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The Guide

March 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I never knew you existed before, but now you’re all I can think about.

From the moment I saw you, something within me said “That’s it! That’s the one!” I was nervous because I have never been a guide before, but I know I am ready for this moment. The last thing I remember before dying was reading a small card, then looking up and seeing terrible red eyes peering into mine. Since this is my first time, I decided to do what my guide did for me.

You finally step outside your car and walk inside, stumbling a little on the icy sidewalk and peering tentatively at the icicles above. If I was able, I would laugh at the memory of my mother… or perhaps it was my grandmother… so long ago warning me of the deadly danger that icicles pose, but now I know better; that isn’t how death works at all. You slam the door behind you, but I glide through confidently, for I know I am still invisible to your eyes.

You turn toward the bathroom, and I blush and choose not to follow. Instead, I explore your house and ponder on what sort of person you must be. I wonder if you will take this gracefully or filled with terror; I wonder if you are ready. I self consciously pull at my long black robe and glance again at the card I hurriedly wrote, making sure my writing is legible. As you exit the bathroom and head to the kitchen, I take my opportunity and lay the card gently on your table, where I know you must sooner or later notice it. Take your time, though, we are in no rush.

You hum “Bohemian Rhapsody” to yourself as you pull a frozen dinner from the freezer and pop it in the microwave. I consider starting a fire to make my first guiding experience more grand, but I think you would prefer it my way. I could almost feel an echo of my long-stilled heart as you turn around and fixate on my note. Peering around anxiously, you bend down to pick it up and read it. I get into place, because I know as soon as you read my name, you will be able to see me, and I must make myself terrifyingly presentable.

This is so exciting!

My name is Death.
I am not the only Death, but one of many. See, most people think of death as falling asleep and waking up on another side, but that’s not right at all. Death is like being pulled by your ankle deep into the depths of the oceans- sudden, inexplicable, and suffocating. I am here to drag you there, for none can achieve death on their own.

You shudder in confusion, and look up to see me. A guttural and unearthly scream escapes your lips (really, am I that terrible?) as I reach out for your hand and pull you through your dimension into mine. As the mortals see it… to your death.

Credit: Amanda Lloyd

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The Beetle Man

March 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Some background information:

This happened way back in 1983, the year after I graduated high school. I’d hitchhiked south to Florida with the goal of becoming a beach bum-ette until I got tired of it. Anyway, I had shacked up with several guys until I ended up with BJ. BJ was in his thirties, was drunk all the time, and was a huge asshole. He would constantly try to start fights with people and it followed the exact same progression each time:

1) He’d piss off someone by generally being a drunk asshole.
2) If the person stood up to him, he’d bait them by calling them some variation of “ motherfucker”. Fat motherfucker, skinny motherfucker, ugly motherfucker, *insert racist slur here* motherfucker, etc.
3) He’d tell them they didn’t want to get hurt and/or they didn’t know who they were messing with.
4) He’d call their penis a “little wee-wee.”

He did this literally every day I was with him, sometimes more than once. No one ever rose to his bait, though. They all just walked away from him without a word, except some of them would call him out for being a drunk. I guess he thought he was intimidating even though he was only about five-foot-seven and didn’t have big muscles or look tough in any way. He just looked like a guy who was drunk all the time. He also hadn’t been in the military or anything that I knew of to get training or experience, so I never knew why he thought he could win any of the fights he tried to start.

You might be asking why I had ever hooked up with this guy. Well, looking back, I don’t know. He was nice at first until he “had” me, then he showed his true colors. I could have left then, so why didn’t I? All I can figure is that he let me stay at his house and gave me alcohol, so that was good enough. I guess I was too naive at the time to realize how bad of a situation I was in. And maybe, well, maybe I was arrogant. Maybe I needed to prove to myself that a man like that couldn’t get the better of me. Maybe I was just a stupid teenager.

Now that you know the particulars of my situation, this is the story:

After a while, I decided I was tired of Florida and it was time to go home. BJ wanted to drive me. I told him no because I didn’t want him to know where I was from. All that he knew was that I was from Knoxville, Tennessee and I thought even that was too much. I was going to take a bus, and had managed to scrape up and hide just enough money for a ticket. BJ didn’t like that but what could he do? Well, turns out he knew where I was hiding the money and had stolen it. He pulled it out of his wallet and waved it in my face, laughing. He left to go buy booze with my money and I just laid on the couch, crying. He got back late in the evening with several cases of beer and some bottles of Jack for the “road trip”.

Feeling like I didn’t have a choice now, I let BJ drive us in his old Nova. It actually did have cool paint with one of those flame-jobs people used to do all the time. He talked about the thing like it was some awesome muscle car but it wasn’t. I’m not even sure it was a V8, I remember it didn’t sound like one. I know for sure the power steering didn’t work because he told me it ran out of fluid and he was so drunk when he tried to fix it, he filled the reservoir with beer and ruined the whole steering system. BJ thought that was hilarious.

Anyway, we left a little before dark and he drank non-stop from the moment we left his house. He’d finish a beer, toss the bottle out the window, and tell me to grab him another one from one of the cases in the back. Sparingly at first, then before long in-between every beer, he gulped from one of the whiskey bottles. It was pretty heavy drinking, even for him. After a couple of hours, he was so drunk his eyeballs weren’t even both pointing in the same direction. Keep in mind the bastard was driving, and fast! I begged him to pull over or he was going to kill us. He told me no, the only way he’d stop was if I agreed to go back to his house, otherwise he was going non-stop to my parents’ front door. He couldn’t wait to meet my parents and show them just what kind of man their little girl was with.

It was too much for me. I couldn’t believe I’d ever taken up with this man and gotten myself in this situation. It was late, I was tired, I was scared and crying, and I generally felt like a little girl who was lost and needed her Mommy and Daddy. It was too much for me and I fell asleep, I guess because I couldn’t cope with it any other way.

I woke up when he wrecked. I remember getting that falling feeling like you sometimes get when you’re about to fall asleep, then there was a lot of noise and I hit my head hard. I don’t think I blacked out but I can’t really be sure. All I remember was that my vision was too blurry for me to even think about trying to do anything for a few seconds. Once my head cleared, I saw that I was face-down in a puddle of blood on the dash. The windshield in front of me was cracked all to hell from where my head hit it and it was a wonder I hadn’t been flung through it. My nose was bleeding.

I opened the door and kind of fell out. I saw two things: the Nova was nose-down in a deep ditch and we were in the middle of nowhere. I’m talking a long, straight road lined with trees on both sides as far as I could see in the dark. BJ was already out of the car, sitting on the side of the road. More like, he had fallen on his ass because he was too drunk to stand up straight.

I asked him where we were and he said he didn’t know, maybe somewhere in Alabama. If you don’t know, unless you start from the panhandle, there is no reason to get anywhere near Alabama to go from Florida to East Tennessee. He said he got confused and thought we were going to Memphis to see Graceland. It was his idea of a joke, I think.

We ended up just walking down the road, hoping to get picked up by someone. BJ made sure to retrieve a bottle of Jack from the car before we set off, of course. I was actually kind of relieved at him having wrecked. Now that I wasn’t being held prisoner in his car, I could probably split from him. Maybe we could stop at a motel or a gas station and I could get a ride from someone while BJ was in the bathroom, or paying for a room, or something. BJ was mostly quiet, trying to keep walking straight, occasionally taking sips from his precious bottle when he was in danger of getting a little sober.

After what seemed like a long time, so long that I was afraid we really were nowhere and nobody would ever come along, we heard a car, coming up behind us. I told BJ to hide his bottle while I tried to flag down the driver. It was a VW Beetle. The driver was a pudgy little man, older, with glasses. There was a necklace of Christ on the cross hung from the rearview mirror. The man with his Jesus necklace and little car looked about as harmless as a kitten. He let me in the back seat and BJ took the passenger seat. The Beetle man told us he would take us to an all-night gas station up the road where we could call for a wrecker. I thanked him so much. I planned, once BJ got out to call for the wrecker, that I would ask the friendly man to leave him behind and take me somewhere else.

That never happened, because after a few minutes, BJ decided it would be a good time to pick a fight.

“You’re a fat motherfucker, ain’t ya?”

My jaw just about dropped off. I could not believe he was doing that. We had been walking for at least an hour, and we hadn’t been in the car but five or ten minutes, and he was going to get us thrown right back out on the road.

“What?” the Beetle man asked.

BJ leaned over right into his face and shouted, “I said you’re a fat motherfucker!”

The Beetle man calmly pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the car.

“You’re a drunk,” he said. “I saw your car in the ditch. Figured you were a drunk.”

BJ didn’t respond, he just pulled the bottle of Jack out of his pants. He shook it in the man’s face and laughed before he took a big sip.

“I don’t like drunks,” the Beetle man said, suddenly not sounding so friendly.

“This is not the time to be messing with me, little man” BJ said.

“Stop it!” I said, smacking BJ upside the head.

“This fat motherfucker thinks he’s somebody,” BJ said. “He doesn’t know who he’s messing with. I’ll show him who’s somebody.”

“BJ, shut up!” I said, more forcefully. “I’m sorry, mister, there’s no excuse for this,” I said to the Beetle man. “BJ, get out. We’ll walk.”

“I’m not walking anywhere. This piece of shit can drive,” BJ said. A dumb, drunk grin was all over his face.

“Let me show you what I do with drunks,” the Beetle man said.

Right when he said that, I almost got sick to my stomach. There was going to be violence. It was unavoidable, now. I just put up my hands to signal I was out of it and leaned as far back in the seat as I could.

“Man, I don’t give a shit!” BJ shouted. “You don’t want to get hurt tonight, so you better shut up and drive.”

The man took the keys out of the ignition and got out. A Beetle has a pocket on the door panel for storing things and I saw him reach into it as he stood up. I thought he was putting the keys in it. He walked around to BJ’s side.

“Oh, it’s on!” BJ said, more excited than I’d ever seen him.

He fumbled the door open and stood up, still holding the bottle. I was hoping he was so drunk he wouldn’t be able to fight. I didn’t think BJ was very tough but the Beetle man was a little shorter, fatter, and older, so I was afraid he would get hurt. BJ would probably club him with the bottle.

Instead of fighting, the Beetle man pointed a gun right at BJ. That must have been what he reached into the door pocket for. I don’t know anything about guns, so all I can say was that it was a big revolver. It looked huge to me at that moment. BJ was startled but, unbelievably, kept trying to play it tough.

“Man, you better put that away before you shoot off your little wee-wee,” he said.

“Get on the ground!” the man shouted.

BJ just laughed and started to lift the bottle to his lips. The Beetle man fired off a shot. It was incredibly loud. BJ’s bottle exploded and he fell back against the car. I couldn’t really see his face but, from his body language, I could tell he was scared shitless.

“Get on the ground or I’ll kill you!” the Beetle man shouted.

BJ clumsily got to his knees and put his hands behind his head.

“You better be glad you’ve got that gun, or I’d –“ BJ started.

The man stepped forward and I thought that was it, he was going to put his gun to BJ’s head and blow his brains out. Instead, Beetle the man raised the gun high and slammed it against BJ’s temple, so hard BJ’s head bounced off the car body, then he fell. The Beetle man climbed on top of him and started bashing his head with the revolver, over and over. I didn’t really see much because I somehow got myself scrunched up into the tiny floor space between the front seats and the back seat. All I saw was the gun raising up and going back down, and I heard the impacts. I thought BJ must be dead but I heard him making noise. I think he was trying to say “please stop” or something. Then I heard two more gunshots, then an awful noise like halfway between someone choking and snoring.

The Beetle man came back around to the drive’s side, opened the door, flipped his seat forward, and dragged me out of the floor. You might think I was screaming my head off but I wasn’t. I only made little sounds, almost like dog whimpers. I read somewhere once that in life-or-death situations, some people just shut down. That’s what I was doing then, or maybe I was afraid if I made noise it would enrage the man further and he’d kill me. I don’t know. He shoved his gun barrel almost up my nose.

“If I didn’t have Jesus with me tonight, I’d have killed you both! God-damn drunks!”

He threw me to the ground, got in his car, and drove off. I looked up to watch him go. All I could focus on was that Jesus necklace on his mirror, swinging back and forth.

After a minute, it occurred to me that I should check on BJ. He was on his stomach, still breathing. There was a big hole in the dirt next to his head, which I guess was where the man had fired those two shots. I rolled him over and about screamed. His face wasn’t really a face anymore. If you looked hard enough, you could tell it used to be a face. Nothing looked like it was in the right place and his eyes were so swelled they looked like eggplants growing on his head.

I left him. That’s right, I just got up, started walking, and left him.

It took me a while but I finally got to that gas station the Beetle man had told us about. I hitched a ride with an old lady who was on her way to Chattanooga, luckily enough. She was a nice lady, said she used to get in “trouble” when she was young, too. Once we got to Chattanooga, she gave me a little money for food and told me to take care of myself. I called my parents from a bus station. They wired me some money for a ticket and, a few hours later, I was home.

So, that’s the scariest thing that ever happened to me. There was nothing paranormal, no ghosts or monsters, just a young girl getting caught between a stupid, drunk asshole and a half-crazed guy with a gun in the middle of nowhere.

I never found out if BJ lived or died and, frankly, I don’t care. As for the Beetle man, I’d almost have thanked him. But, he said he would have killed me and I didn’t do a thing to him. If you’re ever broken down or wrecked on a lonely road in Alabama, and a little man in an old Beetle stops to give you a ride, check his rearview mirror and make sure Jesus is with him before you get in.

Credit: 363511

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Old Man Werther

February 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I lived next door to Old Man Werther for the first seven years of my life, but I only ever saw him twice. No-one in the neighbourhood knew much about him or ever saw him leave his house, which stood dark and silent all year round. His back garden was always a mess, with dying flowers and brown scratchy shrubs growing out of control. But the grass and the bushes never became quite so badly overgrown that you knew it was entirely neglected. My dad used to joke that Mr. Werther must tend to his garden in the dead of night.

My best friend, N, lived next-door-but-one, with Old Man Werther in-between. N was mad about football, and all we ever seemed to do after school was boot the ball around one of our back yards, and of course, every five minutes the ball would be over the fence onto our reclusive neighbour’s property. We’d learnt that knocking on his door was no use, so whoever kicked it had to clamber over the fence and retrieve it themselves. I dreaded going and rooting through the tall bushes for the ball. Sometimes I thought I saw the curtains twitch in the gloom.

N was always bolder than I was, and he’d tease me as he knew I was afraid. Hanging over the fence watching, he’d shout that Old Man Werther was looking out of an upstairs window, then a downstairs window, then he was opening his back door. I wasn’t quite gullible enough to believe him but still I couldn’t breathe until I had chucked the ball back and flung myself to safety.

N wasn’t a bad kid, he was just cocky and a piss-taker. When it was his turn to fetch the football he’d pee in a bush, stomp on as many decaying flowers as he could and creep right up to those black windows to peek inside. He’d tell me he saw the curtains snap shut but I always thought he was just winding me up. A thin kitchen window was always open a crack, and he’d suggest we try to open it further and climb inside to see if the old man had secretly croaked years ago, as was widely assumed.

One afternoon after school I was aimlessly kicking the ball about, alone as N hadn’t called round even though he’d said he would. Inevitably, the ball soon went over; in horror, I watched it bounce against a knackered old oak tree and sail straight down to Old Man Werther’s house, much closer than I’d ever been before. My heart still, it took an eternity to creep along through the long yellowed grass, before finally lifting the ball and feeling like Indiana Jones when he held aloft that little golden statue. Emboldened, I was compelled to have a quick look through the nearest window.
Nothing. Just a pure black hole, with tattered brown curtains on either side. I was about to turn and stride away when I saw movement. A face appeared.

It was my friend N. He was only there for a second. His face was bright red; he looked me in the eyes through floods of tears. I couldn’t hear him through the dirty glass but it looked like he was screaming his little lungs out. Then an arm, so thin and pale that it looked like a bone, hooked N beneath his chin and he vanished. The curtains were thrust shut.

Three seconds later I was hammering at my back door to be let in. My mum thought I was messing about at first, then she suggested that I had imagined things; She knew I was scared of our strange neighbour. But she soon began to take me seriously, and phoned N’s mother, who was awfully surprised as N hadn’t returned from school, so she’d assumed he had gone straight round to my house. The police were called; several officers visited Old Man Werther while a nice young officer spoke to me for what seemed about four hours. But no trace of N was ever found, despite two further searches over the next few days.

The same young officer returned a week later and told me that Mr. Werther wasn’t a suspect, and that maybe my mind had been playing tricks. She pointed out that Mr. Werther was in his late eighties, and had never been in any kind of trouble before. But she seemed troubled, and unsure of her own words. Something came to light during the investigation that surprised the whole neighbourhood; Old Man Werther earnt his living as a rather brilliant children’s illustrator! The police had found literally thousands of small sketches all over his walls. He’d worked with the same prolific author for years, churning out four or five children’s novels a year.

I wasn’t a big reader but I knew I’d spotted one of their books in our school library, so I didn’t waste any time the next day, I couldn’t wait to have a look. I soon wished I hadn’t. It was a cheesy novel featuring a group of kids around my age who solved a burglary or something. There were fifteen or sixteen illustrations, breaking up the text. One picture was of three boys playing football in a suburban backyard. And they didn’t half resemble me, N and another lad we knew. Even the clothes were similar. Hands trembling, I flicked though the book. There I was again, along with more kids who all seemed to closely resemble ones who lived near me. One picture showed N creeping through an overgrown garden to peer through a dark window.

I shoved the book in my mum’s face and blabbered about the spooky similarities. But it was a drained and listless face. My mum had changed a great deal over that long week. N’s mum was a good friend, and N himself had that rambunctious cheekiness that all mums seem to love. The neighbourhood had changed forever, and we only stayed there for another few weeks before finding a new house across town. She assured me than any resemblance was a coincidence; that it was all in my little mind. I spent those last weeks in the old house terrified by the thought of Old Man Werther peering form his upstairs windows, from where he had a clear view of nine or ten local backyards, and maybe twenty local children. I didn’t like to play football there anymore.

I cycled back to the old street once or twice over the years, figuring that Old Man Werther must have died by then. I think I was seeking confirmation of some sort. But each time I returned, that one house stood out in the otherwise bright and lively road, with its dead plants and dank windows. He’d be over 100 now, but perhaps he’s still in there, I don’t know. The last time I ever went back, I saw the young family who had moved into our old house. Their five kids aged about three to ten were screaming with delight as they kicked a football around.

The second time I saw Old Man Werther was a few days before we moved away. I’d become a very troubled young man and my fitful sleep was filled with torments. Waking in a familiar panic at around midnight, I sat up in bed and peered out of the window over the backyard. Under the bright full moon I saw a figure next door.
He was just skin and bone but very tall, bald on top with long tangled silver hair down to his slender shoulders. He had terrible overbite, and several jagged teeth pointed down his lower jaw. His nose was crooked as if once broken. His white chest was bare, he wore only heavy ancient green overalls. The nails on his fingers and toes were a good two inches long. I couldn’t see his eyes behind gigantic goggles, like a World War two pilot might have worn, or a welder. Moonlight glinted in each lens, as big as a beer-mat. In his hands was a rusted watering can. But what sprinkled onto the plants didn’t look like water, it was thick and black, and it looked more like blood.

Credit: Hack Shuck

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Deer Yard

February 23, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Carol Simmons smiled shyly at herself in the mirror as she held up a simple blue dress to her body. She loved the fit and how the neckline dipped, but she felt that it washed out her pale face too much and made her look too much of a hick along with her blonde hair.

“Mom?” Carol called out, wanting to ask her advice on the dress.

She had a date that night that she was nervous for. She had never met the guy in real life and they had only talked online. She had learned so much about him in the last few weeks like how he had a border collie named Chett and how much he wanted to travel to Australia so that he might get to see his mom for the first time in five years.

Carol waited patiently for her mom to come, but resorted to picking up her dress and going to her herself. The old wood floors creaked under her feet as she headed to her mother’s office. The hall was lined with pictures of her family; pictures of Carol’s mom, dad, and of herself. She considered their family to be happier than most. Sure, they got into their fights, but they always figured out a way to work it out in the end.

She knocked on the door to the office and when she heard her mom say the okay to enter, she opened the door. The room was dimly lit with dark panels of wood lining the walls and floor. The walls were covered in the hunted heads of animals such as deer and hogs. Carol’s mom sat at her desk with only a lamp to allow her to see the bullets she was loading into her shotgun.

“Hey sweetheart,” she murmured, fully invested in what she was doing.

“Do you really think that thing is necessary?” Carol asked as she looked at the gun.

“Of course, honey. What if this guy tries to pull something funny? I know that you’ve been on plenty of other dates before, but it still makes me nervous, ya know?”

Carol sighed as she pulled up a chair and sat by her mom.

Carol had been told that she looked like a mirror image of her mother. They both had the hay colored hair and bright blue eyes that was so common in the south. Her mom was developing crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes and the skin on her hands became thinner, but instead of making her look old and worn out, Carol thought it made her mom look tough and wise.

“You know I’ll be okay. I’ve done this tons of other times and they’ve all went great.”

Her mom looked at her with sad eyes, like she wasn’t quite ready to give up her little girl.

“Alright, I trust ya. Now, what do you have there? Is that your dress? It looks real lovely. Isn’t that the one your cousin bought ya?”

“Yea, I think it washes me out though. Do you think I look alright in it?”
“I think you look beautiful.”
***

Darren Welles admired himself in the mirror as he straightened his tie. He wore a dark blue business shirt and black pants to match. He thought about Carol and just how beautiful she was in her profile picture as she was in real life. They had never met face to face before, but after studying some of her pictures online, he determined the area and the neighborhood she lived in. All that it took to find out which house she lived in was do the slack jaws of some of the neighbors and a charismatic smile.

He took one last look at himself before he began to clean up his room. He wanted the place to look nice even though the house looked ready to fall over and the neighborhood had three murders on it in the past year. His plan was to chat her up and pretend that he was interested in what she had to say. He would seduce her into his car and drive her back to his place. Then, he would give her a nice glass of wine traced with something to knock her out quick. He would proceed to tie her up in his basement and have some fun with her for a couple of days until he grew bored and beat her until her heart stopped. He always did like to give them a proper funeral by throwing them in a dump.

The memories slipped into his mind like a snake. He was hiding in a closet as he listened to the whimpers of his mother in the room. Her blouse had been torn at the sleeve and she had blood trickling down her face to match its color. Her brown hair had been turned into a nest of tangles and bald spots from where his dad had ripped it out. He watched as her head flicked from side to side as she took each punch from his father’s massive fists. His dad screamed, “I saw you looking at the young waiter. I saw that you had eyes for him, how you gave him that big tip. Don’t you pretend you don’t know what’s going on!” He remembered how her body had stopped struggling. How when her face turned toward her precious son hiding in the closet, her eyes were empty, but his dad kept hitting her until he grew tired and threw her body back onto the ground. He kicked her one last time for good measure before he left the room and came back with a garbage bag and stuffed her inside. Darren had never thought you could fit a person inside one of those until his father did it. His dad dragged him out of the closet by the collar of his shirt and made him come along. He watched as his dad threw Darren’s mother into a garbage truck and walked away like he had just taken out the weekly trash.

With veins popping from his forehead, Darren pulled at his hair and launched himself into a wall trying to fight the memory away. He just wanted it to go away. He always remembered the one thing his father had told him after he had killed his mother, “She was a whore Darren. A filthy skank. All women are. If they’re dead, they can’t go and sleep with other men.”

Darren smiled, knowing that this was going to be the last night that Carol Simmons was going to be seen alive.
***

Carol heard the doorbell ring and hurriedly slipped on her heels. She took one last look at herself in the mirror and, pleased with what she saw, marched to the door. She stood in front of the door, took a deep breath, and opened it to a handsome smiling young man. She gave him a nervous smile back, but she kept reminding herself that she had done this a million times before and this was no different than the others.

“I’m off, Mom! See you at eleven,” Carol said, waiting for a response.

“Bye, Hun. Be safe,” she replied.

“Should we go, then?” Carol suggested to Darren.

“Of course,” he said as she closed the door behind her and they headed off down the street.

Carol’s mom had told her not to get into his car since this was their first date and they had only met online, so she was glad when Darren agreed to a simple walk around the neighborhood so that they could get to know one another.

“You look absolutely stunning,” Darren complimented.

“Thanks, you too. You look handsome in blue,” she said back.

“This old thing? This was worn on my dad’s wedding day. He wanted me to wear it for tonight. He thought it would give me good luck,” he laughed to himself.

Carol laughed as well. Darren knew women always liked to think that men have tight bonds with their family because it makes them seem gentle, kind, and understanding. It was a tactic he had used with the others.

She thought about her mother and how she always liked to follow her and her dates in a car, but she had seen none go by. She hoped that maybe her mom had finally learned to trust her judgement and leave her alone for once.

“How’s Chett doing? I know that it’s been a couple of months since you got him. He must be really big now,” Carol said.

It took a moment for Darren to understand what she was talking about until he realized that he had mentioned how he had gotten a dog and named him Chett. He had actually bought a dog out of curiosity. A rough and tumble little border collie pup, but the damn thing kept pissing all over his carpet. When he went to kick it to teach it a lesson, it flew into a wall and never took another breath.

“Yea, he’s doing alright. Little guy’s already up to my knee. Never stops eating and grows like a weed.”

“That’s good,” Carol said as she searched for another subject to talk about. “Oh, how about Australia? Do you think you’ll be heading there soon to see your mom?”

Again, it took Darren a second to figure out what the hell she was talking about. It irritated him how much she was remembering from their conversations online.

“Yeah, I think I’ll be going there pretty soon. You know what? You should come with me. You’ve helped me so much over the past few months to gain the courage to go and find her. I think it would help me a lot to have someone as strong as you by my side,” he said, trying to make her think that he trusted her, but he could see her smile falter.

“Oh, I’m not sure. We just met and all, but maybe I’ll think about it. How about that?” she suggested, beginning to feel nervous that he would ask something like that so soon.

Darren knew that he had made her feel uncomfortable and that she might ask to go home soon. He had to act quickly.

Carol was nervous to see that no one was outside, but it had grown later and most people were probably asleep. She tried to reassure herself that everything would go to plan, but she found herself trying to see if her mom’s truck was somewhere nearby.

Darren was delighted that no one was out and that the neighborhood was small enough so that there were no cameras keeping an eye on the streets. He knew he had to get her soon or he would miss his chance. He began to untie a long piece of rope that he had wrapped up his arm when Carol noticed what he was doing.

“Why are you reaching up your sleeve like that?” Carol asked as she stopped walking.

“Oh, just a little itch I have…” and before she could even respond, he punched her in the face hard enough to knock her out. He watched as she took a few steps back, but remained conscious. She faced him, but instead of a face of fear, there was just pure anger. “What the hell…” Darren said to himself as Carol slipped off her heels and ran at him.

She tackled him to the ground and began to punch him over and over again, her eyes burning with fury. Right as his consciousness was about to leave him, he managed to grab onto her arm, flip her over to that she was on the ground, put his thumbs on her windpipe, and squeezed. Horrible squeaks and gurgles came from her mouth as she fought for breath. Her hands tried to reach for his throat, but he was able to easily avoid them.

Carol’s world was beginning to leave her as the darkness crawled into her vision and her body felt weak and fuzzy with lack of oxygen. She tried to kick and punch, but they only came out of her body as spasms and twitches. She didn’t want to end this way.

“Looks like the hunter’s been turned into the hunted,” Darren said with a cruel laugh, but Carol could barely hear him.

Darren’s eyes were wide with excitement as he saw Carol’s consciousness nearly slip from her, until he suddenly blacked out instead.

The weight was lifted from Carol’s throat as she took in ragged breaths. She felt like she wanted to vomit and her legs shook from fright and shock. She looked up to see her mother looming over her with her gun.

“Did ya…?” Carol began.

“No, I only knocked him out with the butt of the gun. We need him good and ready.”

Carol nodded, just trying to focus on the ground.

“Thank you for coming,” she said weakly.

“Hell, kid. I knew you weren’t ready to handle one like him on your own. You almost had him, but your anger got in the way.” She laughed. “You should’ve seen his face when you ran at him. Ya nearly had ‘im.”
***

Darren woke up to a hunter’s moon shining in his face. He was in a small shed that was empty except for pictures that lined the wall. He still wore his dress shirt and black pants that he had worn the night of the date. He didn’t know what day it was, but as he got up, he noticed how the pictures on the wall had Carol had her mother posed with the animals they had killed. Some were with deer and there was even one with a bear, but there were others that caught his attention.

They were there, looking almost like regular pictures, but they were the very opposite. Besides the pictures with the animals, they posed happily with the lifeless bodies of people. Carol and her mother gave broad smiles as the corpse of a person lay between them, mouth and eyes open as if they had died screaming. It wasn’t just one picture. He saw the pictures line the walls of the shed like wallpaper. His heart quickened and sweat began to bead on his forehead. As he looked closer at some of the pictures, he saw that the people were labeled. Some were labeled “child molester” or “rapist” or “murderer”. There were many other titles, but the one that was framed and in the center was one labeled “Dad” and “Domestic Abuser”. He frantically searched for a way out, some kind of escape.

He found the door quickly, but before he could pull it open, he saw a walkie talkie tied onto the handle. He took it off and looked at it curiously.

“Hello, darlin’,” came a sweet voice from the speaker.

Darren dropped the walkie talkie out of fear and backed away into the corner at the sound of Carol’s voice.

“I bet you’re wondering what you’re doing here. Well let me explain some things. We knew that there was something wrong with you when you showed interest in me online even though I was under age and you were ten years older. We knew that there was something very special about you though when we noticed you sneaking around our house trying to spy on me, so we decided to do some spying on you as well, and guess what we found? We saw you throw the dead body of a beautiful young woman into the dump and leave her there. That isn’t a very gentlemen thing to do, so we had to take it upon ourselves to give her a proper funeral and let her family know that she was finally at peace.

We thought ourselves so blessed to have found ourselves the notorious trash can butcher. We have seen you all over the news, leaving women in dumps for others to find. I’m sure you have some tragic backstory that explains why you feel obligated to end the lives of young women, but frankly, I don’t care. We have left you in an extensive forest in the middle of nowhere with enough provisions to last you for a few days. We will hunt you until you are dead and then we will take a lovely picture of you so that you can join the others on the wall. It looks like the hunter’s been turned into the hunted,” Carol finished with a twisted laugh.

In the distance, Darren could hear a horn sound along with a pack of dogs barking. He grabbed his pack and left the shed with now wet pants and frightened eyes, never to kill another soul again.

Credit: Cameron

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You Should Always Wait Until The Next Day

February 20, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It was Tuesday night of the second study week. I looked at the black-rimmed clock hanging on the wall stating that it was 2.45 am, almost invisible illuminated only by the table lamps of mine and my roommate. I turned my head slightly towards the back to see that he was still on his study desk facing the opposite wall. Our mid-term examination was starting next week so it was normal to find students staying up for hours studying so we could score our papers.

Our desks were positioned to the sides of the room, so we would each be facing the cream-painted wall. There was a large window in between the desks, with glasses stacked up, the one that you would have to pull or push down a handle to open. It was covered by an old brown curtain that seemed like it had not been washed for ages. The single beds were arranged next to the study desk respectively, followed by a moderate size and decent looking cabinet to place all our clothes and other personal stuffs.

I twisted my waist from right to left alternately and stretched up both of my hands high as much as I could to relax my muscles and reduced the stiffness from sitting too long on the chair. Looking at my notes and books, I knew I still have a lot to cover yet my half-closed eyes were betraying me.

Releasing a deep sigh, I slowly rose up and began my lazy steps towards the door. As expected of a dorm, the bathroom was located at the far end of the building and I had to pass by several other rooms to get there. Halfway through walking in the dimly lit corridor being more alert now, I noticed that it was unusually quiet. Usually there would be some noises from a room playing some soft music to accompany the solemnness throughout the night, or the snoring of students which were pretty common and in fact audible behind these doors but there were none at all. In fact, the only sounds I could hear were my own breaths and careful footsteps as to not disturb the other residents.

That’s odd, I thought to myself. Oh well, I guess you could also have a quiet night like this as I tried to reassure myself. However, I could not shake the feeling of uneasiness that lingered in me. I quickened my steps to the bathroom and when I reached it I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was unnervingly cold in the toilet. I looked around under the dim light of the white fluorescent lamp cautiously to find nothing out of the ordinary. However, I could not shake off the anxiety that something was just not right. Quickly, I went straight to the sink and turned on the faucet. Slightly bending over, I gently splashed the cold water to my face to freshen up when suddenly I heard a creak from one of the doors of the cubicles behind. That definitely startled me and I could feel every hair on my body rose up. It was probably just the wind, just the wind.

After washing up my face, I looked at the mirror and until now I really wished I had not. Why didn’t I get the hell out straight away after washing my face? The cues were there and being the coward I was, I knew that the mirror is something that I believe I have to avoid if I feel strangely wrong about a situation. The reflection showed something that made my heart stopped beating for a second. I froze in fear, in dread that was starting to escalate fast. The door to the cubicle was slightly open because there was a hand that had slowly pulled the door inwards. The fingers looked like the end branches of a rotten tree infested with parasites, weakly colored with pale grey and wrinkled. The nails were especially long, sharp and crooked at the tip.

I wanted to run, but of course my legs just would not move. It never moved in this kind of situation. My stare was frozen solid towards that unknown creature as the door slowly opened and it stopped before reaching halfway. I could feel myself trying to breathe as softly as possible, as if with every sound that I made I would startle the unknown entity hiding behind the door. Regardless, fate has decided upon me that this would be my first encounter with it.

What showed up first was the side of its hair as it slowly tried to peek at me. The messy long black hair, like it had not been washed for ages. Then, I could see the whitish-grey wrinkled skin and the corner of its mouth which was forming a smile. The lips were thin and blood red and the teeth were yellow and crooked. The smile was abnormally wide, so wide it almost reached the left ear. My eyes moved slowly, towards one of the eye which was slowly revealing itself, a bulging white eye and a black pupil in the middle. The nose area was flat, except for two small holes in the middle. The movement was slow and steady, as if it was trying to mock me. Almost all of its face was shown when it suddenly stopped. Then, it blinked and shrieked.

Out of nowhere, I could feel my energy returning rapidly and I sprinted from the bathroom as fast as I could towards my room without looking back even once. I turned the handle of my door and once I was inside I quickly locked the door. I swore I felt like shedding my manly tears if not because of my roommate was there in the same room. I tried to regain my composure as I sloped down and sit on the carpeted floor.

I looked at my roommate, who was still concentrating on his notes. Staring at my trembling hands, I hold both of my hands together.

“Danny, you won’t believe what I saw just now. I thought I was going to die. There was something in the bathroom…I just don’t know how to describe it. It was horr…”

A giggle stopped me from finishing my sentence. At that very second, I felt like I had make a mistake. I slowly raised my head looking up towards my roommate, and he slowly turned his face towards me revealing a face that I knew so well and said with a teasing voice,

“Oh does it look like this…?”

It was the same face I saw in the bathroom. I was so shocked and scared to make any movement, and as I blinked, with a movement so quick the horrendous face was now 5 cm away from my own pale face. Then everything turned black and I could not remember anything else.

I didn’t know how many hours had passed when I heard my name being called faintly.
“Jet…Jet!! Wake up!”
I slowly opened my eyes, and it was all blurry at first. The sun ray blinded me for a while and I covered the light with my hand. Then, I could see Danny’s worried face up close as he tried to wake me up.

Remembering the night before, I jerked away from him as a reflex. He saw my pale and frightened face as I tried to stay away from him and looked at me perplexedly.

“Hey what’s wrong? It’s me Danny. Why are you lying on the floor?” he asked worriedly.

“Is that really you? Are you…really Danny?”

“What…have you forgotten your own roommate’s face? What the heck happened?” he asked again.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We walked to my bed, sat down and I told the whole story to him. As I finished my story, it was his turn to look as pale as a ghost. My gut sort of told me what he was going to say next, and I truly dreaded the words that came out of his mouth afterwards.

“Dude, I just got back from my home this afternoon. When I opened the door, I saw you lying there on the floor. I was… not here yesterday. Whoever you were studying with the whole night, it was definitely not me,” he explained with a trembling voice.

Then, he remained silent for a while before continuing with his words. He seemed reluctant to say it, but he started telling me a story of a cleaner lady that died in the bathroom 7 years ago. He did not know the details, but apparently the cleaner lady was ugly and some naughty students decided to harass her. They sneaked in while she was moping the floor, and scared her hopeless. She was definitely surprised but unfortunately, she slipped due to the wet floor, felt down, hit her head and died from an internal bleeding of the brain.

“What the..how come I’ve never heard of this story? This is ridiculous! But, why did she appear in the room? That didn’t make any sense..she should have just stayed in the bathroom!” I cried desperately.

“Well, about that… I know this is a bit much for you to swallow but please bear with me.”

He started to tell me about another myth that was told by his grandma when he was little. She told him that, if ever he was to encounter an evil entity, and managed to get away from it, try to stay silent about it until the next morning. Do not speak up about it on the same day, to anyone at all. Wait until the next morning. If you speak about it, you would be summoning and acknowledging its existence and it would appear again. What happens to you afterwards depends solely on the creature’s mercy.

We both looked at each other’s eyes, totally freaked out about the whole thing. I learnt my lesson now. And for you readers, if you ever see something that looks like it just comes out from your worst nightmare, run if you could. Hide if you could. Close your eyes and try to faint if you could. But do not ever, I repeat do not ever speak of it to someone else on the same day. Or it might just be the last day of your life.

Credit: drudy

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Soldiers of Misfortune

February 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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“We knew we were scouting for caves, but didn’t have an exact search location. The Sarge had us pair off and reconnoiter in all four directions. Bradley and Jones were the first ones to lose audio contact, although we could still track their movements on our grids.”

“Munch and Green were next to go. Same pattern, loss of audio, but still registering on the O-watch grid. Everyone seemed to be converging in one place. Charley and I then changed direction to meet them.”

The man in the chair was speaking quietly to his superior. He didn’t keep the fear from coloring his voice or causing it to quaver.

The Captain, himself, was conducting this interview with the Corporal. He wanted to hear first hand of how the death of five of his elite fighters came about. He studied the survivor across from him, letting the man talk freely.

“We were operating under the assumption they had found the caves, and they had. We followed their tracks inside. That’s when we realized we too, had lost audio contact.”

Corporal Bryce’s skin was as gray as the chair he sat perfectly upright in, a testament to his training. There was a glass of water and a pack of Marlboro Lights set in front of him, on the table. He had been given permission to smoke and so far had ignored the cigarettes, though the Captain knew he was a two pack a day man.

“Truth is, we weren’t prepared, sir. It would’ve been nice to know just what we were up against. Bravo company was nearly wiped out because higher brass didn’t give a shit about a buncha grunts. No offense sir, it’s just the reality!”

The Captain noted the bitterness in Bryce’s voice, but gestured for him to go on.

“No one told us these… creatures … were fast, and I swear Captain, I’d never been so afraid for my life as when I first saw one of those… things … hunting me and Charley.”

“It sucker punches you twice, when you recognize they were once human. The shock of it nearly got me killed. As it was, they took Charley, sir, just up and snatched him.”

Bryce was wearing a pair of protective eye gear, making it tougher for his superior to ‘read’ his face. Since being retrieved from the mountain, Bryce began suffering from photophobia. It had worsened quickly.

The docs, finding no reason for it, thought it might be psychosomatic. The trauma Bryce had gone through, whatever he had witnessed in that warren of caves, was too much for his brain to process, so he went ‘blind’.

Bryce’s rasp of a voice broke into the Captain’s thoughts as he started speaking again.

“I’m not ashamed to say it sir, but I ran then, loosing a hail of gunfire as I went. When I reached the mouth of the cave, I rolled out of the entrance, turned, knelt, and brought my scope up to look through the infra-red, primed to fire. One of those ‘things’ had been chasing me, but I couldn’t see it.”

The Captain could see Bryce was struggling with the memory. He waited patiently for Bryce to continue.

“I… I couldn’t see it, because it was clinging to the ceiling, Captain.”

Bryce stopped a moment to let the shock of that statement settle. He seemed to gather himself, squared his shoulders and continued on.

“That was when I began to hear it. It was soft at first, more a vibration you feel in your gut sir, you know? Rather than hear.”

The Captain had heard of some odd reports from other companies. Their scouts telling of hearing ‘music’ before they went missing. Bryce was the only one to come back, having experienced it.

“It was… haunting. Hunger and longing, promising you fulfillment.”

Bryce seemed to smile slightly, almost wistfully, before speaking again.

“It was torment, but so sweet it made you crave the caress of it in your mind. To want a consummation with it so deep it bleeds your humanity dry, turning you into a husk of need.”

Bryce spoke with such undisguised lust, that the Captain barely stopped himself from recoiling in disgust.

“It became everything I ever wanted, and was secretly wishing for.”

“It compelled me back into the cave, sir. I don’t know when I had pushed the panic button on the O-watch. Must’ve been on the roll-out. Glad I did though. Especially after I found what was left of Charley.”

Bryce hung his head in solemn remembrance of his friend.

He reached for the water and changed his mind, letting his arm drop back to his lap, after a moment his hoarse voice went on.

“I don’t remember much after that. Couldn’t tell you how I got the punctures in my leg. Doc said they were at the femoral artery too. If the Sarge hadn’t found me, I’d be a goner along with Charley and the rest.”

“Sarge said I was crumpled there, just barely outside the mouth of the cave, lying on a pile of rock, bleeding out. They found Charley and the rest further down in a strange dirt chamber.”

“Too late though, they were all corpses.”

Corporal Bryce stopped then and looked up at his Captain, his face wearing an unfathomable expression.

Bryce started to rapidly transform. His whole lower jaw unhinged, displaying razor sharp teeth. He reached up and ripped the eye gear off. His eyes, now blazing red orbs.

The Captain’s disbelieving brain was too slow in warning, as Bryce leaped across the table…

“Why don’t you join them?”

Credit: D. L. Henry

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