“New Growth”

July 27, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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“It’s nice,” said Phil, “I still can’t believe you own a house.”

“Me neither, bro,” said Howard, “I mean, not at all.”

The two were standing in the mostly undecorated living room. The walls were recently painted a deep Marsala color (“Color of the year 2015, bro. Get on that.”) and there was a massive cream colored leather couch that dominated the majority of the space. A TV played a football game neither really watched where large men hurled their bodies at one another, causing irreparable long term cognitive damages.

“I thought buying a house was something old people did,” said Howard. “I’m only twenty fucking five, bruh. I can’t believe Colin’s company is working out like this.”

“For you,” Phil said, awkwardly. “Colin’s company is working out really well for you.”

“Oh, dude, whatever. Fuck him. He’ll rehire you. Whenever he comes to his senses. Is that what they call it? What’s the term for when you fire someone from your sweet start up because you find out he slept with your girlfriend in college and straight up lied to your face about it but then you forgive him and hire him back? Is that called a rehire?”

“I don’t know if —”

“There actually is no word for that, Phil, because that has never happened in the history of the world.
Come on, let’s go upstairs. I want you to check out this view.”

The view was nice, Phil thought. Howard’s place was in Candle Hill, a micro neighborhood of the city which was rapidly acquiring a reputation as an exclusive, monied neighborhood due to the sudden, unexpected blossoming biotech scene. Twenty four year olds were buying mansions on hills, driving strange exotic luxury cars, drinking wine older than most states in America. Until six months ago, Phil had been on track to be one of them. Then, after a brief, scarily cold conversation with Colin, he wasn’t.

After he was fired, he had had grabbed a job as a research tech for the university. It provided a salary and health care, but no dental and all of his friends were buying houses.

Howard’s house was fantastic, he had to admit. A refurbished row home with gorgeous crown molding in every room, bright gleaming modern appliances, marble countertops. The street was quiet and tree lined, one of those city neighborhoods you never know about unless you live there. The secret world of the rich. Or maybe just the lucky.

“So, how’s Janus Industries? Are you just as busy as ever?”

“Ugh,” Howard frowned, “worse, if possible. This is the first night I’ve been home before eight in a month. Not complaining. We’ve all been swamped.”

“Are you guys still working on stem cell stuff?”

“Like I can tell you,” grinned Howard. “But the stuff we’re doing is pretty great recently. It’s exciting.”

An hour or so later, Phil was getting ready to leave. They were back in the living room and he noticed a door with a chain lock across the hall from the half bath.

“Dude, what’s up with that door? Is someone locked in the basement?”

He meant it as a joke, but Howard’s face went pale. Phil froze. Was his friend keeping someone locked up in the basement? Was he going to be killed for discovering it? Why had he even come over? Is this how he dies?

Howard ran his hand through his hair.

“Sit down, man. There’s something I need to tell you.”

“Do you have anyone locked in the basement,” asked Phil as he sat down, looking for any objects he could improvise into weapons.

“No. I don’t have anyone locked in the basement,” Howard said with disgust, “I mean, come on, bro.”

“Well done, man.”

“Second, I think something is in the basement. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. The guy I bought this house from was in a super hurry to move, which is how I got it at such a good price, I guess. When I moved in, I found a note he had left in the bedroom. It said I should always keep that door closed. And one day would find out why.”

“What was his deal? Was he crazy?”

“That’s what I thought,” said Howard, “but he seemed like a normal dude through the whole process. He taught bioethics at the university. Did some consults at Janus, too. Dwyer? Did you ever hear of him?”

Phil shook his head.

“He gets good comments online. Colin took a bunch of classes with him, actually. Loved him. Said he had fascinating ideas for regenerative tech and how to monetize it. Girls on his Rate my Professor page say he was kind of sleazy,”

“When I found the note,” Howard continued, “I thought he was nuts. My realtor told me his wife had just died. She figured it messed him up or whatever. So, I decided to not worry about it. Then, I heard it.”

He shuddered.

“It was the first night here. I was just hanging out, quasi celebrating with champagne. I was by myself. Right here. In this room. And I hear someone walking up the basement stairs.”

“Do you know how quiet a place can feel when it isn’t just you? I had read his note that night. Now, the footsteps. Then the doorknob rattled. It opened, a tiny bit, just a crack, but the lock held it closed.”

“Holy shit,” phil leaned up on the couch. He was staring at Howard, watching his hands grab and twist the couch cushions. “So what happened?”

“The door closed. I heard the footsteps go back down. I didn’t leave the couch. I couldn’t. I didn’t even sleep. Spent all night here, staring at the stupid door.”

“Has it happened again?”

“It has. Every third night. At 10:50. And Phil?”

“Yeah?”

“Tonight’s a third night.”

“Well then,” Phil stood up, “I’m going to find out what’s going on down there.”

And with that, he walked over to the locked door.

“What?”

“You heard me,” Phil said, “I’m going into the basement,”

“Dude, that’s a bad idea? That is definitely an awful idea. I would like to ask you to reconsider —”

“Reconsider what?” asked Phil. His hand was on the doorknob and he had turned around completely to face Howard. “I don’t have anything, bro. I work in a lab getting paid nine dollars and eighty cents an hour. All my friends are millionaires. I eat ramen for dinner. Not by choice.”

“So you’re ok with being eaten by a monster in my basement? Because I assure you there is a monster in my basement and I suspect the monster will try to eat you and you’re my friend and —”

“Howard. You worry. Way. Too. Much.”

He unlatched the heavy chain.

“If I don’t come back, you can have my bike.”

And he opened the door and walked downstairs.

Howard spent the night on the couch. He didn’t sleep. He didn’t move. He watched the door. But it didn’t open. And at ten fifty on the third night, the door didn’t rattle and they weren’t any footsteps.

The next morning he went to work. There was a meeting with four other project managers that Colin unexpectedly showed up at.

Colin terrified Howard. He had ever since he started Janus Industries. Before that, Colin was nice. Thin and probably too into sushi and anime, but nice. After the company started, the niceness migrated from him and was replaced by something colder. Pressure, Howard told himself, Colin must be under a ton of pressure with the company. You have to be cold to do what he did. It was business.

At the meeting’s end, as they started to rise, Colin touched his shoulder.

“Talk to you for a minute?”

The other four shuffled out. The room felt too big. Colin stared at him.

“You ok? You look sick.”

“I’m fine. Just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”

“Really?” Colin frowned. “I thought you left early yesterday. I was here for hours after you drove off.”

Howard winced.

“Yeah, bro, I met someone for dinner for last night and bailed a little early. Sorry. I’ll check up on stuff tonight.”

“I’m sure you will,” Colin peered at him, his pale skin showing an architecture of blue veins below the surface. “Are you sick?”

“No. Not sick. Just couldn’t sleep.”

“Oh, just insomnia? You should take medication. No reason to let your biological system get in the way of your responsibilities, right?”

“Right,” Howard said, then added, in a desperate attempt to sound normal, “broseph.”

“Speaking of your responsibilities, your project isn’t going as well as I expected. We need that to improve. Quickly. Understand?”

“Yes, of course and I’m sorry I just —”

“Remember: results, not apologies. Right?” Colin smiled, briefly, for the first time in the conversation. His lips were thin. “Hey, you bought a house, didn’t you? A belated congratulations!”

“Oh, yeah thanks. I love it. Still decorating.”

“It’s Dyer’s old house, right? I miss him. He was always such a help to me. Well, take care.”

Howard began to walk out of the room.

“Oh, Howard?”

He turned around.

“Yeah?”

“Who were you having dinner with? Last night? Anyone I know?”

Howard stood, semi frozen.

“No, I don’t think so. Bro.”

“Oh. Ok. Take care.”

*****

Howard made it home that night by nine. Colin was still there when he left. He could see his office light burning from the parking lot.

Outside his house, where he always parked his car, Phil’s bike was still chained to the tree.

He went in. His footsteps echoed in the tall winding home. The lack of furniture made everything sound empty and full of echoes.

The door was still chained. There was no noise from the basement.

He barely slept. The next day at Janus it was the same: pacing the hallways, drinking too much coffee, sending off emails obsessively. At some point, waking through the office he suddenly stopped. At the far end of the open office, he saw an older woman entering Colin’s office. She walked in after Colin but before he closed the door she turned and surveyed the office. She had s small pinched face with a hawklike nose, small, deeply set eyes. She locked eyes with Howard. Did she smile?

And then the door closed.

That night, he fell asleep at his desk. Upon waking, he grabbed his phone and accessed his home security cams. They showed the same thing they had before: a locked basement. A locked bike.

He walked out into the hallway. The lights were already on. It was five fifteen in the morning. He could smell coffee already brewing. Lynn was at the machine. She looked up and smiled.

“Long night?”

“For sure.”

After they had been talking for a few minutes about nothing in particular, he looked around. Upon not noticing anyone beside the two of them, he dropped his voice.

“Lynn, your team is working on stem cell stuff right now.”

“Like everyone else here, yeah.” She looked amused. Lynn always looked amused, especially when people weren’t being that funny.

“But you aren’t doing the same kind of stuff as everyone else on your team.”

“What do you mean,” she asked. She didn’t look as amused.

“I talk to everyone here. I know Colin doesn’t like any of us to talk to each other, but I do. And I talk your team. And they say you’re working on some something they aren’t being kept in the loop on.”

“If they aren’t being kept in the loop why would you be kept in the loop?” She had gone back to amused. But not that amused.

Tell her about Phil, tell her about the house, the door, he thought, but he didn’t. He was watching the way her eyes all of the sudden widened at something behind him.

“Good morning,” he heard Colin’s voice. “Another day, another chance to do it all again.”

He smiled at the two of them and poured scalding hot coffee into his tan colored mug.

That night, Howard got home at ten forty three. He unlocked his door and walked across the grandly echoing hardwood to his kitchen. He poured a glass of wine (red, Chilean, not that bad at all) and he stood, staring at the door.

The noises started on the stair, the dragging, shaking walk. He listened to it as it grew closer, closer. He flung upon the door. And there was Phil, looking skinny and pale and horrified.

***
They sat together on the couch. He had grabbed Phil a blanket and he had wrapped himself up in it. His teeth were chattering. His eyes had huge dark circles.

“I don’t know, man,” he said, pushing his fingers into the bone colored couch, “I don’t know what happened.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Opening the door? I kind of remembering walking down the stairs. That’s all. Maybe I heard voices? But holy fuck I was down there for three nights? What the hell happened to me?”

“I don’t know,” Howard said thickly, “I don’t know at all. But this has something to do with Janus, I think.”

“Why would this have anything to do with Janus? This is just a horrible weird thing that happened to me!”

“No, I — things have been a lot weirder there after you left than I told you. There’s a lot of secret projects going on. We can’t talk to each other there anymore. And the shit he has us doing with stem cells…it’s weird. I think Colin is trying to do something.”

“Like what?” Phil had slumped against the back of the couch and was rubbing his temples.

“I don’t know. But you know Dwyer’s wife? The one who I said died?”

“Yeah?”

“A saw a photograph of her when I moved in here. And I think I saw her at Janus the other day.”

Phil sat upright.

“You saw her?”

“Or someone who looked a lot like her. It was from far away.”

“Jesus,” said Phil and he was quiet for a moment. “What the hell do you think is happening?”

“I don’t know and I’m starting to lose — where are you going? Don’t you want to go to the hospital? I’ll take you.”

Phil had stood up.

“No, no. I have to get home. I’ve been gone for three days. I have to red my cat. I’m terrified Admiral Flufferson is going to be starving. I’ll go to the hospital tomorrow, I guess,” he paused. “I’m not really sure what I’m going to tell them. But look: you should come with me. Whatever is happening here? Man, you don’t want any part of it.”

“Oh god. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go to my mom’s tonight. Fuck, bro, what is this?”

“I don’t know but we’re going to figure this out. Somehow. Together. Right?”

“Right. Right.”

Phil left. Howard stayed on the couch, his head spinning. He was trying to put everything together but he couldn’t. When he was growing up, he remembered trying to put together puzzles but never being able to get all the right pieces and just giving up. His older brother admitted a few years ago he would his puzzle pieces when Howard wasn’t looking, just to mess with him. That’s what he felt like now. Here was the puzzle. But something wasn’t there that he needed and he had no idea how to fix it.

And then he heard something

Footsteps.

Moving slowly up the stairs.

The basement door, he realized, wasn’t fully closed after he got phil out. The door was wide open. The footsteps got closer and closer and then, into the light stepped Phil.

He didn’t look ok. He could barely walk, taking only a few steps and before he fell. There was drool in the corner of his mouth. Howard ran to him, trying to help him sit up, leaving him against the wall in the pallid light of the hallway.

“Oh my god, Howard. Oh god. I can’t. Oh my god. There’s something horrible happening. They’re making things down there. They call them extras. Oh god, I don’t know what —”

There was a banging on the front door.

“Howard!” called Phil from outside, “there’s something I need to talk to you about! Open the door!”

Credit To – Kevin Sharp

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The Underpass

July 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Leo had mixed feelings about moving to the other side of the motorway. On the one hand, the new house was closer to where his friends lived; at least, closer than he had been when he was in Cowdenridge. He was also closer to the school, even though he was now on the opposite side of the road. However, the walk there and back would take just as long.

When it came to the walk to and from school, he had two choices. Either go through the Knightsmount Underpass, up to Park Brae, or through the woods on his side of the motorway and across the Woodlands Bridge. On the morning after his first night in the new house, Leo decided that the underpass would be the quick morning option and the Bridge the scenic afternoon option.

It was the middle of September. Fast-fading autumn. Leo crossed the main Ecclesburn road and walked towards the Knightsmount Underpass. The road was a cul-de-sac; it ended suddenly and did not seem to have much purpose. It was as if they had wanted the road to go on, and had meant to build houses at either side. As it was, on either side of Leo were plantations of bone thin pine trees, and on the right side they gave way to real woods, those woods he would walk home through.

A tarmac path brought him within the early morning roar of the motorway and the north side of the Knightsmount Underpass. He had not been through the underpass in a while, mainly because he had had no reason to cross to the outskirts of the town. As he approached the tunnel, memories of this place came back to him. When he was a child, walking the dog in the woods by the motorway with his father and brothers, Leo had never liked going through the underpass. Standing at the north end now, he remembered how slow and uncertain the walk through that long, dark place had seemed. He would stay close to his father, too old to hold his hand but too frightened and too apprehensive to stray very far. His brothers would deepen their voices and send eerie echoes along that open-ended concrete casket, putting on a sinister show for him. He had to clutch the dog’s lead and close his eyes and walk sightless, as fast as he could, out of that place.

He stood, just looking into the underpass, which had a distant but reassuring square of light at the other end; he could laugh at his childish terror. But it was an unsettling place. He walked.

The sickly orange lights which used to cast a fuzzy glow through the tunnel were long gone. It was dark from opening to opening and, because of its length, the very centre the underpass was a few degrees away from pitch-black. The floor was gnarled tarmac with suspicious stains. The walls were grey concrete, with large, square indents in some brutal pattern which must have been fresh and modern in 1968.

As he neared the centre of the tunnel, a fragmented memory came back to him; the memory of a feeling. He remembered exactly why he did not like that place. It was clear now. When he was five or six he could not understand that sense, but, as he stopped in the dead centre of the underpass, he recognised that sickly, uncertain feeling that he was being watched. No, not watched. Stared at, at close quarters.

There was no one in front of him. He wheeled round. No one behind. Everything was dark, musty and unnatural. The sound of the traffic above was muted by layers of concrete. The cars made soft noises on the tarmac, like silk skimming over velvet. Leo thought, as he hurried out of the underpass, that he could hear another sound; like scratching.

That night, Leo had a dream. He could not remember it all, only that it felt very real. He smelled petrol and oil and cigarette smoke. There was a pale man with greasy hair, looking at him as if he were looking down a microscope. And the man was listening. Listening very, very hard. There was some noise, but it was only scratching.

***

For almost two weeks after this, Leo walked across the Woodlands Bridge. That was an altogether more pleasant experience, strolling across the gleaming white bridge and looking out over the motorway, straight on its way to Glasgow. It was better than creeping underground. However, the bridge was not the fastest way home. This did not matter usually, but it did matter on that Friday night.

Leo had been out with friends and had just said goodbye to the group. They lived close by, but on the other side from him. He was lighter than air, content, and full of just enough drink. Nothing could scare him; not even that bloody underpass. It was an unpleasant place, sure enough, but it was nothing to be scared of. Nothing evil. Dreams were bizarre things, anyway. It was an underpass going under the M8 leading to and from Anderton, gateway to sunny Central Scotland. It was not Glamis with its monsters and secret rooms or Mary King’s Close with its immured plague-ridden Edinburghers. It was shabby and dull, and normal. Like the town itself.

He walked into the tunnel.

Those stains, that charming sectarian graffiti. Those smashed bottles of tonic wine. Such local colour! Yes, the ghost tour companies over in Edinburgh should try this spot. Leo’s thoughts danced. The tales they could tell! “And here,” the guide would say, pointing a trembling finger, “is the residue of Jakey Bill. No matter how much water and bleach the council uses trying to eradicate the stains, they always reappear mysteriously the next day!” Gasp!

Leo laughed out loud, and the sound echoed back and forth through the Underpass, muffled by the concrete. He was half way through. He was alright.

And then he was not.

Leo’s senses snapped to attention out of his half-cut glow. He stopped for no reason at all, like a wanderer in a strange place, and was in the dead centre of the underpass. He could smell and taste the musty air of the tunnel. He wished that he could not. All alone, he sensed that vulnerable loneliness that we feel in a dark room when we wake in a strange bed. It was worse than that, though. At least then we remember why we are there in the dark after a minute. Leo did not know why he had stopped, and why he waited.

But the worst part of it all was the sound. The scratching noise came again, thin but insistent, from the west wall. He did not want to hear this and he did not want to stay, but he had to. Something made him. Straining to hear the sound, he felt like some awful driver gazing at a crash on the road above. It was coming from a certain spot, right in the very centre of the tunnel wall.

Leo put out his hands and touched cold, dry, brutal concrete. His knees buckled. The sound was no longer a sound. He could feel the scratching, feel it as if it were inside his own skull. Then he heard the sound, the sound, unbearable, like someone screaming, shrieking with their mouth full, their mouth full of something. But now he could not move he could not move a single step forward or backward, there was no way, no way out, no way, no way out. A dead end. He felt as if his lungs were filling up, not with water, but something so heavy. He could not breathe.

A calm, hard voice said, “Let him scream. I want to hear him scream.”

Leo was on his back, and all he could hear was his own fast, deep breathing, and the cars above.

***

Two weeks later, as a car drove over the Knightsmount Underpass, the tarmac split apart and a hole opened up. Luckily the driver was relatively unharmed. However, the subsequent excavation and reinforcement work caused havoc on the M8 for weeks and weeks.

It seems that the road had been weakened by a gap in the “reinforced” concrete down below. Those distant planners of fifty years ago were not always honest, or good. We know that now. Some knew it back then. They pulled away part of the west wall of the underpass, the part in the dead centre, and found the bones of a man, skull staring at them with blank eyes and hands and feet shackled together. His hands were stretched, like he was reaching out. The tips of his fingers had been inches away from the west wall. There were no marks of violence on the bones; no breaks, no fractures. He had most likely been alive when he was put in there, apparently. Three weeks later they filled up the Knightsmount Underpass with enough concrete to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Then they built a bridge.

Credit To – Andro Lothian

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Verona

July 19, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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When I was eight, I decided that I wanted to be a ghost hunter. At that tender age, I was torn between the terrifying excitement of being alone in a haunted house at night, and the soothing reality that there was probably nothing to be afraid of.

My mother always told me spooky stories of the ghosts she had seen, or heard, or felt. And as much as I wanted to believe, I still had doubts. I wanted to get to the bottom myself and know for sure.

When I was in college, I met Saber. His real name was Marshall Bailey but people called him Saber because of the animal stripe tribal tattoos on his neck and his cat-like gait. We began talking in our Cryptozoology class- Saber had a knack for knowing more about some of the creatures than our professor. I learned that he was a paranormal photographer and after weeks of getting to know each other, he brought me onto his ghost hunting team.

There were five of us. Julie, the electronic voice phenomena expert (EVPs), Jonathan, who had all the thermal imaging equipment to monitor changes in temperature and electromagnetic fields. Sal had the connections to get us into popular haunted locations. Saber was there to film it all and then you had me, the skeptic. Saber felt that it was important to have an objective person in the group to keep a level head.

Saber had been building his team for months before he was finally ready for the first assignment that would take place during spring break.

We were headed nearly 800 miles away to a small town in Louisiana. When the flat expanse of Indiana turned into the sprawling green of the south, we knew we were almost there. We left on Friday and after 3 long days, we emerged from the van. We were here. Hotel Verona.

Hotel Verona had been abandoned since 1971. Once, a popular stop along the way to New Orleans, now was a dark stain in a quiet village.

Having done my research, I knew that the hotel had been built by the wealthy Martin Vasseur in 1948. Named after his wife, Verona was known for its aesthetic grandeur, luxurious creature comforts and some of the best Cajun cuisine in the area. During its first decade, many famous faces and well-to-do travelers made sure to spend the night at the hotel and dine within the exclusive club, Adelaide.

During the 1960’s, however, Vasseur had financial trouble and the addition of new major highways routed traffic away from the elegant Verona. After gambling heavily to try to revive some of his fortune, Vasseur lost most of his money by 1968. His wife caught pneumonia soon after and died, leaving him alone and penniless. The Hotel Verona hadn’t had a guest since June 1971 and on a quiet night in August, Martin Vasseur shot himself in the lounge of the lovely Adelaide.

Without an interested buyer, Verona’s beauty faded away. In 2008, a historical society tried to renovate the old hotel but strange noises, injuries and reports of being unable to remove artwork scared away the workers. Some believed that it was the ghost of Martin Vasseur, protecting his original masterpiece. Others thought the hotel already beheld a sinister presence, one that brought financial ruin to Vasseur and death to himself and his wife. This theory would explain why the hotel has seemed to deteriorate so much in just a few decades.

The stories and the pictures did not do the hotel justice. Through the faded design and obvious signs of years of neglect, it was easy to see the impressiveness of the Verona in its time. Saber stared at the monument with a sort of reverence. I smiled, excited for the night and ready to investigate.

Entering through the ornate French double doors into the lobby, we immediately smelled the stagnate air. It had been awhile since a breeze had penetrated this fortress. Dust covered every inch of the main floor, from the oversized concierge station to the grand ballroom. Occasionally, a critter would scurry off to safety.

We decided to first set up the equipment in the old Adelaide restaurant and nightclub, where Vasseur killed himself. It was in the basement of the hotel and since the elevators were no longer working, we had to lug the machinery down a flight of dusty, creaky stairs.

I was the first into the club. All of the intimate, clothed tables sat along one of four tiers, looking down onto a stage. You could almost hear the Louisiana jazz playing as the finely dressed waiters served French wine and spicy jambalaya and prawns.

As Julie, Jonathan and Saber set up their equipment, Sal and I passed out sandwiches. Our clocks showed that the sun would be setting anytime.
It didn’t take long before we started getting some activity. Julie’s EVP monitor started picking up some sounds very soon after dark. In that old abandoned place, it was easy to feel like we were not alone. After listening to the playback on her monitors, Julie played her audio recording for the group.

A woman’s voice was heard whispering “Trahi.”

“Trahi?” Sal asked. “What is that?”

“It means betrayed” Saber spoke up from behind his camera. “My grandmother was French.”

I thought the sound was spooky, but not definitive proof of anything paranormal. It was going to take more than that to make a true believer out of me. After almost an hour of dormancy, we decided to move upstairs to the ballroom on the first floor.

I was surprised at how different the lobby looked in total darkness. Without the golden sunshine bouncing through the glass, there was a much more sinister look about it. Only the light of our flashlights could distinguish color.

In the ballroom, Julie didn’t pick up anymore voices, but Jonathan was able to detect some strange temperature changes throughout the room. I chalked that up to holes in the infrastructure, or maybe some animals had taken up shelter in the walls.

We grew bored after a while and decided to explore the upper floors of the hotel. Saber suggested that we split up, to maximize time. Julie was going to record audio on the second floor, Sal would use a small, handheld camera on the third floor, Jonathan would monitor temperature on the fourth floor, and Saber and I would film the fifth floor at the top. We would all be connected with walkie-talkies.

“Everyone set up on their respective floors?” Saber asked into the walkie.

“Yes” was the resounding answer. We were to walk up and down the hallways, and try to communicate with any potential spirits in any open rooms.

As I walked next to Saber in the dark, I began to feel an electric charge.

I didn’t realize my level of attraction to him until we were alone in this creepy place. I think he felt the tension too because he inched closer to me as we walked, his arm brushing against mine occasionally.

“So, you speak French?” I asked timidly.

“Yes. My grandmother taught me when I would spend summers with her in Lyon.”

“Do you really think that was a voice we heard speaking French in the restaurant? Don’t you think it could have been the wind or something?” I was even beginning to doubt myself as the full spookiness and excitement of the moment filled me. I wanted to believe in ghosts.

“Of course. Don’t you?” He gave me an amused look. His eyes seemed really excited. I could tell this was exactly where he wanted to be. The hunt gave him some kind of high.

“I’m really not sure. But it makes it seem more real, being here with you.”

“What do you mean?” Saber asked earnestly. He moved closer, facing me.

Our faces were inches apart now. I swallowed and said, “I think that I might be getting caught up in the moment…”

I was interrupted by the sound of Julie’s walkie.

“Guys, I’ve just picked up something strange. You might want to get down here.”

We moved apart instantly, the momentary spell broken. As we head down the hallway to the stairs, another walkie crackles.

“You won’t believe what I just saw!” Said Jonathan excitedly.

“Same here!” Replied Sal.

“We can’t come to every floor! What is going on?” Saber shouted into our walkie. He and I looked at each other in disbelief. Suddenly, a low rumbling could be heard from the back of the hallway, just as a light began to grow from nowhere. Saber and I moved toward the sound and the light while he shined his camera at the source. The rumbling grew louder and the light brightened. I could tell as we got closer that they were coming from an open door at the end of the hallway.

Now there was a high pitched keening sound along with the rumble, and the bright light was not one, but many bright shapes emptying out of the room into the hallway. I backed away from the room as the human-sized shapes came closer.

“Saber!” I shouted over the noise. “Let’s go!” I pulled on his arm but he was mesmerized by the sight. It took many pulls and shoves and shouting before he snapped out of it and ran back down the hallway with me.

On the way down the stairs, we ran into Jonathan and Sal. As we raced to the second floor for Julie, the entire hotel felt as if it was shaking, the booming sounds as loud as ever. The lights from the top floor had reached the staircase and were slowly descending.

“Julie! Julie!” We yelled as we neared the second floor, into the walkie-talkie. “Meet us by the stairs. We have to get out now!”

“I’m outside by the van” Julie said, confused, as we heard Julie’s voice also say, “I’m on the second floor. Come see what I just found.” We all stared at each other in horror.

“What the HELL was that?!” yelled Julie through the first channel on the walkie. “I’m outside- that wasn’t me!”

We raced to the first floor and out the glass double doors into the night.

All sounds stopped instantly, save for our hard, hurried breathing. Looking back at the Verona, I was shocked to see stillness, and black. There were no lights moving on the floors anymore. We piled into the van and drove several miles before any of us could speak.

Julie was the first to break the silence “I was never on the second floor. I went outside to the van first to get more batteries because my walkie-talkie died. When I tried to get back in, the door was stuck. That’s when I heard you guys screaming. What was that?” She slowly shook her head.

“We heard you earlier on the walkie too. You told us to come down right before…well, whatever hell that was. And Jonathan and Sal said they saw something too.” Saber recalled.

“No, I never said anything. My walkie died right after I heard Julie.” Jonathan said as he looked fearfully at Sal.

“Mine too,” said Sal. “This is messed up. I heard loud noises upstairs and ran to find you guys. I ran into Jonathan just seconds before you two appeared.”

“Why was it impersonating us?” Asked Julie.

“It sounds like it wanted to get us to the second floor,” said Saber. It was silent for awhile after that. The trip back home was uneventful, and we made it in two days instead of three. None of us felt like stopping.

I lost contact with the group after that. I think we all just wanted to forget the experience. We were amateur ghost hunters and none of us were prepared for what happened. As it turned out, none of the equipment had worked properly and all footage and recordings were lost. It was easy to pretend that it was all a nightmare after that. I don’t know anymore, whether I believe in ghosts, but I know now that I no longer want to.

EPILOGUE:

After I submitted this story, I received messages from readers about the land that Hotel Verona stands on. It seems that it had a much darker history than I knew. Before Martin Vasseur bought the land and built the hotel, it was owned by a family in the 1800’s that acquired it during the Louisiana Purchase. The family had enslaved a number of Haitians that had just made it to freedom after the Haitian Revolution. It is believed that a voodoo princess was among those enslaved and she cursed the land.

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The Balcony

July 17, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I sat, staring blankly at the screen, for how long I can’t be quite sure. Desperate for something to watch, read, listen to… In search of some stimulation that might exhaust my mind to the point where going to bed seemed like a good idea. I closed my eyes and strained hard – pressing for some idea of what to type in the search bar but nothing came.

It wasn’t apparent to me how long I’d been sitting there, postponing sleep, gazing with glazed eyes at the monitor and refreshing the same social network feeds over and over again, waiting for some fuckwit I didn’t know or care about to update the world on their life happenings. Nothing changed, though – it was well past 2 am and most people were rolling over, ripping up the sheets and drooling on their pretty pillowcases.

Somewhere between the ears a sharp pain fired off and I realized I had a headache. Oh great… again. I reached for the bottle of ibuprofen sitting conveniently by my computer mouse and washed two of them down with the last mouthful of my warm beer. Refresh. Nothing happening. Couldn’t think of a song to listen to. Refresh. Same thing. No ideas for articles to read. Refresh. Nothing. They’re all sleeping, dammit. I snapped the laptop lid shut. Went to look out the window.

There was a streetlamp directly across the street from my little apartment, which I suppose was the reason I hated going to bed so much. One of the reasons, anyways. There wasn’t much to look at outside, either. Thin blanket of snow on the ground. Still cars in the neighbor’s driveway. Couldn’t see the stars… must have been cloudy. The apartment was even less interesting. A pile of half-read novels lined up on the shelf, arranged by size from biggest to smallest (dimensions, not pages). Drying rack full of dishes that were probably dry by now, but that could wait until tomorrow. Old flower-patterned couch made even more garish by the bright, blue and yellow striped blanket hanging over the back. And the walls…

The walls were the thing I hated most. Painted in that inoffensive, bland, mind-numbingly expressionless light beige that seemed to be omnipresent in every fucking apartment I’d ever been in. What I wouldn’t have given to paint those fucking walls. It would have been worth it, even if the damned landlord kept my damage deposit.

Leaving the window, I paced along the wall, dragging my hand as I had done over and over again, in moments of boredom. Around the kitchen/living room – divided by a half wall and made distinct by a clumsy architectural divider that reached off from the main wall by a couple feet – and around the corner to the short and narrow hallway that lead to my bedroom on the left and bathroom at the end. Strolled lazily into the bedroom, flicked on the light, looked around, flicked it off, and walked out again. Stopped for a quick piss in the bathroom. Frowned in the mirror. Then made my way back to the chair. I started flicking through the books on the shelf, but I couldn’t decide which one to read, so I gave up and sat down on the horrendous couch, staring out the sliding glass balcony door.

And that’s when I saw it.

At first, I thought my glasses were skewed, and I took them off, gave them a ritual wiping in my t-shirt, and put them back on again. No, it was still there. Hmph… that’s weird… It wasn’t anything shocking, nor was it one of those things that causes you to jump up in outrage – it just seemed a little bit… odd.

I had been looking at the picture frame sitting on the half wall that stretched partway across the floor between the kitchen and living room, which was perpendicular to the couch I was sitting on – and something about it didn’t look quite right. The picture frame was alright. The half wall looked right – as much as any half wall can – but there was something funny about were it joined to the outer wall of the apartment. I couldn’t be quite sure what it was, exactly, but it seemed like the outer wall was a good foot or more farther from me on the kitchen side than it was on the living room side.

I gave it a frown, then a giggle. Obviously, the landlord had done a bad job with the renovations and had done some miscalculations, and the inner paneling on the kitchen side was curved on one end. I didn’t know much about carpentry, but I had a basic understanding. Yeah, that’s it.

I got up, walked to the fridge for another beer and glanced at the wall again. My explanation didn’t convince me, as the wall looked flat as a wall could be. It was the damnedest thing, because from the kitchen side, the wall looked perfectly normal. Maybe it was the other side that was off. But I strolled back to the living room, and the wall on that side looked normal too. It didn’t make sense. I decided to forget about it, and set myself back on the couch and opened my beer – but there it was again. The wall in the kitchen looked farther than it should be, or the living room wall looked too close… it was hard to tell which was the case, but something was off, that much was certain.

I took a gulp of beer and got up again. I walked over to the corner in the kitchen and ran my hand along the wall near the floor. It certainly looked like things were joining up at right angles. I did the same on the living room side – it looked perfectly normal. I even grabbed a book and stuck it between the floor and the wall, and slid it across on both sides, and in both rooms the book fit snugly where the floor and wall met. Then I did the same, between the wall and the room divider. Perfect right angles. I sat back on the couch again, and now it seemed even more apparent.

It was as if the kitchen was longer than the living room, and impossibly so, as they both shared the same square space and outer wall of the building. It didn’t make sense. The wall to the left was definitely farther than it was on the right side of the half wall, but how could that be so? I shuffled my way around the rooms, observing the dimensions with squinting discretion, from every conceivable angle. No curve, no obvious deviations. If I could believe what my eyes were seeing – and I had no reason to doubt them before now – the kitchen should be protruding from the side of the building by about 12-15 inches.

I was flabbergasted. It just shouldn’t be. Even the thickness of the walls, which I guessed at about six inches, wouldn’t account for such an error. It wasn’t the way that geometry worked, but when I looked again from the couch the difference between the distances on the two sides was impossible to ignore. What the hell…

Surely, I thought, that there was some mistake, and the wall was joined awkwardly and I just hadn’t noticed it before. I’d have to go out on the balcony to reassure myself, and take a look at the outside wall of the building. My balcony ran the entire length of the kitchen/living room wall, placing the discontinuity about halfway down its length. Surely the exterior of the wall would reveal an outward jump. Now it made sense. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before. I slid open the glass door and tip toed out into the winter air, the thin snow layer crunching and squeaking under my socks.

But to my surprise, the wall was entirely flat. I flicked on the balcony light to be sure. Perfectly flat. Straight, with no visible joins or angles anywhere. I pressed my hands hard against the cold vinyl siding and ran them from the sliding glass door all the way to the railing at the end. Defeated, I made my way back inside, and slid the door shut. I peeled off my wet socks and hung them over the edge of the bathtub to dry, and retreated to the couch once more, rubbing my cold feet.

It was at this point I started to feel uncomfortable, in a way that was almost indescribable. The very image of what I was seeing didn’t make sense. It was such a departure from simple logic that my brain couldn’t concoct any sort of explanation at all. The sensation that trickled over me was something that I can only describe as the opposite of deja vu. The sheer unfamiliar and nonsensical nature of the wall was all I could think about. I had to prove to myself that it wasn’t real.

I stomped down the hall to my bedroom, bare feet slapping on the floor, snatched my belt off the dresser and brought it out. I moved the chair, slid the kitchen table out of the way, so I had a quick, clear path around the half wall. I even took the picture frames off the half wall, and laid them on the table. Nothing to get in the way.

I started on the right side. I let the belt buckle touch the outer wall, and pulled it tight. The distance from the the wall to the end of the divider was about half the length of the belt. I pinched my fingers hard on the belt, marking the length I had measured. Now… I marched around, to the kitchen, put the belt buckle against the wall and pulled the belt tight.

Impossible, I thought. It was truly impossible. The belt wouldn’t even reach from the wall the the end of the divider. I leaned against the wall, my mind whirring with thoughts, questions. The one thought that dominated my being was that the space I was standing in, leaning against that wall, should not exist! If common sense were any sense at all, I should be on the balcony right now, staring at the vinyl siding on the outside of the building. A sudden feeling of dread washed over me – I felt hot and sick and shaky. I started to wonder what might happen If i were to close my closes, but at that thought, the fear become so intense that I jumped away from the wall and ran to the bathroom where I promptly retched up my beer and what undigested remains there were of my supper.

What was happening to me? I had to sleep. Yes, that’s it. I was exhausted, and it had been a long week. Maybe it was the headache pills, I thought – I had downed them with alcohol, after all. And mixing drugs with booze can do crazy stuff, right? I closed my eyes hard, nodding my head and trying to convince myself that I had to be hallucinating. I was sleep depraved. I needed sleep.

I flushed the toilet, brushed my teeth, splashed water in my face, and turned to look down the hall. I realized then that I had left the balcony door ajar, and the cold winter air was putting a chill in the apartment. I started, but stopped again, when my peripheral vision revealed to me something which unnerved me in a way I had never known. It was at that point which I began to think I was losing my mind.

On the left side of the half wall, the kitchen stretched on, far beyond the physical limitations of my building, and filling that impossible space was – and It frightens me say it – a perfect mirror image of my own. The table, chairs, cupboards, and even the overflowing drying rack lay in perfect reverse imitation of my own, real kitchen. It was as though the wall of the kitchen had been replaced by a reflective surface, but as far as I could tell, this was not the case.

I breathed deep, shaking uncontrollably as I made my way slowly down the hall to the kitchen. I stopped halfway, at the linen closet which sat opposite my bedroom door, and grabbed the broom. I unscrewed the broom handle and clutched it tightly as I would a spear. It did nothing to make me feel safer.

I moved slowly – one foot at a time – holding the broom handle out in front of me and breathing heavily. As I got nearer, though, I could see that the discontinuity did not only mirror the kitchen – it was the entire apartment.

When I reached the point where the wall had been, I stopped and stretched out my hand. Nothing but empty air. This couldn’t be a hallucination, could it? No – something else was at work here. Something frighteningly real.

There was a draft moving through the air, flowing like a soft wind, and I realized that the sliding door to the balcony must also be ajar over there. I should close it. That seemed to make sense, at least.

I prepared myself to enter the space that should not be. Something about it still made me afraid to close my eyes, so I decided to try my best not to blink before walking over. Come on, you got this. I had a goal now. Simple enough, but still, that small purpose helped quiet the thoughts in my head a little. I swallowed, breathed deep, and walked into the impossible room. Made my way past the chairs, the books – even the fucking picture frames were there, but something about the pictures wasn’t right, and I averted my eyes as I passed. I turned right around the half wall and came to face the balcony door. I was right. It was open. However, what I saw beyond the door was not what I had expected. I had prepared myself – by taking into account the twisted anti-logic of the discontinuity – to encounter a second balcony. This was a whole new deviation. Nonetheless, I made my way through, back into the real living room, and slide the balcony door shut.

I sat on the couch again, picked up the half-drunk beer, and took a gulp. Spilled some on my shirt. I didn’t know what else to do but try and understand the situation as best I could. There was no balcony anymore. From where I sat, I could see the second kitchen to my left, beyond the real one, and through the sliding glass door I could see the opposing living room, couch and all – even the bloody half-drunk beer sitting on the coffee table. If I told myself that the kitchen wall and the balcony door were mirrors, I could nearly believe I was still sane. Yeah, I thought, it’s just a mirror. Just a big fucking illusion. Reflection. There’s the coffee table… my couch… my beer… all that’s missing is…

I heard a noise behind me, coming from what sounded like the bedroom. A faint “thwump”, like the sound of something soft clumsily hitting the floor. I froze. I could feel my eyes tighten. My pulse throbbed sickeningly in my neck. I could feel the cold sweat seeping through my clothes. I had to escape.

I clutched the broom handle as tightly as I could and ran for the front door. I grabbed the knob, whipped open the chain lock, and twisted it open in a frenzy. Tears filled my eyes and the scream my body had tried to produce had stopped at the dry lump on my throat. I slammed it shut again, as hard as I could have, and locked it. I pressed my back against the door and let myself slide limply down, down, down onto the floor. There was no exit. Outside the door had been just another entrance way like my own. An exact reflection.

And then I heard the noise again… thwump… coming from the bedroom. And again… thwump… louder this time. Thwump. The bedroom door opened slowly. Thwump. They were footsteps. Thwump… thwump… They were coming down the hall.

I do not know what gave me the strength to move in that instant. Some primal instinct, some basic will to survive kicked in. I would not sit sobbing in a corner, waiting for whatever cruel and impossible fate awaited me. I would not.

I launched myself from the entrance way, and made for the balcony door. I flew across the kitchen. Grappled the half wall and swung my weight as best as I could across the living room floor. I snatched the sliding door handle, heaved it open, and burst into the room that should not be. I drove it shut behind me, flicked the lock, and ran left, around the half wall to face whatever it was that had come from this impossible place – not daring to blink until I passed the boundary back into the real kitchen. I stopped short. The wall had returned. Solid. Real. I would have to go back through the balcony door again, but at least I had the upper hand – the door was locked from this side.

I clenched my fists so tightly around the broom handle that my fingernails must be drawing blood from my palms. My eyes were stinging now, but I still dared not blink. I could not let the perverse logic of the space get a chance to warp itself again. Not while I was still inside it.

Then, there was another noise. Not the muffled footsteps from before, but a clear, sharp “tick.” The sound of metal and springs and intricate precision.

The sound of the balcony door being locked from the other side.

No… I rushed to the sliding door and unlocked it, but it wouldn’t budge. I could see the lock switch on the other side – the real side – and it was engaged. I screamed. I swore. I cried. I yanked and tore and heaved and kicked and pounded the door, over and over and over. There was no use. No matter how much force I put on the damned door, it wasn’t going to move. It didn’t even shake. As long as it was locked from the other side, I would never be able to open it. I was defeated. My eyes were still open – I refused to let myself blink, and my vision had gone horribly blurry. They burned like fire from the air and my hysteria, but I couldn’t blink. I could not let that happen. I had to keep the real world in sight.

And then I saw the figure.. I watched with horror through the glass as the figure reclined on my couch. They picked up my half-drunk beer and took a long swig. They were looking in my direction. Staring out the glass of the sliding door right at me. By now my eyes were aching so badly and my vision so impaired that I could scarcely pick out any details, but I knew what it was. The realization of it was the end for me. I have not felt true, unhindered hope, or joy, or contentment since that moment, and I fear that I never shall. The figure on the other side was me.

It might have been an hour, maybe two, maybe three that I knelt there with my forehead against the glass. I never did let my eyes shut that night. I held the lids open for so long that my sight left me entirely. I do not know when it was that I finally slipped into unconsciousness, but it was not of my own free will.

When I awoke in the morning I found myself staring out onto the balcony. The sun was glowing through the trees and I could see crows flying in the distance. I slid the door open and fell out onto the snow-covered wood and stayed there for a very long time, watching the ice crystals melt in my breath. By the time the cold drove me inside, the sun was well up and cars were moving on the roads.

In the weeks and months that followed I paced in and out of that balcony door so many times a day I would lose count by noon. I didn’t want to stay in that apartment one moment longer, but the madness of the discontinuity wouldn’t let me leave. I was obsessed with finding a way back to the world from which I had come. The breaking point came sometime in March – I can’t remember when, exactly – when the landlord came pounding on my door, responding to multiple noise complaints. I had been attempting to tear down the kitchen wall with a framing hammer. There was a commotion, and I had a few very long talks with police, but eventually the landlord agreed not to press charges so long as I moved out immediately and paid an extra three months rent to cover the damages. I took the offer. I convinced the cops that I didn’t know much about renovating, but I was sick to death of that fucking paint and had to do something about it.

It’s been a few years now, and I’ve distanced myself from that place. I’ve since gotten a new job, made disastrous attempts at love. I’ve made things work as best I can, going from one day to the next. I’ve come to think of this world as real – I have no other choice. I will never return to the other side. Not now. As time goes on it becomes ever harder to remember that it ever existed in the first place. To this day, I can’t bear looking in the mirror. I seems to me that behind the eyes of my reflection there is some hint of malevolence… though at times it looks to me more like gloating.

I remind myself every morning that I am real. I am here. Wherever here is. Impossible or no, this world is mine now. I’ve come to see the obscure beauty in it. There is one thing that reminds me of the world I thought I knew, though – it happens every day when I watch the sun rising. I always expect it to come up in the west, but it never does.

It never does.

Credit To – Keith Daniels

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The Hoof Lady

July 16, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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[Editor’s Note: The following is a written account transcribed from a true story told by Brandon Starcevic at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow3ziEqAyEI. Full credit belongs to him. Any alterations to the narrative are purely cosmetic, for better readability.]

Here we go. Okay.

My name is Brandon Starcevic. I’m from the Northwest Territories and I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Everybody thinks since I joined the military, this is where I was posted. I’m here because I had to get away from something in my life before this.

We’ll start from the beginning.

In about Grade 11 I was going to school, and I had quit working so I could focus on my grades (which didn’t really help). My little brother though, he had quit school about a year or so before that — it just didn’t agree with him — and he was working at a chicken barn. Every day his friend would come and pick him up in the morning and drop him off at night, and he would be covered with dirt, poop, stuff like that.

One day towards the end of Grade 11 he came home and he said, “Mum, I’ve been offered another job but at the same place. It’s property manager of the chicken barn. They want me to live out there, and I said I wouldn’t move there unless you and Brandon got to move there too.” He didn’t wanna live there all by himself.

My mom asked how many bedrooms and how big is the house, and he said it’s a fair-sized house, three bedrooms, technically four. But the thing is, it’s really grimy and dirty and the old property manager just skipped town, just left everything. The good thing is, though, the chicken barn owner said they would pay for brand new appliances, paint, supplies, and they would get the floors redone and everything professionally. So all we would have to do was paint the walls and clean the place up — take care of the property, make sure nobody comes on, cut the grass, and that’s pretty much it. She said, “Well let’s go have a look.”

So we drove out of my town of Hay River, Northwest Territories to the little sub-town of Enterprise about thirteen kilometers out. It was just a little road, a little turnoff in the middle of nowhere. I had been by there many times to go camping, picnicking to the waterfalls, or just leaving the NWT to go on vacation, and I’d never noticed it before — a little road just off the side of the highway. It had a little wooden sign that said “62 Miron.” That’s it.

So we turned into 62 Miron, and you drive down and you see tall, white birch trees all the way down. It’s a narrow road and it looks like it goes nowhere, and then all of a sudden you get to the end and there’s a left. You turn left and there you go. There’s a large opening and on the left is a very large but long yard, and all the way around the yard are unkempt hedges fifteen feet high. In the middle of the yard there were saplings growing. You drive on a dirt road and on the right side, just a little bit in, there’s a house.

It looks fairly new. It’s backwards, though. When the house was originally built, it was facing down a hill towards the river. The river was far away, but in between the river and the house were all the fields. But now the trees on the hill were as high as the house, so you looked at trees when you were looking out the front. So the back of the house was the front. It had a little deck nine inches high, just a wide platform.

If you looked past the house there was a road that went right and down, all the way to the bottom of the hill, and there was a large field that opened up. And there’s a huge chicken barn, compiled of multiple smaller barns. The original barn was decrepit and…just creepy. It was dark all the time, no lights in it, and if you walked through it — because you had to walk through it to get to the upstairs chicken barns (the two newest ones) — all you could see halfway through was a white line right down the middle at the end. It was a set of doors that were used for loading, and once in a while you could swear that the white line would disappear, as if something walked by. It’s just your mind playing tricks obviously.

But yes, very large, four sections to it, two new parts — the egg packing part, and a back barn — and then the creepy one.

The property was called de Lancie’s Estate. Apparently an old guy named Arthur de Lancie used to own the place. More of a rich farmer, so that’s how you get something to be called an estate I guess.

The house when we got there was just disgusting. Grime and filth all over the walls. There was cat shit, cat litter, rat shit, rat pellets, poison…grease inside the filter of the fan above the stove, the yellow stove…the yellow fridge…everywhere was just disgusting. The carpet was thick laden with dirt embedded into it. But we ended up getting the place pretty tidy.

I’ll describe the layout of the house. As soon as you walk in the door, there’s a landing. Directly ahead of you is a couple stairs going up, and just to your right is a couple stairs going down. If you look directly across from the upstairs, there’s a room. It’s not the biggest room, but it’s a room. Next to that on the right side would be the master bedroom. It was the corner of the house. Across from that would be the bathroom, and at the end of that short hall was a pantry closet. My little brother said my mom could have the master bedroom because he really wanted her to stay there. He would take the bedroom next to it.

If you go left instead of right you would find the kitchen, and a half wall past that would be the dining room. To your right would be the living room, which also had the front-of-the-house window and the front door (but there was no porch or balcony or anything — the door was just shut and locked). The dining room had that ’80s panelling, that false wood look, and we painted over that. The linoleum was replaced, the carpet was replaced, all professionally done after we’d cleaned out the entire house and gotten the appliances removed. It looked brand new, but it wasn’t until you went downstairs that you realized how old the house was.

So if you round the landing and you go downstairs, directly across from the bottom was a wood shop — what I assumed was a wood shop, because you walk in and there’s this narrow wooden bench that was all warped. It was a very narrow room, but if you went right from the stairs you would see two giant plastic tanks full of water. That’s your water; you had to get a truck to come out and fill them up once or every two weeks. It wasn’t terribly expensive. Then you had your water heater, your washer and your dryer. To your left and behind you is that little cubby hole under the stairs, where you put your Christmas decorations, Halloween costumes, all that stuff.

Right next to that, to the left would be the first room. The carpet was still perfect. The walls were white and had a strip of children’s wallpapering. There was an old chalkboard, and a little kid’s picnic table. It was nice. That was to be my room, I chose it when we first saw the place. By the time we’d just about finished cleaning, it was summer and coming onto my grad year. I was gonna be spending a lot of extra time at home studying. It would work out really well, no distractions.

But then my brother, the oldest one, moved to the Northwest Territories. He wanted to find work up here, so he stayed. And him being the oldest, me being the second youngest and smaller than him, he got to pick that room. What was I to do? Beat up my big ol’ brother? Nah, wouldn’t happen.

So beyond that room, if you keep walking down to the end of the hallway, the hall stops. If you turn right, there would have been a door. But there was a basement pole on one side of the opening, so you couldn’t put a door there. You walk in and on the left there’s just a wall. It’s all wavy though from time and humidity, and that wall was connected to another wavy wall, and that wall was connected to a wall that had a little door. A creepy, tiny little door nailed shut. I’ll tell you more about that later. The floors were old, worn, wooden planks, some with holes in them.

If you turn right when you go in the room there’s a little propane furnace, and right next to that is a 6x6x6 foot cast-iron, turn-of-the-century wood furnace. It had the big spring handle, and you’d slam that door shut, and…yeah. It’s like something out of a horror movie. In between the furnaces and the walls you can go all the way to the back, and there’s a space behind them. Light never went there.

So that was gonna be my room. Yippee.

I went and grabbed the old carpet that was torn out of the living room. Perfect size, because that was right above me. I steam cleaned the carpet and trimmed it to fit. I put my bed on the left side against the wavy walls, because they were less creepy than the furnaces and little tiny nailed-shut door. I found a big steel rack with shelves, and that was my dresser. I put that in front of the little door in case anything tried to get through it. Ha.

There was a little light in the middle of the room: clink. You had to pull the string. I wished there was a better way, but I had to reach up — clink — and jump back into bed.

So we had the place all set up. Grade 12 had started, and I had to catch the bus as it passed our place. If I didn’t, I would have to look for a ride. After so many times and so many friends, you feel like you’re using them, and that nobody’s going to drive every single day just for you (and I didn’t have a car). So I took the bus home. It was just easier that way. I had time to study, time to do whatever I wanted to do out there. But then I got a bit squirrelly. Nothing to do, really. Watch TV, do your homework.

So one lunch, I went to the town library. Small town, 2000 people at most. I walk in and say hi to Ms. Barnes (I’ve known her since I was a kid) and told her I kind of wanted to read. She gasps and goes, “Oh my, I’ve been waiting to hear that your whole life!” She knew I didn’t read, and I added, “…but I don’t really wanna read. Does that make sense?” She says, “One second,” runs around the corner, and comes back with a stack of CDs. It was the second Harry Potter book on audio.

I brought them back home, went down to my room with a ghetto blaster, and just laid on my bed and listened. Across from the doorway I’d put a full length-mirror, and since I couldn’t put in an actual door, I’d hung a wolf fleece blanket there. One day while listening to Harry Potter, I saw something in the mirror.

As soon as somebody walks down the hallway, the blanket billows out from the air draft. But I sat up and looked at the blanket, and it was completely still. I looked out and there was nobody there. It had either been a woman in a white dress, or a man in a white robe walking by the mirror. I got all creeped out, and I went upstairs, told my brother and mom: Oh yeah, he’s smoking weed, mind’s playing tricks on him…

This is the first time I’ve told it by myself, and I’m having a bit of a hard time.

Um…okay. One time during winter we were watching a movie in the living room, and my mom wanted to watch it in her bedroom. We had satellite in the living room, and we could have all the rooms set up with satellite, but we’d all have to watch the same thing because we didn’t have the luxuries of a splitter. Just a manual splitter. She asks if I can go on the roof and bring her cable over to the splitter.

“Yeah, sure, no problem Mom. Just hold the flashlight and the ladder for me.”

So we walk out in the snow. The ladder was already there because I was supposed to paint the outside, but never did. She holds it for me, shines the light up, and I climb up on the roof. I untwist her cable from the antenna (you get like, thirteen channels out there with an antenna), and start pulling it through the snow. Then I get to the east trough and it’s stuck. It’s really stuck. Frozen. I tell my mom, say I need a hammer, can she go get me one? She said okay, and you hear crunching as she takes off.

Around the front of the house, in between the house and the trees, there’s a good seven feet of perfectly cut space. The light from the living room and bedroom windows lit up the trees, but it only went so far. If you were on the top of the house where I was, you could only see the trees and the darkness. All of a sudden I hear a crunching in the snow at the bottom of the hill. Fuck, there’s some animal. It’s coming up the hill, and it’s starting to break branches, it’s running. It’s not being quiet, you can hear the branches breaking and the trees shaking, and it’s coming closer and closer and closer.

I’m thinking I gotta yell to my mom that it’s coming, and it’s almost right there. I’m looking down into the trees, I’m looking and I’m looking and I’m waiting for it and suddenly it stops just out of my sight. I can’t see it but I know it’s right there, I can hear it, it’s so close.

And then it starts at the bottom of the hill again. Something’s crunching through the snow, something’s breaking the branches and it’s coming up the hill, it’s coming up the hill, and it’s coming closer, and my heart’s racing and I’m looking for this thing, I’m waiting for it, and I’m starting to freak out. How am I supposed to get down? And there’s running, and it’s coming and it gets right there, it’s right there and I’m waiting…and it stops. And it starts at the bottom of the hill again.

All of a sudden this hammer flies up beside me. I grab the hammer and say, “MOM THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE BUSHES!” And I smash the ice and I throw that cable, I just let it go and slide down the ladder and I run inside. I’m freaked out, and I tell my mom and my brothers about it. My mom said that her and my oldest brother had come home one night, and they were parking beside the house near the hill, and they heard something in the bushes too. So they started parking across from the house, backed up against the hedges.

You know, there’s wolves. There’s one person for every four wolves in the Northwest Territories. And seven bears. Or the other way around. Anyway, there’s a lot of animals out there that can kill and eat you. But how it came up the hill was extra creepy.

There was another time — this is where my family gets involved. We were in the midst of a blizzard. Blizzards are pretty normal up there. They happen several times a winter in the NWT. They’re a few days long and they’re cold and you don’t go outside, and if you do, you’re layered and you don’t go very far. Especially us, we lived in the middle of nowhere. There’s no driving in town, there’s just too much snow. We gotta wait for the graders. You usually know when the blizzard’s coming, so we went to the video store and rented lots of movies. Because you never know, right, and it’s nice to watch movies with hot chocolate and popcorn.

So we’re in the middle of watching a scary movie. My oldest brother had a girlfriend over, and there was my little brother, my mom, and me. We were watching Pumpkinhead 2, and it was just like in the movies where you’re waiting for something to jump out, they’re trying to get the timing right to catch you off guard, and all of a sudden:

BANG BANG

from behind me. I jump and we all scream and turn on the lights. I was sitting on a chair by myself against the wall. We all turn on the lights, somebody’s gotta run down to the porch, turn that on, run back up and you gotta look out the windows. And there’s nobody. If somebody had come in the middle of a blizzard, they would had to have driven. And there’s no tracks, it was already snowed over, even our own tracks from parking.

Well, you know, we could have left a rake out, or a tree branch could have fallen, or a bird could’ve hit the house. Anything, right? We all kind of calm down a little bit, turn off all the lights, and play the movie again. It was not even a minute later, when it seemed like it was in that same lengthy part where the music’s going and there’s something about to happen, and from the front door we hear BANG BANG BANG, and then from the roof, BANG BANG BANG, and then from the walls all around us, BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. The whole house is shaking everywhere.

We jump up, we’re all screaming, and we turn on the lights — I don’t even know who turned them on — and everything just stops. We’re all just shaking, looking at each other.

Well what could we say? We look out the windows, no tracks, nothing. The ambiance of the entire house was weird. So we put on a comedy, grab something to eat — comfort food to make us feel better. That was it.

We all knew something was going on. I knew something was going on.

I talked to the manager. He had worked there since he was a kid. I asked him what that little door was there for. He just says, “Come on.” We walk down the hill and get about halfway down to the chicken barn. He suddenly turns into the bushes, and there’s a little steel shack in the middle of them. He pulls out this big ring of keys, fumbles around and opens it up, and he goes, “That’s weird, the light’s on. I haven’t been in here in years.”

We walk in and it’s like a mineshaft. There’s one light in there, there’s a little wooden shelf, and then there’s literally a shaft underground. It had the pillars and stuff, and it went all the way up the hill to that little door. It was caved in a bit. He said what you’d do is you’d fill that room — my room — full of wood in the wintertime, then fill this room down here, and when you ran out of wood, you would go down the shaft and bring that wood back up into your room. But the door is nailed shut because apparently Arthur de Lancie died going through the shaft. That’s where it’s caved in.

Oh, that’s cool.

It was summertime one day, and I walk into the dining room and my little brother is sitting there, just staring at the dining room window. “Brandon!”

“What?”

“Look out the window.” I look out the kitchen window, and there was an old lady just standing there looking at the house. I’m like, “How’d she get here?” He goes, “I dunno. Go talk to her.”

“You!”

“No, go go go! Go talk to her.” Okay. So I go down the stairs and I open the door, peek out, and she’s still looking at the house.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” She gets startled, and I’m like, “Uh, this is private property.” I notice there’s a car there, so okay, she drove here, she’s not a spirit. And she’s like, “Oh, sorry sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude or anything. I used to live here when I was a little girl. I grew up here and wanted to see it again.”

I say, “Oh wow, that’s neat, how old were you when you moved away?” She answers, “About five or six.”

“Would you happen to be related to the de Lancies?”

“Yes,” she says, “actually my father built this house. His name was Arthur.” Oh god.

“Did he die here?” It just came out of me, and it felt rude after the fact, but not when I said it.

“Yes, he did. That’s why we moved away, because when my father died getting wood, my mom had a little breakdown. She couldn’t live here anymore.”

She said she remembered her room, the wallpaper, the little chalkboard, the picnic table.

“Picnic table? I think you might wanna come see this.” So this little old lady came with me, and I helped her down the stairs and brought her to the wood shop where I’d put them. She said, “That’s them! Those are mine!” I said she could have them, brought them up to her car, and put them in her trunk. She took off.

Yeah, that confirmed that my room’s connected to a guy’s deathbed.

So it was the middle of winter again in the Northwest Territories. Very, very cold. Very frozen and everything is just stopped. Dark nighttime. Dark all the time. I was going to bed and it was really cold in my bedroom. It’s warmer upstairs because the thermostat’s upstairs, and heat rises. But it was extra cold and the furnace should have turned on by now. When it turns on, it doesn’t blow into the room, so I have to take off the cover and put it up against the larger furnace. You can’t see anything because the pilot light’s hidden. But when it lights you get these bunch of little flames, and it just lights up my whole room, and you get the heat.

I turn off the light, and the furnace still isn’t on. So I throw the blankets on me, and I’m thinking it’s pretty cold. But I feel like I’m starting to fall asleep. You ever get that feeling where you have a blanket, and a cat jumps on you, and it’s got that soft padding? Well I felt that on my feet, and I froze. Because I don’t have a cat. So what I did is, I became a small child and pulled the blankets over my head and held tight. I tucked the blanket everywhere around my body.

This feeling went up onto my shins…and then up onto my knees…and then up onto my thighs. But it wasn’t just my thighs, it was still on my knees and my shins and my feet. And then it crawled up on my hips. By this time it felt like some one was crawling on me, and I felt like it was a woman because I could feel their body parts on me. She was crawling onto my stomach, and onto my chest, and she just stopped.

I was frozen. What was I to do? My mind was racing and racing and racing, and all I could think was, Mom. I need Mom. I need to run and scream and yell and go to Mom and turn on every light in the house and I couldn’t…I couldn’t grasp onto my thoughts in my head. They were just going so fast, racing, racing. My body in comparison was so frozen, tense, terrified of whatever was on top of me. There was a feeling of knowing that there was something not right about…not just the fact that there was something unknown on me, but there was something wrong, there was something bad on me. Something terrifying.

I feel it still.

I was laying there, freaking out, thinking of what to do, what to do, gotta scream, gotta run, gotta go see Mom, do something…all these thoughts, and I can’t breathe now. I don’t know how long I’d been laying there, and I couldn’t breathe because I was running out of oxygen. All I could think was, I gotta breathe. So I took forever to turn my head to the side, and sooo slowly brought my hand to my face, and brought the blankets around my lips. I gulped in the cold refreshing air. It was such a relief, but only enough for me to forget for a moment.

And then the furnace must have turned on, because I could feel warm air on my lips. Then it started pulsating. Like breath.

I pulled the blankets back under my head in an awkward position, so tense I couldn’t move. My mind was still racing millions of miles a minute. I didn’t know whether I was there for hours or minutes or seconds, or if it was daytime. I didn’t want to look.

I’ve got to do something, so what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna jump and I’m gonna run, I’m gonna scream and go to Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…and all of a sudden

…I’m sitting there driving my old truck. I’m in the middle of the highway in the middle of nowhere, just darkness. All I can see is the road, the ditch, and the trees in front of me. And I know where I’m going: I’m going home. I don’t work in town, but it’s not far away. I can feel the vinyl seat below me. It’s kind of chilly but the heater half works, and the orange light on the radio glows but the music doesn’t work, so all I can hear are my own thoughts and the truck.

I’m driving along, kind of feeling tired, when I hear a faint noise behind me. It sounds like a horse on the highway, but it doesn’t have that same rhythm. Instead of clop-clop, clop-clop, it’s more like clopclopclopclop. It’s running, something is behind me running on the highway, really fast, with hooves. I can hear it coming, getting closer and louder, and I’m starting to freak out, starting to speed up a little. I keep looking back but there’s nothing there, nothing behind me.

It’s getting closer and I can feel it now, it’s almost here. I look over, and it was as if the moon had come out from behind the clouds, lighting up the entire sky. That didn’t matter though, what mattered was what was next to me, running beside me at impossible speeds, staring directly ahead.

It was a woman with dark, curly, greasy hair. Gray, wrinkly, wrinkly face, black eyes. Hairy chest and gray skin, and once you got to her waist it was just thick, black hair. And she had hooves, running impossibly fast next to me. At this time all I did was lean forward, my lip touching the steering wheel, stepping on the gas as hard as I could. I would look over, look over, look over, I couldn’t help myself, and she was just staring ahead, running as fast as I was going. The engine roared as we went, and I looked, and she slowly turned her head towards me. Her black eyes glimmered as she reached her arm out and pointed ahead. I’m roaring, and I’m flying, and I’m coming down

…and I’m walking with my friend down the street. It’s darkness all around us, all you can see is streetlight, streetlight, streetlight, and a tiny little gas station, just the front of it illuminated. My friend there got hit by a moving van while riding his motorcycle, and he hops when he walks. We’re talking and laughing, having a good time, and he points and he goes, “Look.” We’re getting close enough to the gas station where we can see this shadow of a person huddled up against the wall, just out of the light. He goes, “Hey buddy, you okay?” Suddenly it jumps up and all you can hear is a clop on the cement. I don’t know why, but we start chasing it. We’re both running around and around but it’s always just around the corner. He says, “Stop! You go one way, I go the other way.” We split up, running and chasing after this sound

…and I’m standing there in the middle of the highway, looking at a house. Small house, screen door, a woman sitting on the porch. It’s lightly raining, and there’s this little girl jumping in the puddles. She has this little yellow slicker, with a little yellow rain hat and little yellow rain boots. She’s jumping and laughing in the water. There’s still color, but everything was a bit gray. I couldn’t move or say or do anything. It’s like I wasn’t there, I didn’t exist to them, I was just watching them. She’s laughing, and the mother’s laughing too. She’s smiling and clapping, the little girl’s having such a great time, when I hear this phone ringing in the back of the house. She says, “One second, Mommy will be right back.” She goes and opens the screen door, closes it.

Then it was instantly pouring, more rain than I’d ever seen pour down in my entire life. And it got darker. This little girl is having a blast, a shrill laugh coming out of her. These puddles she’s jumping in were so big. All I can do is watch as she jumps into a large puddle, and it comes up to her waist, and she jerks. And she jerks again, and all I can see is her falling slowly backwards. Just as her little hat disappears under the water, the door opens and her mom comes running out, and she starts screaming, “Kaylee! Kaylee!” while looking around frantically,

…and I’m laying there back in my bed. Petrified, fear-stricken. I couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything. There was something on top of me. I knew there was something on top of me and I had to do something about it. I had to build, build, build this courage, build this something inside of me that was stronger than me.

I knew what I was gonna do. I was gonna grab my blankets and push with all my might, as hard as I could, and run as fast as I could down the hallway, up the stairs, and into my mom’s bedroom, turn on all the lights I can on the way, and slam the door behind me. Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom. Finally after…I don’t know if it was minutes or hours or days, I built enough courage. I grabbed the blanket and I pushed as hard as I could, and pushed, and it was like everything was in slow motion. The blanket slowly fell, and just at that moment the furnace turned on, a roar and a flickery display of lights.

As the blanket dropped I could see the silhouette of a woman at the end of my bed. She had the black hair, gray face, everything. She was drifting slowly backward off the bed, but then stopped — and flung herself toward me.

I woke up and it was daytime. I hurriedly went upstairs and told my mom, my family. They half believed me because of what had happened to all of us. Within two weeks I joined. I looked and looked, and it wasn’t until I found a trade fair, but I joined the military and went to basic training. I moved here, and I’ve been here, happy, but still worried that something’s always behind me, always around the corner. The worst is going upstairs. You open the door to go into the stairwell, and right behind you, just as the door is closing, there’s always something that maybe snuck in with you. And just as you’re leaving, there’s always something that maybe snuck out with you, too.

Credit To – Brandon Starcevic

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The Girl in the Window

July 7, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Thank you all for coming here today on such short notice. It’s very kind of you, and I wish I had something better to say to you all, or at least something that won’t sound so crazy and so, uh, creepy. But it is what it is, and what it is, is something I have to do. Have to. Even though it may not help me. It’s what’s right is all. It’s the truth. So here goes.

I am not a hero. That’s the thing of it. What I mean is, I am not going to say that it wasn’t really me that was there that night or anything, or that I was in cahoots with that sicko, or anything like that. It’s not some elaborate hoax …in fact it’s even more horrific than you know. Also, I’m not being modest. I promised the truth and it’s hard, it’s hard to say this, but it’s just got to come out the way it is in my head. So I’m going to ask for your patience, and to hold your questions for the end.

As you all know, I drive a bus by that old house. It’s part of my route. And as you have all heard, I saw something suspicious that night, and decided to do my civic duty and here we are. But there is a lot more to it than that. What I saw was a hell of a lot more than suspicious, and when I went into that house, civic duty was the furthest thing from my mind.

You see, I had known something weird was going on there for months. What exactly, I did not know. What I mean is, I thought some completely different weirdness was going on. Nothing like…

I think it was early spring when I first saw the girl in the window. Cute as a button, young but not too young -I am not that flavor of pervert- and wearing nothing other than a white shift. I say I saw her, but I didn’t really. Not then. Back then, she was just kind of a hint of motion in the darkness. A bit where the dark wasn’t completely dark. Some motion that might have been the wind, or a bit of fog, or some papers blowing around. Indistinct. Easy to ignore, or to rationalize. But I guess my mind kind of took hold of that hint and built on it. Maybe that caused what happened next.

You see, what none of my fine customers will say, now that I am the darling of the press, is that I am a creeper. It’s on record at my job. I have been reprimanded for staring too long, or making flirty comments to the wrong people. I have never committed a crime, nor have I been actually punished. Never took it that far. But I have to say that, because you need to understand that I don’t date much. Ever, really. I am kind of a big guy, handsome enough in my way, and I even have women friends that hang out with me. Everybody says I am a nice guy, if a bit quiet, and it’s true. I let people slide on bus fare and make up the difference myself sometimes. I come help friends in the middle of the night when they are in trouble, and I don’t get stupid when I’m drunk.

But I don’t have girlfriends. Because I guess I want certain things too much and they sense it. They sense the desperation and the, the anger I guess. And they stay away. So I suppose I think about women a lot, and I imagine things. I think maybe at first I thought I was just imagining the girl.

It was like that for a while. The bus would take me by that house at night, and I would stop at the stop, and I would look around like I was looking for traffic or something on that lonely road, at that empty intersection. I would look around real slow, slower than at any other intersection. What I was really doing was sneaking a glance at that house. At that one room at the end of the new extension. At that window. Because inside that window I could see or imagine a little bit of motion. Some darkness that wasn’t completely dark. Something that kind of resembled a girl, dancing all slow and sexy. And when I did that I swear to you I could feel… something. A connection. Like I was feeding something, even if it was just my own imagination. And each time, it seemed like I could see a little more.

Yeah, it was weird and unexplainable. I mean, it wasn’t like the bus was on time every time; how could she know just when to be in that window? And why would she be dancing in the dark? But every time, it seemed like the room got a little brighter, a bit more real. I guess I figured she had a room light on a dimmer switch or something. I don’t know. But after a while, I began to make out details.

The girl, at first, of course. Long, jet black hair, with long bangs. I couldn’t see much of her face, maybe just an eye, or the corner of her mouth. Just enough to know, that when I looked at her, she looked right back at me. And smiled, just a little.

Yeah, I know how that sounds, but that is what I honestly believed back then. I never added up how I could see a facial expression that far away in the dim. Never wanted to, I guess. I was focused on other things.

I could see her slim body -not ideal, I usually prefer women with more meat on their bones- with her hands up above her head, doing that slow shimmy in that white shift that covered everything and hinted at everything. I was sure she wasn’t wearing nothing under it. I was sure she was teasing me. After all, what could I do? Pull the bus over and hop out, walk up to the door and ask for a date? I was totally safe to mess with. To make a fool of.

After a while, I could make out details in the room. A dresser. A bed. A single light fixture with a beaded chain. Old wood paneling on the walls. And after a while, her room went from being a dark room in a dark house, to being the only lit room in the dark house. She was keeping the light on for me, like it says in that radio commercial.

I guess at that time of night, it made sense for there never to be another car in the driveway or nothing. No clue that maybe she lived with somebody or anything. My mind took that and ran with it. Maybe she danced in a bar somewhere. Maybe that was how she paid for that ramshackle place. Maybe she had gotten tired of the usual customers and sworn off of men, so she lived alone. Maybe that had gotten old, and she had gotten lonely. So she was throwing a little bone -heh- to a lonely bus driver before she went to bed in that ramshackle house all alone at night.

It went on for months. It became the damned highlight of my day. It was our little secret, she and me. No one else on the bus really noticed her, or even if they glanced over at the little house and saw her dancing there, they never said anything about it. Maybe give a little jump and a shiver and look away. No, her teasing was all for me.

So I guess, in a way, it was inevitable.

One day I came driving along around the usual time, maybe a little early. It was deep dark, not just due to the hour, but because of the storm that blew into town that night. The bus stop up the road had been drenched; buckets of water pouring down from the heavens, and no one had been there. The bus was empty. It was just me.

So it was just me and her.

I knew my bosses would believe me if I told them the storm was the reason I was late to my next stop. I knew the accident camera on the bus wasn’t working. I knew that what I was about to do was stupid, incredibly stupid. I mean, what did I expect? Would she say, “about time” and pull me into her bed? Would we make small talk and find out we had a lot in common? The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. The angrier I got, the hornier I got. I stared through the rain, at what was just a blurry splash of light on the corner, due to the storm. And I pulled over.

I didn’t even pull my coat over my head or nothing. I just walked toward the house. It was like my brain was full of some angry static. I swear to you. I swear to you I have no idea what I would have done.

As you know, I am a big guy. Well, the doorbell didn’t work, and knocking politely didn’t work, and I found myself thinking about just shouldering the old door open and then …something, I don’t know what… I heard something.

Maybe it was just my imagination, twisting the rain and the wind and the trash blowing through the yard into something I wanted to hear. It was indistinct. But I swear to you it sounded like a woman’s voice. It sounded like the word, ‘help’. That was all the excuse I needed.

I don’t know why I was surprised that the inside of the house was dark. It had been dark every time I had seen it. But there was something. Something about, I don’t know, the quality of the darkness just seemed wrong, somehow. Too old. Too easy. I felt around and found the light switch. Clicked it on. Nothing. Storm put the power out? I wasn’t sure; there had been light from the one window seconds ago.

I put my cell phone on flashlight mode and swept it around. It was weird. The place looked abandoned, and not, at the same time. A layer of dust on some things, but not everything. Furniture in the places you would expect furniture to be, but they looked unused somehow. Ignored. There was a faint trail in the dust on the floor. A trail leading to that room; her room. I noticed that there was no light coming from the cracks in her door.

I mustered up a little gumption, and coughed loudly. I figured she must have heard me coming through the front door like a freight train, and I was not sure why she had not said anything. A bunch of thoughts went through my head, each contradicting the other. I spoke up. “Miss? Your power seems to be out. Uh, you need any help?” I sounded stupid and guilty and creepy, even to myself.

I felt a little like I was being drawn toward that bedroom on a string. My heart was pounding, about half of the water on my face was sweat. I didn’t know whether to stomp toward the door so she would know I was coming, or to sneak up on it all careful like, so I tried to do both at once. I musta sounded like a zombie shuffling around.

It took forever to reach that door.

I took ahold of the knob and twisted. It was locked. I hesitated. I listened. I thought. Maybe she was hunkered down in the dark, scared to death of me, some strange bus driver who had barged into her powerless house with her all alone and vulnerable in the dark. But maybe, just maybe, she needed my help, somehow. Could I come all this way and turn back now? I’d feel like a coward forever, and if she decided to call the cops on me, I had already done more than enough to get me arrested.

I swear to you I could feel it then. Like a string attached to my navel, or maybe a straw. I was being pulled into that room. Something was being pulled out of me and into that room. I was feeding something; maybe her lust, maybe mine, I don’t know. It took three tries, but I got that door open. And as it opened, I felt and heard something. A breath. An inhalation.

One moment, I was in utter darkness, except for the bluish white glow of the cell phone in my front pocket. The next, I was surrounded by a soft, warm, yellowish light. An old record player, just like I had imagined, was playing an old love song I couldn’t quite place. The bed looked fluffy and soft and inviting. The dresser clean but old, with a warped and blurry old mirror atop it, and scattered upon it was a tiny jewelry box and some make up containers.

In the center of the room, a beautiful as the night itself, was the girl. Petite, slender, in nothing but a white shift, with her long black hair obscuring her face. Her arms were up above her head as always, and she was dancing, twirling in that slow shimmy. She looked up at me, and she was beautiful, with pouting red lips and big wide black eyes. She looked at me and smiled, inviting.

I don’t think what happened next was her fault entirely. I had my part in it. I could feel that connection between us stronger than ever, like a pipe feeding from her shift-covered belly button into mine. A flow. And I think it was the darkness in me that made it bad. I wanted her, loved her a little, but that anger was there, too. And I think her anger fed into it as well and things got twisted.

Things went to hell.

You see, I don’t think they see the way we do. It’s not like they have rods and cones in their eyes and nerves and all that junk. I think they see spirit or energy or something. I think for a moment, she mistook me for the sicko. For the guy that had put her there, so long ago. She saw that darkness in me that was like his, and she got mad. And all of that strength that I had been feeding her through that connection, through my lust, I think it was that what made her strong enough to …change.

The expression on her face twisted. It became angry and lustful all at once. Her eye, the one I could see, grew. It was eating her face. It was an angry dark pit that she was being sucked into. That I was being sucked into. It was a hungry insatiable force, a scary dark place, bigger than the room or the house or maybe this whole damned planet. Her hair enveloped me, and the scariest part was that part of me wanted that hell.

That was when the sicko showed up.

In an instant, she was gone. The room was plunged into darkness, except for the bright white of the sicko’s mag-light shining in my face. He didn’t say a word, just cocked his gun, and that sound dropped the world into the pit of my stomach. I was going to get shot and die in this ramshackle house by the road, and no one was every going to believe that I wasn’t some sort of… I am not afraid to tell you that I felt tears start in my eyes at that moment. I thought about rushing him, but I could not see anything other than that damned light in my eyes, and I knew the instant I started forward, he would fire. If only he would say something, give me a chance to explain…but how could I explain? Why had I come here in the middle of the night? Where was the girl, who was she? I hesitated.

She did not.

Through our connection, I felt …something… recognition, hate, all of that. I felt something that I could no longer see, rush away from me. And into him.

He jerked, the mag-light swinging away from me. I was still dazzled, blind, but I felt through her that his gun was no longer pointing my way. I trusted that feeling and I tackled him.

I’m a big guy. You know the rest.

Except you don’t. I never wanted anything more in my life than to kill that man at that moment. But at the time, I didn’t understand why. I only knew I was feeling her anger, her embarrassment, her violation, her rage. And something in me, I don’t know, opened up. The lust went away, along with my rage, and I wanted just to comfort her, to absorb her sadness. To tell her that somehow, it was all going to be alright. To help her, not to help myself to her. I stopped myself from killing him. I stopped her from killing him.

It was then that my head began to clear, and I realized that I had just beaten a man unconscious in what was probably his house in the middle of the night. Except he obviously didn’t live here. I took his mag-light and shined it around. The bedroom where I had seen the girl was old, dusty. The dresser and the bed were there, but they had long since deteriorated. The sheets where ratty, with holes everywhere. The mirror had shattered years before. The light fixture above me had no bulb, and hung at an angle with something like a rusty wire noose dangling from it. The window …the window through which I had seen the girl for months, had a thick, dusty blanket nailed across it. Everything in the room was covered in dust, except the throw rug at my feet.

As you all know, beneath that throw rug was a trap door, leading into a soundproofed crawl space with three more girls, still alive, but starving and in danger of drowning from leaking, pooling water. I called 911 and thus became a hero.

What you don’t know is that I saw the girl once more. Twice, if you count the photo online of her, the sickos’ first victim from years before, her bones dug up from beneath the crawlspace.

The bus wasn’t involved this time. I shudder every time I reach that corner now, and I have been known to run that light if there aren’t any cars coming, and there never are. No, one time after that all happened, I drove back there in my own car. I had to know how much had actually happened, and how much was my crazy.

The whole house was dark that time, and I did not dare to go inside, although the police tape and seesaw barriers and the press had long gone. But I strolled around to that bleak black window where I had seen the girl, and I stared into that darkness. And she came to me.
She wasn’t distinct this time, I guess she had used up most of the energy I had given her or something. But I could see her pale face, her splayed hands against the inside glass of that window. Her one eye, staring at me. I was drawn to her, and I stepped up to that window, tears streaming down, glad I had saved those girls but ashamed of why. She was still angry at me, and I could understand why; she had seen the darkness in my soul, had felt it. I came right up to the window and I covered her hand with mine. If she had swallowed me into hell in that moment, well I reckon I would have deserved it. But she showed me a kindness. She whispered to me in that same indistinct but carrying voice I had heard before.

“Tell them the truth.”

And so I have.

Is this enough for her? Is she going to still come after me on some lonely night? Maybe. I’m not really doing this to save myself. Now you all think I am plum crazy, and maybe I am. Maybe now the press will stop calling me a hero, and all those girls who couldn’t give me the time of day before will stop buying me drinks at every bar in town. Maybe now I will lose my job, and not have to drive past that house any more, I don’t know. But I telling the truth is the right thing to do and now I’ve done it.

Thank you all very much.

Credit To – kitsune9tails

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