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What’s The Matter, Jenny?

February 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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You believe in ghosts?

Me neither. I can’t or I’ll go completely off the track. Or maybe I’m already nuts. What happened two days ago in the Chapelgate house might’ve actually happened or might’ve just been my imagination. One thing’s for damn sure, though: I’ll never set foot in that neighborhood again.

Sure, if you got a minute I’ll tell you all about it. You won’t buy an inch of it, though. Everyone thinks I’m as crazy as Jenny. Eric won’t even believe, for Chrissakes, and he’s the one who sent me to that dump to begin with! Came just short of picking me up and tossing me out of his house when I told him. Jenny had the right idea, keeping her mouth shut.


It wasn’t an official job. I went out there as a favor to Eric Cunningham, Gary’s brother. Yeah, the schoolteacher. His ward, Jenny — that cute little teen that clutters his house with all the photos — had a medical emergency recently.

Well, I wouldn’t exactly call her “all right”. She’s gone mute and even so much as making eye contact is difficult for her. Shies away from folks like a puppy that’s been kicked once too often. Since her recovery she’s clung to Eric more than ever. Poor Eric’s about to crack, he’s worrying about her so much. We’re old friends, me and Eric, and I wanted to help him out. Now he doesn’t want me near him or Jenny anymore. That’s the thanks I get.

Understand that Jenny has no one else, and the feeling is mutual. Jenny was raised in the Aspenvale Orphanage, but never adopted ‘cos she feared and loathed adults and kept running away. Bright kid, though. Real imaginative and loved a good book. When she ran away the police almost always found her at the library.

For two years Eric held a side-job at the orphanage as a weekly reading and writing tutor. Every week Eric brought boxes of new books for the kids to enjoy, but Jenny always got something special, usually something by her favorite authors: Christie, Poe, Keats, Angelou, Frost. They became friends right away, and whenever she saw Eric she eagerly ran to greet him with crushing hugs and tales of her misadventures in town.

No, Gary’s the one married to Tricia. Eric lost his wife, Gwenny, to pneumonia. Gwenny would have adored Jenny, so Eric became her legal guardian. Even gave Gwenny’s wedding band to her as a birthday present to unite the three of them as a family, and she never took it off. They were just like father and daughter for the longest time: sweet little Leave It to Beaver family.

The whole ordeal began on my doorstep with a 7 A.M. visit from the police. “Eric Cunningham sent us,” one of ‘em said. “Jenny’s in a coma at the hospital.”

I threw on my coat and rode with ‘em. Gave me the skinny on the way there: they’d found her in the Chapelgate house on the furthest corner of Evergreen Drive, where she’d apparently spent the entire night in the kitchen pantry with the door barricaded from the inside. They wouldn’t have found her there if she hadn’t been whimpering like a dog, or at all had her friend Derrick Snyder not told them where to look for her.

All of Derrick’s friends are what you might call die-hard horror connoisseurs, and Jenny was no exception. She loved a good thrill, but in spite of her imagination she presented herself as a hard-nosed skeptic where reality was concerned. This made her a constant target of Derrick’s childish dares, and she never backed down from a dare, that girl.

Derrick had been on a tangent about the house when Jenny last scoffed him. He goaded her to sneak in alone that Friday evening — when its only current residents, the Clarks, were due to leave for the weekend — and take a moonlit tour of the mansion to prove the nonexistence of ghosts. That weekend at 10 P.M. she went, promising to return with a souvenir. Derrick and friends stayed up late waiting for her, but when night came and went and Jenny never showed, they called the police.

She was unresponsive when they found her, and she refused to open the pantry door. When they were forced to break it down she fell into a frenzy of panicked screaming and fainted as one officer reached in to offer his hand.

I’d braced myself for an ugly sight when I got to the hospital, but Jenny wasn’t hurt. Just a little dirty and trapped in a restless sleep. Rashes on her arms and shoulders were the worst of her injuries. The doctor said she’d suffered a shock and no one could say how long she’d be out.

Eric refused to leave her. He was pasty, baggy-eyed, and irritable as hell when I got there. Scowled at everyone, spat his words on ‘em like phlegm. He had good reason to be pissed: his baby was in a coma, nobody could tell him what caused it, and on top of that Gwenny’s ring was missing from her finger. The paramedics and police insisted she wore no jewelry when they brought her in, and Derrick swore she had it when she left on the dare. The ring is precious to Eric and Jenny and its loss would’ve broken both their hearts, but more importantly Eric believed that its return would help brighten Jenny’s spirits and maybe even hasten her recovery.

That was all he asked me to do. Get the ring back, and find out what happened to his adopted daughter.

Well, I did. And me and Jimmy Beam have been trying to wash it outta my memory ever since.


Everyone’s heard the rumors about Chapelgate House being a haven for ghosts and demons. It’s no secret that orchestra leader Evadne Chapelgate was murdered there in 1934 by her husband Ralston as comeuppance for slapping him around for twenty years. But nothing’s ever proven the property is dangerous or haunted to any degree.

It isn’t even abandoned: Edie Hathaway, this retired accountant, rents its rooms to families in the process of moving in or out of the city. At any given time there is always two or more people inside. Tom and Agnes Clark, the most recent residents as I’ve said, have had no complaints about the place apart from a few odd smells.

I hoped Mrs. Hathaway might shed a little light on Jenny’s predicament. She didn’t know much about the Chapelgates except that they’d shared a modest fortune, never propagated, and were the most unappreciated artists of our time. She didn’t like to talk about them much ‘cos of the murder. She gave more details about the house itself: two bedrooms, two washrooms, kitchen, dining room, study, cellar, drawing room, and studio. Built by an English merchant in 1850, sold to the newly-wed Chapelgates in 1917, and to the Hathaways in 1940. Renovated twice in its lifetime.

The kitchen caught my interest, of course. The Chapelgates practically wore it out with all the parties Evadne threw (she had an unhealthy love of gin and compliments); after the Hathaways bought the house, none of their tenants ever used the kitchen except occasionally as storage space. The most common reason given was its smell, a strong potpourri of mildew, sewage, and mire.

Mrs. Hathaway squeamishly admitted her growing concern about the moldy stench over the last few years. She cleans the house from top to bottom once a week, including the abandoned kitchen, but the stench clings to the air no matter how hard she scrubs it. She even called a health inspector over on one occasion. He never found the source of the odor, but did manage to find a dead cat tucked beneath the steel dishwashing tub.

I could see Mrs. Hathaway’s skin turning green when she described it. Blisters, rashes, and necrotic lesions covered its body: slimy black fungus peeled the flesh back eagerly like a greedy kid opening a Christmas present. Eyes bugged out of its head like it’d died of fright. Mrs. Hathaway had never seen or smelled anything like it, but while it certainly added to the kitchen’s offensive odor, it wasn’t the source.

Curious? A little bit. Nauseating? Absolutely. But these details still didn’t explain how a house that had served as a hotel for years could turn a young girl’s mind inside-out in a single night. I turned my attention to Jenny’s ring, figuring she would enlighten us when she woke up.

Damn Jenny. Damn Eric. Damn the Chapelgates. Damn the Clarks and their vacation. Damn my own weak, mushy heart for ever feeling sorry for anybody. The answer finally reared its hideous head when I visited the house to look for the ring.


It was the middle of the afternoon by the time I got there. The moment I stepped through the front door rotten marshland fumes punched me in the stomach. I’d been to the house a few times to visit friends that stayed there and never noticed it at all; now here it was in full force like something had recently agitated it.

In all my visits, though, I’d never seen the kitchen. The lights didn’t work, but the late afternoon sun lit it up just fine as it trickled in from a pair of tiny windows eight feet up the eastern wall. The cupboards and counters sagged like the weak shoulders of elderly men waiting for death, their surfaces spotless but worn and brittle. Many cabinets had lost their doors long ago and grinned broadly with cobweb teeth. Along the north wall (to my left from the door) naked cupboards stood at attention on an Egyptian tomb floor of faded tiles. In the far corner the wall opened into a pantry the size of a small walk-in closet. The inside was a mess of broken shelves and crates. The door was in splintered fragments on the floor.

I found Jenny’s ring in the pantry, glistening in one corner as if calling for help. I would have left right after snatching it up, but an odd gurgle — I almost mistook it for a voice — turned my attention to the far end of the room. A partition jutted out from the middle of the south wall, shrouding the corner to the right of the door in thick shadows. Hiding shamefully from the sunlight in that corner was the steel dishwashing tub.

I approached it with my handkerchief over my nose (the smell was worse by then) until I stood close enough to rest a hand on its tarnished lip. A blackish sludge stinking of rot had scaled the pipes to form a puddle at the bottom of the tub — maybe a clue to the source of the mysterious stench. Mrs. Hathaway should’ve noticed it, but never mentioned a clog. On closer inspection I realized the sludge puddle swirled and quivered with sluggish life and its edge was slowly expanding, as if the drain decided to back up on a whim.

The shriek of a rusty hinge attacked me from behind, and I about-faced just in time to watch the kitchen door fling itself shut. I tried the knob and found it frozen with centuries of rust!

In only a few minutes the septic stench had rotted to a choking level that my handkerchief couldn’t fend off: my throat itched and convulsed and fire tickled my eyes. Black sludge continued to puke up from the tub’s drain, filling it halfway, then two thirds, then near overflowing. But just when it seemed on the verge of spilling over the edge, it abruptly stopped.

Some fool curiosity inched me forward for a closer look, but my feet quickly filled with concrete: from the tub’s throat came a thick gurgle that sounded like speech!

The longer I listened, the more the drain spoke. Its voice seemed miles away and grated like a knife against the grindstone, its language slurred and meaningless. A silhouette formed on the south wall, bent slightly over the tub like a washwoman. Another shape appeared, swimming back and forth like a shark on the prowl, occasionally latching onto the first and then tearing away like it was feeding on it. The gurgle-voice shot off a steady stream of vicious nonsense words like artillery fire while the urge to scream struggled to reach my throat and kept slipping back down again.

Suddenly the first silhouette turned on the second. The voice rose to a shrill whine punctuated with the crashing sound of metal utensils scattering on the floor. The first form had the second by the neck, squeezing the strength out of its legs, beating it into submission with its fists whenever it broke free. The attacker pivoted, plunged the weakening shape into the tub with a sploosh I heard but never saw. I counted every second of the eternity that followed while the shape held its victim down with all its might. Then the drain fell silent; the first silhouette wilted like a miserable flower, then vanished. The tub drain released a long sob.

All was still again. I stood unmoving, listening sharply like a soldier in the jungles of ‘Nam. I thought of dashing to the door and coaxing it open with brute force. The stench, as if in reply, swarmed me like angry bees and almost knocked me off my feet.

A nightmare broke the sludge surface. A hand, its peeling flesh stained black with mold and filth, reached out and latched onto the edge of the washtub. A head wrapped in snakes of black hair emerged, then a set of mildew-eaten shoulders.

I’d seen enough. I scrambled for the door and assaulted it with my boot. It rattled in its frame but refused to give.

Splashing of the nightmare climbing out of the tub drove me into panic. I throttled the door, keeping my eyes fixed on the doorknob. I would not look at it, no matter how much my instincts begged. I would not look at it like Jenny had. I would not suffer the same mental shock with that lurching horror inching nearer every second. The stench strangled all the breath from my throat and my vision began to fail me.

Dripping ice cubes touched the nape of my neck.

The door surrendered.


I don’t remember leaving the house. My memory is nothing but fog for several pages; then I’m waking up in the home of Eric’s brother, Gary. He says I showed up on his doorstep pale and exhausted and collapsed in a faint right in the doorway. When I came to he offered me a glass of bourbon, which I gladly traded for Jenny’s ring. Didn’t say a word except that I’d been to the house and found the damn thing.

I think I was on my second glass when Tricia sat beside me and put a cold spread of ointment to my neck. I asked what it was for and she described in great detail a grossly neglected fungal infection. My head still swimming from the things I saw in Chapelgate Manor — teetering toward writing it all off as a terrible dream — I sauntered into the bathroom to see for myself.

Three unsightly welts had formed at the nape, each one raw and inflamed as if it had gone untreated for days. And as you can see for yourself, each took the hideous shape of a human finger.

I took one look, thought of the cat, and threw up in the sink.

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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This is My Goodbye

January 24, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Dear Reader,

When I was a little girl, I lived in a small neighborhood where everyone knew each other. You know the type: the suburban division of detached homes, each containing a mother, a father, and one to two little kids. It was that kind of a neighborhood, where the sun was always bright and even the snow-covered winters felt like summer.

I lived in one of the more generic, red brick homes at the centre of a T shaped intersection: there was a road to the left of the house, leading to a cul-de-sac, a road to the right, leading to a more complex network of inner streets, and one road that went straight ahead, starting in the middle of the other roads that had streets and homes branching off of it on either side.

When I was only five years old, I went to get a haircut at one of the neighbor’s homes. A family friend living in our neighborhood had recommended the neighboring hairdresser to my mom, and, upon hearing that the hairdresser had a young daughter around my age, I agreed to go.

Even though our neighborhood was filled to the brim with young children, that population was made up of a large amount of young boys, many of whom I didn’t get along with. One of the only girls in the area had moved away when I was four. Another girl I encountered had gotten quite close with me, close enough to snatch my toys out from under my nose. We didn’t speak after that. But, I looked at this haircut as an opportunity to finally have that best friend that Barbie had told me about at that age. I was more excited than I could comprehend.

The hairdresser lived on the right side of the centre road, making it very close to my own home.
In minutes, my mom and I reached the house.

We rang the doorbell and waited patiently for the door to open. Seconds later, it swung open to reveal the hairdresser.

The hairdresser was a young looking woman with healthy skin and a very warm smile. Her hair was the color of milk chocolate and her eyes were a deep honey color. She radiated kindness and hospitality, and it was almost too easy to tell that she had a loving husband and two kids. For security purposes, I’m going to refer to her as Helena.

Helena lead us into the house, then into the basement, a fully furnished space that smelled of flowers and stuffed animals. Just to the left of the staircase leading to the basement was Helena’s studio.

Entering the studio, a room with bright, golden lights, and the thick scent of hair product, Helena and my mom were laughing over something that bored me quite a bit, and I took that as a good sign.

Helena helped me up onto the stylist’s chair and began cutting my hair upon my mother’s direction. About twenty minutes later, I had neatly trimmed bangs and evened out shoulder length black hair, just how my parents liked it.

I thanked Helena as she helped me off the chair. I was anxious by this point. The entire visit I had been thinking about meeting a new friend, but I didn’t see said friend anywhere. I was worried, and as if on cue, Helena said, “You know, I think my daughter would like you.”

I looked up at her, my eyes probably huge. “Can I meet her?” I said, shying a bit behind my mother’s leg. I was never good with being the centre of attention, and even now, I still carry that trait with me.

Helena laughed and reached for my hand. “Sure thing, as long as it’s okay with your mom,” she said, glancing at my mom.

My mother smiled down at me and said, “Alright, but don’t take too long. We have to be at your Uncle’s house in an hour.”

Helena smiled again, took my hand, and led me upstairs, past the main floor, and to the carpeted second story of the house.

She led me down a hallway and to the second door on the right, where, amidst strewn Barbie dolls and Polly Pocket accessories, was a little girl. She was a bit chubby, with round cheeks and big eyes the same color as her mother’s. Her hair was golden brown and pulled back into a short ponytail. She looked like she could be my best friend.

I walked into the room, shyly, staring that the toys all over the floor. She watched me come in and sit next to her.

“Hi,” I said, nervous, but smiling, “I’m Sabrina.”

“Hello!” She said, obviously happy to see me, “I’m Sharon! Do you want to see my Fairytopia Barbie?”

I remember gasping when she asked me that. Not because I was making a new friend, but because she had the one Barbie doll that I couldn’t get my hands on at the time. Of course I wanted to see it.

“Yes please,” I said, still shy. Nobody had ever been so suddenly kind towards me, so the shyness I felt was a combination of nerves and cautionary instinct.

Sharon jumped up, giggling, and ran into her closet where she emerged with the toy. She handed it over to me and let me look at it.

It was then, that I found myself my best friend.

Sharon and I stayed close friends for many years, until the second grade, when her dad got a job in Newfoundland. She left in March of that year, and I was left behind as the loneliest girl at my elementary school.

I was terrible with making friends and nobody was willing to let me jump rope with them a recess, or sit next to them in class. It was like I would never have anyone to call my friend besides Sharon.

But, by June of second grade, Sharon called my house from Newfoundland, promising a visit over the summer. At that fantastic news, I waited, prepping my room and my belongings for the next month, when she would arrive. I couldn’t wait to see her again.

Sharon visited and called me for many years after that. Due to her father’s rocky vacation schedule, she didn’t physically visit often, but she called nearly every other week.

I made other friends in the years when Sharon left. I felt amazing. I had all these people around me who liked me for who I was, along with one friend who, though they were so many kilometers away, was closer than ever with me.

We sent letters, called, exchanged emails, eventually got cell phones and started texting, the whole nine yards. We talked all the time. She sent me photos and videos, and I did likewise. She got to know my friends from school, and I got to know hers. It was like she’d never left.

Then, out of nowhere, two years ago when I was in the ninth grade, she stopped calling. I was worried out of my mind. I tried calling her home phone, but nobody ever picked up. This led me to believe that they had disabled their landline. I called her cell, but I was sent directly to her voicemail. Text messages went unanswered, physical letters never came. There was no word of what had happened to my friend.

My friends from school tried to reassure me, saying that she’d changed her home phone number or moved again. I believed them, and I tried to move on. But, a part of me still held onto her, hoping that she’d call me back.

I worried that I’d offended her and caused her to dislike me. I kept thinking about the last things I’d said to her, but nothing remotely offensive came to mind. I was lost, and I didn’t know how to bring back one of the most prominent figures in my life.

This went on for about two months, until one day, I finally got a text message from her.

I lit up on the inside. I could talk to my oldest friend again. I felt complete once more. I don’t think I can truly describe in words how it felt to finally hear from her again. It was like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders. I could stand straighter, see clearer, and breathe deeper. I was truly happy again, after two months of worrying.

We talked about everything via text message. She explained that she had moved once again to another city in Newfoundland and hadn’t gotten a landline yet. She said not to worry about sending letters anymore since we had our cell phones. It made sense at the time, so I didn’t question it and continued to talk to my friend.

For the next little while, Sharon and I went on with our lives as usual. We stuck to texts as our method of communication, and we sometimes emailed each other. We talked about school, clothes, boys, everything.

One day, mid-March, about one month after Sharon had started texting me again, I got a phone call.

I recognized the area code to be from Newfoundland. Immediately, I thought that it was Sharon, calling to tell me that she’d finally gotten a landline hooked up. I felt my heart leap to my throat, and I answered the call.

“Hello?” I said, my voice semi-quivering with anxiety.

“Hi, Sabrina?”

It was Helena. I thought that maybe she’d called to tell me that this was their new number and that I could call Sharon any time now.

“Yeah, hello Ms. Stevenson,” I said, smiling. It was good to hear her voice. It was reassuring, that I could talk to Sharon soon.

“Hi there, sweetheart, how have you been?”

“Pretty good, ha ha, and you?” I said.

“We’re doing… alright, I guess. Sweetie, I called to tell you something that I should have called about right away when it happened. I had trouble finding your number, but I’ve got it now, ha ha. I know it’s a bit late, but better late than never, right?” Helena said.

I remember the glob of saliva that lodged itself in my throat. After Helena said those words, I suddenly had a very bad feeling about this call.

“W-What are you talking about, Ms. Stevenson?” I asked, my voice shaking for a whole different reason now.

“I am so sorry to tell you this, Sabrina, but, Sharon has passed away.”

“What?” I said, my voice cracking. I was drowning is disbelief. It didn’t seem possible. How could such an amazing, warm, beautiful person just die? I was in utter shock.

“When?” I asked. I was crying by that point, and I didn’t do a thing to try and hide it.

“This is why I’m so sorry, sweetie. She passed away three months ago today. She went for a ride with Derek (Derek is her brother) on an ATV. It crashed and she didn’t make it. It was terrible. I’m so sorry,” Helena said.

I froze up. I felt fear take over my body, fear and confusion. Fear, and denial.

I told myself that it couldn’t be possible. It didn’t make any sense. I’d been talking to Sharon via text messages for the past three months. It took me a while to bring myself to fully comprehend Helena’s information.

I was now more scared than saddened. I was worried because I’d been texting someone who was supposed to be dead for the last few months of my life.

This meant that someone else now had Sharon’s phone and was using it. But how? Wasn’t all of the data on the phone erased? How did they know about my relationship with her? I was purely terrified.

“Helena?” I said, my voice unwavering.


“What did you do with Sharon’s phone?”

“Oh, we gave it back to the phone service provider, number and all. Why?” She asked.

“It’s just… It’s… I was just wondering,” I said.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to tell Helena about the texts. Instead, I bid her a tearful and heart breaking goodbye and hung up the phone.

Then, as if prompted, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket.

I felt my heart skip a beat, my stomach jump to my throat, and the hairs on my arms prick up.

Hesitantly and with my eyes full of tears, I pulled out the phone.

On the home screen was a bubble displaying, “Hey there :) Can I come visit you next week? For march break.”

The sender was Sharon.

I didn’t answer the text. I never do now.

It’s been two years and “she” still won’t stop texting me. I’ve blocked “her” number, but “she” changes it every time I do so. I’ve changed my number, but “she” some how finds out what I change it to.

Even worse than all of that is what “Sharon” sends me. It’s no longer friendly messages of well wishes or pictures of fresh baked goods. Instead, I see threats and curses, foul language and horrifying photos. “She’s” sent me pictures of people being dismembered, followed by the words, “you’re next if you don’t reply.”

I can’t take this. I don’t understand why this had to happen. I don’t know who’s texting me, but it’s probably some sicko from the middle of nowhere who somehow got their hand’s on a dead girl’s phone, preloaded data and all. I’m worried for myself, and for my family. I don’t want this. I didn’t ask for this. I just wanted a friend.

I’m writing this now in hopes that someone sees my laptop and uploads this somewhere. I’m running out of options.

If you’re reading this, it means that “Sharon” found me and I’m dead.

Tell my mom, dad, and brother that I’m sorry for giving up. I must have tried to fight back. But “they” found me.

I wanted a best friend. Instead, I got one that would unintentionally end up taking me with them beyond the grave.

I guess, as a final word of advice, I can just warn you, whoever you are, to seriously consider being careful of what you wish for, because sometimes you get what you want, and that can be the worst thing that can ever happen to you.

Please tell my mom, dad, and brother that I love them. This is my goodbye.


Credit To – Sabrina S.

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Just Your Typical Saturday Night

January 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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​It’s Saturday night and I’m home alone playing a video game. Not exactly the exciting partying life you’d expect from a college student, but what else could I do? My parents had the car. In fact, my parents drove off to Maine for a mini-vacation, and while I’m heating up a frozen pizza for dinner, they’re probably stuffing their faces with lobster. It’s okay though; they originally didn’t want to go without me when I told them I had an English paper to write this weekend, but I told them I preferred to be alone so I could focus on the paper.

​I wasn’t writing it now, though. It was around 7 o’ clock. Not really late, but since it was winter it was already dark out, so I decided to take advantage of the darkness and play my “Resident Evil” video game. It was a horror/suspense game centered around a zombie infestation, and to maximize my playing experience I always played at night when it was dark out, shutting off all the lights inside, as well as making sure there was no excess noise anywhere (read: my parents are asleep). It might sound like a stupid thing to do, but you don’t know true terror until you’re in a dark open space and the only thing visible is your big screen TV showing a zombie slowly limping toward you.

​So I’m playing my game, sucked up in the moment, and terrified as my character is making his way through an abandoned zombified subway station, when the phone rings from the kitchen and scares me half to death. “Thank God my parents put the volume on super-extra-loud before they left so I wouldn’t miss their calls,” I thought to myself as I went and got the phone, only to see “MEMBER SERVCS” show up on the Caller I.D. I was pretty mad, not only did these people interrupt my game and scare me, they already called this morning and left a message on the answering machine trying to ‘lower my mortgage interest rate’ or some bullshit like that. I picked up and before some woman could finish saying hello, I angrily shouted “I’m not interested in lowering my fucking interest rate, you made me die in my game, stop fucking calling my house” and hung up.

​Since my gaming ritual was disturbed, I took the opportunity to eat the pizza I made and browse the internet for a few minutes (and took the battery out of that stupid phone and threw it across the room. I actually think I broke it). I had to take advantage of being home alone, so I decided to continue playing my game, but a minute after shutting off the lights and getting back into the perfect atmosphere, I heard the sound of my gate opening outside. I paused the game and quietly snuck upstairs to look out the window to try to see who came. Upon looking out, I saw a Con Edison truck double parked outside. I saw a figure make its way back to the front of the house coming from the side, and shrugged it off as a Con Ed employee and doing a scan. (Con Edison is our electricity provider and they do that once a month: just come by and scan something on the side of the house to check how much electricity has been used, or so my Mom told me once.) I continued to spy on the guy, waiting for him to leave, but he paused in front of the house, looking at the device in his hands. After a few seconds, he made his way to the front door and rang the bell.

​I considered not answering, hoping he’d just leave. Sad to say, but I was a coward. I lived in New York and this guy could be some psychopath trying to kill or rob me. That shit happens all the time here, check the news. After about thirty seconds, he rang the bell again. I built up some resolve: I was a twenty year old college student, and I was a pretty big guy, worse comes to worse I just close the door on him and call the cops. (Call from the phone whose battery I just broke. Not a great move considering I left my cell phone in the car, 5 hours away) Besides, this guy probably just wanted to ask a question or tell me something trivial, he worked for Con Ed for god’s sake.

I rushed back down to the first floor and opened the window next to the door, casually saying “Hey sorry I was in the bathroom. What’s up?” I inspected the guy since I could see his face clearly now. Pretty decent looking guy, he was white and had average brown eyes and unkempt inch-long dark brown hair that was almost black (maybe it was the lighting; the place was still dark from when I was gaming). He wore what looked like a standard Con Ed uniform and held the scanning device under his arm. Probably around 30 years old. He had a friendly smile and seemed to be full of energy, despite working so late on a weekend; he probably wasn’t married or had any kids.

“Sorry to disturb you,” he said, “but there seem to be some abnormalities with current running in your house. Can I come in and take a look at your fuse box?”

I hesitated. He wanted to come inside. I took another look at his uniform and snuck a glance at his van. After a few seconds I reluctantly muttered “Uhhh yeah sure.”

I unlocked and opened the door and ran over to turn some lamps on. The Con Ed guy came inside, pushed the door closed, and enthusiastically said “Thanks. I’ll try to make this quick.” I led him downstairs to the fuse box, and as we passed the TV, with my game still on pause from the phone call, the Con Ed guy said “Oh wow Resident Evil. My kid loves this game.”

I was pretty shocked at this, in a curious way. I stole another glance at this guy’s face. He still looked young enough for me to reason that he didn’t have kids. Normally I’m not good at judging superficial characteristics, because I just don’t pay attention to them, but I really thought I had this guy pegged. Not only did he have more energy than I figured a parent oh a young kid could have, but he genuinely looked 30. (And since I’d just been playing my game, my observational senses were heightened. Trust me, I was in survive-a-zombie-apocalypse mode.) If this guy was 30 like I thought, then his son would be maybe 12 years old, assuming he him at age 18. Resident Evil wasn’t a game 12 year olds should be playing.

“Oh really?” I feigned innocence. “Do you play with him?” I figure this would give me some indication of how old his son could be.

“Her,” he corrected. “No, she plays on her own. Oh I see it.” He opened the fuse box and started messing around with its contents.

‘Her?’ I thought to myself. I hardly encounter female gamers, and definitely not ones who play horror genre, let alone being so young. But whatever.

“I’ll need to work on this for a bit,” the Con Ed guy said as he interrupted my thoughts, and pulled a few tools out of his pocket. He mentioned something about what the abnormality in the current was, but honestly I didn’t understand.

After a few minutes of awkward silence and me just standing around watching him work, I decided to offer him a beverage. “Could I get you a bottle of water or something?”

“Sure that’d be great,” he said. “It’ll just be a few more minutes; I think I found the problem.”

I walked upstairs and took my time getting the water. I wasn’t in a rush to go back down there with him. When I got the bottle and went back to the stairs, I noticed the front door leading outside was slightly open. The last time I saw the door was when the Con Ed guy came in, and I was sure he closed it. Did someone come in? I looked around first floor and even went upstairs, just half-checking upstairs though, it was scary up there in the dark, especially with the thought of a stranger lurking around somewhere (although I strangely took comfort in the Con Ed guy being in the house so that I wasn’t alone).

I shrugged it off; half-hoping it was just my imagination. The thing is, we had Sloman’s Shield protecting our house, so that if the door was opened the system would make a beeping sound that I would have heard, even from the basement. It was definitely working, because I heard the beep when I opened the door for the Con Ed guy. I closed and even locked the door, and went back downstairs and offered the Con Ed guy his bottle of water. He seemed to be finished, since he was putting his tools back into his pocket.

“Thanks,” he said as I gave him the water. After drinking a bit, he said “I fixed the problem, everything should be running smoothly now.”

“Well thanks then” I said, leading the way back upstairs. I wondered if things weren’t running smoothly all this time. Everything seemed fine. The microwave was weaker than usual: we had to heat things up longer than we normally would, but we just attributed that to the microwave being 5 years old and needing replacing.

My mind already off this night’s interruption, I started considering whether or not I should continue to play my game or if I should work on my paper, when what I saw something bewildered me. The front door was slightly open again.

The door pushed opened slowly. Why didn’t the alarm make its usual beep? A young woman around my age entered, wearing the same uniform as the Con Ed guy, but it looked too big for her. She glanced behind me before looking at me, but when our eyes locked she drew a hideous contorted smile on her face. I froze. The combination of her evil gaze and the presence of the man behind me filled me with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I slowly backed my way into a wall so that they were both in my field of vision. The man stood in place looking at me, but he lost the energy he carried before. He looked older, his face now visibly worn from age. He was no longer smiling. He had a serious, almost sad look in his once vibrant eyes. Turning my attention back to the woman who closed the distance between us, I noticed both of her hands held something. In one hand she held a gun, and in the other hand she held a cell phone that had a case eerily similar to mine.

“What do you want?” I asked in desperation.

“Don’t worry sweetie,” the woman’s familiar voice said as she held the gun up and released the safety. “We’re not here to lower your interest rates.”

Credit To – Tariq R.

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The Pastel Man

January 12, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 9.1/10 (1281 votes cast)

Consider this a warning. In the event it ever comes to you during a moment of weakness, as it did me all those years ago, say no to the Pastel Man. It doesn’t matter how much you love the person that it promises to help, nothing is worth what it wants in return. I tell you this in hopes that you don’t make the same mistake I did that cold winter night, kneeling beside my father’s writhing body on the living room floor.

It was 1997 when I first encountered the creature and ever since not a day has gone by where its awful face hasn’t haunted my thoughts. I was a teenager then, but I look at that evening as the night my childhood died – corrupted and violated by a callous hell beast with pale blue skin.

Even though it happened years ago, I still remember the events of that fateful first encounter vividly. I could tell you what my father and I were wearing, the toppings on the pizza we were eating, even the score of the football game playing on the TV. It was around half time when my father’s speech started to become slurred, which I found odd since he had been nursing the same bottle of beer since kickoff. Stranger even, I had seen him drink a six-pack to himself in the past without even appearing tipsy so I was having trouble understanding how a single drink could have such an effect on him. I realized it wasn’t the alcohol when half his body went limp and he slid off the couch. I asked him if he was all right, but his words had now become incomprehensible. I grabbed the phone off the coffee table and dialed 911.

“911 what’s your emergency?”

“I think my Dad’s having a stroke.” The thought had only crossed my mind a second before the operator answered the phone.

“Ok, we have your address. An ambulance is on its way. It should be there soon. Is he conscious?”

“Yes. He is, but I can’t understand him.” Nonsensical jumbled sounds were rambling out my father’s mouth. I was afraid. He was all I had. My mother passed away when I was a baby so I never got the chance to know her, but my dad was always there for me – doing the job of two parents. If I lost him then I would be alone.

“That’s normal with strokes. It’s good that he’s awake – “ And I didn’t hear the rest because that’s when I dropped the phone.

I was having one of those moments where everything faded into the background while my world fell silent. The football game playing on the television, the operator giving me instructions over the phone, even the sound of my father’s voice as he wailed in agony on the carpet became white noise – dissolving into the air as I lost all awareness of my surroundings. All of my attention and focus was now on one thing. The horrible abomination that was standing in my kitchen watching my father and I with a twisted smile across its disgusting face.

Its head narrowly missed scraping against our kitchen’s 9ft. ceiling as it shifted from side to side, fidgeting with anticipation like a giddy child in class on the last day of school waiting for that final bell to signal summer vacation. The pastel blue skin that covered its entire body, from the creature’s head all the way down to its feet horrible grimy feet, looked weathered and wrinkled like leather that had been left out in the sun for days. Hanging off its long, lanky frame was a plain brown satchel with black stitching. It lightly caressed the strap of its pouch with a long finger while it looked on with an eager expression on its face.

At first I thought I had gone mad from the sight of seeing my father have a stroke, but the closer the monstrosity slinked towards us, the more I realized it was no hallucination. It ducked its head under the light fixture in the living room and stepped a spindly leg over the couch. Though the monstrous freak of nature was clearly bipedal, it had moved down to all fours and appeared to be stalking us like some wild animal hunting its prey. I should have been terrified, but the horrible smile on its god-awful face made me feel more anger towards the thing than fear. It was as if it was taking pleasure in my father’s misery. Closer still it crept and I grabbed my father’s hand out of desperation in some veiled attempt to protect him. The creature stopped its face mere inches from mine before shifting its attention down to my father.

“I can save him, if you’d like?” I was taken back. I had prepared for the terrible thing to take a chunk of flesh out of my neck with its teeth or slash me across the face with its black crusty nails, but speaking to me was the last thing I expected. “He’s dying, but I can save him. If you’d like?”

I sat there, mouth agape, cradling my father’s head in my arm and staring into the two pink bulbous eyes that took up more than a third of the foul thing’s face. I remember thinking that they reminded me of Easter Eggs – a bizarre connection for my mind to make given the situation. It stood back up on two feet and once again I was reminded just how imposing the creature really was. It told me its name, which I dare not repeat because it also explained that speaking it is the best way to summon the beast. For the remainder of my story I will refer to this entity as the Pastel Man – just a name I came up with due to the pigment of its skin and the light shade of pink that was the color of its eyes. That and for some reason giving the creature a silly name always helped to make me feel less afraid of it. Not much less though.

Finally, my mind had recovered enough from shock to allow me to stutter out a few words, “What do you mean you could save him?”

“What I do is make deals, young man.” Its voice was surprisingly angelic – like a thousand choirs all singing in unison. If one were to close their eyes while the creature spoke to them, they might imagine they were listening to a seraph, not the hideous monster that was sporting a depraved grin in my living room. However, its extraordinary voice only managed to make me feel more uneasy. It wasn’t right that something so beautiful would belong to such a repulsive creature. The Pastel Man gestured to its satchel. “I have the ability to save your father’s life, but you have to agree to a deal with me.”

“What kind of a deal?”

“Everything happens for a reason, even death.” Its mischievous smile widened just a bit as if the creature was getting to the punch line of a joke. “It’s true that I can save your father’s life, but someone must die in his place. One shall die, so another may live. That’s the deal.” I clutched my chest. “Not you, what would be the point? No, I’m giving you the option to choose the person who will be replacing your father this evening.”

I was stunned by what I was hearing. “Are you death?”

The Pastel Man threw its head back and let out terrible howl. It was only later that I would come to realize that was how the wretched thing laughed. “No, I’m certainly not The Grim Reaper, although you aren’t the first person to ask me that. I’m not the devil either, nor do I work for him. Let’s just say I’m an independent contractor, shall we?” Two tiny holes that lied on the center of its face in the absence of a nose flared in satisfaction of its explanation.

“I can choose anyone?”

“Well, not anyone. That wouldn’t be very fun would it?” I could see a row of shark like teeth hiding in its mouth as it separated its lips to speak. “Your father’s replacement must be someone else in your life.”

“I’m not a murderer.” My voice was tiny. It barely escaped my mouth. I looked back down to my father. He had lost consciousness and his skin was becoming pale. “And I don’t think I could kill anyone I know.”

“You don’t have to murder anyone, young man.” The sly creature was moving into its final pitch. “All you have to do is tell me who it is you want dead and I will do the rest. Surely there must be someone you wouldn’t mind out of your life? A teacher, an ex girlfriend, a rival at school perhaps?”

There was. I had fantasized about it many times, but never in my wildest dreams would I have ever acted on it. Everyone has that person in their life who is toxic. Someone who makes getting up in the morning more difficult and I was certainly no exception. “Walter Flannigan,” I muttered under my breath.


“Walter Flannigan. He’s the guy at school who gave me this.” I lifted my shirt and showed it the handprint shaped bruise on my chest that Walter had given me during one of his infamous “hazing sessions” in the locker room earlier that week. “He’s been shoving me into lockers, and beating me up since I was a freshman. The faculty doesn’t do anything since he’s the best football player in the history of our school. He’s a five star recruit going to a huge college next year. ESPN even did a piece on him.”

“Ahhh,” The Pastel Man began to snicker to itself. It somehow widened its already enormous pink eyes even more then crouched back down to get face to face with me again. “What fun is being a king, without serfs to torment, eh?”

“Well I’m tired of being tormented so just go and kill him before I change my mind!”

The Pastel Man shot a massive hand out and wrapped its long fingers around my face. The grin that it was wearing since I first laid eyes on it had now been replaced by a scowl. “YOU DO NOT TELL ME WHAT TO DO! ARE WE CLEAR!?” I nodded sheepishly. The grip it had on my face was so tight. I understood then and there that if it wanted to, the creature could easily snap my neck or crush my skull like an egg. “Good, because it’s not so simple, young man. There are steps that must be taken.”


“Yes,” A playful smirk once again returned to the Pastel Man’s face. “You will have to be present when this Walter Flannigan dies. In fact, I need you to summon me or else I can’t complete my end of the bargain. Get the boy alone and speak my name. You must watch him die by sunrise or else you will be violating the terms of our agreement. So do we have a deal?” I nodded again and the monster released its hold of my face before snatching my hand. Its giant paws swallowed my palm as we shook to cement the deal. “Excellent. With this handshake our deal is binding, young man.”

I watched curiously as the Pastel Man reached into its satchel and fumbled around until it found what it was looking for. In between its repugnant fingers it held a strange looking insect about the size of a quarter. The bug buzzed its wings in attempt to flutter away, but could not escape the Pastel Man’s grasp. With its other hand, it pushed down on my father’s jaw in order to open his mouth.

“What are you doing?” I asked, but the Pastel Man didn’t answer. It then violently stuffed the insect in my father’s mouth jamming it down his esophagus with its filthy fingers.

The Pastel Man rose once more to its feet. “There, the deed is done. Your father will recover in full. Now it’s your turn. Remember, the boy dies by sunrise or the deal is off.”

It turned its back to me and began to slither away.

“What if I change my mind?” I asked.

The creature stopped almost mid stride and twisted around. Again its smile had been supplanted by an awful sneer. I felt even less safe then when it was holding my face in a vice grip earlier. “Your father’s health has already been restored so someone must replace him. One must die so another shall live. That was the deal. If you fail to complete your end of the bargain then that someone will be you. Believe me when I say this young man, I don’t need to be summoned once our deal has been broken. I will come for you. That is a promise. And when I do you’re going to wish you never crossed me.” With that it continued out the kitchen and through the backdoor. I chased after it, but by the time I got outside into the back yard, the thing had disappeared. It was then that I spotted the lights of the ambulance as it pulled up across the street from my house. I flagged down the EMT’s and led them to my father.

It wasn’t difficult to find Walter. I knew exactly where he was going to be, but I had completely lost track of time while waiting to hear from my father’s doctors in the ICU. I had to hurry to Eddie Gillen’s house. Eddie’s parents were out of town and he had been talking all week at school about the “Rager” he planned on throwing. There were two things I knew about Walter:

1) Eddie was his best friend

2) He never missed a party.

It was somewhere around 3:30 AM when I pulled my car up to Eddie’s. I parked a little ways down the street so I wouldn’t be spotted. Because I had gotten held up at the hospital, I feared that I had missed my chance to catch Walter. My concerns were alleviated when I saw his raised pick-up truck still parked in the driveway. Another thought crossed my mind. What if Walter had gotten too drunk and passed out. I tried to think of away to get into Eddie’s and get Walter alone long enough for the Pastel Man to do whatever it was it had planned. Luckily for me, it wasn’t too long before Walter stumbled out of Eddie’s front door and climbed into his truck. I let out a sigh, having just escaped a potentially challenging problem.

He pulled out and I followed behind, staying far enough away so that I wouldn’t tip him off. He was drunk. Even from the distance I was tailing him, I could see his truck swerving in and out of its lane. The Pastel man’s otherworldly voice played itself over and over like a heavenly broken record in my mind.

“You must watch him die by sunrise…”

I wondered if I even had the courage to summon the creature again. Seeing it once that night was traumatic enough. Could I really handle looking into its horrible face for a second time? And what about Walter? Even though he was a huge ass, he didn’t deserve to die and certainly not at the hands of that thing.

It will kill you if you don’t let it kill him. Just remember, you’re doing this for Dad.

I’m not sure if it was the little angel on my shoulder or the little devil that was whispering in my ear. I looked out my driver side window. A pink ribbon lined the horizon – the very first signs of sunlight making its presence known in the dark evening sky. In a couple hours morning would arrive, and I would be too late to complete my end of the bargain. I would see the Pastel Man again one way or another.

Walter lived up in the foothills outside of town where some of the wealthier people owned homes. I had been there once for a school project – one where I did all the work and he ended up taking the credit. We had come to a part of the road leading towards his house that cut through a wooded area. I knew there would be no houses for a stretch so I decided that was where I would make my move. I sped up until I was tailgating the truck then started flashing my brights and honking my horn. I was prepared to rear end him in order to get him to stop driving, but it didn’t even take that to get the job done. He must have been panicking. His truck started to swerve violently across the street before running off road, sideswiping a tree, and coming to a complete stop.

I pulled up behind him then hesitated for a moment. A glimpse of the creatures grin flashed through my mind causing me to shutter. I got out of my car, but left the engine running and my headlights on. “Hey Walter!” I shouted.

Walter’s door jerked open and he jumped out the truck to the ground below. “Sean The Shithead?” he was confused, but clearly annoyed. Sean The Shithead was the nickname he had affectionately given me on my second week of school. Within a month he had my entire class calling me it. “You think that was funny? I am gonna fuck you up you little bitch!”

He stormed towards me with both fists clenched. Again doubts crossed my mind about whether or not I could pull the trigger. Guilt began to pump through my veins. Walter’s life was about to end and it was going to be because of me. Memories darted through my consciousness: All the afterschool beatings I took at the hands of Walter, the Pastel Man’s wicked smile, the look on my father’s face as he kicked and screamed on the living room floor. Finally those words, spoken through that unnervingly angelic voice of that terrible monster.

One must die so another shall live

Walter was moving closer. It was now or never. I had to choose whether or not I would summon the beast before the decision was out of my hands. I shouted the Pastel Man’s real name out in a burst of emotion aimed directly at the star football player. Walter paused for a moment, looking at me in confusion then recollected himself and proceeded towards me again – The Pastel Man was nowhere to be seen. For the second time that evening I wondered if I had gone insane. Could everything that had happened to me that night been in my head? What was real? Was my father even sick? Again I repeated the thing’s name in an effort to summon it, but this time it did nothing to hinder Walter’s pursuit of me.

He violently shoved me against the hood of my car, grabbed hold of my shirt collar and spun me around. Walter raised his fist to hit me. I winced and put my hands up in order to prepare for impact, but he never struck me. It only when I opened my eyes that I realized I wasn’t crazy. Walter’s face was white. His mouth hung open just as mine had when I first caught sight of the Pastel Man earlier that evening. I turned my head to see that unmistakable, long, lanky body slink out of the shadows and in front of my car’s headlights. Its face still wore that warped smile and I knew just beyond those thin lips was a mouth full of tiny daggers capable of tearing muscle from bone. Neither Walter nor I said a word. I think I might have been almost as terrified as him. My stomach began to feel sick as the Pastel Man stalked ever closer. I didn’t look at Walter’s face. How could I? The boy was about to die at the hands of this horrible monster and it was my fault. I didn’t have to summon it. I didn’t have to shake its hand.

“I’m sorry.” I truly was and I still am.

I hadn’t taken my eyes off the Pastel Man, but I think it had more to do with not being able to look Walter in the face than fear for my life. Walter said nothing. My car’s headlights fell on the creature’s face and now we could both see it clearly. The Pastel Man’s large pink eyes seemed to glow bright in the light of the headlamps.

Walter let go of me and made a break for his truck, but the hell beast pounced on him with a surprising amount of speed and agility that I had not yet seen it demonstrate. His screams were met with only apathy from the creature as it dug those filthy black fingernails into Walter’s abdomen. I tried to look away, but the Pastel Man made sure I remembered our agreement.


I forced myself to look back at the massacre. The creature’s smile had mutated from mischievous to depraved. It looked as if it was deriving some sort of sick sexual pleasure out of the torture it was putting Walter through. Deeper still, it burrowed its long bony fingers into Walter’s stomach. With a jerk the heinous thing yanked out a hand full of his intestines and dragged them across the ground as it approached me, flaring those holes on its face that filled in for a nose and clearly pleased with its handiwork.

“It’s over then?” I’m not sure if I was asking or begging the creature as the two of us faced each other in the empty street that night.

The Pastel Man threw his head back and once again let out that revolting howl. “Over? We’re just getting started.” It headed back over towards Walter, who at this point was crawling along the ground still trying to get to his truck while his innards trailed behind him. The Pastel Man cut him off and snatched him off the asphalt, easily lifting him by the head with one hand. It toyed with him for a bit, forcing Walter to look into its hideous face. With its free hand the creature reached into its satchel and pulled out a much bigger insect this time. It was different than the one my father had unknowingly ingested, both in size and in appearance. If the bug that the creature jammed down my father’s mouth was the size of a quarter then this one must have been as large as a golf ball. It was slimy – the mucous like membrane that encased its body glistened in my cars headlights. The Pastel Man dangled the nasty bug in front of Walter’s face for a few seconds.

“Now be a good boy and open your mouth.”

Walter screamed. That gave the blue beast the opening it needed. It thrust the slimy insect in his mouth and past his tonsils with its filthy fingers. I watched on as Walter gagged, presumably on the oversized maggot as it made its way down his throat. Soon he began to turn blue. I could tell he was choking to death and even though I wanted to save him, there was nothing I could do. A minute later and the Pastel Man dropped his lifeless body to the ground.

It examined the carnage for a moment, pondering over it as if it was a masterpiece in an art gallery. Then the demon turned away, retreating back towards the shadows and disappeared into the night without saying word. I stood there in the road, looking at the scene and still feeling sick to my stomach from what I just witnessed. I don’t know what I expected, to happen after the deed was done. There was no explosion, no brilliant light show where I would watch Walter’s soul either dragged down to hell or ascend upwards towards the heavens – just a dead boy in the road. A dead boy and his murderer. The Pastel Man was the gun, but I pulled the trigger. In a way there were two dead boys in the road that evening.

I knew that I didn’t have time to dawdle. At any moment a car could have come driving down the street and find me standing in the middle of that massacre. I sprinted back to my car and sped down the street towards town.

The coroner attributed Walter’s death to a drinking and driving accident, although there was understandably a lot of suspicion regarding the odd circumstances surrounding his demise. The autopsy revealed no evidence of the slimy bug that the Pastel Man had placed in Walter’s throat. The town was devastated. I remember a candle light vigil was held in his honor. A couple of big news outlets covered his death because of Walter’s status as an elite college football recruit. My father made a full recovery and just a couple of days after his stroke was released from the hospital. I would go on to graduate high school and meet the love of my life the very first semester at my university. Her name was Diana and she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. We married shortly after college, settled down and had a wonderful boy named Mathew. However, I never forgot the hand I played in Walter’s death. I have carried that guilt with me since the events of that night. No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t forget. The Pastel Man wouldn’t let me.

It must have seen me as an easy patsy because the creature has come to me again and again every time a loved one has been on the brink of death, offering me the same deal I accepted that first shameful night. Though the creature had been persistent in its pursuit of blood lust, the image of Walter’s gruesome death never left my mind and gave me the strength to say no to its propositions. Even years later, on the eve of my father’s passing, I was able to refuse it’s proposal when the Pastel Man visited me in his hospital room.

I’ve been cursed to have my soul tested till the day that I die by the Pastel Man. A test that for years I was able to persevere through, until one evening where my life began crumbling down and once more the creature took advantage of me in a moment of weakness.

Diana and Mathew were on their way back from the airport after visiting my in-laws. I was swamped at work and had to pull an all-nighter in order to finish a project by its deadline so my wife hailed a taxi rather than ask me to pick them up.

It was around midnight and I was alone in the office when I got a call from the police department. They told me a drunk driver had collided with their cab on the highway coming back from the airport. My wife and the cabbie were killed on impact and my son was in critical condition. I sat there at my desk, unable to move or formulate a coherent thought. It was then that I realized I wasn’t by myself in the office anymore. Perched atop my boss’ desk was The Pastel Man, that abhorrent smile still painted across its nasty wrinkled face. It didn’t need to make an offer. This I believe the creature already knew.

“Can you save them?” I asked.

“Yes and no.”

“What do you mean!? Just spit it out!”

The Pastel man’s smirk disappeared and I could tell that it was not pleased with my tone of voice. Memories of the vice grip it had on my face the last time I demanded something from the creature bled into my consciousness. Perhaps it realized I was past the point of threats because instead of lunging at me as the creature had done in the past, it decided to clarify its cryptic response. “I cannot pull someone back from death’s clutches, only save them before it gets its hold of them. Your wife is dead. Now make your peace with that. Your son’s life on the other hand can be salvaged. For a price of course.”

I racked my mind. I couldn’t think of a single person in my life who deserved to die at the hands of that pale blue monstrosity. Even someone as awful as Walter didn’t deserve the gruesome fate he received that night due to my poor decision. But my son was all I had now, and he didn’t deserve to die either. Not because someone else had made a poor decision that evening and got behind the wheel of a car they were too intoxicated to drive.

The Pastel Man’s glorious voice filled the room again. I seemed to be hearing it from all directions. “The drunk driver that crashed into your family’s cab is still alive and in the very same hospital as your son. Why not him?”

For the first time that evening I looked into the large pink eyes of the creature. “You said it has to be someone I know?”

“Semantics. It just needs to be someone who has directly impacted your life. The moment he drove his car into your wife and son’s taxi he became a candidate.” The Pastel Man flared the tiny holes on its face with glee the way it always did when it was content with itself.

“Fine. Let’s do it,” I said. I shook its giant hand to make the arrangement official. And with that the Pastel Man gave me the instructions to complete our deal.

When I met with the doctors at the hospital they updated me on the condition of my son. “We’ve done all that we can, but he’s a fighter,” The doctors feigned optimism, but I could see in their eyes that they didn’t expect him to make it through the night.

They led me to his room and gave me some time alone with him. The Pastel Man was already there when I entered, smiling down on his broken body. Quickly I shut the door behind me and nodded to the creature. It reached a gangly arm into its satchel and pulled out the same type of strange looking insect it had shoved down my father’s throat. I opened Mathew’s mouth and with two grubby fingers the creature crammed the bug deep into his oral cavity.

“He will make a full recovery. Now it’s your turn.” The Pastel Man waltzed behind the hospital curtain in my son’s room. I knew I didn’t have to check to see if it had disappeared. If it were to make another appearance at the hospital that evening, then it would be because I spoke its name.

When I agreed to the bargain at my office The Pastel Man had told me what room the driver was being kept in. His injuries were far less severe than Mathew’s so he was in a different wing of the facility. I could feel my heart pounding as I made my way towards his room. With each step the beating in my chest grew louder. Already that same feeling of guilt I had felt while I looked down at Walter’s corpse lying in the middle of the road washed over me. I was about to take another person’s life. Who was I to decide whether someone deserved to live or die? I felt just as ugly and horrible as the Pastel Man looked. Maybe I didn’t have pointed teeth or wrinkly blue skin, but if I knew that if I went through with our deal, then I was just as big of a monster as it was.

I stepped as stealthily as possible through the door, hoping no one would notice me sneak in. As I looked down at the face of the driver lying unconscious in his bed, I instantly felt that familiar sickness in my stomach. He was a boy, no older than Walter the night The Pastel Man and myself unfairly snuffed out his life before it truly had a chance to shine. Walter could have become someone different when he matured, someone capable of doing real good in this world, but he was never given the opportunity. This driver was just a stupid teenager who made a mistake, one that he’d never get the chance to atone for. I saw Walter in the boy’s face and my stomach began to churn more. I tried to call out the Pastel Man’s name, but couldn’t. Perhaps that little angel on my shoulder wouldn’t allow me. I would not be responsible for the death of another boy. Not this time. I refused to pull that trigger.

I walked out of his room and didn’t look back. I spent the rest of the evening sitting next to my son’s bed. The first few rays of morning sunlight snuck into Mathew’s hospital room and caught my attention. I peeked out through the blinds and watched the sun rise for the first time since the night Walter died. It was beautiful. The pink ribbon that lined the horizon had bled into the sky creating a dazzling purple hue. I had my light show, and it was spectacular.

I broke my deal with the Pastel Man and in doing so my fate now rests in its filthy hands. Hands that it likely plans on burying into my abdomen. On the plus side, my son will recover in full. It will be hard for him growing up without his parents, but he’s always been close with his Aunt. My wife’s sister is a wonderful woman with a caring family. She’s his legal godmother and promised us the day he was born that she would always be there for him. Her husband does well for himself and they’ve never had a problem with money. The life insurance policy Diana and I took out combined with the money we had been putting away for Mathew to go to college will insure that there should be no financial issues while he’s under their care.

It’s only a matter of time before the Pastel Man comes for me. I have accepted that my death is near, but I’m not scared. In a way I look forward to it. It’s almost as if the boy that died within me on that terrible night has been given another chance. When I die all the guilt and hate that I’ve had for myself dies with me – wiped away so that my soul can cross over to a new plain of existence pure and innocent. The way it was before I ever met that monster.

One must die so another shall live.

That’s what the Pastel Man said.

Credit To – Vincent VenaCava

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The Nice Guy

January 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Frank, Thomas and Kirby enter the office break room at approximately 12:25pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Each man holds various containers designed for holding food and drink, and as they lazily slump into the fiberglass chairs that were haphazardly pushed under the table after their previous uses, the room echos of violent thwop-pops and elongated scraw-jips as tupperware lids fly open and velcro bags release their treasures.
“God Dammit!” Thomas rolls his eyes.

Frank, with a mouth full of cold pizza, mumbles in empathy, “Wife packed ya tuna-salad again, huh.”

Thomas tosses the soggy sandwich down onto the table with a resounding glop.

“She knows I hate this stuff! I swear, I’ve almost reached my breaking point with this shit!”

“Why don’t you just pack your own lunch.” Kirby attempts to speak through teeth caked with salad. A drip of ranch dressing falls from Kirby’s lip and collides with the table. Thomas just glares at Kirby in disdain.

“You don’t get it, man. I’ve told her, like, fifty times. ‘I don’t like tuna-salad’, but does she listen? Nooooooo!”

Thomas raises his right hand to his forehead.

“I swear, I’m up to here with this!”

“Well, at least you’re not like that one guy.” Frank wipes his mouth of the residual pepperoni grease with a cheap paper napkin.

“What one guy?” Thomas looks at Frank in slight confusion.

“You talking about that guy from CompuTools? I heard about on the news last week.” Kirby chimes in, he has already begun digging into his pudding cup.

Thomas spins around to Kirby, “What the hell are you guys talking about?”

Frank, wipes off his hands with another napkin, folds his hands in front of him and leans in quietly. Thomas and Kirby follow suit.

“Y’see, there was this guy over at CompuTools. Nice guy, I hear. What was his name?” Frank concentrates in the ceiling, search for a name. Suddenly Frank snaps his fingers, “Phil Kerbson. Anyway, He was one of those diligent workers, never complained, always got his work done before deadline. Hell, he would even stay late to make sure that his perfect record was never tarnished.”

Thomas chimed in, “Ugh, I hate those guys!”

“Well, supposedly, CompuTools hired this new hotshot manager. Basic ROTC’d up from corporate, y’know… never lifted a finger in his life and get to skip right to the front?”

Thomas shook his head.

“Exactly. So this guy was brought in to,” Frank raised his finger quotations, “help. And since this douche really didn’t know anything about CompuTools products, he would just bark orders and micromanage everyone. Everyone in the office was buzzing, ‘We’re gonna quit’, ‘Let’s get HR involved’, ‘This guy is completely heartless’, the usual empty water cooler promises. Everyone was in a tiff… except Phil.”

“Phil would mind his own business and do his work with a silent smile. He would even go as far as asking this new manager, ‘Anything else I can do to help?’ Well, I don’t know if that manager deliberately planned to be this malicious or if it was just common nature for him, but he got this notion in his head… to see how far he could bend Phil, until he broke.”

“Starting the very next day, the manager threw the biggest workflow onto Phil’s desk and barked out, ‘I need this done by 5 O’clock today or you can just pack your shit now!’ or something to that effect. Phil quietly turned to face the manager, smiled his calm innocent smile and said ‘Sure thing, boss.’ 5 O’clock rolls around and Phil walks into the manager’s office and proudly places the completed report onto the man’s desk. ‘Here ya go, boss.'”

“The manager looked up from polishing and buffing his prized six-hundred pound marble desk to the completed pile of papers with a look of complete shock. How could one man complete that report in only 7 1/2 short hours? His eyes then shifted from the report to glare viciously to look upon Phil’s calm, lucid face. “Anything else I can do to help?” smiled Phil. The manager simply shook his head in disbelief. “OK, well I’m going to head out for the day, sir. You have yourself a great evening.””

“The manager was flabbergasted. He steeled his motives and vowed that he would try harder to break this man’s spirit by the end of the week.”

“Well, the end of the week came and went and still Phil was as cheerful as ever. Always responding to every outrageous task with a happy, “Sure thing.” And then turning in the completed work to the manager at the end of the day with a pleasant, “Anything else I can do to help?” Well this went on for a few weeks and the manager, now seeing that current efforts were fruitless, now decided that maybe he needed to up the ante. The manager would now bombard Phil with major accounts and lengthy business trips and tedious conferences all to quell his passion that Phil must be broken. But with every new and more difficult task, Phil would embrace it with a ‘Sure thing, boss’ and come back for more with a sunny ‘Anything else I can do to help?'”

“The manager, now at his wits end had one more trick up his sleeve. Although, his lack of concentration on the job he was hired for was beginning to come under fire, he wanted to give it one more shot before, he himself had to face the firing squad. He got it in his head that it was the breaks in-between each eight hour day that was allowing Phil to wind down regain his bearings, get a good night’s sleep and come back the next day ready for more.

So, with that in mind, he gave Phil the budget report for the following year and told him, ‘I don’t care how long it takes, but you cannot leave your desk until we trim at least five million dollars off of next year’s budget.’ As always, Phil replied with his trademark ‘Sure thing, boss.’ The manager turned away knowing that this task would be Phil’s breaking point. And, like clockwork, Phil came into the manager’s office with the completed budget and handed it to him. ‘Anything else I can do to help?’ The manager looked over the budget, ‘Eh, I really don’t’ like these numbers.’ The manager threw the report back at Phil. ‘Do it all over, and this time… do it right!’ Phil’s smile sagged a little, but soon rebounded and turned around and headed back to his desk.”

“The manager saw Phil’s smile buckle for just a moment and he chuckled to himself that his plan is finally working. Eight O’clock rolls around and Phil returns back to the manager’s office. But Phil looks a bit different. His hair a bit disheveled. His horn rimmed glasses are now on his forehead. one corner of his shirt has become untucked from his pants. Phil’s stride isn’t as carefree. Phil hands the report to the manager and exasperatedly utters, ‘Anything else I can do to help, sir?’ The manager, now seeing victory close at hand looks at the report, ‘Uh, Phil. I think you made some miscalculations here.’ The manager hands the report back to Phil, ‘Do it again, and remember what I said! You stay until it’s complete!'”

“Phil, dejected, defeated, disappointed, looks at the report in his hands, wiped the sweat from his brow, and scratched the back of his neck. The nearly broken man headed back to his desk to correct his errors. As soon as Phil left his office, the manager closed the door and danced a twisted victory dance. Phil was nearly gone. The manager was going to sleep good that night.”

“At 11 O’clock, Phil trudged back into the manager’s office and handed him the completed and corrected report. Exhausted, Phil asked ‘Is there anything else I can do to help, sir?’ The manager, now a shining example of pure arrogance, threw the report on the floor and exclaimed, ‘Why did you do the budget for next year? I asked you to do the budget for THIS year. Can’t you even follow simple instructions? I want you to march back to your pathetic little cube and you are going to stay all night in your have to until you do exactly what I ask you to do, or so help me God, I will find someone else who CAN do it!'”

“Now, no one knows exactly what happened next. But some of the late night stragglers who heard the manager’s tirade claim that as soon as he was finished. Phil took off his glasses, cleaned them off with the corner of his shirt that was still untucked, put his glasses back on and closed all of the blinds in the manager’s office that faced the rest of the room. What came from the room after that was a thunderous crash, and a high pitched shriek.

The door flew open and the manager bolted out of the room with glass shards in his hair, bleeding profusely from his face screaming, ‘CALL SECURITY! CALL SECURITY!’ Witnesses then claim that they saw Phil calmly walk out of the office, blood spattered about his shirt and hands. He held a letter opener in his right hand, now stained with blood. Phil calm and happy expression was lost to a visage one person could only describe as berserk. Phil brow furrowed, scrunching his eyebrows into a wide arches.

His teeth gnarled and, according to one person, appeared sharp and pointed. His skin, once pale and fair, now red and scaly. His slick hair now flailed wildly about his head and danced of its own accord. Phil marched towards the cowering manager, ‘sure thing, Sure Thing, SURE THING!’ Phil continued to chant these two words over and over and the volume of his voice continued to climb until he was shrieking.

Phil destroyed everything in his path to get to the manager, who was now scrambling for the elevator. He turned over cubicle walls, hurled the office printer, overturned desks but was still marching at a steady pace. Not once did Phil’s gate increase in speed. The elevator doors finally opened and the manager quickly darted inside. And as he was frantically pounding on the ‘door close’ button, Phil’s arm thrust inside the cabin as the doors were closing. The manager let out a girlish cry for help, and then…”

Thomas, now sitting on the edge of his seat, blinked “Yeah?”

“Well,” Frank continued, “Security hauled him away. The folks that stuck around for the whole ordeal say that they’ve never heard Phil use any profanity, ever. But on that day, they heard curse words so vile, that they almost sounded like they were in some form of ancient tongue, some demonic language. Only be the grace of God was Security able to restrain Phil. As the paddywagon rolled up into the office building drive, witnesses noticed three things. First, that Phil was kicking and screaming the entire time, and was hardly recognizable. Second, that the manager couldn’t stop crying. And thirdly, and the most bizarre, was they realized what made the thunderous crash in the manager’s office. The six-hundred pound marble desk, the manager’s prize possession, now lay in pieces outside the office window.”

“So that’s it? What happened after that? There had to have been a trial?” Thomas exclaimed.

“Oh there was a trial, but Phil was deemed mentally unstable to serve trial, so he was committed to the State Hospital over in Brookfield. And everything died down and returned to normal. The manager was brought into see corporate and he was actually let go because not only did the security cameras record what Phil did to the manager and the office, but they also recorded the manager’s outburst on Phil that caused him to snap in the first place.”

“Just desserts. I say!” Thomas commented. Kirby just shook his head as he started to clean up his empty containers.

“Well here’s real punchline. And this I got from Sally Boyd over there at CompuTools, she used to be the manager’s admin. After the manager was let go, he was cleaning out his, temporary desk, and to pass the time he had the radio on. The manager left his office for a moment to get some more boxes. As he returned back to his office, she heard on the radio announce ‘Phil Kerbson, committed to Brookfield State Hospital on Monday was discovered missing from his cell earlier today’. The manager froze in horror. And as Sally turned around to see the manager’s expression, the door violently slammed in her face, knocking her backwards onto the ground.

As she recovered from her fall, she told me that she could clearly hear the manager pleading for his life. She distinctly heard, ‘Please! Don’t! I’ll Do anything you want!’ And then, a familiar calm and soothing voice came from behind the door, ‘Anything I can do to help!’ Sally pounced for the door, but it was locked, she tried to look through the window, but the blinds were mostly drawn so she only see the flailing of arms and legs. Sally kicked at the door repeatedly and shouted, ‘SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP!’ But it was too late. As soon as the commotion ceased from inside the office, Sally heard the knob ‘click’ to signal that it had been unlocked. With tears in her eyes she slowly reached for the knob and opened to door to reveal a gruesome scene.”

“The manager, splayed open from his throat to his pelvis, rib cage and organs exposed. His hands twisted into contorted knots of flesh and knuckle. His face, warped into an expression of unrelenting anguish and fear, eyes wide, jaw locked nose broken and twisted. In his left hand, its last cadence drawing to a close, was the manager’s own heart. Sally and some of the onlookers who had finally gained access to the room then looked up to see the following message scrawled on the bare dingily yellow office wall, ‘We were wrong. He had a heart after all.'”

“Jesus!” Thomas had to hold back the vomit by covering his mouth.

“After that, CompuTools shut down that office, I think they turned it into a… a MegaBuy.” Frank finished his tale with a solemn sip of coffee.

Thomas rubbed his eyes, “Whoa! Wait a minute. What ever happened to Phil?”

“This is when I’ve supposed to say ‘That’s the strange thing…’ but it’s not really that strange. When they finally opened up the office, the only person in there was the manager. Sally even said she never actually saw Phil, she only heard his voice… or at least what sounded like his voice. And he hasn’t been seen since.”

“That story’s completely bullshit!” Kirby exclaimed.

Frank and Thomas spun around to glare at Kirby for breaking the mood.

“What,” Thomas inquired “Like you know exactly what happened.”

“I just know that that’s not how it happened.” Kirby calmly stated as he adjusted his horn rimmed glasses.

“OK, hotshot. How do you know?” Frank jested

“Because…” Kirby leaned in close. Frank and Thomas match Kirby’s movement. “the hospital doesn’t know I’m gone, yet.”

Just then, Kirby’s manager leans into the break room. “Hey Kirb, I need you to do something for me.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

As Kirby stands up to leave the now still break room, Frank and Thomas glance down at Kirby’s security badge for his full name, Kirby Phillips.

Credit To – Murphy1976 of WellHey Productions

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A Christmas Feast

December 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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He first suspected that they were going to eat him when he noticed the distinct lack of Yuletide smells. It wasn’t perhaps a conscious thought, at least not one which had been fully realised, but there was a clear growing uneasiness within him. Somehow he just knew.

Surely if a family invited you for Christmas dinner, the house would be filled with the wonderful aromas associated with that annual feast; succulent roast turkey, honey glazed vegetables, perhaps the fumes of mulled wine or a brandy covered Christmas pudding, but no, all of these were absent.

Yet the table was set.

It was a particularly bleak Christmas, and while snow was often welcome at that festive time of the year, the penetrating cold and frost which seemed to sabotage both homes and their residents’ bodies was not. The temperature had plummeted on the 7th, and there had been little sign of any forthcoming reprieve.

Families attempted as best they could to reach one another, but for many it was to be a lonely Christmas day. Travel, especially for the elderly, was almost impossible for fear of slipping on the ice. One fall was all it would take for a broken hip or shoulder, and for the more fragile individuals amongst them, recovering from such an injury was not an easy task. Certainly not as easy as it would be for those of a younger vintage.

The Cardinal family had taken pity on an elderly gentleman who had recently moved into the neighbourhood only a few streets away. They were of an upstanding stock and took part in a local home-help initiative spending time with the old and vulnerable. Everyone knew and loved them.

Timmy was the youngest, a boy of only 5 or 6. He was a child whom all looked upon with great adoration – never complaining, never causing trouble, always adorable – and his ten year old sister, Camilla, was equally as admired.

They were both a testament to the caring and nurturing parenting skills of Ben and Lucy Cardinal.

Each year as the cold winter drew in, the Cardinal family were admired for their dedication and commitment to those around them; their passion, almost zeal for helping those who were less fortunate. But behind the smiles and the skin-deep façade of that of a loving family, lurked a far more sinister purpose.

They had a tradition each year. A way to reward themselves for their kindness and generosity; one which stemmed back through many previous generations of the Cardinal family. Each Christmas they would invite a guest for dinner who would be welcomed with open arms into their home, sat down at a beautifully set table, provided with humorous and enjoyable Christmas conversation, and then by the light of the roaring fire, the guest would be stabbed to death and eaten gratefully.

They all reveled in the old tradition, with Timmy looking forward to it the most – he had a ferocious appetite and a waistline to match it – but children do get so wrapped up in the anticipation of a family Christmas and his parents were delighted to see a growing boy fill his belly.

Camilla was of a more quiet disposition than her stout little brother, slight of figure with a pallid complexion which reminded all of her mother, but make no mistake; she adored eating with the family and could render anyone silent with a sharp, cold insult.

Ben was the local police chief for the area, so covering up their annual feast was quite the cinch, while Lucy was, shall we say, a relation of sorts and was entirely enthusiastic about maintaining the Christmas tradition.

Their guests were invariably those without family, and often of a ripe old age. Forgotten by society, left to wither in their isolated little houses. Ben explained to the children yearly that it was almost a kindness to put the victims out of their slowly increasing misery, and besides, when they did eventually die they would be shoved into a box in the ground or roasted into ashes; what a waste of good meat!

This year Timmy and Camilla were especially excited. It was all their mother could do to calm their nerves, but on that Christmas eve it was nearly impossible, for they knew the special treat they were in for the following day. The cardinals were hosting a most special guest.

His name was Sergiu Moraru and he hailed from Eastern Europe. They had never had foreign meat before and the very idea of tearing into some delicious exotic muscle and fat, made this years feast something to really look forward to.

They had met old man Moraru just a few weeks earlier when Ben had noticed the unusual name on his home-help list. Each year as Christmas approached, the volunteers at the local church would be given names and addresses of pensioners in the area who had no family and would be left quite alone over the holiday season. At that festive time of year, and worried that many of the frailer residents might succumb to the biting cold, church committee members would visit each of these lonely individuals and offer a friendly ear, a helping hand, and often some hearty food to the poorest of those on the list.

The names would rarely change, but at least one person on that list would sadly pass away that year. Being an upstanding member of the community and a high ranking police officer in the area, Ben would often inform the church that one of their flock had sadly passed away, and with no friends or family known, he would concoct a lie which usually involved a long lost son or daughter, appearing to take their sadly departed parent somewhere far away to be buried. That or he would say that they had simply moved, having a bit of a deal with a local estate agent and solicitors firm to throw the proceeds from any property sales their way.

The family were not without influence.

It was incredible how little people questioned this, but as the Cardinals ensured that each Christmas meal was not an active member in the church or community, people just assumed that Ben knew best.

This year the Cardinals had been hoping to invite Lucy Rindridge around for her Christmas swan song, but unfortunately she had died during the summer. Ben had investigated and he suspected that an intruder had been inside the house with her at the time of her death, but it seemed as though the causes were natural.

No, the family would just have to have someone different for dinner. Then the name appeared on the list:

‘Sergiu Moraru – 86. Slight Emphysema, no family. Knows no one in the area as he has only recently moved here.’


Ben found Mr Moraru to be an absolute delight. While he was obviously very frail, his mind was still sharp and he regaled Ben with numerous colourful stories about ‘the old country’ and the adventures he had while in the full bloom of youth. Of particular interest were his war stories, and Ben was thrilled to know that their main course would be that of an intelligent, well-traveled man.

He even looked unlike any of the previous victims. He was quite tall, although slightly hunched with age, and with a long crooked nose and intense stare Ben fancied that in his youth Moraru would have been quite intimidating. His kind smile and obvious fragile frame, however, left Ben in no doubt that the kids would love him. They enjoyed eating those with character and a gentle disposition.

He always enjoyed the meat more if it had a keen mind and was out of the ordinary, as the family religion (one which had managed to stay unseen yet influential throughout the centuries) stated that the eating of another human being would transmit some of its strengths to those whom devoured it.

As with many of those who can only look into the past rather than into the future, Sergiu Moraru enjoyed the company greatly, and was touched when Ben invited him to sit at his family’s Christmas table.

The old man was extremely frail and required the assistance of both Ben and Camilla to help him in and out of Ben’s car and then into the house. His emphysema was particularly bad that day as each step was accompanied by the wheezing, fluid-filled sounds of struggling lungs.

Each room of the Cardinal home was draped in a multicoloured selection of rather crass Christmas decorations, with numerous cards adorning every visible table and mantelpiece showcasing just how popular Ben and his family really were.

The table was beautifully laid with a red cotton cloth resting underneath an elegant creme dining set. The old man found that the rest of Ben’s family were just as pleasant and congenial as he was. Timmy and Camilla were kind and very well behaved for their age, helping the frail old man to his chair carefully and then waiting on him, topping up his drink as their mother and father busied themselves in the kitchen.

Finally, Lucy appeared carrying a huge centrepiece plate. It was unusually large and as she sat it in the middle of the table, empty and devoid of food, old man Moraru caught a look on Lucy’s face. It was brief, and he immediately attempted to disregard it as a product of his imagination, but it unsettled him deeply. It was as if a private joke had passed between the eyes of Lucy and her children, a flicker of a grin, and not one of kindness or of Christmas spirit, but rather one resembling that of a conspiratorial bully. As if Sergiu was the unwitting recipient of some unwholesome prank, waiting to be ridiculed.

Just as the unease began to diminish, Ben appeared with a large jagged carving knife and a long, two-pronged fork which reminded Sergiu more of a butchers’ implement than that required to cut a decent sized turkey.

A turkey which became increasingly conspicuous by its absence.

There they sat for over an hour, each member of the Cardinal family replenishing the old man’s drink with enthusiasm and showing concern for every and each cough or moment of uncomfortable breathing experienced by their guest. But it was a strange concern.

There they sat gleefully, asking Moraru questions and then listening to the stories and answers which came about his life, where he had lived, how many battles he had fought in. But the interest and concern seemed to be distant somehow. It was only skin-deep. Each time their guest mentioned the old country, those same conspiracy-laden glances were traded across the table, as if excited, not by the content of the stories, but rather by the simple fact that Moraru was a foreigner.

The absence of not only food, but that of the mere mention of it was unsettling enough, but what was more perplexing was that Ben repeatedly stole looks towards an antique clock which sat on a mantelpiece above the fire. Looks which were poorly hidden, and betrayed their purpose: He was counting down the minutes to some event. While the old man had no idea what that event was, the certainty was apparent that it was not connected to anything cooking in the kitchen oven.

Moraru knew that there was simply no food being roasted, grilled, or even cooled on a window ledge nearby. Whatever was being planned it was not going to involve him eating a Christmas meal.

It was Camilla who stopped smiling first at his anecdotes and historical observations. She had ceased listening. No longer was she politely laughing at obvious jokes and the endearing sight of an old man repeating himself through forgetfulness. Camilla was simply staring. Staring with those pin point cold dark eyes. As a snake before a strike.

Timmy was next to abandon the act as he began to grin menacingly at Sergiu, as his hands gripped a small serrated steak knife intensely. The most alarming thing was that the focus of Timmy’s stare was not the old man’s face, but his wrinkled neck.

With one last glance at the clock, Ben ceased being the jovial, attentive host and began to run his fingers along the huge carving knife in front of him, with an a mixture of anger and lust upon his face.

Sergiu had seen many things in his time, but nothing as surprisingly strange and unnerving as this.

Finally, when the clock began to chime, Lucy relinquished her false, endearing shell, and exposed the cold hearted and twisted personality which lay beneath.

As the chimes slowly rang throughout the house, one by one, echoing and lonely and piercing in their symbolism, each of the Cardinals rose up from their chairs, sharp, jagged knives in hand, and waited.

The chime rang once and they uttered an indecipherable phrase in unison.

The chime rang twice and they increased their cult-like chorus in ferocity and volume.

The chime rang three times and then they stopped.

All were silent, the house devoid of sound, Christmas spirit, and that of hope. The old man’s wheezing grew in intensity as the uniquely bizarre sight of the twisted family about to dine dawned upon Sergiu.

The family then quietly, and efficiently, walked around the dining table and stood motionless, surrounding their guest. Just as the old man was about to inquire what was to become of him, the clock on the mantelpiece burst into life one final time. The chime was different from the others. It was sharper, somehow fouler, and echoed once and once only throughout the Cardinal home.

From behind, Lucy slit the old man’s throat from ear to ear as Ben thrust his carving knife deep into Sergiu’s stomach. Both parents then removed their knives and stood back watching with pride as Camilla cut and stabbed repeatedly, while Timmy thrust his steak knife in and out of Moraru’s legs, neck and arms.

After a a few minutes, the frenzy diminished as both children grew tired, and with one last downward thrust, Timmy drove his steak knife so deeply into the old man’s hand that it skewered it completely, embedding itself into the table on which the hand rested.

The children now ran to their parents’ collective embrace. They hugged and rejoiced in what was a fantastic Christmas game, and now could look forward with delight to some succulent exotic meat.

Arms wrapped around one another, they stared at their victim and began to laugh loudly commenting on the old fool’s stories of times gone by, the war, and the old country.

As they turned to each other once more, the laughter diminished and they looked into each other’s rosy, blood covered faces and shared a family moment. This had been one of Ben’s favourite sacrifices.

But the laughter had not completely ceased. One person was still laughing loudly. Confusion turned to abject horror as the bizarre truth revealed itself: It was Mr Moraru.

Sitting covered in blood, his head tilted back and the deep cut in his throat wide open, the dinner guest laughed loud and strong. A laugh which was both young and old.

His head arched forward as he pulled Timmy’s steak knife out of his hand, dropping it on the floor. Camilla screamed, as Lucy hid behind Ben. What they thought to be a corpse now stared at them all, as they had stared at it with a singular purpose.

Timmy began to pee himself and cry as two previously retracted fangs cracked through the old man’s upper gum revealing a serrated and terrifying grin. As he rose to his feet Lucy fainted, and with both hunch and age now gone, the Cardinals’ guest loomed tall and dark before them, his eyes piercing, telling tales of countries, and decades, and of centuries of existence.

Sergiu Moraru ate well that Christmas.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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