closets and a small cellar. Cozy, stylish. They weren’t sure if they were gonna buy at first, but the place was so cozy they couldn’t resist.

First night in the house they were sittin’ in bed, readin’, when they heard this racket in the neighborhood like somebody tearin’ concrete up with a sledgehammer. Whack whack whack whack. Jim and Mary worried it’d go on all night, but it only lasted five minutes. They figured a neighbor was doin’ a little home improvement before bed, shrugged and went back to readin’.

A while later they heard a spade shovelin’ dirt. That went on for almost an hour. Mary cracked a window but she couldn’t pinpoint where it was comin’ from. Then it stopped.

Not long after came a hammer drivin’ nails into wood, and the sound of a woman cryin’. She was beggin’, too, but the words were muffled like she had somethin’ in her mouth. Mary started gettin’ scared, but Jim assured her the neighbors were probably watchin’ a movie with the volume up real loud.

After ten minutes the hammerin’ stopped, but the cryin’ rose to miserable, terrified weepin’ and it sounded real close. Well now Jim was worried and he and Mary went out to the front yard, but they still couldn’t pinpoint the sound. They just got back inside when the woman started screamin’ at the top o’ her lungs. When the deafenin’ roar of a portable cement mixer echoed throughout the entire house, it finally hit Jim and Mary that the sounds were comin’ from their cellar.

Jim panicked. He grabbed his .357, ran to the kitchen with Mary at his heels, flipped the cellar light on and leapt down the cellar stairs. He got halfway down and froze.

The cellar was empty. And it was quiet.

They packed their things and left.

Not long after all this happened, Jim and Mary did a little research on the house’s history hopin’ it’d put their minds at ease. They found a headline from 1992 what dripped ice water down their backs. The last man to own that house was a quiet, timid carpenter who found out his wife had been sleepin’ with her party friends behind his back and laughin’ about it. When she came home one night the husband bound and gagged her, nailed her in a makeshift coffin, and buried her alive beneath the concrete cellar floor.

I’m not sayin’ I believe in ghosts or anythin’. But maybe houses got memories like people, and maybe they have a hard time forgettin’ certain things.

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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What You Don’t Know Won’t Kill You

July 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Kenny, I’m so sorry. Please forgive your Erica. I made a terrible mistake and I’m sorry.

Kenny is my big brother and my best friend in the world. We have a history of exploring the Great Unknown that goes as far back as childhood. The places that terrified most kids always seemed to call out to us, demanding their secrets be uncovered by those worthy to know them. We ventured deep into the abandoned sewer tunnels of North Hill and listened to the songs of restless ghosts. In the haunted woodland burial ground near Oakland Cemetery we found unearthed human bones, which we gathered and laid to rest. We were the only ones who ever went into the basement of the abandoned house on Werther Avenue, where a child-eating demon supposedly lived; we found no demon, but we did find a thousand dollars in a satchel stashed under the boiler. We had many “expeditions”, and somehow Dad always found out about them and grounded us the moment we came home.

I suppose I believed that knowledge was a ward for fear. I explored to understand the things that scared me — to look them right in the eye and know they were harmless. My obsession eventually led me to Winterfield University’s archaeology department, and to the journal, and ultimately to the events of this past Friday which continue to drag me into tearful fits.

I don’t expect anyone will ever read these pages. I’m only writing to preserve my last ounce of sanity for a few more minutes. The sway of the boat and drumming of the rain on deck are maddening to my ears, and the cabin is so claustrophobic I think anyone would lose her mind sitting in here for two days even if she hadn’t experienced what I have.

I’ll be okay so long as it doesn’t speak again. It’s been quiet since yesterday morning.

*

The journal’s author was the late Professor Blake Deforest, a renowned archaeologist whose explorations netted him an impressive collection of Mesoamerican artifacts belonging to an unknown Indian tribe. I’d read only a little about him in my youth: an infamous thrill-seeker and opium addict better known for his eccentricity than his expertise.

The majority of his treasures are small basalt totems stylistically similar to many Olmec statues. They represent a three-armed (or three-legged?) serpentine creature resting on its coils. Its face is nothing but a titan set of jaws full of long, pointed teeth. An amber gemstone crowns each totem’s head like a crystal ball on a dais, the opaque core of which creates an omniscient eye that stares directly at you no matter where you stand. All the totems present a malicious grin as with the knowledge of some delightfully horrible secret.

Deforest built his estate on a little hill in the nameless swamp hugging the shores of Lake Hela. After stealing a certain artifact discovered on one of his expeditions — a valuable, fist-sized stone — he locked himself in the mansion and spent the last days of his life slipping into madness. On September 6th, 1889, Deforest put a revolver to his head and pulled the trigger, spattering fifty years of archaeological experience all across his study walls. Police reports detailed a pathetically hurried and disinterested investigation, probably because the county politicians wanted the raving drug addict to disappear as quickly as possible. The stolen relic was never recovered.

The house has had three occupants since then, one as recent as 1976. All committed suicide.

The last of Deforest’s kin recently donated the property to the university, giving us permission to loot everything inside. When I became the head of the archaeology department the dean granted me complete access to all of Deforest’s resources — including that God-forsaken journal — and commissioned me to clean out Deforest House. If he hoped I would find the missing relic in the process, he gave no sign of it: everyone is convinced it’s on a permanent tour of the black market.

The small leather-bound book chronicles life on the Deforest property right down to the construction of the house. Deforest frequently mentions the stone, christening it the “Eye” for reasons he never explains, and goes on and on about his eagerness to study it, his theories of its pre-Olmec origin, its brilliant sheen in the sunlight, and so on and so forth.

A block of fifteen pages has been torn from the journal. The remaining pages show the rapid decline of the author’s mental health: paranoid hallucinations and dream-visions what could only result from heavy drug abuse, and other random nonsense impossible to interpret like, “Forever wandering the Red Horizon, one with the desolation, where the Cosmic Watchers stir; hungry gods of the pit! Still they call to me!” By the last ten pages nothing is even legible. Blake Deforest recorded his final thoughts in erratic scribbles only a lunatic could decipher.

Which says a lot about me. It seems strange that no one else ever tried to translate that madman’s scrawls, which I did out of nothing more than curiosity. I picked out the phrase, “it now sleeps beneath the cellar’s earthen floor,” and deduced what had happened to the missing artifact.

*

I recruited six of my friends as menial labor, including my brother Kenny because no one makes me feel safer in dark and foreboding places. We rented two trucks and emptied the house over the course of three weeks: its vintage furniture, valuable paintings, and rare books now adorn our library (those that we didn’t hock for school funds, anyway).

The swamp offered little more than murky puddles and murkier ponds, with less than a square foot of solid ground for miles, so when the weather got nasty we set up camp in the house, which was always unnerving. The marshland forest coils around the property as if trying to hide it in shame; even though it’s only an hour away from town, it feels completely isolated from the rest of the world. The house’s exterior is unremarkable except for the twenty stone steps leading up the hill to the front porch. From the bottom of these steps the manor’s outline resembles a ziggurat.

On our first visit the interior was as inviting as a quaint New England hotel; now the only decorations left are rusted wall-lamps and shadows thick enough to wrap around your shoulders on a cold night. Its empty rooms and corridors twist and flex like the innards of a creature that spent its last moments writhing in agony. The shadows knead the halls into the demented sort found in a carnival funhouse, or stretch them so they seem to go on for miles.

The air became more difficult to breathe on each visit, which I blamed on the building’s location or its advanced state of decay, though neither explanation relaxed the hairs on the back of my neck. I was always comforted to find Kenny and the others equally spooked.

Our most recent trip was to have been the last, so we took Kenny’s cabin boat to cut our travel time in half. If only we hadn’t been so eager to hold that relic in our hands we might’ve bothered to check the fuel gauge before embarking: when I fled the house I used the last drop of gas starting her up, and have sat here helplessly ever since.

The cellar was a mine tunnel, or a mass grave in waiting: an earthen floor spanning ten-by-fifteen feet, earthen walls held together with warped wooden beams. Except for the splintered pile of lumber that once served as a staircase, the room was empty. Armed with spades and an electric lamp we dropped in and set to work, twenty-minute shifts, three diggers at a time.

Two minutes later our dig came to an abrupt halt when Kenny, who’d started digging at the center of the room, struck something hard and wooden. The seven of us converged on that spot and dug like maniacs, expecting to find a treasure chest containing the Eye. What we uncovered was a four-foot-wide iron-braced trapdoor set in a stone foundation.

We paused and scratched our heads a minute. The cellar’s true floor had been curiously hidden beneath a fourteen inch layer of tightly packed marsh soil — days and days of obsessive work on Deforest’s part. It suddenly occurred to me that the journal — that is, the pages I had access to — never mentioned the construction of anything below the first floor.

We spent two hours shaving the cellar floor of its earthy coat and turned up nothing else. By then we were exhausted and figured we’d investigate the trapdoor the next day. Naturally Kenny and I were the only ones looking forward to it: oppressive gloom aside, every detail of the Deforest property tickled us with nostalgia as if it were a living synopsis of our childhood adventures.

In the meantime the weather bordered on catastrophic. Gale force winds ravaged the trees as snarling black clouds gathered over the lake — sailing would have been suicide. We unraveled our bedrolls around the electric lamp, enjoyed a modest supper of rations and hot cocoa, and after a few ghost stories my party retired for the night.

I have no idea how long I slept before the house’s unnatural stillness crept into the parlor and shook me awake. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something in the shadows was watching us. Each time I closed my eyes I saw Deforest’s totems sitting expectantly on the museum’s shelf, staring perpetually. Sitting and staring and smiling.

Dragged on a leash by some greedy curiosity I crept through the black halls and back to the cellar, keeping the lantern off until I reached the trapdoor to avoid disturbing my sleeping friends. With some effort — less than I had expected — I pulled the heavy trapdoor open, gagging as the smell of putrid water assaulted me. Beneath it a stone staircase descended into darkness.

Bile burned my throat. And I started down.

*

The stairway descended about twelve feet before it leveled off and the crushingly narrow walls opened into a sub-cellar, or what I had assumed was a sub-cellar until I took those first few steps toward the center of the room. The chamber was circular, little more than fifteen feet in diameter and crafted from muddy stone bricks the size of cinder blocks. Water covered the floor — rank seepage from the marsh above. Hieroglyphic carvings decorated the walls from floor to ceiling, all savagely defaced and impossible to read.

A large, mildew-stained creature emerged from the darkness, tearing a scream from my chest before I realized the demon was made of basalt and not flesh. Its features were perfectly intact, but rather than squat on its snakelike hindquarters like its smaller kin at the museum, it sprouted from the wall to form a chilling altar similar to those found in La Venta. With a shudder I turned my attention from the beast to the marred hieroglyphs on the wall.

On one side of the chamber was a mural like those found in Egyptian tombs, carved rather than painted, rich with detail and still mostly intact. The mural was six-by-ten-feet and depicted — how to explain it? — two-dozen tiers stacked like the floors of a hotel, with each tier containing a world that I can’t adequately describe beyond vague, horrified summaries. Many were so alien they gave me chills: a liquid planet, a world broken into fragments floating in nothingness, and a flat, endless desert to name a few. I think the mural meant to suggest coexistence, but separated the layers for clarity’s sake.

The creatures inhabiting those realms were the stuff of childhood nightmares, drifting along without purpose or cannibalizing each other with relish as they reenacted the ghastly histories of their worlds. It’s like each was another failed attempt by God at creating indigenous life. And it baffled me: Deforest, that attention-loving explorer, had hidden away a priceless treasure trove of never-before-seen mythology with the hope that no one would ever find it.

Human shapes inhabited the pan-dimensional apartment complex’s central tier. The characters dressed in an Aztec-style (were the Mystery Indians their relatives?) and seemed to stand in for the human race as a whole, acting out each chapter of the species’s evolution: harnessing fire, building tools and houses, learning to farm and hunt, forming societies, waging war, finding God.

The final act of the story of Man stirred my insides with an icy ladle: a congregation of bald figures, priests most likely, lined up behind a more prominent bald figure who knelt beneath a round, blazing object — something reminiscent of Ra and his solar disk. This didn’t disturb me quite so much until I looked up and found the same figure in the desert world — the world placed reverently at the top of the mural — lacking the solar disk and kneeling before the serpentine triped of Deforest’s treasure trove.

From that point things took a turn for the horrific. The other worlds began to seep into Man’s realm: first only one or two curious creatures, crossing the dimensional borders, looking around, snatching up a random object or person; then the landscapes bled into each other in patches, and otherworldly fiends came in raiding parties. Humans were tormented, possessed, transformed, or dragged into the other worlds and eaten. The once barren desert realm became populated with hideous human shapes, a mockery of the ones in the human realm. Finally the tier borders melted away completely, the worlds merged and all existence was pandemonium.

I identified this as the Mystery Indians’ nightmarish rendition of Ragnarok: the tiers of existence collapse on one-another while an apathetic cyclopean god looks on and laughs. That didn’t account for the priests, though, lined up and waiting eagerly for their turn with the solar disk. Maybe it was a common thing. A ritual sacrifice to the cosmic watcher; one where the lambs couldn’t wait to throw themselves upon the knife, to spend eternity with their hideous god in a heavenly wasteland. I shuddered again at the thought.

So where had the Mystery Indians vanished to? The other Indians must have annihilated them for their blasphemous religion. I’d just begun to wonder how many had migrated to North America when my foot accidentally met with a small, hard object and sent it rolling several feet. My gaze fell to the floor and remained there for ten minutes.

I knelt and took the carelessly discarded relic in my trembling hands, holding it before my face like a dazzled child would a Christmas snow globe. It had a haunting beauty unlike any jewel I’d ever seen: three inches wide, colored like a dark Oktoberfest brew, smoother to the touch than ivory except where hieroglyphics scarred its surface. I knew by its opaque core that it was the Eye. Laughing, I returned the statue’s grin to thank it for its lovely gift.

It had changed. Its smile was broader, more elated. It seemed to lean forward eagerly.

As quickly as my euphoria had enveloped me it recoiled in horror. The Eye was translucent, but the image on the other side was wrong. I had to hold the relic to my face like a monocle just to be sure it wasn’t [rest of sentence is too scrawled to read]

Sorry for my handwriting. Keeping my pen in hand is becoming difficult. This is the first time I’ve ever tried to revisit what I saw, let alone put it into words. Many details refuse to fully surface as though I’d experienced it all in a drunken stupor, but a cruel few tower before my memory with monumental clarity.

*

Metaphors only scratch the surface. A fish torn from the sea and tossed into a dry Martian crater all in one horrible instant. I didn’t belong there. My existence in that place was a blasphemy to the natural order of the universe.

How long did I lie there? How many days curled into a trembling wad with my head buried in my arms, after realizing the Eye — my inter-dimensional doorway — had abandoned me, like the rest of the earth. Eventually I gathered my strength and stood up, if only because I didn’t know what else to do.

The nightmare landscape was cracked, mars-red, spread out over infinite space, endless in scope and perfect in flatness as far out as the horizon except for a single lonesome crag of reddish stone in the distance reaching miles into the sky. Toward this formation I walked as nihilism swallowed the last ounce of my spirit. In every other direction the word “direction” had no meaning.

My shoes left no prints: despite its brittle appearance the ground refused yielding to my weight as if every last grain were frozen in time. A khaki sky seared overhead, devoid of clouds and sun; yet everything was brightly lit with a retina-crushing amber tint. In spite of the glare I felt no heat. No heat, no cold, no wind. No atmosphere at all. I don’t recall having the need for breath except when sobbing hysteria overtook me. My loudest wail vanished shortly after leaving my diaphragm, without so much as an echo. An impossible atmospheric stillness like that in a bad dream. Even with my hands clasped over my ears the silence penetrated and induced the sort of madness that is only partly relieved by long, anguished screams.

A red stalagmite stood twelve meters to my left where once there had been nothing. Its shape twisted screw-like up from the ground, but rather than come to a point it swelled into a bulbous mass. It looked like the petrified remains of some unnamable organism.

Acknowledging the stone polyp caused more to appear. My eyes would pan to a new polyp only to notice another in their peripheral, until I found myself in the center of a disjointed circle of seven or eight. Each was twisted into a different amorphous shape, but all stood about six feet high. They didn’t burst forth from the ground, or drop from the sky, or form molecule by molecule before my eyes — they just suddenly were.

A hundred yards to the west, assuming the crag was north, something moved.

It likely appeared out of nowhere just like the stalagmites, and induced enough shuddering terror in me that I wished I hadn’t seen it at all: charred skin as black as ash, broom handle limbs carrying it with the grotesquely awkward steps of a marionette. Even from such a great distance I saw the empty holes where eyes used to be, and the face permanently shriveled and twisted in anguish. A millennium in hell couldn’t wear a human being into such a shape!

The broken man halted in mid-step and remained like a statue for several minutes. It turned its head until its empty eyes fell on me. It stood and stared and did nothing else.

I turned back toward the crag and walked faster in case the shambling thing decided to follow.

After three days of walking with no apparent need for rest, the crag now towered close enough that I could distinguish a narrow cave entrance at its base. More stone polyps had erected like carelessly scattered billboards along my path, and still more appeared whenever I blinked, or rubbed my face, or lost my grip on my emotions.

Then I made the mistake of looking over my shoulder. Only ten feet behind me, where once there had been nothing but stone polyps, a myriad of deathly thin nightmare figures stood staring at me. I never saw them take a step or even so much as twitch, yet no matter how long I walked, the distance between me and the colony of broken men remained constant. They kept a semicircular formation, curving inward toward me, herding me toward the great crag’s gaping mouth. I was too scared to think better of slipping inside to escape all those dreadful faces.

Details of the inside return to me in an earth-tone blur except for the hole cut into the ground at the center of the cave, circular and as wide as a house. The sounds from its throat commanded me to draw nearer until I stood teetering at its lip, gazing downward with streaming eyes and trembling breath.

That abysmal pit! It must have pierced right into the planet’s core! God, if you could have seen them slithering and writhing in that white magma, thousands bobbing shark-like to the surface and scaling the walls of the pit in unnatural flight! And I, the fearless explorer, just stood there and watched with stone legs. Stood and watched as the first one emerged and arched its colossal serpentine body forward to get a better look at me, its three giant talons straddling the pit’s mouth, twenty tendril-like tongues licking its fangs.

The thing spoke to me in an awful language of thunderous, droning notes I didn’t understand. The star hovering over its head reached its tainted gaze inside me and fanned through my every memory, every experience, every personal guilt like pages in a book. As it did I saw things I can barely put into words, like I’d tapped into its mind and shared its omniscience: time and space conjoined, spewing eons of existence in front of me simultaneously like so much junk on a flea market table. The universe cried out, peeled back like a scab and revealed a squirming mess of worlds overlapping like projector slides, and somewhere within that churning brew of slithering bodies and impossible landscapes I saw earth peeking out at me; glimpses of human beings going about their daily lives while oblivious to the horrors sharing their space in the universe. They walked through alien pillars as if they were illusions, across great rivers of acid as if they were asphalt, side-by-side with ungodly creatures as if they didn’t exist! A hundred coexisting worlds mortared with a thin sheet of tissue paper that could be ruptured with the tiniest glance.

The monsters can’t be accurately described with human language. Even the depictions in the mural do them no justice. I came within arm’s reach of a flying, tentacled horror the size of a bus drifting across a noxious, luminous valley of slime. It came to rest on a black stone-like protrusion that may have been a boulder or the rooftop of a sunken building. I seemed to hover over the fiend like a ghost, so close I could reach out and touch it if I dared.

It looked up, startled. It stared into my soul with forty squirming white tennis ball eyes. It saw me.

I started screaming.

I’d been screaming for several minutes before I realized I was sitting on the tomb’s wet floor with my empty hands outstretched. In my panic the relic had slipped from my earthly body’s grip and now rested on the floor just out of arm’s reach.

It was calling. The Eye commanded me to take it in my hands again. The statue sat gritting its teeth in an angry grimace, and almost imperceptibly the shadows began to move. Just outside the lantern’s failing glow the shriveled faces of six broken men glowered at me. Then the lantern went out.

Something grabbed at me in the dark that may have been real or imagined, and I scrambled up the stairs and out of the cellar, flinging the trapdoor shut behind me. Every animal in the swamp must have heard me as I dashed back to the parlor, crashing through doors and into walls, screaming Kenny’s name at the top of my lungs and growing more frantic when no one replied. All I needed was for Kenny to hug me and pat me on the head like he always did and tell me everything was all right. But when I had crept away from our camp, in the darkness I never noticed that the other six bedrolls lay open and empty — that I had awoken in that house alone.

The Eye had saved me for last.

*

It’s calling again. It’s so loud it hurts. It’s like an eel slithering inside my head and it’s furious.

stop please

The house is pulling me back like with a chain. God if you only knew what I know! The things it showed me! The things I still see! The things I saw in the swamp! I can’t go back, not through that swamp!

They’re drawn to me because I crossed the barrier. They can smell me. I saw the broken men wandering the marsh, flickering in and out of existence like the picture on a TV with bad reception. Sometimes one, sometimes ten. They see me and they try to drag me back to their masters. I always outrun them but they stay longer and longer. Maybe one of them is K–[remaining text violently scratched out]

I see other things, worse than the broken men. So much worse. They’re searching for me, too. Using me as a beacon. I locked myself in here and I haven’t moved since. I’m afraid to look out the windows and see them slithering about in the marsh. They’ll see me and they’ll come.

I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to know anymore. Deforest didn’t want to know. He didn’t want anyone to know.

get out of my head

I cant go back It’s angry that I fled and if I go back I don’t know what it will do to me I don want to go back please whoever finds this please bury that room bury it so no one can find it don let it take you to that awful place

ragnarok

put the barrel in your mouth it’s the only answer but is so heavy

put the barrel in your mouth you coward

something just crawled on deck outside

i’m so sorry for ev–[remaining text is too blood-smeared to read]

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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Fear Always Finds You

July 12, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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“Never go into the forests, child,” my mother used to say to me when I was little. “Horrible things lie within those forests. Horrible, horrible things.”
“What kinds of horrible things, mother?” I’d ask in return.
“In the forests lie fear incarnate. For anything that you fear, that any of us fear, you may find it embodied in the forests.”
“Has anyone ever been into the forests?”
“Yes, child, many have tried to brave the forests, hoping to find something on the other side.”
“Has anyone ever made it through?”
“I don’t know.”
“Has anyone ever returned?”
At this question my mother would sit pensively for a moment, her expression becoming darker, more fearful and depressive. “A few folks, yes.”
“What did they say? What had they seen?” I would ask excitedly.
“Rarely did they say anything,” mother would say as she looked away from me, down at her lap. “They were changed men. Not all lasted long back in the town.”
“Did their fears find them, mother?”
“Fear always finds you.” she’d say as she stood up. The conversation always ended here.
Mother and I had this conversation many times over the course of our years together. It always went the same way, always ending with that final phrase. “Fear always finds you”. Those words haunted me as a child.

In a way, it also inspired me. I lived in a small village, very small, though I never had other villages to compare it to. It was surrounded by thick forest, massive silvery trees fencing us in. From one side of the village you could see the trees growing next to the other side as clearly as if they were the trees next to you. Around the perimeter of our land we kept our crops, and our houses were condensed to the center. The number of villagers never went higher than 75; births were usually followed closely by deaths. Children went to school during the day and stayed inside for most of the rest of their time while their parents worked the farms.

This modest life was never quite enough for me though. I felt as though I were in a box, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. The town was my prison, the forest the bars. I was never satisfied with what I was told in school. My curiosity could not be contained. It was always, “How could we know anything about anything if all we had ever known was this small patch of land?”; “What had come before then?”; “What was in the forests that kept us from expanding, from leading better lives?”

Alas, my teachers never knew. My mother was the only one who would give me anything regarding the forests, and even she gave me so little. I knew not what she meant by “horrible things” or “fear incarnate”. I had to be satisfied with what I had been given. Going into the forests was taboo – everyone knew that. And yet I still wanted to see for myself.

When I reached the age of 17, I could no longer wait. It had been another night of quizzing my mother about the forests, again ending with “fear always finds you”. Exasperated, I ran to my room and started to plot my escape. It was a simple plan – run away. That’s really all I could do. No one here sympathized with my curiosity. The only way to accomplish anything was to go into the forest myself. Maybe there was something on the other side of the forest. Maybe even more people! This was such an exciting prospect to me, especially seeing as how I had grown so weary of the people there long ago. If this didn’t pan out, I could always just turn back to the village. “Mother said people before had made it back,” I told myself, “and as I seem to be a bit more competent than any of the people here, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

I grabbed a sack of some vegetables and, in the middle of the night while mother was asleep, I snuck out. The village typically goes to sleep at sundown; nevertheless, I made my way towards the forest with extreme caution. Reaching the edge of the crop area, I turned my complete attention to the woods. The seemingly impenetrable mass of trees was striking, almost freezing me in place. I realized with a jolt that I was scared: scared of the darkness before me, scared of the unknown, scared of the trees themselves and all they symbolized.

I thought back to my mother’s words. “For anything that you fear, that any of us fear, you may find it embodied in the forests.” My fear was only reasonable, I thought. This is unknown territory. If I fear the forest itself, what else could find me within it?
“‘Fear always finds you’,” I muttered to myself. “Bah.”
With that, I marched into the forest.
It was a bizarre feeling at first, being entirely surrounded by trees. Only ever had I seen them from one side, enclosing my village. I trekked onwards through them, trying to keep myself going in one direction, only able to see by the light of the moon. Even that light was largely hidden by the thick canopy above me that seemed to stretch on to touch the sky itself. The only sounds I heard were that of my breath and my footsteps.

After what I took to be an hour of walking, I decided to stop and sit by a tree. I realized that in my anger earlier that night, I had forgotten to eat supper. I pulled out some food and stared into the darkness around me. There was no movement, no more sound at all. It was surreal, serene but ominous.
“‘Fear always finds you’,” I whispered to myself again. “I’m doing fine so far, thank you very much mother.” My fear of the forest had abated over the course of my walk. “It’s just a bunch of trees,” I said, fixing my gaze on a tree about 10 feet in front of me, where a beam of moonlight was falling through the dark.
Suddenly something caught my eye directly to the left of that tree. I could hardly make it out, as it was still dark, but something in the darkness had moved. I jumped up to my feet, brandishing my meal like a weapon pointed at the dark spot.
“Hello?” I called out, “Is someone there? Have you come looking for me?”
There was no more movement. I stood there for a few minutes, completely frozen, waiting for a response. I eventually resolved that it had been nothing – perhaps wind hitting a lower tree branch – and so I moved to sit back down.
As I was turning back around there was another movement, larger this time. I whipped back around to glimpse it; something there had moved closer, to be standing at the tree in front of me. I still could not see it. I flattened myself against the tree I was on, breathing heavily now. Timidly, after a moment, I spoke: “Who, or what, is there?”

The shape moved closer to me, stopping just before being past the tree. It shifted itself so that, slowly, it emerged into the moonlight. I could only see its face – if it can so be called. What I had thought was darkness concealing it was actually just the thing’s flesh, dark as the night itself, if not darker, pulled tightly around a slender rectangular skull. It bore three glazen, pearly white eyes set like a triangle above a lipless mouth, stretching as far around it’s skull as I could see with flat yellowed teeth. The lack of lips gave it the impression of smiling at me, though whether or not it really was looking at me I could not quite tell. A thin two-fingered hand stretched itself in my direction through the light. The thing made a noise like a high pitched laugh through its closed teeth.

I dropped my food and bolted around my tree, running in the opposite direction. The laughter grew louder and more pronounced as I heard a whooshing sound from behind me. Looking back I could see it sprinting after me, running at a ludicrous speed on what I could just make out to be two gangly legs supporting a gangly body. I ran as fast as I could, dodging between trees trying to lose it, but it always sounded so close behind me, like it could just reach out with its long black hands and snatch me. When I looked to my sides I saw it running beside me, never looking forward but staring at me. It never overtook me, but matched my pace exactly and seemingly with ease.

I ran for as long as I could and as quickly as I could. Finally I could run no more. I slid to my knees on the dirty forest floor, holding my head up, screaming at the canopy above me. When I had run out of air and had to stop this screaming, I heard the thing saunter up to me from behind; with surprising strength it gripped me with both hands, lifting me off the ground and turning me to face it. I struggled to fight it but my energy was gone. Its laughter grew louder and louder, deafening – but then suddenly stopped. I stared into its eyes. Slowly it opened its horrifying maw to reveal an inside as dark as the rest of it, tongueless, like a void. As I began to scream again, it shoveled me in.

I awoke with a jolt at my tree, where I was still clutching my meal with both hands now. It was still dark. With a sigh of relief I took a bite out of my food. It had all been a dream, thank goodness. I was safe.

I turned to my right to reach for the sack with the rest of my food in it. Less than an inch from my face was that same pitch black face, all three eyes widened and gazing into mine. I yelled and threw myself backwards, landing on my back in the moonlight. Before I could get back up it was on top of me, mouth already widened this time. It screeched laughter as its huge teeth closed around my head.

Sometimes I wake up again at that tree. Other times I wake up somewhere else in the forest, or already running from it. Once or twice I’ve been on the fringes of the forest, gazing out at the other side, when it jumps from above me and swallows me, starting everything over again. It’s always the same monster chasing me, with those pearly eyes and teeth and skin like the night sky.

I thought that I would be fine in the forest. “For anything that you fear, that any of us fear, you may find it embodied in the forests.” I thought that I was fearless, that I would be safe in the forest. How could a fear of the forest persist within the forest itself?

I was wrong. My fear stands just as strong, if not stronger here. It’s that monster. I struggle with it over and over. I never escape. The monster always finds me.

Fear always finds me.
Credit To – Felix A.

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The Darrow Curse

July 10, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This story was transcribed by Randy Baker, editor of Penguin Books, during an interview with comedian Becky Somers at 4 p.m. on October 31st, 2013. Baker was orchestrating an urban legend anthology for Penguin Horror, and sought out Miss Somers after hearing that she was knowledgeable about the little-known Darrow Curse of Wheatleigh, Kansas. The interview took place in her home in St. Louis.

“The Darrow Curse” was one of many entries cut from the final edition of the anthology, for reasons Baker never explained. He’ll decline to comment when asked about it.

Celts used to believe the dead walked the earth between the last of October and the first o’ November. They called it Samhain or somethin’, and it was a lot like Halloween as we know it, where people’d dress up like the dead and make asses o’ themselves. But the Celts had a good reason for it: dead folks leave you alone if they think you’re dead, too. The dead, accordin’ to the Celts, are somethin’ to be feared and respected.

Already told this story a hundred times to the police and the shrinks and friends and family. But it’s been years since last I told it, and it seems appropriate to have someone get it down on paper on the eve o’ November First.

At the time I was goin’ steady with a wonderful fella named Harley Davies. He had a big heart, Harley did, and he loved to have a good time, but he never said much ‘cept if he was alone with you. Harley was only comfortable with crowds when he was onstage. He had a little sister named Sage who was even less inclined to talk to folks ‘cos mentally she was basically a child. Their mom and dad died in a car accident when they was little and Harley’d been takin’ care o’ Sage ever since. She followed him around like a puppy dog. The three of us was real close and we went everywhere together: a trio of dumb, drunk, perpetually bored twenty-somethin’s.

We formed a dinner theater troupe with our friends Teddy and Enoch in 1991: melodramas, murder mysteries, and hammed-up musical performances. Mainly played bars and restaurants in Laclede’s Landing, but we’d play anywhere if the price was right and the crowds agreeable. People mostly came for Harley — you put Harley in front of a piano and he caught fire — but Enoch’s off-color jokes and my skeezy wardrobe helped bring ‘em back every night. Sage had nasty stage fright and refused any part we offered, but she never missed a show.

We had friends in Colorado who gave us a ring one afternoon — good friends from college we used to have insane Halloween parties with, and who now run a fancy club in Aspenvale — and said they wanted to get together with us and set up a regular gig. Enoch and Teddy had stuff to take care of in St. Louis first, so me and Harley figured we’d drive out ahead of ‘em, and we couldn’t leave Sage behind if we put her in cement shoes and locked her in the basement.

Road trip wasn’t supposed to be that long, ‘specially with me drivin’ — Harley useta call me Breakneck Becky. Turned out he didn’t take as much care of his truck as he thought; so on October 31st, 1994, we was stranded on the I-70 in the middle o’ nowhere (or Kansas, if you’d rather call it that). It was only an hour before some nice trucker stopped by to give us a lift to the nearest town, which happened to be a Podunk farmin’ community called Wheatleigh. You can’t see it from the road because o’ the golden wheat fields guardin’ it like a castle wall.

Wheatleigh looked like the late nineteenth century had kept it as a souvenir. There wasn’t one paved road or light pole anywhere. Their phones probably still needed a switchboard operator. They didn’t even have a town sheriff: everyone knew everyone, so nobody could get away with nothin’, I guess. Harley found a modern mechanic there and they went to get his truck. Me and Sage toured the town and got to know the locals while waitin’ for Harley to get back.

The people was real friendly to strangers. Everyone welcomed us with a smile, asked what brought us around their humble community, offered us food, beer, or both. Despite the small population, the place was always pretty busy. The streets was always bustlin’ with trucks and tractors and people luggin’ supplies to and from the town center.

Mrs. Winston, the stout old farmer’s wife in charge o’ the inn, was happy to tell us all about the town’s history. Wheatleigh kept its economy goin’ for over a century with wool and wheat — it got its name for the bountiful wheat crop it’s churned out since the first house was built there. I pointed my thumb toward the huge field we saw on our way in and said I wasn’t surprised, and complimented how healthy and beautiful it looked.

Mr. and Mrs. Winston frowned and looked at each other. Mrs. Winston cleared her throat and pointed opposite where I had. “The Edisons raise their wheat crop up that way. What you saw was the Darrow place. Nobody uses that crop.”

“Is it just for show, then?” I laughed. Mrs. Winston ignored me and went on about the Wheatleigh sheep herders.

Harley and the mechanic came back with the truck pretty quick. The mechanic told us it would be in the shop for twenty-four hours or so, but he could fix ‘er up for cheap. On our way back to the main road we passed a cluster o’ little houses what looked like their roofs would collapse any minute, with a couple goats munchin’ grass in the nearest one’s front yard.

A crude scarecrow was propped in the middle o’ the yard with its burlap head hangin’ low as if it was prayin’, its eye and mouth holes stitched shut with black thread so it looked like it was sneerin’ like a fox. In a morbid touch, around the scarecrow’s neck was a hemp noose — not attached to nothin’, just severed and danglin’ like a necktie. Seemed an odd place for a scarecrow, since there wasn’t no crops in that yard, and I never heard tale o’ crows eatin’ goats.

While tourin’ the rest o’ the town we realized everybody in Wheatleigh had one o’ those things planted on their property somewhere, or was in the process of plantin’ one. When Harley asked Mr. Edison about ‘em, he told us an interestin’ story.

In the nineteenth century a serial killer known as the Harvest Phantom terrorized Wheatleigh for several years: every harvest season somebody would leave their home to run errands, only to turn up dead in the street, usually chopped up with sickle and axe. The yearly death tally ranged from as few as one to as many as five. The Harvest Phantom was revealed to be Tommy Darrow, the son of the big wheat crop owner. They never found out why he did what he did — the town was too hasty to lynch him.

After Darrow died, a plague o’ misfortune swept Wheatleigh every October, usually at the end o’ the month. Darrow’s mother was found drowned in the bathtub one year. Mr. Proctor’s sheep got sickly and started dyin’ for no reason. Houses caught fire and children went missin’. And everyone who tried to take over the Darrow property died in freak accidents, almost always while in the wheat fields: heart attacks, strokes, fallin’ on dangerous tools, one gruesome incident with a combine. People said it was the ghost o’ Tommy Darrow exactin’ revenge on the town for not givin’ him a proper trial; they even said his specter walked the streets at night on the 31st of October — the night he was lynched — and anybody who stayed out after dark would never be seen again. Not in one piece, anyway.

So they started puttin’ effigies on their property to ward him off, made in a scarecrow’s likeness, ‘cos the Harvest Phantom wore a burlap sack over his head that made him look like one, himself. The noose around the neck reminded the specter he was supposed to be dead and sent him back to his grave ‘fore he could kill again. Durin’ the harvest season, everyone erected their effigies in their front yards, and barred their doors and windows at 9 p.m., and they didn’t let nobody in or out no matter what ’til the sun came up. Since they started doin’ all that, and since the Darrow crop was shunned by everyone, there’d been no incidents.

“In all the time since, you never once had a nighttime emergency?” said Harley. “Or gone out for a midnight stroll, even?”

Mr. Edison looked at his feet for a moment, then said, “I had a rotten day one Halloween when it was past curfew. Got to feeling spiteful and told Sarah I was going to work on the tractor to let off some steam, ghostly killer legends be damned. The panic attack this induced in my sweet little Sarah is something I never wanna see again.

“When she calmed down, she told me her great grandfather was once the town physician. The Proctors’ youngest son was sick with fever one Halloween night, and needed treatment. Doc gave them instructions over the phone, but they insisted on a house call; he decided the boy’s health was more important than some archaic superstition, so he packed up his little doctor’s bag, said ‘Be right back!’ to his family, and scurried out the door.”

Mr. Edison took a moment to puff on his pipe, never lookin’ any of us in the eye. When he was sure we was all listenin’ intently, he said, “They found him the next morning in front of his house, slit groin to throat and gutted like a hog. He’d died stepping out of his yard.”

Not believin’ a word of it, I made some dumb remark about hirin’ Mr. Edison as our troupe storyteller. We had a good laugh, then we left the Edison place in search of any ol’ way to kill the next sixteen hours.

Suffice it to say, there ain’t much to do in a podunk town like Wheatleigh ‘cept drink and fornicate, and with Sage taggin’ along, the second was outta the question. So around 7 p.m., when the clouds slithered ‘round the moon and strangled most o’ the light out of it, we found ourselves on the road leadin’ up Wheatleigh Hill to the Darrow house. It stood in front o’ the shunned field like a soldier guardin’ the gate to a forbidden castle. It was only a minute’s walk from the main road and Harley thought it’d be fun to go check it out.

Front door wasn’t locked, so we let ourselves in, hopin’ to find some creepy souvenir to show our friends in Aspenvale. All the furniture was intact like nobody’d touched the place for a century. We turned into children: ran up and down the halls, makin’ a mess o’ the place and scarin’ the piss outta each other. After a while we mellowed out, passed around a fat joint, shot the breeze, reminisced. Sage checked her watch and got flustered when she saw it was ten ’til 9 p.m., when the town would go into lockdown. We considered bein’ festive and stayin’ the night in the spooky ol’ Darrow house, but Sage didn’t like that idea one bit, so we raced to the Winston place.

We shacked up at the inn for the night and indulged ourselves on the free beer Mr. Winston was nice enough to offer us (that tall old fella was a spittin’ image o’ the one in that American Gothic paintin’). We didn’t get shit-faced exactly, but we was already high and gettin’ more obnoxious by the minute, be sure o’ that. God bless those Winstons and their kindness and patience, and their good humor when we joked to their faces about their town and the backwards yokels that lived there. They just smiled and laughed with us, like they’d heard it all before from the last dumbass city folk who’d passed through.

God bless ‘em for savin’ my unworthy ass.

It was MY stupid goddamned idea to show the populace o’ Wheatleigh how to have fun on Halloween. Thanks to their rigid superstitions about the harvest season, nobody in that town ever knew what Trick or Treats was, or at least never got to practice it. After my fourth beer I pitched the idea of goin’ door-to-door Trick-or-Treatin’, and scarin’ people, and makin’ a general nuisance of ourselves. Harley and Sage giggled like the hatter and hare at the thought of it.

We decided NOT to tell the Winstons, for fear they’d have heart attacks and spoil our fun before it started, so we planned to sneak out the kitchen door while they read quietly in the lobby. It was 10 p.m. when we was set to leave, and when my clumsy ass tripped and stumbled into the pretty potted plant in the hall between lobby and kitchen.

SMASH. Beautiful vase and moist dirt scattered in billions o’ little pieces all over the hallway.

Mrs. Winston was heartbroke: the vase was a gift from a great aunt she was real fond of, and though she insisted it was all right, I could see her eyes wellin’ up with tears as she knelt to clean up the mess. This was the cherry to top our sundae o’ callous rudeness and drunken stupidity, and I said so and apologized for what assholes we’d been. I insisted on cleanin’ it up myself and promised to make it up to her somehow. She wasn’t exactly touched, but she appreciated my sincerity (I ain’t the worst actress in the world, despite what the St. Louis newspapers say).

So Harley and Sage snuck off without me to get a head start, with my promise that I’d catch up as soon as I was able. They slipped out the kitchen door and onto the dark, abandoned streets of Wheatleigh. I figured it’d take a half hour makin’ that hall as spotless as we found it.

I wasn’t five minutes into my chore when someone screamed two blocks up the road from the inn — a loud, guttural, throat-tearin’ scream that sounded like Harley.

At the second scream I was on my feet and runnin’ to the kitchen door. Mrs. Winston was smaller and stouter than me, but she had a farmhand’s muscle and stopped me like a wall o’ bricks: she leapt between me and the door, threw the bolts in place, turned and held me fast with steel hands.

“Don’t you dare,” she said over the third scream. She didn’t yell or nothin’. She said it calm and cold like she knew I’d obey.

I kicked and twisted and writhed and screamed. I fought ’til I was exhausted; she was planted so firm it was like wrestlin’ a slab o’ concrete. “That’s Harley!” I shouted. “Lemme go! That’s Harley!”

“What the hell they doin’ on the streets this late?” said Mrs. Winston, her voice hollow now, her eyes bulgin’ in a mix o’ horror and outrage.

There wasn’t a fourth scream. The town was quiet ‘cept for the rustle o’ trees swayin’ in the wind and my own short, feral, sniffly breaths.

I was sober now.

“Nothin’ to be done,” she kept sayin’ sadly. “Just wait ’til mornin’. Nothin’ to be done.”

I backed away from her, pointin’ a finger at her like I could magically turn it into a gun anytime I wanted. “This ain’t funny, you hillbilly bitch,” I growled. “Joke’s over, y’hear me?”

“Nothin’ to be done,” she said, shakin’ her head, her face wincin’ in sympathy.

“You better hope my Harley and Sage ain’t hurt.”

“Just wait ’til mornin’, Sweetheart. Nothin’ to be–”

I stamped my foot on the floor and shrieked for her to shut the fuck up ’til I erupted like a sob volcano. She moved toward me to take me in her arms, still sayin’ that same line over and over.

“Just wait ’til mornin’. Nothin’ to be done.”

Mr. Winston was sittin’ in his chair in the lobby when I tore away from his wife and made a mad dash to the front door. I didn’t realize he’d moved there from the couch, where he’d sat readin’ before; and I didn’t notice the coach gun in his lap ’til he leapt to his feet and pointed both barrels right at my nose. I froze with my hand an inch from the door lock.

His gentle face was hard as stone now, his eyes red and hot. “Back up from that door, Miss,” he said, “and set yourself down.”

I musta looked like a big-mouthed bass just then, my eyes buggin’ outta my head, mouth openin’ and closin’ and nothin’ comin’ out. He told me again, and I stepped back three paces.

“You people are insane,” I whined. “What if Harley’s hurt? What about sweet little Sage? You gonna just leave ‘em there in the street?”

Somewhere out back o’ the house, another sound joined the rustlin’ of the trees: a hideous brayin’ sound that wasn’t quite breathin’ and wasn’t quite gaspin’.

We heard the kitchen doorknob rattle like someone was tryin’ to tear the door off its hinges. Then BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM as somebody’s fist pummeled the door in its frame.

Again. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.

The three of us stood there, not movin’. My feet started pointin’ down the hall, but my eyes went to Mr. Winston and his shotgun. Both was still watchin’ me hard.

The breathin’ faded away to silence as the source moved away from the kitchen door. It returned a few seconds later, louder and clearer as it approached the lobby door.

The doorknob rattled near outta its bolts.

BAM BAM BAM went somebody’s fist against the door. Now I realized what the breathin’ sound was: terrified, exhausted, inconsolable sobs.

I shouted Harley’s name and moved for the door, but Mr. Winston stepped between us, pressin’ the shotgun to my throat. His eyes was empty and dead like a doll’s. He’d blow my head off without a second thought.

“Please,” I almost managed to say without blubberin’. “Why’re you doin’ this? Let him in for god’s sake! He could be hurt!”

“Your Harley’s dead already,” said Mr. Winston.

“He’s right there on your doorstep!” I shrieked, spittin’ like a maniac.

“Right now that door’s a floodgate, and Tommy Darrow the flood. Understand? Better to have two dead than five.”

The sobbin’ continued as Harley clawed at the doorknob. I shot a pleadin’ look at Mrs. Winston, and it dawned on me that she’d been shuttin’ all the curtains in the lobby while her husband kept my attention.

A new rustlin’ sound, different from the trees: the Winstons had bushes lined up under the front-most windows of the lobby. Two windows left of the lobby door, the bushes rustled. Then there was a thud.

Harley’s grimacin’ face appeared at the bottom of the window, like he’d dragged himself to it. He looked right at me, his face splashed with red, his wet eyes bulgin’ out of the sockets with terror. He started bangin’ a blood-sopped hand weakly against the glass just as I ran to the window.

Mrs. Winston beat me there and grabbed me, wrestlin’ my hands away from the window latch. I started callin’ her every filthy name I ever heard at the top o’ my lungs.

She stumbled and lost her grip on my wrists; I threw her to the floor and clawed at the window latch, to fling open the window and drag Harley inside where he’d be warm and safe; to squeeze him in my arms and soak up all his pain and fear. I rattled off a chain o’ sweet, comfortin’ words through the glass, which mighta come out as utter nonsense, I’m not real sure. I was lookin’ at Harley again when I heard Mr. Winston shoutin’ his last warnin’ ten feet to my right, his coach gun starin’ right at my head.

I got a perfect moonlit view o’ the Winstons’ front yard through the window just as my thumb started to flip the latch open.

I still heard Mr. Winston’s voice echoin’ in my skull when I fainted, and later when I awoke at the Salina Regional Health Center — those words he’d spoke earlier, over the frantic bangin’ on the door and the ungodly sobbin’ on the stoop.

Your Harley’s dead already.

Standin’ over the windowsill, I saw Harley’s bloody face starin’ at my stomach, still bug-eyed, still grimacin’. I saw his left hand, still weakly rappin’ against the window, smearin’ blood all over it, the fingers limp.

I saw the thing that held ‘em both like cheap Halloween props as it squatted in the bushes, its burlap face grinnin’ up at me with a crooked, stitched-up mouth.

Credit To -Mike MacDee

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