Best Friends

July 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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When I was a kid, my family and I lived in a modest house in West Virginia. As I said, it was quite small and there was a large forest behind my house. I was pretty curious, as any small child is and so I’d always find myself asking to go into the woods. My parents would consent but I was never allowed to go near the river that was located deep in the forest. At first, I was slightly disappointed but I never gave it a second thought and decided not to question what they said. Being an only child at 8-years-old, things could get pretty lonely. I was a recluse of sorts but had a big imagination so I always created a multitude of friends to play with me in the woods but they never left the wilderness so I ended up going back home to discuss the adventures I had with my parents over dinner.

One day, after my dad left for his classes at the seminary (he wanted to be a pastor at our local church), I decided to go on a short walk in the woods considering it was an Act 80 Day and I was off from school. I put on my jacket and found my shoes with the help of my mom and quickly rushed out into my imaginary kingdom within the confines of the forest. When I reached the point of the woods that I never went past, my mind became particularly curious. I got tired of limiting myself to just having a small amount woods to play in so I slowly made my way past gnarled tree roots and low hanging branches, thorny underbrush and overgrown weeds until I finally ended up finding the oh-so-infamous river my parents told me to stay away from. It had a strong current. Looked like pretty rough waters. I peered across the river to where the forest seemed to thicken substantially. Through the thin trunks and massive amount of branches, I saw something moving. A shadow of some sort? Whatever it was seemed to be advancing closer and closer to the other side of the river until finally, the shadow came out into the clearing. It was a man. Emaciated, lanky, and over 6 feet tall, he silently watched me from across the river. Being a lonely little girl, my first thought was that he could be a friend. I smiled and waved but I got no reaction. On closer inspection, I realized that the man had a small grin on his face. For some reason, the grin scared me a little but I was intrigued so I decided to leave. The next day after school, I went back. Then it became a daily thing. I didn’t mind his grin after a while. I thought it was cute. He never crossed the river but we still found a way to play and somehow, we created a bond with each other. One day my father asked me what I actually did in the woods. I mean, I guess it did seem a little weird; a little girl going into the woods by herself on a daily basis…there can’t be that much to do. I told him I had made a friend. He laughed.

“Oh, really? What’s his name?”

“Well, he can’t talk. Or, at least I don’t think he can.”

Thinking nothing of it, he let it go and I visited my friend everyday, per usual.

One day, he finally told me his name.

I ran to the river, smiling out of anticipation. It was like any other day; he was on the other side of the river but instead of his normal half grin, he was smiling. Teeth showing. It wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal except for the fact that his teeth were pointed. All of them. Every once in a while, a forked tongue would sniff the air through his slimy yellow fangs. I gasped. My friend once again became a figure of slight terror. I wanted to turn and run but my feet were stuck. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t avert my eyes. After I collected myself a little, I turned to run. As soon as I took my first step back however, he spoke for the first time.

“What is your name, child?”

“…C-cassie. My name is..my name is Cassie Littman.”

His smile widened.

“My name is Levi.”

I ran. The way he said it. His voice. I knew I never wanted to visit him ever again. It was awful. It was like he was whispering in my ear even though the river was crashing loudly against itself and even though he was standing across the river. It wasn’t like any voice I’ve ever heard before. It was unearthly. As I turned and started to run I heard him call to me.

“Please don’t leave me, Cassie.”

But I couldn’t stay. I had to get out of there. I think I might’ve been crying. I can’t remember. I ran home and practically attacked my father.

“Gosh, sweetheart. What’s the matter?”

“My friend. My friend in the woods, he has pointy teeth! He’s scary!”

“Oh sweetie, it’s just your imagination. Don’t get too worked up over it. If your “friend” bothers you that much, don’t go in the woods anymore.”

It made sense. And I never wanted to see that…thing again. So I didn’t go back for months. I actually became kind of a recluse. I was scared to leave my house. I felt like he’d be there…waiting for me.

I was sleeping when I heard it. Crying. I jumped a little and tiptoed to my window. I got a clear view of the woods but I didn’t see anything. I heard someone speak through the tears but I couldn’t put a face to the muffled, contorted voice and I didn’t know where the voice was coming from so I went downstairs to try to get away from it but it just got louder.

“I miss you. Please come to me Cassie. I love you. I miss you so much.”

I didn’t want to follow the voice. I really didn’t. But something told me to follow it. Something in me told me to console whatever or whoever was in pain because of me. So I went outside. I didn’t know where I was going but I knew exactly where to go. I headed toward the woods. I walked a while until I got to the river and then everything clicked. I panicked. I started to cry and I looked around watching out for Levithis or whatever the hell his name was. I heard rustling. The talking was now replaced with horrid, inhuman screams of agony and pain.

I couldn’t see him but I heard him speak.

“WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME. I NEEDED YOU. YOU WERE MY ONLY FRIEND AND YOU ABANDONED ME.”

He appeared at the other side of the river a few minutes later. I was too terrified to speak. He wiped his tears away.

“I’m sorry Cassie. I just love you so much. You’re my only friend. Please come play with me across the river. Please, cross the river for me.”

I considered it. He was lonely…like me.

Then I remembered what my mother had told me during the months that I wouldn’t leave the house.

“I can’t say I’m happy with the fact that you don’t go outside anymore but I am glad that you’re steering clear of the woods. That river has a notorious reputation. So many children have drown. It’s…odd.”

I made the connection. I screamed. I wouldn’t let him into my head. I had to get out. I told him I had to go but he kept coaxing me. He promised me happiness and games and fruit and a nice long life forever, with him. All I had to do was cross the river. All I had to do was take the plunge.

Despite what my mother had said, I took a step closer. I was so incredibly lonely. I just wanted a friend…

In June of 2004, Cassie Littman’s body was found lying gutted on the far side of the Shaver’s Fork River. There were bite marks covering almost every inch of her body.

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The Chirp

July 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Another chirp drifted into the room from outside. The window was open again. It hadn’t been ten minutes since Jacob had slammed it closed. He stared at it, into the front yard beyond where the grass had become an ugly orange-brown, and thought of how exposed he was. Anything could get in once the latch and been swiveled open. The thought made his bones tighten. Sniffling and hacking, he got up from his chair to close it again. He was getting sick.

It was the tail end of Fall, and all of the leaves that had been in the trees were on the ground; golden and deceased. In the mornings, frost had started to form on the roofs and hoods of cars and the grass had become brittle. It crunched underfoot at every step; the only sound Jacob focused on as he tramped across his back yard, checking for signs of the intruder.

But he hadn’t been outside to check in three days. For him, it was no longer safe to do so.

Two weeks earlier, he had been a normal high school kid. He did everything one would expect of a lively senior: weekend boozing, class skipping, and the occasional after-school slice at Yucca Steve’s Pizza Palace. Everything seemed to be just as it should have been on a perfectly sunny Wednesday morning.

That day, Jacob had slept through his alarm and lay in bed as his parents engaged in their usual coffee ritual in the kitchen. They poured it, steaming and black, into their enamel mugs and grimaced as they took it in. Shrugging on their coats, they roared off in their respective vehicles, leaving the boy alone in the house.

They worked in the city, and wouldn’t be home until late, so when he finally woke up and found that it was past noon, he decided to shirk school and take his time getting ready to cruise out to the strip mall.

He slipped out of bed and walked over the cold wood floor to his bathroom where he brushed his teeth for nearly ten minutes. As he did so, he stared at his eyes. They looked vapid, like a twin set of opaque swamps with swirling bog bubbles at their centers. He spat a bloody soup of toothpaste and plaque into the sink and dried his mouth with a towel.

There were no clean shirts in his closet, so he plunged a hand into a mountain of worn clothes next to the footboard of his bed and retrieved a shirt and his favorite pair of jeans. Once dressed, he proceeded through the hallway and the living room into the kitchen and whipped the freezer door open.

Raspberry tarts were his favorite, and he was in luck. There were five, so he took them all out and stood in front of the toaster, heating them in cycles until they were in a steaming stack on his plate. He filled a glass of milk to compliment them and brought his bounty, teetering, to the coffee table in the living room. With a latent finger, he pressed the power button on a remote sitting on the table. The television crackled to life, howling sports. He was disheartened to learn that his favorite football team had lost.

It was a very important thing to him. Like most sports fans, he didn’t realize that he was volunteering his heart to be torn in two with each ignoble defeat his idols encountered.

Jacob sneered, flipped to the music channel, and wolfed down his tarts. If he had been more aware, he might have heard the tap that occurred at each window in the room, one after the other, every two seconds. And the chirp.

Thirty minutes later, his stomach was full. He slipped into his shoes, grabbed his board, and left through the front door, kicking it closed behind him. It was only two-fifteen, but it seemed unusually dark. The few shredded-cotton-ball clouds didn’t account for the deepness of it.

He jogged out into his front yard and almost threw his board down to roll away, but some dark crouching thing at the far end of the street caught his eye as he neared the curb. It was standing behind a sycamore in the Jamesons’ yard. It looked like pure shadow, head indeterminable. A light wind was ruffling a row of hedges just behind it, which appeared to agitate the figure. When it wasn’t looking over its shoulders or back down its side of the street, it seemed to be focused on Jacob.

“Hey!”, he said.

The shadow didn’t react, but he thought he could hear a chattering rasp coming from somewhere deep in the thing’s throat. He didn’t like the sound one bit.

“The fuck’re you looking at?”

His question went unanswered. The dark creature started moving back and forth as if it were the native inhabitant of some far flung island, doing a dance to invoke its gods. Jacob could feel sweat slick on his temples and the hollow throb of his heart. He was getting the jim-jams in a serious way. Suddenly, he wanted to beat it. To kill it before it could do something horrible to him. He took a few quick steps off of the curb and started yelling.

“Answer me, you little bastard, or I swear to god I’ll—“

But suddenly, the shadow was gone. It was like it had melted into the grass. Spilled like a towering column of India ink.

Utterly perplexed, Jacob could think of nothing else to do but jump onto his skateboard and light off down the street, leaving the shadow behind, odd and unexplained. He’d always thought better of following the whims of curiosity. He had seen too many scenes in horror movies end badly because of such indulgences.

The wind blew his hair back into a rippling raven flag. He kick-flipped up onto a stairway railing on his way through the neighborhood park and grinded down into a manual at the bottom, screeching to a stop after landing it and yanking his fist down to his chest in celebration. A nearby kid whose face had been invaded by a spore-like smattering acne gave him a thumbs-up. He returned it graciously, beaming, and sped off down another hill.

The whole time he rode through the streets, he consistently peered over his shoulder, just in case there was some black gaping nightmare sprinting at his heels. He had the distinct sensation of being followed. The feeling was leaching the joy from his bones.

Fifteen minutes later, he arrived at the strip mall. Leaves were drifting around lazily in the parking lot, skidding against the concrete, rasping out a symphony. The air had grown slightly colder, and there was no one to be seen mulling about the storefronts or cars. In fact, every store appeared deserted. Jake felt uneasy, and approached his final destination: Ceekiante Arcade.

Dropping his skateboard by the door, he shielded his eyes to counteract the obscuring reflection of the parking lot and peered in through the glass. He couldn’t see any of his friends tapping furiously at plastic keys or yanking on joysticks. There was no cashier at the counter. All that he saw was an inky dimness and a few specks of complacent dust that hung immobile in the air. Something was wrong. The arcade was always bustling with activity.

He tried the handle. At first it wouldn’t budge, but on his fifth tug, Jake wrenched it open with unexpected ease. It swung past him and smacked into the adjacent wall. He stepped inside, peering cautiously down aisles of game cabinets and growing all the more anxious as he worked his way toward the back. He figured he might at least find Mid-day Fred, the day janitor. He was always in the back, afternoons, chewing on his dirty beard as he toiled betwixt slimy, desperate teens.

But to Jake’s surprise, there was not a single sweep of a broom or rustle of a garbage bag when he neared the rear corner. Even after pushing on the lever to the maintenance room door, he encountered nothing but a continuation of solitude. He was utterly alone and each step he took became louder than its prior as the seconds of realization passed. It was unnatural for it to be that quiet at the strip mall, where everyone came to skip school and enjoy the days of their youth to the last drop.

In a panic, he called out, “Hello?! Is anyone here? At all?” But silence was his only answer.

He felt the sudden urge to leave. To go straight back home, to his warm room. His safe, comfortable bed, thronged with comic books and stiff socks. He started back toward the front door at a quickened pace, but after passing the restrooms halfway to the exit, he heard a squeaking and stopped, supposing that he had stepped in water. The noise continued, though. It wasn’t quite a squeak.

It was fundamentally different, but recognizable to him. Images were conjured in his mind of childhood, chasing butterflies through a park.

Chirp.

“Blue jays? Definitely not in here”, he said to the darkness. “Where do I recognize that sound from?”

Chirp…

Dread was coiling up in the pit of his stomach like a lead boa constrictor. He knew, suddenly, that something had been stalking him from the moment he’d walked in. Whatever it was, it continued to emit the queer chirp, just a row over from where he stood.

“That’s fuckin’ it”, he said, and sprinted for the door.

He refused to look back, but he could hear the sound of hard, narrow feet beating against the threadbare carpet, mere feet behind him. Broomsticks on ceramic tile. His stalker’s chirp had turned into a low whirring whistle that might have sounded like a cat purring after having eaten one of those small, plastic Casio pianos he used to play with when he was younger. The thing, whatever it was, was closing the distance between them. He could feel something like whiskers or antennae lightly grazing his shirt.

When he reached the door handle, he jammed it forward, burst out into the open parking lot, and continued to run for several yards. He could no longer hear the thing’s horrifying tone at his back, so he slowed to a jog and then walked in circles for a few moments. He stopped and doubled over, panting. It had gotten even darker outside and great viscous clouds, pregnant with rain and winking lightning had come rolling in from the South.

He didn’t see any cars in the road. The parking lot was still bereft of any sign of life. He scanned the broad, black street from end to end, rubbing his neck and sniffing snot back into his nostrils. It had grown quite cold. Freezing specks of rain began to stipple his scalp. He turned around to face the buildings.

Horrified, Jake remembered that his skateboard was still on the sidewalk. He’d have to go back and retrieve it before he could leave (and sure as shit, I’m getting the fuck out of here, he thought to himself), but the cost of such a feat caused his heart to quicken. He wasn’t sure he could make himself do it.

Keeping low, he slinked toward a nearby car and stared over its hood at the arcade. Everything seemed lethally still. It was a trap, waiting just for him. He stayed frozen, observing the prospect of returning for nearly fifteen minutes before deciding that he just couldn’t do it. Sighing deeply, he turned his back on his board and left. His lips were trembling.

Hardly able to take a step without surveying his entire panorama, he traversed the streets back to his house, but avoided the park. It seemed to him that passing through there was a death wish; that it was the perfect place to become prey. He didn’t allow himself to blink until he stepped foot on the wilted grass of his lawn.

Once inside, he locked every window and bolted every door. He didn’t grasp the entire gravity of his situation then and there, but that would be the last time he left the boundaries of his home.

The following weeks were a nightmare. The horror wasn’t caused by being constantly under siege, but because nothing happened though the threat remained palpable. He could feel aerated poison sinking into his lungs.

The furthest he would travel from his refuge was the curb at the street and the boundaries of his yard. His parents never came home. Even though he rarely saw his neighbors to begin with, they were most definitely out of the picture after the chirping had started. He wanted desperately to know what was happening to him, but the simple fact was, if he left in search of answers, he would surely die.

Sometimes, just as he was falling asleep, one of his favorite CDs playing silently through the stereo by his bed, he would hear a rising chorus of chirps in the distance. The din wasn’t loud enough to bring him out of his hypnagogic state, but his skin grew lousy with goose bumps. It sounded like a continuous, muffled shriek. Like a beautiful by-product of mass torture.

Then, one day, it came for him.

He woke up, and the window was ajar. Cold wind was funneled into his room and rushing across his body. It was six in the morning, during that strange interim between night and day where the entire world is a flat wash of gray and, if a person hasn’t slept, horribly alien thoughts come to mind.

Chirp…

Jacob heard it unmistakably, just outside of his room under the window sill. Something was there and all that kept them apart was half a foot of sheetrock, wood, and vinyl siding. He couldn’t breathe. The follicles of his scalp were tightening. It seemed like the external world was being sucked away through the hole in his wall.

Getting up slowly, he slid his legs across the sheets and placed them carefully on the floor. He rose and, every three seconds, stepped closer to the noise. There was no retreating into the hallway or the bathroom. He knew that to turn his back on the thing outside was to perish without knowing.

The gusts of wind that spewed in at him as he drew closer caused his nipples to harden and shrink. He held himself tightly in his bare arms, his teeth chattering, and squinted against the cold. It took him five minutes to reach the window.

The suspense was pulling his skin taut over his bones as if it were a civil war drum hide. He stuck his head out and there was nothing there.

Ducking back inside, he whirled around to make sure nothing was standing at his back and slammed the window closed. With the whisper of the lock sliding back on its groove into the clasp, the portal was closed.

He had a coughing fit. He was in a tomb.

Jacob stormed into the living room, lashing the walls of the hallway with the belt of his robe as he went. The chirp was becoming more frequent. He couldn’t escape it and the fact was beginning to eat away at him.

He walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. It was nearly empty. He had expended the last of the sandwich supplies two days before. Staring at the barren, chilled shelves, he wished that his parents had gone to the grocery store before blinking out of existence. He would have liked a couple of tasty snacks before facing his doom.

He settled for a meal of six frozen “Nuggie Kids” chicken nuggets.

And he knew that it was only a matter of time before his end came to him. Whatever was outside had started to follow him around the house, no matter where he went. It would chirp sometimes in the midst of absolute silence, just to make him jump. He hadn’t taken a shower in a week for fear that the stalker might take such an opportunity to waltz inside and get a peek at him before sinking its teeth into his supple flesh and making a meal of him.

The dining room table was gleaming from the overhead chandelier as Jacob sat at its head and stared at a dated newspaper from the morning of The Sixteenth. There was a tap on the window. Just behind him. He turned dubiously in the chair, rolling his eyes and shifting his body so that he could see what had made the noise. As soon as the wooden frame entered his peripheral vision, however, there was an implosion of glass shards. The thing was upon him.

It had Jacob pinned onto the table. He stared into its crystalline black eyes. They were lidless orbs set deep into a doughy white head, if a head it could even be considered. More like a malformed sculpture from a kindergarten art class. A scripture, direct from Hell. It had seven appendages: six of them seemed to be its legs. The seventh extruded from its back through a crop of fungal air sacs (they inflated and deflated intermittently to no obvious rhythm). It was tipped with a terrifically sharp barb that seemed to be leaking a dark purple liquid down its shaft.

The creature had a ragged maw, just below its eyes. It imposed its putrid breath all over his face. He tried to speak to it, but before his words could amount to much more than a weak rattle in his throat, a shrill chirp blasted out of it and slammed his skull down onto the wood. Its legs began to rattle in their joints. The barb jutting out of its back was curling around its neck and arching. The creature was deciding whether or not to impale him with it.

Jacob tilted his head to look around for something to beat it off of him. Just inches from his head was a fallen jag of crystal from the chandelier that had hung above the table minutes before. The thing was leaning in close for some sort of death kiss when Jacob snatched the glimmering fragment and sank it deep into the nape of its neck.

It belched a screech that made Jacob’s head feel smaller, as if it had begun fold in on itself like possessed origami. He was close to passing out, but the survivalist in him realized the momentary reprieve for what it was: a chance to wriggle free and fortify himself in his bedroom. He had a solid pine Louisville slugger propped in the corner just to the left of his door. He was imagining just how good it would be for pulverizing the gooey bastard’s skull.

He slid out from beneath the trilling horror and rolled off the side of the table. Even as he slammed against the dining room hardwood, he could sense a tension at his rear. The thing was regaining its poise and reacquainting itself with its target. Jacob pawed at the floor while pushing himself forward with a few clumsy lunges. He was deafened with the buzzing din of insect wings. The creature was already at his heels.

Within a few horribly distorted seconds (the million threads of each second forming a weave which pulsated and churned back and forth), Jacob crossed the threshold of his bedroom. He swiveled on his heels and rammed the door into its jamb with his shoulder. Shortly after, he could hear a solid, violent impact on the other side. The thing had flown headlong into a sudden dead end and was likely dazed. Taking a chance on it, Jacob grabbed the baseball bat and whipped the door open.

The creature’s legs had given out and splayed at its sides. The shrill tones it had been emitting were replaced by a confused whirring coming from deep inside of its body. It was a writhing black mass of twitches, its white play-dough head bobbing merrily. Jacob took no time to study its ghastly form, however. He simply brought the bat down onto it. Repeatedly.

Fifty swings later, there wasn’t much of the thing left for him to observe. He released the bat and knelt, panting. Immediately, the smell of the thing’s fluids assaulted his nostrils and made him fall dumbly back into his room on his ass. He scrambled up onto his feet, enraged, and skirted the abomination to make his way to the kitchen.

Digging around under the sink, he found a box of scouring powder. He rejoined the deceased creature and dumped a crystalline white mountain on top of it, then edged his way back into his room and collapsed onto his bed, letting out a shuddering, horrified sigh.

Exhausted, drained, Jacob prayed in garbled whispers, anointing the ceiling with wasted breath. The air draped the scent of extraterrestrial decay over every surface. Sleep found him.

It was hours later when he awoke. The world beyond his window had become orange with the cant of the sun. He noticed with disquieted clarity that he could no longer hear the blue jays singing as he had only a week before. When he sat up, he heard a sickly squelch and, looking down, observed lengthening tendrils of clear slime oozing off of his back.

Panicked, he leapt up and ran into his bathroom. At the mirror, he beheld the worst image of his short, miserable life. There were colonies of pustules expanding and collapsing rhythmically on his cheeks and forehead. He opened his mouth to scream, but the moment his lips parted, a green, chunky mess delivered itself from the captor cavity into the porcelain. With a dawning delirium, Jacob recognized the fetid gruel as his tongue, disintegrated and sedimentary in his head. It had rotted while he slept.

Instead of a screaming himself hoarse, he had a sneezing fit, but with each violent “ah-CHOO”, a bold crimson jet misted the porcelain bowl. The blood that hadn’t evacuated itself was running down his throat and when vomited it out, most of his teeth wrenched free in the downpour. They were floating in the piss-smelling water of the toilet among chunks of the chicken nuggets that he had nuked and eaten that very morning.

“Oh god!” he screamed. “Why?! What made me sick?”

Five hours later, Jacob was cringing like a shrimp on the floor of his parents’ bedroom. His skin was a gruesome shade of green, glinting with ichor as some inner slime pushed its way through his pores. He was rotting, alive.

He had staggered around the house during those hours, searching for medicine. There was nothing that he thought might help him, but even so, he swallowed six different kinds of vitamins and every cold & flu capsule he could find.

After the doom settled in, he contented himself with moaning and beating his fists on the walls. The skin on the sides of his hands had been flayed, revealing the hamburger meat gristle beneath.

Entering one room, his eyes flickered over the furniture with gut-wrenching familiarity. He’d run a circuit of the place at least twenty times before stumbling into his parents’ room and collapsing. The muscle fibers in his legs began to liquefy.

There were jagged puddles of dark green and orange fluids crowded around his laboring form, soaked into the carpet. His body spewed them out of various newly formed holes in his chest and back. His mental faculties were beginning to slip away when the door to the hallway opened.

A dark humanoid midget stepped in. Dark, actually, wasn’t quite precise. It was beyond darkness. It was like a howling body-shaped hole in mid-air that was sucking light into it; a walking singularity. It chattered to itself, taking infinitesimal steps toward Jacob as he stared up at it.

A vague thought rose to the top of his brain like a bubble in a glass of water. That was the thing hiding behind the sycamore in the Jamesons’ yard the day this all started. Ever so slightly his eyes began to widen. He tried to wrench his body across the carpet, to create distance between himself and the whistling anomaly from beyond, but the moment he squirmed he could feel his spinal cord separate from itself like a saturated strand of toilet paper. He screamed, and literally coughed up part of his lung.

The dark being approached him and crouched, tilting its head in an almost loving way, as if it cared. Then Jacob saw one of the last and most horrifying sights of his life: multiple tentacles leered out of its back and began to form balloon-like spheres at their tips. The spheres then began morphing into recognizable faces – all of his friends, his parents. They gaped down at him and moved their mouths open and closed, but produced no words.

Tears were spilling down his cheeks as he looked on. The thing bent over him, planted its hands on Jacob’s head and pulled him closer. He could feel the skin on his face loosening itself from his skull and fluttering away in sail-like flaps.
His scalp was splitting and the bone beneath was criss-crossed with jaunty, scribbling cracks as it ruptured from the force. He was all but gone. A goofy smile crossed his face. He began to slobber, but tears still welled in his lower eyelids.

What a strange way to die, he thought, giving the thing a humorous wink. When he reopened his eye, it burst, and its insides sluiced out of the socket onto his collarbone.

The being embraced Jacob and sucked his skeleton clean with its vacuum skin. Moments later, his face sprouted out of its back on another one of its black, writhing stalks. It had a wan but jubilant expression as it bobbed.

The Jacob simulation’s eyes gazed out of a window on the west wall and watched as the sun disappeared below the horizon, leaving the sky with a shimmer of bloody dusk-shine. A few chirps sounded out, then many more, rising into a shrill opera in the distance.

Credit To – Charlie T. Smith

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I.C.U.

July 5, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I looked too long. My eyes frozen onto hers, still open, but just beginning to become milky. I guess I should start at the most logical place; the beginning. I suppose it’s the least I can do. I mean, people are going to go through all of my shit to find out why I did it. It of course being, me putting the barrel of a thirty-eight snub nose revolver (God bless America and its easy access to firearms) into my eye and pulling the trigger. I can only hope that the extensive damage obliterates me or at least obliterates the images of what I had seen. However, I get ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning and not the end, my end.

It all started with a length of rope, a girl from my village, and a mango tree. If that sounds sinister, it was. She hung herself from a tree outside of my room a month ago. I should explain that I was a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Nicaragua. I signed up to open my eyes up to the world. (Oh God!) The village was small and in truth I was a mediocre volunteer that preferred listening to music and reading to interacting with the locals. However this is not about my service (If you are reading this to understand why I was a poor volunteer all I can say is fuck you. We have slightly bigger things to focus on at the moment.), this is to help you piece together why I am writing this with a loaded .38 revolver sitting by the computer.

She had done it during the night and her death had not been instantaneous. She had writhed and swung in the mango tree outside my house for hours before finally dying. I, of course, heard nothing. I came out in the morning to find her hanging a few feet away from my door. Her eyes were wide open and just beginning to cloud and a soft breeze shifted her corpse like she was still struggling with her decision to hang herself. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have never done what I did. I stared at her in shock. She was wearing a cheap knock-off sweater that read “SpongeBill Rectangle Pants.” Her black hair was cascading around her face like a halo. My eyes were locked onto hers. What had they seen in those last moments before the light was stolen from them? I couldn’t look away from those opaque eyes seeing everything and nothing. That was how it all started.

The police came and cut the rope that had hung her from the tree. She collapsed to the ground like a sack of bones probably breaking a few of them in the process. The chisme/gossip around my village was that it was unrequited love. She had eyes (Sweet Jesus!) only for me and couldn’t bear to live without me. The story was spread through-out my community before she was even in the ground. I don’t necessarily believe that as we had literally only shared one conversation in which we talked about beans. I have another explanation for all this, but I rather keep it to myself. She was buried within two days and I just wanted to move on.

It started with chills whenever I passed by the mango tree that she had done herself in by. I would sometimes catch glimpses of something in the branches like a small child or animal. (Volunteers will concur that children can climb trees like monkeys and strip fruits within hours as well as roosting chickens.) When I turned my head to get a better view, I would find nothing there. I brushed it all off as heebie-jeebies. I was dealing with PTSD after all. I thought I would just wake up one day and sit under the tree and read a book like the old days and not even think of the girl clawing at her cyanotic neck with black and red nails…

It all started to unravel one day when I sat down to eat a bowl of hot soup, which coincidentally was only given on the hottest day of the year. I spooned mouthfuls while giving the usual platitudes. “Que rica!” “Que saborosa!” (“Que mierda!”) Until I fished the black hair out of my soup. This was odd as the only cook that day was my abuela whose hair was grey. This was not from the cook and due to the caustic nature of my host grandmother, neither was this a visitor. I ignored it and went on with my day as best I could, but the thought was already haunting me.

That night was the first time I saw it, but not the last time. I was lying in bed and looking at the passing night sky through the wooden boards that composed my house. The wind was rustling through the leaves and I caught a glimpse of something in the aforementioned mango tree. It was larger than before and my skin prickled. I brushed it off once again as nerves until I saw something through the slat that consisted of my shanty house just as I was drifting off. I saw it peering through the cracks. They were milky white and they were looking at me.

At the end of that sleepless night which I spent with my eyes darting to the cracks in my wall and my heart jumping at every creak in my ancient dilapidated room, I went into the nearest city and called my girlfriend, Iris, to come down and visit for a few days. I told her nothing about my state of mind. (Because seriously, who wants to know their significant other is going bananas?) I only told her that I needed her. (And I guess that part was true enough.) She traveled to my site within a day and was by my side the next day.

I tried to fuck my way out of my problem. (As I always seem to do.) My girlfriend was more than willing to accommodate. I buried those thoughts and memories into her body and drew back comfort and peace. The chisme that Iris heard only mentioned a woman committing suicide in my village and nothing else. The people were now more focused on my status as a picaflor which wasn’t necessarily true as I only had one girlfriend, but the sound of us making love and me losing myself in her only spread the gossip. She was blissfully unaware of how I was coming apart and I drew whatever strength I could from her.

That strength left me a few days later. Iris left me a day before that, but once again I get ahead of myself. The cause should always precede the effect. We had just finished making love and I had just winced my eyes shut as I reached the pinnacle and gave myself over to her. I relaxed in the blissful afterglow and wrapped my arms around her. I drifted off. When I came to it was still dark and my arms were wrapped around Iris, feeling her skin pressed against mine. It was one of those moments in which I wish I could freeze in amber and preserve before it all went wrong. Everything soured when the door to my room opened and Iris walked in, complaining of the distance of the latrine. Who was in my bed?

My eyes shot open revealing… Nothing. My bed was empty which I soon remedied for the fourth time that weekend. I focused on Iris, but my mind shifted and drifted to eyes. The hazel eyes that were now milk-white and saw through me. Those glassy eyes staring at me from inside my head killed the mood as well as other parts of me. I sealed myself off from Iris after that point and became distant. I wasn’t surprised when the relationship imploded within days. Iris was gone in three days, but she’d left me one day earlier after crying and the words ‘cold and heartless’ being thrown at me. I was alone… Or rather I wished I was alone.

I tried my best to ignore the sensations of being watched, but to no avail. My community looked at me and my haggard expression with interest. There was clearly gossip to be had here, but they knew little to nothing. I ignored them, but continued to feel them stalking me with their eyes. Even worse, I felt her watching me. I could tell it was her when I found myself throwing furtive glances at shadowy corners. I tried my best, my God, I tried my best! It was the next day that I became completely undone and drank myself into the hospital and then drank myself out of my service.

I woke up to an unfamiliar sound in my room. This wasn’t a rat scurrying around. This was the slow deliberate sound of a rope grinding into the main support beam of my room. I winced my eyes shut. I knew what that was. It was her. She was swinging in my room, feet away from my bed, clawing at her throat. I acted like a child, as if not looking at her would make the hanging shade go away. My eyes snapped open when I heard the rope snap and a sickening sound like bones breaking on the floor inches away from my head. She was gone, but some part of me knew she would never leave.

I’ll gloss over how I came to bi expelled from the Peace Corps. I’ll just allude to a cheap bottle of moonshine and mi drunken raving about eyes in the darkness to all that had ears. I found myself in Amirica amongst my friends who did not know how close I’d come to complete madness. I wrapped myself up in their lives like a shield and visited with them to the point of uncomfortableness. None of that mattered. I was safe. I was wrapped up in that security net of family and friends.

That safety net was cut last night when I woke up with the unmistakable feeling of hair on my face. I felt clammy palms pressing into my cheeks and holding my head in place. She was on top of me, her face inches from mine. I cringed my eyes shut, but she persisted. I waited for hours until I knew that she wasn’t going to leave. I opened my eyes and stared into her milky white eyes. It was in her eyes that I saw it. I saw what she had seen. Oh God! Oh sweet Jesus! I would shoot myself a hundred times over to erase what I had seen.

This is why I’m typing this. I know she will persist and I know why she must. I have only one option left. I cannot face what I saw last night again. I realize why she is watching (Mother Mary!) me. I couldn’t look away from her eyes in grotesque fascination when she was in the tree. My eyes locked onto hers. I saw what she saw and she saw what she had desperately wanted to see again. That’s why she stalks me so. She wanted to see the life in my eyes, but what I saw in exchange… Holy Heaven, I can’t bear to see that again. I’m going to do it now. I have to. I’m sorry.

Eye couldn’t do it. The eyes were there. At the bottom of the barrel, looking into me once again and bringing all the terrors of what she had seen at the end of her life as she tried to claw the rope from her neck. Eye watched frozen as my soul was hallowed out by her insistent gaze. I know now what is waiting for us at the end of it all. Oh Crucified Christ I know! She had caught a glimpse of life, a momentary reprieve from what she now sees and now nothing would stop her from experiencing that again. She’s watching me through the gun, her eyes are on me from the shadows. Oh God! Her eyes are on me from the computer screen! She doesn’t care who! She just wants the sight she’s lost. The gun! THE gun! THE GUN!
Eye See You

Credit To – Empyrean

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What is Dead

June 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I write this as an apology to those who are affected by my mistakes. I hope that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me, though I will understand if you can’t.

My wife was terminally ill and, a few month ago, she died. I was very sad at the loss as she was a marvellous, caring woman. She was kind, and everyone that met her said their lives were better for it. I couldn’t bear the pain though, so I did something terrible.

I will not tell you how I did it or how I learned to, for enough damage has been done, but I found a way to … bring her back. To raise her from the dead. I could no longer bear to be alone, and I made a terrible mistake in my loneliness.

When I finished the ritual, nothing happened. Not at first, anyway. I was about to re-bury her when I first started to hear breathing. With an understandable measure of joy, I realised that the sound was emanating from her mouth. I had done it. At the time I could not fully understand what ‘it’ was, but, in my blissful ignorance, I carried her home.

She was not the same. She was no longer caring, but a primal, instinctive beast. She howled and screamed, snarled at me whenever I passed. I was worried, nt for my own sake but for hers. SHe could escape. She could go out and do something to get hurt.

Let the record show that it was for her own good that I locked her in my basement. I never meant to keep her that way. I never knew that my actions would set a chain reaction of unfathomable horrors into action.

I kept her there for as long as I could, but her screams grew more and more desperate. I was chilled to my very core by the screams of my betrothed, and before long I stood on the rain slick precipice of insanity. I needed to do something.

As it so happened, I was not the only one to hear the screams. My neighbours began to show interest, eventually sneaking onto my estate to snoop around. I caught them in the act, and as I had no explanation for what they may have seen, I attacked them. I didn’t kill them, but they were unable to leave of their own accord and, as I feared the consequences of letting them go, I locked them in the basement with my wife.

This was my second mistake. The first, of course, being that I raised her in the first place.

That night I knew the sound of crunching bone.

Upon my awakening in the morning, I went down to check on the neighbours. One was gone, the other was wide eyed, cowering in the corner and covered in blood. Something else was off, too, though at first I did not know what. Then it hit me. The screams had subsided. My wife was asleep.

She had fed, and now she slumbered. All this time, the screams were of hunger. I shut the door, and went to lie down.

She lasted a few more days, obviously feasting on the other neighbour. It seemed that she only needed to eat once every few days.

Now, I’m not proud of what I did next, but I didn’t know what else to do.

I went out at night every few days, around the time that only a few people would still be around. I stalked the streets and attacked people who walked alone. I would take them back to my wife and leave them in the basement. I would often wake from my slumber to hear their screams, cries for help. This would always rouse the beast and would never last longer than a minute or so. 10 minutes of crunching and gurgling pleas later the deed would be done and I could rest easy for another few days.

Although I did now kill anyone, I may as well have. It was my actions that brought about the deaths of so many, and my actions that robbed so many of loved ones, of closure. How many torn and bloodied rags did I have to burn? How many personal affects were destroyed by my hands? I lost track of the numbers, but surely even one is too high a number!

I was kept awake the its screams – and it shall henceforth be referred to as ‘it’, for I have come to the conclusion that this monster is NOT my beloved – so I fed it. A night of rest for the lives of so many.

Day by day it grew stronger, its strength either increasing or returning, for I know not what horrible beast is now in possession of my wife’s body, and as time went on I was forced to bring home more food. Bigger people. Men. 2 women. A woman and a man. Eventually it was eating a full grown man every day.

I knew, in some dark corner of my mind I knew that this could not go on forever. I could not keep taking people. I was in danger of being caught, and, though I deserved to be, fear took hold of me and that, I suppose, is why I let that charade go on for as long as it did. So I decided to flee.

I had just packed my bags when I heard a knock on my door. The police had found a trail of blood leading through the woods up to my estate and were inquiring as to whether I’d seen or heard anything suspicious. I managed to keep a cool head and talk my way out of what could have potentially been a very unpleasant situation.

I know not why, only that I deserved it. It began to scream. It screamed louder than I had ever heard it scream before, and it sounded mad. The police instantly drew their guns and went in, thinking perhaps some horrific predatory beast had made its way into my home. They eventually found my basement door and threw it open. Slowly, ever so slowly, they descended the stairs. I was at a loss for what to do, so I did the only thing I could think of in the heat of the moment.

I shut the door.

Throwing the bolt across, I ran to my quarters and grabbed my bags, making for the door. The screams of the police haunt me to this very day.

I heard the sound of splintering wood as that … thing … burst out of its cell. It was now loose in the house.

I ran as fast as my legs could carry me out of there, out into the streets of the town I had stalked, into a train and I left that place far behind.

My old home is a ghost town now. Splashed with blood, yet no bodies remain. How I long to return to my estate, to gather up all of my research and burn it so that this might never happen again. I have made many an attempt to do so, in fact, though every time I get near I hear that beast’s wild howls, screaming for flesh.

I know it haunts my home now. I know it wears my wife’s skin, but the worst part of all this?

I let it happen.

Credit To – Braden Powell

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The Neurocranial Exploits

June 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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The Neurocranial Exploits

(a short story by Dniwara Redman)

Crack one, crack two.

There is now a visible tear in the flesh. The once wavy brown hair of Professor Emery is now tainted crimson with the blood from the open wound on his scalp. The smell of his apple-scented shampoo is still present in the thick air. The fresh and hot blood has caused tufts of his wavy brown hair to stick together— as if forming a fictional nuclear family that says grace every night before dinner and once a week visits Grandpa in a derelict nursing home. The scalp appears thin from afar but once you give it a few poundings, you will realize that the scalp is one tough layer of the human anatomy.

Crack three, four, five, six

The Johnston Journal of Neuroscience, oh how handy of a book. How well placed on the top shelf of Professor Emery’s bookcase. How well-crafted as to be hardbound and almost thick as a wall. How ironic as to be the cause of Professor Emery’s own mangling and destruction. How convenient for Peter Jenkins to just creep into the professor’s quarters and find it there dimly lit on the shelf. Have you ever tried hammering a nail with the tough side of a thick book? If you haven’t already observed, the book can also be a hammer. A blunt object with the potential to cause serious trauma to the human skull is the demented half-brother of your everyday reading material the book.

Peter Jenkins is an underachieving no-good, no-worth, factory-churn-out, quality-pass student of the barely-average-human generator that is Spielman-Lincoln High School. His grades are in no way spectacular. He is a member of the school’s Origami Club, fucking pussy twat he is, but he is what this tale is all about. He can fold you a paper crane, paper roses, paper candelabras, and paper fucking anything. Great fucking credits to his parents for raising a 15 year old whose only known contribution to the society is his fucking pointless origami.

Minutes earlier before the two strikes that caused the debauchery of Professor Emery’s scalp, Peter Jenkins was just casually strolling down the hallway of Spielman-Lincoln High School. A thick scent hung round the atmosphere as if the sense of a tragedy was about to be set into motion. The school had been built in the early 1900s and still carries its old-timey feel that geezers would nod in favor for. The walls were newly repainted beige but cracks of the previous red layer still show. Peter Jenkins did not find such an upheaval comfortable—being the little sensitive flit he is.

Peter took the stairs that led to the second floor of the school. It was a shit set of stairs. The steps were all creaking and vandalized. A huge dick was carved on one of the steps. The school was probably too busy painting their walls beige to even clean up the vandalism that maybe little girls would see and ask their parents about. Beige is the color of pretense, of trying to be elegant when the fanciest possessions you’ll ever have are an automatic lawnmower and a Starbucks planner, a color of desperation and it fits the mood of Spielman-Lincoln High.

The time was seven-fifteen in the evening and most of the teachers had finished grading the recent tests and reports. On the second floor of the school stood the quarters of one very unfortunate Professor Emery. Peter had just arrived on that said floor.

The memory was still fresh in Peter’s head of how he had been embarrassed by Professor Rudolph Emery in Biology class a week ago for not knowing the basic parts of the brain. Peter still remembers how the entire class laughed at him for not knowing the difference between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Everything was going through his head in slow motion. Professor Emery was a tall demon and he laughed and laughed with the whole class. Professor Emery laughed deeply and slowly as a demon would. In slow motion. Like a scene from a film. He still remembers how on that day, that exact moment when everything was a slow haze when the class was pointing and laughing at his stupidity, he remembers how something inside of him snapped. How Peter Jenkins vowed to exact revenge on the very man that had shamed him in front of his peers. How he stormed out of the room, cursed Professor Emery and screamed at the sky. Oh how the clouds had gone darker that day.

Oh how he wished that Professor Rudolph Emery the Science teacher were more like his twin brother Professor Maximus Emery, a humble man. He was the head Math teacher and Peter admired him so much, having learned his first origami lesson from him. He was Peter’s beacon of hope in such a desolate world.
And now through with reminiscing, Peter paced onward to Professor Rudolph Emery’s room on the very corner of the hall. He saw ten small steps from what he craved the most ever since the shame of last week. He felt the deep green carpet brush against his black leather shoes. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three—he paused for a while as he counted the remaining steps and he drew a breath. Two, one. He is now before the door and on it was engraved “R. Emery: Head Professor of Science”. Peter rubbed his shoes on the carpet the way a trained housedog would before returning home with a dead bird in its mouth. This is it, he thought. His shaky hands slowly reached for the door knob. It was a faded bronze knob and he turned it, ever so silent as to not make a single sound. Although he had passed not a single teacher on his way upstairs, he still made sure to be stealthy and quiet for what he was about to do. The door had not creaked when he pushed on it. A strand of warm yellow light flowed outside. Peter squeezed his slender body in through the doorway, careful to not make a sound.
The first thing he saw was the Johnston Journal of Neuroscience because the bookshelf was only a meter away from him and it was perfect how a crack of light fell on it, distinguishing it from the other books. He snuck to get it like a thief in the night and he felt its velvety green cover with his fingers. He turned his head around and there it was. There he was. Professor Emery was asleep on his desk with a pen in his hand, a little lamp to illuminate him in the eerily dim room.
The thought of killing Professor Emery and devouring his brain occurred to Peter in the toilet the day after his shaming in class. While he lay in bed days ago, he was reading a book about ancient Mayan traditions. He came across a story that said ancient Mayans ate the brains of rivals so that it would add to their knowledge. That alone convinced Peter that he would kill and eat Professor Emery’s brains, maybe snack on his fingernails just for fun.

With the Johnston Journal of Neuroscience in hand, Peter calmly walked over to the desk where Professor Emery lay. He watched him first, like a lion stalking the zebra, like an obese person eyeing the last piece of buffalo wing. He smelled the prof’s neck, like a snake licks the same air its prey breathes, like Ron Jeremy sniffs a cunt before devouring it. The air smelled like apple-scented shampoo. Peter has long awaited this. He lifts his right hand up in the air, the one holding the book. He lifts it so up high and then drops it. Drops it smack dab on Professor Emery’s skull with the wavy brown hair. Bam. A thud roars and jogs the professor’s senses. Bam. Another blunt force trauma with the tough side of a book. Professor Emery is too confused with the sudden rush of events. He comes dizzy and in writhing pain, as if he had just been shot in the head.
Bam.
Another whack and it was the strongest ever. Blood rushes and the scalp tears open like a floodgate that never lived up to its name. The hair turns sticky with the Professor’s dark and chunky blood.
Bam.
Crack.
Pow.
This is starting to sound like Batman: Adam West style.
Krag, bam, thud.
Professor Emery never screamed for help. He just fell down on the carpet like a meat puppet in the origami-folding hands of Peter Jenkins. The book once green is now red on the side with all the blood from the prof. The blood had seeped into the carpet, such a waste of good carpet—Peter thought. There is now a rip in the fabric of the scalp and Peter shoved his fingers in there. He fit four fingers into the hot bloody pocket of scalp and pulled it back with all force. A few more digs and blows with the book and it loosens up. Now he sees it, the ivory white skull of such an educated man. Peter takes a big swing at it, waste of a good book, he thought.

Crack ten, twelve, sixteen

There it is, a hole in his head. Oh what a lovely sight. Peter tore at it with his frail hands, gracefully driving out inch-thick skull fragments. His hand is bloody, sore from all the hitting and whacking, and from all the scalping done. Waste of good apple shampoo, he thought. Professor Emery’s body lay there in the middle of his own quarters, curled up in a fetal position in his favorite gray vest now wrinkled and bloodied. Is he dead?—Peter thought.

A shell of a man lay on the floor while a savage student worked and drove his way upon the Professor, pummeling, chiseling, and breaking, unraveling. A hole in the skull of Professor Emery two inches in diameter had just been laboriously formed by Peter Jenkins. Now that the gray matter is before him exposed, he shoved his hand in the way a Mayan would. A handful of brain was tonight’s dinner. Peter worked up an appetite for this. Three, two, one inch it was from his mouth and then he lunged. Tore at it with his teeth, savored it, sucked on it, and lolled around in his mouth. Rubbed all over his face, his cheeks, and his nose. The taste was irony, bloody, almost like that of liver but worth the ill flavor because of the knowledge it would transfer. Another scoop of brain shoved in, oh it was heaven. Nirvana. The ultimate pleasure. Sex was nothing. A thousand paper cranes meant nothing at that moment. Brain, gray matter, not an ounce wasted. Peter could not contain his feelings. The flavor oh the flavor. The blood to push it down, the cerebral fluid. A nibble on the brain stem. A chomp here and there, a swallowing, a push of the tongue, a fresh surge of dopamine and knowledge and saliva. Peter had never felt so contented. He felt the brain pieces sink down to his belly, the hot flesh being digested, processed into information. He felt the new batch of intelligence and education arrive in his brain. Oh the glory, the guilt, it was the prime purpose of his life. For once he believed that all events conspired and moved to bring him to his moment. To this feast, this dinner, the universe had pushed him into this.

And alas he was full, both in mind and stomach.
Revenge had been exacted.
The longest night of his life has transpired.
Peter Jenkins fell to slumber and with a satisfied smile on his face.

The door swung wide open and in walked a man petrified by fear. Just back from a weekend vacation was Professor Rudolph Emery and he stood there in regret of how he had tasked his own twin brother Professor Maximus Emery to stay for the weekend and finish checking his Biology exam results for him.

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Hat Man

June 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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The night was dark. The only light emitted into the tiny bedroom was from the door that stood slightly ajar. The room was clean for a four year old little boy. There weren’t any toys covering the floor and no clothes thrown about the room.

The little boy slept soundly; light snores could be heard coming deep from within his chest. His arm twitched fervently, but became still after a few seconds. The sound of his breathing rang out across the silent room.

Seeing the child deep in his slumber, the tiny little man clambered out from under the boy’s bed. He was a short fellow with a quirky mustache set above his crooked lips. His eyes, which were enlarged, set close to his forehead. He had no nose, but his ears made up for that. On top of his head, sat a velvet black top hat with fifteen little red cards sticking out of the band wrapped around it. He stood up on the haunches of his feet and stretched his tiny body out, a sigh leaving his parched lips.

The little boy stirred, but didn’t wake. The tiny man giggled lightly and stepped back from the bed a bit. His eyes glanced around the small room, but slid back onto the little boy after mere seconds. He smiled a crooked smile and allowed his fingers to glide across the soft down comforter. The boy’s eyes jerked open at that motion and he nearly screamed if not for the calming manner of the man standing before him.

“H-hello. What’s y-your name?” the little boy stuttered out, gazing at the awkward little man.

The man merely smiled and clutched at his hat. “My name is Hat Man Williams, but you can call me Hat Man,” he paused a second and the boy continued to stare at him in wonder. “I’ve never seen you before. What’s your name, my dear boy?”

“My name’s Jake. We just moved here.”

Hat Man smiled crookedly and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Ah, that would explain why I’ve never seen the likes of you before.” His mouth twitched a little as he said this.

Jake sat up in his bed and rubbed at his eyes. His light brown hair stuck up in odd angles around his head. He curiously moved closer to the odd man sitting on the edge of his bed.

“Why were you under my bed?” he asked, his curiosity getting the best of him.

Hat Man stood up soundlessly and paced around the room. His expression stayed happy, but his mood turned somber. They always had ways of getting to him. This one, with his innocence.

“I was hiding. If your parents saw me, we couldn’t be friends and I really like you, Jake. Don’t you want to be friends?” He turned and looked at Jake’s innocent face as he beamed with happiness.

“Of course I want to be friends with you, Hat Man.” His cheeks turned a rosy red when he smiled.

A noise in the hallway startled the two and Hat Man clambered back under the bed. Jake’s eyebrows rose in confusion, but lay back down in his bed. He closed his eyes just as his mother peeked her head in the doorway. Her blonde hair fell like a curtain across her face as she leaned a bit farther into the room, and satisfied that her child was fast asleep, retreated from the room, leaving the door cracked just a little.

Jake picked his head up from the pillow and whispered for Hat Man, but he never showed up again, that night anyway.

The next morning after Jake had woken; Hat Man stepped out from under his bed and smiled that crooked smile of his. Jake smiled warmly up at him.

“Do you want to play with me today, Jake?” Hat Man asked, his dark eyes sparkling morosely. His top hat sat askew on his head, the red cards flashing dully in the morning light that shown through the windows facing to his left.

“You bet I do!” Jake exclaimed heartily. He jumped up and down with joy.

Hat Man smirked and ran his lithe tongue across his crooked lips. He’d play a game, alright. A game that only he had won.

“Let’s play hide and seek. If you win, I’ll go away. But if I win, you get to be my friend forever.” At that he started counting.

Jake smiled and ran from the room. His parents were downstairs, and he remembered what Hat Man had said about his parents finding out, so he hid in the bathroom underneath the sink.

Hat Man stopped counting and spun around, making sure to check every spot in the room before heading out of it and down the hallway. He cautiously made his way from the boy’s room to the spare room, where he found no one, but a bed and a dresser. He crept out of that room and into the bathroom. He smiled knowingly as he put a tiny hand on the cabinet door under the sink. Slowly, he opened it and found Jake cowering in the corner. His time was up.

Hat Man descended on him and pulled him from the cabinet. His nails slowly came out further and he ripped the boy’s throat out. The blood splashed across the mirror and walls and Hat Man licked it up. His tongue lapped at Jake’s throat as he cleaned the wound and then he ripped Jake’s skin off of his body and compressed it into a little red card; of which he stuck up into the band of his top hat, sixteen now.

Jake was found later that day, skinned in his bathtub. And Hat Man was never seen in that vicinity again.

Credit To – Ashley Goldsmith

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