Fear Always Finds You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear always finds me.
Credit To – Felix A.

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The Darrow Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless ‘em for savin’ my unworthy ass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was sober now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.

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

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

The doorknob rattled near outta its bolts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Harley’s dead already.

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

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

Credit To -Mike MacDee

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One Apiece

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

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

“It’s the ghosts,” murmured Wesley.

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

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

“Peterson!”

“Jesus Christ!”

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

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

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

“You found one?”

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

“It’s the little girl.”

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

“Where’s Wesley?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They reluctantly returned wreckage.

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

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

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

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

Credit To – Keenan Evans

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Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on, there’s got to be something.

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

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

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

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

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

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Marked for Death

July 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Bryn was not a squeamish girl, but this was really pushing it.
“Okay, you want me to do what?”
Jasmine smirked. “I want you to go in there and take pictures.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder and continued. “My parents would freak out if they caught me coming home looking like you do every day. But yours wouldn’t give a crap about it.”
“But the old asylum? Really? It was quarantined for a reason,” Bryn said.
“Well, if you don’t want to do it, I can always just tell everyone that you tried to beat me up,” Jasmine said, that annoying twinkle in her eyes. She thought she knew everything.
Bryn sighed. It wasn’t true, of course, but everyone would believe Jasmine. She had been defeated. Jasmine would always do anything to get her way. “So why exactly do you need pictures?”
Jasmine adjusted her flashy red glasses. “Because I want to shoot a video on the occult there, and I need to know if it’s a good set.”
“Then do it yourself!”
Jasmine handed her a cheap digital camera. “I already explained why I can’t. So go there tonight and let that sucker snap, ‘kay?”
“But what about the disease?” Bryn asked.
“Oh, don’t be such a pathetic wimp. The disease will obviously be dead by now.”

Bryn trudged toward the asylum, camera in hand.
Back in whatever year, a patient who came to the asylum carried a deadly disease with them. The doctors and nurses had filed reports about the strange black markings found on the necks of each sick patient. The disease had affected the other patients, and the asylum ended up having to be quarantined because it was so bad. They meant to burn down the asylum once all the patients were dead (things were different back then), but it was never gotten around to. Now everyone in town considered it haunted, although the patients were presumed dead.
Bryn stopped in front of the old asylum. Dust seemed to hang in the air, above the browning grass choked with weeds. A heavy feeling of dread lingered around the building. It was nightfall. The moon shone eerily through a dense mist of wispy clouds.
She scowled at the asylum, took a shuddering breath and entered.
Inside was a thick coating of dust on every surface. There were holes in the roof where the moon shone through; there were no working lights and everything was colored in monochrome.
She struggled not to sneeze. She had a strange feeling that something bad would happen if she did. She brought the camera up and pressed down on the shutter button. A sudden and frightening wave of light swept the room. She continued like this as she made her way through the rooms.
Oh, that’s strange. I thought there would at least be some traces of the patients.
Bryn came to a heavy wooden door, unbolted. She opened it cautiously to find a dusty staircase leading down into the dark. She heard a strange dripping sound.
Jasmine can explore the stupid basement herself. I’m done.
Bryn worked her way back to the door.
She couldn’t open it. She frowned and tried again, but was still unsuccessful. Bryn backed up. The door was locked.
I’m screwed. I’m really, truly screwed.
She heard the dripping sound, louder this time. Something made a crash. Bryn ran to the basement, which she had stupidly left open, and fell down the stairs. She lifted her head, only to see the door close with a finalized thud. She was trapped.
Bryn stood up and spat her hair out of her mouth, trying to stay calm.
It’s probably just a prank – a stupid one, at that. That door will open in the morning and there’ll just be a bunch of obnoxious teenagers laughing at me…right?
Bryn studied her surroundings apprehensively. She could see no more than a few feet in front of her, and like the room above, everything was coated in dust. She took a few steps forward, arms outstretched to feel a cold surface, the opposite wall. Bryn frowned. It was a…mirror? roughly as big as a doorway. She peered at the glassy surface, but saw no reflection.
Something scuttled behind her and Bryn turned, clutching her camera defensively. There was nothing there so she turned back to face the mirror and immediately jumped back, a scream escaping her throat.
A man stood in the mirror, grinning eerily. His blank eyes were sunken into the waxy, translucent skin stretched across his face. Thin purple veins bulged across his bone-white scalp in place of hair, and Bryn could see a small black mark on his neck.
Bryn shrieked and hurled her camera at the mirror. It shattered on contact, shards sailing through the air and landing on the floor in a flurry of clinking noises. Her hand curled around a particularly large piece of the broken mirror and she rose, ready to stab him–it, but it was unnecessary. The man was gone.
Bryn walked shakily backwards to the mirror-less wall behind her and held the shard out from her quivering body.
But she let a small laugh out. It was just a mirror, she thought. I must have been hallucinating. Just because this asylum is unnerving doesn’t mean there is anyone lurking in the shadows or mirrors, for God’s sake. See, look, it’s just a harmless mirror.
Bryn walked over to the shards and examined them in the dim light that seeped in through the cracks in the wooden door that had sealed her in to the basement.
In one moment, she realized the mirror shards were glass. There was not a doorway-sized mirror–there was a glass door–and it was broken. She gasped, and the second she made a sound, a bony, moist hand bulging with thin, protruding veins reached out the doorway.
She screamed as she was dragged into the room beyond.
“Get away from me!” Bryn sprinted down the next hall, the man close behind. He seemed to have never-ending stamina. Then again, he wasn’t necessarily running–she didn’t know what to classify it as. He was simply there in a flash, chasing after her.
Bryn, on the other hand, was starting to slow down against her will. Sweat rolled down her face, despite the cool temperature of the air, and her breaths came in short, choppy bursts. Her eyes widened as she saw something at the end of the hall–a door? She gritted her teeth and pushed herself forward, yanking on the doorknob and throwing herself inside before closing and locking it as fast as she could.
Bryn turned around, leaning on the locked door for support. She breathed a sigh of relief. Today, she thought, she wouldn’t die.
And then she saw it.
From the dark shadows in the corner came what Bryn at first thought was a huge bug. But then she realized it was a patient, with no legs. One eye hung from its socket by a thin tendon, the other socket empty, exposing thin, stretched yellow skin. It dragged itself toward Bryn with its arms, making a grotesque scraping noise. From its mouth issued a terrifying, inhuman screech like nails on a chalkboard.
“No food,” it rasped quietly, “but now there is a feast…”
It came closer to Bryn, exposing four rows of sharp blackening teeth.
Bryn was trapped between two killers.
It came closer and closer, a trail of dark blood behind it. The blood was everywhere–on the walls, the floor, even the ceiling. A heavy stench of death and rotten things permeated the air in the room. Bryn had to restrain herself from screaming bloody murder as the thing’s malformed face stretched into a bone-chilling smile. She backed up slowly, suddenly hitting something solid–the wall.
NO! NONONONONONONONONONO! I’M GOING TO DIE!
Her bag bumped against the wall and something fell out, glinting silver. A small flashlight, the kind a person would put on a keychain. A idea passed through her brain. Light. This thing had probably been living down here in the dark for who-knew-how-long, so light would hurt it, right?
Bryn quickly crouched down, her fingers scrabbling across the floor to find the flashlight. She glanced back and forth nervously, from the floor to the thing, as she searched, the creature growing ever closer with slow, even movements. It wasn’t even trying to hurry, like it knew that Bryn was trapped and doomed to become its prey.
No…where IS it?! Bryn’s panic grew worse with each second. The light. The light. She had to find the light.
She heard a soft hissing sort of noise behind her, and realized that the thing was laughing. Bryn turned to see the legless patient’s face inches from her own. She struggled to hold in her scream as the thing’s eye, dangling down from its face, bobbed up and down. She heard its erratic breathing. Its breath was disgusting.
Bryn backed into the wall as much as she could, knowing that she was going to die no matter what. Something gleamed in the darkness over the thing’s shoulder. The flashlight. If she could get ahold of it somehow…
Stay alive. That was her main priority right now. So she had to do this, for her life.
Bryn winced slightly, gritted her teeth, and yanked on the thin cord of flesh holding the monster’s remaining eye in.
It shrieked like a banshee, hands reaching up to the empty socket and Bryn dashed past it to grab the flashlight. Not caring about whether or not it would still do anything to the creature without its eye, not caring about anything but survival, she flicked it on and pointed it towards the thing.
The reaction was instantaneous. It let out a long, tortured screech as its skin bubbled up and its face seemed to melt. Bryn continued to hold the thing in the deadly glare of the light until it collapsed in a pool of blood and half-melted flesh, letting out a final shriek before going still.
Now she just had to find a way out. Maybe the man was gone from the door. She turned just as a deafening knock rang out. Nope. Another knock came. And another. They grew louder and closer together, until Bryn was withstanding awful pounding noises echoing all around the chamber. She knew that the door wouldn’t last much longer. Bryn had to find a hiding place–fast.
She desperately looked around the room, searching for something, anything that could possibly hide her. The only possible hiding spot was the dark corner of the room that the thing had come from, but that would be far too obvious. She’d be found right away. But she could always…Bryn pursed her lips as the pounding continued.

The man came bursting through the door, grinning madly. The creepy smile melted off of his face, however, when he did not see Bryn. He flashed over to the dark corner, the spindly fingers of his hand curling into a fist and punching the wall, causing the stone to crack. He emitted an inhuman growling noise in rage and passed right through the wall to search for the girl.
Bryn slowly eased herself out of the remains of the thing and stood. There was blood and other things she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the names of dripping from her. Well, camouflage. She had not wanted at all to hide inside the thing’s corpse, but it was all for survival, right?
Bryn fought back hot tears welling up in her eyes. She was alive, and that was all that mattered.
Bryn knew she had to get out of the basement. She opened the door as quietly as she could. There was nothing in the dark hall. The night had gotten darker and there was barely any light. Bryn made her way through the hall based solely on sound. From one side of her came an eerie song. The notes seemed to settle in her mouth and nose and suffocate her. So she covered her ears and felt for the closest door with one hand. Bryn’s hand rested on a door handle and she silently slipped into the room. The music had stopped, but she was in the room it had come from.
There was a beautiful glossy white grand piano in the center of the room. She felt an unearthly pull towards the piano. Bryn had never played one a day in her life, but she had to play it. The minute her hands stroked the keys a beautiful tune started. But soon it morphed into the painful song she had listened to in the hall.
Bryn tried to cover her ears but something was forcing her to continue playing. As the song got worse and Bryn started to panic, a knife was at her throat and something dragged her off the bench, singing the terrible song in her ear. The blade was cold against her throat, and Bryn saw a small hand materialize on the handle from the corner of her eye. The creepy singing in her ear was interrupted by a soft, girlish giggle.
“You shouldn’t touch my piano, you know? It’ll taint it…”
Bryn nervously took in a breath. “Can you take the knife away from my throat? You could hurt me…” She figured by the girl’s voice that she was young.
“Ohhh…I wouldn’t want that…”
Bryn slowly exhaled. The girl probably wouldn’t hurt her…
“I mean, I want you to die, you know?”
No. She was NOT dying now, not after running from a creepy man and hiding in a half-melted corpse. “Maybe we can work this out…”
The knife pressed deeper into her throat.
“A-A CONTEST!”
The knife paused. “Go on…”
“We’ll both play the piano…whoever’s playing is better will win. If I win, I get to leave, but if you win, you…you can kill me.”
The blade came away from her throat. Bryn turned cautiously to see a young girl in a lacy, old-fashioned dress. There was an ethereal quality to her, however, her skin being completely white, and Bryn had the feeling she wasn’t exactly alive. The girl smiled. “I love games! Let’s play! I’ll go first!”
Bryn nodded. Perfect. The girl placed the knife on the edge of the piano and smoothed her skirts, sitting on the bench. She lifted her white hands to the equally white keys and began to play.
The music washed over the room, flowing with a graceful, elegant tune. It sounded happy and light, but Bryn could sense a tinge of melancholy as the girl swayed with the music. At last the song ended, leaving a sense of peace and sadness lingering in the room. The girl turned excitedly back towards Bryn. “So? How was tha-”
She was cut short as Bryn forced her frail form forward, then released the top of the piano to slam down on her head with a sickening crunch. It cut straight through a now apparent black mark on her neck. Bryn lifted the knife from the piano and drove it through the girl’s chest from behind for good measure as sticky blood leaked out from the piano, dripping onto the keys and staining the pure white a deep red.
Bryn left the room, the piano’s sheet music placed on the dead girl’s back with the knife gone and the words “YOU LOST” written in blood over the notes.
Bryn walked calmly down the hall, clutching the knife. Well, it’s way too late to go back now, and this creepy asylum probably won’t even let me. I guess the only thing to do is go further in.
So Bryn continued and the hall seemed to go further down than it had originally appeared. The darkness seemed to be closing in on her as she set her gaze forward to see a door at the end of the hall. She reached out to place her hand on the doorknob, only to hear a sound and whirl around to face…
“Jasmine?”
The small but persuasive girl was standing there in the middle of the hall, red glasses shining in the little light there was. Bryn held her knife in front of her, ready to strike, but Jasmine backed away slightly. Bryn scowled at her.
“What are you doing here?”
Jasmine said, “It’s none of your business. I wanted to come in. You were being too slow.”
“How did you get down here?” Bryn demanded.
Jasmine shifted her weight onto her other foot nervously. “It’s still none of your business. Let’s just go.” Jasmine marched past Bryn, grabbed her wrist, opened the door and pulled Bryn against her will into the room. When they were in, the door disappeared to leave behind a solid concrete wall.
Drip.
Drip.
Drip.
Jasmine squeaked and pressed herself up against the aforementioned wall. “What is that?”
Bryn looked up and saw what was freaking out Jasmine. The entire room was covered in spikes, save for the floor and the wall Jasmine was clinging to like a lifeline. A ways up on the wall, about four feet up, were several bodies skewered on these shining iron spikes. The spikes had reached all the way through their torsos, and their entrails were hanging out, swinging in the slight draft. Every few second a small drop of crimson blood would fall from the bodies and land in a rapidly growing pool in the floor.
Jasmine seemed to be trying to fuse herself with the wall. “W-what do w-we do?”
Bryn didn’t even bother to look at her. “You wanted to come in here, Jasmine.”
Then a strange scraping sound rang through the room. The spiked walls closed in on them slightly, as Jasmine shrieked like a very unhelpful banshee. Bryn’s eyes widened slightly and she got into a defensive stance, knuckles white against clenched knife, as if thinking that would help.
The scraping noise continued as the walls crept up on them, the entrails of the long-dead corpses swinging jerkily. Jasmine was busy having a hysterical meltdown as Bryn examined the pool of blood on the floor. A small wooden corner of something peeked out from underneath it.
Could it be…?
Bryn kicked some of the blood out of the way and her suspicions were confirmed.
A trapdoor! Bryn tugged on the rusty metal ring holding it in place and managed to yank it partly open. Jasmine squealed like a pig and rushed to the trapdoor, pushing Bryn out of the way. Bryn quickly studied the spikes on the wall. There was only enough time for one person to go down the trapdoor before the spikes impaled them, too. So Bryn stabbed her knife through Jasmine’s stomach and hurried down the trapdoor, turning to see black sand rushing out of Jasmine’s wound. Jasmine had not been real.
Bryn fell through the dark and landed in something soft, followed by a spattering of blood and a pair of cracked red glasses. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Bryn could make out a reddish tint all around her. Where was she?
She tested the floor with her foot and found it to be spongy and soft. The chamber was suddenly shaken by what seemed like a pulse. She reached out warily and her fingers met a series of slimy cords reaching from floor to ceiling. Bryn gritted her teeth and brought her knife through them. Whatever this room was, she wanted to get out.
She continued to cut through the slimy cords, searching for a source of light until finally she broke through the last of them and burst out into yet another hallway. A pair of vast double doors stood before her. She cautiously pushed them open and opened. She heard a strange sound from the ceiling. Bryn stopped dead and looked up, only to be smacked backwards by something very solid.
Bryn dusted herself off and stood up. She looked to what had hit her, and tried to choke back a scream. It was her, hanged from the ceiling. The body was swinging back and forth like a morbid unmanned marionette, and that wasn’t all. All down the hall were torture devices of every kind imaginable, each one featuring her as its victim.
Bryn took a deep breath and took one step down the hall, trying her best not to look on either side. She heard no screaming. All of her doppelgangers were eerily silent. Every so often Bryn would be showered with blood or chunks of unknown substances.
Bryn gathered her courage and sprinted down the hall to another door. But it wasn’t a door. It was a mirror. Bryn finally managed to force herself to look back but the door had disappeared. On a whim, Bryn stuck her hand tentatively out to the mirror. It went through, so Bryn tightened her grip on the piano girl’s bloodied knife and walked straight through it.
Inside the mirror, it was completely silent, even more so than the hall of torture devices. Bryn turned in a slow circle and saw herself reflected on every surface. She recoiled slightly as a small black mark on her neck came into view. Bryn closed her eyes. It’s not real, it’s just an illusion.
“It’s not real,” she repeated aloud.
“But it is, isn’t it?”
Her eyes shot open to focus on a small girl, peering over Bryn’s shoulder in the mirror. The piano girl.
Bryn jumped forward, away from the piano girl. “But I…I killed you…”
The girl smiled and chuckled musically. “Funny how that works, isn’t it? But I’m here now to take my knife back. You need to be taught a lesson, you know? You touched my piano,” she took a step forward. “And that’s not okay.”
Bryn tightened her grip on the stolen knife. “I-I saw your head explode! You should be dead!”
The girl pouted slightly. “Boy, didn’t anyone ever teach you to listen? And not to take things? We covered this already. Now, give me my knife!”
Bryn gritted her teeth and sprinted down the mirror hall, the girl’s sing-songy voice echoing after her. “That’s not very nice, you know. You shouldn’t run away from your lessons! It’s such an inconvenience to have to catch you again, you know? But I can do it, sooo…”
Bryn didn’t wait for the girl to prove her claim. She ran even faster, and the mirrors around her seemed to change in blurs of muted, glistening color until she was running down the very first hall in the basement. The hall that had started it all. And there was the door! All she had to do was run up the stairs and open it. She suddenly heard a growl and a bone-chilling scraping noise. She knew without looking that the threats she had evaded earlier were back.
Bryn reached the staircase, but as soon as she saw it, it drew itself back up, leaving a door twenty feet up on the damp wall, unreachable. Instead, a man, a normal man, was standing in front of Bryn.
The monsters stopped. They watched.
“You need to make a decision here,” the man told her. “You can stay here, with us. We won’t hurt you. Not if you don’t resist. You’ll become one of us, living in the darkness, trying to recruit others who are unlucky enough to find us. We were all once like you, but our stories are to be told another time. Or you can take this box of matches, open this door–” a door appeared behind his shoulder, “and we can resume this chase.”
Bryn didn’t hesitate. She grabbed the matchbox, not sure why she needed it, and threw open the door. An identical hall lay before her, a faint light at the end. She sprinted down it, getting a slight head start from the monsters, and reached the light. There was another door she opened, and she found herself in the ugly brown field in the front of the old insane asylum. The monsters stopped in the doorway.
“Very well. You’ve made your choice. Do what you wish with the matches. I suppose your fate is the same. It is all a matter of freedom.”
The monsters retreated. Bryn felt like sitting down in the field and crying, overwhelmed by the events she had just witnessed and survived, but she had a job to finish. She opened the matchbox, grabbed a match, lit it, and threw it towards the asylum. The old wooden building ignited, throwing heat onto her face. Bryn tore through the field until she reached the sidewalk, a line of burning weeds following her. As she made her way down the sidewalk, she heard sirens. Bryn smiled. Now no one would have to experience the terror she just had.
Bryn realized she had been gone for at least one day. Her poor mother must have been freaking out. When Bryn reached her house, less than a mile away from the asylum, police cars were parked in her driveway. She found her mother sobbing in the middle of the living room, being awkwardly comforted by stony-faced policemen.
When her mother spotted her, Bryn was pulled into a bone-crushing hug amid sobs and cries of incredible joy. She shed a few tears herself, glad to be home. Her mother sent her to bed immediately, and Bryn crept into bed, her mother sitting next to her to tuck her in. Her mother spoke a few warming words. But Bryn couldn’t escape the chilling ones that came after.
“Hey, honey, what is that black mark on your neck?”

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A Haunted House in Sialkot

May 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This story comes from my dad and he was around 18 at the time of this particular incident. It was summer time so he went visiting relatives in a city called Sialkot. His maternal family was based there, living in a few houses in a small cluster. A few of his cousins and one of his uncles, Uncle Arshad, who was also quite young (being around 25 at the time), also joined him there. During their stay they heard a few stories of a house their family owned.

It was located two houses down the street and was unoccupied house at the time. Its only utility was that the courtyard (which was open to the sky) was used as a gym of sorts by the local bodybuilders during daytime. One of the stories they were told was that of a local bodybuilder named Manna. Manna was alone lifting weights there one day, and one time after getting up to stretch after lifting something particularly heavy he was patted on the back and told ‘Well done’. Only, he knew there was no one else in the room. He had stopped being there alone after that.

My dad and his uncle were quite excited after hearing all that and being ‘Young and foolish’ they decided to spend a night there. They were warned against it, a few of the elders including their maternal grandfather calling them fools for meddling in ‘things you do not understand’ but their minds were set. In the end, they decided that they would enter the house after dark, a little before midnight, and sleep there leaving just after daybreak. Since the house was not in use they decided to sleep on the roof on charpai’s (which is a traditional woven bed in the Indian subcontinent). They also instructed their watchman to lock the main door after they had entered to ensure no one else could enter after them and to come open the door immediately after daybreak. Apparently the watchman laughed after hearing this and told them he would keep the key ready because they would be calling him long before that.

The next night before they were supposed to go to the house one of their elders told them to try something. He told them to set up a carom board in the courtyard and just leave it there, untouched, and check it sometime after. They set it up in the house as instructed, and carried their charpai’s to the roof after that. It was difficult doing all of it in the dark, since they house did not have an electric supply. Their only source of light was an oil lantern, and the light it cast was dim and yellow, but they were still happy for the lack of ghost sightings.

They spent the first hour playing cards and nothing seemed to happen. Much more relaxed about the house, they began to wonder what everyone was on about. And then, during one of the rounds, they heard the unmistakeable sound of the hand-pump in the courtyard being worked, and the sound of water flowing. They were four floors up, on the roof, but that sound still sent a shiver through them. They tried to ignore it the best they could, but the hand-pump continued pumping water on its own. Much quieter now, they tried to keep playing cards but around 1 am they just gave up and decided to sleep instead.

My dad slept on one of the charpai’s on the edge, and slept like a rock till he was woken up by someone shaking him. He got up to the frightened face of one of his cousins. He pointed to Uncle Arshad who had been sleeping in his boxers on the far edge. It was then that he noticed that he seemed to be writhing in pain, clutching his throat. They tried to shake him awake, but it took a whole minute filled with the fear of what was happening to wake him up. Uncle Arshad woke up breathing heavily and still clutching his throat. He looked at them and said, “We need to leave this place, now!”

“It is 3 am already” one of the other cousins said, “We only need to wait an hour or so more and then—“

“I want to leave this place NOW, and I will jump from the roof to do that if I have to!”

They were even more frightened after that. They decided to leave but remembered that the house entrance was still locked. So, they started shouting to get the watchman’s attention. Soon enough though, they got the attention of my dad’s grandfather instead who had been sleeping on the roof of his house anticipating something of the sort. After a few choice curses he sent for the watchman and told them that he would be waiting for them downstairs.

They still had to climb down the stairs though. Four flights of stairs, in pitch black darkness, with nothing but the dim light of the lantern to guide them. They climbed down slowly and with much arguing about who would climb down first, and who would be at the rear. They kept their eyes nearly shut and tried not to look around them, since they kept imagining things in the dark, looking back at them, or perhaps one of them being dragged off. And Uncle Arshad was still clutching his throat; the image of him writhing still fresh in all of their heads. When they finally got to the courtyard they went past the carom board, and all of them noticed that all the pieces were now in the pockets.

When they finally got to the door the watchman was waiting for them, with a large smile on his face. “So are all you young ones done here? Has your warm blood run cold yet?” he said, laughing at them.

After they were out of the house, they asked Uncle Arshad what had happened, but he refused to tell them anything till he was out of the darkness. So they took him to a street lamp and they sat under it till he calmed down and stopped shivering with fear. And then he told them his story:

“As I fell asleep I dreamt that I was in the house. I walked down to the courtyard and in my dream I started urinating there. Just then, an old man with a long beard and terrifying eyes came and grabbed me by the throat. He shouted ‘How dare you defile this sacred place?!’ and lifted my up in the air with one hand. I was helpless, kicking and gasping for air when all of you woke me”

After he told them the story he finally took his hands off his throat. Even in the lamplight they could clearly see the bloody blue mark of a hand right across his neck.

Writer’s note: This particular story comes from my father and has always been one that took my imagination to places I did not want to visit. I could have taken my father for his word but for the sake of keeping this account ‘factual’ I tried to confirm its details from two different people. During my attempt to validate it I found that not only is this incident and the haunting of the building in question real, but there are people living in that house today who deal with this sort of phenomenon on a regular basis.

(This is a part of a collection of real life horror stories and memoirs currently being collected and compiled by Salman Shahid Khan. For more, please visit and follow the writer’s blog at http://compulsivetypist.wordpress.com )

Salman Shahid Khan

Credit To – Salman Shahid Khan

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