Branches in the Wind

January 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Finally, I’m home. After working a late night, I finally finished a project that my boss pushed on me. It was all worth it though, because I had a great day ahead of me. The part I was most excited for though, was seeing my son. I finally won the custody battle against my ex-wife, so now I actually get to see him. I fixed up my old spare bedroom for him, although it looked bland in all white. I figured we would have some spare time later and we could make any changes he wanted. I lumbered up the stairs, and when he finally heard I was here, he quickly called me into his room.

“Daddy, I can’t sleep, there’s a monster in the window!”

Monsters, huh, that’s original for a kid.

“Oh don’t worry about that, it’s just the tree’s branches blowing in the wind, see?”

I pointed and showed him the branch tapping against the window pane. He trusted me enough to calm himself down, and I kissed him good night. Finally, time for sleep, I could hardly even see straight at this point. I walked across the hallway, and collapsed into my bed. I had too much on my plate to be dealing with monsters. I had to go with him to school the next day to get him signed up in our district, I had to buy him school clothes, I couldn’t even think straight. That’s when I heard him calling again. Man, I love the kid and all, but I needed some sleep!

“Daddy, the monster is back again!” he shrieked.

I looked to the window: nope, nothing but the tree’s branches. I walked over, and to prove it to him, I opened the window and turned back to him.
“See, it’s nothing but the tree, I told you, now go to sleep, you’ve got school in the morning.”

He was still a little startled from what I could see, but what could I do, I was just too damn tired. Again, I fell into the comfort of my bed. Then I heard a cry, and I had just had enough.

“Fine, I’ll just sleep in your bed with you, if you see any monsters, just hold tight to me.”

I walked back into his room, pulled back his red blanket, and lay next to the kid.

While I lay, eyes closed, my mind started wandering. Didn’t I buy white sheets for the bed? I looked at my son’s slit neck and realized my mistake. That’s when I heard the monster, except it wasn’t tapping at the glass; it was the footsteps from the opened window. I couldn’t help but laugh, how didn’t I realize I had no trees in my yard?

Credit To: Legendd

DERPNOTE: This pasta is a Crappypasta Success Story. That means that it received enough upvotes during its time on Crappypasta for it to be posted on the main archive. You can find its Crappypasta entry here. Thanks, everyone!

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Laura

December 22, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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Laura looks at the clock on her dashboard which reads “5:43”. She curses herself for staying late at work, but there was just too much to do to justify leaving early. Being Valentines Day, she knows she should have made an effort to get home on time to be with her husband. They managed to somehow get the kids out of the house for the weekend and the thought of missing out on this opportunity for some alone time is nearly frightening.

Rolling into her driveway, she notices something posted on the door. The stack of papers on the passenger seat is stuffed into her bag as she exits her minivan and walks up to the door. Her eyes squint the whole way, trying to make something of this disconformity. It’s a note. She reads it and her heart sails.

“Meet me inside for some fun…”

Part of her feels her level of guilt double, being that he has put some real effort into this special day, but the other part can’t wait to see what her husband has cooked up. She turns around to see if anyone is watching, slightly embarrassed that perhaps someone has seen this sultry example of foreplay. No one. She tears off the note and dances inside, giddy with excitement.

The lights throughout the house are all turned down while candles burn, their dim ambiance casting soft rays of amber against the beige walls. She tosses her bag to the floor and starts searching. The second note is found in the kitchen, stuck to the side of a can of whipped cream.

“You’re almost there. Come to the bedroom and bring this with you.”

Her heart is pumping with anticipation as she grabs it and makes her way to the staircase. She grasps the banister with her free hand, arms shaking. Each step has a rose petal placed delicately on it and rich vanilla cascades from a candle perched somewhere in the dark abyss of the hallway. Reaching the top floor she sees another note on the door to the bedroom.

“Welcome.”

She quickly fluffs and fixes her hair before flinging the door open, standing in the threshold in her sexiest stance. The bed is made up with heart shaped pillows. A bottle of champagne is chilling in a bucket of ice. More candles fill the room with light and scent but something is wrong. Her husband is nowhere to be found. Confused, she looks around finding one final note across the room, stuck to her dresser.

“Your husband is dead. Perhaps you would like to join him in the closet?”

Credit To – DtheJG

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The Pass

December 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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The following is based on true events.

On October 31th 2004, it was reported that 6 young adults had perished on the Uhkaava mountain pass in the northern wilderness of Finland. News reports excerpts stated “… four males and two females tragically lost their lives following an expedition… made the discovery 50km southeast of Ivalo… [believed] to have perished following unfavourable [weather] conditions…”.

The news reports did not delve into details regarding the specifics of the tragedy. Grieving family and friends of the deceased were informed by investigators that the group had got into difficultly during the early hours of Wednesday 27th October after a small avalanche descended onto their camp. Death was caused by hypothermia in all cases with the exception of Anni Järvinen whose demise was found to be the result of cerebral hemorrhaging caused by blunt force trauma to her right temporal bone. This was attributed to debris, possibly a large rock or tree branch, propelled at speed through the avalanche. No further details were disclosed.

Authorities and law enforcement officers found the ruined camp after being made aware of potential missing persons by concerned friends who informed them that the group failed to contact them on neither the 29th nor 30th October to confirm that they had returned safely from the wilderness.

The six deceased were transported to their respective home towns to be claimed by their immediate kin. All six were transported in closed caskets which remained closed. Authorities cited the poor conditions of the bodies, exposed for too long to the relentless elements before discovery, as the reasoning behind this. Many people were of the belief that the bodies should in fact have been preserved in good condition but the stricken emotions of the bereaved meant that they did not voice any objections and cause further stress. The bodies were buried and the tragedy receded into memory for all but the closest family members.

It has since been discovered that this information does not amount to the full story of what occurred on that fateful night.

Withheld information and retrospective investigations, the results and conclusions of which were secreted away in an archive until now, paint a very different picture of the events which occurred. Presented for your consideration are those missing facts, alongside conjectures and suppositions designed to recreate, in so much as is possible, the true nature of the circumstances which transpired on October 26th and 27th 2004 on the Uhkaava Pass.

The six deceased in question are: Manu Okkonen, 23, studied for an MA in architectural design, Lempi Litmanen, 19, studied for a BA in Finnish language, the aforementioned Anni Järvinen, 20, studied for a BSc in geology, Jaak Ilves, 20, also studied for a BSc in geology, Raine Järvinen, 20, studied for a BSc in electrical engineering and Ole Aadland, 21, a Norwegian who studied in the School of Medicine at the University of Tampere. Manu, Lempi, twins Anni and Raine, and Jaak (an Estonian national) all studied at the University of Oulu.

Subsequent interviews conducted among staff and students of both universities have been used herewith to help piece together the components of a bizarre puzzle and the conjectures which will follow in due course. All six students lived on their respective campuses and all lived long distances away from their families. The funerals afforded the authorities time for unofficial searches of their dorms and to conduct interviews away from the watchful gazes of inquisitive families, some unsatisfied with the information released to them. It also allowed authorities to complete their investigations of the dorms of the deceased before relatives were afforded the opportunity to claim the possessions of the dead. Certain known possessions, including diaries, were never claimed by families and have never been accounted for.

The five attendees of the university of Oulu were a tight-knit group. They were popular among their peers (with the exception of Jaak, who had gothic tendencies which were the subject of some ridicule by other students) and they spent much of their leisure time together. They were an active bunch, fond of pursuits including hiking, ski-boarding, rock-climbing and abseiling. Weekend sojourns to locations suited for these activities were a common occurrence for the five. Analysis of evidence has revealed that between the 12th and 15th of October a 6 day long trip, to coincide with midterm break, was planned. The trek was to commence on the 23rd October with the group due to return to the university on 29th October.

The five diligently planned their junket. They were experienced adventurers and were only too aware of the potential dangers that awaited them. They laboriously planned every aspect of their trip and inventoried absolutely all equipment and gear which was to be taken on the trip.

On the 15th of October, Manu Okkonen received an email from Ole Aadland. The two were good friends from Ole’s time in the University of Oulu where Ole studied for one year before relocating to the University of Tampere. At the time, (before the other deceased members commenced third level studies) both Manu and Ole were integrated into a large fraternity who liked to make the most of their weekends: partying, pranks, girls and occasionally sports. Manu and Ole in particular, along with (NAME WITHELD) had a passion for outdoor activities. Manu’s passion would eventually infect the rest of Uhkaava mountain pass party. Manu invited Ole to join the planned trip. Ole accepted.

At 9.30am on Saturday October 23rd, the Uhkaava mountain pass party convened on the grounds of the University of Oulu. Ole was introduced by Manu to the other members of the group for the first time. They set off on their trip at 9.40am.

The intervening days between October 23rd and October 26th are believed to have passed without much incident, with one notable exception. The group travelled in two cars and made their way north to the town of Ivalo (located approximately 500km away from Oulu). They arrived there two days later on October 25th. The group are known to have visited several bars in Ivalo before retiring for the night. It is believed that at some point Ole and Jaak almost came to physical blows. This is believed to have been caused by simmering, underlying tensions between the two (Ole disliked Jaak’s gothic lifestyle and believed him also to be a homosexual). The situation was only exacerbated by alcohol and it is thought that Manu and Raine helped to maintain the peace. The group set off early the next day in a southeasterly direction. It was in this isolation that they intended to rock-climb and snow-board. They also intended to spend their first and only night outdoors.

The group are believed to have enjoyed a successful day of activities. At approximately 4pm they arrived at the Uhkaava pass where they decided to set up camp. A forested area lay beyond the pass but Manu felt that it was too risky to travel further for the shelter as nightfall was rapidly approaching. The campsite was made on the pass at the base of a steep slope with a river located 200m away and a few lone trees dotted around the pass.

The group stayed together in one large tent as the collective temperature produced by body heat was greater than if spread over two or three individual tents. Digital imagery recovered from the scene showed that the group had a meal at 8.30pm and, sat around a paraffin lamp, proceeded to imbibe alcohol until approximately 11.30pm. The group sang songs and played games before retiring to sleep, most drowsy from the effects of alcohol. The paraffin lamp remained illuminated throughout the night. DNA analysis showed that Manu and Lempi shared the same sleeping bag and had sexual intercourse. It is presumed this occurred when the others fell asleep. Semen belonging to Jaak and found in the stomach of Raine indicates that they too had a sexual tryst after awaking briefly some time between 12.45am and 1.00am.

At 1:58am, an incident occurred which caused the entire group to suddenly evacuate the tent. It was significant enough to prompt everyone involved to step outside into estimated temperatures of -22°C without stopping for long enough to collect warmer clothing on the way out. They were outside for approximately 90 seconds before returning to inside the tent. Images found on Ole’s cellular phone showed that he attempted, probably in a haste, to take photos of Lempi who appeared to be wearing only a brassiere at the time. His attempts were somewhat unsuccessful as an object (probably his thumb) partially obscured the lens which resulted in partial images of her naked buttocks. It is believed that he snapped these pictures unbeknownst to Lempi or any of the rest of the group.

Further digital imagery reveals that the group joked and laughed, possibly to brush off the incident, and seemed in high spirits before returning to sleep.

The cause of this initial evacuation remains unknown.

Analysis of the scene suggests that a light snow fell between 2.30am and 3.15am concealing most of the original tracks and footprints. It did not snow again between the time of the incident and the discovery of the bodies.

An avalanche did not take place, this was a fabrication on the part of the investigators.

At some time between 3.25am and 3.35am, the fatal events unfolded. The body of Anni Järvinen was discovered 20m away from the tent. She was found wearing a t-shirt, pyjama bottoms and one thermal sock. It was initially believed that as she fled from the tent in the darkness, she ran headlong into a single tree, fracturing her skull and fatally wounding her. However, an inspection of the ground showed her footprints moving just past, and not into, the tree in question before falling from her injury. The injury stemmed from another source.

The bodies of Raine Järvinen and Jaak Ilves were found in each other’s arms some 540m away from the camp site. They both died of hypothermia. Jaak wore only his nighttime attire and a bobble hat, Raine wore nighttime attire and also a coat and his unlaced boots. It appeared that he attempted to keep Jaak warm by drawing him into his unzipped coat. Further anaylsis of Jaak’s body showed that he had sustained two non-fatal injuries; a broken rib and a severed tongue. It is believed he unintentionally bit off his own tongue. Jaak was introduced to Raine through Raine’s sister Anni, with whom Jaak shared his geology classes. Their sexual orientation and fondness for one another was never known by anyone, not even Anni.

The body of Manu Okkonen was found beside the partially collapsed and partially burnt tent. He wore only boxer shorts and a t-shirt. He, like Anni, died from trauma to the cranium. However, the trauma he suffered was far more severe. An apparent blow to the head completely caved in the left side of his head, knocking out an eyeball, most of his teeth, fragments of skull and a large portion of brain matter. The cause of the trauma is unknown. Found embedded in the remains of his head was one solitary hair. The hair was 5 inches long and thick like that of animal. The hair was jet black with veins of a turquoise pigment running through the length of the hair. Scientists have determined that the hair is organic in descent and not man-made. The species from which it came is unknown.

The body of Ole Aadland was discovered in the river, some 600m downstream. He had drowned. He was found wearing a one-piece pjyama suit, boots and a trapper hat and a zipper hoodie which forensics later discovered both belonged to Anni. Traces of Anni’s blood were found on the right shoulder of the hoodie. The hat had also been severely damaged and contained Anni’s blood and hair. It has been determined that both Anni and Ole fled from the tent in a similar direction. Ole, who had picked up a hatchet during his escape, struck Anni the fatal below with the blunt edge of the weapon. He removed her hoodie and hat and, donning both items to help maintain warmth in the extreme cold, continued his escape towards the river. Analysis of his footprints on the riverbank reveal that he stopped, looked back towards the camp as if considering his options before committing himself to the plunge. He drifted downstream until the hood of Anni’s hoodie, snagged a fallen tree below the surface of the water. In darkness and panicking, Ole struggled to free himself but only served to also catch the sleeve of the hoodie on the fallen tree. Trapped beneath the surface of the water, he quickly drowned. The discarded hatchet, upon which were traces of Anni’s blood, was found discarded on the riverbank next to Ole’s footprints.

The body of Lempi Litmanen was never recovered. No footprints matching hers were discovered at the scene. An inspection of artifacts at the site by authorities also leads them to believe that she was still wearing only a brassiere when she disappeared. Two weeks after the initial investigation, authorities covertly performed another search of the site. A severed hand was found in a tree 1km from the campsite. Many of the lower branches up to a height of five metres were broken. They were subjected to an extreme weight or pressure. The hand belonged to Lempi.

Rigorous examinations of the tent and its contents were carried out. It was initially assumed that the partial burning of the canvas had resulted from an accidental overturning of the paraffin lamp as the group rushed out of their quarters during the second evacuation. This notion has since been scuppered by compelling evidence that suggests Manu intentionally ignited the material but the fire failed to take. The reason for this arson is unknown. Aside from minor burns and damaged doors, the tent showed no other indications of compromise.

Authorities originally suspected that Ole Aadland was responsible for the gruesome events at Uhkaava Pass. However, whilst responsible for the manslaughter of Anni Järvinen, he has been eliminated as the cause of the devastation. It has been established that he was the second to leave the tent after Anni and his tracks continued only one way to the river.

Attacks from hostile locals or wild fauna such as lynx, wolverine or bear have also been eliminated as triggers for the destruction. No foreign human or animal prints were found at the scene. The group also had a hunting rifle (licenced to Manu Okkonen who was a very capable hunter) and two Bowie knives within the tent. It would appear that no attempt was made to utilize these weapons for self-defence despite the fact they were close to hand. In fact, the only item missing from the tent was the hatchet.

The last piece of evidence present at the scene was a claw mark which ripped though the inner door of the tent. The claw mark entered the door near its top and travelled downwards leaving the material dangling in ribbons. The inner door was never unzipped as the group were able to move through the tattered remains of the inner door unimpeded. Again, officials had believed a carnivore may have been responsible for the devastation but an inspection of the claw mark revealed it was one swipe made from an animal with seven claws on one appendage. The door, while in its taut and undamaged state, would allow for one swipe and no more. The presence of seven claws ruled out any local fauna which would have a maximum of five. The lack of any DNA evidence also aided in eliminating a local predator as the culprit as no hair, saliva etc was found. The only item found was the unidentifiable black-blue hair on Manu’s body.

Anni was known to be the first to exit the tent during the second evacuation. She forced her way through the sealed outer door without undoing the zipper. Damage to the zipper, blood (identified as Anni’s) on the zipper-teeth and a small, fresh wound on her arm, confirm this theory. What remains a topic of debate amongst certain authorities is the nature of the claw mark. It was determined to have struck the inner door of the tent from within. Anni Järvinen fled through the tattered inner door and burst through the secure outer door. The others quickly followed.

While the authorities do not know the cause of the destruction that night on the Ukhaava Pass, one irrefutable, disturbing fact remains: the attack originated from inside the tent.

Credit To: afish

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The Tunnel Run

December 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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It was 9:30 P.M on a Sunday night and I had only just left work. There was a mountain of paperwork sat at my desk that had to be completed for Monday morning, but I knew that it couldn’t be done. I’d already given up my entire weekend, so it was difficult to find the energy to worry. I had grown bored of my job now anyway, so I didn’t really care what my boss said; I just needed a beer. I wandered out of the office doors, through the car park and made my way down the darkened road. Then like that, I was free. I was 21 now and had reached the age when I believed I knew everything. I had long grown used to living on my own and doing what I pleased, so I assumed I’d eventually just find a new job and be fine. My only regret that night was making the walk home.

Seeing as there is only two ways to reach my flat and one of them is a longer trek than the other, I could see no reason for taking the ‘scenic’ route; so I set off along my usual path. The journey home usually consisted of trudging down a miserable, lifeless road in which various holes had seemed to swallow up parts of the ground; and it was the same old walk for a little while, well, until I noticed a cut-off. It was a street that I had clearly passed every day on my way home, but I had only just noticed now. Feeling slightly confused, I decided to wander over to take a better look and hopefully refresh my mind. Smiths Avenue it was called. With it being a small, homely street, I expected it to be somewhat pleasant; but it wasn’t. It was surrounded by rotting monoliths and huge trees, making it look centuries old. At the very bottom, there was an abandoned ice cream truck that had been absorbed by the plants, while next to it was a pitch black tunnel. There was no light coming from anywhere in the street, just a silver glow from the moon to guide my eyes. I didn’t feel scared, nor did I feel the need to run away; but the street seemed very familiar and that made me feel slightly uneasy.

I was about to turn and get back to walking home when I realised how I knew the street. Eight years ago, I had a friend named Eddie Burscough. We used to play in the same street that I was now looking at, but it looked a lot different when I was a child. Back then I lived with my mum and dad, a happy life as I recall; but I lost them at a young age and seemed to block out a lot of memories. Maybe that’s why I forgot about Eddie and the street? I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I had to go and take a look around.

Straight away, my mind was flooded with memories – mostly of looking out the window and seeing Eddie playing out. I remembered kicking a football around all day, eating ice cream in the summer, riding our bikes in the sun with no worries at all; but my strongest memories were that of the tunnel. Even back then, in the light of my mind, the tunnel was just as dark as it looked to me now. So with our childish minds, we took the opportunity to create a game. ‘The Tunnel Run’ we called it. The game was simple: we each took turns to run down the tunnel and see who could make it the farthest without getting scared and turning back. There was one catch though… neither of us knew how far it went. If I remember rightly, neither of us ever made it all the way to the very end either. Not long after I lost my parents, I was placed with a foster family and I never saw Eddie ever again. Judging by the condition of the street now, it’s safe to say that he doesn’t live here any more.

I made my way to the tunnel at the far end of the street and stood on the edge of darkness. I felt the urge to try the tunnel run; for old times sake. I took my phone out and dimly lit a foot or so in front of me as I made my way inside; I walked this time. There was nothing but silence with me in that tunnel and I think that’s what compelled me to keep moving forward. I carried on walking until I got so far inside I couldn’t see anything at either end; but I wasn’t scared. It seemed peaceful.

After walking for what seemed like twenty minutes or so, I was stopped in my tracks when I could see a dim red light at the far end of the tunnel. I had to reach it. Was this the end that I had never reached? That Eddie had never reached? I had to find out. I kept on walking and walking until the light slowly came into focus and looked a lot brighter. At this point, I could make out something standing next to it, shuffling about and breathing. Then the smell of smoke hit me and my body tightened; I stopped walking. I then began to step backwards so I could leave, so I could make a run for it. When out of nowhere I heard someone mumble “Beat you to it”. It was Eddie. It had to be him, I could just tell. I moved towards him and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was definitely him, but he looked different. Not just older, but scarier. His features seemed twisted and a wry smile sat upon his face. He was stood next to a huge metal door, almost like a bouncer at a night club. He stared for a moment, winked at me and muttered “Come inside”.

I needed to talk to him and he clearly needed to talk to me too; so I followed him through the metal door. My stomach was turning, this all seemed like a dream. Once I was inside, my vision blurred for a moment. When it came back into focus, I was sure that my eyes were deceiving me. We were in my bedroom from when I was a young boy. It wasn’t a place made to seem like my old room; it was my exact room. The smell, the warmth, the memories all filled my being. I smiled. That’s when Eddie turned to look at me “Do you remember what your childhood was like?” Though confused, I replied “Well I remember some of it. It was good”

“Was it?”

“From what I can remember, it really was. Playing in the summer, ice cream, footba-”

“So you remember everything being fine do you, everything was perfect?” Eddie snarled

“What do you mean? I remember what I remember. It wasn’t all good, no. I remember my parents dying and going to a foster home – never seeing you again, you just disappeared. Before all of that though, I had a great childhood. My teenage years were great too, even my foster family were nice people”

“Did you forget what your mum and dad were like? They were fiends, disgusting people, they used to beat you up and down; kick you, punch you, put cigarettes out on your arm. Did you forget all of that?”

I realised that I had. I had completely forgotten. Everything came back to me at that point, all at once like huge wave. All of the pain that my parents had put me through emerged from the darkness; and I knew then, exactly why I blocked out my childhood.

“How did they die?” Eddie said

I mumbled “I, I can’t remember”

“What do you remember? Take a look at this, it may look familiar”

My old bedroom suddenly changed and I was in another bedroom. I could tell that it was in the same house but it was completely charred; burnt to a crisp. I remembered that bedroom, it was very familiar, but for some reason I didn’t know why.

“That’s my bedroom” Eddie said “I remember, one night after we had taken our usual beatings, you came into my room and whispered to me that we needed to do something. We needed to get out of here. A moment before you left, you threw a box of matches on my bed and told me to set fire to my bedroom; you said that we could make it look like an accident. I was young and naive, so I agreed to do it. You told me that if I did it correctly we could leave and be happy with another family; but you left me. You ran out of the house and left me screaming in my bedroom. The fire spread so fast, I didn’t know what to do; I just called out my brother’s name but nobody came. You didn’t just leave our parents to die in that fire. You left me”

I could see the pain and sadness in his eyes as he told me the whole story. My little brother didn’t seem so scary anymore. I placed my head in my hands and cried more than ever. I just couldn’t believe it, I remembered everything. My abusive parents, my younger brother – the only good part of my childhood – all dead, because of me. I blocked everything out from my younger life but kept hold of the good memories. I got a new family, inherited every penny from my old life and changed my name to start fresh, nobody knowing what I had done – the authorities called it an accident. I lifted my head up with tears streaming down my face to apologise but he was already gone. At that moment I wanted to die.

I had tried to bury my past and move on but it didn’t work. It was bound to find me sooner or later. I didn’t deserve to start a new life; Eddie would never get to. I looked around at the empty room to see if he was anywhere to be seen, but he wasn’t. It was just me and my tears. I stepped forward and opened the huge metal door; then with a rush of light I was right back at the top of Smiths Avenue. I glanced down the street and it looked exactly the same as it did back in my childhood. Except for one house at the end which was completely burnt. I turned away and left that street, I don’t think I’ll ever go back there again; but I remember everything now and I will never forgive myself. I just wish I could speak to my baby brother again.

Credit: Jacob Newell

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A Change in Seasons

December 17, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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It had started in the farthest corner of my apartment; first as only the slightest hint of coppery red, before oozing from the ceiling and down the wall. I stumbled towards it, tripping over a laundry hamper and knocking it to the floor. It was funny looking, really. Against the yellowing wall paper, it looked almost like a rookie’s graffiti, still fresh and drying. I lifted a hand to touch it, but thought better. Up this close, the stench was overwhelming like when the sink clogs and you pull out the stopper to find an enormous glob of hair. A smell mixed between bile and ammonia, a nauseous wave swept over me attempting to pull up last week’s dinner. In a panic, I ran to the window and was alarmed when it wouldn’t open. Furiously, I scrambled to unlatch the lock and rattled it up for the first time in years. As I swallowed the tastiest air I’ve ever had, I could only think, At least I know where the smell is coming from now.

One month ago had been a party for me. I’d gotten home early from my job mopping floors at a hospital and had even had time to pick up a pizza on the way back. Now, I don’t live in the best of areas, I’ll admit; and whenever I pull into the unpainted parking space of my building, I always get that feeling that something bad might happen that day. The apartment’s at least two hundred years old and it shows. From the chipped red bricks to the way it tilts slightly towards the top, “The Queen”, gives a sense of both unreliability and experience. And I’m sure it’s experienced a lot.

I push though the front glass door, complete with a head-sized hole, and begin the solemn march to the eighth floor and my room – number 48. I say solemn march because that’s what it is; I don’t want to see or talk to anyone here and that’s best done by staring at the floor as I walk, my face suitable blank. The first person I come across seems to have the same idea. He’s wearing cheap plaid over a greasy t-shirt and doesn’t even look my way as he slips into number 9: The Queen’s nightly brothel, if I’m not mistaken. The Queen’s a classy place.

I cross up the stairs past a room that has smelled heavily of curry since I moved here, the same screaming rock music playing like a theme song. The door is open and I see a huddle of kids shooting up heroin or cocaine or maybe even bleach mixed with water. Who cares? I certainly don’t. The walls up here are covered with what could either be mud or human excrement and I try my best to guide the bulky pizza box up the stairs without touching anything.

I see old man Taylor wobbling up the steps ahead of me. He’s got his veteran’s cap on again and he’s humming some sort of oldie under his breath. I feel bad for him, I really do. It’s hard to watch as his arms shake each time he releases the railing to climb up another step; his legs moving slowly with arthritis. Luckily, I’m on my floor now so I won’t have to wait thirty minutes before getting to my room.

“You having a pardy t’night, boy?” His voice is raspy from smoking and muddled from time. I turn to have a look at him, hooking the box under my arm.

“Every night’s a party,” I remark, failing to come up with anything better, “Why, what are you doing tonight?”

“Not’ing, I just want to say hello. No one says hello an’more.”

I smile to him and nod, thinking about how cold the pizza must be getting. He smiles back, a toothless thing before returning to his journey upward as I jingle the keys into my door’s lock. Inside, I smile when I see the pile of DVD’s on the coffee table, the humming fridge with various appointments and magnets stuck to it and the window overlooking the sleeping town. I’d survived another day.

I throw the pizza down on the side of my mildew streaked couch and turn on the TV. The television is older than Christ and doesn’t have cable but none of that matters. I put in my favorite television series, “That 70’s Show”, and begin the party with my best and only friends.

* * *

My parents came for a visit three weeks later. The first thing they said when they walked in wasn’t about how messy the room was; it wasn’t about how I hadn’t called them since last Christmas or how they thought I could do better than this dump. They complained about the smell.

I blushed and pointed at the sink full to the brim with soap water and old dishes, but they were sure that wasn’t it. “It smells like something died in here”, they said. I fought back the urge to reply, “Ya, my hopes and dreams”. Honestly, I couldn’t smell anything. Needless to say, they didn’t stay long and I was alone again.

That night, lying in bed, I began yearning for the past. I vividly lived through my childhood for what must have been the eighth time. I saw all the mistakes I had made and all the chances I never took. I saw her again. Standing by the pool, waiting for me; but I’d never show up. I had told myself it was because I hadn’t wanted to get my hair wet at the time. Now, it felt like self-sabotage and I investigated every what-if scenario that could have happened if I’d gone.

There was a sudden crash above my bed as if a television or even a small bookcase had been kicked over. I was jolted out of my self-pity and back into reality. The crash was followed by a much smaller thump that was somehow more rattling than the first. That old man lived above me of course; he might have fallen over for all I knew. And yet, I did nothing. It all went downhill from there.

* * *

The next night I was haunted by what was the unmistakable sound of dripping. It was hard to hear, impossible during the day, but at night, when everything was quiet, that excruciating sound would begin. Like the ticking of a clock, getting louder and louder, never missing a beat. I envisioned a puddle of blackness being filled by an unnatural cloud; within, my loved ones were drowning. I would turn to my static strewn friends, but still the dripping continued, taking bits of sanity with every drop.

And the smell; that horrible yellow smell, like a portal into hell had been opened. I was reminded of when I found my parakeet trapped behind the couch as a child; its rotting flesh and fecal fumes leaping off its carcass. I had cried for my parents then as I did now. But what could they do? I was enveloped in this travesty and I had shut them out of my life.

Desperately, I searched my prison for the source of this evil. I pushed through all the toxins under the sink, scattered the mothballs under my bed, and checked the vents for dead creatures. That’s when I found something odd. It seemed as if the source was coming through the vents themselves and not from my room at all. Immediately I bought a roll of duct tape and sealed off every vent I could find with three layers of tape. Gradually, the air began to clear and I could finally begin to think rationally again. To finish the job, I sprayed air freshener into every corner of every room, and that’s when I noticed the spot.

A single, crimson red drip was gathering in the very corner by the window. Building in size like a blister, I watched as the bubble popped and streaked five inches down the wall. Several other red stalactites appeared and grew in size before following it’s comrade down towards the floor. It was bizarre; they began to take the shape of an upside down tree, its branches a glaring sea of blood. I felt dinner begin to rise up my throat and I hurriedly shoved the window open, gasping for breath.

I was even more shocked by what I saw below. There was a group of at least ten men in bulky, yellow hazmat clothing exiting two white vans and running into the apartment. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I pulled my head back inside to look at the growing red mark as it began to reach and soak into the carpet floor. I jumped back in surprise before the spot could reach my toes and headed for the door. Already I could hear the men as they charged up the stairs past my door, towards – my heart skipped a beat – old man Taylor’s apartment.

I slammed open the door and waived down an approaching hazmat man. I could tell he was out of breath without even seeing his face.

“Please, exit the building, sir,” he gasped.

He didn’t wait for me to reply and so I did the only thing I could – I walked down the stairs with everyone else into the cold night air; on the eve of winter.

* * *

Old man Taylor had been found dead, I was told later. It turned out he’d hung himself over a month ago; and there he had stayed, like clothes in a closet or beef on a meat hook. No one had even noticed he was gone. His family never called him, nor he them; he didn’t have any friends to speak of because he’d never speak a word to anyone. By all accounts of the few who knew him, he was a lonely man because he never took the time to be anything else; either he felt he was too busy or he just didn’t care. And he died that way.

After a month of hanging there, his head had separated from his body. The crash was the body hitting the ground and the following thump – the rest of him. Everything inside him had flooded out and dyed the white carpet around him red before soaking through the floor to repeat the pattern in my room. The only reason he was noticed missing was from the smell and a missing payment for his rent.

I look back on this and realize with horror that we really weren’t so different. I had shut myself off from the world into a cold loneliness I’m sure Taylor was very familiar with up until the bitter end. I’ve started going out more as a result. I’ve shut off the television and sold all my DVDs. I even called her again. I almost didn’t, at first. But during the past month, I’ve learned that life is too short and sanity too fragile to lock myself in my room anymore. In the search for change, I’ve put away my noose for good.

- Based on a true story -

Credit To: A.R. Scroggins

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Chat

December 12, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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It was a regular Friday night and I was up late chatting to my friend Bradley on this virtual chat room we had found online. He told me and the other guys who we had just met, that he was able to stay up as late as he wanted, because his parents were away until the weekend and he had the house to himself. We stayed on there for a few hours having fun with these random people, and I noticed Bradley had taken a liking to one girl in particular. Soon enough, my mum began calling out for me to go to sleep. As I was about to log off, I asked Bradley what he was doing tomorrow, thinking he might want to stop by my place. He didn’t reply for a while, until:

“Bradley is typing a message.”

Then it went blank.

“Bradley is typing a message.”

Nothing again.

“Whatever man, I’m going to bed we’ll talk about it tomorrow.” I said. It was strange for him to just stop replying like that.

I didn’t hear from him again until the next day when I logged on to the chat site and he was on. He apologised for not replying last night and said he had just been busy. We had a brief exchange, and he said he would come over soon, saying it was urgent. That was fine, but queried him why he didn’t want to wait to see his parents first, who would be home any minute. He insisted there was no time because he had something really important to show me, and then logged straight off. I thought that was out of character for him, as he usually put his family before anything, and I grew curious at what he wanted to show me so badly.

I expected him to be over soon, as he only lived about twenty minutes away, when I received a disturbing phone call. It was Bradley’s parents, who had just come home and were sounding extremely worried. They asked if I knew anything on Bradley’s whereabouts, to which I told them not to worry, because he was in fact on his way over. The phone fell silent for a moment until I heard a deathly scream from the mother in the background on the other end of the line. The father drew a deep breath, and bravely strung together a sentence that I’ll never forget.  “Get out of the house now. Bradley’s here… He’s dead.” They had found Bradley’s lifeless body hung up like a coat in the wardrobe. I ended the call in shock, as it became apparent why he had asked if I would be home alone, when suddenly I heard the back door creak open.

Instinctively, I did the first thing I could think of and quickly crawled under my bed to hide. I heard the sound of footsteps coming closer, ever so slowly. I dared not to open my eyes, but when I dreadfully peaked through my fingers, I saw these pale white, cold, bare feet coming in to my room, almost in slow motion. I would hate to see the person such feet belonged to. As they slowly approached the bed, you could hear the dampness of the footsteps peeling away from the floorboards; my heart was pounding in my mouth and I held my breath. Just when I couldn’t possibly get any more scared, my phone let off a loud beep to notify me that I had received a message. It was from Bradley’s phone and read: “Where are you?” as the feet stopped abruptly, dead in their tracks…

Credit To: Jack

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