Home Improvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cellar was empty. And it was quiet.

They packed their things and left.

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

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

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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What You Don’t Know Won’t Kill You

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bile burned my throat. And I started down.

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I started screaming.

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

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

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

The Eye had saved me for last.

*

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

stop please

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

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

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

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

get out of my head

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

ragnarok

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

put the barrel in your mouth you coward

something just crawled on deck outside

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

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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Fear Always Finds You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear always finds me.
Credit To – Felix A.

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The Darrow Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless ‘em for savin’ my unworthy ass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was sober now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.

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

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

The doorknob rattled near outta its bolts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Harley’s dead already.

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

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

Credit To -Mike MacDee

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One Apiece

July 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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They arrived in the morning, any signs of good spirits drowned out by the roar of the boat’s engine. It was peaceful, like all graveyards. The divers dropped into the waves, taking shallow breaths in the sudden cold. They swam into the depths. Their flashlights cut through the darkness, illuminating the wreckage. The transatlantic cruise liner, Queen of the World, had capsized months ago. Most of those on board had escaped, but six souls remained. The families were done mourning. The estates had been divided. The sensationalist media had moved on to other stories. And yet, the divers, rescue divers, they were called, with a dry grin, had only just arrived. The names of the divers were Peterson, Smith, Rodriquez, Carson, Dennis, and Wesley. Half a dozen divers. Half a dozen bodies. One apiece. They entered the kitchen through a gap in the hull. Their flashlights cut through the darkness, illuminating linoleum countertops and industrial, galvanized steel appliances. They treaded water.

“So damn cold,” said Peterson, into his radio.

“It’s the ghosts,” murmured Wesley.

“Cut the crap,” ordered Rodriguez. “Peterson, check this deck, the rest of you, follow me, the stairwell’s in the stern.”

They departed, leaving Peterson alone. Their voices faded with distance, waves muffled by the ocean, then static, then silence. Peterson’s breathing was rapid, the pressure, he told himself. He gave the kitchen and the rooms nearby a cursory search, his flashlight flitting in and out of murky corners. After a while, relieved to have found nothing, he returned to the hole through which they had entered, drifting on the threshold, where the water was warmer, and where he could keep a watchful eye on the boat, and make sure that it did not leave without them.

“Peterson!”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Did I scare you, Peterson?” The voice of Rodriguez. Peterson turned to see the other divers approaching through the gloom.

“That’s ok. The water just got a lot warmer.”

Peterson laughed at his own little joke. The others remained silent. As they drew near, he noticed the body bag.

“You found one?”

There was a long silence. Dennis at last responded, his voice choked with tears.

“It’s the little girl.”

Again, silence. The five of them remained motionless. The five of them. Peterson’s heart skipped a beat.

“Where’s Wesley?” he asked.

“He disappeared,” said Rodriguez. “One of his sick jokes, I guess. I swear to god, I’m going to kill that kid if he doesn’t learn to treat his job with a little more respect. We’re taking this one up to the boat, oxygen’s running low.”

Startled, Peterson checked his gauge. Sure enough, it read a little under one quarter. He hadn’t realized how long it had been.

“I’ll go find Wesley,” said Smith. “We don’t need another body to worry about.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Carson. “Nobody deserves to be alone in a place like this.”

They went their separate ways. Within moments, Peterson, Dennis and Rodriguez had reached the surface. They passed the body bag to the somber crew and climbed onto the boat, masks off, enjoying the cool morning air. The respite was brief. The crew handed them fresh oxygen tanks, and they plunged back into the water.

They entered the kitchen again. No sign of the others.

“No sense waiting here,” said Rodriguez. “Let’s keep looking, get it over with. Peterson, come with us this time. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to split up again.”

They headed towards the stairwell in silence. Rodriguez thought about the job. Dennis thought about his family. Peterson prayed.

They found two more bodies in the passenger deck, and one on the way back, trapped by the ankle in the railing of the stairwell, a few flights down. They saw nothing of the other divers. They carried the bodies up to the boat and took another rest, and only when they had climbed onto the boat and taken off their gear did Peterson and Rodriguez notice that Dennis was missing.

They reluctantly returned wreckage.

“I’m going to go find them,” muttered Rodriguez. He swam off, leaving Peterson in the kitchen, but within minutes he had returned, struggling with a body bag.

“Don’t know how we missed this one before. Take him up to the ship, will you?” Peterson nodded and took the body, glad for an excuse to leave. No sooner had he given the body to the crew, however, than he had dived back into the depths, eager to find the others and finish the job.

He hesitated just inside the kitchen. There was no sign the others. Suddenly, Peterson felt very much alone. He drifted on the threshold, shining his flashlight into the murk. He noticed something then, an odd shape behind one of the appliances, an appliance that looked somewhat out of place. He moved in for a closer look. Sure enough, it had been disconnected somehow from its proper place on the opposite wall, and had slid up against the countertop. Trapped behind it was a body. The last body. Peterson felt a strange excitement. He could finish the job, right here, right now. He pushed the appliance aside and pulled a folded body bag from his utility belt. After he had bagged the body, he made for the boat, swimming quickly. As soon as he crossed the threshold, however, he felt a cold hand on his ankle.

In that moment, Peterson’s heart stopped. His vision glazed over, he saw the body drift away into the ocean. In that moment, as six pairs of cold hands pulled him back into the wreckage, Peterson realized something. Half a dozen bodies taken. Half a dozen divers taken. One apiece.

Credit To – Keenan Evans

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Snow

July 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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May, 2014

I opened the door, and I was met with the cold blast of Antarctica’s winter winds. I wasn’t really sure why I was here; I just needed to get away from the others. This was my first stay over winter in the base. I did it to escape my previous life. After basically going broke, and the divorce, I just needed to escape. I was employed here as a maintenance worker. The pay was good, and, since there was nothing to buy, I would have six months worth of savings at the end. There were 36 other people at the base, none of which I particularly liked. Commander Evans didn’t accept anyone questioning his command, even when he was wrong. He was the reason I was probably out here; an argument with him. He asked me to fix the lights in the geology labs, as Norton wouldn’t shut up about it, but I was already in the middle of fixing some of Bennett’s meteorology equipment. I told him to get Ripley, Young or Anderson, the other engineers here, but no, he asked me. Eventually we started arguing, and, just as we were both about to start unleashing an hour’s worth of built up fury, Norton heard us, and just told Evans it didn’t matter. This just pissed Evans off even more, as he didn’t like anyone telling him he wasn’t Doctor fucking Manhattan. Eventually, I just left.

I decided I needed to get out. It was dark outside; very dark. All I could see was snow whirling next to me, the lights of the base, and darkness. My destination was the tool shed. It was heated, of course, and I reckoned that no-one else would want to be out there. I didn’t tell anyone where I would be; I just wanted to be left alone. I clipped my harness to the guideline, and I stumbled into the snow. It was hard enough walking into the blizzard anyway, and it was even harder with the heavy clothes I was wearing. Still, I’d be dead without them.

It was about a 100 meter walk. I had a survival time of about one hour out here, if I wore all of the correct equipment. I did, of course. While going out of the main building without telling anyone was strictly against the rules, I didn’t care.

The blizzard tore through me, and I was holding on for dear life to the rope, as the increasing winds nearly took me off my feet. I slowly edged my way along the rope, although I couldn’t see anything ahead of me other than the snow, the rope and my hands. I was truly alone. Apart from the other 36 in the base, I was thousands of miles from anyone else.

From then on, it was simple. I would move my hands forward, then step, keeping a tight hold on the guideline. I nearly lost my grip at several occasions, and I was even blown off my feet at one point, but my safety wire saved me from getting lost in the infinite bleakness of the blizzard. Eventually I reached the building, and I pushed open the door, collapsing into the room. I slammed the door behind me. I began to discard my heavy outer gear; it was a cozy temperature. I let out a sigh of relaxation. The toolshed consisted of just a wall full of tools, one solitary window on the opposite side, and an extremely old TV with some DVDs next to them. Five DVDs in all, all ones that we had a second copy of, or were just unwatchable rubbish. The first was The Thing, which was of course popular down here in Antarctica; we watched it every year as part of a “Tradition”. We watched it with The Shining, which we all found odd since this base had its own caretaker named Bill Watson. However, while the Shining!Watson was an ok bloke, the one here was a dick. I had probably watched both about ten times in three months, and I decided to just pick another DVD at random. I closed my eyes, and randomly pointed at one of the DVDs. I opened my eyes, and saw my index finger jabbing into the “E” on the battlefield earth cover. I grabbed it, opened the door, and threw it out into Antarctica. I smiled, as I hated the movie with a passion. Instead of bothering with picking randomly, I just picked up the Saturday morning Watchmen DVD, and jammed it into the DVD played on the side of the telly.

As the menu came up, I simply selected “PLAY ALL.”

Just as I began to lay back down, I had a part of me shouting that something was missing, but I just couldn’t figure out what. Then I remembered: cigarettes. I’d always been an avid smoker, so I was dismayed that they were banned in the base.

Of course, I had a pack or two smuggled away in the toolshed, so I pried open the loose panel, and grabbed the last packet left, along with the lighter. I sat back, and lit. At this moment, it seemed like everything was perfect. As Rorschach told Adrian to duck as he “Biffed” a criminal in the face, as I inhaled the smoke, as the radiator kept everything warm, as I had been up for the last 20 hours, I fell asleep.

It was all a series of unfortunate coincidences, wasn’t it? That Evans picked me, that we argued, that I smoked, that I removed my coat, that, half an hour after I went to sleep, my cigarette fell from my hands, and into some helicopter fuel that had been left there without my knowledge. I think it must have been either Benton or Harvey; either way it didn’t matter. The fact I didn’t die of smoke inhalation was just luck; the sounds of Storm Saxon getting punched in the face by Doctor Manhattan shaped like a boxing glove woke me. I woke nearly instantly; though I was tired, I had the ability to wake up instantly. I looked around, and for a second, I was utterly baffled as to what was going on. The fire had taken over an entire wall, engulfing my harness. I bolted upright, and leapt for my coat. I threw it on my shoulders, and I slid my heavy snow boots on. I threw the door open, and I was met with the howling winds, making me stumble backwards, towards the fire.

I had to make a split second decision: either stay in the shed, attempt to put the fire out, probably burn to death; or walk back to Amundsen-Scott’s main building without a harness, probably get lost in the snow and die of hypothermia.

You’re thinking about it now, and whatever choice I make I’ll be branded an idiot for letting this happen in the first place, but you weren’t here. You have all the time in the world to make your choice. I had seconds, if that.

I chose the ice over the fire. I jumped out, and grabbed the line. The winds were howling at me to let go, which would mean almost certain death without my harness. My hands gripped firmly onto the rope, and I slowly edged my way forward. After just a few meters, the burning shed was lost in the flames. I thought for a second what punishment I would face from Evans, but I instantly went back to concentrating on survival. I hugged onto the line, as the bitter cold dug into me, even with my coat on.

It was then that I slipped. My feet went flying off sideways, and my hands were hurting as the thin wire dug into them. My hands were tired, after just seconds. I knew if I let go, I was dead. The storm continued to batter into me, trying to convince me to let go. My feet weren’t touching the ground, instead my knee was supporting me. I pushed up with my knee, and I was finally on two feet again.

I was much more careful the second time, as I knew I was lucky to have this chance. My stance was wider, and I leant into the rope slightly. I put my left hand forward first, and I slowly released my right. I plodded my two feet forward. I was freezing cold. I was wondering whether my hands had frostbite, but I knew wondering things like that wasn’t going to help. I continued to march forward, slowly but surely, for about twenty meters or so. I wasn’t even halfway, and all I could see in any direction was snow and darkness. I was beginning to whimper, both out of pain and the knowledge that I’d probably die here. I started talking to myself, giving myself some false reassurance.
“You can do it, come on. Do it. Nearly there. Come one.”

About twenty minutes later, after I had cover a mere 10 meters, I began to cry. I wasn’t even halfway, and I was already beginning to give up. The tears froze on my face, causing even more pain. I screamed. Why? Why couldn’t Evans just have asked Young? She was head maintenance worker anyway! That stupid dumb cunt! Why couldn’t he have just asked someone else?

It was my fault, and I knew it. But having someone else to blame at least gave me a target. I imagined all the ways Evans could die painfully, and I must have covered twenty meters without realizing it.

Then, as I was imagining Evans’ head go flying from his body and crowds cheered, the storm picked up its intensity.

It must have bad, extremely bad, or maybe the wind just coincided with the flames somehow burning through the guideline, but, whatever happened, the guideline broke at the toolshed’s end. I fell to the ground, yet, by some miracle, I was still holding onto the rope.

I began to scream, as the winds tried as they could to knock me off the wire, to send me spiraling into the unknown darkness of Antarctic.

For a single second, I had a moment of self-doubt. That it would be so much easier to just… let go.
No. Not now. I’m not just bloody dying here, come on, you can-

The winds disagreed with me, as another gust caused me to let go.

Now I was truly lost; truly dead. I stood up, and walked into the winds.

Come on, there’s got to be something.

I closed my eyes, as the snow stung them. I knew my eyesight was useless now.

I’ll never know what exactly it was, but a piece of debris must have come loose, from somewhere. Whatever it was, it smashed into my leg at breakneck speed. I howled out in pain, and I fell. My leg was broken.

I clawed my hands into the snow. Come on. Come on. COME ON! There was that guy, they made a film about him, about how he broke his legs in some mountains, yet crawled his way to safety! His name was Joe, or Simon? It doesn’t matter, come on, nearly-

The wind made one final push, which forced me out of my weak grip on the ground, and out into the infinite snow.

Credit To – Come on, I mentioned The Thing. Take a guess.

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