A Blackstone Family Thanksgiving

April 23, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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It was all over the papers, though no one really knew how the events unfolded. On the surface, it looked like the perfect Thanksgiving. The turkey was cooked to golden perfection. Steam still rose from the freshly baked dinner rolls and the house was filled with the scent of cinnamon and melted butter from the pumpkin pie and candied yams. Each family member sat around the table dressed in their Sunday best, ready to enjoy the feast before them. Yet, this picturesque scene, which could have easily been the cover of Home and Garden Magazine, was revealed to be under the surface, a gruesome tableau of a family fallen. Foul play was afoot this Thanksgiving. Five corpses sat around this untouched meal.

Claude and Mildred Blackstone earned their money on the backs of the hard-working, indentured servants who ran their plantation. Claude ruled the farm with an iron hand during the day and Mildred kept a household that was as strict as it was spotless. The two ice-cold children, which consisted of bratty Cynthia and Toby (who earned a reputation for frequenting the servant’s quarters at odd hours of the night), had just reached young adulthood. The children occupied themselves with their own preoccupations, as did the rest of the Blackstone household. Uncle Percival (Claude’s youngest brother) was generally considered to be a good man as the priest of the local parish of Farenville, but was not without his secrets.

Claude had recently taken ill with tuberculosis, and it was clear he was not long for this world. This had left Toby and Cynthia with a conundrum. They were the next of kin and the fortune that they would stand to inherit was substantial. By the laws of the township, it was known that the entire fortune would go to Toby, being the first born male son. This, of course, did not sit well with Cynthia and she soon began plotting to remove Toby from the picture. However, despite Toby’s apparent thickness, he was wise to his sister’s plans and developed his own. Cynthia’s vanity would be her downfall. A simple tampering with her cosmetics would be the end for her, but not before Cynthia’s knowledge of her brother’s sweet tooth would have him find an added ingredient in his beloved saltwater taffy. Both Blackstone children died silently in their sleep.

Percival had always been jealous of Claude’s success and affluence, but most of all, his wife. He had been in love with Mildred since they were children, but it was Claude who had won her heart and they married young. Yet, the passion had faded from their marriage years ago, and now Percival found himself making more and more house calls to the Blackstone home. He and Mildred met in the woods to confront their secret love for each other, but religion and family obligation kept them from fully reconciling their passion, even despite Mildred’s discovery of Claude’s liaisons with the servants. Percival would listen patiently as Mildred confessed her hate for her husband daily. Though he knew that Mildred was a woman scorned, she would never abandon her family.

On the night before Thanksgiving, Percival came and met Claude in the kitchen just as he was leaving to rendezvous with the head housekeeper. Claude’s breath was stinking of whiskey, and Percival’s patience was at an end. The hatred these two had for one another in this moment climaxed from a low simmer to a rolling boil, and neither could suppress it any longer. Claude swung at his brother and missed. Percival, reaching for the only thing he find handy, drove his crucifix directly through his brother’s heart. In horror of what he had done, Percival left the kitchen that Thanksgiving Eve, and ran to his parish to pray.

When Mildred came down for her nightly cup of tea and saw her husband dead on the floor, she quickly called for her children. When they didn’t answer, she ran up to their room only to discover each child dead in their beds. Mildred screamed and wailed, crumbling to the floor in despair. However, moments later, as though nothing had happened, she rose, wiped her tears, and calmly dragged the bodies of her children one by one, downstairs to the dining room. She then gathered her husband’s body from the kitchen. All night long she prepared them, dressing them in their finest clothes, cleaning their wounds, and arranging them around the table.

Percival spent the night praying in the church and that next morning came to the house ready to confront his sins and beg Mildred’s forgiveness. As he reached the house, he called out for Mildred. He heard her familiar, elegant voice echo from the dining hall, “In here.” Percival entered. The table was set for all of them, the lifeless bodies sat around the Thanksgiving feast. A bottle rested between two glasses of wine. Percival’s shock and confusion left him speechless. All thoughts of his own confession to Mildred had left his mind. As he stammered to ask Mildred for an explanation, she smiled sweetly and handed him a glass of wine. “Drink,” she said, “and we can all be a family again.” Percival drank the wine as he was told. The poison worked quickly.

Mildred, finally, with her entire family around her, took her own glass in her hand. Still with that sweet smile that had so charmed the late Percival, she drank. She never screamed as the poison ate its way through her intestines.

Credit To – Starr Hardgrove

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Thief

April 21, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Note: This pasta contains gore. If this bothers you, please do not proceed.

The moonlight bathes Paris in a silver, calming hue; a breath of serenity amidst the turmoil of revolution. The city is asleep, deep in its midnight slumber. Only a lonely shadow moves in the stillness of the night, tiptoeing across the rooftops. It climbs effortlessly up a brick wall high above the ground, reaching a window sill with an outstretched hand and pulling itself against the glass. It presses its hands against the wooden windowframe and with a swift motion pulls up. The window clicks open and the shadow slips inside the dimly lit apartment.

The place once belonged to the late magistrate, Pondicher, but after he was relieved of his post -under dubious circumstances- he committed suicide, and the place has remained abandoned ever since. Many enquired about the luxurious two-story apartment but rumours of hauntings and strange sightings kept people away.

Rigaut wouldn’t let old wives’ tales scare him off an opportunity like this. Pondicher had amassed great riches during his time at the courtroom, but he had neither family nor heir, so his fortune should still be in his house. Gold coins, shiny jewels and various other trinkets awaited Rigaut inside the deserted apartment. His lust for gold wouldn’t allow him to pass such a lucrative occasion.

He is now standing in a dimly lit corridor, with wooden, intricately carved doors on the sides leading to the other rooms of the first floor. Specks of dust are dancing in the moonlight coming in from the only window in the hallway. Faded paintings and portraits are hanging from the walls. Further down, a small, wooden table, with scratches on its legs, is covered by a tattered cloth. Two tiny portraits -probably depicting Pondicher and a woman- with the faces scratched off are placed on top of the table.

Rigaut walks carefully down the gloomy corridor, the wooden floor creaking loudly under his feet. He enters the first room on his right. ‘This must be the study’ he thinks. A large bookcase covers the back wall. Piles of old tomes are heaved onto the various furniture -stools, a music player, even a small piano- around the room. Rigaut approaches an equally untidy desk in the middle of the study. Immediately his eyes dart towards a silver pocketwatch partially buried under a pile of stained papers. He grabs it and puts it into an inside pocket of his coat.

His focus shifts to the center of the desk, where a large book lays open. A thin layer of dust covers its parched pages. Rigaut tries to read a few lines, but discovers that the book is written in an unknown language; Greek if he had to guess. Intrigued, he turns page after page, until a crumbled piece of paper falls on the ground. He picks it up. Rows and rows of complete gibberish, with a few lines crossed off. “A list, of sorts.”

Losing interest, he moves back into the hallway. He decides to check the first room on the left. As he steps under the dislodged doorframe, he catches a glimpse of a shadow moving at the other end of the corridor. He quickly spins around. A curtain, torn and shredded, floats softly under the nightly breeze. He laughs at himself for being so jumpy. He has been in this kind of business for many years; the shadows a second skin to him.

He fixes his attention back on the room. This one is much more orderly than the study, but the sense of abandonment is still here. The red paint on the wall is starting to peel, revealing the yellowish plaster covering the brickwork of the building. Fine, aristocratic chairs are gathered around a marble fireplace with blackened-from-the-smoke delicate designs. A ripped chair pillow is thrown in the corner of the room, next to a mahogany dresser. He walks towards that corner, where the faintest idea of a foul odor seems to emanate. Getting closer, a strong sulfuric stench fills Rigaut’s nostrils. Upon investigating the wall, he finds a large hole behind the dresser, broad enough for a small person to creep through, leading to the next room. Slowly, he kneels down to inspect further.

Examining the broken wall, he spots dried blood onto the rim of the hole. Someone must have slid in, only to get cut by jagged edges and wood splinters sticking out. Who would go through there and why? And most importantly, was he still in the building? Rigaut peeks inside the hole, his curiosity pushing him past the rotten smell.

The room is bathed in almost complete darkness, bearing no windows and the only light source being the gap on the wall. Rigaut can’t make out much. The place is in much worse shape than the rest of the house and it is empty save for a battered sofa and a few overturned chairs. His eyes are beginning to adjust to the darkness; little details coming in view. He can now see the white paint on the wall that has dried and on some places has completely fallen off and, most strikingly, blood splattered across the wall and floor. To his horror, he discovers bloody fingerprints and smudges on the floor and lower wall, as if someone has crawled on all fours towards the corner of the room, which is just out of view.

Rigaut stretches his neck and presses as far against the wall as possible in order to get a better view, but the dark corner is still out of sight. Sick of the gruesome scene, he starts to retrieve himself from the hole. But a clanking noise roots him to the spot. He hears raspy, heavy breathing. Then a thumping sound, followed by a painful moan. Rigaut’s mind freezes. He hears the scraping of nails on the hard floor. Someone is dragging himself towards the opening. Rigaut tries to move, but his limbs are numb from fear. The noise is coming closer and closer.

Then, it stops, a low growl replacing it. Seconds pass. Rigaut, pale-faced and wide-eyed, slowly pulls himself backwards. As he is getting up, a hoarse scream pierces his brain. Rigaut rushes to his feet. A rattling of chains and thumping of limbs fills the thief’s ears. Whatever is on the other side is lunging towards the hole. Rigaut runs out of the room slamming the door behind him, the force bringing down the doorframe. He rolls to the side, narrowly escaping the falling door, which crashes to the floor raising a fog of dust.

He runs out to the corridor. “Whatever is in that room can go to hell. I don’t care even if there someone dying in there. Every man for himself, that’s my motto,” Rigaut thinks as he turns towards the window, but the sight in front of him stops him on his tracks and sends shivers down his spine. A man drenched in blood is blocking his exit. His eye sockets are empty, a thick, pus-filled fluid dripping down his cheeks. The white rags thrown over his head don’t cover much of his scarred body. A thick red line runs around his neck, like something tight was tied around it. Three large nails are pinned on his right forearm, while the fingers on both his hands are cut into short, grisly stumps.

Rigaut, mortified by the ghastly sight, backs down the corridor. With trembling hands he tries to grab on something to steady himself, but his legs give way and he falls on his back. He quickly stumbles back on his feet, frantically scanning the floor for an escape route. Unable to spot the main door, he blindly runs up a staircase on his left. He glances over his shoulder, catching the monstrosity turning its head towards him, its mouth curved into the faintest of smiles.

Distracted, he trips over the last step and falls flat on his stomach; his face pressed against a musty old carpet. He pushes himself up and takes a quick look around. This floor is much more claustrophobic than the first. The ceiling is hanging lower and the corridor connecting all the rooms is much narrower. One of the three doors is broken, revealing a small store-room closet. Rigaut lunges to the first of the two. He wrestles with the doorknob, but the door remains closed. He runs to the next door. A nasty smell hits his nostrils. He hesitates, but knowing his options are limited, he pushes the door open.

As the door creaks open, a gust of stale air burst out of the room. Covering his nose, Rigaut carefully peeks inside. Before he can get a view of the room, a little man jumps in front of him. He looks old and feeble, his frail framework trembling under his own weight. The few hairs left on his head are oily and a crust of filth covers his skin.

“Welcome to the Wall of Art,” he says in a high-pitched voice. He smiles, revealing a row of rotten teeth in his mouth. The old man steps outside the room, closing the door behind him. He is wearing a bloody white shirt, that once must have been very expensive, and he is carrying a small hammer in his right hand. He has no pants on, his swollen genitalia on display. Yellow and white marks run down his inner thighs.

“Come in and marvel at the wonders hidden inside that little corner of our world,” he gestures to Rigaut, his bony fingers trembling.

Rigaut steps away from the man until his back is pressing against the wall behind him.

“Don’t be scared. Come in and stand in awe in front of the unearthly beauty of our exhibits,” the old man says, stepping closer to Rigaut. His mouth reeks of rot and decay. He extends a greasy hand towards Rigaut’s face.

“Young lad, I assure you, the Wall is unlike anything you have ever seen. It will elevate you, it will perfect you. You need the Wall to be complete and the Wall needs you. Step inside and become part of the art.”

A surge of adrenaline rushes through Rigaut’s body. He slaps the old man’s hand away and runs for the staircase. The scarred man previously blocking the window is nowhere to be seen. Rigaut’s heart flies. He is so close to escaping this house of horrors, but as he sets foot on the first step, he freezes.

At the bottom of the stairs, a woman -her joints twisted and her limbs rigid- is slowly crawling up the stairs. She twitches and squirms, trying to drag her broken body up the stairs. She is wearing a white, ragged dress and her forehead is adorned by a broken tiara. Her blonde hair has been torn off, with only a few patches left and those glued on her scalp and forehead by sweat and grease. Her glassy eyes are staring blankly at the ceiling while her head is bobbing lifelessly left and right.

Out of breath, Rigaut bolts towards the nearest door on his right, his weight bringing it down and his momentum carrying him to the other end of the room, straight into a pile of rotten body parts. Eyes and limbs and tongues and hair, all crammed into a heap of gore and flesh.

Rigaut gags, the revolting smell invading his senses. Clotted blood glues his fingers together, his hands a sticky mess of blood and hair. He tries to get up but he slips, crashing back down on the pile of dismembered limbs.

“Sir, you aren’t authorized to enter the backstage area,” the shrill voice of the disgusting little man echoes in the room. “I will have to see you out sir,” he says, stepping through the doorframe. He walks steadily towards the fallen thief, rolling up his bloodied sleeves and swinging his small hammer around. Rigaut, accepting his fate, lies still and closes his eyes while the old man downs the hammer onto his head.

The thief’s eyes burst open; explosions of pain shooting across his body. He is lying on top of an unstable table, with the old man’s figure looming over him; a hammer in hand.

“Steady now,” the old man says, bringing the hammer down on Rigaut’s hand. His vision becomes blurry; a sharp pain on his palm numbing his senses. Rigaut looks at his right hand and, to his horror, finds a large nail penetrating his palm. The old man thrusts down with the hammer once more, pinning Rigaut’s hand to the table. The thief screams in agony.

“Shush young lad. You are ruining the magic. You will have plenty of time to scream later. Now I need you to be silent and let me concentrate on my work,” the old man says, putting his hammer down. He pulls a wheeled storage cabinet from underneath the table and opens it. After hastily searching for the tool he needs, he grabs a large, mechanic pair of pliers which he rests at the end of the table, near Rigaut’s feet.

The old man grabs Rigaut’s right foot and pulls it towards the pliers. The thief kicks and stomps, but the pain in his hand impedes his movement and he ultimately succumbs to the man’s surprisingly firm grip. His foot is pushed between the pliers, two metal plates locking it in place. The filthy man steps back, a wry smile etched on his face.

“What the fuck are you doing!?” Rigaut screams. The smile on the old man’s face broadens.

“I am painting. I am painting over nature’s incomplete work, perfecting it,” he says, using his whole weight to pull down a rigid lever connected to the mechanic pliers.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, you sick bastard!”

The metallic plates press down on Rigaut’s ankle. The grip becomes tighter and tighter. Rigaut screams in agony, as his bones crack under the metallic grip.

“There is no point in screaming, young lad. Nobody can hear you. You are only ruining your beautiful voice,” the old man says letting go of the lever. “And you want to be at your sparkling best when she plays with you,” he continues, putting emphasis on the word ‘she’.

The pliers around Rigaut’s ankle relax. The thief exhales in exhaustion.

“Now!” the old man claps his hands. “Before I leave you to her mercy, I will show you a glimpse of the greatness that awaits you,” he says, walking towards the darkest corner of the room.

Rigaut stretches to see what the old man is doing, but his aching body limits his movement. Instead, he focuses on his surroundings. He notices red curtains covering the walls around him. They are heavy and thick and their surface curves slightly around strange bumps sticking out from the wall.

Suddenly, he hears a rusty metallic sound in the corner behind him.

“Behold. The Wall of Art,” the old man whispers in a hushed voice.

The curtains part revealing dozens of bodies hanging from the walls. Some are charred, others are skinned to their bones and others are missing limbs. Large iron spikes are nailed on their heads, pinning them to the wall. They twitch and shudder spasmodically, as if they still try to escape their dreary fate.

Rigaut can only stare in horror; his mind numbed by the horrors of the cursed house. The old man stares at the bodies on the wall too, a puddle of drool ready to fall from the edge of his gaping mouth. After a few seconds of silence, he speaks.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I have worked my whole life to achieve such elegance,” he says, sweeping a tear away from his eye. “And you will be up here soon,” he pauses. “Don’t mind me asking, but, how do you feel? You must surely be humbled by the honour that has been bestowed upon you.”

Rigaut spits at the old man’s feet.

“I don’t blame you for this classless act. In time you will understand. You will understand that man is only a pawn in the hands of a higher force. Everyone is forced to play; everyone is forced to fulfill the plot that has been set for him. Like an opera play, where the singers can’t deviate too much from the original work or they will be struck down.”

The old man says, walking up and down the room, marveling at the bodies hanging from the walls.

“I loved going to the opera. I remember one night, when I went to see the opening of Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’. Oh, what a marvelous show that was. There, smitten by the maestro’s divine touch, I fell in love. I fell in love with the Queen of the Night, played by the beautiful and majestic Josephina Rossignol. But I knew I couldn’t have her. Have you ever felt the longing pain of a love that cannot be?”

Suddenly, visibly shaken and angry, he punches the table near Rigaut’s broken ankle.

“I was devastated. Such a graceful being could never stand by my side. I was consumed by heart-wrenching despair. Every moment away from her was a moment my heart skipped a bit. I was inconsolable. My life was spiraling swiftly into a hopeless abyss of misery. I only left my house to go to her performances, dreaming she would notice me. But she never did.”

The old man sighs and hangs his head to his chest.

“One day, I mustered up all the courage in my heart to go and confess my love to her. So, I booked a first row ticket to her next performance. I can’t even remember what the play was, that’s how nervous I was. After the opera was over and the actors retrieved backstage, I slowly made my way to her dressing room. With shaking hands I knocked on the door. She didn’t answer. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door,” he says, hiding his face in his bloodied palms.

“And there she was. S-she was… indulging herself with another actor. My whole world collapsed around me. I don’t know what happened afterwards. Maybe I died and went to hell. All I know is when I opened my eyes I was sitting in a chair in this very room; my love’s mutilated body lying where you lie right now. Something had snapped inside me. I could feel it. I was broken.

“You have met her, you know. She was the one slithering her way up the stairs. My love, my first painting, reduced to a hollow cell of something once beautiful. I cannot hang her on the wall and be done with her. No, she won’t let me,” he emphasizes on the word ‘she’ once more.

“I have to watch my love wilt and wither till there is nothing left of her. I had to chain her to a wall downstairs; that’s how sad her deteriorating state made me.”

The old man snaps his fingers.

“But enough with the chit-chat. My love is simply a work in progress. It is her that you should be scared of. The Lady of the House. She is the one running this household. I am simply a painter. I paint her victims and she plays with them, feeding off their misery and suffering. The more beautiful the painting, the greater the satisfaction she gets.”

As he says that, he opens a toolbox waiting on a chair and pulls out a knife and a cleaver.

“And now, it’s your turn to get painted,” he says, running his finger down the sharp side of the knife. Satisfied he buries his hand in his toolbox, searching.

Rigaut sees his chance. Mustering up every source of strength in his body, he pulls his hand away from the spike pinning it down and rolls on his side, screaming. He comes crushing down from the table, his mind blurred by the pain. The old man turns around and stares at Rigaut with eyes filled with hatred. He grabs a hammer and slowly walks towards the thief.

Rigaut reaches for his left foot, pulling out a dagger concealed in his boot. He grips the handle tightly with his left hand; his knuckles whitened by the effort. The old man swings at Rigaut with his hammer. The thief easily evades the blow and stabs the man on his shoulder, but his broken ankle gives way and he falls flat on his back, his dagger flying out of his reach.

The old man charges towards the fallen Rigaut, but the thief kicks him in the knee, staggering him. Rigaut struggles to his feet, leaning against the table for support. His adversary swings his hammer once more, but the thief catches his hand in mid-air. The two men wrestle, but Rigaut manages to come on top, throwing the old man on the ground. By the time he gets back on his feet, the thief has already grabbed his dagger and is steadying himself for the oncoming assault.

The old man charges once more. This time, Rigaut feigns a move to his right but at the last second darts to the left, plunging his dagger deep into the man’s gut. Despite the stinging pain on his ankle, he manages to balance himself and grab the old man -who has dropped his hammer and is holding his bleeding belly- by the neck.

The old man’s face suddenly drops, a sad and tired look resting over his eyes.

“I once was Pondicher, the Great Magistrate of the Paris’ Court. But now I die as a wretched worm. Oh, how cruel life has been to me,” he says dropping on his knees.

“At last, I find peace. But the Lady, oh, she needs a painter. Without one sh-”

Rigaut slices his throat. He drops the dying man on the floor, letting him gurgle on his own blood; his face a visage of terror. A few seconds later, he draws his stern breath. Rigaut drags him across the room, pulling him onto the bloody table. He puts down the dagger and grabs a hammer. He puts a nail on the side of the magistrate’s head and thrusts down.

A new piece of art is now adorning the Wall.

Credit To – MrDupin

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BlackOut

April 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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BlackOut : Original Short Horror Film

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit To – directed by Calum MacPhail, music by Michael Whitehouse

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A Bad Night

April 5, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“You’re making a mistake.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Mr. Monahan. Our decision has been made.”

“But…”

“There’s nothing more to be said. Your final check will be in the mail tomorrow. Molly and I thank you for your services.” –click–

Jack Monahan sat behind the desk in the dingy room that served as his office, staring at the now silent receiver held in his hand as if willing the voice at the other end to come back. After a few moments, the phone started beeping, letting him know it was still off the hook. Jack resisted a strong urge to bash the thing to pieces against his desk and instead ever so carefully placed the receiver back on the cradle with a resounding click of its own. The sound echoed hollowly throughout the room, perfectly mirroring the empty feeling that had suddenly appeared in his gut. Dammit, he’d been so close!

His right hand, almost of its own accord, reached down to the drawer where he kept a bottle of cheap bourbon, half empty and soon to be more so, and a glass that was only slightly dirty. He set the two next to each other on the desk and, after a moment’s consideration, returned the glass to the drawer. He removed the top from the bottle and took a long swallow; a slow burning sensation traveling from his belly up to the base of his throat drove the empty feeling back ever so slightly. Jack sighed. Drunk or no, either way this was going to be a bad night.

The case had been about kids, but for Jack it had started with just one. June Benson, eight year old daughter of Chase and Molly Benson, had gone missing after school one day about three weeks ago. Her parents were decently well off but no ransom or other demands had ever come. The cops asked some questions at the school, filed some paperwork, and ultimately ruled her as a runaway. The Bensons weren’t satisfied with that assessment and had hired Jack to follow up where the uniforms wouldn’t. Jack agreed with them that something smelled off.

A little digging showed the rabbit hole went down a helluva lot deeper than June Benson. Carefully applying some financial lubrication, Jack got one of his old contacts in the department to spill the beans; there were a lot of kids that had gone missing in the last two months, almost three dozen all told. Part of the reason for the general lack of panic was that most of the kids were low income, if not outright homeless. On top of that, Jack’s contact heavily hinted that there was pressure from a very long way up the food chain to keep a lid on the cases and sweep each and every one of them under the rug. That thing that smelled off started to stink like a fish market.

Jack hit the streets. He went to June’s school and the surrounding apartments. Then, finding nothing, he rolled up his sleeves and waded into the scum on the other side of the city. He canvassed the halfway houses, the tent city under Eastbrook Bridge, the Wakeside slum where cops would only go in force. Everywhere he went he asked the same questions: Has anyone seen anything? Does anyone know about these missing kids? For a week he was disappointed, until finally, he got a bite.

The informant was obviously a junkie, and was even more obviously looking for a fix. But he said he’d seen something, namely two goons in suits shoving a black bag over a young boy’s head and throwing him into an unmarked van outside a crack house the junkie had been flopping at. What’s more, and what earned him the twenty bucks in Jack’s outstretched hand, was he’d heard one of the goons say a name: Marx. Suddenly the pieces had begun falling into place.

Graydon Marx was the owner of a pharmaceutical subsidiary that kept a production plant outside of town. It made a sick kind of sense that Marx might have decided to take kids as unwilling, unpaid subjects for new drugs they were testing, and he was one of the only individuals with both enough political and monetary pull to keep the mayor’s office and police department on lockdown. Granted, it was a long shot, and June didn’t fit the profile of the rest of the missing kids, but Jack had been desperate to find even the thinnest thread to follow.

The plant lay on a sprawling property outside of the city limits where Marx kept a house that served as his primary residence when he was in town. Jack had been surreptitiously staking the place out for the last three days and had seen several unmarked vans driven by pairs of suit wearing toughs coming and going from the main entrance of the compound. He’d planned on taking a closer look tonight. But then, when he’d been at the office getting ready to head over to the plant, Chase had called him out of the blue and said, thanks, but they wouldn’t be needing him to keep looking into June’s disappearance after all. End of discussion.

Jack leaned back in his chair and looked into the bottle, pensively swirling the bourbon around the bottom. Fuck it. He came to the decision abruptly, standing up and slamming the bottle down onto the desktop. He hadn’t known the Bensons for long, but this was completely out of character. Something was up and, dammit, there were kids at risk. He might not be getting paid to follow up the lead, but Jack’s conscience wasn’t going to let him just sit and get wasted.

He took his overcoat from the back of the chair and threw it on before reaching into the other drawer where he kept Cheryl. The Colt .357 was a thing of beauty, and he did a quick check to make sure each of her six cartridges were loaded before sliding her into his shoulder holster and slipping a box of spare shells into his jacket pocket. With that he stepped out into the hallway and resolutely locked the door behind him.

Dark clouds covered the pale winter moon as Jack moved the car to the side of the road and pulled into a small clearing he had discovered earlier in the week. He got out and hastily removed a tarp from the back seat and threw it over the car. In the dark, the vehicle would be effectively invisible to anyone on the road. It had been steadily snowing for the last few hours, so he briefly went back to the road and did his best to cover the tracks leading into the clearing. He had stopped about a mile short of the entrance to the compound; with only one road leading in or out and no other turnoffs, getting too close wouldn’t serve for any kind of sneaking. The approach to the plant was thick with trees so Jack would be able to stay in the woods but keep in sight of the road to guide his path. Wrapping his coat more tightly about himself against the cold, he started trudging towards the compound.

A strange moaning caused him to start, his hand flying under his coat to rest on Cheryl. Jack scanned around him, heart beating wildly. The trees in their stark nakedness reached into the bleak sky like the fingers of the damned, a light wind causing them to creak and groan in their torment. Otherwise, all was silent. Despite the cold, a slow bead of sweat rolled down Jack’s nose, the tiny hairs on the back of his neck standing at attention. After a few moments he turned and continued his trek; his hand remained on the butt of the revolver.

He reached the perimeter fence without incident. He had scouted the area and found an expanse of fence where the trees masked the view of the security cameras and was out of sight of the main gate. Earlier today he had used a pair of wire cutters to make an entrance. Slightly winded as he squeezed through the fence, days like this served to remind him that his youth was a distant memory. Jack cursed under his breath as he felt sharp edges of wire catch on his coat. Then he was in.

Jack’s reconnaissance hadn’t let him work out the patrol patterns of any security guards but now he saw he needn’t have worried too much. In fact, other than the guards in the shack at the main gate there didn’t seem to be any physical security on the grounds. He decided to start looking at the house.

Making his way across the snowy terrain, Jack saw the residence atop a low hill a couple hundred yards ahead, light glaring from every window. He crept closer, doing his best to use the trees that dotted the yard to mask his approach. He stopped behind the closest tree and was considering how to proceed when the front door opened and three figures stepped outside.

The first Jack knew only by reputation, but the oily sheen that emitted from his too wide smile identified him as Graydon Marx. Jack’s jaw dropped when he saw the people behind Marx were Chase and Molly Benson. Jack was just close enough to hear the end of their conversation.

“…en can we see her, Mr. Marx?”

“Oh presently, presently my dear, Chase. In fact that’s where we’re going now. Come along.”

The millionaire switched on a large industrial flashlight and led the Bensons around behind the house. Jack followed, silent as a shadow.

At first Jack assumed they would be going to the pharmaceutical plant to the west of the house but soon found he was mistaken. Instead, Marx walked directly south, straight into woods that were even thicker than those through which Jack had approached the compound. They walked for maybe twenty minutes, Jack struggling to stay quiet and keep the bouncing beam of Marx’s flashlight in sight. After a time he could see a strange flickering ahead which, once they got close enough, he could identify as a roaring bonfire set in a small clearing. He stopped about fifty feet short of the fire and hid himself behind a tree. He could see the Bensons were agitated, Molly clinging to her husband, Chase obviously enraged shouting at Marx.

“What’s the meaning of this, Marx? You said you were taking us to see our daughter!”

“And so I have, Chase, so I have. She’ll be here shortly. The fire, you see. We’ve found it draws them.” The millionaire smiled and moved to a tree at the edge of the clearing. In a smooth motion he hoisted himself up into a hunting platform set on the lower branches. “Ah, here she is now.”

The pale shape of a little girl moved into the clearing. Jack recognized June from the pictures her parents had given him, but only just. Her once sparkling eyes were dull and empty, lacking even the most rudimentary intelligence, her face slack. A dried reddish smear crusted around her mouth. The girl was dressed in rags, her hands and feet bare. She shuffled forward almost stumbling into the fire, paying no mind to her parents or the heat. Something was very wrong.

“Oh, my God! Baby!” Molly Benson threw herself at her child sweeping her up in a hug. Jack saw a look of ecstasy pass across the girl’s face and a sudden, terrible hunger enter her eyes before she suddenly opened her mouth and sank her teeth into her mother’s neck. Molly screamed and Chase lunged for his wife as a fountain of blood erupted from her neck washing June’s face in gore. The girl rode her mother to the ground, worrying at the wound like a wild animal. Jack felt the world lurch.

Chase was struggling to pry June off Molly when Jack saw other small shapes had entered the clearing. Chase didn’t notice until the things that had once been children were practically on top of him, and by then it was far too late. Jack turned and ran.

He sprinted through the forest, mindless now of the noise he was making, his only thought on escape. Branches reached out and tried to tangle his arms, stones sought to trip him up. Abruptly a root caught his foot and sent him tumbling head over heels. His head met a tree with a sickening thud. Then, blackness.

When he awoke the first thing he noticed was the pain, next the cold. Shaking his head to try to clear it Jack looked around. He had been stripped down to his t-shirt and boxers, his hands secured with rope to the trunk of a tree above his head. To his front, Marx stood in the clearing, the bonfire burning merrily behind him, two piles of rapidly cooling red and flesh colored pulp pouring steam into the frosty air at his feet. He held Cheryl in his hands, the revolver glinting cruelly in the firelight.

“Ah, Mr. Monahan, good you’re awake,” he smiled. “You have my admiration. Excellent detective work these past few weeks, if not the most discrete.” He clicked his tongue, “I hope you didn’t think you were being especially sneaky.” He sighed, “Still, it would have gone easier for you if you would have just taken the hint when I had the Bensons let you go. They were so frantic at the thought of being reunited with their daughter, they were fully prepared to do any little thing I asked. But here we are. I must say, this is truly an excellent firearm.” He admired the magnum for another moment before pointing it at Jack and pulling the trigger.

The sound was enormous. A blossom of agony roared up Jack’s leg and then dulled. When he opened his eyes he saw the shattered ruin that had once been his right foot.

Marx stooped down in front of him, “Must be going, old chap. I’d tell you to simply walk away from this but you’ve squandered that opportunity already and, well, it’d be quite impossible now for a multitude of reasons.” He inclined his head towards Jack’s destroyed foot. “However, as I’ve confessed my admiration, I’ve decided to give you a sporting chance. There’s a very realistic possibility you’ll bleed out before the children get hungry again. Good luck!” With that he walked out of the clearing into the darkened woods.

Jack lay there in the snow, the white around him slowly turning red. His eyesight fading, the dull pain that had been emitting from his foot gradually built to a crescendo. At the edge of his vision, he could just make out a small shape enter the clearing and slowly shuffle towards him, soon followed by another. He began slipping into unconsciousness as he felt the first tiny, questing hands start to explore his exposed, freezing flesh. His last thought before his entire world was consumed by blackness and pain was that he guessed he’d been right at the office after all: either way this was going to be a bad night.

Credit To – Shadowswimmer77

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A Mile Above Hell

April 3, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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The first thing I always remember is the heat.

Even when I could see nothing, hear nothing, even when my brain was trying bury itself in the comfy, dark recesses of unconsciousness, my body was slowly being cooked sunny side down. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I didn’t want to anyway. I was tired, I had been unconscious, the heat was tolerable when I was asleep, and I really wanted to go back to sleep, like a tired kid burying his head into the pillow moaning “I don’t want to go to school”.

My body however was slowly waking up on it’s own. I began to grow conscious of other stimuli, the lightweight cotton green uniform, the heavy combat boots, the open ended gloves that protected my palms but left my fingers to saute on the melted asphalt. Something was missing though…

Finally, I slowly opened my eyes, and the light and heat quickly slammed the doors again. I tried again after several minutes, but slower this time, and this time it was bearable.

I was laying on something hot, a stretch of rough, black surface turned into a warped, bubbly skillet by heat. Some of it stuck to the black, pocketed vest that covered my torso, to the knee pads, and the toes of my boots.

As my vision cleared further, I noticed more and more of the area beyond the black road. Dust swirled about me in dust devils. The heat was not just coming from the ground, the wind was like a dragon’s breath, and it smelled of something burning… a bit of everything burning.
Then came the pain.

I say the pain because there was no one area of it, I felt as if I had been run over by a steamroller from head to foot. My hands were charred from lying on the ground. My body was a little better off, protected from direct heat by a couple layers of cotton, and tactical vest pockets, but my skin was drenched with sweat, the inside of my clothes was a swamp. And my head…

Oh… Jesus Christ, my head. Only way to describe it is to imagine your head being put in a maraca with ten pounds of buckshot lead, and going to Mexican New Year celebrations. It was terrible, and I wasn’t even moving yet. There seemed to be a big blackness on the right side of my vision. It came to me that I had only been seeing out of my left eye, the right side had not opened… or it wasn’t there.

I realized now that little could be done lying on my face like a dead turtle, so I decided to attempt rolling onto my back, and getting a somewhat better look about me. I knew already that this was going to hurt. Some of the melted asphalt had cooled with my face touching it, it would be like ripping off duct tape… only a lot worse. I prepared for blood, knowing that the oily tar would not come off on it’s own, and I could not lie here on my face all day.

At first my arms didn’t seem to work, just laying there like dry docked eels. Then, as they got more blood in them, the pain flowed in. They felt like they had been stretched, balled up, jack-hammered, then mixed with water and spread out alongside the asphalt. However my arms are rather muscular and recovered quickly. Planting my hands against the ground, my elbows reaching above my spine like a spider’s legs, I braced for the pain, and pushed, arching my spine. At first my face resisted parting with the ground, and the pulling my skin caused a sharp discomfort.

This was bliss compared with what happened next. Setting my neck and jaw, I yanked my head backwards and pushed up. There was a most nasty peeling noise, like the pulling apart of two pieces of meat (which is not too far off), a tear or two, and warm, red blood began to spurt onto the smoking tar, My face seized up from the utter agony of several layers of my skin being yanked off. It made me glad I hadn’t grown a beard or long hair, I might have lost my whole face. At least I was able to move, but the pain was making my vision flutter.

Stabilizing myself, I rocked myself backwards, so I was kneeling upright. Now the steady tide of blood streaked down my neck to soak into my thick, green spattered coat. I knew now that before I could look around I needed to find something to cover the wound. Something was falling out of the sky into my hair, building up on my shoulders and gear. It looked like dirty snow. Whatever it was, I needed to clean and dress my disfigured cheek immediately.

I looked around me for some spare cloth, a medkit or… a backpack. I had a large backpack on my shoulders, it matched my forest pattern uniform, probably my helmet too… wherever that thing was. It was held across my chest by several buckles to keep it on my back, so I proceeded to undo them. I then noticed a name tag on the left shoulder strap. Specialist Four, Austin Carver. It wasn’t a name I recognized.

My fingers were so blistered and sore it was slow and hellish undoing the three clasps, but click by click I was able to shrug the gear off. It fell with a thud into the dust, and I felt lighter, the strain on my back lessened. A couple more clamps and it lay open like a little cave.
It was chock-full of gear. Pouches on the outside held a canteen filled with lukewarm water, a couple tube-like grenades, more ammunition for my rifle, which also seemed to be missing like most of my hardware, and a radio, but the materials inside were enough for three men, and it was all mine. I quickly found ample medical supplies in a small red box.

More pain was to come. I would have to dab some disinfectant onto my cheek before I patched it up. I stared at the dreaded brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide before gritting my teeth, biting down on a piece of gauze before applying some to a cloth. I poised it over my cheek, bit the bullet,, and pressed it to my face.

Some pain is so bad it makes you lose control of some other parts of your body. I felt my fingers numb a bit and shake like an electrical current was going through them, but my jaw dropped into a soundless scream as my face squeezed tight. Through it all the offending cloth stayed over the wound. Finally, satisfied that the disinfectant had done it’s work, I threw the blood stained item as far from me as possible, gasping for breath, and grabbed a clean gauze, folded it into a wad, and taped it onto the wound. Before sweat and blood could remove the adhesive, I wrapped a bandage around my head, encompassing my mouth, ears, and the back of my head. I can only imagine it looked like makeshift balaclava for someone in a mental institution, especially when I had to cut a hole for my mouth to breath through. Then I remembered my right eye.

When applying the bandage I had felt a scaly surface over the right side of my head, along with an acute pain. Feeling it again, I rubbed it with my finger, and it came off dusted with something like rust. Dried blood. Somehow my head had been injured and blood had poured over my eye and hardened like a seal of wax. Taking a little more cloth, I dampened it with water and rubbed at my eye. It came away red, but soon my right eye was opened.

Then I turned my attention to my aforementioned head wound, gingerly my hand crept up my skull to the nexus of pain jolts. Suddenly I found the problem.

It was as if my hand were a car and it had suddenly driven off a cliff. A massive dent, more like a bomb crater, shaped like a spear head running about four inches along the dome of my head. It was no wonder I wasn’t remembering much, there was serious damage up there.

My stomach rumbled most audibly, and it felt shrunken. I patted my belly, and noticed that there were some ribs showing. Before I shouldered the pack again, I found some containers near the bottom of the bag, reading Case 4 MRE. Were I in a more comfortable situation I’m sure the rations inside would’ve been left where they were, but as I was I inhaled the food quicker than you would think possible.

More of the dirty snow was falling as I shouldered my gear again, pushing my curiosity more. I needed to examine the environment beyond where I was. At the moment, I had slowly pieced together my surroundings. I seemed to be in a large hole, a foxhole perhaps, but there was asphalt at the bottom. My thought was that maybe an earthquake had caused this part of the road to fall several feet into a fault. The sides were a steep mix of gravel, sand, and several huge fragments of metal beams. I could climb out, but it would be on all fours.

Now that all my immediate issues had been cared for, it hit me like a thunderbolt, so sudden and profound that I nearly rocked back on my heels. Who am I? I hadn’t recognized the name tag, was it my own name? How did I get here? What’s been happening? A thousand questions swarmed through my head so fast my knees buckled, and I ended up back where I had started ten minutes ago.

Suddenly the slopes of the crater I was in became like walls, and they began to close in. A deep seated panic set in and my heart began to race. Blood oozed through my cheek and down my forehead as I clawed into the sand hiding me from the rest of the world. I dug in my toes, and climbed furiously up the slope. Then, like a drowning man breaking the surface of the water, I emerged from the hole, gasping for air.

I lay prone on the lip of the crater for a minute, my stress induced claustrophobia bleeding away with all my head wounds. My hand gripped the scorched sand like a lifeline. My head slowly came up again. I felt serious deja vu from an hour ago when I had awoken in the crater. Mostly because I, again, was lying my face, feeling like death. And, looking up, the area I had now discovered was not much different from the smoking hole from which I had emerged.

It was larger, more open, and set on a softly sloped hillside leading to a peak. A road ran the length of it, disappearing over the top. Many structures lined both sides of the road, a lot of them on fire, some of them unrecognizable, reduced to splintered wood, crushed plaster and scattered tiles. Everything had been sprawled in one direction, like a huge sledgehammer had hit the block and sent everything flying. What an ungodly mess. Some cars were lying on their backs like dead spiders, some twisted or smelted into shapeless masses of steel and rubber. License plates had melted and cooled into shiny green stained icicles on the rear ends of the now dead machines.

I tried to crawl forward, but a tinkling noise and a sharp pain in my fingertips forced me to stop again. Shattered glass carpeted the ground in every direction, you could spit and not miss a shard. Now blood oozed from my fingers, and I was forced to dig into the bag again, fresh warm blood smearing the green material. Soon my hands matched my rather grotesque head bandage. I must have looked quite a sight, my charred green uniform, all my gear, and then these blaring white bandages smeared with red stains turning a deep rusty brown.

I stood up this time, very shakily, to save my fingers more damage and to let my tough boots deal with the glass. Now my head was brushing against a layer of smoke that was flowing parallel to the spread of wreckage that encompassed me. I became conscious of the smell again, only now it was much stronger, a witch’s cauldron of pongs, I could not find one word for it.

The clouds split for a moment, and the light poured onto the smoldering landscape. Something shone into my dazed right eye, which was still adjusting, and I raised my bandaged hands to ease the flash. The sun was reflecting off a large piece of shiny metal, flat, protected from damage by a pile of rubble. It caught my attention firmly, and I felt the irrepressible need to investigate it, to touch it. I stumbled across the street, not bothering to look both ways, it hardly seemed the time to worry about the old common courtesies of times that seemed to have changed dramatically.

I stood over the pile of concrete crumbles and jagged miniature palisades of steel rebar, carefully putting one foot in front of the other in my little quest. While I shambled gently like a colt taking it’s first steps, my eyes took in thousands of images from the endless stimuli of this foreign seeming landscape.

The cars all looked like corpses, some of them were burnt to charcoal. Once charming houses making up a suburb now were piles of splinters and glass shards, like the cremated remains of the dead tossed to the wind.

I finally reached the pile of wreckage underneath which the piece of metal shone like a beacon. I now saw it lay beneath an gutted couch, with bits of stuffing catching in the wind like cottonwood seeds. I even saw some broken picture frames, empty, shattered reminders of a healthy, safe world long gone, bulldozed by un unforeseen event.

The metal was now within my reach, and I grabbed it with both hands, pulling with my back, legs and shoulders. Even with the glove protecting my palms, I could feel the heat of the metal on my exposed fingers, like a cookie sheet taken out of the oven. A screeching of concrete scraping steel, and I felt it slowly releasing, bit by bit, for it was huge, about the size of a plane’s wing.

It was bent into the shape of a dinner plate by the rubble that imprisoned it, it was battered into a surprisingly fetching mix of silver scrapes and turquoise splashes. I now could see what it was, one of those signs in a city that directs you somewhere. It was upside down, and a lot of the lettering had been battered away, so I couldn’t read it yet. Oh how I wanted to read it.

Now I could feel the pain in my muscles, my shoulders especially, it just seemed to keep feeding itself out like a scroll. Finally, after having dragged nearly ten feet of metal from the rubble, it gave, I fell backwards onto the fiercely hot ground, the huge sign clattering at my feet.

I got up shakily, stretching the tensility from my aching muscles. I could feel my face bleed again from my elevated heart rate, and I knew I had lost a dangerous amount of my blood. I would probably find a trail of it like bread crumbs going back to the pit where I had woken up.

I fumbled into the backpack for my canteen of warm water as I stood the sign on it’s side so as to read it. I twisted the cap off, some blood streaking on the edges, making it a bit slippery. I tilted it to my mouth to drink… until I saw what was on the sign.

From what little I could read behind the damage, it read:

Welcome to Denver. Population 554,363. Elevation: 5280 Feet.

It brought back a ton of memories I didn’t think I had, as I looked around I saw flashes of bustling streets, busy sidewalks, windows with faces looking out, and thousands, tens of thousands of people. All of that, the skyscrapers, the bridges, and over half a million souls, all gone in an flash because of some unknown catastrophe.

The hot wind suddenly kicked up with a heavy gust, and the sign fell onto its front, showing the backside. I saw writing, from another author. It was in spray paint, hastily scrawled, with the most atrocious grammar I’ve ever seen. Welcum 2 the Wastland. Populashun: All ded. Elevashun: 1 mile abuv Hell.

The canteen sat on my lips, frozen in place, and my mouth was now very dry. In the reflection of the steel sign, I saw something enormous behind me. I turned around slowly, not out of pain or aching, but out of sheer awe and terror.

There, on the middle of the horizon, towered a rising ball of fire and smoke, looming like a lumbering giant of destruction. It grew and grew, mushrooming into the sky, and clouds of ash blocked out the sun.

The area where I had awakened had fared relatively well, some buildings were still intact, sheltered from the thermonuclear blast by sturdier buildings which took the full force of the missile strike. I looked out into the skyline, the city center about four miles east of my position, and saw nothing but a huge sinkhole of buildings, machines, and bodies, all molten into a vile smelling mix.

I shook my head, my jaw slack in wonder. How had I alone survived? This was a ten second massacre, who knows how many innocent people were turned to ash before they even had a chance to scream for some God to save them.

Then my heart jumped higher than it was made to do, and I ran for cover, before I knew what I was doing I was hiding behind a massive chunk of concrete from a parking garage. I had heard someone moving out there.

It was human, nothing else walks with slow sounding footsteps or is heavy enough to dislodge rubble. It grew closer and closer, I could hear a guttural grunting from a damaged or dry throat. It had to be a survivor. I cleared my throat quietly, and called out in a timid voice.

“Hello? Is there someone out there?”

The footsteps immediately stopped. The world had become silent again. But there was a new smell in the stench. It smelled like burning meat, like bad food, it was a scent that makes any sensible human nervous.

It was the stench of death, and it was here.

I shook off my anxiety, and strode out to the street again. I looked around, seeing no one, but there was too much cover for them to hide in. I planted my feet and called out again, stronger this time.

“Is somebody out there? Are there any survivors?”

There it was again, the grunting. But it had taken on a new tone, less a benign grunting like a pig slopping around. It now sounded more like a dog, giving out the quiet order to move in.

I suddenly became aware of multiple sources, now several unseen assailants were responding to the call of the first like a wolf pack. I could sense the approach of many more footsteps, the sound of gravel dislodged underfoot, it was all around me.

I began to panic, and looked around for a weapon. I could now see shell casings lying everywhere, evidence of a huge but futile struggle against an enemy I had yet to face. There, leaning on the open door on a burnt out husk of a car, was an M4A1 assault rifle.

It had all the attachments and specs of the rifle standard to the United States Army, but I would’ve taken it if it were an age old musket if it meant I had something to defend myself with. I rushed for it, as the sounds were so near I swear I could’ve touched them. I reached the car, and grabbed the gun, ready to level it on the attackers.

I couldn’t move the gun very far, there was a charred, bony hand reaching out of the car like a creepy decoration, clutching the barrel with an iron death grip. I yanked, and pulled, until with a sickening, dry tearing noise like the uprooting of a sapling the arm gave way, leaving the hand still attached to the barrel. I grabbed it, and broke it off, the brittle fingers snapping like twigs and I pulled back the slide, cocking the weapon. I whirled around, ready to fight back, only to find myself dumbfounded again.

There were five of them, all in plain sight now. They, at first glance, looked like humans, standing upright, two arms and legs, and a head above their shoulders. But as I stared at them with horror, I saw they were not human, not anymore.

All of them were charred like burnt steaks, some of them steamed as their flesh boiled. One of them looked like a burnt puppet, all carbon black, moving with creaking joints. All of them were torn apart. There was a woman figure, most of her clothes were burnt off, and her entire front, chest, stomach, and throat, were torn to shreds as if by the teeth of a wild animal. A man crawled on the ground, both legs gone, dragging itself on a trail of it’s own blood and trailing guts. The others, a mix of women and men, looked more intact, but all bore signs of horrific wounds. All had flesh missing, one had the side of her neck gaping open, oozing a black gel of some kind. And worst of all, they all had strings of meat, fat and tendons stuck between their teeth, and drips of blood coming from their mouths.

And in spite of their horrific mutilations, they all were moving towards me. Their eyes were blank, those that still had eyes, they had turned a milky white, unseeing, dead eyes.
The gun trembled in my hand, and I found I could not aim at the pitiful sights. I screamed in horror at the creatures shambling towards me. “Jesus H Christ! What’s happened? What the hell happened?!”
My words seemed to stir them up, and with louder growls, they all raised their arms towards me with the intent of grabbing me. I could only sicken myself imagining what they would do to me. I steeled my nerves, and took aim with the rifle.
My finger acted of it’s own accord, and gunfire ripped the silence. I saw little spurts of black ooze burst from impact wounds on their chests, legs, stomachs. The weapon roared like a cornered lion, and I jammed the trigger as hard as I could, a hail of bullets tore into the abominations.

I saw one take a hit right in the heart and go flailing onto his back. As I started to shoot another, out of the corner of my vision I saw him getting right back up as if I hadn’t shot him at all. I was panicking, and fighting for my life, slowly retreating backwards down the leveled street.

The gun finally clicked empty, and still all five were following me, and now several more had emerged from alleyways and from under cars to join the assault. It was a pack, slowly growing into a horde. I quickly switched the dry magazine for a fresh one from my vest, and began firing again.

This time I was firing semi auto, careful not to miss or waste ammo. I knew I was hitting them, I knew I was supposed to be wasting them, yet they shrugged off everything I gave them. They were unstoppable, and now two more had arrived. I was faced with a wall of the creatures, and I was running out of room, backing into a cul-de-sac with no where to run.

Another mag empty, I was down to two full ones. I was desperate, and I decided on a different measure, I had to take out the heads. It’s a difficult shot, and my training revolved around aiming for the widest, biggest target on the human body, the chest. But there was no other way.
Reloading the rifle, looking up to see more than twenty assorted attackers, I dropped to one knee to steady my aim. I placed the red dot between the white, moonlike eyes of the closest attacker. It was the torn woman, and she looked right back at me down the sight. Why weren’t these things afraid of dying? Maybe they couldn’t feel fear. They weren’t human anymore.

I chanted this to myself as I fired, watching as the bullet flew right into the face of the woman. I saw a tidy blue hole appear in her forehead, and black, grey, and blueish matter blast out the back of the skull. She collapsed, not even twitching. She fell flat onto her back, her fellow attackers took no notice, stepping over her as they continued to shamble in my direction.

That’s all it took, my dander was up, and I felt my nerves turn to steel, and I placed the next target. It was easier this time, by now I had convinced myself, these things were monsters, and I needed to kill them. They needed to die, they had to die!

One by one, I popped their heads like water balloons, watching them fall back onto their own mess of bone and brains. The time blurred, I was winning, and I knew it. Finally, I dropped the 20th and last target, and I didn’t even flinch as I saw it crumple to the ground, it’s head blown clean of it’s brain. I was in hunter mode, I was no longer the hunted. Twenty shots, twenty kills. I felt the adrenaline surging through my once lethargic body. I was so focused on my blood pumping victory, I did not hear something behind me.

It must have crawled from under the wrecked Chevy that lay on it’s back behind me. I first heard it when it began to drag itself across a patch of shattered glass. Before I could turn around, I felt a grip of iron clasp around my ankle.

It’s legs were shredded tatters of cloth and tendons trailing behind it, and the arms were atrophied, but it was like a strongman’s arm, and my legs were thrown out from beneath me. My knuckles banged against the blacktop, and my rifle went clattering to the ground beyond my reach. My head also hit the ground, and everything fogged up for a moment.

I was brought back by high pressure to my toe. It felt like something was squeezing my boot with a vice. I brought my head up and looked at the afflicted foot. The crawler was still there, trying furiously to bite through the reinforced material of my left combat boot like a dog chewing a rubber ball, and it growled angrily, the material resisted its broken teeth.

I jolted back into action, and tried to free my boot, but this creature had a grip like steel. I brought up my free foot, the righthand one, and pumped the heel into the thing’s face. I felt a satisfying crunch as I connected with the jaw, dislocating it completely, rendering the teeth useless. I then swung back my right leg and soccer kicked my attacker full in the head.

I heard a sound like breaking a thick carrot in half, and it’s head snapped to a certainly unnatural angle. It twitched it’s hands for a moment, and then went limp. It’s hands relaxed their grip, and I kicked my left foot free again.

Once I was on my feet, I cast my eye around for my weapon. It had gone about ten feet from me, and I ran to grab it. Before I could get it, something wrapped itself around my waist in a tackle, and I was on the ground again. I felt fists pound my face, jolting my head back and forth.
It was small, a teenager I think, and it weighed so little it was a wonder it had knocked me down at all. I returned the blow, feeling it slam into a thin cheek, and my attacker leapt away, cursing in some language I didn’t understand.

This got my attention, those things I had just fought and killed, they didn’t talk, and they certainly didn’t back down. I looked up and saw my latest assailant in full light.

Goodness, T thought, it can’t have been more than 16 years old. She, for it was in fact a girl, wore a torn hoodie, and fingerless gloves and slim jeans, along with muddied converse shoes. She now had sat down against a wall, crying her eyes out, murmuring in what, years later, I could tell was Spanish.

I immediately felt terrible, although I wasn’t sure why. I edged my way towards her, slowly offering my hand in peace. She wouldn’t look up at me, she was still bawling like a little child. I gained the courage to lay my hand on her shoulder, and to my surprise she didn’t fight me. I kneeled down, and she lifted her tear soaked face.

She was easily young enough to my daughter. She looked me right in the eye, and I again felt miserable when I saw the growing bruise on her left cheek.

“Hey uh, sorry about that” I said sheepishly.

She brushed her black hair out of her eyes back into her hood and sniffled. “It’s ok.”

I was shocked by this, I had heard her curse me in clear Spanish, and now she spoke forgivingly in English. However I didn’t mind the change, I knew no Spanish at the time.

“Why’d you attack me?”

She lowered her eyes at this, as if embarrassed. “I heard gunfire, and thought perhaps some soldiers were here. I ran this way, hoping to get rescued, and I saw you. Your face, it spooked me, all those bandages and all that blood. I panicked, and blindly attacked. I’m very sorry.”

I nodded, touching a new tender spot on my previously undamaged left cheek. “I don’t imagine you’ll be the last.” I tried a weak smile, but the torn side of my face didn’t like it. I pulled her to her feet, and having grabbed the rifle, I began walking. She followed me, staying behind me like one would behind a parent. I began to feel nervous, we were out of the cul-de-sac, and she hadn’t said a word. So, clearing my dry throat, I tried to strike conversation. “What’s your name?”

“Ruby.”

It was a nice name, and I nodded. But she didn’t say anything more beyond the clipped answer, so I continued.
“How’re you still alive?”

“I was hiding in a subway tunnel from the firebomb, and waited till the flames died down. I stayed far away from the area of the missile strike. I didn’t want to get sick from radiation poisoning.”

“You seem to know a lot about all this.”

She nodded nervously, and wiped her face on her sleeve. “Yeah. My dad, he’s a soldier in the U.S. Army, and we all lived here. We had a nice house, just down the hill.”

Ruby pointed down the road to our left, towards where I had woken up. From here I could see a blazing crater, and many smoldering wrecks of houses. I turned my eye away when I saw three burning corpses lying in the street. They looked like dead beetles.

“…And then it all hit the fan.” She finished, putting her hands in her pockets.

I looked around, and agreed that it certainly had.

We had been walking for about five minutes, when I finally asked her the biggest question on my mind. “So, what the hell happened here?”
She looked at me in shock. “What? How could you not know, the military’s been on the front lines of this whole thing since it happened.”
I reached up, tapping my bandaged skull with the rifle barrel. She looked confused, then seemed to have put two and two together. “Are you one of those guys? I thought that only happened in movies.”

I grinned. “Nope. Must’ve took one big hit to the noggin.”

“Yet you know how to use that?” she gestured to the rifle slung across my chest. ”And how to talk?”

I shrugged at this. “Dunno about the talking thing, maybe that’s built in no matter what. And the gun… it’s all been instinctual. Plus, I think I’m remembering stuff again.”

She nodded. “That’s good.”

After another five minutes, the girl pointed to a large green vehicle parked carelessly in the middle of the road. It was untouched by the firebombing, as was most of this area. She ran up to it, smiled, and patted the armored skin like one does a horse.

It was bigger than a car. I saw a big, mean looking gun on top, and the front, hood and windshield were spattered with blood. I swear I saw some fingers stuck in the grill. Without taking time to look, I yanked open the door.

I was bombarded by the fierce smell that one gets when they return from vacation to find rotten food in their fridge, and I recoiled, covering my mouth and shutting my eyes. Over the intense droning of flies, I could barely hear a frenzied growl. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I felt two bony hands, creaky and putrid, lock onto my shoulders and I felt someone pushing me onto my back.

I heard Ruby scream as we tumbled. It was on me, I smelt the vile breath, and knew that if I opened my eyes I’d be greeted by something very unpleasant. So I wrestled blindly, pushing with all my might, but his hands were like handcuffs, in spite of being half claimed by rot and maggots. How were these things so strong?

I had dropped my gun, so I could use both my hands. I gave up pushing it away, and now got it around the throat, trying to break it’s atrophied neck. I heard it growling, it wasn’t a choked noise, just angry. Suddenly, a loud bang numbed my eardrums. I heard a loud splat, and my attacker went limp, falling on top of me like a puppet, almost kissing me. I felt it expel a cloud a vile cloud of defiled air out it’s mouth right into mine.

For the first time I could remember, I wanted to vomit, and, kicking the creature off of me, I rolled over and pasted the pavement with Case 4 MRE. My stomach emptied, I kinda laughed at the stuff as it congealed in the heat. It sure looked worse than I remembered it.

I turned about, to see Ruby, shaking like a leaf, holding the gun that seemed to dwarf her. She held it like I did, across the chest, barrel pointing safely downward.

She looked at me, then at the dead creature who’s head was oozing what little was left in the skull, and at the gun. “I’m… I’m sorry.”
I waved her concern away, and stood up, shaking even worse than her. “No… no you… you did good kiddo.”

I took the gun back, and draped the strap over the back of my neck. “You used this like a pro.”

She nodded, and smiled a bit. “Yeah, my dad taught me. He also taught me how to use his service pistol. He said ‘they’ll never expect a girl to be looking back at them behind the gun.’”

“Smart man your dad.” I gave the creature a soft kick, just to see if it would try to move. It certainly didn’t. I saw it had a uniform like mine, but without all the gear, just a driver I guess.

Before I could pat her on the shoulder, I heard another growl, and looked around in terror.

In the minutes after the gunshot, a ring of the monsters had emerged from all directions, some of them from the undamaged houses, I saw one crawl from a ditch, two more crawled out of the back of a red pickup. We were ringed in.

Ruby gulped, knowing that her shot had gotten a lot of unwanted attention. “Oh God.. I’m so sorry!”

I took a head count, had to be thirty of them, all groaning and growling like sick dogs. Ruby put her back to mine, and I fumbled at the side of my pant leg. Undoing a strap, I pulled a pistol from it’s holster and jammed it into her wrist.

“Here, more your size.”

Over the echoing chorus of growling and moaning, came a clattering roar from a machine gun, and a huge armored vehicle swung into sight, careening towards us. The creatures began to fall like wheat before a scythe, and those that endured the hail of bullets were splattered on the vehicle’s front end. It came to a stop not five yards from us.

The back end opened, and about ten men in uniforms leapt out. Two of them went to the still wriggling corpses and began began dispatching them with head shots, but the other eight circled us, training their weapons on me. They all wore ominous gas masks, wore thick green uniforms like mine, and were armed to the teeth.

“On the ground!” One of them scream through his mask. I looked down the barrels of eight assault rifles, and felt laser pointers dancing across my chest. I put myself between them and the girl.

“Don’t hurt her.” I said calmly, slowly laying my gun on the asphalt. I kneeled down, my head held high, my hands held palms open. Two men shouldered their firearms and dashed forward to seize me. I lowered my head, and prepared to be roughhoused by the men in masks.

Then we all were stopped by a loud gasp from behind me. The soldiers froze in place, not alerted or scared, just paused in surprise. I turned, and the girl’s face had paled with shock. She pointed to my face, the left side which wasn’t obscured by bandages, and reached out to touch it. She looked into my eyes, and began crying anew. And then she did something that caught me off guard. She threw her arms around me, weeping, but happily so this time.

Over her sobbing, and sniffling, I heard her squeak one word. “Daddy.”

I was floored, and hugged her back. She saw me as her dad, and yet I did not know her. Two soldiers gently pulled her off me, and, holding me by the arms, escorted us into the back of their vehicle. It reminded me of the inside of a ribcage, with heavy cloth covering the frame. It was like a cage, yet it felt safe. It was nice and cold inside.

My daughter sat across from me, between two huge soldiers with their gas masks, her eyes down as if horrified to look at me. I’m sure that, if there were a vanity mirror in the back of these armor plated truck, I would have been too. I tried to smile, but it felt like someone stabbing thumb tacks into the bandages. All we could do was look at each other, before I was lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the transport.

When I awoke, I wondered if I had again woken up in a different world. The truck had just stopped, and I opened my eyes as the soldiers filed out the open back end of the vehicle. My daughter went first, and then me, and I almost fell down.

Overhead swept a deep, blue sky, floored on the horizon by what at first looked like clouds, all towards what remained of Denver. All around me I could see everything bursting with life. Thousands of people filed about, a quarter of them in uniforms of all kinds, a lot them like mine. I saw men and women in work suits, in casual clothes, some of them only had bed clothes and emergency blankets. And children of all ages, many of them had backpacks, they must’ve been in school only days ago.

And the herd wasn’t just made up of humans, I saw dogs zipping about, birds in cages, a lot of cows and horses. A few cats perched lazily or hunted quietly, and I swear I even saw an ox.

I looked beyond the crowd, and saw a high wall made of huge metal cargo containers, soldier and citizen alike wandered the top with guns, firing out beyond the wall occasionally. And beyond the wall stretched mountains and ridges, endless trees, and even some waterfalls. I grabbed the shirt sleeve of a man walking by. He was in a suit, like he had just come back from the office.

“Hey, where the hell are we?”

He put his hand on my should softly, and gave me a sorrowed look. “Glenwood. Everything farther east is gone man, The Eastern Seaboard, the Plains, everything east of the Rockies.”

I had no time to ask more questions before two military officers came and asked me to come with them to be “decontaminated”.

After intensive showers and tests, details were provided to fill the blanks. Some disease had hit the country, coming from the east coast ports and spreading inland. By the time we recognized it, it had hit half the country. Those who got the disease died, and became, apparently, the creatures that now stumbled about. Pretty sad if you ask me, the most intelligent creatures on the planet down to the two legged equal of a bacteria.

Funny statement that, they were carriers of the disease even after death, in all essence a two legged bacteria, a bipedal virus, a mobile sickness.

We had been lucky, it could’ve spread through the airlines, as it can only be spread by contact with infected blood. We had been able to fence it off at the mountains, to save the rest of the country. What little was left to save.

Apparently, my men were deployed to Denver, where everyone was told to just stay indoors, that they’d be ok once the army arrived. But it was far worse there than the higher-ups could’ve guessed. I had abandoned my unit to go find my family, instead of fleeing the incoming bombs, and that had put me in the immediate area of a bomb strike.

Over the course of the story, I heard words like the Denver outbreak, containment failure, and decontamination. They meant nothing to me, not that I didn’t understand them, I just didn’t care. I was still tired and drained from my battle for survival.

I paid attention when I was told that my family… they all died when a napalm strike hit our neighborhood. Except my daughter Ruby, who hadn’t been home when the bombing commenced. Yet I didn’t feel anger, not at first. How cruel is it that you don’t cry for your lost loved ones because you forgot them? My injury caused me to not remember them, not my wife, sons, sisters, brothers, not even my daughter. That thought is what provoked me to cry, I cried because I did not remember them.

I looked out the door, seeing Ruby sitting nervously in the hall, probably waiting for me. I did smile to myself a bit. At least I had her still, I still had a chance to know my family again, to know her again. Finally I was told that, once I recovered, me and my daughter would be moved to a safe zone in Grand Junction.

But before we left, I chanced to ask the doctors what had happened to me. Again, I heard a lot of terms that were meaningless, but then I heard amnesia, damage to the cerebral cortex. It was a miracle that I had survived the wound, never mind the nuclear blast.

You see, one of the soldiers who had picked us up came in with my old helmet. I almost didn’t recognize it. It was bent in half, with a huge crater in the side deep enough to hide a cake. It had been impaled on a steel beam hurled by the explosion, and had not the chin strap broken it would’ve taken my head clean off. I remember running my hand along the helmet, watching my hand disappear into the massive dent. I looked from the helmet to my daughter, sitting in a chair just outside the examination room, and chuckled to myself.

A miracle indeed.

Credit To – Evan Dollarhide

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My Trip to Canada

April 1, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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There are so many things that I wish could be buried in the deepest parts of my mind. There are things that I pray could be locked away forever. The truth though is that once something like that happens, there really is no way to get away from it. I guess that is why I felt the need to share my story with everyone. The only way to stop it from eating away at my mind might be to let others know what happened to my friends and I that weekend. You see, school had just gotten out and I wanted to do something noteworthy to start off summer break. I was always a sucker for the outdoors so I talked to my best friend Michael about going camping in the forest. He was a little sketchy at first but we had been on these types of trips before; during those times things always turned out great so he agreed and from that point we got others to join us. In the end it was me, Michael, Jessie, and Samantha all packed into a single car driving down the highway. Our trunk was stuffed to the brim with food, tents and all the gear we were going to need. Of all the places we could have gone to in Canada we chose the Aspen Parkland.

I can’t remember what it was that made me choose that place; when it came down to it I remember pointing to the closest place on Google maps and we started our journey. It took us about three hours to drive up there but when we stepped out of that car and felt the breeze push against our skin we knew that it was well worth the wait. I hopped onto the hood of my car immediately and closed my eyes as the wind blew through my hair. Jessie and Michael were out running through the field of grass trying to race each other and Samantha of course had gone to the one spot upwind and lit up a cigarette. The smoke made me open my eyes immediately just to see her sitting in the grass like a Native with her legs crossed. I was planning to yell at her but I didn’t see the point so I slid off the hood and unlocked up the trunk. All of our bags had been packed before we got there so I grabbed mine and jimmied it over my shoulders. Samantha bolted up from the ground and ran over to get hers on “We’re heading out already?”

“Might as well” I said back to her. And with that she got her pack on and we both called out to Michael and Jessie who got theirs on. The four of us felt like explorers of some kind when we set off into the wilderness. The weather was a bit chilly but the adventure in our hearts was far beyond that of any child. Maybe that is pulling threads a little to thin but I am just being honest with the way I felt. We must have walked for a good mile before we reached the forest line that we had spotted earlier. I was the first to enter the brush and I beckoned the others after me. They followed close behind since I was the only one with any real outdoor experience.

More than once a few of them jumped back in fright at the sight of a squirrel, or anything that moved for that matter. When we had reached an opening in the trees we had found a small creek to fill up our canteens. As I filled my canteen they all stopped dead in their tracks to look up. My head rose to meet their gaze and the four of us saw it. There was a beautiful Canadian moose just a few feet away from the creek we were resting at. We watched as it drank from the creek, completely ignoring us. Samantha struggled to get her phone out to take a picture while Michael tried to get closer to so that I could whisper out some moose trivia. It stayed there at the creek for only about five minutes before leaving but it made an impression on all of us. I wish that could have been where we headed back to the car and set up our tents but fate had other things planned for us.

Just as the moose was out of our view, we saw something else emerge from the forest. On the other side of the creek, at the top of a small hill was a completely naked man. He was tall and muscular with hair covering his chest and legs like a wild beast. His sideburns were like delicious lamb chops of fury; his eyebrows were angled strongly enough to invoke fear into all of us. We were scared the second we saw him; we became petrified when we saw the hand axe clutched in his right palm. None of us dared speak but he saw the four of us there at the creek with our canteens in our hands. And he called out to us in his thick Canadian accent.

“Aye you youngsters. What are you doing around these parts? Don’t ya know there is a serial killer round here trying to kill people?”

Michael locked eyes with the man and shook his head in despair. None of us dared to look away from his naked body for even a second; we kept our vision dead square upon him. He would occasionally scratch his junk while the soft wind blew against our faces and in that moment it felt like we were in a swamp filled thick with maple syrup. I tried to stay calm but I knew that he was seriously messed up when he procured a stack of pancakes from out of nowhere and then began to eat them right in front of us. I tried to resist the urge to go and join him and luckily my willpower was strong enough to hold me back; Jessie’s willpower was not. He removed his pack and began stepping towards the naked Canadian; we tried to warn him but he was in a trance. He stood beside the crazed Canadian “Mind if I have some?” Jessie asked. The Canadian raised his knife and brought it down into the stack of pancakes, cutting them dead in half and then handing the other half to Jessie.

“Sure thing aye, have as much as you like, I got plenty with me”

Just when we though the horror was over, the Canadian lowered his hands again and pulled up several more plates loaded with pancakes. I tried to be polite about it when he offered them to me “No thank you sir, I’m not very hungry” but every time I rejected his offers I felt a knot tie inside my heart. I knew the polite thing to do would be to accept the pancakes but doing so would mean my doom. It was already happening to Jessie; the Canadian man was talking to him and making him feel nice and at home. But I could never trust a fully nude man since the incident at summer camp, maybe a semi-nude man but definitely not a completely naked one. So there Jessie and the man sat, right at the top of the ridge by the creek. The two of them sat there eating those fluffy light pancakes with sweet sticky syrup topping and it made the rest of us water at the mouth. But our pre-assumptions were broken and we learned how bitter the syrup could be.

The Canadian stood up after finishing his plate of pancakes and he pulled out a large pot (once again I have no idea where he was getting these things). He lifted the pot above his head and we could see steam rising through the top; before we could warn him, we watched as boiling hot syrup was poured all over his body. Jessie screamed out so loudly that it seemed his mouth was about to break.
“Sorry about that aye, my hand slipped” those words swept through us like fire and we knew he was still the sadistic and polite Canadian we had known him to be. But what could we do? He apologized and because of that it would be rude if we ran away, and so we stood still and gave him some common courtesy, Jessie included. I was shocked to find that although Jessie was in agonizing pain he stood still and tried to finish the pancakes; there was not much else he could do in the presence of such a polite man. I took my eyes off of him for one second and found him again with his hand upon his knife and his knife inside of Mike.

Mike’s body twitched with the blade deep in his belly and uttered out the words: “W…Why?”

The Canadian smiled and placed one hand against the back of his head and said “Geez aye, I just seem to be a klutz today. Sorry about all that, didn’t mean to stab you.”
“DAMN IT” I thought to myself; with all of this politeness he might just get the best of us. Sam and I clutched our hands together and closed our eyes. The last thing we saw was the Canadian walking towards us with his knife waiting to accidentally run into us with it. We waited for the blade to pierce us but it never did; instead, we heard nothing but silence. Then we smelt it; the fresh aroma of maple leaves. When we finally had the courage to open our eyes we saw our red clothed savior standing between the killer and us.

It was a Canadian trooper in full apparel with his entire body in the Master of Manners position.

“Don’t worry kids, you’re safe now”. My soul flew back into the realm of existence when I heard him say that to me. I doubted his power at first but the two Canadians were locked in battle of politeness and every second that they fought was a second Samantha and I would be alive. Nothing happened for the longest time, it was just the wind blowing and a few hand signals between the two; occasionally they would bow. But our hero was turned into a monster when the naked Canadian said to the trooper “Would you please kill that girl behind you?”

Shit, he did it again, he asked politely and now the Canadian trooper had his hands around Samantha. Tears rolled down his eyes as life left her body and the blood disappeared from her anguished face. She collapsed and the knife was now deep inside the trooper with the naked Canadian behind him whispering into his ear “Sorry about that aye. I was just trying to murder you.”

“No problem aye” said the trooper as he fell to the floor with the knife still firm in his back. I know for certain I would have been next if it weren’t for my quick thinking.

“Excuse me sir, would you mind if I ran back to my car and escaped your murderous rampage?” the words came blurting out of my mouth and I ended up having to say the phrase twice, but it worked. The naked man grew tired in his eyes as he waited patiently for me to escape his bloodlust, so I did just that.

I ran at a steady pace all the way to my car and when the keys met the ignition my foot met the pedal and my memories left that place behind. I told the police about it several days later but they never went to search for him because doing so would be “impolite” by Canadian police standards. They did however find the dead bodies of my friends in that forest; the polite and murderous Canadian had properly buried them. It was a nice gesture but only I know the truth about his intentions, only I know the true shades of his swelling predatorial nature. To this day the scars of my psyche remain apparent in my life.

No longer can I eat pancakes; the smell of syrup makes me nauseous. My hands begin to shake whenever I turn on the hockey channel. Even though I know he is gone I never know for how long, even now I still have haunting of his presence. I have found Maple leaves in my mailbox and sometimes when I go shopping there is someone politely holding the door for me. But most of all I still hear his animalistic call.
“Aye” it says, “Aaaaaaaayeeeeeeee” the voice calls across the distance between us.

The words themselves bring chills to my spine and to this day I wait for him to return and finish me off.

…Damn Canadians.

Credit To – Brandon Puff

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