The Man with the Cane

June 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.9/10 (144 votes cast)

(Note: this is a followup of Grad Night in the Haunted Mansion. It is recommended you are familiar with the original story before continuing)

Recently I read a story posted on a Disney forum I frequent, an account of three friends who tried to spend a night in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion back in the 80s. Since I don’t know the author’s name or gender, or even if said author is reading this, I’m not sure how to address him or her. Hopefully whoever put the story out there in the first place will see this.

I tried tracking the author down, and apparently the story had been posted on several forums and sites under different usernames – I’m not sure when it was reposted or where it originated, nor how long it’s been circulating.

But regardless, I read it at first thinking nothing of it but a half-assed ghost story. It was well-researched, sure, but there were certain details that were off and raised doubts. I almost dismissed it entirely when there were utilidors mentioned – because only Walt Disney World has those – but that was before the Prop Rooms got brought up.

My own story has lot of similarities, and I doubt its coincidental. I’m not sure how much this will clear things up, but that realization has prompted me to share my knowledge, maybe get a few things off my chest.

I grew up in Orlando, and have pretty much lived my whole life in close proximity to Walt Disney World. My mother met my father while working as a Cast Member at the Magic Kingdom, and now I work there myself (though I’d rather not say where). For as long as I can remember, I’ve listened all kinds of urban myths and rumors circulated among cast members at the parks, mainly through my parents; Mom got her start there back in the 70s, not long after the Magic Kingdom first opened, and in 77 she finally got bumped up from retail to attractions, which she had hoped for since she’d been hired. Her first role was a hostess at the Haunted Mansion, a position she thoroughly enjoyed until one August night that same year, when she encountered the Man with the Cane.

The way she tells it, she was a little on edge that night: earlier in the day, a 4-year-old boy had climbed over a railing surrounding the Cinderella’s Castle moat and drowned. It was the first death to have happened in the park’s short history. Management tried to keep the incident as quiet as possible – so the other guests weren’t disturbed – but word of it quickly spread among the cast members, and this was fresh on my mom’s mind as she worked the loading area for the mansion. Guests would come through from the stretching rooms and board their doombuggies, blissfully unaware that a life had been lost in their midst.

She was working until late, the crowds getting lighter and lighter as the night dragged on, until they were down to one stretch room. The guests were coming few and far between, so there were long periods where it was just her watching the empty doombuggies flow endlessly out one dark corridor and down another, listening to the eerie music and sound effects.

It was during one of these lonely spans of time that she saw him: from around the corner came a doombuggy that was occupied by a man, sitting right in the middle of the car. She described him to me as being gaunt, almost emaciated-looking, dressed in a rumpled suit, hands resting on the handle of a cane set in front of him. He stared straight ahead with pale blue eyes set far back in his head, his expression bitterly grim. He didn’t so much as twitch an eyebrow when my mom tried to get his attention, waving at him and saying hello; he just kept staring at some fixed point right in front of him as the doombuggy moved past and on into the rest of the ride.

Immediately my mom noted his car number – 67 – and called the operator at unload on the phone to ask him about the man he had sent her. The operator responded that he hadn’t sent her anyone, at which point both of them became very confused and mom got a little scared. Together they got in touch with their lead, and the three of them proceeded to wait at unload for the man to come around.

Sure enough, car 67 arrived, but it was empty.

There was no way the man could have sneaked out without anyone noticing. There are dozens of security cameras around the ride that would have caught it. My mom never got to review the footage, and to this day she’s not sure if there even is any, but she is thoroughly convinced that what she saw was a ghost. It spooked her enough that she had a hard time working late at the mansion, when there were periods where she would be all alone and felt as if someone else was in the room with her, watching her, and requested transfer shortly thereafter. She ended up on the Tropical Serenade (which is the Enchanted Tiki Room today) a month or so later.

But mom was only the first to see this apparition. Stories of the Man with the Cane began to circulate among CMs working at the Haunted Mansion, and every so often someone would catch a glimpse of him, usually riding alone in a doombuggy but sometimes walking in a backstage area of the ride, often only seen reflected in a mirror. He was always described the same way: gaunt, dressed in a suit, sunken eyes and holding a cane. Some say he’s the ghost of Yale Gracey, one of the imagineers that built the Haunted Mansion, while others have claimed that he’s much older, the spirit of a pilot whose small test plane went down on the land WDW would be built on, back in the 1940s. Needless to say, it became a local legend among the Haunted Mansion staff, and even those who didn’t see him were unnerved that they might, especially if they had to work alone at night.

So of course this was all going through my head when I went to work at the mansion myself, in the early 2000s.

Unlike a lot of people, I’ve never been a big fan of the Haunted Mansion, though coming from a Disney family I know a lot about it. I think the main reason is because I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable around it – I blame my mom’s ghost story, of course. Looking at the facade from a distance is fine, but from the moment I pass the gates into the line, I get this prickle of inexplicable worry in the back of my brain, like that feeling you get when you’re in a dentist’s waiting room about to get a tooth pulled – you know it’s going to happen, and it won’t be fun.

Of course the ride isn’t really that scary, but that irrational feeling doesn’t go away until I’ve left the area behind. I think that’s why I opted to take the position as a hostess in the mansion – like mother like daughter, I guess. Plus, I think it had to do with trying to overcome that stupid childhood fear.

Anyway, I got the job and it was pretty normal, for the most part. My position in the attraction would shift, being a outdoor greeter at the mansion gate one day, a monitor at load or unload the next. I got used to it after awhile, and even started to like the job, despite that nagging tension I mentioned earlier.

My supervisor, a senior CM on the ride, was a woman named Karen (and yes, I realize it could be a coincidence, but I’m not so sure anymore). She was the one that basically got me acclimatized to the ride, and became a sort of mentor. She was a little severe and seemed high-strung, like she was always on the alert for something to happen. She’d get on anyone’s case if they made a shortcut of anything on the ride, citing safety reasons. But she seemed to like me well enough, showed me some level of concern due to my apparent unease about working the attraction at night.

I mentioned to her off-handedly once that working the mansion made me nervous due to the stories of the Man with the Cane. I recall it was just the two of us standing in the “Servants Corridor,” which is a CM-only passage from the load area to the outside, and it was just around closing time, so it was just the two of us in that flickering gloom. She became very interested and asked me a few questions, and I told her my mom’s story and how it had spooked me.

She stared at me long and hard as I talked. It was just starting to make me feel uncomfortable when she said, very softly, “I’ve seen him too. Just once. November 5th, 2000.”

She didn’t elaborate, didn’t expand on anything. Before I could ask her any more about it, she changed the subject to the tasks at hand for us closing the ride and walked away. I never did get a chance to broach the subject again, because she seemed to be all business following our conversation.

I’m not sure why I didn’t look up the date she mentioned sooner. I guess it never crossed my mind. Not until later.

After that, Karen seemed to take an odd interest in me. She had some measure of clout with the rest of the cast, and got leeway to go through plenty of backstage areas, so she started showing me all of the various nooks and crannies of the Haunted Mansion, very deliberately pointing out details like a tour guide. I got to learn the ins and outs of the attraction fairly well, and even had a chance to walk through the entire thing at one point with lights-on, thanks to Karen. In a way, I felt weirdly accepted, almost initiated… It’s hard to describe, but I was grateful anyway.

Which brings me to 2004, and the main reason I tell this whole story.

I’d been at the Haunted Mansion just under a year by that point, and my initial worries and irrational fears had finally begun to subside. I hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary during my time spent in the attraction, whether on set or backstage. Any notion of real ghost sightings was just the occasional in-joke between CMs, and even I wondered if my mother had just made it up to scare the people that worked with her and it had stuck around as a local legend since.

It was a February night, and I had just come back for my last shift of the evening. I was assigned to the load area and the crowds were relatively sparse, since it was around parade time and the route at Magic Kingdom passes through Liberty Square. Those riding either had no idea it was happening or ducked in to take advantage of the lull it caused.

I had grown pretty accustomed to being a grim, spooky maid by now, since the Haunted Mansion is the one attraction where CMs don’t have to smile. I escorted the few guests that came through into their doombuggies and walked the moving conveyor belt at an easy pace. The people coming through gradually became fewer and fewer, which seemed odd considering it wasn’t really that late at night.

And then the inflow stopped. There was a good five-minute stretch after I sent the last couple guests along where no one came down the corridor; just me, all alone, with the constant loop of familiar haunting sounds and the never ending line of doombuggies.

I started to get that itch of worry again as my mom’s story popped back in my head, but I tried to push it down. Another couple minutes of nothing, not even another CM to accompany me (usually there’s more than one of us in there), and I really started to get nervous. I was just reaching for the little shortwave radio we kept on hand to communicate when it crackled to life, making me jump.

It was Karen’s voice on the other end. “I’m at unload,” she said. It was hard to tell over the crappy receiver, but I think she sounded on edge. “Keep your eyes peeled.”

“For what?” I asked. Last I checked, Karen wasn’t on duty at unload, or on the ride in general that night.

Even before she responded, I had this terrible feeling I knew exactly what was about to happen, and I looked up as she said something else I don’t really remember.

There he was.

Just like in my mother’s story, he came gliding down the line in a doombuggy that should have been empty. Thin, near skeletal hands folded on the head of a black cane, a dusty suit and a face that reminded me of some scavenger bird. He was so still, he could have been a statue – apart from the fine, wispy hairs on his head, nothing on him moved. He didn’t blink, and his blue eyes didn’t even twitch; it was like he was boring a hole in the back of the car in front of him with his gaze.

Now I was on the verge of panicking, seeing a childhood terror before my very eyes. I stumbled back as the car passed me by, wanting to run but fighting with the logic that this was all definitely some elaborate prank. The man was lifelike, sure, but he was way too still to be real. It could have been some old animatronic from the Hall of Presidents for all I knew, just made scarier and set here to freak me out.

I mean, I certainly didn’t FEEL that way, but my brain was going a mile a minute and that was the best explanation that came to me in the moment.

The moment passed and off he went, without a glance in my direction. I watched it go with my heart going crazy in my chest and Karen shouting at me over the radio for confirmation. I picked it up and choked out what I’d just seen.

There wasn’t even a pause before she responded: “Get in the next car. Now. Don’t lose him.”

Surprisingly enough, I did just that. I was maybe two or three buggies back from the one I’d seen him in, but without even thinking I hopped on the ride and let it carry me into the depths of the attraction. I hissed to Karen that “this had better not be a prank or I swear to God I’m going to report you, because this isn’t funny.” She kept assuring me it wasn’t (which didn’t help) and that it was important I watch my surroundings and not lose him. She said she was keeping tabs via the security cameras.

The ride carried on as normal, just me and a possible ghost somewhere in an endless line of empty clamshell cars. Nothing happened as I went through the library, the music room, and up the stairs surrounded by cobwebs and giant day-glo spiders. I recall gripping the safety bar tighter than I ever had on any roller coaster, looking around every side to make sure I saw him coming – prop or no, I did not relish the thought of seeing him suddenly loom out of the shadows around me if he somehow slipped out of his doombuggy.

As my buggy reached the top of the stairs and turned to face the Endless Hallway, I caught sight of a figure in the shadows behind the floating candelabra and my heart went into my mouth. It opened a door on the left hand wall and slipped inside, closing it behind; in the same instant, I thought I heard a strange bellowing sound that I could only discern because it wasn’t part of the normal attraction audio.

I relayed this to Karen. “Get out,” she responded quickly. “I’ll be right there.”

In hindsight, I feel stupid for just doing what she said. Yet I got out anyway, pushing up the safety bar and stumbling onto the floor. I figured this would trigger the sensors and force the ride to stop on an alarm, but everything kept running. They must have been disabled, I realized – the man had apparently gotten out too without setting anything off.

I stood for a bit at the entrance of the hallway, too scared to go down it but eaten up by not knowing what was happening. I’m not sure where the courage came from, but when Karen didn’t show up right away I got fed up and moved down the hall toward the candelabra, pushing past the thin black scrim that gave the corridor its misty quality. The “endless” effect of the hall is created by a large mirror at the far end; this close to it, I could see my opaque reflection walking to meet me.

Most of the doors down there were facades, and I was never shown a backstage entrance from this area, so I had no idea what to expect. I turned and tried the door I thought I’d seen opened, the one closest to the mirror, which proved to be fake; I tried the one to the left of that and got the same result, which confused me even more… I was so certain it had been the furthest door. My hand was already on the next door’s handle when a beam of light came bobbing through the scrim and Karen stepped through, flashlight in hand.

I immediately rounded on her and demanded to know what the hell was going on. I was scared out of my mind, so it probably came out more pleading than angry.

Karen just sighed and shook her head. She pushed past me and turned the handle on the door. It opened onto a stark, narrow stairwell leading down and to the right.

“You know this ride just as well as I do,” she said, looking back at me. “Did you know that this was supposed to be here?”

I shook my head, no.

“Good,” she said, gesturing for me to follow behind her. “Neither did I.”

I tried to protest as she started descending the stairs, and followed only because I didn’t want to be left alone in the corridor. Karen seemed pretty stoic, which was some small comfort as we went down the darkened stairs, her flashlight showing the featureless gray walls and dirty black steps. It wasn’t a very long stairwell, but I was sure it would take us below ground level, making it a possible access point to the utilidors I didn’t know about.

I had so many questions, but most of them went unsaid because I felt this tense urge to be quiet, not just from Karen’s body language but the faint sounds I heard coming from the bottom of the stairwell – the best way I can describe it was the bellow I had heard before, this wheezing keen, like a person doing a bad impression of a dog’s howl. I know it sounds dumb, but it was so out of place that it gave me chills.

The sound stopped just as we reached the bottom. The stairwell ended at a utility door marked with a sign: “CAST MEMBERS ONLY.”

Karen hesitated, and I think I saw her visibly shudder as she opened the door. Not once did she look back at me.

This is why I tell this story: the hallway past the door was almost identical to the one described at the Disneyland mansion. It was a long, straight passage lined with doors, themed just like the hall above with the demon-eye wallpaper and flickering candles. And just like the other story asserted, the doors all had plain, white signs mounted on them, marking them as Prop Rooms.

I say “almost” because, looking back and comparing accounts, there were two main differences: first, the hall had eight doors compared to the six at Disneyland; and instead of the hall ending at another utility door, it was a dead end wall, with a mirror in an ornate oval frame hung on it.

At the time, I was more confused and unsettled by that fake-sounding whine that seemed to come from down the hall. Karen tensed and started marching along, ignoring the closed doors. Hesitantly I reached for the handle of the first Prop Room, but Karen said “Don’t bother. It’s locked.”

I couldn’t take it anymore. “How do you know?” I cried. “What is this place? Why are we here?”

Karen looked over her shoulder at me, and she looked weary and grim. “I don’t really know,” she said. “But we followed that thing down here, and I want answers. I need you to watch my back.”

The way she said “that thing” stuck out to me – I assumed she meant the Man with the Cane, but she didn’t refer to him as a “him.”

Then it hit me that the shadow I’d seen in the Endless Hallway might not be what I thought it was…

That recurring howl startled me just as I thought of this. It was louder than before, and even more plaintive. I peered down through the flickering gloom and saw the door closest to the end of the hall was slightly ajar.

Karen pointed her flashlight in that direction and started walking quickly, making me have to pick up the pace. I almost slipped on a wet patch, and realized the whole floor past Prop Room 1’s door was damp, water having soaked into the thin carpet. Strangely, there was no mildew smell, just just something chlorine-like: if you’ve been on any of the water rides at a Disney park, you know the smell I’m talking about.

We pretty much made a beeline to the open door. Some parts of this hall were not up to the usual Disney quality of repair – besides the wet carpet, there was an empty space for a candle sconce beside Prop Room 4, a bunch of exposed wires poking from where the fixture should be. Karen only stopped once, to tentatively test the handle on Prop Room 7, which was locked. Water leaked out from under this door, and I figured this was the source of the soggy floor.

Prop Room 8 was open just a crack, not enough for me to see what was in the room. Karen turned to me again and held up a hand, a clear sign she wanted me to stand back. I wasn’t about to argue with her, because I really didn’t want to be the first one to open the door into that dark room.

She stepped up and opened the door very, very slowly. The hinges made no noise, no the slightest creak. She opened it just enough to peer in with her flashlight on, though I couldn’t see anything with her bulk blocking the way. I kept looking back down the hall where we had come, just feeling like I needed to make sure nothing came up behind us.

Then, while I was turning my head to look, the howl happened again – so loud, so close and with so much more whining agony it nearly gave me a heart attack. I had a moment to realize it had come from the room Karen was looking into before her body suddenly jerked forward into the darkness, like she had been yanked off her feet, and the door swung closed.

I freaked out and rushed to the door. It wouldn’t budge, the door was locked. I pulled and tugged at the handle and kicked at the door while screaming for Karen. My adrenaline level was so high I couldn’t even THINK about trying something more logical than that, I just knew I had to get to Karen because I suspected something horrible was in that room with her.

Something splashed on the soggy floor near me and I felt drops of water spray my ankles. I froze, my breath catching in my throat, and looked. Nothing was there, but I swear I saw a depression in the damp carpet right near me. Glancing down the hall, I saw only the empty corridor we had come down, but movement in my periphery made me look the other way, toward the mirror on the wall.

The Man with the Cane stood behind my gaping reflection, so close that he could have rested his chin on my shoulder; at that same moment, I felt a cold breath on the back of my neck.

I completely panicked and bolted down the hall, pretty sure I screamed the whole way. I shot up the steps two at a time, nearly tripping on the skirt of my uniform as I tried to put as much distance between me and the man as possible. Soon I had flown out of the door and back into the Endless Hallway, and I turned to run through that artificial darkness…

Or would have, if I hadn’t turned the wrong way in my blind terror and collided with the full mirror reflecting the hall.

when I came to, several of fellow CMs were huddled around me where I had sprawled on the floor. I was disoriented and sick with dread and could barely explain to my concerned rescue party what I was doing there. They told me later a guest riding the ride had seen me lying there and had asked when they had added a “dead body” to the attraction, which brought them to me; checking later confirmed I had been unconscious for several minutes.

I was whisked off to get first aid, unable to get a word out in time about Karen and the hidden corridor, dazed and confused as I was. Thankfully my run-in with the mirror had not done any long-lasting damage – either to myself or the mirror – though I suffered a serious concussion and was forced to take a leave of absence to recover.

When I returned to active duty at the mansion, the old feeling of unease was in my gut again, stronger than ever. That first day back, I was so on edge that I would jump at the slightest breath of cool air or sound of my name being called by another CM. Everyone was really kind and welcoming, but I know I came off like a nervous wreck.

Karen was conspicuously absent, of course. I started asking about her right away, and the other CMs said they had no idea where she’d gone – word was she had either transferred or quit, though no one I spoke to had seen or heard anything concrete. Management seemed unable to give a straight answer either, since they claimed didn’t know. It was like she had vanished completely.

Frustrated, I went back to the Endless Hallway after hours and tried all of the doors along it. All of them were stuck tight, and appeared to be facades. Blueprints and layouts I managed to procure after revealed no sign of an access point from that scene to anywhere else. It made no sense.

I could tell by the end of the first day the other CMs were thinking I was a basket case, I could see it in their sidelong glances. One of them, a friend of mine who I’ll also leave anonymous, said he had no reason to blame me, and said everyone just felt relieved I hadn’t died too.

That gave me pause, and I asked him what he meant.

He seemed surprised I didn’t know, but explained that the night I’d gotten hurt and Karen had “retired,” another CM had been in an accident backstage. The man, dressed as Pluto, had been struck by a parade float and killed. Those working outside had immediately gone into damage-control mode, halting the parade and keeping things as quiet as possible to the guests.

I put in a transfer request the following day.

Thing is, throughout all of this I worked to convince myself that everything I had experienced that night was the result of my head injury, weird dreams and hallucinations I had while I was out cold or semiconscious, coupled with the short-term memory loss. I had to, because for a long time after I couldn’t bring myself to look in a mirror, out of fear I would see something behind me that shouldn’t be there. Even now, it sometimes makes me uncomfortable.

It was the only logical explanation I could come up with, the only way I could convince myself to keep working at Disney World. And it succeeded, made perfect sense.

Until I read the grad night story.

Now it’s all come back, nagging at me, telling me everything I saw and felt that night were all too real. Putting all of this down has only helped refresh my memory, and it scares me. I keep glancing over my shoulder, worried I’m going to see the gaunt visage of the Man with the Cane standing there, staring at me. I also keep thinking about the way Karen jerked through that door, like something had grabbed her and pulled her in…

I’m not sure how much this will clear up, but it needs to be done. Something bigger is going on here, hidden under both Haunted Mansions in both parks. I would go so far as to say something evil. And with everything in mind, I’ve done research, compared accounts.

The day my mom saw the apparition, someone had died; the date Karen had mentioned – November 5th, 2000 – another in-park death, this one on Splash Mountain; and someone else had been killed the night I saw him.

With that last accident in mind, by 2004 eight people had died on Walt Disney World resort property. There were eight doors in that hidden hall.

The author in the grad night incident described a fatal accident happening the same night. Looking that up, there were six deaths at Disneyland counting that one as of 1983, and six Prop Room doors mentioned.

I fully understand this is speculation and the whole thing could be coincidental, but at this point I doubt it. I understand now why Karen rushed over to the mansion when she heard someone had died: she’d put the pieces together. She knew, somehow, the Man with the Cane would appear.

Who he is, what his role is, and what he wants I don’t know. Is he anything like the Hatbox Ghost at the Disneyland mansion? I have heard Disney is putting old Hattie back into the attraction soon, but I get the feeling whatever they add won’t be what those three kids saw backstage in 1983.

That’s really the worst part of it, the not-knowing. All of this just raises more questions for me, and the only reason I haven’t left WDW is to keep my ear to the ground and hope get more information. I owe Karen that much.

All I can say is I have a feeling… that if someone manages to find either of those hidden corridors now, beneath their respective Haunted Mansions, those gloomy hallways will have grown much longer, and have more Prop Room doors.

Credit To – CrackedMack

The author also produces a podcast called “Midnight Marinara” – if you’re curious, please visit any of the following links:
Midnight Marinara Homepage
Midnight Marinara @ YouTube
Midnight Marinara @ SoundCloud

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.9/10 (144 votes cast)

Diplomat Hotel

June 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.3/10 (125 votes cast)

There’s this famous “haunted” hotel in the Philippines. It’s named “Diplomat Hotel.” I am not sure about it’s history since word-of-mouth information tend to distort real history. All I know is that it was an old seminary for Jesuit priests about a decade ago, just about when the city (Baguio City) was founded. It was abandoned for some reason (they said there was a fire back then). It turned into some sort of hospital during the second world war. The Philippines was greatly affected then. It was in this city where the Great General Yamashita officially surrendered. Many, of course, perished in the city, making it one of the most haunted cities in the country. After being used as a hospital, it was renovated into a hotel. I am pretty sure the hotel bit is true because the place had been obviously divided into small rooms like a hotel and each room had its own bathroom. The reception area, which was made of stone, still stands. As many know, the Philippines is a tropical country, making the most part of it hot and humid. The city of Baguio is located in the mountains, having cooler climate. It only made sense that they made that building a hotel for visitors from the low-lands during hot summers.

Back to the hotel. In 1990, there was a catastrophic earthquake that hit the city. Again, thousands perished. The hotel was not spared, but it still stands. Rumors say that during the earthquake, September 1990, there were plenty of visitors in the hotel. A stampede had broken out, people frantically running from the building. As still seen today, there are only three exits in the building, all of them small and narrow. You can well imagine the carnage of people stepping on people. This adds to the creepy-ness of the building.

It still stands today. Only a five-minute walk from our house.

As children, we were mischievous and playful. Me, my cousin, and two neighbors. Being near that place, we often went there during summer to have a picnic or to play hide-and-seek. The place isn’t that creepy in the morning. Yuji, our half-japanese neighbor, was the first in our group to have one of those camera phones from japan. We fooled around with it, recording each and one of us playing around, etc. Our other neighbor, John John, had the idea of recording at Diplomat Hotel to see if we can “catch” a ghost. Off we went.

We were around 8 or 9 back then and had heard plenty of scary stories and seen videos from the then slow Internet. We were spooked to go inside the hotel despite it being in the middle of the day. Somehow, the hotel that we treated as a playground had turned into what it was, a haunted hotel. Too freaked-out, we didn’t go inside, instead, we started recording outside, around the building (it had a very wide driveway going around). We went around, singing and goofing off. At the back of the building, the north-east corner, the phone had turned off. We blamed John John for probably pressing something accidentally, making the phone turn off, since he was the one holding the phone. We continued walking when there was suddenly a cold gush of wind rushing up my skirt. I felt icy cold fingers touch my ankles. I panicked and started to run. The boys followed. It was when were well out of the compound when we got the phone to start again. When we got home when we noticed a white fleeting figure crossing one of the tall narrow windows of the front of the hotel during the beginning of the video. At the end, the video just stopped, that’s when the phone had turned off. We showed the video to our families who were equally as spooked as we were. But none were really surprised. The place had a reputation.

Fast forward to pre-adolescence. I was in the 6th grade and it was nearly Halloween. The hype for scary stuff started again. My classmates from school knew I lived near Diplomat Hotel. They asked me to accompany them there. I had become a tour guide of the place. There were three of us, all girls and it was a school day, we were in uniform. Rose Mary brought with her one of those cameras with films. We had started taking pictures, all of us present in all photos. There was no one else present in the hotel. Somewhere in the lobby area of the building, near the fire place, the camera had started acting funny. It was turned on but didn’t click to take pictures. We started fumbling with it in a circle when it suddenly flashed in front of our faces.

The north-eastern corner of the building was used as a small chapel. At the end of the room, there was a table, probably used for ceremonies. There were long benches in two rows on each side of the table. We had started fooling around there. Rose Mary was the camera man. I pretended to be some sort of priest while Rochelle pretended to be my one and only follower. I took my place behind the table and Rochelle sat in front of the row. Rose Mary took only one photo in that room, since were saving up on film for the rest of the hotel.

The next day, at school, Rose Mary showed Rochelle and me the prints from the film. Everything seemed normal. Nothing out of the ordinary. She was even showed us the horrible photo of our faces looking down on the camera when it had started acting funny. The inside of our noses were illuminated and our eyes were diluted from the flash. The last photo was a blank. It was plain white. Rochelle asked how come the printing shop made Rose Mary pay for a blank photo. There was nothing in it. Rose Mary explained that the photo was not supposed to be blank, but the film refused to be printed. She brought out the negative that we used at the hotel. At the end of the film, the negative image showed the chapel on the north-east corner of the building. Rose Mary swore she only took one shot of the place and showed us the photo of us mimicking a ceremony. On the center of the negative, behind the table where had I stood, was an odd looking lady with long hair. She didn’t have a face. Her arms were out-stretched upward as if giving some sort of offering to a god. We could see what she wore. It was something light-colored. We didn’t know what color it was exactly because it was a negative. There was a dark sash that tied the robe around her waist. That didn’t look like the uniform we wore that day. Every other detail of the negative, like the tree branches outside, her fingers, the woman’s unruly hair, the scratches on the old table were all visible. But we could not see a face. Rose Mary said that the negative would always come out blank if they tried to print it. She still has the negative today.

High School, senior year. Another set of friends. The same hotel. They too were curious of the place. Michelle, Divina and Rachelle visited my home after school and wanted to see Diplomat Hotel. This time, no cameras since the intended visit was my home, not a spooky hotel. I was showing them around, telling them the usual scary stories I heard from other people who came to the place. I also told them of my own encounters. It was in the afternoon and sun was about to set. Nothing unusual was happening until Divina, who was lagging behind us, admiring the vintage-y walls, suddenly ran forward, passing me who was leading the group. We had just exited the chapel on the north-eastern corner of the building when Divina ran. The other girls, without explanation, ran with Divina to the main entrance. I followed them there. I asked Divina why she ran. She said something cold touched her ankle. I asked the others if they felt anything. They felt nothing, but ran because they got spooked by Divina getting spooked. We had a laugh, but deep inside, I began getting creeped out. Home we went.

School project: a music video for music class. My bestfriend, Micah was our talent. She sang for the project. The rest of us will be doing the video. Francis, Jeremy, Kate and I went to Diplomat Hotel. There were a few people in the hotel. It was a little noisy because of the tourists, but we didn’t mind since we were going to use the recording of the song for the music video. The song was about the best friend falling in love with his girlfriend. Francis was the friend. Jeremy the best friend. Kate the girl friend of Francis. We didn’t take a lot of videos inside because Kate felt shy shooting with a bunch of tourists around the place. So we decided to do most of the shooting outside where the hotel gardens were. This time, the gardens were at the north-western part compound. I was the camera man. It took us only an hour to shoot everything we needed. We still had time, so we shot some “bloopers” at the garden. When it was time to edit the videos, I felt curious about our shots. We must have caught something like before. I watched all the videos twice, one in normal speed, the other a little slower. Nothing. So I went on with the editing. I added the bloopers at the end of the video with its original audio. I reviewed my work with the volume turned up. I regret having put the bloopers and watching it on full volume. In the beginning of the first blooper we made, there was a deep grunting sound just before we laughed in the video. The second one also had grunting noises only it happened in between me and Jeremy talking in the video. The last was the creepiest. Just before another round of laughter, a child’s voice whispered “Help Me.” When I showed my family and friends the video, they told me that I was the one whispering. But I explained to them, how could I whisper that when immediately after it I was laughing with the rest of my group mates. They listened to the audio again and were convinced that I couldn’t have done that. Sadly, the file was corrupted and no longer retrievable.

There had been plenty of investigations conducted in that building, but none had really explained why would a child’s voice be whispering to me in English (mind you, we speak Tagalog or Ilocano in our area) when the building had been a priest’s seminary, a hospital and a hotel. Could she be the same spirit touching our ankles and lifting skirts when I was younger? Who was that woman in the negative? Why was she wearing a priestly-looking robe? There weren’t any female priests there. And what was that grunting noise?

The hotel now has been renovated into a multi-purpose hall by the government and, with special permits, people are allowed to camp inside the abandoned building so tourists would have scary stories of their own.

Admin Note – The Diplomat Hotel is a real place; if you found this author’s experiences intriguing, you may be interested in the following post from Travel in Boots:
30 Creepy But Lovely Photos of the Haunted Diplomat Hotel in Baguio
Enjoy!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.3/10 (125 votes cast)

The Displaced Man

June 1, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.2/10 (247 votes cast)

The cracked, grey structure stood like a monument before them, separated from the offroad only by a chainlink fence, scattering pockets of moonlight over the foursome. Swaying against each other with inebriation, three fraternity boys and the only girl they could find who had the balls to come up to this place, stood agape before it like they couldn’t believe their feet had brought them so far away from the campus parties and city lights.

“Don’t you think someone still owns this place?” the girl asked them. Her name was Allison, a freckled brunette and to be fair, she was drunk too, but she wasn’t stupid. “It’s still, like, a private property or something. And there could be security we don’t know about.”

“HERE?” retorted Lance with a snort of laughter. “Yeah, I bet they have state-of-the-art cameras.” With a boost from his friends, he clambered his bulk up and over the fence in what seemed like a single motion. Quite an athlete, Lance was, broad in his shoulders and the boldest of them all- yet he couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something was a bit off once his feet touched the ground. Not that he could ever let it slip. The grip on his reputation as the fraternity storyteller and man of the world was a tenuous one at best. “Alright, I don’t hear no alarms and shit goin’ off. Come on over.”

Mikey, a tall scarecrow of a boy with dangling sandy curls to match, gestured to Allison. “Ladies first?” She rolled her eyes and began climbing. His gaze darted across her tight jeans and slender frame, too drunk to make a secret of the fact that he was hoping to get lucky. After all, it was New Year’s Eve and most of the girls had gone home for the holiday, so it seemed like as good a time as any. When she reached the other side, Mikey was next over the rusty barricade.

The last one in their party felt most hesitant of all, even if it didn’t show in his smirking young face. Junior- as his friends called him- was only a sophomore and although Lance had famously made many daring journeys to places strange and spooky, this was Junior’s first. But he didn’t want to be labeled a pussy, so he shrugged off the feeling of uncertainty and made his way over the chain link fence just in time for Lance to begin weaving one of his grandiose tales.

“There’s a reason, guys, that this building, out of the WHOLE facility, is the one that no one, and I mean NO one, is brave enough to step inside.” Allison heaved a sigh. “You know, my mother warned me never to get into haunted houses with strange men.” Mikey laughed, if a little too forcefully. “But it ISN’T a haunted house. Well… not in the traditional sense.”

“Traditional sense?” Junior piped up. Unlike the others, he had a genuine interest in history… not only that, but the building really did seem to emanate something. It gave off that feeling- what some might call deja vu, or the chill they say you get when someone passes over your grave. “Well, it was a house of sorts… somebody lived there. But just one man. One single, solitary, MYSTERIOUS man.”

“Oh, GOD.” Allison was less than impressed. “Was he an axe murderer? Did he eat people? I went to summer camp, these aren’t new stories.”

“Look at this… this, shack, I guess. It’s a piece of a hallway off an outbuilding they CUT off from the rest of the hospital. And you notice anything else?” He waved his impressive wingspan around the facade of the building with a dramatic flare. “You know there was a fire here in ’74.”

Mikey shrugged. “Yeah, the whole place burned down.”

“The hospital had to close. They wouldn’t have had a patient in here- and if there was, they would have….” Junior wanted to add something of his own but his voice trailed off as his eyes were drawn to the outside walls of the chipped cement home, for lack of a better term. It wasn’t scorched or fallen down in blackened beams leaning against each other like the rest of the structures in the hospital. It was unsullied. It almost seemed… pristine by comparison.

Lance lowered his voice and let the eerie feeling set in. “Why would they lock one man in here alone, when there were ALLLLL manner of sick and crazy people to house him with? And why… is it still standing here, completely untouched, while the rest of the hospital crumpled down all around it?” He leaned back nonchalantly against an old tree trunk, satisfied with himself, and began to speak in a slow monotone. “I see windows. Boarded up, sure, but they’re there. But what I don’t see…”

“A door,” Mikey said breathlessly. He had spotted something, he was sure of it. “Is that- the door? Guys, look!” It was hard to tell, even with a good amount of light shining down on them, and like any good millenials they whipped out their phones and began a hesitant approach towards the old building, their digital flashlights held up like shields before them. But he had been right. The shape Mikey was gesturing to did seem like the size and outline of a door, and yet it had been perfectly painted over- no, more like SEALED over, long ago, and was the same color as the rest.

But as he slid his nimble fingers over the surface, dust and grime not withstanding, he could feel its frame. The rest of the adventuring party followed suit, save for Lance who kept his distance back at the trees. Maybe it was all his previous journeys out to haunted houses, or just the melodrama he kept bubbling below the surface of his legends, but something felt wrong about this place in his bones. Allison was more enthusiastic- more brave, even. She turned eagerly back in confirmation. “He’s right, there’s a door here! And look!”

She gestured to the one other curious feature, that after a bit of probing and close examination revealed itself: the door had a narrow hole right in the center of it, like a mail slot. She knocked, and behind it the hollow space rattled back at her. Allison shivered at the touch and along with Mikey and Junior, took a few steps back from the building.

After a moment Lance finally spoke again, breaking the crisp and quiet night air. “Alright, so there’s a door. We made it this far. The question is… who wants to go inside?”

Nurse’s Log: December the 10th, 1891. Patient Name: Mr. Miles Sullivan. Notes: Mr. Sullivan is a white man young in age, which cannot be approximated due to lack of documentation as well as his continued delusions of a “fantasy world” he believes exists. After suddenly entering the facility unsteady on his feet, found to be sweating and in a daze, his words have been garbled and made very few, if any, facts apparent. He has been consistently uncooperative, even under the treatment of sedatives and psychiatric care, in giving any explanation as to his unusual complexion and skin condition, which in the last few days after being committed to this facility, has proceeded to spread over much of his body. Symptoms of dry coughing, spasms and fever indicate a possible resurgence of the recent influenza pandemic, forcing the case physician Dr. Hill to move Mr. Sullivan to the quarantine ward at this time, until further study might be conducted. The standard treatments for delusional hysteria remain as usual. End notes.

“You expect us to go in there? Jesus, Lance,” Allison moaned, and pulled her jacket tighter around her. “There’s a million other ways to celebrate New Year’s, and I’m pretty sure the party you dragged us from was one of them.”

“Well they say it has to be New Year’s to see him. There’s something… special about it.” Lance stood up straight and gave the best stern look he could muster while drunk. “It’s a timing thing, OK?”

“So YOU’RE going in then, I assume?” she shot back.

“Wait, see WHO?” Mikey narrowed his eyes in skepticism. “See the crazy got-stuck-in-a-shack guy? How the Hell are we supposed to do that?” He couldn’t get his mind off of that creepy door. That barely-there opening to the outside world. Who on Earth would you trap in such an ungodly place, and how was he supposed to still be alive after all this time and no one to attend to him? Mikey certainly wasn’t fool enough to go in.

Junior stood in thought for a moment. “So the man they kept in here- what’s so creepy about that? I mean, maybe he was just a pervert or a leper or something, and they didn’t want him around everybody else. Lance, dude, he’s gotta be dead by now. Nobody comes around here anymore.”

“It’s a goddamn GHOST story, man. That’s the whole point.” Lance steadied himself and took a couple steps toward the rest of them. “This guy, right? They say he had some kinda… you know, a virus or something. But thing is, it didn’t touch him. It was getting everybody ELSE sick from being around him.” He smirked and hoped he was getting to them, even as that nagging feeling at the back of his mind told him that it was getting to HIM, too, and that maybe stepping foot in the old place wasn’t the best of suggestions. “So eventually… he did die. And on New Year’s Eve, TONIGHT okay, if you look through those old boarded windows…” He pointed out the narrow slits between the planks through which two tall windows could be seen. “You’ll see him in there. Buddy of mine did. People have before. He comes…. every… year.” He let his story fade down into an uncomfortable knot twisting all of their stomaches as they made uneasy glances at the building.

Mikey instinctively took a step away. “Lance, if there’s a freakin’ virus or something in there, we could let it out and all get sick. That door stayed shut for a reason, man. I mean… do contagious things live that long?” His eyes, now gone wild and a wide sky blue, made their way around the circle of kids in a dash of paranoia. “Do they?”

“No way,” Allison butted in. “You said people were here before, and they saw this, this sick guy, right?” Lance nodded. “Then it would’ve gotten out.”

Junior cleared his throat and decided to have a go at it. “She’s right- on New Year’s, you said. And check the windows.” Behind the thin slats of wood they could see broken-out panels of glass, covered in filth and occasionally whistling in the breeze. “There’s no contagion.” His curiosity got the better of him, and his voice gained courage with a kind of ambition, like he was a man with something to prove. “So then- tell us. Tell us how it works.”

“Okay,” Lance continued, leaning into his little group. “You can SEE him. Actually see him, inside, trying to find a way outta there. Like he never escaped. I’m telling you, man, it’s the fucking truth. You go to the windows, and just gotta like… I dunno, call him out. Then just wait and watch him from out here.”

“So no one’s going in, then,” Allison said with a hint of disappointment. “Waiting to catch a glimpse of a locked-up ghost. Wow, this IS stupid. I’m going back to the party.” She began to make her way to the fence.

Junior didn’t want to miss his chance to look brave and cool in front of a pretty girl; even though it gave him the creeps, surely opening up the door and stepping inside would be ballsy in her eyes. “I’ll… I’ll go in,” he half-whispered. “I mean, yeah. I don’t believe in ghosts. So fuck it. What’s the worst that could be in there, a couple a’ hobos and some rats?” He puffed himself up with every moment that passed, until he was determined to step foot inside.

“Junior, it could actually be dangerous in there.” It was working- she was truly worried for him. “These guys are being dumbasses- you don’t have to do it.” She bit her lower lip and wandered slowly back to the group.

“No way, he’s got the right idea!” Lance smiled, if a bit uneasily. “I’ll even go in after ya.”

“Ooh, real brave of you,” Allison quipped. Then she turned to Junior, matted dark hair and the face of a stoic hero as he steeled himself in front of the mysterious building. “Just be careful, dude. Use the light of your phone, it’s fucking dark out here.” She even put her hand on his arm, and a feeling of warmth spread through him.

“Take pictures!” Mikey chimed in. “If this is for real, it’s shit I wanna be able to prove.” As if driven to do so he, too, clapped Junior on the shoulder with an atta-boy sort of look, if only to save himself from being the one to go in alone.

Junior stepped to the now just-visible door, and suddenly his stomach dropped out so forcefully he felt sick, and not just from the booze. Something emanated from this place and it felt like another world he was edging towards, though he wasn’t sure it was an evil one. A crazy plague man, out of time, alone in his shack. The hairs at the back of his neck stood on end like the air was pure electricity. But all the same, he wasn’t one to go back on his word, and he was more than ready to find out. It took some prying, and he had to remove his gloves just to get his nails in beneath the coats of paint and bits of lacquer haphazardly dashed across the door, but finally he had it open. With his flashlight app on and a final glance back at his friends, he slowly entered the dingy one-room shack, and suddenly a chill ran through him as his sneakers trudged unsuredly across the threshold.

At first, Junior was fairly underwhelmed by what he saw inside. It was a dirty, sparsely furnished den of sorts, and seemed long-abandoned from what he saw by the light of his phone. Based on the leftmost wall, he saw where it might have been once attached to the rest of the hospital, and as he went over to investigate, he discovered loose boards beneath his feet. Looking around unsuredly, he knelt down to knock at the hollow space, then slowly pried a plank up. Junior didn’t know why but it seemed… cozy, like there was an actual home down there, a place where you might lay your head. It was a little cubby, sort of a hidey hole, just big enough for someone to huddle inside. Plus, it seemed that no one else had even found it before. But the wood held a lot stronger than he anticipated and with a great snap, a chunk suddenly broke off into his hand and sent him backwards, tripping over the boards with the sound of a crunch from his phone echoing off the walls before he landed on his back.

Nurse’s Log: December the 21st. Patient Name: Mr. Miles Sullivan. Notes: Mr. Sullivan’s health has declined sharply given his repeated refusal of medications and, as of today, he has enter a semi-catatonic state. Dr. Hill suggests a form of psychiatric examination, and has consulted with Doctors Warring and Ebb in an attempt to further study these curious traits. The rash, seemingly bilious in nature, continues to spread. It is feared that the poor man may not live to see the new year, considering his rather deplorable circumstances, and feared even more so that he was the cause of an unusual number of deaths in the very quarantine hall he has been placed in. Indeed, the patient- when on occasion he speaks- seems to wish himself dead, and expresses a complete lack of understanding in regard to the deaths of his fellow patients. We had hoped that despite no one coming forward as of yet, as it is nearing Christmastime, some family might come to inquire after Mr. Sullivan. Before he stopped communicating completely, however, amidst his rantings he insisted that his companions were in fact the ones who constrained him to this institution in the first place. End notes.

Junior pulled himself back into semi-consciousness and found himself in a strange, new environment, sharp and bright as he allowed his eyes to adjust. He’d hit the back of his head and upon the pillow what felt like matted blood stuck in his hair; they must have taken him to an urgent care or something. It was like a dream, and the room he was in swam before his vision in a haze of white and grey. Did they give him medicine? He itched like Hell. He tried getting up only to find himself, to his horror, in rubber brown restraints strapped to a gurney. Frantically he looked around him: rows of beds, cleanly dressed with white linen and empty. Nothing. No one. He cried out in frustration. “Hello? HELLO? Please, can somebody tell me where I am?” His pleas were met only with silence. He saw that he was in a strange dressing gown, also white, and wondered what they’d done with his clothes, his friends, with ANYthing as far as he was concerned.

He had nearly resigned himself to just lying there and going back to sleep when footsteps approached. Lifting his head, Junior could see two doctors in suits and bowties, one of them wearing gloves, and a nurse in a large heavy apron a good distance away from him, seemingly watching him and remarking to one another. They stayed quite a ways from him and kept glancing over nervously before continuing to talk in hushed tones. “Please,” Junior demanded, “please just tell me what is happening!” The nurse gave him a scance look of concern, then continued conferring with her colleagues, who seemed to ignore him entirely. They began walking away. “No, no don’t! You have to help me!” His heart thumped wildly in his chest as he lay back, staring up at the cold white ceiling as he struggled to hang onto consciousness.

Allison was the first in the group to stand up from their seated half-circle and look at her phone. “He’s been in there for a while, guys. Someone needs to go check that he’s okay…. I thought I heard a noise.”

“Are you kidding? He’s just trying to spook us,” Lance said, his voice filled with false bravado. “I bet any second-“

Mikey jumped to his feet. “Wait! Look! I see something.” He craned his long neck for a better view between the wooden slats.

“Junior?” Allison ventured. “I think it’s him, thank God!”

Junior was sedated- the nurse had injected him behind a veil of plastic sheeting and by now he had utterly no idea where his head was at. The two doctors, both now heavily weighed down by thick gown-like garments and surgical gloves, said through heavy rubber masks, “This is the second time and I haven’t the slightest inclination as to how.”

“How he got out? Clearly the man’s a plague-bringer. His mind is ADDLED, Warring. That’s why you know what we must do… what steps must be taken. This has gone on long enough.”

The young man tried in vain to protest, slurring and mumbling, as they dragged him down a narrow hall, sparsely lit, and onto a decrepit cot in a dark room. Sleep took hold of him and somewhere in the darkness, a door slammed shut and the sounds of rivets, boards and whispers drifted quietly away amidst his foggy slumber.

“Holy fuck!” Lance practically screamed as the door slammed shut of its own accord. He leaped up and raced towards the old grey shack and the occasional movement that could be seen just between those gaps in the window boards.

Mikey shrugged off his sense of foreboding and ran to the door. “It won’t budge! It’s like it was sealed back over again… I can’t get it!” His friend joined him in trying to pry it open any way they could, desperately searching for tools or objects that might free him, while Allison went to the window in a panic.

“Junior, can you hear me? Junior… uh, Sully!” Inside he gave a groggy half-smile at the sound of his name. It was kind of nice, he thought. No one ever called him that.

Allison whipped her head around and frantically gestured to Mikey. “Sully! Mike, he’s just… laying there. The window’s too high for me to reach. Come on, please!” The two convened at the window, struggling to catch any glimpse of their trapped companion.

Inside, the beleaguered young man tremblingly stirred to his feet and was immediately floored by the horror of the realization. He was back in that old boarded-up room again, except it was far from the place he remembered. The paint newer; the furniture cleaner. And the windows- they had bars on them, and as he approached he was only barely tall enough to see through them. He thought to find something on him- anything- but as he patted down his body he only discovered that he was in another plain hospital smock, one that contrasted against a blotchy yellow-red discoloration spread all over his arms.

But Allison- he could hear her voice, echoing through the chamber! She was on the other side of the window, she MUST be. Junior’s mind reeled and yet he clung to the only things he could fully grasp- the bars on the windows, and the notion of his friends outside, ready to save him from this monstrous Hell, a Hell that seemed so familiar and yet so wrong. HE was wrong. THIS was all wrong. Were they his friends? Were they even there at all? He fought hard against a growing delirium.

The faint sound of fireworks going off in the distance hardly served to deter Allison, who was hoisted up wobbling by Mikey and Lance as she took care not to cut herself reaching through the long-ruined window in one of the few holes big enough to get her arm through. She called to him desperately. “Sully! Sully, come on, we’re getting you out of there!” Not she, not Mikey, nor even Lance, had the heart to tell them that what they were seeing from the outside utterly horrified them in the same primal, confused way his own surroundings did- they could see him older, with mottled and burnt-looking skin, and a tattered gown draped loosely over his skeletal frame.

He reached for the window as best he could, but he felt so terribly exhausted. Sully looked back at the floor behind him- there was a pattern of uneven boards, and he remembered his special spot down there. A place where he didn’t have to face any of this, where he could be comfortable, and just sit and think a while. It was like… going home. Waking up from a nightmare that couldn’t really happen. He half-shuffled and half-crawled down onto the hard panel flooring as the voices he seemed to dream calling his name began to fade.

“What is he doing? He’s… I can’t see him anymore!” Lance and Mikey lowered the girl back down as they shared disturbed glances and a feeling of utter hopelessness came over them. As if on cue, the grand finale of the city fireworks went off with a cacophony of pops and shrieks. All three of them ran to the door in a frenzy, smashing and kicking it wildly until all at once it creaked opened, to their surprise. Trembling with uncertainty, Lance put forth his phone, bathing the dusty old room with light. Holding hands the three went in together. “Sully?” There was no reply. “Junior, dude, where are you?” Mikey offered, and his clammy hand gripped Allison’s once more before letting go. After a few tentative steps alleviated their paranoia, they separated to search every possible nook and cranny, which ended in a stumble followed by a loud scream.

Nurse’s Log: January the 1st. Patient Name: Mr. Miles Sullivan. Notes: It is my sad duty to conclude the patient file on Mr. Sullivan as, after much deliberation, the chief medical staff and attending physicians all agreed that he must, himself, be quarantined from the rest of the world. Most alarmingly, Mr. Sullivan shows no observable signs of direct harm from whatever contagion he harbors, and yet it managed to infect and kill not only every soul in the quarantine ward, but a dozen others outside of it, including two nurses and a small child. If this is indeed a variation of the “Asiatic Flu” disaster, then inhumane as it may seem, it appears there are no other options for this unfortunate man than to seal him away in the storage outbuilding for fear of greater epidemic. In accordance with virulent disease protocols, this institution and its staff will do their best to accommodate food and drinking water for this man, until such time as he cannot or will not cooperate. His remaining personal effects, incinerated to destroy contagion, were as follows: one pair Levi-Strauss denim trousers, one oddly colorful linen shirt, one pair lacing shoes, one woolen buttoned jacket, one pair socks and one glass device, possibly a type of mirror or photographic cartridge, thoroughly dashed to pieces when Mr. Sullivan was admitted. This is the final status report on patient Miles Sullivan, the year of our Lord 1892. End notes.

Allison recoiled in horror as she found herself half-fallen into a small cubby hole of sorts, seated snugly beneath the floorboards, containing a single human skeleton in a tattered old gown curled awkwardly into the fetal position and resting just against her leg.

Credit To – TheJinx

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.2/10 (247 votes cast)

The Hold

May 31, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.6/10 (706 votes cast)

I’m not sure if this will scare you, but I can tell you that I was genuinely terrified, and that to this day I still have dreams about it.

I started working at an old Marine Museum in my home town as a summer job. It was fairly easy, all that was needed was to take entrance fees, and keep the boats clean, and give the occasional tour to Summer Camp groups.

I was enamored with my town’s history, and these boats were a very big part of it. The main office was located on the oldest boat there, the S.S Keenora. She was 117 years old at the time, and much of the boat was still original from when she was first created, so you were literally walking and touching 117 year old history.

My manager used to poke fun at me with stories and experiences that she had had on the boats when she was working there, and she knew that I was a huge supernatural enthusiast so I was very eager to hear her stories. However, what I didn’t realize was that I would have my own experiences from day one.

My partner that I was working with at the time was showing me how to use the old skeleton key to open up some of the doors on the Keenora, it took me a little bit to put the key in the hole “just so” but eventually I got it to work. Once we finished there, we split up so we could open up the other boats; there was a little bridge that connected the Keenora to the C.G.S Bradbury. As I opened up the first door to the Captain’s quarters I got a very weird feeling that overwhelmed me. I felt like I shouldn’t be in that room. I was determined to get the job done, so I pressed on. The feeling continued to grow as I went about my business, I was just about to step down the stairs, and up onto the other side of the landing when I got a chill that racked my entire body. Every single hair was on end, and I frantically looked around at my surroundings. I walked back to the other side, and the feeling lessened. I pressed on and continued into the boiler room of the Bradbury.

I opened up the door of the boiler room and gave a hard shove, the door groaned loudly almost as if it were in protest. I latched it in place and stepped inside, at this point I had not turned the lights on, so it was pitch black. As I was crossing over the metal grated flooring to unlock the other door from the inside, several very loud bangs sounded from down below and I stood there motionless for a few minutes, wondering if it was simply my own footsteps. Again three loud bangs sounded, this time I was perfectly still. Gaining some sort of courage, I asked if anyone was down there (although it would be impossible to get down there except through the crew quarters which required a key); my response was met with another row of banging, the sound resonating all throughout the metal room, ringing continuously in my ears. I grabbed my phone from my pocket and shone the light down below, all the while that overwhelming feeling of unwanted-ness coming back in full force. I strained my eyes to see better, but there was nothing, just thick dark blackness. Using the adrenaline from being startled I finished opening the rest of the boats and barreled right into the office. My partner looked up at me and smiled.

“That was some pretty good timing.”

I smiled meekly back and sat at the desk, and looked out the window as clouds for a summer rain rolled in. I had regular occurrences such as those almost every day, but none as frightening as I had on my first shift alone.

It was about 8:45 when I arrived at the museum. I opened up the pad lock and stepped inside to put the security code into the keypad. Just as I had finished doing that, I heard a shuffling sound come from downstairs in the hold of the Keenora. My stomach clenched, at this point I hadn’t even turned on a light yet so it was pitch black. I grabbed my keys again, and began turning on the lights and opening up the port holes and doors. I was making my way to the back, and into the galley (the kitchen/ dining area), where I could hear more shuffling, and dragging noises. However these were much louder than before and they sounded as if they were moving more quickly than when I had previously heard them. Determined not to run out of there screaming I put my headphones in and listened to some Marilyn Manson. I flicked on all the lights on the control panel and turned around on my heel. I was just making my way up the grand stair case when I heard a very loud bang come from downstairs in the hold. Keep in mind I had my headphones in, with music playing.

“What the hellwas that…?” I murmured to myself quietly.

Reluctantly I went back into the galley and peeked around the corner. There was a small door to a pantry that was open, I knew for a fact that it was closed when we shut everything down the night before. I took my ear buds out and closed the pantry door. The same dragging and shuffling noise sounded from downstairs. Every part of my being was telling me to run very fast and very far away from this place, but I was curious, and incredibly stupid, and determined to find out who or what might have been causing the noise. So I slowly started to walk down the steps into the hold. When I had reached the bottom of the stairs, the temperature had dropped drastically, I was shivering and I could very faintly see my own breath. This was in the middle of a Canadian summer, which is normally 35oC plus humidity, so it was definitely not cold.

I turned to my right and looked down the long hall of the hold, I couldn’t see anyone, and the dragging sound had stopped. An eerie silence fell all throughout the hold, and I remember the atmosphere being very thick and charged, I could have cut that air with a knife. Slowly I continued to walk through the hall, and just as I was about to go into the engine room I heard shuffling coming from a door that I hadn’t ever opened before. I numbly walked over to it, and placed my left hand on the padlock and turned the key with my right, to my horror the door swung open of its own accord and violently smashed into the wall of the tiny room which I had opened.
All that was in the room was a very large silver boiler, and beside it in the corner of the room was a thick black mass, it was blacker than black and a putrid smell suddenly filled my nostrils. A sudden rush of cold air and the blur of a black mass told me that whatever this thing was it was not pleased with me opening up that door. I tried to cry out in fear and pain, but found my own voice was silenced with spluttering coughs that racked my body. The dragging noise was replaced by loud scratching and heavy footsteps. Fearing for my life, with my face covered I ran to the stairs and clambered my way up. I did not stop running until I was up the grand stair case and onto the second floor of the Keenora. Seriously shaken I took a few minutes to myself in the lounge and slowed my breathing; I grimaced at the thick layers of dust on the furniture and made note to dust them later. After I had calmed down I opened the rest of the boats and had a fairly busy day. At around 4:45 I had finished cash out I began closing up.

I had just finished shutting the lights off and setting the last trip wire when I got that unmistakable feeling from earlier. I got up and began making my way to the entrance of the ship. I tried very hard to avert my eyes as I walked past a staircase to the hold, but something had caught my attention, something that should not have been there.

I turned my face and gasped in sheer terror as I saw peering up at me two very bright and very menacing red eyes, and a massive figure, blacker than black crouched on the bottom steps of the stair case. I sent a quick prayer up to the Creator and ran to the front of the boat, heavy footsteps following after me. I punched in the code, unbolted the door, and quickly shut it once I was outside. I grabbed the bar and wrenched it into place over the double doors and clicked the padlock on. The doors themselves suddenly gave a jolt as if something were trying to get through. I hopped on my bike and rode home straight away; I slipped into a very uneasy sleep that night.

The next day I had told my manager what happened and she had said the same thing had happened to her when she was working there. She had confessed that she had many a spiritual healer and psychic come through to try and get rid of the entity but none had been successful.

I decided that I would take a walk down there the other day and just have a look at the place, I lightly brushed my hand on the hull of the Keenora and smiled, but I noticed thick black ooze was staining its beautiful white paint. I stepped closer to see if I could determine what it was, and I swear to you I heard a very loud noise come from the inside of the hold. I placed my ear against the metal of the boat and from the inside I could hear the same shuffling and dragging noises as before. I took my hand off the hull, stepped back and turned around, leaving the Keenora well behind me.

Credit To – Darth Marl

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.6/10 (706 votes cast)

The River

May 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.5/10 (298 votes cast)

The river is deep, and dark, and it holds many secrets. At least that’s what they say, and recent events have left me with a completely unshakeable belief that what they say is entirely true.

There’s a river that runs through the part of the city that I live & work in. It’s got a proper name, but everyone just calls it ‘The River’ anyway. Originally it was outside of the city limits, but as the city grew the boundaries pushed ever outwards, eventually spanning both sides and beyond. My part of the city has a lot of steel & glass & concrete used in the construction, it was built during a fairly soulless period, architecturally speaking. There are a lot of high-density apartment blocks in my area, I live on a middle floor of one of them. The apartment has a view of the river from the window; sometimes I’ll sit and look out at it, wondering what’s going on under that deceptively calm surface. I never look for too long, the river has a peculiar way of being able to give you chills. The river isn’t that wide, but it’s deep and has strong currents, especially near the bottom. Nobody swims in it, the current makes it too dangerous and the water is very, very cold; even during the hottest of summer days.

My work is in one of the office buildings on the other side of the river from my apartment. It’s close enough for me to walk, and there’s a scenic riverside pathway that the City Council built during the expansion, envisioning a bustling riverside precinct. This didn’t happen. People avoid the river if they can at all help it, but when quizzed about it nobody really knows why. You’ll get the odd tourist going for a walk alongside it, but they never linger for long. Even the ducks and other waterfowl seem to avoid it.

My walk to and from work would be probably ten minutes quicker if I went along the waterside, but I cut through the city streets where there’s people; and the only part of my walk where I get close to the river is where I cross it, walking quickly along the utilitarian concrete bridge as traffic passes. The drivers always have their eyes set dead ahead of them, nobody ever looks at the water. I tend to speed up as I cross the bridge, it’s not particularly high and there’s a well-sized concrete guardrail, but I really don’t like being above the water if I can help it. If you look over the side, sometimes the surface seems so dark that it’s almost black, and it’s impossible to see the bottom. If you really look closely, then sometimes you’ll see dark shapes moving rapidly through the gloom of the water, but it’s impossible to see if they’re just big fish or something else.

I live a fairly quiet life, all things considered. I’ve got good friends; a girlfriend & a steady, well-paying (ok, well-ish paying) office job. I like my apartment, I like my friends, I like the city I live in, I have no problems with the way things are going. All in all, I’m a fairly normal guy. But I don’t like that damn river, not one bit. I’ve never felt comfortable near it, and things have been a whole lot more unsettling since that night.

I’d stayed late at work on a Friday to finish up on some stuff I’d been putting off. Normally I’d have been outta there at 5pm and off to meet my girlfriend for date night, but she was out of town for the weekend, off to stay with her parents. The plan was to pick up some pizza or some Chinese on the way home and to settle down on the couch for a relaxing night watching crappy horror movies.

I leaned back in my chair at work, looking around the empty office. I’d just finished up the last of my paperwork, so I shut down my computer, and glanced out the window, catching the flickering of the streetlights as they came on outside. The sun was just on the verge of setting, so you could see the harsh artificial light from the streetlights in the half-darkness. I was trying to decide between pizza & Chinese on my way down the lift, and settled on a large pizza to myself as an acceptable option, making a mental note to do extra cardio at the gym the next day.

I stepped out of the lift, shouldered my bag and headed towards the building exit, wishing the night security guard a good weekend as I went. Making my way out onto the street, I took a moment to appreciate the fresh, cool air that comes with the evening of a day that’s had fine weather. I called ahead to a pizza place near my house as I headed towards the bridge, placing my order for pickup (large meat-lover’s pizza, double meat, extra BBQ sauce). I figured I’d have maybe 5 minutes to wait at the pizza place before the pick-up, and then I could head to mine and settle in for the night.

All was well as I wandered along the street, taking a left after a few blocks and heading towards the river. I noticed that I was the only person who seemed to be out and about, the entire area seemed pretty much deserted. Not entirely surprising, given that it was probably 7pm on a Friday night and I was in the business area of town, all the bars & restaurants are across the river on the side that I live. The night air was still & cool, and the sky was rapidly darkening; the sidewalks lit by the bright, harsh light from the streetlights above.

My pace quickened as I took a left and headed towards the bridge. The streets were still deserted, but I could hear faint noise from the restaurant precinct across the river. I kept my head down as I stepped onto the bridge, intently staring at the pavement as I made my way across. As I reached the halfway point, I felt a chill settle over me, and I froze in place. The noise from across the river had stopped. In fact, I couldn’t hear anything in the way of street or bird noise, I couldn’t even hear the buzz of the streetlights any more. The only thing I could hear was the water of the river rushing around the pylons of the bridge, and then I heard what sounded like a sob.

I looked towards the other side of the bridge, and then back towards the home side of the river that I was heading towards, when I caught something in my peripheral vision. I turned towards it, and took an involuntary step backwards in shock when I saw something I’d swear hadn’t been there a second ago. There was a girl sitting on the guardrail, facing towards the river, feet dangling off the side.

“Shit…” I said to myself quietly, breathing deeply and trying to slow my suddenly racing heart. “Man, you scared me! Sorry, I completely missed that you were sitting there”. I took a step towards her. “Are you ok?” She had long, dark hair that seemed to be wet, it hung down over the side of her face, hiding her features. She was wearing a simple white dress that ended at her knees, and I could see through gaps in the concrete railing that she had bare feet . Her hands were resting on the rail she was sitting on, and they too seemed to be damp, putting some moisture onto the concrete they were placed on. I couldn’t see her face because of the hair, but her shoulders were hunched forwards, and seemed to be shaking slightly; as if she was holding back tears. I couldn’t see her face to tell for sure if she was young or older, She had a slim build, I figured she was in her mid-20s at the most.

I took another step. “Miss?” I asked, reaching out a hand to touch her shoulder. She stopped shaking, and I stopped moving forward before my hand could touch her. She was… cold. So very cold that it seemed to be radiating out from her, and I drew my hand back with a shiver, grabbing it with the other hand to warm it up. She seemed to notice my presence, and straightened up, turning towards me as she did. I tensed with apprehension, suddenly worried about what her face might look like, but relaxed as it came into view. She was a pretty, normal looking girl in her early late teens or early 20s, and the only out of the ordinary thing I could see was that her eyes were red, I assumed from crying.

“Are you OK?” I asked her again. “Do you need any help?” The corners of her mouth curled up slightly in a sad, wan smile. And then she turned back, looked down at the water, gave a little hop and jumped off the side of the bridge.

I stood there for a second, completely dumbfounded. Then I heard a splash from the river below, and it snapped me out of my stupor. “Jesus!” I exclaimed, throwing off my satchel, and running towards the edge of the bridge. I looked over the edge towards the water, but I couldn’t see the girl, she must have gone under already. Placing both hands on the guardrail, I vaulted over it and plunged into the water below.

The river was cold. So, so icily cold that the shock of it drove all of the air out of me as I hit the surface and went under. I came up, gasping for air and treading water, and looked for any sign of the girl. I noticed that with some luck, the spot I was in seemed to be a fairly dead spot for the current, but I could still feel the pull of the water as it dragged me downstream, taking me under the bridge. I took a deep breath and dove under the water as I was taken under the cover of the bridge, and everything went dark as the light from the streetlights above was cut off by the shadows of the space under the bridge.

I could barely see anything as I swam around, in what I was by that point assuming was a futile hunt for the girl. To make matters worse, I could feel the current strengthening, and all of a sudden I was swept sideways as the river eddied around one of the supports of the bridge. I slammed into the support, the air driving itself from my lungs once more. The current spun me round and pinned my back to the support, my shirt snagging on some protrusion from the concrete. To my horror I realised I was stuck fast, the freezing water rushing around me in the darkness.

“I’m going to die here”.

The thought entered my brain, and I began to panic, struggling back and forth, but the current was just too strong. I was going to drown, and I couldn’t even help the girl who’d gone in before me. I could see the glow of streetlights dimly above me, but I was too deep under for the light to really penetrate the water, and I could feel blackness closing in from the corners of my vision as my empty lungs began to take in water. It felt like a fire in my chest, and I coughed underwater, but instead of the air I desperately needed all I got was more water. Even worse, I could make out shapes in the darkness. They swirled around at the edge of my vision, pressing menacingly closer, and I could feel their malignant presence. I knew that whatever these things were, they would do me harm if they could. I closed my eyes, and the darkness turned to black.

With the last of my strength, I reached up behind me and felt around for where I was snagged. With what felt like a superhuman effort, I managed to tear my shirt away from the pillar and get my feet up under me against it. I pushed off, driving myself towards the surface, reaching out above me as I travelled up. As I flew towards the surface, I opened my eyes, and saw a flash of white down low ahead of me, but there was no time to think about that.

My hand broke the surface first, and I coughed and vomited water as I gasped for air, struggling to stay above the surface. The current had me once more, and I could feel myself being dragged downstream. I could hear shouting from the shoreline downstream, but again didn’t have time to focus on it. The freezing water was fast sapping what little strength I had left, and I was still spluttering, trying to get the last of the water out of my lungs. I once again took deep breath, and dove under the surface, heading for where the flash of white had been as I’d come up the last time.

Swimming down, I was struck by the thought that this was an incredibly bad idea, but I felt I had to at least try. Looking around, I tried to spy where to head for, but all I could see was the inky murk below me. Just as I was about to give up and resurface, I spotted the flash again! I kicked hard, fighting the current, and spotted the girl, floating face-up in what must have been a dead patch of water as the river didn’t seem to be moving her downstream. Worryingly, the dark shapes I had spotted in the water earlier seemed to be circling ever-closer, just out of my field of vision but close enough for me to catch near-constant flashes of movement. I tried to ignore them and swum for the girl.

As I got close, I felt the current grab me again, sending me quickly towards her. I could see I‘d overshoot her, so swam as hard as possible and reached down, managing to snag a grip on her arm as I went past. I pulled her to my chest as I swam upwards, and caught sight of her face, which was pale against the blackness, but looked surprisingly peaceful. We travelled towards the surface together and my heart sang to see I was only a couple of feet below the surface; and then we came to a dead stop in the water. Lungs aching by this point, I looked down to see what had stopped up, and saw her eyes snap open and look at mine. They were full of terror, and I could see her lip shake as she looked down to her right shoulder. I followed her gaze, and saw that the shape of a hand upon her, grabbing her tightly; the arm extending into the blackness that all of a sudden pressed in around us.

I stared in horror at the hand. It was the same darkness as the water and gloom that was pressing in on us, and I could see the figure that it was attached to looming behind her, but it was too murky to make out any details. I could feel it’s presence and I could make out a vaguely darker shape in the blackness, but that was all. The girl looked back at me, grabbing me by the upper arms as she did, and opened her mouth as if to say something, but then suddenly gripped harder; almost causing me to cry out in pain which would have wasted the ever-diminishing last of the air in my lungs.

The black hand had dug it’s fingers in, and I saw what can only be described as corruption flowing from it. The girl’s flesh turned grey and started to slough off, ever-widening holes in her skin exposing clammy muscle tissue and stark white bones. Within seconds, she looked as if she’d been in the water for months. I looked in horror at her face; her skin coming away, hair falling out in clumps, eyes widening and then seeming to burst, leaving empty sockets. Her lips came away and teeth became visible, and then came apart as her mouth opened in a silent scream. I realised by this point that I too was screaming underwater, the last of my air clawing its way from my lungs.

I looked at the dark hand and then into the gloom behind the girl, and saw what I could only describe as a grin in the blackness, but caught only a glimpse as the hand gripped even harder and jerked the girl from my grip, her hands torn away from my arms with the force of it. She was pulled away into the inky water, quickly disappearing from my view. I thrashed about in the water, trying to get to the surface. I felt something grab me by the scruff of my neck, and promptly passed out from a combination of fear and lack of air.

I came to on the shoreline, a young couple next to me, one pumping my chest and the other breathing air into my lungs. I sputtered and once again vomited and coughed up water. I could hear sirens in the distance getting closer as I struggled to sit up.

“Oh, thank God!” the guy exclaimed. “Buddy, we thought you were a goner!” He took off his coat and wrapped it around me, as I had begun to shiver violently. I’d probably been in the water for no more than a minute or two, but it had felt like a lifetime and was enough to chill me to the bone. “We called for an ambulance when you went in” his girlfriend said, “They should be here in a minute”.

“Why did you jump in? Do you not know about how dangerous this river is?” he asked, looking slightly incredulous.

Trying to speak between bouts of violent shivering, I looked up at him. “There w-was a g-g-girl,” I stuttered. “She w-w-went in the w-water!”.

The couple looked at each other. “….We didn’t see any girl…” she trailed off. He spoke up, and explained that they’d been walking along the waterfront as a shortcut, and had seen me jump off the bridge, surface and then go under again. Luckily, the current had taken me close enough to the shoreline for him to grab me as he went past. He thought he might have seen something dart past in the blackness as he lifted me out of the water, but assumed it was just a fish or a bit of debris. Neither of them had seen a girl in a white dress.

The ambulance turned up and took me off to the emergency room (picking up my satchel from the bridge along the way), where they got me warmed up and released me once they’d made sure I wasn’t hypothermic. They called the police when I told them about the girl and I was interviewed by some officers, but nothing ever came of the police investigation. They had divers in the water next few days but didn’t find anything, and the search was called off due to danger and lack of evidence. My girlfriend was furious when she found out I’d almost drowned, but softened when I told her I’d been trying to save someone. She was still angry at me for taking that sort of risk, however; saying I should have just called the police.

Life returned to normal fairly quickly. I took a week off work before going back, and my life goes on as it always did before that night. I did my own research on the river, and found reports a few years old of some missing persons who had last been seen by the river, one or two of who fit the description of the girl I’d seen, but I couldn’t be sure if it was any of them.

I walk a little quicker as I cross the bridge to and from work, however, often breaking into a jog. Every now and again I’ve heard a sob or caught a flash of white in the corner of my vision, but I just power forward, never breaking stride. And I’ll occasionally see dark shapes swirling in the water from the window of my apartment, but I try not to look too closely. Like they say, the River is full of secrets, and I’m of the opinion that some secrets are best kept.

Credit To – Abtrogdor

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 8.5/10 (298 votes cast)

Lost Tombs and Those Lost Within Them

May 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.9/10 (175 votes cast)

I could barely keep from collapsing as I ran through what seemed to be the never-ending darkness of the godforsaken catacombs. When I’d first signed on to serve as Professor Nickel’s field assistant, I’d assumed that the shrunken old man and I would spend days standing over a blanket of dirt, sifting through broken vases and old bones in search of some lost relic that the old fart would be hunting for.

He was always ranting about the “lost civilizations” and “how they need to be better explored by those with vision!”

All I’d cared about was walking away with a passing grade.

Now all I cared about was living to tell the tale!

We’d gotten separated some time ago, the old loon hopping down from a leaning column to the top of what he claimed to be a Sumerian tomb, telling me to keep up. How the old man moved like he did, I had no idea, but the jump was easily a twenty-foot drop.

Yeah, not doing that. I’d thought with disdain, having thought of the horrors my knees would face from such a height had I made a similar jump.

Now I was running for my life from some ancient Sumerian creatures that had crawled from the cracked awning of some ionic pillars, great shark-like maws wide in anticipation for what I could only assume to be dinner.

Namely me.

It didn’t matter as the creatures chasing me through the utter darkness were outright terrifying. From what I’d seen, the creatures were essentially unwrapped mummies that had replaced their funerary wrappings in place of moving along the walls like spiders. Hissing in their ancient language innumerable insults at me as they chased me around the catacombs, howling with laughter like sadistic chimps as they swung from high above, their aged claws scraping away bits of ancient plaster as they hurried after me.

Running with the two satchels of archaeologist’s tools, I quickly roll under a fallen column and soldier-crawl my way beneath a toppled statue, doing my best not to hack and cough at the dust I was kicking up.

I almost hack when I feel one of them land on top of the toppled statue, the other landing on all fours some distance away, prowling just within the light of my dropped flashlight, giving me a decent look at them.

They were obviously once human, but centuries of decay had changed that, turning them into something far worse. What funerary bindings they still possessed seemed only to exist to hold the carrion beetles that crawled all about their yellowed bones held together by the lightest of pink tendrils, thin strands of decayed sinew perhaps. Their mouths were no longer even comparable to what I possessed, being cracked down the middle and held aloft by the same pink tendrils, giving them a wide, toothy maw that nevertheless looked as if it could break stone. Their arms were covered in faded tattoos, highly intricate looking dark ink work that had probably meant something at one time. Now all I could do was stare at the bare-boned hands, the sharpened finger bones…

The one on top gave a great leap, causing more dust to rain down on me, landing next to its compatriot. This one held an old sword awkwardly with its left hand, handling the cracked leather-hilt as if it were poison.

Whatever this Ghoul had been in life, it was obviously not a soldier. It held the sword awkwardly, offering it to the other with a shrug, the two speaking in their gibberish language.

Oh, good lord, they’re thinking…

I fish into my satchel, as quietly as possible, for something that I could actually use as a weapon for when I eventually bump into one of them and can’t run. One satchel is nothing but books and brushes, so I look into the other, finding my great savior!

A steel trowel.

Six inches of sharpened steel connected to a wooden handle. That was all I had to separate me from death.

I shuffle about beneath the collapsed statue, like a sleepy turtle trying to find a comfortable spot, crawling the way I came in, squatting behind several tons of rubble in hopes of keeping the creatures far enough away from me actually to make a break for it. I slink around the corner as best I can, trying to figure out where the hell I actually am in the damned ruins. Pulling a compass and a smaller flashlight, I frown as I notice North is in the exact opposite direction I wanted it to be.

The map of the supposed “Tomb of the Ubaid Princes” that Professor Nickel had traded his watch for was worth its weight in lead in my eyes, but Nickel had been hopping with joy over the idea of a set of Ubaid tombs as of yet untapped.

I’d merely rolled my eyes.

Now I could just wring his damn neck for getting me into this deathtrap.

A crumbling of mortar tumbles over my shoulder, a hissing cadaver perched atop a column just above me, wielding the ancient looking sword within its cracked leather casing, its eyeless sockets filled with an unholy green light as it opened its mouth to an unholy size. It howls at me in anger or hunger.

Or happiness?

I have no idea, so I respond by ramming the trowel up into the creature’s chest, the steel cracking through the creatures sternum with the sound of dry timber snapping. It doesn’t seem to mind as it swings its sword at me with clumsy fumbling, falling off of the pillar as I yank the creature down with me into a wrestling match, stabbing at the creature madly as it howls in agony, its weak claws scratching at my shirt feebly as I vent my frustrations out on the unholy being.

Two more come bounding around the corner, caterwauling like a pair of mated tigers after the people who stole their cubs. The creature beneath me is barely grasping at my boots as I stand, feeling a little more empowered seeing as the damn things obviously can’t fight worth a damn. I scoop up the leather ensconced sword from the creatures twitching talons. The two creatures run at me, moving more like wolves than men, hissing their greeting as they leap over the rubble. I raise the sword more like a mallet, bringing it down to the crown of one of the mad beasts, hammering its skull more than cleaving it.

The leather cracks away more than any damage I did to the screeching corpse beneath me. This one is far stronger than the other, giving me a rather painful sense of anger at myself for being made to believe I could effectively fight these things. My leather-clad sword serves some healthy justice snapping the wrist of the second howling creature as it pounces onto my back, the thin pink veins doing little to keep the fractured bone connected to the body. The creature on my back encapsulates my head within its engorged mouth, the separated lower jaws forming a tight noose around my neck as the creature beneath me grabs hold of my wrists, their unholy shrieking becoming profane laughter as, rather than the intense pressure of a bite or the serrated edges of teeth, I feel a sudden pressure against the back of my head like I’d blocked off a water pipe. The one on my back pulls up slightly, allowing room for whatever its vomiting to move over me, and thousands of scarabs and carrion beetles begin scuttling over and under my clothes, their feathered legs leaving long shallow cuts wherever they fall.

I throw my weight back, slamming my insect-filled foe into a column behind me, a disgusting squelching noise similar to the sound of rotting pumpkins being thrown from an overpass rising from its chest, along with a series of audible snaps as I cave in its torso. It falls to the ground in a heap, wheezing out a steady stream of insects that seem to have decided to turn on him rather than me.

Thank God, because I can feel a few dozen finding spots all over my body and beginning to claw through my epidermis, seeking the warmth of the womb that my body would provide. The leering undead still grasping my wrists expands his mouth out, his hollow throat beginning to bulge as it seems he feels like sharing his personal wealth of flesh-eating insects.

Bang!

Bang!

Two shots fired from Professor Nickel’s personal hunting rifle tag the creature, once in the temple and again in the right shoulder, effectively blowing it to pieces in my very hands. While old, senile and eccentric, Professor Nickels always carries two guns with him at all times, something he’d suggested I do as well, once I actually earn some money to buy something. Slinging his Sharps Buffalo Rifle back over his back, you can just barely make out the holster to his M1911 pistol, something he tells me “one should always keep loaded when on an expedition, just in case.”

I’d assumed he’d meant bandits!

“Joshua!” He calls out from half way across the rubble-strewn room, hopping to and fro like a bullfrog after a fat firefly. “Did they get any on you?”

“Yes!” I all but screech as I feel three particularly large beetles begin wriggling their way into my skin, pushing a hole through my flesh. Three red blotches begin to form over my clothes, two over my stomach and one over my right thigh.

“Quickly, drink this!” He says, shoving a glass bottle into my hand that I happily begin fumbling with the cap. After several seconds of nervous fumbling, I growl and slam the top end of the bottle across an old mosaic next to me, breaking the bottle open wide enough for me to begin guzzling the foul smelling liquor held within.

“The larvae will die quickly enough if you’re sauced to the gills,” Nickels explains, his wrinkled face crinkling further as he smiles at me as I continue to drain the bottle, a faded paper label bearing the words “Ever” before being too rubbed out to see. With my throat on fire and my insides wriggling with parasites that were continually burrowing into me, I drop to the ground gasping for air, dropping the empty bottle into the sand.

“It will hurt like hell in the morning, let me tell you,” Nickels says with a smile, patting me on the shoulder with a gnarled hand. “The alcohol will drive them out of your body, or kill them. You’ll have to pay a nice doctor to drain your infected wounds once we get back to Baghdad in a few weeks.”

I sputter at the thought, my head spinning. “A few weeks? Did you not just see what we had to deal with?”

The old man waves his hand in the air at me as if a foul odor was passing. “Merely temple guardians, looters that fell prey to the traps around here and found themselves as guards for tombs and the like. But I have a good feeling on this one lad, a good feeling!”

“However so?” I ask, moving to my feet rather shakily, leaning heavily on my newest acquisition, the sword reaching an easy four feet in length.

“Well, that sword for one thing!” Nickels says with a wide, toothless grin. “The Ubaid weren’t known for their iron-working abilities, merely their domestic advancements; I’ve long since held belief that there was a civilization here before the Ubaid, based on their legends of metal men and the like, and that sword is quite a piece of history if I do say so myself.”

“Well at the moment it’s my cane because I can feel a goddamned roach burrowing deeper into my gut!” I hiss at him, but he pays it no mind.

“The tomb I found, the one that you wandered away from, well it is just what I was hoping for when I saw it and the great seal over it!” He crows, dancing about me like a mad little leprechaun. “The seal predates the Ubaid by at least five hundred years, and it has markings similar to the ones the Sumer used to mark royalty. I think I found myself the crypt of a King of an Empire not yet recorded!”

“Bully for you…” I grumble, limping alongside him.

He looks up at me with a discouraging glare. “Don’t tell me you’re going to be this much of a whiner the whole expedition, are you? Because if you think those petty guardians were anything worth talking about than you don’t even want to know what is probably lurking down in that tomb we’re going to be breaching in the morning.”

I could barely keep from collapsing as I felt the first of my burrowing playmates begin to spasm from the strong grain alcohol I’d ingested. My head swimming with drunken vigor and mild blood loss, all I could do was glare at the old man as we settled into our campsite, twin pair of tents and several large chests scattered about the sandy cavern we’d climbed down into, our camels left at a small oasis some two miles East of here with a tribe of nomads that Nickels seemed to be on good terms with.

Drunkenly leaning back, I decide to take a solid look at my walking blade, brushing away the flaking leather to take a better gander at the iron beneath it. It was in near pristine condition, a few touches of age here and there, but no actual structural damage to the frame of the blade. I knew for a fact that the museum back in London would pay me an easy ten thousand quid for the thing more than enough to pay off any outstanding loans I have hovering about my head at the local gambling houses.

Despite the crazed dead and demented midget, this dig might not is so bad at all.

***

I awake to the sounds of scraping stone and the grinding of dried mortar, giving my sleep-addled mind a sharp spike of adrenaline, considering all that has happened to me so far. I push my way up, wincing at the numerous bruises and scratches that are littered over my thin frame. The fire we’d assembled atop the tomb still burned bright, shining slivers of starlight peering through the narrow crevice we’d climbed through to get to this hellish dig.

I find Professor Nickels crouched over the tomb’s seal, hammer and chisel in hand as he is lightly tapping away at the edges of the four-foot circular disk of stone. Hunched over in the darkness, the old man makes me think of the stories of gremlins, incomprehensible creatures that would come into your home at night and hide your shoes, or take your socks. The old man is goofy looking not because of his wild mane of hair sprouting from the side and back of his head instead of the top, nor because he wore glasses that had adjustable nobs on them to move lenses in and out of the frame, allowing him to examine things “in better detail”, while essentially looking like the King of the Insane Beetles.

He was goofy because he didn’t care what everyone else thought of him, and despite his low social standing amidst the Historical community, he churned out peer-reviewed research like clockwork every six months that furthered our knowledge of ancient cultures. So the eccentric midget was tolerated, and asked only to teach two classes a year, when the icy chill of winter would spread over England and him would remain cloistered within his quarters, writing and compiling notes in between classes.

“Professor, what are you going?” I ask tiredly, leaning heavily on my shining sword, which had taken quite a bit of work to get to this poor level of shine let me tell you. The Professor, after looking it over, had declared it to be from the same time period of the Ubaid people, but not of their make (metallurgy was beyond them), theorizing it came from a group that “displaced” the Ubaid through warfare, eventually creating the Sumerian culture some five to seven hundred years later, depending on who you were talking to.

“Joshua, my boy, come down and help me move the seal!” He calls to me, still squatting impossibly low for a man of his advanced age. “The mind is willing, but the flesh is withered and old; I need a young strong back to move the seal so that we can continue our explorations!”

I sigh and walk over next to him, dropping to my knees and taking as firm a grip as I could at this awkward angle and begin to shove with all my might, slowly moving the three to four hundred pound slab inch by inch. After moving it halfway open, he orders me to halt, giddy at the smell of the musty old air rising from the crypt below us.

“Why didn’t you just break the damn seal so we could just go down? Now my back feels like it’s been run through a sausage grinder.”

“Call it vanity on my part, but once we’ve cataloged what’s in the primitive tomb, I’ll want to bring that seal with me, as a souvenir.” He said with a grin. “Don’t worry; you won’t have to be my porter for that one. Plus, if we discover something down there that could be called ‘The Mother of All Evil,’ I’ll be wanting that seal intact to cover it back up.”

“The Mother of All Evil?” I repeat, looking at the spry little dwarf of a man as he flipped between lenses on his glasses, peering into the darkness beneath the seal.

“Oh my, it looks like we’ll need some rope… perhaps a hundred or so feet of it.”

“What’s down there that’s so important that we need to go deeper into this crypt Professor?” I ask, curious to what he can see with his steam-powered headgear. He looks up at me, all of his additional lenses flipping back at once, rolling back into their separate compartments.

“What I’ve been looking for my boy, what I’ve been looking for.” He says with a grin, hopping from foot to foot gleefully at the discovery. Rolling my eyes, I climb back up to our campsite to retrieve the rope and the climbers gear. Hammering in three pitons (safety first!) I loop the knotted silk rope around them and tie as harness about myself, as well as a smaller backpack rigging that I planned on tucking the good Professor into, the twisted little bastard. He happily tucks himself into the makeshift backpack, jabbering on about how important this find was, and other such nonsense.

I just wanted to live through this now, like I said.

“Professor, mind if I take your Pistol, for the time being? I feel a little… unsafe walking around with just a sword.” I ask, trying not to sound too desperate in my plea.

“You’re a young strapping buck, Joshua,” He said from his safety harness on my back, patting my kidneys to reassure me. “A sword should be fine enough for you. I never lend anything, my boy, anything at all! That’s how you lose your favorite books or good pens, you know.”

I ignore the urge to just throw the little man down the hole and just make my final adjustments with the rope and the pitons, ensuring their driven deep into a solid section of stone and not just some piece of loose tile. Strange, there are several other holes in the stone similar to the ones I’m hammering in, almost a ring of them surrounding this pit. I pay them no mind as Professor Nickels urges me to move forward.

“The ropes seem fine Joshua, just fine! Now let’s get a move on!” Professor Nickels whined from my back.

“Hey, I’m just making sure this will work alright? Whatever’s been down there had been down there since before the pyramids, according to you, it can wait another five minutes.” I snap at him, still trying to figure out how to carry my sword (which is essentially the same size and weight as the good Professor) while shimmying down a rope into a darkened tomb. I reach in my side satchel and pull out a flare, cracking it against the stone floor to ignite the magnesium and sawdust held within it, the foot long rod now glowing as brightly as the sun.

“What’s that?” Professor Nickels asks, sounding somewhat worried. “Are we being attacked?”

I can feel him pulling his rifle closer to his chest and quickly snag the butt of it with my armpit. “No, I’m just throwing a flare down in the hole, relax.”

“What? Why on earth are you wasting a flare when I already told you it was perfectly safe?” He demands hotly, struggling to break my ironclad grip on his rifle.

“Because I can’t see in the dark as you can you old loon.” I curse and, before he can reply, tuck the flare into the rope about my waist (the fiery bright end up against a boiled strip of leather I used to protect my kidneys whenever I practice boxing in between classes) before jumping down into the hole, feeling the roughened silk rope slide through my leather clad glove as the two of us scream at our rapid descent.

I ditch my sword when I see the ground is coming too quickly and grab the rope with all my might, turning us into a swinging pendulum a good ten feet from the dusty ground. My hands sting from the sudden friction, and I thank God for the fact I’d brought along all of my fighters gear, just in case.

The palms of my gloves are forever ruined, but at least I had hands.

Professor Nickels undoes his rigging, dropping to the floor lightly with a fit of giggles. “Good God, what a rush! It’s a shame we can’t do it again, eh?”

I give him a sour look that I know he ignores and pull the flare from my belt, holding it up high to take a look at what this chamber held. It was built in the shape of a bell, the base much wide than the top, with flaring buttresses and smooth stone sloping up the walls. A surprising lack of murals for such a wide chamber, but as I approach one of the walls I can tell why: hundreds of slats running along the walls, perhaps a foot deep and a foot wide, are filled to the brim with human bones.

Professor Nickels wasn’t joking when he called this a tomb.

He hobbles up next to me, studying the architecture with glee as he jots down note after note in his small moleskin journal. “Very nice, very nice indeed!” He said happily. Looking around at the vast collection of bones. “This must be a room where those sacrificed were to be placed.”

“Wait, how do you know that?” I ask, looking around for any sign of writing or any indication that this was a religious room.

“Well the only entrance is nearly a hundred foot drop, and while you may not have noticed, the center stone directly beneath the hole is made of much more durable granite, polished to a fine shine.” He said with a carefree smile. “The bones were placed into the walls after the victim had been thrown down here. I would also like to note, just to keep you alert, that none of these skeletons, no matter how incomplete, seem to have suffered any major broken bones.”

“That means something was down here to, what, sort the dead?” I ask hesitantly, looking down at Professor Nickels.

“No, I believe this is just a hobby for whatever it is they trapped down here some few thousand years ago.” Professor Nickels replied while eyeing the varying states of decomposition between the bones. “Grab your sword Joshua… we might still have need of it.”
***

The entire room was indeed built like a bell, tapered at the top, with curving walls flowing downward in a wavy pattern that suggested the site was originally a naturally existing cavern that some primitive culture had chosen to alter. The entire room is roughly two hundred feet in diameter, with four pillars acting as support for the structure forming a square some fifty feet apart from each other, and seventy-five feet or so from the Charnel-lined walls. Everything was carved from smooth granite, with few actual etchings marring in the stone, indicating the tools used to fashion the tile, and the columns were metal, not stone.

Professor Nickels was ecstatic, having pulled an oil lantern from his prodigious satchel, creating a wreath of comforting light around us. He did this not for comfort, but to study the pillars, and the drawings ever so carefully carved into them. I chose to shoulder merely my sword and stay by the old man, watching for whatever could be down here that enjoyed sorting bones.

Scribbling furiously in his journal, Professor Nickels was blathering on about how this was supposed to be the antechamber to the “River of Continued Life,” which would either represent a belief in reincarnation or a belief in an underworld reachable only by waterway. Both of these beliefs existed in this area at a later date, the rocky hills and mountains of Iraq having played host to Roman and Hindu alike. But from what little Sanskrit and hieroglyphs I knew, damned if I could say they were similar to the writings on the pillars.

My flare, slowly dying out, left a large black mark on my leather bodice, and so I chose to use it as an exploratory tool, mostly by throwing it as far as I could.

Bouncing off the wall (and narrowly flying into a slot full of femurs), the flare drops down with a clatter and rolls for a few moments, illuminating a passage by just the barest shred of shadow. I immediately break out another flare, cracking it to life with a sizzling twist and hurl it into the gaping maw of the passage, its landing kicking up a small cloud of dust and grim as it rolls about, hissing and spitting sparks. For the briefest of moments, I thought I saw the flicker of movement within the flares fluorescent glow, but thankfully it was just a cloud of detritus that had been stirred up.

“Well now this is strange,” Professor Nickels says aloud, a phrase that I can safely say is never safe to hear when you are hundreds of feet beneath the ground. “It keeps referring to a symbol that could either mean ‘Keeper Of’ or ‘Keeper from’.”

“Those are two big distinctions Professor, and I’d rather not die fighting whatever the hell acts as a Keeper to this place, only to find your supposed ‘Mother of all Evils; down here.” I reply, eyeing the passage and the two sets of light keeping it illuminated. “Check another Pillar, see if they have a different reference, a different story.”

“That might be best, as now all I am finding are references to something that I shouldn’t be reading here of all places,” Professor Nickels said with a grunt, walking over to the next pillar, the one furthest from the passage. “The symbol… it can’t be what I think it means, as that would prove this to be a very dangerous place.”

“What symbol? Maybe I’ve seen it somewhere.” I offer, thinking it worth a shot. After all, I am an archaeologist in training.

He looks at me oddly as if not looking at the man he knew me to be but with a sudden, distrusting glint. “You’ve never studied at Miskatonic University, have you?”

“Miskatonic? No, I tried to get in but my application was rejected. Their standards are too high for me to attain for now. Why?” I ask, confused. What did the infamous Arkham University have to do with knowing an ancient symbol?

“Then thank whatever God you believe in that you can’t confirm that symbol for me.” Professor Nickels utters as he pushes past me and to the next column, dropping his bag to serve as a seat as he begins scribbling notes from the pillar, his translations slow and steady.

I chose to crack open another flare and follow along the walls to make certain I wasn’t missing any other passages, slowly running my hand along the centuries old stone as I go. Cool to the touch, yet oddly bereft of any dust, or soot. The passage has been full of such debris, but it seemed as if a maid had come through just before us, tidying everything up.

I make a discovery that nearly kills me as I stumble upon a sudden drop-off, just opposite of the passage. The wall opens and goes back about twenty feet, for about thirty feet of wall space. A small stone bridge, barely three feet in width, crosses over to an alcove on the other side, where the most bizarre statue I’ve ever seen sits atop a fountain.

A creature that looks aquatic by nature, with fins and frills sprouting from its three tentacle appendages that it is using to rise from the fountain, with carved from what I could only guess to be marble. The tentacles themselves reared up, showing off what any normal squid would have but instead revealing a row of carved eyes, each set with a small faded emerald. The tentacles connected with the main body, a bulbous center followed by a long serpentine tail that it was resting upon, like a cobra raised up.

The head of the beast was lowered and shaped like a bell, with a three-foot wide lamprey mouth slowly spewing water into the fountain beneath it. One great eye, shut for reasons I could never guess, sat atop the head, but from where I stood I could see spacing for the eyelids to move, probably if a lever were turned or something.

The rest of the fountain was nothing but a great piece of art depicting a city, embossed figures running away from the great beast while smaller versions of the creature seemed to be chasing them.

“I’d say early ninth century BC,” Professor Nickels says from my elbow, eyeing the disturbing piece as well.

“What the hell is that?” I ask, waving my flare at it. “I’ve never heard of any tales of giant sea beasts that resemble that.”

To say its name is said to garner its attention, but to ease this conversation, we shall call it by the title it earned: Darkness Given Hunger.” The Professor said with a sigh, staring at the statue with the look of a man lost in a terrible, terrible memory. “If this is this far south… what this is isn’t what I was looking for.”

“Well, you were looking for evidence of older civilizations Professor.”

“Not this kind, and certainly not here of all places.” Professor Nickels grouses, moving over to his pack in a sudden hurry.

From deep below our feet the entire complex quaked with the churning of some unwholesome howl, along with the groaning of the very stone around us. Whatever Nickels feared could be down here, it sounded as if it just now took note of us.

How that would play out, I couldn’t say.
***

Professor Nickels had decided to drop finally his mammoth backpack to the temple floor, a sudden cloud of dust bursting up from the floor in a choking miasma that left both of us coughing. Flipping over the seal of his bag, he rooted within its cavernous interior until he yanked free two cartridges of ammunition for his M1911, pulling back the safety and checking over the heavy pistol before tossing it to me.

“While the sword’s a nice touch, I’ve got a feeling that we’ll need a bit more arms than that to deal with what we’re going to find down here.” Professor Nickels says with a wry chuckle, carefully loading his Sharp’s rifle with the inch long bullets as he spoke. “A good deal of trouble should be heading our way if my guess is right.”

“Guess? What guess? And shouldn’t we be leaving if you think we’re going to be in trouble?” I ask, fumbling with the heavy pistol before getting a good feel for it, sheathing my sword in the crumbling scabbard as I watch him pull out small green orbs, a metallic sheen glinting from the flare’s bright glow.

Grenades? “What are we going to need those for? To cover our escape?”

“We stood in front of the statue lad, shed blood over the top soil of the creature’s tomb,” Professor Nickels calmly explains. “If I’d but known this was a sight where one of these blasted things dwelt, I’d never have of brought you here. For that, I’m deeply sorry.”

“What things? This Darkness Given Hunger thing?” I ask, growing slightly annoyed at how little the dear professor was sharing. I snap my head to the side, looking down the tunnel opposite of the statue leading down, down deeper into the cold womb of the earth. A distant echo was coming from the tunnel, a wet noise… like the sound of mud dropping from the hide of an elephant, plopping to the ground in great sickly splats.

“The Darkness Given Hunger is something put to sleep thousands of years ago by ancient man, and kept in a tomb under lock and key.” The Professor begins to explain, moving away from his pack with a surprising amount of speed, back straight for the first time that I’d ever seen. “Legend’s tell of creatures made from the blood and dreams of the slumbering beast, creatures that act as both its wardens and its servants.”

“Servants? What the hell are you talking about?”

“The creature and its ilk are as close to damned gods as mankind have ever seen! They ruled over the ancient civilizations as monstrous tyrants while others merely reveled in slaughtering entire empires, feasting on our flesh and drinking our blood!” Professor Nickels all but shouts, sliding the bolt of his rifle into place. “We’re going to need to do something about this… an unholy site like this must be sealed up, locked away from people who would stumble blindly into it.”

“So the grenades?” I ask, watching as he slings a smaller pack (pulled from his larger one) over his shoulder, filling it with the small cylindrical grenades and sticks of dynamite. “And the dynamite?”

“We’re going deeper, deep enough to where the tunnel is narrow and beneath several tons of earth.” The good professor replied, shouldering his rifle. “And then we’re going to coax out some of these creatures out and kill them so I can have a look at them before blowing this place back to the bowels of Hell where it belongs.”

A horrid, gurgling screech echoes from the depths of the tunnel before us, a scrabbling of steel upon stone as… something is coming up from the unknown. “Here comes the first wave… this should tell us what we’re dealing with.”

I look at him like he’s a madman (which isn’t unusual) before moving behind a pillar, putting my back to the cool stone as I pull a new flare from my satchel, cracking it to life before spinning around the pillar and throwing it into the dimly lit tunnel, my previous flare having begun to peter out.

The thrown flare collides solidly with a wet slap against the chest if you could call it that, of unholy terror torn from the brainchild of Dr. Seuss and Escher. Two legs rising from the top of the creature’s body, multiple joints visible beneath the gelatinous skin moving in tandem as the creature shuffles awkwardly towards us, my flare seemingly stuck to its hide by viscous ooze seeping from its pores.

The main torso is nothing but a lone, unblinking eye and a series of snake-like tentacles, all ending in three pronged mouths that writhe and hiss. Its feet are boneless, shapeless blobs of protoplasm that it used to balance upon, merely sliding along the ground with its leg movements rather than lifting its feet like any other creature would. The crackling flare stuck just above its eye created a corona of light that illuminated the rest of the hall, revealing another three such creatures shambling up the hall towards us.

Professor Nickels breaks me from my horrified stupor with the loud crack of his rifle, echoing across the chamber as the high caliber round lances through the gelatinous hide of the first creature, passing through it and through another still, all without slowing them down. Cursing, he fires two more shots, blasting away large globs of their green flesh, spattering it against the walls around them as he begins firing at their legs.

But still they push on, onward into the chamber, their tentacles stretched out towards us hissing, hissing in a language that seemed too alien for me to understand, yet I understood all too well. Words of pain and suffering, of my eternal agony and of their eternal suffering flitted through my mind, images of men being torn asunder by armies of these creatures, of how the oceans would grow dark with their passing, consuming anything and everything in their path.

And of how they dreamed of doing it again.

“Focus damn it!” Professor Nickels shouts at me, reloading his Sharps as quickly as his arthritic hands can. “They get in your mind unless you focus!”

Seeing what little effect his bullets seemed to have on these gelatinous horrors before us, I move from behind the pillar, focusing on the creature with the smoldering flare charring it’s quivering mass. I fire three rounds as I calmly walk up to it, one going wide and striking the floor a few yards behind it, but the other two piercing deep into the creatures eye, a spray of writhing maggots erupting from the two holes made over the sensitive flesh. The snake-like tentacles screech in agony, growing louder in pitch as I lunge forward with my blade, hacking into the writhing mass with vigor I never knew I possessed.

The multiple maws all shriek with fury untold as I hack and tear them away from the creature’s bobbing form, firing bullets into the center of its bulbous, now deflated, eye as I slash and jab away at its tentacles as if they were mere weeds. Prof. Nickels, watching the effect of shooting them in the eye, unloads a single round into the remaining threes’ large eyes, the floor now smeared with trampled maggots and green blood.

It takes me but a moment to realize, as I’m rending into the beast, that I’m slowly growing taller than it. Looking down, I see several of the severed tendrils, now mawless but still quite flexible, wrapped around my legs and waist, lifting me high into the air above it. Confused, I drop my gun and grip my sword tightly with both hands, swinging in wide arcs to tear away the strands holding me aloft.

With mounting horror and a moment of realization, I saw the bones within the gelatinous beast, the ones that seemed to be there to grant the beast legs and a torso, begin to realign within the central mass of the blob.

Realigning into a humanoid shape.

The creature let loose a horrid squelching noise as the skeletal remains of what was once a living, breathing man burst from the gelatinous walking tomb, sharpened fingers curled into talons as it lashes out, tearing four wide strips in my jerkin with its razor sharp talons. A wet, hollow laughter fills the corridor as the maggots still spewing from the central eye began to swarm back into the creature’s feet, swimming through their host to slowly writhe and contort over the skeletal torso sticking out of the top of the stoop creature.

“Fleshlings… for the master…” The skeleton rasps with a dark voice, the maggots swarming over him, flattening out until they were bursting from the pressure to form a semi-solid paste over the skeletons body. The other three were doing the same, skeletons climbing out of the gelatinous beasts as the writhing streams of maggots fueled a horrid transformation granting them a taut skin coat as pale as the moon. “All will kneel… within his shadow…”

“Kneel to this!” I shout swinging my blade in a heavy-handed arc down into the fragile looking frame as it was climbing from its roost.

Clang!

I stare in shock as the skeleton, now more of a pasty-colored emaciated monster, writhing maggots peeking out from its empty eye sockets, stands there with both hands held high, a thin staff of green slime having jutted out from the quivering mass to block my strike, it’s hardness now equal to that of my ancient blade. As the laughing dead takes a firm grip of the staff, a wicked curved blade grows from the end of it, turning the staff into a scythe. A sickening noise akin to vomit hitting the floor echoes across the chamber as my foe tears his new weapon from his former host, his comrades creating the same weapons from their symbiotic graves.

“The Darkness… feeds… needs to awaken…” The skeletal creature rasps, limping forward towards me, dragging its heavy ended weapon along the stone floor beside it, the scratching of iron on stone grating in my ears. “Bleed… bleed for Qas!”

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Professor Nickels quickly begins to reload his rifle as his three shots blast away great chunks of my foes body, rending off an arm at the shoulder socket and blowing away its left lower leg from the knee down.

Undaunted, two of the other undead warriors (the third stumbling from the Professors second shot, which blew away a good portion of its upper body), scythes raised high in the air with screams on their lipless mouths’. I pull my ancient saber back, stepping to the side as a heavy ended scythe came crashing down into the stone with a heavy cracking noise. Before the creature could pull back, I swing my blade in imitation of the abominations maneuver, severing its arms at their elbows, the skeletal forearms still wriggling on the shaft of the scythe wedged into the stone floor.

“Qas… hungers for yo-urk!” The creature hisses at me before I ram the full length of my blade into its skull, the hilt shattering its aged teeth with a sickening crunch. Putting a boot to the creatures face, I hop to the left to put the wriggling undead between me and his last dangerous friend and kick him free from my blade, sending the armless body tumbling into its colleague, who mercilessly twirls its weapon and bisects its allies broken form.

“Flesh… blood… spirit…” The creature hisses as it advances on me, holding the deadly curved blade high before it, a guard flawless against anything I can do.

Bang!

… but not anything Professor Nickels can do. His rifle shot blasts the last skeletons head into disjointed fragments, a rancid green slime exploding outward from the sudden implosion caused by the .50 caliber round. The body stumbles for a moment before the eldritch energies holding it together collapse, the skeletal being falling to pieces as its composite bones are reduced to ash and grit.

The various scythes that the undead abominations had been wielding, as well as their pasty flesh that was drawn taut over their emaciated frames, began to bubble and dissolve as their evil spirits finally lose the battle to remain coherent.

“Good work,” Nickels says as he walks up behind me, reloading his rifle. He scoops up his pistol from the ground and holsters it again, giving me a wary eye. “That sword of yours better pack a wallop, because they confirmed what I feared was down here.”

“You mean…?”

“Darkness Given Hunger,” He interrupts, looking at me pointedly. “Never say his name, or his eye will be cast upon you. Even now he sleeps… hopefully.”

“Than what were those?” I ask, pointing my sword at the bubbling green muck at my feet.

“I’m no expert on the Elder Gods, but those were clearly fractured pieces of the Darkness that serve as guardians for him.” Professor Nickels says as he kneels by one of the steaming puddles, pulling a flask and a spoon from his satchel and ladling in a fair amount of the muck. “Each God has beings that serve them, which are a part of them. The followers of the Christian God call them Angels, the followers of the Yellow King have the Byakhee. If I recall, Darkness Given Hunger has the Dreamless Nightmares, or Quan-gao.”

“Yeah, I can see where they’d get that name.” I say, toeing one of the puddles with my boot. “That sounds somewhat Asiatic in nature.”

“That’s because it is,” Professor Nickels replied from his place on the goo slathered ground. “The Darkness Given Hunger was originally sealed by the Uruk, the Sumerians. How do you think they overcame the vast Ubaid empire history claims they toppled?

“I’ve never thought about it.” I admit, wincing as the Professor pulls a slicked shard of bone from the quivering mass.

“Nobody ever does. Every time a great empire fell, it was because one of these… these things awoke or arrived from beyond time and space, and undid all that man had labored so many years to create. The Sumerians buried this creature after it gorged itself upon their civilization, merely renaming themselves afterward to the Sumerians thanks to the hero who led the battles against the Quan-gao.”

“So why didn’t the Sumerians deal with all of the Quan-gao when they had the chance?” I ask, looking at the bubbling remains of the foul beasts.

“Each man slain in the Darkness’s name, or under his gaze, are pulled into his dreams and made into one of the beasts we just fought.” Professor Nickels says with a distinct shudder. “What you just did was release the souls of three men or women that had spoken his name and died by the hand of one of his agents.”

“Oh… that’s disheartening. And we’re going to go deeper into the tunnels where these things came from?” I ask a tad incredulously, pulling a pit of cloth free from my ruined shirt and wiping away the gunk from my blade.

“Just to blow the narrowest point of the tunnel closed, so that none of this can ever surface. If the Darkness awakens, the world as we know it could fade into a living nightmare.”

“Well if the world is at stake,” I say with a sigh, looking around the tunnel in search of something to plunder. “I’m going to need a shield. I can’t use a gun to save my life.”

“I know,” Professor Nickels said with a smile as he cracked his rifle into the ready position, “I saw. You do well with a blade, and if my eyes don’t deceive me, there’s a round shield just under that debris over there.”

Looking to where he was pointing, I indeed see a battered iron round shield, one that would have been used by virtually a dozen civilizations that had ruled over this area in the last thousand years, pinned beneath a large slab from the mosaic. Moving over, I wedge my blade into a crack in the detritus and heave my weight forward, breaking away the crumbling remains pinning my new prize to the ground.

Covered in verdigris and dents, the leather arm straps within the shield are surprisingly sound, with very little rot to them that I can see. The dented shields surface bears a wolf’s head symbol, perhaps linking it to one of the numerous barbarian tribes that had ravaged the lands above over the past thousand years.

How it got down here when it took the Professor and me over three days of spelunking is beyond me, but I’m thankful for it. I quickly tie the shield off on my left arm, freeing the hand to hold a flare.

While I busy myself with that, the Professor has been busy studying the remaining sections of mosaic with intense scrutiny, jotting down notes in his ever-present journal. “A group of people native to this land dedicated their entire civilization to worshiping the Darkness,” he says aloud as I’m adjusting the straps, “according to this for over five hundred years they lived in the caverns above, building this great complex to house the ancient horror while it lay dormant. Of course, they revered it as a God… and according to this it gave them blessings in return.”

“How? It’s asleep, right?”

The Professor snorts and shoots me a derisive glare. “A being like this is never fully asleep, nor fully awake. It neither lives nor is dead, it just is. Those ghouls up top we encountered were the caretakers of these sacred grounds, blessed with eternal life to serve better their God.”

“Oh…” And we’d killed them. “Then we better hurry, or the rest of them will notice those guards are missing and come looking for us.”

The Professor remains silent as he finished the mosaic, clearing his throat every few moments as he had to stoop to the pieces I had broken away to get a clearer view of what the pictographs read. From his face, they weren’t anything pleasant.

“Anything else I should know about?” I ask as I tighten the last arm brace over my bicep.

“Just that the Darkness slumbers so long as it is regularly fed warriors. If it goes too long without eating, it sends out the Quan-gao. If it goes even longer than it wakes up.”

“Lovely,” I grumble, adjusting my satchel along my hip to have a better sense of balance in the inevitable case of having another fight, “Well then let’s hurry and blow the tunnel closed so that it can’t get out.”
***

I move deeper down the dank tunnel, trying to ignore the saccharine scent of the dead that seems to pervade through the porous stone tunnel we’d begun descending about half an hour ago. The Professor has been unusually quiet as I move ahead of him, my tarnished shield and gleaming sword glinting softly in the light of the flare the good professor has dangled from an extended wooden rod from his satchel, held in place by the straps of his backpack and creating a peaceful glow that chased away the overwhelming gloom of the strange tunnels design.

“It’s like the stone wasn’t carved,” I muse as I slowly make my way down the smooth slope, the tunnel walls, and floor slick with the same green slime the Quan-gao had been comprised of.

“It wasn’t,” Professor Nickels said with authority, pulling a scroll from his side satchel as he spoke. “The Quan-gao are formed primarily of a weak mineral acid, something akin to Boric acid I believe, which allows the slumbering Darkness to guide his guardians in creating new tunnels for it to travel should it ever awaken.”

“Lovely,” I deadpan; slowly learning that the more I heard of this forgotten Elder God, the more I wished it remained forgotten.

“Look! Just up ahead, it looks like an opening!” The Professor says, a gnarled hand grasping my shoulder, shaking me excitedly. “Let’s go, we have much to do!”

“Shouldn’t we just set the charges here and blow the cavern closed?” I ask somewhat hesitantly as the good professor shuffles ahead of me. He shakes his head, sputtering on excitedly.

“No no no, that just won’t do! What if there are other tunnels?” He asked without looking back. “We need to ensure that we’re sealing the Darkness away for good, not just closing one of its many doors.”

I sigh at his usual impeccable logic, moving onward past his shuffling form to look to the edge of the darkened chamber, a sense of vertigo overcoming me as I stare into the vacuous void before me. A few moments later the dangling flare hanging above my diminutive professor allow me a greater chance to peer into the cavernous hollow, great pillars of stone lining the walls to hold the ceiling too high to see aloft. The floor of the cavern, a mere thirty feet from the tunnel they stood in, bubbled with darkened slime, the ooze shifting and swirling, moving like the slimy fried eggs, pushing and pulling against one another in an endless struggle for dominance.

“Well… this sure slows things down.” I say with a sigh, looking at my crazy Professor for an answer, one that he seems to have already ready as he is rooting through his satchel. The toothless man gives a cry of glee as he pulls a tightly wound orange rectangle from his bag, shoving it into my hands as he fishes out a pair of collapsible oars.

“You can’t be serious… we came to a dig in the desert, and you have an inflatable raft?” I nearly shout before he shushes me, looking across the cavern with concern. “What?”

“Nothing… I… I just don’t want to alert anything to our position.” Professor Nickels says, scratching at his neck idly as he set to extending the oars. “Roll out some rope and some pitons so we can have a safe drop down onto those waters, I want to make sure we don’t have anything else to worry about.”

“Are you serious?” I cry, pointing my sword out into the darkness, a low groan echoing through the cavern, waves of slime splashing against the rocks beneath us as if something titanic had just breached the surface of the small sea. “This right here is a big thing to worry about!”

“Now my young warrior, you have no reason to worry. Between your blade and shield and my gun, we’ll be fine.” Professor Nickels says with a smile as he slides the last piece of the oar into position. “I know you’re worried, but you must ask yourself: are you prepared to defend humanity from the otherworldly evil that lurks here, even if it may cost you your life?”

Taken aback by the strange question, I stare at my Professor with a measure of caution. “Well… of course, I mean… who wouldn’t be willing to save humanity?”

Professor Nickels serious demeanor melts away to his normally cheerful expression. “Well then, get to it! We need to be down there seeing what we need to do, not standing about like a couple of bumps on a log!”

***

After we’d scaled the slick wall to the crashing waves of darkened slime beneath us, the good Professor had pulled the ripcord on the raft, unfurling the great orange life raft in an awkward moment of sheer panic as the great boat almost overtook us and comedy as we fell from our tenuous grip on sanity and into the raft, the waves rocking us back and forth as Professor Nickels fastened the collapsible oars to the raft, moving to the helm of our teetering vessel and adjusting his glasses, peering off into the darkness.

“Full steam ahead my boy!” He says with a hearty chuckle, nodding to the oars as he moved past me towards the rudder. “It’ll take more than these withered old bones are capable of to battle these raging waters.”

“That is not water…” I grumble as a jellied glob splashes over the side, seemingly trying to stretch out in search of open skin. Taking the oars, I begin rowing as best I can against the swirling currents of the underground sea as Professor Nickels steers us along. Several times my oars slide between greasy ovoid’s, pushing them apart.

We drift for what feels like hours as my arms go numb from the strain of battling the turbulent currents, sweat pouring from my lean frame in buckets as I desperately tried to keep us on the Professors desired course. The entire time he praises me, telling me we were almost there, that we were only a few dozen yards from it.

Gasping for breath, I never thought to ask what it was.

Just as I felt my arms giving out from exhaustion, I was lucky enough to see the wicked grin the cracked across my scholarly advisers face as he lunges across the raft with his rifle held firmly between his white-knuckled hands, the butt of the gun making a shuddering snap as he beat me across my brow with the butt of the gun, dropping me back from the force of the blow, my vision swimming as I struggle to understand what had just happened.

I struggle even further when he brings the butt of the rifle down onto my face, breaking my nose and shattering my front teeth in a sickening crunch, tears streaming from my eyes as I watched him slowly pull the weapon from my face, a fractured piece of one of my front incisors sticking to the butt by a thin coating of my blood. He steps over me, shucking off his heavy satchel onto my chest, I suppose to pin me in case I had any fight left within me, as he moves to stand at the bow of our miniature raft, hands held high overhead.

“Qas!” He intones, a low moan akin to the call of a whale rising up from beneath us as he lowers his arms once more, jumping from the raft and landing on something hard just out of my sight… something made of stone? “I’ve brought you the blood of a tested warrior, one who will allow you to slumber still. Come to your servant and grant me my boon and I will render unto you the supple flesh of the young and the brave!”

This can’t be good. I struggle to move the massive pack off of me, but with between my swimming vision and my numb arms I can only flail uselessly as he hops back onto the raft with the dexterity of a man a tenth his age, rolling the bag off of me and hoisting me up onto his shoulder.

Coughing up blood and a few teeth, I look at him through the one eye that can see. “No expert, eh?” I laugh, hacking up a lungful of blood onto the back of his khaki jacket. He merely pats my aching back with a gnarled hand as he jumps from the raft, landing on a large stained stone, rounded along the edges, before dumping me onto the ground with the care of a man dropping a bag of gravel.

“What can I say boy,” He says with a smile and a genial shrug, “I’m a man who figured out a way to stay young forever while keeping mankind safe from the things that go bump in the night. I’m a bloody hero!”

As he’s saying these rivulets of blackened slime are trailing up along ridges carved into the stone, seeping and searching for my spilled blood. I wince as I feel, and hear, the caustic hiss of the ooze lashing to my leg, and then my arm, pulling me taut along the rock. I let out a wail of agony as the slime begins to suffuse over my body, eating away at my clothes and skin with a sound akin to the sizzling of a slab of meat on a grill. Just as my head begins to submerge beneath the malevolent muck, I see Professor Nickels leap back to the raft, my sword in his hand, calling out to me over his shoulder.

“Don’t worry m’ boy!” He shouts cheerfully as he begins to row away, leaving me to my horrid demise. “You’ll see me again in another fifty years!”

Credit To – Nicholas Paschall

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.9/10 (175 votes cast)