Farmer John

February 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Farmer John was dead and gone;
Hay-men watched his fields still:
Lumpy sacks that had for long
Drawn the crows in manner ill

Some had come to pull them down
But always failed in the task,
Bound to flee at hinted frown
Seen, they swore, in vacant mask

Passersby would scarce arrive –
Merely then to talk, no more:
“My, but crows do love those five – ”
“Strange, I thought them only four…”

Land forsook turned callous ear
To the murmur of the straw,
As the moon revolved the years
O’er the din of sated caw

Farmer John had died and gone,
Yet his hay-men still remained,
Soulless things to greet each dawn
Till such time as fate ordained:

Seasons turned their clothes to dust,
Naked truth at last reveal’d:
Gutted bodies, neatly stuffed
With straw had been resealed

‘Twas his family, time would show:
Wife and daughters, no mistake;
No one, though, would ever know
Who’d got John up on his stake.

Credit To – alapanamo

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The Invitation

February 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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They call him “The Hatter”. His face is only a rumor. His body is an urban legend. But, his intentions are always clear; once the invitation arrives, he will be waiting, likely with a knowing smile and lashing tongue.

Marcus was an unexceptional man. He worked eight hours a day in some indistinct office, punching numbers, balancing accounts, and taking phone calls. He kept to himself, preferring to spend his evenings alone, sinking into a good book rather than the revelries of bars and nightclubs. Though he had his eyes set on Janet from accounting, Marcus seldom spoke with her, and their relationship was best described as accidental.

Ever a creature of habit, Marcus was a predictable man, always living under an invisibly ticking clock. He would wake up every morning at 6:30 AM, never sleeping a minute under or over. He would shave, shower, and cook a simple breakfast of faintly buttered rye toast and coffee. Two slices on his plate, two sugars in his coffee, and Marcus was ready to go. He drove to work, clocked in, and stayed in the same place for eight hours, leaving only to eat lunch or use the bathroom. Sometimes his coworkers would drop in for a casual conversation, but this happened with increasing rarity. He’d drive home, change into his pajamas, and cook a simple meal of meat, potatoes, and some greenery if he felt adventurous. For him, excitement and color came through carrots and peas. Then, at exactly 11:00 PM, Marcus went to sleep, never to rise until the next morning. Marcus was boring, and he liked it that way. The Hatter had other plans.

After a grey day at work, Marcus was ready for new reading material. Perhaps his issue of Reader’s Digest had arrived, or perhaps his family had sent him an early Christmas card. He needed some entertainment, and with a brisk walk approached his mailbox. Sure enough, a pile of letters waited for him, and like a vulture with an affinity for milk toast, Marcus scooped these up, taking great care to conceal his treasures from the pouring rain. Dripping and dashing, he gingerly slammed the door shut, unceremoniously tossing his coat over a nearby chair.

Sadly, it seems Marcus would be met with disappointment this evening. Instead of his favorite magazine or warm greetings, he found bills, advertisements, and one pamphlet about his local Congressman several months too early. In the hopes that he had missed something, he flipped through the stack again and again, only to be met in vain. Then, he heard the faint swish of a letter landing on the floor.

The Hatter was terribly fond of grand gestures, and the invitations to his party are always carefully hidden. Whether hidden with care or in plain sight, he made sure his potential guests always found their letter in time, and Marcus was no exception. He’d been watching Marcus, and he eagerly awaited his response.

The letter was small, no larger than a Christmas card. It was addressed to Marcus in clear, elaborate cursive, and the return address was his own house. This is The Hatter’s way, for both the destination and the starting point come together in his plans. Perhaps placing the letter back in the mail can drive off his eye. Perhaps it is another of the Hatter’s games, silently mocking his prey that there is no escape. Either way, Marcus opened the letter. It offered no resistance; it longed to be opened.

Inside, he found a simple card, embroidered with shades of red and gold lettering. He saw the shine of golden script on both sides, and casually turned the invitation over. The reverse side held a date and a time; April 14th, 2:31 PM. Curiously, he glanced at the other side. And there it was, in bold print.

You should sit.

This phrase is The Hatter’s invitation. It is a simple command, no more threatening than asking to continue breathing. But to follow the instruction is to answer the Hatter’s call, and many fall into this gentle trap. Marcus knew no better, and sat down, pondering the strange letter. A single footstep echoed behind him. Perhaps a cup of tea would calm him down. Was he nervous? No, strangely not. He had forgotten his movement to the kitchen, a momentary amnesia as he brewed a steaming pot of Earl Grey.

As the moist aroma wafted through the room, he felt an intense relaxation. He could hear a faint bubbling amidst the silence of his home, and with each pop an excitement began to overtake him. Perhaps I have been too hasty, he thought to himself. I hardly give my coworkers the time of day.

The gentle flow of hot tea pouring into his mug brought feelings of joyous guilt, and unfamiliar thoughts flew into Marcus’ head. I should reach out to them. After all, what harm is a new friend? A silent sip, and a beaming grin crossed his face. In some dark place, The Hatter returned the gesture.

The next day, Marcus rose at 6:00 AM. He sprung out of bed with an unknown energy. Surely, he had been rejuvenated, and his blood felt hot and bubbly. Such an exceptional blend of Earl Grey, he thought to himself. This morning it was eggs and bacon. He didn’t remember buying those, but who was he to argue?

At the office, his coworkers found a completely alien Marcus. He went out of his way to ask people how they were doing, hold doors, and tell jokes. Even his boss went along with it, and Marcus became the life of the party. His charm was contagious, and over the course of a month, the stagehand had gone center stage. He knew their names now; Janet, her sister, Clara, Andrew, Gary, and his boss, Everett. Every day, he had another cup of tea, often brewing pots for his coworkers during lulls in paperwork. They had grown to love Marcus, and The Hatter enjoyed the show.

He would go out with them, though he cared little for clubs. Instead, he would take his new friends to comedy clubs, or invite them to the local theatre. He showed them culture, and for reasons unknown, they loved it. All the while, the burning feeling flowed through his veins.

One day, Marcus realized something dire; despite his new friends, he had never invited them to his home. Even Janet had never seen his home, and no one seemed to notice but him. He knew he had to rectify this. During their lunch break, he proposed a classy gathering of olden times; a tea party. His infectious charm did the work for him, and his friends all agreed to such a lovely gesture. And so, on April 14th at 2:31 PM, five guests stepped through his door, and six pairs of footsteps echoed through his home.
With grand gestures and an elaborate table set, Marcus greeted them, the smile on his face as broad as always. Ever the gentlemen, he offered Janet a seat before all else, and she beamed at how lucky she was. Then, clasping his hands together, he addressed his friends.

“You should sit.” As they obeyed, they were gone. No longer were they Marcus, nor Janet, nor any of their friends. There was only The Hatter, and he had waited long for this entertainment.

Suddenly, Marcus’ grin widened to sickening proportions, and the guests followed suit. Janet’s sister had come along, and as the guests sat at the dinner table, she placed herself on the dinner table, lying back and sighing. They looked on hungrily, and The Hatter deemed that they should say their prayers before their meal. Then, their forks and knives dug into her, severing raw flesh and spurting blood.

Their gory meal continued, and it devolved into frenzy, with guests forsaking their utensils and biting at her. They shredded her like wild animals, bits of flesh and blood caking to their fine dress and teeth. As she was devoured, they all smiled, including the eviscerated remnants of her sister, an unnatural force keeping her alive until The Hatter deemed she had suffered enough, her mind trapped helpless and silently screaming within her own body.

You may die now. As she had her moment to scream, Marcus bit down on her throat, her shriek devolved into a gurgle. Janet scooped up a severed finger, placing it in her mouth. With inhuman strength, she chewed and swallowed, stifling a giggle. Clara’s face inhumanely twisted back into a grin, cracking bone and holding far too wide. She was The Hatter’s now.

Yet The Hatter’s party was far from over, and the guests were ready for his party games. While Marcus escorted their boss into the kitchen, Janet pounced on Gary, her hands on his throat. She viciously slammed his skull on the floor, holding him down, though they all knew it was too late already. His face draining, Janet slowly eased a fork in each of his eyes, gore and white slime oozing and pouring down his cheeks. All the while, Andrew observed, clapping his hands excitedly.

Marcus offered his boss a cup of tea, still stuffed and dripping with the blood of Janet’s sister. Against his will, he smiled.

“That would be ever so lovely!” His consciousness clawed and scraped inside his skull. Please God, let me go. Let me out! HELP ME! His screams echoed inside, but not a sound could escape, a prisoner in his own mind. Perhaps Marcus could hear his plight; perhaps not. Either way, he set the kettle on the oven, and switched the burner on. As blue flames lapped the No, NO, PLEASE DON’T DO THIS teapot, Marcus reached for his meat cleaver. As man who regularly dined on meaJUST LET ME GO PLEASEt and potatoes nightly, his tools for carving flesh were remarkably advanced. Unfortunately for Everett, their usage today would not be for beef or chicken.

As the kettle came to a boil, Marcus smiled. He raised the pot above his head, and Andrew’s cheering and applause could be heard in the other room.

“Your tea’s ready!” exclaimed Marcus as he poured the boiling water over Everett’s head, searing and peeling away flesh and hair. Amused, The Hatter released him, and his screams came free just in time for Marcus’ cleaver to strike his chest. The Hatter forced his blow to strike true and strong, and Everett’s heart beat for the last time. But time was wasting, and Marcus got returned to his task of severing his former boss’ limbs.

Upstairs, Andrew and Janet had made their way to Marcus’ bathroom, all the while dragging Gary’s body. Andrew’s fate, deemed The Hatter, would be the most merciful. Andrew began to fill the tub, water sloshing and splashing. He’d decided that icy cold would be best, and PLEASE DON’T THEY DIDN’T DO ANYTHING more hot water was far from original. All the while, Janet gnawed at Gary’s neck, her dark appetite not yet sated from her sister. From below, Marcus shouted up.

“Janet? Are you almost done up there?”

She cupped her hands, glancing out into the hall. “Yes, I shouldn’t be more than a minute!” Her internal screams had broken down into uncontrollable sobbing, and she begged for someone to save her. Only The Hatter heard.

With the tub full of frigid water, Andrew smiled externally. He knew his fate, and LOOK AWAY FOR GOD SAKES LOOK AWAY their terrible host was not yet satisfied. Andrew plunged his head beneath the icy water, and The Hatter released him just in time for Janet’s hands to force him further in, pressing his face against the bathtub’s surface. Arctic waters rushed into his lungs, and each painful gasp only brought more flowing in. Violent bubbles danced to the water’s surface, and Janet’s lips ran red with ruby droplets. Andrew’s screams were little more than a humming whisper, and he heard DON’T DO IT PLEASE the same whispering command that had damned Clara. You may die now.

His crumpled body draped into the tub, Janet left the two bodies behind, making her way downstairs. Marcus was waiting, holding the same tea pot he’d seared Everett’s flesh with only minutes before. She smiled, giving a curtsy.

“Oh, Marcus, this was such a lovely party.”

He just kept beaming, raising the pot high before striking Janet’s head with it. She fell to the ground, and Marcus loomed over her. He hit her again and again until the pot could take no more, cast iron FOR GOD SAKES SOMEONE HELP crumpling from the repeated impacts. A terrible strength poured through Marcus. Leaning down, he kissed what remained of Janet’s head gently. And then, The Hatter released him.

Regaining control of his body, Marcus gripped Janet’s hands, holding them one last time. He collapsed into quiet sobs, praying to no one in particular for this to just be some awful dream. He wanted to wake up at 6:30 AM, sit eight hours in his cubicle, and know none of them. He just wanted them to be safe again. Then, Marcus felt a hand slowly rest on his shoulder, and The Hatter’s invitation came again. Like the original letter, it could come from anywhere, and it will always find a way to reach the intended recipient, such as this story. You should sit.

Credit To – M.L. Zane

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A Funny Thing Happened

February 3, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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There was no doubt – my mouth had moved a centimeter to the left overnight. I check between reflection and picture before accepting the impossible.

“Hitler, you gotta see this,” I call to my roommate, nicknamed for being the image of Arian perfection – blonde hair, blue eyes (the works). I find him in his favorite pass-out hiding place – behind the couch under a layer of PBR cans.

“Listen, something funny is happening. I think I’m turning into one of those weirdies from the X-files!” I give him a shake.

He doesn’t show any response at all, not even his trademark, ‘Fuck off’. Looks like you reached for the moon and landed on your face last night. I’d hate to be you in a few hours.

Content my transformation would remain after Hitler wakes up, I head to the kitchen for a breakfast of B12 vitamins before returning to the couch. I find a fresh nitrous cartridge from the box on the coffee table (‘Whippit good!’ as sage Hitler would say), load it into a brass cracker and give it a healthy twist. The aluminum seal punctures with a satisfying pop. Finally, I snap a balloon on the end and gently unscrew the device, filling the latex sphere with precious laughing gas.

Waiting for the air to warm up, I bounce the balloon against Hitler’s sleeping face, “Remind me, I take two vitamins for every lung-full, right? I don’t wanna get limp-dick. I like having feeling in my extremities.” He gives a huge yawn and rolls over on his side. “Two it is then.”

I always get laughy before partaking in any narcotic, and this time’s no different. I can hardly control my excitement as I pick the huge balloon off and take in a breath of the sweet-sweet drug. My vision blurs and all thought takes on a slanted quality. Our dog Trigger trots in from the hallway which is about the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. I laugh and (can it be?) Trigger laughs with me, licking chunks of hair out of my face.

For a brief, awkward moment, I consider French kissing the Golden Retriever when I’m hit with a wave of dizziness. The room spins before me and I have the nauseating feeling that I’m somehow looking at both the ceiling and floor at the same time. Trigger sits down and tilts his head, wondering what the silly human is doing. I look past him and spot the cause of my discomfort in the reflection of our old TV.

My face has changed again. I raise a hand, too scared to confirm what I’m seeing, but having to know. I touch my right eye which had slipped down (socket and all) to rest beneath my chin. The pain that registers when I nudge its wet surface is proof of the awful reality. My ears too, have gone for a trip around my skull and now reside one on the back of my head, the other on my neck. Though perhaps most terrifying of all is a new eye which has opened on my cheek. This one a different color, unlike mine in every way. And looking; watching me, unblinking.

“Holy fuck, shit!” I look back at Trigger, but he’s left the room, unimpressed by his master’s situation.

“Hitler! Hitler, wake up!” I really go at him this time, alternating between kicking and slapping. But he’s dead to the world.

A doctor! I can call a doctor. There’s gotta be someone else who’s had this (disease?) problem and been fixed. Even in a shit small- town like this one.

I reach for the phone in my pocket and realize it’s not there. NO, NO! Why do I always lose everything? I consider looking for it, but catch another glimpse of my destroyed face in the hallway mirror (I’ve never been ‘attractive’ and now my face is a fucking rubix cube) and decide to just drive the five minutes to the clinic. Time is of the essence, as they say. I pull on my hoodie and set out into the late afternoon air of Linderville.

I’ve only just left the porch when I hear my best friend Chris talking a few doors over, and I pull the hood further down my face. I love the guy to death, but he’s never been one for recreational drug use (did nitrous do this?) and I didn’t have time for a lecture.

“Ya, I’m telling you,” says Chris to a pretty girl in a short dress, “This deer was bigger than a horse. Jumped out like he wanted to die.”

I glance at his pickup. Sure enough, the front’s been totaled and smeared with blood. That’s not gonna be cheap. Sucks to be you, buddy.

I glance inside my garage and stop. Sucks to be me. The car’s not there. I think for a moment, the sun beating down and soaking into the dark fabric I’m wearing, when I’m caught off guard by the mental image of headlights cutting through trees. I feel the blood drain from my face and then, faint as a whisper, I recall my brother saying he’d borrow it.

No choice then – I foot it, carefully avoiding the eyes of the few pedestrians I pass until I make it to Dr. Genn’s family practice. He’d taken care of me since I’d been smoking cans with a bb gun instead of joints and was one of my favorite people. Even if he couldn’t fix me, he’d console me until someone else could.

There’s the familiar chime of bells above me as I push through the door. Dr. Genn is sitting behind the counter invested in a crossword puzzle, his KFC Colonel beard twisting between his fingers.

He hears my approach and looks up smiling, “Well ‘an how can I be of assista-”, he stops when he meets my eyes (well, eye), and then casts his gaze around the room as if he’d forgotten where he was.

Conflicting emotions dance across his face, alternating between fear and revulsion, the desire to help and the urge to run. I give my best smile, despite the flutter of unease in my stomach.

“Get out.” He says with such finality that it catches me off guard. This wasn’t what I’d expected from the man who’d given me suckers for booster shots.

“Dr. Genn-,” I start, but then he stands up and shouts.

“Get out! Get out of here, whatever you are, and don’t come back!” His eyes bug out and his lemon tea falls to the ground in a twinkle of glass and ice.

Never had I been rejected so out right by someone I cared and respected. It hurts in a way I hadn’t experienced since childhood. A loss of control, I suppose (or a challenge to what you thought you knew as fact). I back out the door, bells jingling overhead and run to the only person I knew who would never reject me, never run in fear.

Day has moved on towards dusk when I finally arrive at the gates of Cedar Hill Cemetary. It must be a holiday because I’m not the only who’s chosen today for a visit. A large procession of people mill about the stones, leaving flowers and tears on the graves of their relatives.

I look up at the overcast sky. Perfect weather for a depression-session. My dad’s headstone stands near the middle of the manicured lawn. I could find it eyes closed, I’d been here enough times – which is good because my face starts rearranging itself again, making me lose my balance but not my motivation.

When I see the familiar mini pine tree, I quicken my stride. I’m practically running before I fall to my knees at the foot of His name, carved for eternity (until acid rain do ye part).

“Dad…” It’s not much, but enough to express all the warring emotions inside me. “I need you, Dad. What should I do?”

As if on cue, the voice of my brother Donny drifts from behind me, “This is a shitty situation we’re in, huh, Eddie?” I twist around, surprised, but he’s not there. A woman glances up at me, meeting my gaze before returning to her mourning.

“Donny, where are you?”

“Ha, well,” he replies, “I’ve been here. Inside you.”

For a moment I’m certain my heart has frozen solid. I slip my hands beneath the hood, to the back of my head, and sure enough, a new mouth has formed beneath my mat of hair. It bursts into life and I let out a yelp.

“Nothing?” he says, “I set up the perfect, ‘that’s what she said’, for you.” He starts laughing, and Jesus-Christ-I-Can-Feel-His-Mouth-Moving. I feel like I’m going to vomit.

“Donny?” I manage, “Donny, what’s going on? Am I having a bad nitrous trip?”

There’s no response except for the twitter of blue jays in the surrounding oaks. A light rain begins to fall, and one by one the visitors pop up their umbrellas in reply.

“Eddie,” he whispers, “You know you’re dead, right?”

The pitter-patter of rain swells and I’m once again surprised at the number of people in the park that day. The sweet smell of rotting leaves reaches my nose and I hold it in, tasting it. Yes, I guess I had known. Some things are just harder to face than others.

“That man – three headstones over,” I say, “That’s Richard Grady, isn’t it? He’s dead too.”

I feel the extra eye (his eye) swivel on my cheek towards the direction I’m pointing.

“That’s him,” Donny replies, “Used to piss him off so much in chem. class. Remember when we set his desk on fire?”

I did – when he mentioned it.

“He died four years after his wife,” he continues, “There was a rumor that he’d spend more time here than at home to be with her. Looks like old habits die hard.”

I watch the old man kneel over the grave of his equally-deceased wife. There’s an odd flicker emanating from his face that obscures his eyes, though I’m sure they’re filled with grief. Something about the dead mourning the dead gives me the creeps; I shudder and put a hand on Dad’s headstone to steady myself.

“It’s not so strange really,” my brother says, “You were doing the same, just now.”

I tremble again, disturbed by the fact that he’d just read my mind.

“How did it happen? Us dying, I mean.” I realize I’d forgotten a pivotal moment in my life/death.

“Close your eyes.”

I do, and find myself walking through a forest with Donny at my side. We are hiking to the perfect camping spot in the nearby mountains of Perth. Something reflective catches my eye and I call him back to help me. It’s a mason jar, buried so that only the lid pokes out above the compact dirt. A childish curiosity overcomes us and we start digging it out with the back of a hammer. After all – anything could be inside it.

Both of us take turns going at when I hear the low rumble of what sounds like a cougar or black bear. I look up in time to see the grill of the truck that crushes both of our heads against the tree behind us. I’m thrown from my body as if from the impact of the crash. From my new vantage point, I watch as the truck pulls back, the hood and bumper crumpled like paper, allowing the mess that is our bodies to slide to the ground.

The driver gets out, assessing first the damage to his car, before turning to our lifeless bodies. One glance at our faces, crushed to the point of unrecognition, confirms our deaths to him and he gives an approving nod. Lighting a cigarette, he kneels forward into the beam of headlights and for the first time I see his face. It’s Chris. My old buddy Chris who’d ‘had the run in with a suicidal deer’. He loads our bodies into the back of his trunk, washes down the tree with bleach and leaves.

“Good friends are hard to come by, huh?” Donny says this from within and without my head.

I open my eyes and we’re back in the cemetery. Night has swallowed day. Still, the mourners wander about on the lawn; pausing to cry, sometimes giving in to hysterics before continuing their march.

“Why did he do it?” I ask.

“Why do any of us do anything?” he replies. “Personal gain. Even when we help others, we do it for the good feelings and butterflies we get, as much as we don’t like to admit it.”

“Doesn’t seem like he helped either of us much.”

“No,” he agrees, “This time was purely selfish. He did it for Lily. I hadn’t had the heart to tell you, but they’ve been sleeping together for a while now. You don’t blame me right, man? I mean, he was your best friend. It’s hard to breach that kind of subject. Besides, I told you she was a bitch.”

To be honest, I don’t remember a girl named Lily, let alone a humiliating relationship with her. Donny again picks up on this thought.

“I guess even love isn’t safe from death. She was with him today, when he was hamming up the story about the deer – she could hardly keep a straight face.”

A fragment of memory floats down to me and I grasp at it hungrily: a date we’d had that ended with us sneaking onto the top of the old Alladin movie theater. The first place we’d made love; though certainly not the last.

She cheated on me. I can feel my face burn hot with shame. Another abandonment. This time ending in the death of not only me but my brother as well.

But it didn’t have to be over yet.

I stand up with a purpose, avoiding the eternally grieving spirits as I make my exit. And when I reach the gate, I run.

“Why run?” He says, “We’re dead. Wherever we want to be, that’s where we are.”

We’re standing inside Chris’ house now, just outside his room. The door is shut, but I can hear him talking. Talking to the girlfriend he’d stolen. The seed of rage sprouts into a clawing thrush of vines.

“This is it, brother,” his voice echoes more inside my head than out, “You can make them pay. They killed us. They killed me, Eddie,” his voice cracks for a moment and I’m fed the memory of late night gaming sessions together, fighting over the last beer and secrets told in confidence. “You can’t let him get away with it, big brother. You couldn’t protect me, but you can make things even. Make things fair.”

I think over what should be an easy decision, but it’s not. Chris did the unspeakable, but did that mean I should return the favor? We’d been best friends since we were kids. Even if he’d forgotten that bond, it didn’t mean I had to too.

Suddenly the room begins flickering in and out of focus like a strobe light. I’m reminded of Richard Grady and the same flashing light I’d seen slipping from his eyes. I know then without explanation that this is a crossroads. This is where I can forgive and surrender to the universe or unleash it on Chris.

The image of Dad smiling and shaking his head blossoms in my mind; and with it, the flicker continues to grow. Love takes a long time to grow.

Donny pipes up again, “Let’s see how long her neck can stretch.”

* * *

Chris sits at the edge of his bed, still reeling from the phone call he’d received. Lily had slept through the whole thing, and though he considers waking her up with the news, decides against it. There’d be plenty of time for grief. Eddie’s pickup had been found at the bottom of a cliff with his body crushed inside. The officer who’d told him this had explained he’d likely fallen asleep at the wheel, which wasn’t uncommon at all. They suspected he’d been out for a night of camping judging by all the gear scattered around the impact site.

My best friend, Chris marvels, gone. God, I wonder how his mom’s doing. First her husband, and now her only child. He stands and heads for the door, thirsty for a drink. The stickiness is the first thing he notices; it oozes up between his toes, causing the carpet to cling to his bare feet. He glances down to find a thickening pool of blood seeping from beneath the door which swings open with awful finality.

He has enough time to whisper, ‘Eddie?’, before the air around him reverberates into a deep hum like a subwoofer, accented by the agonizing (elongating) screams of his wife behind him.

Credit To – ARScroggins

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What’s The Matter, Jenny?

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dripping ice cubes touched the nape of my neck.

The door surrendered.

*

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

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

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

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

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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This is My Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi, Sabrina?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Helena?” I said, my voice unwavering.

“Yes?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sender was Sharon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Sabrina

Credit To – Sabrina S.

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Just Your Typical Saturday Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit To – Tariq R.

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