January 29, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Have you ever heard about the music industry in Korea? South Korea, to be more accurate. More likely, I’m sure you’ve heard of the increasingly popular music genre KPOP, or Korean Pop, and the subsequent insane fandom that comes with it. I’ve been in a popular KPOP group for a few years. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call myself Jin. No relation to the Jin from BTS, another popular KPOP group. I’m writing this as a warning to not only to others in our industry, but also as a warning to the fans and to those who dream of becoming a KPOP idol. Idol is another word for celebrity here. Thinking about it now, I don’t think “idol” is a healthy title for us. We aren’t. This is encouraging worship in the worst way possible. Trust me, I would know. And that’s where I’ll begin my story.

When I was growing up, I watched many people come up in the KPOP world. They had amazing lives and I wanted it. I never thought that I’d ever get the chance, but when I got the opportunity to audition for a huge company in Seoul, I took it. I begged my mother and father for a whole year to take me from my small province to the big city and tryout for my dream. It would take 5 auditions and 2 years before I was accepted at the age of 13. I had heard many stories about the hard lives of KPOP trainees. There’s a running joke calling the contracts you sign slave contracts. But, it didn’t deter my grind. I was ready for anything. I had no idea what horrors awaited me in the next 7 years.

To better understand my story, you need to understand how the KPOP industry is designed and how our culture directly affects it.

In SK, if you have talent, you’re a dime a dozen as literally thousands of people attempt to snag a place at one of the prestigious KPOP companies every year from all across the globe. Even the USA and Canada. Barring extraordinary circumstances, if you get accepted by a company after auditions, you become a “trainee.” It’s basically KPOP Boot Camp to get you in shape to form a whole group and start making money. Yes, boy and girl bands are still alive and well here. Trainees can be molded anywhere from 6 months to 5 or 6 years.

Now, my trainee life was simple and difficult. Every day, all day, I would train to be a pop star with 10 other kids my age. Some a little older, some even younger. It was hard. From sun up to sun down, we trained in all things you could think of. Singing, dancing, rapping, language, etc. But this life was the life I chose and wanted. I could write a whole horror story on just my trainee life, but this story’s subject is about the life after I debuted in a group. The life that I always thought would be a dream come true. The life full of traveling the world, singing, dancing, money, and the fans. The love of the fans. That was what I was most excited about. I wanted it so bad. The unconditional love of millions of people; wearing my face on their shirts, phone cases… screaming my name and crying when they got to meet me. Who wouldn’t want that? Being worshiped.

2 years after my other members and I became a legitimate group, I was bathing in the things I always wanted. It was amazing, but it came with a cost. In South Korea, and the KPOP world, we have different levels of fans. We have the normal fans who always support us, come to our concerts, buy our music, vote in our music shows, get our views up on YouTube, spend all of their money on us, etc. We love them and they love us. The second type are what we call “netizens.” These people are “internet citizens” and you may recognize this category as netizens are mostly in every fandom. That being said, they can be wonderful if they are happy with our choices, but when they believe we do something wrong, even if it’s as minor as looking at someone the wrong way, they can be vicious. We’re always terrified of our actions as we fear the repercussions of these fans, but we live with it. It comes with the territory.

Now, the 3rd level of fan… Here, we call them sasaengs. The Korean word “sasaeng” is a shorter form of the Korean word “sasaenghwal” (사생활), which literally means “privacy” or “private life.” I can honestly say, I do not understand this level of obsession. I heard rumors that they existed, but I never thought I’d ever have an encounter. I was wrong. These fans stalk us and invade our privacy. Us bigger groups or singers have at least 100 of full time sasaeng fans around us at all times. They try to rip off our clothes, kiss, molest, and rape us. They steal our private property and they have even broken into our dorms and hotels and planted cameras to watch us. They sometimes steal our boxers and sell them online. I even had a seemingly normal fan at a meet and greet place a camera in a stuffed animal she gave me. Thank God our security thoroughly checked our gifts before allowing us to have them.

I remember a few years ago hearing about a set of girls who had hit a few female idols with a bag full of rocks outside a venue when they were signing autographs. They were in the hospital for days after. I’ve even heard of these fans slipping drugs and poisonous substances into food and drink of the idols, making them sick. One even died after unwittingly consuming cyanide placed into a room service meal in Japan. That was a few years ago. Security has been upped since then and many times after, but they still get smarter about their dealings every year and it’s caused us to be wary of every fan we meet. The fans suffer the most for these egregious crimes against us in the name of love. I’m not saying these types of fans are exclusive to Korea and our industry, but when you mix these unstable personalities, the way our company markets us, and our cultural practices… you get a volatile cocktail that somehow seems to eclipse all other extremists out there.

They will do anything to make us remember them. Anything to get our attention. Anything to get to us. It’s been said that they hire full time taxi services to follow us around 24/7. This can get expensive, as you may know. Disgusting as the thought is, to fund their obsession, they have even sold their bodies for sex when they can’t get the money to do this anywhere else. It’s a sick life I don’t understand. We’ve also heard rumors that they have even killed just to the get the chance to touch us. But this has never been confirmed. We’ve all had the fear of God put into us by these rumblings and experiences of these “fans.” Honestly, I don’t think they have the right to be called fans. But the fear and the precautions were not enough to prevent the events that were to come.

Not only do we suffer at the hands of these people, we also have immense tribulation that’s sourced from our own company. Even though many of us have had horrible experiences regarding the dark side of our fandom, and have ample evidence of these crimes, our companies will do nothing to punish them. No legal action whatsoever. Why? Because they refuse to injure any source of income, even from these psychopaths. The people we entrust our lives to, the ones that are supposed to protect us… they value money over our safety and well being. They are just as much to blame. They can be cruel in every sense of the word. For example, in our world, we are not allowed to date anyone. Not publicly. Not in private either as forbidden by our companies, but we find ways around it, even though it’s in our contracts. We have little to no social life. Some companies will stipulate in said contracts that we can date 5 years after we debut, but unfortunately, that’s rare. Regardless, like I said, we find ways around it. We have to be stealthy about it, but sometimes that doesn’t always work as you’ll find out. The companies forbid it because they want the fans to have a false sense of hope. They want them to have the illusion of access. They want them to think we are available and that they actually have any chance of being with us. Sick, right? But the companies think it helps them make more money. It’s even been proven as true by the money they’ve lost by dating scandals. If we’re ousted as being with someone, the fans get angry. They almost feel like we cheated on them. They shame us, but the one who suffers the most is person we’re in the relationship with.

2 years ago, I had met a girl who worked at my company. She was the assistant to our debut stylist. I’ll call her Ji. She was quiet and she didn’t seem like she belonged in this hectic life we live. I barely even noticed her at first… until a few months after we debuted when she graduated to becoming one of our full time stylists. For months, she seemed to just blend into the colorful chaos that was our life, but one day I saw her. Really saw her. Ji was beautiful. Honestly, the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. And that’s saying something considering I had been around the likes of gorgeous female idols for years. Ji was different. She didn’t have to wear expensive clothes or pounds of makeup to sparkle among every other girl in the room.

I began talking to her and it took a year, but I finally got a date with her. She was opposed to it for the longest time because of our contracts, but the connection was undeniable. A piece of paper couldn’t hold us back. Months of stealthy, shadowed dates, clandestine meetings, and stolen glances later… we were in love. The cover of her job helped ease the pain of having to be hidden from the public and corporate eye. My other members knew, but they had their own undercover lovers to deal with and encouraged me when we fought about stresses over our secret. My fans thought I was single and that’s the way it had to be. We adapted and were together as much as we could be. Every second was precious. Seconds that normal couples would take for granted.

I loved her. I truly did. I wanted no one else. She saw me. Really saw me through the idol exterior I had to wear constantly. We traveled the world together on tour and she followed me to the ends of the Earth. I thought one day, once we got older and when the contracts were renegotiated, we could go public. We could get married. Have children. Oh, how I wanted children with Ji. She would have made a wonderful mother. In the Spring of last year, Ji and I had become comfortable with our routine. Maybe a bit overly confident that we would never be found out. Cocky even. It happens when you get away with a lie for so long. You feel invincible and infallible in your life of secrecy. We never thought that cool morning in March would be the end of our carefully constructed house of lies.

Ji and I awoke in the small, private music studio I had rented as a cover for our rendezvous to a loud and eager pounding on the door. We both jumped up in a panic not sure what was happening. I got dressed quickly as she hid under the bed. It was second nature to hide her at this point. I staggered to the door, ready with at least 10 different excuses for any situation I would be met with to protect her, to protect us. We weren’t amateurs. I opened the door blearily and I was met by two men from upper management in our company. I sighed deeply as I saw the anger protruding from their expressions. I knew we had been found out.

The next few weeks were a blur of public relation meetings and threats from our company. Someone had seen us and taken pictures. It took just ONE person to make this all crash down. It went viral by morning and soon after, the whole community knew. The fans knew. They felt betrayed and angry. Soon, our entire relationship was under the microscope and even though we were so careful to hide our love, the details of our private life were leaked. The fans, industry, our company… they all knew how long we’d been together and what we’d been doing. They knew everything no matter how much we denied and fought it. It was over. I was threatened with lawsuits and breach of contract. She was unceremoniously fired and she was forbidden to see me ever again. We were both heartbroken for weeks. She was everything to me and I would have given up ALL of this to be with her. Even my career I had spent years working on to achieve, but my company rules with an iron fist.

You may be asking, why didn’t you just walk away? Leave? I had worked my ass off for 7 long years to be where I was at the time, but even then, I still considered giving it all up for her. She was worth it, even though I cherished my career despite the Hell I had to endure. However, in most situations you hear about, things are sometimes easier said than done. Like when you scream at a person to stop being stupid by running up the stairs in a horror movie instead of just running outside. You think you’d know better and make better, life saving decisions. But, do you really think you would? No one knows exactly how they would react or what would motivate your choices. Our culture is different than most. A culture that puts more emphasis on morality and respect. I respected my company and was raised to follow through with my promises. Be a man. Especially if these promises took legal form in a contract.

A few weeks after the scandal broke, my brothers in my group and my family had rallied around me and prevented any further legal action from being brought against me and Ji. They even helped us to see each other a few times. I thought, I mean… I really and truly thought we could weather this and come out of it together; more in love than ever. I never thought that my life would turn into what it is today. It was the end of September when I stopped receiving texts and phone calls from Ji. We had bought burner phones to speak when we could. I tried feverishly to contact her, but her phone was off. I thought maybe she had changed her mind. Maybe this became too much. Maybe she needed some space. Maybe my company had found out how we communicated and was able to break that life line again. She had been forced to move back 5 hours away from Seoul after she was fired to live with her family. She didn’t want to leave, but she had no choice. Not only had the company black-balled her at every company in Korea, but they also accompanied said threats with legal repercussions. They threatened her enough that she was scared to stay and with no income, she couldn’t afford to continue to live in the city. The fans were not making it easy for her either. She was being berated by horrendous insults every street she walked on. They stalked her and made her life a living hell. My poor Ji. She never asked for this. I was able to hide behind my company and be protected, but she was thrown to the wolves. I blame myself for not walking away with her… for being too scared to do so.

After a week of silence, and no way to contact her family, I thought she had left me. That it was over. I thought my company had finally gotten rid of her for good. I was a mess and I had no idea how to go about getting her back. I thought maybe it was for the best at times. She could live a normal life now and have a regular relationship where she didn’t have to hide and she didn’t have to share him with millions of other girls on a daily basis. I didn’t leave my room for days. I could barely eat or even will myself to take a shower. I consistently asked my company if they could reach her. Just make sure she was okay. I even pleaded with them to let me see her one more time and say goodbye, but it fell on deaf ears.

Eventually, I scoured the internet to find anyone related to her. I only had a few surnames and locations to go on. Luckily, I didn’t have to search social networking sites for long. I found one of her younger cousins that she grew up with. I used a fake name and account to contact him, of course. I didn’t want to risk this becoming another scandal. I told him I was one of her friends and co worker from Seoul and I was wondering how she was after everything that occurred, but that I had no way to reach her. I threw in a few personal details only someone whom was close with her would know… just to assure him that I was indeed a legitimate friend and not a netizen trying to find Ji.

After a bit of back and forth, he seemed to believe me. I asked him where she was and if I could have a way to contact her. He responded telling me that she had been staying at his aunt and uncle’s house for a few weeks, but a few days prior to my message, she had unexpectedly left. She had been speaking of moving to America to study abroad for two years and even booked a flight to tour schools on the East coast. They didn’t know it would happen so quickly though. They figured that she had decided to leave early to escape the ridicule and spotlight she was unfairly shoved into by our relationship. He said she didn’t even say goodbye or leave a note. She told no one she was leaving, but this didn’t shake me or her family because Ji always hated goodbyes. We never said by when we departed from one another. We always said, “see you soon.” He concluded by saying that they had faith she would contact them once she made her arrangements in the States if she decided to stay and that he would ask her to contact me when she emerged.
I wanted to protest and ask more questions as I felt my heart breaking all over again. Was she really and truly out of the country? Did she leave everything, everyone behind to start a new life? Did she leave me behind?

I politely thanked him for speaking with me and extending my invitation to speak with Ji when she became available. I thought on this information for a few days. I somehow came to the conclusion that my company had something to do with this. They always did. Ji did not come from a wealthy family by any means. She was the sole breadwinner for her family in her home province. She made just enough to support her simple lifestyle and take care of her family. I knew that flights and a trip to America would be out of her financial reach at this point in her life. So, naturally… I began to suspect that they had paid her to leave the country and cut off all communication with me. Probably another tactic to keep me in a cage and prevent more scandals that would cause the company more monetary decline. You have no idea the lengths they will go to secure their investments. We are a lucrative commodity and they refuse to put that in jeopardy over a girl.

I confronted them in a rage demanding answers countless times, but I never did get a denial or confirmation of my suspicions and accusations. Either way, they benefited from her supposed sudden exodus from South Korea. Eventually, I threw in the towel and tried to accept that I may never see her again and I had my company to blame every inch of the way. But I had no other choice but to move on. October came and went with no news of Ji. I kept my sanity by imagining she was living the life she always wanted in the States. Or even Paris. We talked a lot about what we would do once I was let out of my contract. That’s what kept me together those nights where all I had were my worst nightmares of betrayal to keep me company.

Life went on around me in slow motion. Soon, I was so caught up in recording our new album and performing our tour that I almost never got the opportunity to dwell or be angry. 2 weeks before my birthday, the end of November, I started to receive my yearly birthday gifts from fans. I always looked forward to this. Our fans were wonderful. They would get the most unique gifts for us for our birthdays. Expensive, homemade, creative. Of course, with the ever growing concern of the sasaengs, our presents were monitored and checked before they were given to us. Every day that I would come back home to the dorm, I would have a new pile of packages set up on my bed. Placed there by our staff. The other members always loved to come in while I opened them and call dibs on candy I didn’t want. We did this every night for 2 weeks. The night before my birthday, I was excited. I knew I’d get the biggest and best presents the next day. Even so, I thought of Ji from time to time. Like I said, Ji was never rich by any means, but the presents she snuck to me every year were always my favorites. I remember running my fingers over the bracelet she had gotten me our first year together over and over until I fell asleep, hoping maybe I would still get a present from her this year. I thought that maybe it would come in the form of an email or text message. Even a phone call. Just to know where she was and make sure she was happy. I wanted to apologize for what my company did and tell her that I don’t blame her for taking the money. Anyone in their right mind would… even with love on the table. I thought that I may just have the chance to tell her these things I’d rehearsed in my mind for months following her departure.

I woke up to my members and staff bringing me a huge breakfast in bed. The day consisted of a few appearances and a filmed adventure to water park that we would upload to YouTube later on. We had a live broadcast of my cake ceremony and got into an icing fight. We returned back to the dorm and I ran into my room expecting to see all of the best packages of presents to open. I was not disappointed when I turned the lights on and saw stacks and stacks of boxes to open everywhere. Like always, as soon as I sat down to begin, a few of my brothers came piling in to claim the unwanted candies and things I knew I’d never eat. We gathered around talking about the day and laughing as we were on a sugar high. By the 10th present, I was already exhausted. I had quite a few left to open and was moaning that I wanted to finish in the morning. They were disappointed, but I had finally convinced them to leave me be to rest. As we were picking up the tattered remnants of wrapping paper and boxes, one of my members came to the door with a box. It wasn’t very big and it was just a plain brown shipping box that most all of the fan’s presents were delivered in.

I ask him what it was and he chuckled tossing it to me saying he didn’t go around opening other people’s birthday presents like some kind of monster. He told me that he had gone into the kitchen for a glass of water and found it sitting on the dining room table. We thought maybe the staff had forgotten to place it with the others. We examined it and it was, of course, shipped to me. It read… “To: Jin Love: Your biggest fans. Happiest of Birthdays and we love you more than life itself. You love us too, right?” in Korean, of course. I took the box and shook it. It was a bit heavy, but I had a weird feeling that this box was unusual. Why? Because it didn’t look like it had been opened yet. The staff always opened the boxes first before giving it to us for safety reasons. Some of the newer staff would sometimes re-tape the boxes, just so it would feel like I was the first to open it on my birthday. It was nice of them to give the illusion of a surprise. So, I thought nothing of it. None of us did. I decided to put it with the others and I kicked the rest of my mates out for the night.

After eating the candy I wanted and taking a few pictures with my gifts to put on social media as a thank you to my fans, I got into bed. I lay there in the dark thinking about the day with contentment. Slowly, as always, Ji crept into my mind. I must have laid there for hours debating on whether or not I wanted to get up and finish opening my presents… reasoning that perhaps there was a present from her in the pile of unopened presents. I couldn’t wait until morning. So, I got up, turned on my lamp, and sat on the floor. I began opening the rest of my boxes. One by one, my smile excitement waned as I realized each present was not from her. I was happy with gifts from fans, but of course, I was disappointed. An hour later, I only had one box left. The box that was found on our kitchen table. I sighed as I pulled it towards me, sitting in a ring of shredded boxes and hopes. I took the box opener and slowly cut the thick layers of masking tape that covered the entire box. My heart pounded in my chest as I thought… “it’s the last one. One more chance for Ji to wish my happy birthday. To know she okay and still loved me.”

As soon as I cut through the last layer and began to open the lips of the box, I was hit by a stench I will never forget. I coughed and gagged at the putrid smell emanating from the contents of the package. I gasped for air and fell backwards on my elbows. My loud calamity had woken up my member in the room across from me and he sleepily opened my door asking if I was okay. I looked at him for a moment, trying to hold in a belly laugh, before his nose was assaulted by the smell of rotting meat. He covered his nose and coughed as he waved he hands frantically in front of his face. I enjoyed a right good laugh watching him struggle with his senses that betrayed him.

After a few minutes of debate, we reasoned that maybe it was some food that a fan made and perhaps it had spoiled on it’s journey to us. It wouldn’t be the first time. Just last year, one of friends got a box full of his favorite potted meat from fans. The staff left it as a joke and our dorm smelled for weeks. He thought it was strange that the staff would give it to me if it was rotten, but I didn’t want to disappoint my fans. If they had gone through all of that trouble, the least I could do was retrieve the card and place it with the others. I prided myself on sending thank you notes to all of the senders every year. That was just the kind of guy I was. With our noses being pinched by our fingers, we sat back down around the package and braced for a plate full of rotting food. I only needed to get the card and then we could take it to the trash. We were being very dramatic about it, to be honest. We counted to 3 and quickly opened the box the rest of the way.

We peered into the box. For a few moments, we both stared at the contents, not knowing exactly what we were looking at. The odor was burning my eyes so badly that they were tearing. I wiped away the blur from my vision as I looked closer. All I could see was a mass of what looked like purple and black mush. Swirls of white and yellow mixed into the slush of liquid surrounding 3 masses laying in a container at the bottom of the box. All at once, I heard my mate scream bloody murder as he jumped back and began to heave in the corner of the room. My brain misfired and all I could do was stare into the darkness. I began to shake violently as I finally came to the disgusting realization at what I was looking at. A human, rotting hand. A foot. And what looked like a pound of human flesh piled in the corner. I only learned later that it was a severed scalp that had been crudely shaved short prior to it’s detachment from the head.

All I could do was keep my eyes fixated on it. My body was frozen. My lips were dry. My lungs wouldn’t inhale or exhale. Tears ran down my face. My heartbeat was erratic and fast. My convulsions were becoming more and more extreme by the second as I kept my eyes on the only thing that was recognizable: a small, silver ring on the finger surrounded by bloating flesh and exposed bone. All of the candy I had consumed immediately turned to bile and worked it’s way up my throat. I don’t know how long I was sitting there in a statue state accompanying my silent meltdown. I couldn’t move until I felt hands all over my body pulling me back away from the box. After a moment of looking up at my group surrounding me, I let out a bloodcurdling, guttural scream and blacked out. At least, that’s how the story goes according to those who witnessed this as I don’t remember much; save for the sight of human body parts that are forever burned into my memory.

I woke up in the living room with police, my members, and staff scattered around the room. My manager was sitting next to me looking at me when tears in her eyes. She held my hand gently and spoke to me in a soft voice. I have no idea what she said to me. All I could do was be silent and look at my surroundings. The voices that mumbled around me went quiet as everyone acknowledged that I came to. They all looked at me with concerned faces. The next few hours are sketchy in my memory. All I remember is being questioned by police on what was in the box and who sent it. I didn’t know. Or rather, my mind didn’t let me know… for it was too traumatic to recover at the time. We were placed in a hotel down the street for a few days as the investigation was on going. Even so, our schedules were not altered to allow for time to digest the events. I wasn’t surprised. Our company doesn’t even allow us leave when we’re injured, much less a traumatic event. Eventually, I was told that the body parts found in the box belonged to Ji. They didn’t have to tell me this as I already knew this to be true. I recognized the ring on the rotting hand. Every day after the first package arrived, more were delivered. These contained the rest of her. Her head being the last. All from different locations and provinces. All sent to ME from “my biggest fans.”

They never did find out who sent it or how the first box wound up in our dorm with no one noticing. All they could tell me and her family was that the body looked to have been severely abused for months before she was murdered and dismembered. It was said that she was probably taken the day her family thought she left for America and was in captivity, being tortured endlessly, until they decided to kill her and ship her remains to me. They don’t know if she was still alive when they began to saw her up. Honestly, I think they were trying to spare us the details. I like to think she was already deceased. I have to believe that. My poor Ji. The love of my life. Theories go that it was sasaengs who kidnapped her and tortured her. Then killed her and sent me her body as a birthday present. They came to this conclusion by the note on the box. From your biggest fans. But this was never fully confirmed. Maybe they used my fame as a cover for the murder. No one knows. But I believe it. I can’t even get my mind around the other theories, like that my company arranged this to make sure she would cause no more problems with their cash cow. That is beyond my mental capacity to accept, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Love makes people do crazy things. Love of a celebrity and the insanity that comes with it can cause people to go mad. Love of money can cause people to make decisions they would normally never consider. I don’t think I cried once. Not after the first night. I couldn’t. I was numb. I still am. That may have something to do with the medications I was given by our staff physicians to “help with the anxiety.” I’ve been forced to continue taking them to this day. I think about her every day. Her smile. Her voice. The last text message from her: “We’ll be together. They will accept us eventually. I love you, Jin. See you soon.” After the case went cold, they returned Ji’s belongings that were found on her body to her family. They gave me the ring that was still on her left hand. The couple’s ring I had given to her a month before we were exposed. The one thing I recognized in the mass of flesh and bone wading at the bottom of the box. I keep it in my nightstand with mine, but I never look at it. I can’t. Not without my mind recalling that sight on that night rather than the happiness that should be connected with it.

They never did run any news stories about her. I have a suspicion that my company paid off enough people to keep it quiet. I threatened many times to quit and disappear. I wanted no part of this life anymore. It stole and brutally destroyed the one person that I ever loved. I couldn’t look at any of my fans anymore… not without thinking in the back of my mind: “Were you the one that killed her? Was it you? Did you hack her body up and send it to me?” It became a big enough issue that my company sent me away to psychiatric facility for a month under the guise of working on my solo career. They refused to let me out of my contract, but as you have probably come to understand, this is no surprise. They threatened me with everything from my family and friends to my finances and legal recourse. They threatened my group members to the point where I agreed to do what they wanted. My actions would NEVER hurt anyone ever again. I make sure of this by no longer rocking the proverbial boat.

Which brings us to now. I’m sitting here in a small custodial closet in our company’s building typing this with only the glow from the screen lighting my surroundings. Hiding from them; my wardens… my tormentors. I’m just a shell of who I used to be. I record my music, I dance, I smile, I do meet and greets. I do my job. My company makes sure of that. So, if you see an idol or celebrity on stage or wherever and they’re smiling and appear happy as can be… make sure to pause a moment. Really LOOK at them and think about the journey they had to go on to get there. What secrets their company has hidden to make it so. The lives that have been ruined in the name of money and greed. The time and money you’ve spent on them, not realizing you only continue to feed the machine; therefore, only making the industry tighten their choke hold on us. The ever-present monsters that lurk beyond your view waiting for them and those they will eliminate to reach their goal. The suffering. Ask yourself… do they really want to be here? Or are they trapped? What have they given up? Lost? What’s be taken from them? What secrets have been carefully woven to give you a false sense of access, entertainment, pleasure, and sovereignty over every aspect of their life?

Then shake it off and forget about it… because you don’t really care, do you?

Credit: Ren Baek

The Manor House

January 3, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Part 1: Discovery

Let me start by saying, I’m no professional writer. I just have a story to tell.

Every summer my parent’s would drive from our home in rural Lincolnshire, to our holiday home in a little village in the West Norfolk coast. I won’t say where exactly, but it was a beautiful village, a 10 minute walk away from the beach. All the houses were made from Norfolk stone and flint, quiet, picturesque and the kind of place where everyone knows each other; there was a real sense of community. I loved it there. My house was in the heart of the village, it was called Manor Lodge because it used to be living quarters for the servants who worked in the Manor House that backed on to my garden. The Manor House had been abandoned since I could remember. No one ever went back there and no one knew who owned it, so it was just forgotten about. Left to become derelict.

I would spend my time playing with my friends Dylan and Peggy, their parents had holiday caravans on the main site in the village so we spent a lot of time together in the school holidays. We would ride our bikes to the beach and play, or hang out in the park, typical things 10 year old kids would do. In 2001 it was normal for parents to let kids out unsupervised until dusk fell. That was our call to go home, before the darkness descended. And, seeing as we were in a safe village, no one really worried about us.

My story starts here. It was the beginning of the summer holidays and neither Dylan nor Peggy had arrived with their families for the summer. I had been at our house for a week already and I was bored so I went out into the garden to play. Our garden was fairly large, a few flower beds that my mum liked keeping herself busy with and a conservatory where my dad sat in a lounger and fell asleep in most days. The end of the garden was like a mini forest. Noting major, save for a few all trees that I could hide under, or make a den in. This particular morning I found the very end of the garden. A 6 foot wooden fence sealing off the boundary. It was quite rotten and was clear that no one had been back here to check on it for quite some time. Now, me being me, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to kick a hole in the rotting wood and see what was on the other side; I was quite a curious and inquisitive kid so I just went for it.

When I made a hole big enough I wasted no time in scrambling through. I found myself in a small, over grown field. Tall, yellowing grass and thistles dominated the expanse but it was quite easy to navigate my way through. I was tall for a 10 year old so I could see over the top of it with ease. The Manor House was on my right. I had to stomp down a path to the middle of the field before the surrounding trees subsided and the house came into view. It was huge, more of a Mansion than a Manor. Dark red brick, brown, wooden window panes and covered in thick ivy. I carried on making my path until the field ended and a gravelled driveway at the front of the house appeared. The front door was incredible. Painted black wood with cast iron decoration, it was like something out of a Harry Potter film. I noticed a small number 1 etched into the wood; I just assumed it was the house number.

I lifted the cast iron latch and tried to shove the door open but it must have been locked from the inside. On the right of the door there was a window that looked into what I though was the living room. I pressed my face to the glass trying to see inside. It was pretty much empty. Old fashioned wall paper had been ripped from the walls and there were crayons strewn all over the floor. It looked like a child had ripped the paper down so they could draw on the walls, but the room was so big I couldn’t quite make out what the drawings were. As I mentioned before, I was quite a curious kid, so I scouted the exterior of the house to try and find another way in. I carried on walking along the right hand side of the house when I came to a small side door over grown with ivy. We don’t have poison ivy in England so I knew I’d be ok pulling as much of it off the door as I could. You might think this was predictable, but this was genuinely what happened, as I pulled the ivy off the door I saw the latch was broken, it didn’t shut properly so it was ajar, ready for anyone to walk in.

Opening the door and stepping inside, I found myself in a small corridor that lead to the living room and what I assumed was the kitchen beyond. I wanted to see the drawings so the living room was my first stop. As I entered, a pungent smell hit me, stale and damp, like something had died in there. Holding my sleeve over my nose I walked up to the back wall where the drawings were and took a closer look. They were clearly a child’s drawings, simple but had enough detail to know what was happening. My eyes widened as I processed what it was I was seeing. They had drawn a story. A dark story. An expressionless, young girl, I think about my age, was pictured holding hands with a black silhouette of a man, he was terrifying. As my eyes scanned to the next drawing he was beating her with his bare fists, a punch reigning down onto her face, another showing him twisting her arms behind her back, her bones snapping like twigs; all the while the girl was completely expressionless. The last drawing was of the girl locked in a cupboard under the stairs. It looked like she was banging against the door, crying and trying to get out. It surprised me to see this was the only drawing she had an expression in; it was one of true desperation and fear. The man wasn’t in the last picture, but the child had started to write something in black crayon. The letters R U N were shakily drawn onto the wall, but before the child had a chance to finish the letter N it trailed off, the crayon mark furiously running across the wall as if being dragged away. I followed the crayon as it ran across and then down to where the wall met the floorboards. I wasn’t expecting there to be anything else but I was wrong. Splatters of deep red were at the end of the crayon trail as well as on the floor. It didn’t take a genius to realise what it was…Whoever drew those pictures died right after drawing the last one.

I ran. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, right back through the side door, through the field and back into the safety of my garden. My mum was in the flower bed and saw my disheveled appearance.

“Are you ok love? You look like you’ve seen a ghost back there!”

“I- I’m fine mum. I just got a bit too into the game I was playing, that’s all.”

I hurried back into my house and didn’t come out for the rest of the day. Something bad happened in the Manor House, and I wanted to know what… But there was no way in hell I was going back there on my own.

Part 2: Investigation

Dylan and Peggy arrived 2 days later. I hadn’t stopped thinking about what I saw in the Manor House. Who drew those pictures? What happened to them? Who was that man? These questions floated about in my head but I couldn’t figure it out with the little information I knew. I had to tell Dylan and Peggy, I wanted them to come with me.

The day after they arrived, they both came over to my house. “Guys, I have to tell you something but you have gotta’ promise not to tell your parents ok? Swear?” Dylan and Peggy both glanced at each other, obviously hooked on what I was going to tell them.

“Ok” said Dylan, “What is it?”

“The Manor House…” I told them, “I went there 2 days ago. I saw… Well, I don’t really know what I saw, this is why we need to go back”

Dylan was always keen for an adventure, Peggy not so much.

“Alice, what exactly did you see?”

Peggy asked, a little unsure of what I was asking her.

“This is the thing.” I replied, “I saw drawings, kids drawings, but they weren’t of dogs, or fairies, or anything like the stuff we draw Peg’s. They were… dark. The last one was just a word, RUN.”

My 10 year old self couldn’t quite describe the menacing, murderous drawings accurately. But Peggy understood.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked both Dylan and I, “Won’t we get into trouble?”

“Oh come on, Pegs!” Dylan exasperated at her, “This sounds awesome! Don’t you want to explore?”

“Fine! I’ll go, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea” Peggy folded her arms and winced as she asked her next question.

“So, when are we going to do this?”

“Now!” I quickly answered back, “I need to figure this out guys and I don’t want to go alone. I’m scared.”

We walked down to the end of the garden, through the gap in the fence, followed the path to gravelled drive and walked to the side door I found 2 days ago.

“Through here, follow me” I beckoned to them. Both Peggy and Dylan followed and I showed them the drawings in the living room. “See?” I said, “What do you think?”

Dylan took a closer look. “I thought you said they stopped with the word RUN?” he said, confusion in his voice.
“It- it did”

Underneath the word there was a new picture. A little girl in a pink jacket was holding hands with the silhouette man. It definitely wasn’t there the day before.

“Alice, I really don’t like this. Can we go?” Peggy said this with unease, like she was truly afraid. I didn’t understand why until 2 days later.

We made our way back into the hallway, and there he was. A tall, black silhouette of a man stood at the end of the hall blocking access to the main entrance hall. All 3 of us froze, staring into the only part of him that had any features; his gleaming white, evil eyes. The form moved towards us with a jolt. We turned and ran.

Panicked and in shock we raced through the field and I lost Dylan and Peggy.
My parent’s weren’t home when I made it back to my bedroom. I slumped down onto the bedroom floor, my back pressed against the door and tried to catch my breath. I assumed Dylan and Peggy made it out of the house as I was certain I heard them running after me. Kid’s didn’t have mobile phones back then so it wasn’t like I could text them to make sure they were ok. I had to just hope…

Dylan finally showed up 2 days later. His mum saw what state he had returned back to his caravan in and thought he was ill so kept him in for a couple days until he appeared better. Neither of us had seen Peggy. We went to knock for her at her caravan but no one was home. Her parents were very sociable people so were probably at the beach or out with friends for the day so we didn’t think much of it.

Dylan and I played for most of the morning. Neither of us brought up the Manor House incident. I think we were both scared to even think about it, let alone talk about it. We were pretending like nothing happened and, to be honest, I was more than ok with it. This was probably the one time that my curiosity was curbed through pure, unadulterated fear.

As lunch time approached, Dylan was getting ready to go home. He left his bike in my back garden so went to go get it.

“Uh, Alice, is that Peggy?”

I squinted to the trees at the very back of the garden and sure enough there she was!

“Oh my god, Peg’s!” I cried out, “Where have you been? We called for you but no one was there.”

Peggy smiled. “I’m ok” she said, “I’ve been playing in the field. Come and play.”

Peggy disappeared back into the trees so Dylan and I followed, eager not to lose her again. We were all stood in the over grown field, unsure of what to do next.

“I keep thinking about the Manor House” Peggy casually told us, shocking both Dylan and I.

Peggy seemed so afraid the last time we went, and now Dylan and I were afraid too. How could she seem so nonchalant about what happened?

“Really?” I replied, “Why?”

“I don’t know. I just feel drawn to it. I want to go back inside. Come with me?”

She was very eager for us to say yes, so we reluctantly agreed. Were we mad?! 2 days ago we were running from an evil presence in that house and now we were going back?! It was classic, ‘Don’t go in there!’ horror story moment, but we stupidly did it anyway.

We slowly walked up to the front door and decided what to do next. I surveyed my surrounding again, familiarising myself with quick exit routes should I need to run again, when I noticed the number 1 on the doorway was scratched out, and in it’s place was a freshly etched 2. Weird, I thought.

I refused to go back into the living room so this time we chose to explore the kitchen. Peggy seemed a little more anxious now she was back inside the house, which although was a bad thing, it was more normal than her carefree attitude to the situation outside; that unnerved me much more.

The kitchen was tidy, no plates or bowls, kitchen equipment or anything like that left around, but an inch thick layer of dust coated the counters, cupboard doors hung off of their brackets and mice droppings everywhere. It looked like it hadn’t been touched for years. Strange considering someone must have been living here, I mean, who else could’ve added that drawing in the living room? Or changed the door number to 2?

We had a look in some of the cupboards, wiping away the dust but found nothing unusual or out of the ordinary. Dylan kept a look out for the silhouette man, but he never showed. Maybe we imagined it? As I was scoping out a cupboard that was full of canned food from 1902, Dylan called out to us, laughing.

“Guys, a crayon just rolled through the doorway…”

“Ha, we’re in a creepy house, you’d think something more frightening would appear through the door than a crayon!” I replied trying to stifle my laughs. Although I was scared, I took this opportunity to laugh down the situation we were in, make it appear like I was less frightened than I was, and to be honest, laughing at a crayon was helping.

I followed Dylan through the kitchen side door that led into the main entrance hall. It was a large room with a double staircase to right side, double doors that led out into a courtyard at the rear and the dark wooden door with the cast iron decorations to the front. The door was bolted shut from the inside; that’s why I couldn’t get in the first time I came here. Dylan was stood by the side of the stairs, holding the black crayon that rolled into the kitchen. The stairs cupboard door was open and he was transfixed on whatever it was that was inside.

“Dylan? What’s the matter?” I asked as I walked up to stand next to him. When I saw what was inside the cupboard under the stairs I gasped.

“What the-?”

The walls were covered with bloody finger nail scratches, like someone had desperately tried to get out. I instantly remembered the drawing in the living room of the terrified little girl locked in the cupboard under the stairs. This blood was fresh… The person’s fingernails had come off on to the wall they had scratched so much. It was a scene of absolute horror. In a state of disbelief I noticed something crumpled in a pile on the floor of the cupboard.

“Dylan, what’s that?”

Dylan bent down to pick up the heap of pink material and we realised.

“Wasn’t Peggy wearing this jacket when we came here the other day?” Dylan asked me.

She was. Peggy’s pink jacket was now on the floor of the cupboard under the stairs, soaked in still wet blood. And above it on the only clean patch of wall was a drawing of the silhouette man, his eyes boring into us like he was coming for us next.

A scream erupted throughout the house and that was all it took to jolt Dylan and I from our shocked states and once again run from the house. Dylan dropped Peggy’s jacket and sprinted to go back through the kitchen and out the side door, but our pathway was blocked.

Silhouette man was stood in the kitchen door way, this time grinning at us; he made no other movement which rattled me to the core. Why didn’t he come for us? Thinking quickly, I remembered the front door could be unbolted from the inside. Dylan followed me to the door and helped me with cast iron bolts. They were heavy and stiff, I couldn’t have moved them on my own. When we saw daylight again I was relieved. The house was so dark and dingy it was easy to lose track of what time of day it was, and something about the light felt safe. I didn’t look back until I was once again in my garden, Dylan behind.

“Where’s Peggy?” I asked, panting for breath.

“I don’t know” Dylan replied, equally as exhausted, “I thought she was following me, but I guess not.”

Just as he finished his sentence, my dad came out into the garden with Dylan’s parents and 2 police officers.

Part 3: Over-Active Imaginations

“Alice, Dylan. You need to come inside. Now.” My dad demanded.

We obediently followed, thinking we were about to get the telling off of our lives for trespassing, but when one of the officers opened his mouth and started talking I was absolutely dumbfounded.

“Alice. Dylan. I’m sure you are aware by now your friend Peggy Langdon has been missing for 2 days. Have you seen her in the last 48 hours?”

I literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“No she hasn’t…” I replied in confusion, “She was just with us. We were exploring the Manor House. I know we shouldn’t have been in there, but she was honestly just with us!”

Dylan nodded furiously in agreement as I began to explain everything to the police officers.

“I went exploring on my own about 5 days ago. I got a bit freaked out because I saw some weird drawings on one of the walls in the house. Peggy and Dylan came back there with me so I could show them and it freaked them out too. That’s when we saw him. The silhouette man! We ran and then we all didn’t see each other for 2 days. Peggy showed up this morning in my garden and she wanted to go back to the house. We found blood and fingernails and a pink jacket we thought was Peggy’s under the stairs. We got scared and ran again. We’ve all just come back from there… At least, I thought we all came back…”

I trailed off realising that when we got back to the garden Dylan pointed out that Peggy wasn’t with us.

“A pink jacket did you say?”

“Yes,” Dylan replied, “It was in the cupboard under the stairs, along with the blood and the fingernails. We thought Peggy must have dropped it when we ran away the first time, she wasn’t wearing it when we saw her today”.

“Children… Peggy was wearing a pink jacket the day she went missing. Are you sure she was with you today?”

I tried hard to think back to the first day we all went to the house; the day the police claim Peggy disappeared. And I remembered… As clear as day I remembered the new drawing in the living room. The drawing of the little girl in the pink jacket holding silhouette man’s hand. I remembered being freaked out that a new drawing had appeared. I remembered seeing silhouette man standing in the doorway of the living room, and I remembered me, Dylan and Peggy running. Peggy running in her pink jacket… Only, I lost them both when I returned to the garden.

“We were with her right up until I found the cupboard…” Dylan pondered.

I burst into tears at the realisation my friend was gone. It all added up. But I was JUST with her!? My mum enveloped me in a hug and tried to soothe me but I was just inconsolable.

“We need to investigate the house immediately. If what you are saying is true, then that blood may belong to Peggy Langdon. Thank you for your time children. I’m so, so sorry this is happening to you.”

The two officers left and within the hour there were more police officers with their sniffer dogs, forensic tents going up and men in white overalls flooding our back garden; searching the fence and the Manor House for any clue as to where Peggy could have gone. That evening, the tents were taken down as quickly as they were put up and the police left the area. I didn’t understand. Didn’t investigations take a lot longer than a few hours? I was playing with Peggy at lunch time and now it was almost 10pm and the police had pretty much left. All but 2 officers remained and they looked extremely irritated. There was a knock on our front door and my mum answered.

“Mrs Taylor, may we have a word with you and Alice?”

She called me down from the confines of my bedroom and the scalding began.

“Alice.” One of the officers addressed me. “Did you know it is against the law to waste police time?”

I obediently nodded and waited for him to carry on.

“Good. So you know that making up stories about your friend when they are missing is very wrong and scared her parents into thinking she was dead?”

At this remark a look of bewilderment spread across my face and I couldn’t hide it even if I tried.

“I wasn’t making it up! It happened! I swear it did! I was with Peggy at lunch time!” I couldn’t have sounded more exasperated if I tried. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t believe me until he spoke again.

“Alice, we searched that house for all the things you said. The blood, nails, even the drawings… There was nothing. Not a trace. We didn’t even find her pink jacket. There was no evidence to even suggest you, yourself, had been in that house.”

In frustration and anger I screamed and I cried. What was happening? My head felt completely scrambled and I couldn’t make sense of anything that was going on. Reality was a blur now and I didn’t know what to believe. The icing on the cake what when the officer continued,

“We haven’t been able to find Dylan since we spoke to you both earlier. His mum found a black crayon in his room, but nothing else out of the ordinary. Do you know where he is?”

I shook my head and tried to speak through my sobs.

“He- might- be- hiding- at- the- park. He – doesn’t- like- getting- told- off-“ I managed.

“Thank you Alice,” the officer replied, “And Mrs Taylor, I think your child may have an over active imagination. You might want to take her to see someone. Might be ADHD. You know what those kids are like…”

The officer shook his head at me then called his colleague to leave. I was still sobbing away in my mum’s arms. Fatigued and emotional my dad took me off of my mother and carried me upstairs to bed where my mum changed me into my yellow pyjamas. I drifted off to sleep quickly through sheer exhaustion.

The next day passed fairly quickly. I slept for the majority of the day and refused to talk to anyone or come out of my room. Every hour I’d look out of my bedroom window to the back garden and try to relive what happened. Try to make sense of it, but no matter how hard I tried to organise the events in my mind, I just couldn’t. It was impossible.

At 6 o’clock in the evening my parents announced they were going for dinner and tried to persuade me to come. I ignored them and after 15 minutes of trying, they left and told me to come get them if I needed them. They were going to the pub next door to our house so weren’t far away. To be honest, I was glad for the peace and quiet. I took comfort in being alone, adult’s were untrustworthy in my mind now and their presence disgruntled me.

7 o’clock passed and I did my new ritual of looking out of the window to try and piece my thoughts together, when I saw them…They were stood at the bottom of the garden waving at me, beckoning me to come outside. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and looked again. Dusk was beginning to fall and the sky was an incredible burnt orange colour, but it was still bright enough to make out who it was at the bottom of the garden. I sprinted out of my room, down the stairs and straight out the backdoor that led to the garden.

“Peggy! Dylan! I knew I wasn’t lying!”

I raced over to them but before I got there they ran into the trees and back through the hole I kicked in the fence. I chased after them in elation that I knew I wasn’t going mad, or fabricating stories about my friends. They were here, not missing, and I knew it! I knew it! I could hear Peggy laughing with delight, and I followed her giggles all the way to the front door of the house. The numbers 3 and 4 were now etched into the front door and I still couldn’t figure out why but at this point I didn’t care. I just wanted my friend’s back. I wanted to prove to everyone that I wasn’t lying. I hesitated at the front door a little while longer, remembering all the negative things that happened in this house until I was snapped back to reality by Dylan calling my name.

“Aaaliiccee!” he chanted. “Aaaliiccee!”

I took one last look at the beautiful summer night sky and proceeded to follow Dylan’s chant to the living room. No one was in there and the room fell silent upon my entrance. A wave of dread suddenly filled my body at the realisation I never actually followed them into the house. I was here on my own. Looking over at the back wall the drawings were there clear as day, except this time, another new drawing was added. The picture of a girl in yellow pyjamas with the number 4 scrawled above her head, holding silhouette man’s hand. It was me…

Part 4:The Legend Of Alice

“And that was the last time anyone saw Alice again.” Toby announced proudly as he retold ‘The legend of Alice Taylor’ to his little brother, Harry, and Lily his school friend.

Toby’s grandparents bought Manor Lodge, Alice’s former house, 5 years after her disappearance. Because of it’s background history his grandparents bought it incredibly cheap. They knew the full story but they weren’t worried. Their child, Toby’s mum, was grown up and had moved out with her husband so it was just his grandparent’s that occupied the house. That was until his grandmother got dementia and kept wandering off… It was then that his grandfather decided to move them to assisted living accommodation and passed the house over to Toby’s parents. And then along came Toby, then Harry 2 years later.

Toby was a confident 13 year old boy, he had a lot of friends and was well known within the village for being a bright, aspiring boy. The kids at the village school talked about Alice regularly and a few even claimed to have gone to the house but those kids were exposed to be lying when they couldn’t prove where they gained access. The house was well guarded with barbed wire fencing and ‘No Entry’ signs warning people away from the dangers the house might contain. Alice and her friends went missing roughly 20 years ago now and the village tried hard to forget. It was never brought up by adults and if anyone mentioned it, it was quickly shut down as a legend and untrue to protect the villages credibility and safety.

But Toby being Toby, had other ideas. He wanted to the top dog of the school, and by proving he had gone to Manor House, he could gain that status. It would be easy for Toby, his house backed onto the Manor House after all. If anyone was likely to gain access it was him.

It was Saturday morning, around 9am, and Toby, Lily and Harry stole a pair of wire cutters from his dad’s toolbox in the garage and made their way to the end of the garden. A thick wire fence sealed off the boundary which Toby was able to cut through with ease. His dad would be furious when he found out he ruined the fence; It was incredibly expensive to put up. But at this point, Toby didn’t care. They all scurried through, being careful not to tear their clothes on the freshly cut wire, and found themselves in the over grown field, just like in the legend…

“Ok,” Toby said with assertiveness, “We need to do what Alice did and make a path that leads to the middle of the field. Then we should see the house on the right. Ready?”

Both Harry and Lily shook their heads. They had heard the story countless times before on the school playground, and even though it was said to just be a legend, they still believed it enough to be put off from going there properly.

“Can’t we just watch from here?” Lily replied nervously.

Toby scoffed, “Fine, but I get to call you both wimps for the rest of the year!”

Lily and Harry were willing to take that risk. Being called a wimp was better than being arrested for trespassing. They helped Toby make a path to the middle of the field but stopped when they saw the house. Toby continued stomping down the grass, it was harder than it looked and he wondered how on earth a 10 year old girl could manage to do this on her own, let alone a 13 year old boy.

Eventually, he got to the gravel driveway and took a moment to catch his breath and take in the enormity of the Manor House. It was just like they described in the legend; dark and menacing. But this spurred Toby to investigate even more. He walked up to a window that caught his eye, something was glinting from inside. As he peered through he saw it was the kitchen, a steel saucepan hanging up on the wall glinting in the sun. On closer inspection Toby noticed drawings all over the kitchen walls. It looked like a kid had drawn them with crayon.

“Who uses crayon’s anymore? Haha!” Toby laughed to himself, it was all about gel pens in school now, crayons were lame.

But none the less, he wanted to see what the drawings were a bit closer up. In the legend the drawings were in the living room; maybe the legend was wrong?

Alice was stood in the corner of the kitchen, hoping with all her might that the young boy outside the window could see her drawings; could see that the drawings were of him, locked in the cupboard under the stairs. But he appeared to ignore her warnings.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you…” She whispered.

As Toby walked up to the huge front door he thought he heard a voice, but shook it off and told himself to stop being stupid. The legend wasn’t true after all. He stopped and took in the beautiful features of the door as he opened it. Dark slats with cast iron decoration and the number 5 etched into the wood…

Credit: Alice1nWonder

Death Gave Me a Choice

December 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Death came to me that night as I sat numbly in a puddle of my own desperate blood and tears. And when I saw him, a tall entity clothed in a robe so black it reached past the depths of darkness I felt inside my heart.

I’d been upset. Not about one thing in particular, but multiple things.

I’d made so many mistakes, that trying to put myself back together had become harder than reassembling a broken egg shell.

A year earlier, I’d lost the most important person in my life. The only girl I truly loved: Penny. I could only blame myself. I’d spent the past year blaming myself for betraying her, betraying her trust.

She’d found a new guy, a better guy than I am. One that brought her flowers, took her out on fancy dates, was loyal to her. And all that reminded me of how many chances I used to have to do all those things for her.

6 months earlier the guilt and pain got to me – tore at my soul – and to numb the pain I took sleeping pills will alcohol every night, dreading the moment I’d wake up to another sunny, lonely day.

4 months earlier, I lost my job and my scholarship because the depression and substance abuse kept me rooted to the spot. I didn’t want to face a world where I’d have to watch everyone else swim, as I’m slowly sinking.

3 months earlier I lost my friends and family as well; I’d become distant and emotionless. I turned down invites, didn’t show up for holiday get-togethers, blew up on anyone who told me I needed help.

I was in chaos, and I could only blame myself.

1 month earlier, I’d bought the small rectangular case of razors. Adding self abuse to the substance abuse. I’d feel the smallest release when I felt the sharp sting and saw the deep red flow down my wrist.

And that night, I called my ex girlfriend slightly tipsy, but truthful all the same. I told her I loved her, I begged for another chance, I cried harder than I’d cried in months just at the sound of hearing her voice.

She told me one thing and one thing only, “I don’t love you anymore, Calvin. And I never will.”

She hung up the phone immediately after, and all I could do was stare blankly at the corner of the room. But as everything hit me at once, it hit me harder than a car going full speed.

I didn’t hesitate. I swallowed the rest of my sleeping pills, gulped down the remaining vodka straight from the bottle, and I used those razors to cut deeper than I’d ever cut.

So here I sat, hopeless and alone. But I wasn’t alone. I’d looked down at my bloody wrists for mere seconds, and when I looked back up he was there.

A normal person would have been hysterical and afraid, but I wasn’t normal anymore. I wasn’t surprised he was there. No, I welcomed it.

“Calvin,” he spoke in the most baritone voice I’d ever heard – lower than the voice overs on every movie preview – and he said that one word with a disapproving sigh.

The way he said it made me feel like a kid again, as if I’d done something and lied about it. But I wasn’t lying now. The proof was in the mess that was myself at that moment.

I sobbed shakily, “I-I’m sorry,” I said. For whatever reason, I felt like I had to apologize, so I did.

“You’ve spent a long time being sorry, Calvin. But not once did you say sorry to yourself.”

A crease formed in between my eyebrows as I mulled over what he’d just said. It came to me slowly. He wanted me to see that my only enemy was myself.

“Do you give all of the souls you come across helpful advice? I thought you were Death, not a psychologist,” I raised an eyebrow at him, still unnerved by the fact that I was looking into an endless black hold where his face should be.

He forced a deep, short laugh, “No. Mostly just the ones like you, that take it into their own hands to decide fate. It’s not up to you Calvin.”

“Sooo you give advice to your suicide victims. What does that mean?”

He sighed again, as if he’d explained this thousands of times before; I’m sure he had. “It means you don’t get to decide this. It means I’m giving you another perspective.”

I stood up, curiosity hanging on ever word. “What perspective would that be? The only way I see things is that I’m a horrible, crap excuse for a human being. So why be afraid of dying when I’m more afraid to live? I had to do this. I needed to do this.”

“And I’m showing you, Calvin, what living can do for you.” A hint of persuasion sounded in his voice.

“Tell me, Death. What do I have to live for?” The question came out harshly, but he didn’t flinch.

“Listen closely. What if I told you that you’d make it through this depression, not fully healed but controlled by medication and therapy. What if I told you that because you’ll overcome this depression, you’ll get another job. And the job will pay for the education you dissed. When you’re done with that education, you’ll be admired. Admired by your friends..your family..and most importantly your ex girlfriend. They’ll see the greatness in you that you know you have. They’ll be proud of that change. You won’t be able to looks at a bottle of vodka without being sick. And what if I told you that your career will pay for the expensive ring you’ll use to propose to your one and only. And you’ll be able to give her all the flowers and dates and loyalty you’d failed to give before. Most importantly, what if I told you you’d be able to give her a dream wedding as well? And give her two beautiful children: a girl and a boy. What if I told you you’d be missing out on life by choosing to give up?”

Tears rimmed my eyes opaquely, “I can be happy again?” I asked hopefully, afraid of what the answer might be.

But his answer was the biggest relief I’d ever felt, “Yes, you can be happy again.”

I wiped my wet cheeks and cracked a trembling smile, “I’d say I want to live.”

“Then I am no longer needed,” the finality in his voice diminished the tension I’d felt before.

As I grinned wider, I let out a half cry-half chuckle, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“Now go to the hospital, get your stomach pumped and seal up you wounds. Goodbye,” and in a flash the black void that was him vanished.

For days afterward couldn’t get rid
of that smile. The nurses and doctors that helped me were puzzled by it. A man being treated for a suicide attempt is this happy? I knew to them there was nothing right about it.

But I hadn’t felt for right in my whole life.

Because of my obvious mental health issues, I stayed in the mental ward for a month after I healed physically. Just like Death said, I still had the memories of my depression, but it was nothing the therapy and medication couldn’t fix.

After I was released, I found a job at a call center that paid slightly more than minimum wage. It wasn’t the best of jobs, but I was surely glad to have it.

I saved money for a few months and started going to school again in the fall. I was working on a business degree.

My friends and family were there to watch me graduate, and I’d never felt more thankful. Finally, I was making people proud again. I wasn’t failing.

I didn’t even drink that night with the rest of my friends. I didn’t want to touch another drop of alcohol. I spent that night with the people closest to me, all seated at a large table at the best restaurant in town.

And I’m so glad I chose to do so that night, because our waitress happened to be the girl I missed so badly and still loved.

She looked surprised to see me, but she also looked glad. “Calvin…” She said, staring at me as if I was her long lost twin.

I wanted to smile too, but I noticed the faint purple under her right eye. It wasn’t completely hidden by her beige foundation.

She knew I noticed, and before I could say anything she began taking our orders.

Concerned, I told my family and friends as they were leaving that I was going to stay and speak to her. They understood, and after more congratulations, departed.

I waited another hour in twilight stained parking lot, where I could breathe in the fresh spring breeze.

She was one of the first to come out and she noticed me propped next to the entrance, halting her stride.

Penny’s face lit up and there were tears in her eyes, “I knew you’d wait for me, Cal. I know you’re a great guy, I think I’ve always known you had potential but I guess I was being my own worst enemy.”

Those words brought back the tiniest memory of what Death had told me months prior – that I should say sorry to myself. And she needed to do the same. “The past is the past Penny. No animosity.”

She looked even more grateful then and reached to hug me. I put a hand on her cheek before she could, and gently rubbed the purple under her eye, “Did he do this to you?” I asked concerned and pissed off.

Penny didn’t say a word, but her deep brown eyes said it all. He obviously was over the accommodating boyfriend role and had started asking too much of her. But I would become everything she needed and more.

I pulled her into a hug and ran my fingers through her long hair, “It won’t happen again, love. I’m here now.”

After that night, things were better than they’d ever been between me and Penny. She’d gotten away from her abusive boyfriend and together we got him the jail sentence he deserved. We’d spend every moment we had to spare with each other, and it was like we’d never even parted. Even our old inside jokes remained the same.

With time, I’d saved enough to buy her the most beautiful ring I could find, and I proposed to her. Right in the middle of the local high school football field where we’d met so many years ago.

A field, maybe not the best setting for a proposal but it meant so much to both of us.

Flowers filled our house with fragrant smells. I brought home one everyday after work. I made reservations every weekend for dates. And no girl could ever mean as much to me as my Penny.

The wedding was the one she’d always dreamed of when we were younger: A winter wedding in the snow, everything adorned in blues and whites, and that long sleeved dress she’d hoped for ever since she saw it in that store window.

A year after the marriage, Penny came to me with the best news I’d ever received from her. She was pregnant. We found out it was a girl, and I was every bit the happy father when our Violet came into the world.

Dark hair, just like her mother.

Two years later, we had our son – Jackson. He looked like me, with green eyes and a mop of chesnut hair.
Violet was over the moon about having a younger sibling.

Life was amazing. It was everything Death had told me it would be, and more. I chose life the last time I saw him, and life chose me.

You can imagine my shock the day I found him standing in front of my work desk. I had been tapping away on my computer, focused on nothing but my work. He broke that trance.

I became a statue, still as Lot’s wife after she had turned to salt. After seconds of this vacant stare-off, I broke the stillness, “Why…”

He sighed, much like he had the night we’d met. That disapproving sigh, but now with a bit of apprehension. “Something has occurred, Calvin. Something bad.”

My heart beat swiftly against my ribs, I stopped breathing. “W-what do you mean bad?” A million things raced through my head at once. My family, my friends, myself; did something happen to them? Was something going to happen to me.

“You remember Hale, don’t you Calvin.”

Hale. The piece of crap I’d put in jail. I hated hearing his name, “Yeah. I remember that bastard. What about him? Did he finally get what was coming to hi-”

“He got out of jail, Calvin.” The caution and pity in that one sentence couldn’t have been good.

I stood up from my office chair, flustered, “there’s no way! He couldn’t have gotten out yet! He received
fifteen years! It’s only been nine!”

“Ever heard of good behavior Calvin?”

I was enraged. How could this monster be capable of good behavior? And then I remembered. He’d fooled Penny for a year. He had been a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He was definitely capable of fooling others.

“I think you need to come with me, Calvin.”

I didn’t waste any time. I followed him, not bothering to tell anyone I was leaving work. My first priority was to make sure the people I loved were okay. But the pieces that were being put together in my mind was anything but okay.

I drove ninety all the way home. Beads of sweat had formed across my forehead and my breathing was loudly audible.

Death followed me into the house as I rushed inside, but he said nothing.

The living room was a mess of broken vases – the ones which held all the flowers I’d given to Penny. And a million little pedals and leaves littered the floor.

I was so immensely angry and scared at the same time. Scared mostly, because the scene in front of me hinted that nothing good could come from it.

I screamed, terror in my voice, “Penny! Violet, Jack! Wher-”

“The master bedroom, Calvin,” Death said from somewhere in my peripheral. He pointed to the door at the end of the hall. A door that was now chopped and broken, standing slightly ajar.

I sprinted down the hallway and pushed past the door, not worrying about the sharp splinters that dug into my left hand.

The light was off. I wish I hadn’t turned it on. Because when I did…I was met with sheer horror.

Blood. Crimson painted across the white carpet and bedsheets. On the walls. And painted on the bodies of the three people in my life that meant the most to me.

The details are too traumatizing to repeat, but the axe that had been used on all of them was left behind – embedded into my wife’s skull.

I fell to my knees in front of them, wracking sobs so hard they made me puke.

I just couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t speak. I was screaming under the weight of emotional pain. I was hurt.

“But you said it would be better!” I turned to Death, screaming and seeing red, “you said I’d be happy! Why…,” I sobbed deeply again, unable to contain the lump in my throat.

“And you were Calvin. You were happy for several years. But with a life comes chances. Good ones and bad ones. Everyone suffers Calvin.”

“Suffer? I have nothing to live for anymore Death! I’ve lost my reasons for living, for working, for loving! That’s more than suffering!” I couldn’t contain the contempt in my voice and I got dangerously close to that black hole of a face Death wore, despite having to look up to see it.

“You’re wrong again Calvin. I’m here not only for your family, as I do have to do my job,” he lifted his bony hands in surrender, “but I’m also here for you…”

“What?! You already know I’m planning to kill myself once again, psychologist?” I spat at him, hot rage drenched in every word.

“Actually, yes. I knew you’d try. You’ll go get the pistol from the top shelf of your closet and blow your brains out, you’ll do it in a few hours in this very room. But I have another perspective for you.”

My mouth hung ajar. He knew my plans, knew where the pistol was that I kept for protection, but I couldn’t be too surprised. After a moment I crossed my arms and glared, “oh! Another perspective for me, huh? What?! What could possibly make me choose life this time? A life that isn’t worth living!”

For the first and last time, Death laid a hand on my shoulder, and although I couldn’t see his face, I knew he was looking me right in the eyes.

“You must live Calvin, because Hale must die. And you’re the one who will make it happen,” I thought I heard his lips part into a smile, if he had lips.

Death made it clear once again for me. “What do you say, Calvin?”

I smiled then too – what must have appeared a sick, sinister grin, but a grin all the same.

“I’d say I want to live.”

Rose – Part 2

November 30, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Note: This is a sequel to Rose – Part 1 – please read that story first!

The weather that day was not fitting for a funeral. Especially a funeral as sad as this one. It should have been rainy and gloomy but there was not a cloud in the sky. Birds were chirping, the air was warm, the sum shimmered through the trees. It was as if the world didn’t know that a sad, lonely man had just died a sad, tragic death.

Daniel Young stood over his son’s grave as the casket was lowered in. The regret he felt was like a knife carving into his heart. He shouldn’t have moved so far away. He should have called. He should have known Eric was going crazy. He should have gotten him the help he needed. But he didn’t. And now he was left to feel this hatred toward himself. He had failed as a father.

A gentle hand was placed on Daniel’s shoulder with the intent of providing some comfort. Daniel turned his gaze away from the casket to meet the eyes of Father McKenzie. Father McKenzie had baptized his baby boy 35 years ago and now he was there to send him off to the afterlife. Very fitting.

Father McKenzie did not remember baptizing Eric. He had done many, many baptisms in his life time, but he would never forget the day Eric died. He had seen men die before, in the hospital, performing their last rites, but it was always a much more peaceful death than that of Eric Young. The images of Eric’s last moments were still ingrained in his mind. He saw his face every time he closed his eyes; every time he tried to sleep. But something that possibly haunted him more was the face of Officer Green. The way his eyes widened and looked deep into his soul. The way his mouth fell open in shock. The way his face stayed frozen in fear as Father McKenzie left the police station that night.

He had confessed his sins many times and still prayed for forgiveness several times a day but he could not shake the feeling that this sin would not be forgiven. But what else could he have done? He couldn’t bear the thought of ending up like Eric. Especially after the vision he had had while Officer Green was out. It was so vivid and gruesome that he never wanted to see what happened next to that poor girl. Eric saw and look where he ended up.

The casket hit ground with a thud and the machinery grinded to a halt. The first pile of dirt splashed on top of the wooden coffin. Daniel breathed in hard through his nose and slowly out his mouth, attempting to calm himself and hold back the tears. He turned on his heels and walked away, unable to control his emotions. But Father McKenzie stayed. He stayed until the very end.

“I make a damn good cup of coffee,” Officer Perry mused, leaning back in his chair and taking another long swig.

“I second that.” Officer Henry Freed was never really a fan of coffee but Warren had forced it into his hand that afternoon. He would probably be up all night now.

“Shame Matt doesn’t get to enjoy it. I bet he’s not really sick, probably just being a big sissy about that guy that died yesterday.”

“Yeah, I heard it was pretty bad, though. I’m glad I didn’t have to see it.” Henry was one of the newest constables at the station and was still learning. It was really quite exciting for him to get to work with Officer Perry that day despite how intimidating he was.

“Wasn’t that bad. I’ve seen worse. I’ve been on the force a long time, you know.”

“Yes, I know.”

Warren’s personal cell phone started to ring. He flipped the old phone out of its holster on his belt and answered it without hesitation.

“Warren?” It was a woman’s voice but he didn’t recognize it to be any of his family members.

“Yes, can I help you?”

“It’s Shelly Green. I… I don’t really know why I’m calling you but…” He could tell she was struggling to get her words in order. She might have even been crying. “Matt left this morning. After he got home from work, he wouldn’t speak to me. He just packed a suitcase and took off. I just wanted to know if you have any idea what’s wrong with him.”

“Oh geez… Well, we had a pretty gruesome case last night. I think it really got to him. He probably just needs some time to himself to calm down. I’m sure he’ll come back soon. Do you know where he went? Maybe I could talk to him.”

“He just said he was going to the motel. I’m assuming it’s the Blue Moon Inn. I doubt he would bother going out of town. He won’t answer any of my calls but maybe he’ll answer you. You wouldn’t mind calling? You’re not too busy?” After hearing that Warren was willing to help her, she was able to compose herself.

“Of course not. Don’t worry about it, I’ll talk to him and tell him to call you, alright?”

“Thank you so much, Warren. Please tell him I’m worried about him. Bye.”

Warren ended the call and went through his contacts to find Officer Green’s number. He hit call and listened to the rings. Ring after ring after ring went by. Then he finally answered.


“Matt, its Warren. What’s going on? Shelly just called me asking what the heck is wrong with you.”

“Oh God… Please tell her I’m fine and not to worry about me.”

“Why don’t you just tell her yourself? Why don’t you just go home? I know seeing that guy dead was hard but you should be with your family if you’re having a hard time with it.”

“I can’t… I can’t go home.”

“Yes, you can, just-“

“I can’t!” The line went dead.

Officer Perry shook his head.

“What was that all about?” Henry asked.

“Nothing really. I guess I was right about why Green stayed home today.”


“Hey Matt, it’s Tony, how you doing?”

“Been uh… been better.”

“Yeah, I heard you called in sick. Anyway, I’ve got some news about Eric Young. I just finished his autopsy.”

“What? What is it?” Officer Green’s voice was suddenly urgent.

“Well, I’m not one hundred percent sure on this – I still have to send some stuff away to get test results back – but it seems that the bite marks around Eric’s ankle weren’t his own. I think they might have been from a woman. And he didn’t die from blood loss, he died of a heart attack.”

“Oh God… Oh God, oh God, oh God… Please tell me you’re making some sort of sick joke!” Matt sounded terrified and angry. His voice bubbled with frustration.

“It’s not a joke, Matt. I wouldn’t joke around about something like this. What is going on with you?”

Tony could hear Officer Green sigh heavily. “Are you a God-fearing man, Tony?”

He paused for a moment. Where was he going with this? “As a matter of fact I am, but what does that have to do with anything?”

“Tony… I’m at the Blue Moon Inn, room 104. Please come, I need to talk to you. I’ll leave the door open, just come in.”

“Matt? Matt, what the heck is going on? Hello?” The line went dead.

Tony arrived at the motel within 15 minutes. It was just on the outskirts of the town. It had worn out blue siding; the shingles were starting to peel off, and the atmosphere was anything but welcoming. He parked right beside Matt’s car. He approached room 104, feeling his nerves start to kick in. This whole scenario was so odd; he had no idea what he would find on the other side of the door.

He decided to knock first, despite the fact that Officer Green had told him to come in. “Hello?” he called out. No answer. He could hear the TV blaring inside so maybe he just didn’t hear him. He composed himself for a moment and then pushed the door open.

The room looked just as he had remembered it when he was back in high school. He would sneak out of the house to meet his girlfriend there because their parents were very strict. All the teenagers did it and they probably still did. Mostly everything was the same. A new bedspread, new TV, but the same headboard, dresser, and wallpaper. It was decades old now and you could tell. The room looked a little dishevelled which Tony found strange since Green couldn’t have been here very long.

“Matt? Where are you?” Tony said loudly as he crept slowly farther into the room.

“I’m in the bathroom… Don’t come in!” he warned.

Going in there was probably the last thing Tony wanted to do. “Um… okay. What’s going on Green? You’re getting me really worried now.”

“Just come up to the door so we can talk,” Matt yelled.

Tony walked to the back of the room and stood in front of the bathroom door. “Okay, talk.”

“I know why Eric Young died. He was being haunted by a ghost. She was possessing him; taking over his mind and body. She wanted him to feel what she felt when she died. He wanted her to know what happened to her.”

“Matt, come on… That’s a little ridiculous, don’t you think?” Tony knew it wasn’t completely ridiculous. There had to be some sort of explanation for the female bite marks around his ankle and his frost bitten leg.

“Tony, I know. Rose’s spirit is in me now. I’m seeing the visions that Eric saw. Everything is happening the same way. I don’t want to rip my eyes out!”

“Hey, relax, man. Just calm down. You’re probably just experiencing some PTSD from last night. We can call in a therapist for you and everything will be alright.” Tony didn’t want to believe that Green was right but something told him that he was – that this was all real.

“No, I can’t go anywhere. I can’t see anyone or I might touch them. I don’t want to put anyone else through this. Maybe if I just die before anyone touches me, Rose will be gone.”

Tony was finally giving in. He knew Officer Matt Green was a sensible man with a good head on his shoulders. This had to be real for him to be reacting this way. “Tell me about Rose.”

“Rose… I did some research during the investigation last night. She lived in this town in the late 1800s. She went missing one day and was never found. I guess no one knows what happened to her. No one but Eric Young.”

“Rose… Rose who?” Tony had a sinking feeling in his stomach and his heart felt like it was up in his throat.

“Rose Walker. Tony… are you related to her? Do you know what happened to her? Can you help me get rid of her?” Matt finally had some hope that he might get through this after all. It had never occurred to him that anyone he knew would have known about Rose. She lived so long ago.

Of course Tony did not know her personally – she died long before Tony was born – but he knew of her. “Rose Walker is my great aunt. She was my grandfather’s half-sister. But he never even met her. She died a few years before my grandfather was born. I really shouldn’t be telling you any of this; what happened to Rose was meant to stay a secret. It was meant to stay hidden away forever like Rose was.”

“Well she’s not hidden anymore. She’s here and she’s angry. You’ve gotta help me, Tony.” Just then, the faucet turned on. Tony pressed his ear against the door in an attempt to hear what was going on in there. Matt’s body slammed against the door, startling Tony as he jumped back, hitting his own body against the back wall. He heard some more bumps and bangs for about half a minute then everything went quiet. The TV continued to play a few feet away but all was calm.

“Green? What happened? Are you okay?” Tony returned to the door and listened again. Nothing. “Green?” He heard water running… Then it stopped.

“Tony… You have to help me. Tell me everything you know about Rose.” Green’s voice was softer now, filled with desperation.

“Okay… Alright, I’ll tell you. Will you come out of the bathroom first, though?” Tony rested his hand on the doorknob.

“I don’t know… I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Green, come on, it’ll be fine, just come talk to me face to face and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

There was silence for a moment as Matt contemplated coming out. He had just blacked out a second ago so it would probably be a little while before the next one came. Maybe he could just come out for a few minutes. “Alright… I’m coming out. Just… don’t touch me, okay?”

Tony backed away from the door as Green slowly emerged. Just as the door opened, a rush of cold air escaped then dissipated almost immediately as Green closed the door behind him. Tony sat down on the bed, holding his hands in his lap, staring at them as if they had all the answers. He fidgeted for a few moments, trying to get comfortable and deciding on where to begin. “My family… The men in my family, they’ve never been very good people. It started with my great grandfather, although I’m sure it started before that as well. His name was James Walker and he was a lawyer in this town. He owned a lot of land and was very well off.”

Green had pulled a chair out from the corner and sat in front of Tony like a child listening to a bedtime story.

“He married a woman named Helen and they had a baby girl named Rose. Years later, their marriage fell apart and Helen left him. It really hurt his reputation as a lawyer but it mostly hurt Rose and his relationship with her. No one really knows what went wrong with Rose but she just went crazy. Maybe she had always been crazy or maybe her mother abandoning her and the strained relationship with her father drove her mad. But anyway, James couldn’t have anyone knowing that Rose was crazy so he ended up leaving her to die in the outhouse at the back of the lot. No one knows if she died of starvation first or if it was hypothermia that did her in but my great grandfather was responsible. A few years later, he married my great grandmother, Mary, and they had my grandfather, James Walker II. On my great grandfather’s deathbed, he told my grandfather what happened. My grandfather kept it a secret as well until he died in the 90s. He told me, my brother, and my father what happened and we all promised him we wouldn’t tell anyone. As much as I wish my great grandfather had been punished for what he did, I also don’t want our family name to be tarnished with this tragedy. Me, my brother, and now you are the only living people that know what actually happened to Rose.”

“Tony… you have to tell everyone.”

“I can’t. My brother still carries on the family business; I couldn’t do that to him.”

“What’s more important, Tony? The truth or money?”

“It’s just… it’s not really my secret to share. It won’t impact me at all, but if people knew the truth about my family, my brother could lose the whole firm.” Tony stood up and started to pace back and forth. The faucet. It turned on again. “Why does it keep doing that?” Tony asked.

“It’s her… it’s Rose. I should go back in there. It might happen again.” Green stood up and started back towards the bathroom door.

“What might happen again?” Just as the words left his mouth, Matt’s body went limp and fell to the ground with a thud. “Matt?” Tony rushed towards him but just before he was about to roll him over, Matt rolled over by himself. He stared up at Tony, with just the whites of his eyes showing.

The sound of a girl’s voice came from Matt’s mouth as he said, “Daddy?”

Tony stepped back slowly as Matt began to crawl towards him. “Rose… Is that you?”

“Why don’t you love me, Daddy?”

“I’m not your dad, Rose. Your dad is dead.” Tony couldn’t believe he was talking to a dead girl. He wanted to believe that Matt was just playing some sick joke on him but the voice that he heard suggested that this was all too real. Tony continued to inch his way towards the door, ready to make a break for it at any moment. “If you want revenge on him or something, you’re too late.”

Rose let out a scream and started scratching her face. She then stuck a finger in her mouth and chomped down on it, severing it instantly. “Matt!” Tony screamed. “Matt, stop!” He wanted to grab him by the shoulders and try to shake him out of this but he had said not to touch him and Tony wasn’t going to take that chance. Matt… Rose, inserted another finger into her mouth. “Rose! Please stop!” But she didn’t stop. Another swift bite and another finger was gone. “I’ll tell everyone! Is that what you want? I’ll tell everyone what happened to you and how much you suffered if you’ll just leave him alone.” Matt paused just as another finger was being lifted.

“Everyone?” Rose said. “And you’ll tell them that he was a bad man? You’ll tell them everything?” Rose’s voice began to sound more normal; less frantic, less terrifying.

“Yes, I promise. I’ll tell everyone everything if that will make you move on.” Tony had stopped backing up now, the fear in his chest slowly dissipating. It was silent for a moment, then Rose’s body fell back down to the floor. Tony crept towards Matt’s body, the blood from his fingers gushing out onto the carpet. Tony jumped over Matt and went into the bathroom to grab a towel. He hurried back over to Matt but was reluctant to touch him. He just stared at him for a moment, watching the blood continue to flow. Thankfully, Matt’s eyes opened. He let out a shriek as the pain from his fingers hit him. “Matt, holy shit. Take this!” He tossed the towel towards him and Matt immediately wrapped it around the nubs that used to be his fingers.

“Wh.. What happened?”

“You… or Rose… bit your fingers off. I think you swallowed them.”

“Oh God… Thank God.” Tears began to fall down Matt’s cheeks but they were not tears of pain. “She’s gone, Tony. You didn’t touch me, did you?” Matt’s voice was suddenly urgent.

“No, hell no! I told her I would tell everyone and I guess she must have finally let go. Come on, get up, we’ve got to go to the hospital.”

Matt continued to cry. He was sure he was going to meet the same fate as Eric Young but Rose had spared him. She was finally able to cross over to the afterlife and end all the suffering.

Officer Green did lose his fingers. Good thing it was only the pinky finger and ring finger on his left hand. Though it was very hard to explain to everyone what happened. Eventually he just started telling people it was a table saw accident. He tried to tell the truth to Warren but he wouldn’t believe him. So he went with the table saw story and acted like the real story was just a big joke.

Tony’s brother’s law firm is still running. Not surprising since no one knows what happened. Tony never told anyone what happened to Rose. After he was sure she had crossed over, what could possibly happen if he didn’t stay true to his word? Spirits can’t just come back from the afterlife, right?

Credit: LAKK

Lord of Lies

October 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Note: Contains minor gore; please consider this alongside the plot setup (evident within the first sentence) as this may be a story some of you will wish to avoid.

Peter Helford hadn’t exactly planned on murdering a child. But when money came and knocked on his door, he had been all too accepting of it. After all, cash was something he was in desperate need of anyway. He was an anxious man who clenched onto every last penny he could find. While some called it greed, he called it living in poverty. In all fairness, Peter wasn’t exactly at the top of the economic chain. Every day he worked at a Shell Gas Station for a pathetic payment of minimum wage. Peter probably wouldn’t have lived in his house as long as he did if it wasn’t for the aid of the Collins family. Every summer, Peter helped out around the Collins Household and was rewarded generously. The Collins were a very rich family. Nobody knew how they got their fortune. There were rumors that they were involved in drug trafficking, but others scoffed and said their riches were simply inherited. Whatever the case, money was money. And that was exactly Peter’s mindset when Gloria Collins knocked on his front door one muggy August morning. He answered it, and found her standing there on the doorstep. She was dressed in all black, as usual, and her sleeves were long despite the heat. He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to the punch, tersely asking, “May I come inside?”

“Of course,” he replied, holding open the door as she stepped into his living room and made herself comfortable on the couch. She was perfect. Her blonde hair was curled just right, her skin and clothing were both devoid of any wrinkles, and she seemed to radiate a sense of calm professionalism.

“Shut that door, Peter. We have a lot to talk about,” she ordered.

“Oh?” he said, shutting the door.

“My husband and I have been talking a lot lately.” This was fairly unusual. The Collins’s were not lovers, they were partners. There was very little chemistry in their relationship. Peter raised an eyebrow.

Gloria sighed, and for a moment she looked older than she really was. Then she took in a deep breath and let it out:

“I want you to kill my son.”

Shock should’ve been the first emotion Peter felt, but it wasn’t. Kevin Collins was an optimistic young boy who had the blondest hair Peter had ever seen. He was so skinny that he more or less resembled a pole with glasses. Even though Peter didn’t know that the little nine year old child had been a mistake, he probably could’ve guessed it. It was as simple as this: The parents did not want him around. They never had, and they never would. He was a constant nuisance to them, not because he was bad, but because he expected so much from his mother and father. Every day, a brutish Harley Collins would lumber out of his house in a business suit and drive off until seven o’clock at night. Gloria Collins, on the other hand, was a full time online student. She would rather stare at a computer screen all day than pay a lick of attention to her own child. However, Kevin wanted them so much to be good to him. Peter remembered a night last summer when he had stayed late at the Collins Residence, and heard the boy asking for a goodnight kiss. He had been dusting the room next door, and the walls were permeable to sound.

When Kevin spoke, he did so with obvious caution in his voice. He seemed to believe that it would hurt him if he raised his voice too high.

“Um… mom, could you come in here for a second?”

There was a quick patter of footsteps, then, “Yes, Kevin? What is it?”

“Do you think, maybe, you could give me a goodnight kiss?”

Gloria had simply chuckled softly. It hadn’t been a nice laugh though. It was instead the kind of laugh that made gooseflesh begin to creep up the nape of Peter’s neck. “Now, Kevin, your mother is very busy right now,” she responded, clearly annoyed. “She’s taking a course online that needs her full attention. I don’t have time for things like this.”

Just like that, Gloria had left the room. Peter was finished dusting, but he stayed where he was for just a moment longer. Just long enough to hear Kevin begin to sob.

Kevin wanted his parents to have fun with him. He wanted to play games with his parents, wanted to go to Carowinds with them, wanted to bond and grow close to them, wanted to be loved. However, Gloria and Harley Collins couldn’t care less. To them, Kevin held no more importance than a pesky mosquito that was constantly buzzing in their ears.

The first emotion Peter felt when Gloria asked him if he would kill her son was curiosity, and the first question he asked Gloria was, “Why me?” After all, he was a man who was about to enter his fifties. His whole body seemed to be gradually fading, and his hair was taking on a new salt and pepper coloring.

“Because,” answered Gloria, her icy blue eyes never wavering their piercing glare, “I know you won’t turn me down.”

That night, Peter collapsed onto his bed in exhaustion, even though his day hadn’t been particularly strenuous at all. His mind was whirling; he was ecstatic, but also strangely frightened. Gloria had offered him one hundred thousand dollars. His brain could barely process it, One hundred thousand fucking dollars! But in return, he would have to murder a child. Peter had always felt sorry for Kevin, and he could even relate to him slightly. He himself was raised in an environment where his parents didn’t fully care about him. Many of his teenage years had been spent alone, in his room, with the sweet sounds of music blocking out the arguing of his mother and father. On top of that, Kevin was incredibly innocent. He was always trying to get the attention of his parents. He was always trying to make them love, even though it was a lost cause from the beginning.

Peter thought it over. He tossed and turned all night, unable to get any sleep as he weighed the pros and cons. He would probably feel guilty for a long time, and experiences like this one were supposedly damaging, but still… money. And anyway, Gloria had told him he could do it in any way he desired. Just as long as Kevin was gone, the deal was done. It could be quick, silent, and it could be painless. He mused over the best way to do it. Maybe a bullet to the head? Quick, yes, and just about as painless as he was going to get it. But silence was at stake, and he didn’t own a gun anyways. Strangulation? Absolutely not, it would take minutes on end to cease Kevin’s breath forever. He pondered a few moments longer. What about slashing the throat? It would definitely be quick. The boy’s heartbeat would drive the blood out of the body in a matter of seconds. What about silence? Yes, making a throat cutting silent was also doable. And finally, painless: How bad could a little cut hurt? All boys like Kevin had probably skinned their knee at some point or another. The only thing different about this was that the cut would be cleaner, thinner, and it would bleed a little more. It was perfect. However, something was still wrong. If Peter was going to carry through with this, he wanted to do it in a way that would save him of some guilt. He needed to do it in a way that Kevin wouldn’t know it was he, Peter, who had killed him. Peter sat up in bed. It was useless trying to sleep anyways. He reached for his nightstand and grabbed his pack of cigarettes. When three smokes had been expended, he had it: the perfect plan to murder Kevin Collins.

It took Peter a week to mentally prepare himself for what was to come, but eventually he knew the time was right. When the time came, he was driving towards the wilderness of Scotland County. Kevin was in the backseat, and he was more excited than ever. He had known little of Peter before this, but now looked up to him with a new sort of respect. It wasn’t every day a man was nice enough to take you camping, especially if your own parents wouldn’t.

“Hey sir!” Kevin piped up from the back, “Why are we doing this again?”

“Well, Kevin, your parents need a little time to themselves. They want me to take you on a little trip.”

“A trip to where?” Kevin asked, “Oh man! I know that we’re going camping, but where? What’re we doing?”

“We’re just going to camp by the Little Pee Dee River. We’re going to get to know each other. Live like real men for a while…” Peter felt a momentary tug of guilt, “Maybe even tell some ghost stories around the campfire.”

“I love ghost stories!” Kevin squealed, and Peter felt his gut wrench. He had loved ghost stories too as a kid. Just like how he had had uncaring parents. Did he wear glasses when he was a child? Peter thought about it for a second. Yes, he had, but he had long since switched to contacts. His hand came up and touched the side of his face, as if to pull off a pair of invisible spectacles.

Peter confided in himself for a short few seconds. How was he going to go through with this if he was already feeling guilty? He told himself to be cool and collected. Everything would go according to plan. Meanwhile, Kevin was pulling out his battered copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark from his knapsack.

“Whoa there,” Peter said, forcing a smile, “Let’s wait until dark before we start with that, alright?”

“Oh, okay. Sure,” Kevin replied. “Say, do you have any ghost stories?”

“Oh yeah,” Peter returned, “I certainly do.”

“Well, where’s your book?” Kevin asked, reaching for Peter’s backpack.

“Hey! Don’t touch that stuff, okay? And all the stories I know are memorized.”

Kevin withdrew his hand, and Peter let out a sigh of relief. After all, suspicion may have been aroused if Kevin had looked into his backpack and seen the latex gloves, rope, lighter fluid, and the knife. Then, Peter realized, he probably would’ve thought they were nothing more than camping supplies. He was over-thinking this by a long shot.

Peter and Kevin reached their destination soon after. They pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed their equipment, and headed off into the woods. It wasn’t long before they ran into the Little Pee Dee River. The waters were placid. To one who was looking at the body of water from a certain angle, it would appear they were seeing a large pond. It was the perfect place to dump a dead body.

It had been nearly thirty-six years since Peter had last gone camping, and Kevin was even more inexperienced. It took them an hour before their tent was pitched, and by the time they were unpacking their belongings, it was already beginning to grow dark.

“Can we tell ghost stories now?” Kevin asked eagerly.

“Well, the sun’s just beginning to go down. I think by the time we get a fire going it should be dark enough.”

“Yes!” Kevin hissed to himself, pumping his fist.

“Now the first step is to gather some kindling. Start collecting dry leaves, twigs, anything that’ll serve the basis to a good fire.”

While Peter didn’t know much about camping, he did know a thing or two about starting a fire. He had made sure of this by looking it up on the internet prior to the trip. After all, burning a knapsack full of one’s possessions takes a decent fire. Kevin was a hard worker, and in no time at all, the necessary kindling had been gathered. Taking his time, Peter arranged a few large stones in a circle, and then put the kindling in the middle. After that, he stacked some nearby sticks in a lean-to arrangement over the kindling while Kevin watched in awe. Finally, he struck a match and threw it into the mass of dry grass hidden by the sticks. In no time, a blaze was starting to flicker. The wind through the trees picked up slightly, and the fire let loose a roar as it spread, blossoming into a crackling inferno.

“Wow…” Kevin murmured, obviously impressed. Peter sat down in the dirt next to the flames. He looked at Kevin, saying, “Go on now. Get your book and read me a story.”

Kevin obeyed. He read scary story after scary story from his book until the night sky had grown black. Kevin was enthusiastic about it to say the least. Whenever he came to a scene that was particularly gory or frightening, his voice would deepen slightly, and would eventually morph into a forced whisper. There were plenty of gruesome campfire tales in his book. There were stories of rotting bodies being found, decapitated heads, corpses coming back to life, and even cannibalistic butchers. But Peter remained unruffled. He had a story that he knew would frighten Kevin to his core.

“Okay, stop,” Peter told Kevin when he was halfway through the narrative of a ghost with bloody fingers.

“What? Why? This is like, the last one!”

“Don’t worry about that. I have a good story, a true ghost story. And it takes place right here, by the Little Pee Dee River.”

“You swear it’s true?”

Peter smiled in spite of himself. “Yes, it’s true. When I was your age, my father told me this story, and I told this story to everyone in my Boy Scout troop. It scared all of them shitless…” He stopped, testing to see if Kevin would be affected by the profanity. He wasn’t. “… And so now, I think it’s only appropriate that I tell you.”

“Do it,” Kevin replied. His voice was light and breathy, like that of a young girl on her birthday who is about to receive a gift. He reached into the knapsack that was lying beside him and pulled out a bag of marshmallows. Grabbing a nearby stick, Kevin speared the marshmallow from the bottom up and stuck it over the flames.

“Alright, I’ll tell it if you can keep the interruptions to a minimum.”

Kevin nodded his agreement, and Peter began:

“This is the story of the Lord of Lies. That wasn’t his real name, of course, just a sort of nickname, like Bloody Mary, or something along those lines. Anyways, our main character in this story is a man named Joseph Thorn. If you want me to describe him, I guess he did have one defining characteristic: His eyes. Joseph had the strangest eyes you’d have ever seen. For whatever reason, his irises were bright red. Other than that he looked more or less normal. He lived up in a town not too far away from here back in the 1930’s. Every day after work, Joseph would hike down to this river with his fishing gear, and he would fish his heart out. Now, you have to understand Joseph was just an ordinary fisherman. There was nothing particularly odd about him. As a matter of fact, Joseph led a pretty good life. He was married to the most beautiful wife in town. Her name was Barbara Thorn. People said she had a laugh that could put mockingbirds to shame. But, while she was gorgeous, she was also unfaithful.

“When 1942 rolled around, America was in a state of chaos. It was decided that we were going to be entering World War II, and all men who were eligible were being drafted, including Joseph. Well, as the war raged on, Barbara became more and more lonely. There are some women who could wait lifetimes for their man to come back, but Mrs. Thorn was not one of them. In her free time, she began to visit her next door neighbor, who went by the name of Kenneth Carl. Mr. Carl hadn’t been drafted because he was an invalid, you see—

“What does that mean?” Kevin asked suddenly. “What’s an invalid? Sorry for interrupting.” His marshmallow had caught aflame, and Kevin blew on it frantically, trying to preserve some of the golden brown crispiness.

“An invalid is someone who is weak to the point where he can’t do everyday things, someone who has a severe illness or injury. This man, Kenneth, he was in a wheelchair. I can’t remember why, exactly. I think my father told me at some point or another, but if so I can’t recall. Barbara started out just assisting Kenneth. He usually had a helper around to make life easier for him, a hired man, but he had been drafted for the war. What started out as just service to someone in need soon turned to something else. Kenneth and Barbara had an affair.

“Well, when Joseph came home, he wasn’t all the same. The war had changed him a lot. He wasn’t the happy fisherman that the townspeople had come to know and love. He had grown distant. Things only got worse with the affair. In small towns, news travels fast. It wasn’t long before someone told Joseph his wife was cheating on him. Can you imagine coming home after fighting for your life, only to discover that your wife no longer loves you? It was tough shit for sure, and Joseph took it pretty hard. He stayed down by the Little Pee Dee all day long, fishing from dusk to dawn for days. Some people even say that he slept down there by the river. He was doing a little more than fishing while he was down there though: He was plotting his revenge.”

“What did he do?” Kevin questioned, his built curiosity overwhelming the need to stay silent.

“I’m getting to that. One day Joseph confronted his wife about the affair. She immediately burst into tears, as I’m sure you can imagine. While she was bent over sobbing into her hands, Joseph said to her, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right.’ Then he slipped his filet knife out from his belt, reached under her arms, and cut her throat.”

There was a moment of silence as Peter let that statement sink in.

“Then, Joseph went over to the neighbor’s house. The helper had been fired at that point. Barbara had taken his place, so he didn’t have any trouble getting in. He just cut the screen on the front door, reached inside, disabled the lock and went right on in. He found Kenneth asleep on his bed. He walked up beside him, and right away Kenneth woke up. As I’m sure you can imagine, he was pretty scared, and he instantly started calling for help, but Joseph hushed him up. He put his hand on Kenneth’s shoulder, looked him in the eye, and said, ‘Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you.’ Then, real quick, he drew out his knife and sliced open Kenneth’s throat too.

“Joseph waited until night before wrapping both the bodies up in a tarp. Then he took them down to the Little Pee Dee. He found the biggest stone he could before tying both bodies down to it firmly with a few feet of rope, and pushed them into the water. He gave the fish something to eat for the next couple days.”

Kevin threw a fearful glance at the nearby river.

“Well, it didn’t take very long for someone to find the corpses. Two little boys were playing by the river. They were having a contest to see who could find the most interesting thing on the river-bottom. You dive, reach the ground, grab something, and come back up. I used to play that game myself when I was young, actually. You could find all sorts of things: Coins, glasses, bracelets, necklaces. It was really a lot of fun. Back to the story, one of those two little boys resurfaced with a rotting human finger in his hand. He went home and showed it to his mother, and the police were notified, of course. Afterwards, the entire department went down to the river, with the boy in the lead. What they saw was pretty unexpected. Joseph was there, and he was waiting for them. It turned out that he had seen the two little boys make their discovery, and he knew the police would be after him soon. None of the police actually knew that he was the murderer though. That realization would come later. What they saw then and there was Joseph wading into the river, bit by bit. The police tried to stop him, tried to warn him that the waters were being searched, but he didn’t listen. He kept walking into the river until he was completely submerged. A full minute passed, and Joseph was nowhere to be seen. They waited another ten minutes until it was determined that Joseph had drowned himself.”

Peter stopped abruptly, and Kevin stared at him expectantly. “Well come on!” he protested. “That can’t be the end, can it?”

“No. It’s not the end. Joseph’s body was never actually found.”

Kevin looked at him, eyes wide, and mouth agape. “You said this really happened?”

“It absolutely did. Some people say that the river absorbed Joseph’s spirit, and that’s why no one found his body. Do you know why they call Joseph the Lord of Lies? Have you figured that out yet?”

Kevin shook his head.

“It’s because he always lies to his victims before he murders them. Think about his last words to Barbara and Kenneth. Legend has it that the Lord of Lies awakens every time he senses someone impure camping near the Little Pee Dee. You’ll fall asleep only to be awoken seconds later. You’ll feel a cold hand over your mouth, so that you can’t scream. You’ll hear Joseph’s whisper, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be okay,’ before your throat is sliced open and your body is dragged down into the river forever.”

Peter couldn’t tell for sure in the dim light of the fire, but it looked like Kevin’s face had gone deathly pale. Peter had told the story well. No hard task, considering he had been practicing in front of a mirror for the last few days.

Kevin voiced his concerns, saying, “Sir, I’m kind of scared.”

“Hey Kid, no need to worry, it’s only a story, I promise.”

“But you said it was real!” Kevin insisted.

“Well, it really happened, but there is no Lord of Lies. I can promise you that. Even if there was, why would it be interested in you? I mean, come on, what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

At this, Kevin seemed to relax slightly, and Peter faked one last smile. “It’s getting late. You should go to bed soon. I’ll be sleeping right outside if you need me.” Kevin nodded his assent and let out a yawn. He was obviously worn out.

“Goodnight Sir. See you in the morning,” he muttered tiredly, getting up and ambling into his tent. Peter sat by the fire for a second, motionless. Then he retrieved his backpack and unzipped it. He reached inside and pulled out the latex gloves. Wiggling one finger in at a time, he slipped them on. They stretched over his flesh, fitting like a second skin. He reached into his backpack once more and pulled out the other required materials. He placed the small paring knife on the ground next to his sleeping bag (it was the closest he could get to a filet knife), before pressing the start button on his stopwatch. Now he would wait.

After an hour had passed, he knew that the time had come. The most important time. Something occurred to him. He could stop this. He could go to sleep right now and pretend like this was just a regular old camping trip. Then he remembered the money. He was feeling slightly ill to his stomach, as if he was going to throw up. One hundred thousand dollars, he reminded himself. The four words became a chant in his head. One hundred thousand dollars, One hundred thousand dollars, One hundred thousand dollars. He repeated the words again and again as he approached Kevin’s tent, knife in hand. He was gripping the handle tightly, so tightly it hurt. But he continued his advance until he was there, kneeling by the entrance flap of the tent. It’ll be over soon, he thought, and then I can have my money.

Peter peeled back the opening to the shelter, casting firelight onto the sleeping face of Kevin Collins. He looked to be in the middle of a pleasant dream. His lips were curved slightly into an unconscious smile. His nostrils flared as he breathed in and out, as his chest rose and fell. Peter reached out a hand tentatively. He lifted Kevin’s neck, inch by inch, before scooting forwards, so that the back of Kevin’s head rested on his knee. Now Kevin wouldn’t be able to see him. It would seem likely to him that this was the attack of a stranger… or a murderous urban legend.

It was now or never. Before Peter could stop himself, he pushed his palm down hard over Kevin’s mouth. Kevin’s eyes shot open, and he let out a terrified scream that was lost in Peter’s grip.

“Don’t worry,” Peter growled in his deepest voice, “It’ll be alright.”

Then, with one quick movement of the paring knife, Peter carved a slit into Kevin’s throat. In his last living movements, Kevin thrashed desperately, but this only caused his already life threatening cut to widen. Blood sheeted out of Kevin’s second mouth in torrents, covering the floor of the tent in a brilliant vermillion red. He made one last incomprehensible attempt to shriek for help, but all that came out was a weak rasping cross between a moan and a whine.

Peter held him there for a good five minutes. He had a strange fear that as soon as he started to back away from Kevin’s supposedly dead body, it would jump back to life and start screeching its pain for the world to hear. After he was sure Kevin was totally deceased, he got up. Shakily, he returned to his backpack and pulled out a coil of rope, which he tossed over his shoulder. Then, Peter moved back to the tent, grabbed Kevin by the ankles, and dragged him outside. He wheezed as he exerted himself, but eventually the twosome reached the edge of the river. A rock that looked to be about half the size of Kevin’s corpse was lying a few feet away. Peter walked over to it, grabbed it as best he could, and hoisted with all his might. He managed, with some difficulty, to move it over to Kevin’s lifeless form. For the next few minutes, he fought with the rope, rock, and body. It wasn’t easy, but eventually Kevin was strapped down solidly to the stone. Once again, Peter prepared his muscles before pushing with all his gathered strength. Gradually, Kevin’s carcass skated across the mud and into the water, disappearing below the liquid glass of the river.

Peter wasn’t done yet. He retreated to the camp and began to accumulate all of Kevin’s possessions. His knapsack, sleeping bag, and his book of ghost stories were all seized and thrown into the fire. When that was finished, Peter disassembled the tent, folded it up, and pushed it into the camping bag, which was also fed to the heat.

It was over, and Kevin didn’t even know who had really killed him. Peter’s ploy had been a complete success. Of course, Peter was also disturbed by the experience. Kevin had reminded him so much of his own life as a young boy, that it was almost as if Peter had killed himself in a way. At that moment, Peter felt the urge to grab a cigarette from his back pocket and light up, as he always did when he felt stressed, but then he remembered that doing so would leave a remnant of his being here.

Suddenly, Peter felt drained. His eyes were ready to close. He realized that he needed sleep more than anything else at the current moment. After stripping the dirty, bloodstained latex gloves off his hands and slipping off his ruined pants, he slipped into his sleeping bag and curled up by the great fire. In no time at all, he had fallen into a deep sleep.

Peter’s slumber was so deep, as a matter of fact, that he didn’t even stir when the normally calm surface of the river began to ripple. Peter didn’t let out a single peep as a figure emerged from the dark depths of the dirty waters, red eyes flashing with vengeance. The fire which had sanctioned Peter was dying rapidly. The flames were shrinking lower and lower until there were no flames, only embers, which quickly went extinct. A veil of black descended over the night, and the cold crept in like a sickness. Heavy footfalls echoed off the trees until the Spirit of the River found what he was looking for.

A cold, wet, slimy hand clamped down over Peter’s mouth. He jerked awake, trying to yell out, but the hand pushed him down firmly, keeping him in place.

“Don’t worry,” the darkness whispered huskily, “It’ll be alright.”

Those were the last words Peter ever heard before he felt the rusty blade of the filet knife slide across his throat.

Credit: SnakeTongue


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