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The Blood Keeper

April 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Hello, readers. My name is unimportant. I am here to share a story of mine that I’ve kept bottled up for quite some time. I’m a believer in the uncanny and weird, as long as it is within the boundaries of reason. Even so, I can always explain the day’s events to myself, and understand them – no matter how odd. My mind craves logic and order, but the following events have none. I can’t explain them away at the end of the day, and I’m not even sure of what actually happened. I’m left with a bunch of “what if’s”. I can say with some certainty that it may have been a vivid hallucination, or a very clever deception. Either way, I feel a need to disclose my tale if for no other reason than to ‘get it off my chest’. The following occurred in the autumn of 2010. That’s as specific as I will be.

I live in a small, but lively town in Massachusetts. The winters are cold and the summers are hot, but fall, to me, feels just right. Being just shy of the proper drinking age, and never having interest in such things anyhow, I found other activities to occupy my weekends (and weekdays, for that matter). I’ve always had a passion for the paranormal. It fascinates me, even to this day. With nothing better to do with my raging case of insomnia, I spent some of my nights investigating the local cemeteries with my friends. You could call me a paranormal investigator of sorts, but I saw it as more of a hobby.

Half the time, my friends and I would goof off anyway. The only times that we became dramatically serious was when there was a lot of paranormal activity taking place. This didn’t happen all that often, but when it did, we transformed from friends, hanging out and having a good time, to instant professional ghost hunters. I might have even pursued it as some sort of career choice, had the following not taken place. I can tell you for certain that I won’t investigate a cemetery again for as long as I live.

It was a night like any other for myself. I was bored, I couldn’t sleep, and I felt a need to do something outdoors. I called a few of my friends and asked if they wanted to investigate one of the local cemeteries that tended to have more activity than others. I was able to convince two to come with me. The others whom I called were angry that I’d woken them up. I didn’t realize that it was already midnight. Anyways, the two friends that I did rope in, met me at the cemetery. It took us each roughly half an hour to walk there, even though we all lived on opposites sides of the town. The cemetery was smack dab in the center of town, making the location convenient for all of us, considering we were without transportation.

After only an hour of investigating and goofing off, my friends left. There was little to no activity. The place was dead – no pun intended (okay, maybe it was intended a little bit). I stayed behind. I figured that I would take a walk through the cemetery a few times in an attempt to become tired before heading home. I started walking about when I noticed something. Before I go into detail, I must describe to you the layout of the cemetery. It was quite large, overall. There were two sides, divided by a small street right off of the main road. Each side had a stone wall that ran along the entire length of the graveyard. It came up to my waist, and only broke up where the two main entrances were – one for each side.

On one side was nothing but graves. The other side, the one that I was walking on, had graves, a stone tomb, and a small wooden shack. This shack was where the grave digger kept his shovels and other tools of the trade. What I had noticed, while walking towards it, was a light illuminating the inside. I didn’t even know that there was any electricity that ran to the shack. I guessed that the grave digger was working late tonight, it being around 2am at this point. I looked around, and I could make out a freshly made, six-foot deep hole near the shack, big enough for a coffin. This was nothing odd to me – this graveyard was a popular one, with at least 5 new headstones added each month. Every time the cemetery became full, some town workers would cut down some trees and extend it.

The only thing that struck me as strange was the hour. I had only seen the grave digger work during the day – after all, a huge, gaping hole in the ground is a dangerous thing to come across in the middle of the night. This was enough to arouse my curiosity, so I decided to see what the old man was up to.

I crept over quietly, making my way to a cracked window located on the side of the shack, this way I could hear what was going on inside. I knew about the window because I was the one who cracked it a year previous on one of my investigations. My friends and I were throwing rocks up in the air, trying to repeat the results of an urban legend that was passed around town (it was our town‘s equivalent of “Bloody Mary”). It was said that if you throw rocks straight up in the air, and stand completely still, you could hear the screams of a woman by the name of Emalia before the rocks hit the ground (Emalia was a resident in the town during the 1940s).

She died when strolling down this very street, during the newer side of the cemetery’s construction. A gravestone fell on her head while being moved to its proper location by a small crane. The gravestone was of her late husband, whom she allegedly murdered just three weeks before her death). Instead of hearing a scream, I heard the shatter of glass a few yards away. I had broken the window on the side of the shack. Looking back now, I don’t know why I believed in that urban legend anyhow. I think it was fabricated to fool kids into hurting themselves. In any case, I approached the window and peered in. The grave digger was not there. However, void of life the shack was not.

Inside the shack, to my surprise, were nine men. Nine men, sitting at a long wooden table, wearing tattered, blue shrouds. The light I had seen was not a light at all, but what looked like several oil lamps. The men were eating what appeared to be a reddish stew. It looked gross. Every man cringed when eating it, except for the tall man sitting at the end of the table, and the two sitting on either side of him. I was deeply confused. What was this – some sort of town meeting? I crouched down and listened as the tall man began to speak.

“Hello, young newcomers. Are you ready to start your trials?” He spoke with a firm voice. It resonated throughout the shack, and beckoned even myself to listen.

“Yes!”, the six men sitting around the table shouted in unison. Trials? What trials? The tall man spoke again.

“Good. Bloodlight Kalas will explain the rules.”

I could only presume that the man to his right was Kalas, as he explained everything. My memory has always served me well, so I was able to recollect everything he said, as unnerving as it was. It seemed that the men in the shack were part of a cult called the “Bloodlights”, though they never referred to it as a cult. That’s just what I gathered from what I had heard. The ‘trials’ were more of a game consisting of two teams that would disperse to either side of the cemetery. The tall man was the leader of the Bloodlights, and this ‘game’ was his way of initiating new members. The ‘winners’ would be accepted as full-fledged Bloodlights.

At this point I couldn’t really believe what I was hearing, but I kept listening. Whether it was out of curiosity, or fear of the men hearing me if I attempted to leave, I was immobile. Kalas continued explaining the rules.

Each team consisted of four members; three “blood runners” and one “blood baron”. It seemed that the ‘newcomers’ would be the runners, and the two men standing at the end of the table with the taller man would be the barons. There was one more participant to be discussed. The tall man – the one that was leading the trials. He was the “blood keeper”. He was not on either team, but was the most important part of the game. He kept, and guarded what was referred to as “the blood”. I thought that maybe this referred to the red amulet that hung from the tall man’s neck, because with every mention of the word blood, he would firmly clasp the amulet between his fingers and close his eyes, almost as if partaking in a silent prayer. The job of the runners was to retrieve the blood from the blood keeper. The barons acted as coaches that would strategize with the runners. It actually sounded like a fun game that I would partake in myself. So far, everything seemed simple, until the blood keeper spoke again.

“With every wound, there is blood. With every drop of blood, there is light. Without death, there can be no light.” I had no idea what any of what he said meant, but it was captivating – in a morbid kind of way.

The blood keeper stepped over to a tall cupboard at the back of the shack that I hadn’t noticed before. He opened it. Inside was a young woman, bound and gagged, with eyes wide open – futilely attempting to scream for help. My heart sank. This was far beyond your normal, run-of-the-mill cult ritual. I needed to find help, but what if they heard me? I was frozen with fear, and I could not take my eyes away. The blood keeper spoke again.

“Repeat after me; The light of blood can only be seen in death.”

The recruits chanted; “The light of blood can only be seen in death.”

Just then, the blood keeper took a large, red dagger from out of his cloak, and grabbed the woman. All I could think was that this couldn’t really be happening – could it?

He pierced the knife deep into her gut. The others repeated; “The light of blood can only be seen in death.”

The blood keeper stabbed her again. “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” I could see the life leaving the woman’s face, as she tried to yell once more with such an ashen, and broken expression.

The blood keeper thrust the knife deeper into the woman’s stomach. “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” Right before she lost consciousness, she turned and looked directly at me. She looked indescribably hurt, both physically and mentally, as tears began to soak her face. At that moment, I can’t even explain to you how knotted my stomach was. I immediately threw up right next to the shack. Luckily no one heard me.

The blood keeper made one final blow into the already dead girl’s neck. The others uttered one last time, “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” If I had anything left in my stomach to vomit, I would have done so again. What scared me the most was the conviction with which he stabbed her. I could see it in his face. It was almost as if there was reason behind each wound he dealt – or at least to him there was. I stood there, paralyzed with fear, and watched the killer get up, and reach into a brown satchel that he was wearing over his shoulder. He pulled out three empty vials. He then continued to fill the vials with the blood that was dripping from his dagger. I now realized that “the blood” in the game was not his amulet, but indeed actual human blood. The blood keeper finished explaining the rules to the newcomers.

“There are three vials. This gives, at most, three of you the opportunity to be accepted as Bloodlights.” I noticed Kalas laugh under his breath, as if three being accepted was unheard of.

“If you see a runner from the opposite team, what do you do?”

The newcomers answered together, “Kill!”

“If you see a civilian, what do you do?”

They answered once more, “Kill!” I dry heaved for a solid twenty seconds, trying to vomit. If I wasn‘t in danger before, I now was. I should have never come here. “God, if you even exist, please get me the hell away from here!”, I thought to myself. The blood keeper spoke one last time.

“You must stop at nothing to attain one of these vials. All others will be sacrificed. Your thirst for blood must be as strong as your will to live.”

Just then, the nine men walked towards the shack door to leave and begin the games. I ran as fast as I could for the wooded part of the cemetery and hid behind the largest tree I could find. I did not want to wind up like that girl in there. I thought to myself as I caught my breath, “Pull yourself together! You just need to find a good opportunity to escape without being noticed. It shouldn’t take much.” I gathered my nerves and peeked out from behind the tree. Standing right there, not ten feet away, were three of the runners and Kalas, facing me!

I darted my head back behind the tree. Did they notice me? I peeked again, and noticed that their eyes were shut, and they were standing eerily still. They must have to do this before the game starts to let the blood keeper hide himself from their immediate view. I was lucky. Maybe this was my chance to make a run for it. I spoke – well, I thought, too soon. I heard Kalas shout, “Let the trials begin!” My heart was racing faster than you could even imagine. My fate was in the hands of the game now.

I could see Kalas and the three blood runners in the reflection of a small puddle near my hiding tree (It had rained the previous night). They seemed to be strategizing. My heart was pounding out of my chest, so much so that I was actually afraid they might hear it. I stood there behind my tree, becoming exponentially nervous with each and every beat. I listened to their nearly inaudible whispers as the men conspired. Then, when I couldn’t take another second of torture, silence cut through the brisk, night air, much like the blood keeper’s dagger through that poor woman’s neck. It sent the coldest chill down my spine.

Why couldn’t I hear them? Did they leave? I was too frightened to glance around the corner and see. I looked at the puddle. I didn’t see their reflection. What do I do now? I was not going to run through the woods – not only would the loud crunch of autumn leaves compromise my location, but I had seen too many horror movies to know that it wouldn’t be a good idea. I also couldn’t run through the cemetery – what if a blood runner spotted me, or a baron? Even worse, what if the blood keeper saw me? I didn’t want to think about it.

I calmed down as much as I could, given my current situation, and mustered up enough courage to peer around the tree. They were gone – or at least nowhere to be seen. I looked around and weighed out my options. To the left of the cemetery, after seemingly endless rows of headstones, was more woods, and a lot of briers. This was not a viable possibility. Straight ahead were more headstones and the shack. There was no way I was going to hide in the bloodlights’ den with the dead girl, even if I could make it over there. To the right was even more headstones, but not as many.

I squinted as I looked off in the distance. Oh yeah! There was a tomb off to the right of the graves. It was maybe 100 yards away. I wouldn’t be able to waltz over there without being noticed, but maybe, just maybe, I could jump from tree to tree until I made it there. The woods did wrap around the whole cemetery, right up to the back side of the tomb. Should I risk it? Or should I stay behind this tree, cowering in fear until it’s all over? The latter option was looking pretty good, but I knew if I stayed here long enough, one of them would find me. My mom was right. She always told me to stay away from the cemetery at night – “Do you know the kind of people that hang out there?” She didn’t know the half of it.

I took a deep breath and braced myself. Without so much as a second thought, I dashed in the direction of the tomb, and hid behind the closest tree I could find. I gathered my wits and looked around the graveyard. There was still no one to be seen. I sprinted to the next tree. I took another quick glimpse of my surroundings. The coast was still clear. Before I could prepare myself to run to the next tree, I felt myself being lifted off of the ground. In that moment, my body went numb with utter panic.

The next thing I knew, before I could even think about what was happening, I was atop a tree branch, looking directly at a blood runner. I didn’t scream, and I didn’t try to get away. My blood ran cold, and I sat still in terror, accepting what was happening. I exhaled what I thought would be my last breath, but just as I did, the blood runner spoke.

“What’s your name?” I was too in shock to say a word.

“Come on now – what is your name?” He spoke more firmly this time, and I noticed that he had an English accent. His voice also sounded deep and brash, like one’s voice might sound after many years of drinking hard liquor and smoking cigarettes. I still couldn’t find it in me to answer him.

“Look, I noticed you at the window over there, eavesdropping. If I wanted you dead, I could have pointed you out then. I want you to help me.”

“Help…you?” is all I could say.

“Yes. I am going to use you to my advantage. I take it you know what we’re doing here, and you know the rules of the game?”

I nodded slowly, still in shock.

“Good. With you, I may be able to turn the tables and get the upper hand.” My mind was racing, but I listened intently on what he was saying.

“See that tomb over there?” He pointed at the tomb I had been on my way to before I was lifted off of my feet into a tree. I nodded once more.

“That’s where the blood keeper is.” My stomach turned. To think, this guy may have just saved my life.

“Here, take my cloak.” He handed me his blue shroud. I didn’t know what he wanted me to do with it.

“Go ahead, put it on! Or do you want me to gut you where you sit?” I quickly threw on the cloak.

“Go over to the tomb, and open the door slowly. The blood keeper will surely take a swing at you.” I gulped, but continued to listen.

“Just as he’s about to end your life with that dagger of his, I’ll swoop in and end his.”

“Why? That’s not part of the game.” His eyes darted at me, then he gave a menacing smile. I just realized that I had constructed a full sentence for the first time in his presence.

“Right you are. Maybe I don’t want to be a Bloodlight. Maybe I’m not here to play this ritualistic sport of theirs. Maybe what I’m truly after is vengeance.” He looked over at the tomb, then looked around the cemetery, probably to make sure no one was listening.

“Many years ago, the man in that tomb, the one you know as the blood keeper, stole something from me. Something I will never get back. That woman in that shack over there was not the Bloodlights’ first sacrifice, not by far. The man in that tomb murdered my wife and took her blood for the sake of this ‘game’. It took me years to find him. It took me even longer to be accepted into their ranks, even as a lowly disciple.” He stared off into the distance for a moment. I could see the pain in his eyes.

“But, tonight is the night. The blood keeper must die in his own game, and spill blood like so many of his victims before him.” Even though his actions were admirable, I still wanted no part in any of this. My life was still in danger.

“If you so much as take one step in the opposite direction and deviate from the plan, I will come over and kill you myself! Now get going.” It seems I had no choice in the matter. His motives were blinding him from any sort of moral logic – just like in the shack when he stood by and watched the blood keeper kill that poor girl. He of all people should have made an effort to stop him. But no, the only thing on his mind was revenge, and now I was tangled in an even larger mess than I was before.

I did as I was told. I used the same method that I did before, jumping from tree to tree – only now I didn’t even bother being stealthy. The blue shroud protected my identity, and I had a feeling I might die tonight, anyhow. What a waste of a life.

I made it to the side of the tomb. I stood there, with my back to the cold, aged stone. My heart began racing again. I was about to come face to face with the blood keeper – a cold-hearted monster. I crept along the side of the tomb, until I could finally see the front of it. I took a quick glance and noticed that the tomb door was shut. I could see the blood runner I’d met waiting behind one of the trees near the tomb. I didn’t hear him move even once, so it was hard for my mind to wrap itself around the idea of him getting from the tree branch we sat on, to just a few yards away from me. His covertness was impressive. He just might be able to pull this off. My newfound confidence in the runner in no way lessened my fear of the blood keeper. I crouched over to the tomb door and stared at it. I guess it was now or never.

I reached for the old, rusted handle, slowly, so as not to tip off the blood keeper that I was there. I also may have been stalling just a bit. After all, I was opening the door to what very well could be my death. Just as I was about to actually open the tomb, the door swung open and hit me straight in the head. I fell backwards onto the ground. I must have suffered a concussion, because everything seemed a little blurry, and I could feel myself losing consciousness.

I looked up before I passed out. I could see the blood keeper standing before me in the moonlight. I was staring at a blurry vision of death, here to kill me, and take the blood out of my racing heart. I blinked, and saw another figure. In my fuzzy state, I couldn’t make out who was who, but one of them was thrusting his dagger into the other, over and over again. The prey in this scuffle fell to his knees, and then landed face first into the cold, cemetery soil. The victor kept stabbing him. With each swing of his dagger, he seemed to become more and more furious, because I could hear the piercing sound of metal through flesh grow louder. I prayed that it was the blood keeper being torn apart, otherwise I was done for. I closed my eyes once again and passed out.

“Are you alright there?” I heard an old man’s voice say as I gradually began to open my eyes.

“Are you okay?” I opened my eyes fully and looked at the voice speaking to me. It was the grave digger! But how?

“What!? How? Where did they go…” is all I could manage to say. He looked puzzled.

“Where did who go?” I couldn’t wrap my head around any of this. What was going on?

“…I…I should be dead…” The grave digger stared at me for a second, and then changed his expression from confusion to sympathy.

“Come on. You’ll catch cold out here.” He invited me into the shack. Before I walked in, I noticed something. The newly dug grave I had seen near the shack was gone! I really didn’t know what to believe at this point, but I walked into the shack anyhow.

The grave digger, whose name I now know to be Pete, fed me and gave me a jacket to wear. In a frazzled state, I couldn’t help but tell him everything that I had seen. He didn’t look surprised at all. I didn’t even think to describe the men by their given titles (blood runner, baron, etc.), but Pete responded with, “It sounds like you had a run-in with the blood keeper.”

“That’s him! How do you know about the blood keeper?” My jaw dropped in disbelief.

“His spirit has been haunting this place for… over 100 years now I suppose.” I just glared at Pete, waiting for an explanation. He could tell I was still fatigued and confused, so he took the time to elaborate. He must’ve talked, non-stop for over an hour. I could tell I struck a nerve with this story.

In a nutshell, the Bloodlights were a sadistic cult that formed in the late 1800’s, and started terrorizing the local community, binging on a heavy lust for blood. With each Bloodlight initiation brought more deaths. They would only use various cemeteries in the area as a field for their ‘sport’, digging a six foot hole each time, throwing the casualties/sacrifices in before they covered it back up. Who would look for dead bodies in a graveyard, right? They racked up a death toll of over fifty victims before their ‘games’ were brought to a halt. Things, however, went horribly wrong for the Bloodlights during what turned out to be their final ‘game’. An Englishman infiltrated their ranks and killed the blood keeper that night, with the help of a young man (Did I help him kill the blood keeper?). The young man was never identified. The local authorities were able to round up the rest of the Bloodlights soon after. The death of the blood keeper left them leaderless and unorganized.

After Pete explained everything, I couldn’t help but sit there in awe. Did I relive what that ‘young man’ went through that night… or even wilder – was I that young man? Did I time travel? My logical mind immediately rejected the theory. I believe in the paranormal, but time travel is too far-fetched for me. In fact, until now, I’ve tried to forget about that night. I could never wrap my head around it, and I still can’t. Maybe by writing this, I can finally put this experience, much like the blood keeper, to rest. The only thing that kept haunting me after I left the shack that night, were the fuzzy images left in my mind before I had passed out.

Though I couldn’t fully differentiate who was who, I was almost certain that it was the blood keeper who was stabbing the man I was helping (albeit against my will). What if nothing supernatural happened here at all, and the grave digger lied to me so I wouldn’t divulge my story to anyone else without sounding completely and utterly crazy? What if he was a Bloodlight too? I also could have sworn I saw a shovel on the ground right where the six foot deep hole used to be. What if… no, it can’t be. They certainly would have killed me rather than construct an elaborate ruse to keep me quiet… right? I’m just paranoid. One thing is for sure, though; I will never venture to any cemetery, at night, ever again – whether or not the blood keeper is dead, or still out there, making his rounds.

Credit: Christopher Maxim

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The Moon, Landing

April 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The Moon. Quite a spectacle if you ask me. It never ceases to enthrall my nocturnal, star-gazing eyes. I look at it each and every night with a very large sense of wonder, mixed with just a pinch of awestricken euphoria. It captivates and compels my curious nature, but as of late it has also deemed me uncontrollably and utterly paralyzed, with an ever-lingering sense of fear. You see, while the moon may greet me with a feeling of elation while I’m awake, it does quite the opposite when I rest. The moon is the main focus of a twisted narrative in my dreams. A nightmarish story is played out in my fear-ridden sleep for me to defenselessly watch almost every night. I say almost every night because sometimes I just can’t find it in me to sleep at all, knowing what awaits me when I close my eyes. It wasn’t always this way mind you; it has only been happening for the past few months. I don’t know why or how, as I am not one who often has nightmares. I can barely recall my normal dreams. However, I can describe to you the dream in question in great detail. It will forever be embedded within the deep confines of my memory.

Have you ever had a dream in which you are not present? What I mean is, have you ever watched your dream play out in front of you like a movie as if you are part of the audience rather than a character? That is how my nightmare is. I have no control whatsoever. I cannot interact with a damn thing. I am only left to watch as the pandemonium ensues. This is not only frustrating, but terrifying as well. What’s worse is that I do not realize that it is a dream until I wake up. Imagine my confusion, anxiety, and terror as I watch the plot unfold. Well, how can you? I’ve yet to explain the details of the nightmare itself. Maybe I’m just stalling. Well, in any case, I shall now divulge to you the inner workings of my recurring nightmare.

It always starts out in the woods. Forests themselves are unsettling, but what really gets me is that I’ve never been in one. It’s not that I wouldn’t venture out into the wilderness every now and again to go on a nature-filled walk or something, it’s just that I don’t live near the woods; never have. So why then would I dream of them? On top of that, why is everything in my self-made forest so detailed? These are the kinds of things that boggle my mind and freak me out when I wake up in a cold sweat, mid-scream. I’m sorry; it’s just so aggravating and worrisome. It’s difficult for me not to relive each moment and dwell on the details. Back to the dream.

I’m left just looking at trees and an empty night sky for quite some time. It adds to the uneasiness. After a while, I can hear something. It can’t be made out right away, but as it gets louder I realize that it is howling. Must be a coyote I think to myself. It is at that point that my perspective changes. It is abrupt and worrying. I am now left looking up from the woods, at a no longer empty night sky. The howling continues and gets louder. Through the forest canopy I can see the moon. It is a vibrant yellow color and for whatever reason looks…off. I can’t quite put into words what I mean by that. The howling does not let up. I can now hear several coyotes howling and getting closer, as their volume is increasing. My perspective changes once more. I am now viewing the moon from atop the forest, almost as if I am standing on the very top of one of the trees. It looks larger in size, but still for the most part normal. I hear the sound of coyotes howling peak in volume as I stare at the sky. My ears may have actually hurt had I been awake. As the obnoxious sound of coyotes continues, the moon becomes larger. I can now tell that it is coming closer to the earth with every passing second. My heart begins to race. Something that usually comforts me is now creating within me a sense of dread. After a few more moments of inner turmoil, the howling ceases. The moon is now dangerously close to the earth and I can hear it moving. After a few more moments, it almost fills the night sky. I catch one final glimpse before impact, seeing every single detail on its surface; each and every crater and formation. It is breathtaking, but not in a good way. The moon then picks up speed, much like the beating of my heart, and in an instant I wake up.

It might not seem like much, but I can honestly say I’ve never been more scared in my entire life. I have to experience this every single time I fall asleep. Upon waking I always jump out of bed and run to my window, my eyes scanning the night sky for signs of an abnormal moon. I always find the moon exactly where it should be, looking as normal as ever, and a wave of relief overcomes me. I just don’t get it. Why has such an odd nightmare made its way into my sleeping brain? Why does it occur every time I dream? Why me? Why now?

Any answers I thought could be found led me to disappointment instead. When discussing it with friends, they simply laughed or just found it downright peculiar. I asked my doctor about it and he simply said, “Maybe it was something you ate.” I even contacted a therapist that I found online who specialized in the field of dreaming. After speaking with her on the phone, I determined that she was incapable of offering me any sort of insight on the matter. She told me that the moon represented my past catching up to me, and the coyotes were my inner child trying to communicate and get my attention. A load of crap, if you ask me. It seemed that answers were not within my reach. On one day, however, my luck changed.

The day started off normal, as most days do. I woke up in fear and looked out the window. Instead of finding the moon, I found the sun. I became relieved, and began my daily routine. Upon making breakfast, I turned the TV on to watch some news before heading off to work, as I usually did. Nothing really interested me until about halfway through the program when they featured a segment about tidal waves. The piece interested me because I live near a large beach and had recently thought about taking surfing lessons. Everything was normal until the segment was over and one of the anchors turned to the other and said “Monday night’s super moon just might make those waves a little bit taller.” What? Super moon? I had never heard of such a thing. Monday night? That was just three nights away. I immediately shut off my TV, stopped eating my breakfast, and ran to my computer to do some research. I didn’t know if or how it could be connected to my dreams, but it was the only lead I had.

After doing some extensive research, I became aware that super moon is a term used to describe the moon when it is new/full as well as when it is closest to the earth during its elliptical orbit. This results in the moon looking larger than normal, hence the term. In just three days, a full moon is scheduled to occur, and it will also be a super moon. This one in particular will be very interesting as the moon will be closer to the earth than it ever has been before, during any of its orbits. It was going to be a “true spectacle” to behold. I was thinking just the opposite. My fears were now becoming a reality, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Nothing I read or researched could ease my anxiety. There was no way that this “super moon” was just an eerie coincidence. To me, my dream wasn’t a dream, but instead was a premonition of things to come. In just three days the moon would collide with the earth and destroy the very fabric of humanity.

To break the monotony of self torture, I continued to educate myself on the moon. I sat in a defunct state endlessly reading and clicking on educational videos pertaining to that great ball of death that lived in the night sky. I don’t know why I did this, as it just made the feeling of dread within me grow exponentially. Even so, I kept staring at my computer screen, reading and watching. I would occasionally glance over at my phone, noticing my countless missed calls. It must have been my boss trying to get a hold of me as I had failed to go to work that morning in light of the god-forsaken mess I had found myself in. There’s no point in going to work when the world is ending, right?

After several hours of tedious learning, I finally grew weary. My eyelids were beginning to droop as the tiredness within me took hold. In an effort to not fall asleep, I kept researching. This backfired as it only made me more tired. Before I knew it, I had fallen asleep right there in front of my computer screen. What happened next was inevitable.

My nightmare began the way it usually did. I was in a forest, left looking at numerous trees and an empty night sky. I waited for my perspective to change. I waited to look up and see that which frightened me the most. After a few moments, nothing happened. This was about the time my dream’s lackluster plot would kick in, so I was a little confused. Even so, I continued to wait. Nothing happened. I was still in the forest looking at trees and a moonless sky. What was happening? Why must this nightmare torture me so? I was now getting anxious. Just then, something did happen. Howling. I could hear howling. This perplexed me deeply. By this point I should most certainly be looking at the moon. Something was off; very off. I took a deep breath and gathered my thoughts. That is when it hit me. I just took a deep breath. I could feel my chest muscles expand as I did this. Never before did I even have this control in my sleep. I was actually there. I attempted to walk, and to my delight it actually worked. This was so strange. I was never a character in this dream before. I always watched the deadly events unfold.

With my newfound ability, I ran. I ran to my heart’s content through my nightmare’s forest. I had movement. I had freedom. I had control. Just then, the coyotes howled in unison off in the distance. I knew exactly what that meant. I thought of that last word again, “control”. What exactly did I have control of? My body? What good would that do me if I still could not control my outcome? I turned around and looked up at the night sky. There it was. The moon in all of its wondrous and gruesome glory. I could see nothing but trees and moonlight in my field of vision. An ever-familiar feeling of shock found its way back into the pit of my stomach. I took that feeling and ran with all my might towards the moon. Towards the howling. It was all I could think to do. Quickly after I began sprinting, the howling ceased.

“NO!!!”

I screamed at the top of my lungs as I watched the moon connect with the earth. The thunderous clap it made jolted me awake.

I quickly jumped up from my computer and looked out the window. The moon was visible, but it was normal sized. Normally this would grant me relief, but I don’t think I was all that scared this time. My dreams were changing, and so was my outlook on the situation. I felt like I could stop this from happening – somehow.

I went back to my computer and continued my research, only this time I included the words “dream” and “premonition” along with the usual lunar terms. I continued to read, watch videos, and speak with others on forums. After an hour or so I was still empty handed in my hunt for a solution. I pressed on.

As my search continued, I found myself growing sleepy once more. I needed to stay awake and look for answers, but my brain wouldn’t allow it. After all, I didn’t get that much rest the first time I fell asleep. I was at a loss. I had no coffee or any other means of staying awake. The only thing I did have was the vague will to find a way out of this mess. That only lasted so long, and once again my eyes won in their battle to close themselves. I became unconscious.

My dream started yet again. I was immediately greeted with lucidity and took a look at my surroundings. I was in the same forest and I could see the moon behind me, looming overhead. I stared at it for a moment, almost begging it not to fall. In doing this, I quickly looked away. The moon and all of its features appeared to me as the personification of malice. This was more than likely due to my mind and the way it had constructed the setting, but it still kept me from staring at the moon any further. I needed to invest all of my energy into doing something productive anyhow. Once the howling began, I decided to pursue it once more.

I ran towards the sound of what I assumed were coyotes, knowing that I didn’t have much time left. It had come to my attention the last time I dreamt that I had never actually seen them before; I had only heard their unsettling cries. They were the only characters present in this world other than myself. Maybe finding them would provide me with insight. It was a long shot, but anything was worth trying at this point.

I kept running towards the sound, noticing the moonlight getting brighter on the forest floor and trees. I still refused to look up at it and kept myself focused on the task at hand. I was slightly afraid; not only of the moon, but of what I might find when I did reach the coyotes. This was still less fear than I was usually accustomed to in this nightmare, so it in no way disrupted my concentration. What I saw next, however, did.

Before making it to my destination, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I immediately stopped running and turned to look at it. It appeared to be the dark figure of a man. Even the now brighter moonlight could not reveal to me his features. After staring at him for a moment, he began to speak.

“You’re wasting your time.”

His voice sounded old and brash, but worldly at the same time. I was confused by his statement, not to mention his existence.

“What exactly do you mean?” I asked.

“This is only one possible outcome. You’ve yet to change anything. You need to wake up.”

“Wake up? But -”

I was cut off mid-sentence by a familiar explosive sound – the sound of two planetary bodies colliding. The man remained still as the moonlight washed out my field of vision. I then woke up at my computer, just like before, only this time I didn’t jump up to look out my window. I instead thought of the man and what he had said to me. The entire ordeal was bizarre and surreal, but for some reason I felt as if I had some sort of chance. Whoever this man was, he seemed to have a better grasp of the situation than I did. Perhaps finding him once more will ultimately bring me the answers I seek.

I noticed sunlight begin to cover the desk where I was sitting. I looked over at my window, but quickly regretted it as the sun was just coming up over the horizon and was an abrasive sight for my baggy eyes. The sun was indeed up and it was time to start my day. What that would entail, I could not be certain. It was not as if I would be going to work in my current predicament. I could always do more research, but that didn’t really get me anywhere last time. The obvious solution would be to try and fall asleep again and find that man, but I no longer felt tired, and to be completely honest, I needed a break.

I sat there for a good long while before coming up with an idea. Meditation. I could attempt to meditate and see where that leads me. It may not help at all, but it was certainly worth a try.

Having never meditated before, I went online to look at various how-to guides on the subject. After learning the basics, I decided to give it a go. I was anxious, but I tried to remain calm as any worrisome emotions would prove to be counterproductive when attempting to meditate. I sat down on the floor, closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and away I went.

At first, clearing my mind was a challenge. All I could picture was the malicious sight of the moon coming towards me. It freaked me out at first, but I then used it to my advantage. Before the moon could reach me, I pictured it going in the opposite direction. I was able to loosen up when doing this, and I let myself focus on nothing but the moon as it grew smaller and smaller. It kept floating away until it was only a single point in the night sky. I continued to focus on it. Eventually I was breathing at a much slower rate. My body felt lighter. I almost felt as though I too were floating into the night sky. I preceded to actually drift upwards, towards the moon. It then grew larger as the distance between us became smaller. Within moments the moon reverted to its original abnormally large size and I felt myself descend to the ground below. The meditation must have worked.

I looked around and realized that I was in the forest; the same setting from my dream. I looked up at the moon and noticed that even though it was incredibly close to the earth, it was still. Come to think of it, everything seemed still, as if time had stopped. Granted there was nothing around me but trees, but it felt like I was residing within a single instant – one frame on the reel of my private nightmare. I say nightmare, but it no longer felt as such. Given that the moon was no longer moving, I now felt calm and relaxed. Hopefully this would provide me with a greater focus while I searched for either the man or the coyotes. Anything would suffice so long as it gave me even a slight answer.

I decided to walk along the same path I took in my previous dream. I no longer had the sound of coyotes to guide me, but I did have the moon. I remember it being in the center of the sky when heading towards the howls. As such, I positioned myself accordingly and headed off.

Now that I found myself walking rather than running, and now that I was void of the fear that had previously tormented me in this setting, I noticed the odd details of the pseudo-world around me. There was a strange symbol perfectly etched into each and every tree I passed. I did not recognize the marking. Not only this, but I now noticed an old wooden hatch on the ground that bared the same symbol. I attempted to open it, but the damned thing wouldn’t budge. In any event, I continued my impromptu hike through the forest.

After a few more moments, I stopped dead in my tracks. Standing by one of the trees was none other than the man from my previous nightly adventure. I did not know whether to approach him or not. I couldn’t tell if he was frozen like the rest of the forest. I simply stood there in a partial state of shock waiting for something to happen. Luckily the man was not frozen and he began to speak.

“Why are you here again?”

I wasn’t sure what he meant.

“Why am I here again? Well, I’m here for answers.”

He chuckled a bit when I said this.

“You don’t need answers. You simply need to do what is necessary.”

He noticed the confused look on my face and spoke again.

“Fine. If you want answers so badly, then follow me.”

The man turned and started walking towards the moon; the very direction I had already been walking in. I subsequently followed, having little choice in the matter.

As we walked, I was considerably closer to the mysterious man than I had ever been previously. You would think that maybe I could finally make out at least some of his features, but this was not the case. He was still covered in a thin layer of darkness. It seemed to follow him wherever he went. I couldn’t explain this, but then again this was just a dream. An odd premonitory dream at that, but still a dream nonetheless.

The man remained silent until we reached our destination.

“Here you have it; the answer to the dark and looming riddle overhead.”

He looked at the moon when he said this. I was still confused to say the least, but I took a look around before demanding further explanation.

We were in a small clearing in the forest. In said clearing was a formation of not coyotes, but wolves. They were frozen still, as was to be expected. They were in a circular pattern around what looked to be a person; a person wearing some sort of red shroud. The man then spoke, noticing that I was still oblivious to what was going on.

“Take a closer look.”

I did so without hesitation, curious as to what I would find upon closer inspection.

I walked right past the wolves and into the circle to take a look at the person in the red cloak. It was a woman. She had her arms outstretched towards the moon. In front of her sat a chalice of some sort, filled with a reddish liquid. I still had no clue what was taking place here. Luckily, the man noticed this.

“This is the last surviving member of the Clan of the Red Wolf.”

“Clan of the Red Wolf?”

I had no idea what the Clan of the Red Wolf was, so I let the man explain further.

“The Clan has existed for many years. They worship a deity known as the Red Wolf, and their doctrine is simple. They intend to seek divinity in nature and protect the earth’s wildlife to the best of their abilities.”

I still didn’t completely grasp why this meant the moon had to fall.

“You see, as of late, the Clan has misinterpreted the foundation of their teachings. Because of this, they now think they need to destroy all life on earth and allow it to begin anew. The woman you see before you is the daughter of one of the Clan’s old members – one whom met with a terrible fate years ago.”

I noticed him stop to collect his thoughts before he continued to speak.

“She too tried to “end the world” so to speak, but she was stopped. Her daughter, deemed too powerful at an early age, was hidden from the rest of the clan. In the wake of her mother’s failure, she came out of hiding and vowed that she would continue her mother’s work. She would find a way to put an end to this earth.”

I was left speechless. This was most certainly a lot to process. How could this clan exist? How did they have this power? Why was I involved? I had so many questions now, and still no solution to my original problem. The man spoke once more as I continued to bathe in the confusion of what I had heard.

“You have been chosen to stop this. Otherwise you would not be having these dreams. As such, you must do just that. You cannot do it from here, however. This is an illusion. I am an illusion. The only way you can truly prevent this is to travel to this location when you awaken.”

I still had so many questions. Who was he in the first place? Why exactly was I “chosen”? Before I could voice any of these questions, the man vanished. He disappeared before my very eyes and revealed something etched into the tree behind him. I looked at it more closely and realized that they were coordinates. My eyes widened. I was now afraid again. I would have to actually confront this red cloaked woman if I wanted to save everything. If this wasn’t bad enough, I heard a loud howling behind me. The dream was no longer on pause. Within an instant I saw the moon crash into me with a force greater than I had ever seen in one of my nightmares. The brightness, the sound – everything was magnified. It was because I was at the epicenter of the event. I can tell you honestly that that right there was the most frightening thing I have ever witnessed. Much like the times before, I then woke up.

I opened my eyes slowly and gathered my thoughts. I then quickly jumped up and grabbed a piece of paper. I wrote down the coordinates I had seen etched into the bark of the tree. I then caught a glimpse of the moon from out of the corner of my eye. I looked over at the window and to my surprise it was nighttime. How long had I been meditating? I looked at the clock on my bedside table and realized that it was 5am, Sunday morning. I had been meditating for almost a whole day. This was a bit shocking, but I didn’t let it get to me. Besides, I had a task to complete.

I typed the coordinates into my computer to see exactly where they were. To my satisfaction it was within the country. Unfortunately however, it was many miles away. If I drove there, I wouldn’t get to the outskirts of the woods until Monday afternoon, and then I would still have to hike. The super moon is on Monday night, so that would be cutting it close. The nearest airport to these coordinates was 237 miles away, meaning I would have to figure out another form of transportation once I got there. I weighed my options for a moment, but then decided to take a different approach. Maybe there was a train station nearby.

After several minutes of searching for multiple trains that would lead me to this forest, I had finally found my means of transportation. There just happened to be a train station just twelve miles from the coordinates I had typed in. Apparently the forest was an old-growth forest protected by the government and it garnered occasional tourism, hence the train stop. I determined that after taking multiple trains and buses to get there, I would arrive at 2:15pm on Monday. That would give me just enough time to reach the coordinates and potentially stop this catastrophe from occurring.

I took off in haste as not to give myself enough time to rethink my plan. I knew if I dwelled on what I was doing, I might change my mind and convince myself that I was crazy and everything I had experienced was nothing more than a strange dream. If I did stop now, I would drown in my own regret, and panic come Monday night. Even if I was crazy, at least I was putting the question to rest myself instead of waiting for an answer to come along.

After numerous modes of travel, I was finally on the final train; the one that would arrive near my coordinates. I managed to stay awake the entire time, running off of anxiety and the fear of experiencing my nightmare one more time. As the train departed, however, I felt more tired than I had the entire trip there. I could not stay awake for one more second. I willingly shut my eyes and fell asleep there in my seat, knowing what I would dream about when I did.

Once again, I found myself in the forest at nighttime with nothing but several trees to gaze at. That, and the gigantic moon behind me. I decided to run again, but this time in the opposite direction. I wanted to be as far away from the moon as possible, so as to possibly limit its terrifying properties.

With an ever-familiar feeling of dread, I ran as fast as my dream body would allow, into the depths of the woods. I had never headed in this direction before and was somewhat curious as to what I might find during my run. My curiosity vanished soon after as I saw nothing but more trees. Not a big surprise there, I suppose.

I kept running, without even glancing back once at the moon. After a while, I noticed that something wasn’t right. The wolves should have howled by now. Nothing was frozen like the last dream; I could see the trees blowing in the wind. Maybe I was too far away to hear them, but even still something felt weird. I decided to look back at the moon. It was suspended in the night sky, as was to be expected, but it was not overly large like before. It was of a normal size and normal position near the stars. How peculiar.

I shrugged off the oddities in my dream and kept running in the direction I was headed. I would have become more anxious had I stayed still, and I was still hoping to find something out there – maybe one last bit of help in the form of something – anything, before I came face to face with the red cloaked woman.

I ran and ran for what seemed like a very long time. All the while there were nothing but trees and discomfort to keep me company. I was beginning to grow tired within my own dream, if that was even possible. Eventually, I came upon something other than a tree. I stopped running when I saw it. It was a railroad, running right through the forest. I examined the tracks for a moment, and then stood on them, looking either way for a train. Nothing. I continued to stand there, at odds with the damned thing. That is, until the very loud sound of a train directly behind me immediately triggered my adrenaline and fear. I turned to look and saw the train right as it struck my body. I jolted awake at impact.

The train had come to a stop. I was at the forest. I pulled myself together and stumbled off in a clumsy fashion, still trying to fully awaken and process my dream’s meaning at the same time. The train then took off at high speed and left me to take a look at my surroundings in isolation. So this is what it looks like during the day, huh? The forest looked identical to the one in my dreams, but then again, how could it not? It was just a simple assortment of old trees. The only difference now was that I was awake, and I had sunlight to guide my trek as opposed to moonlight. I just wasn’t sure how long that sunlight would last, especially in the depths of the forest.

I set off in haste, making sure to maximize my energy. I didn’t run and instead power-walked, keeping a steady pace as I went. Twelve miles wouldn’t be all that bad had it been on a paved road, but this was an old woodland. I could not guarantee when I would arrive at the location, nor could I guarantee what the terrain would be like in some parts of the forest. I had a compass and map to guide me, knowing that my phone/GPS probably wouldn’t get a reliable signal out here, but a map will only reveal so much about where you’re going. I could only hope that I would make it there in time to make a difference. I could only hope that I would even make it there in one piece.

Lucky for me, half of my hike was relatively easy. I was able to remain quick and agile most of the way, but after an hour or so, the ground became steeper and I found myself almost climbing rather than walking. I stupidly attempted to keep the same pace uphill as I did on the flat ground. This was a mistake. I ended up tripping over the root of a tree that was jutting out of the ground. I fell face first onto the dirt, and a nearby rock dug into my skin, leaving a large gash along the side of one of my legs. The sharp pain that followed was unbearable. I released a blood-curdling scream from the deepest recesses of my lungs and hurt even my ears. It didn’t appear as though I would be saving anything. My fate was now in the hands of the forest.

Unable to move, I simply laid there, waiting for nightfall to come; waiting for the moon to loom overhead and laugh in my dirt-covered face. It had won. My leg was injured, as well as my will to press on. Even if I could move, I didn’t want to anymore. The whole ordeal was mentally and physically taxing. I just wanted it all to end.

As I watched the sky change while the sun was setting, something else came into view. It was a man’s face. I couldn’t make out any features, but as he spoke, I recognized the voice.

“You have to keep going. It is almost time.”

It was the man from my dream. How was this possible? Then again, how was any of this possible? I decided not to question it. I had given up, after all. What was the point in trying to understand that which was beyond my comprehension? The world would be ending soon anyhow.

“No. I’m done. I cannot move, nor do I want to.”

He remained silent for a few moments, causing me to wonder if I was actually seeing things or not. He then offered a response.

“Are you really so selfish? You will let this entire planet suffer because you ‘don’t want to’?”

I thought about what he was implying, but before I could respond he spoke again.

“How dare you. How dare you hold the fate of this world in your hands and cast it aside with such arrogance, just like that. A broken leg is nothing compared to what is really at stake here. Neither is your insatiable need for answers. You need not know what is happening, only what you must do. You should stop at nothing to complete your task.”

I was surprised by the ferocity with which the man spoke. He was genuinely disappointed in me. Not only that, but what he said was true. I was being selfish. How could I let the moon crash into the earth after I had come so far? What in the world was I thinking?

With newfound motivation, I found it within me to stand upright again. I didn’t require the man’s help, nor did I ask for it. I don’t think he would have given it to me anyways. I still wasn’t even sure if he was really there. For all I knew he could have been a figment of my imagination. Figment or not, he was right. I had to keep going and see this through. I had no other choice in the matter.

As I limped through the woods, the man followed. He kept his distance, but I knew he was there. I would glance over every now and again and he would give me a perturbed look, one that begged me to stop staring and hurry up already. Somehow I felt as though his presence helped. It reassured me that I might actually be able to do this; whatever “this” might be. Either way, I was at ease for the time being.

I limped for a very long time, using only the moon as my guide. It was very large, but not quite as large as I remembered it being in my dreams. Even so, my surroundings now had a familiar aura about them. I must have been getting close. The man surprised me and spoke, confirming my suspicions.

“Just a little further.”

For the first time on our hike, the man walked in front of me and began to lead the way. As he did this, I noticed a clearing up ahead. This was it. My showdown with the red cloaked woman was about to begin and I was not ready in the slightest. Despite this, I followed the man and walked into the clearing.

Upon entering, I saw just what I expected to see. There in the center of the clearing was a circular formation of wolves containing the red cloaked woman. Even though I knew it would be there, I was still shocked. This was no longer a dream. Whatever happened now would have actual repercussions.

I stared at the woman, but she didn’t look as though she was conscious. She just stood there with her head down, as still as ever. The man turned over to me with a smile and spoke.

“Humans are so easily fooled.”

He then transformed, for lack of a better word, into a black wolf and ran over to the woman. He passed right through her and vanished. She then awoke instantaneously and looked over at me with that same smile. I was stunned.

“Nice of you to join us. We’ve been waiting for such a long time.”

The wolves howled in unison, as if they only acted upon her command. I remained silent.

“What’s the matter? Are you scared? Are you confused? Or are you just plain ignorant?”

I was offended by just the tone of her voice. I don’t know what possessed me to do so, but I took a step forward. The wolves began to growl when I did this.

“Why the rush? Don’t you want those answers you came here for in the first place? Don’t you want to know why all of this is happening? I know you do.”

An alluring yet sinister smile crept across her face. I nodded. I did want to know why. I wanted to know everything.

“Very well. As you know, I am the last surviving member of the Clan of the Red Wolf. My mother attempted to destroy this world years ago, but failed. She was stopped by a savior. She was stopped by the one the Red Wolf spoke of in his teachings. The one that was to save our world. You could say that the savior succeeded, in a way. I see it differently, much like my mother did. In order to save nature itself, the world must begin anew. The savior failed.”

I understood what she was telling me, but I knew there was more to it than that. She continued to speak.

“The savior’s blood was needed to complete the ritual of destruction that my mother had performed. That same blood is needed now to complete my ritual. You, my friend, are the offspring of the savior.”

What? How could this be? One of my parents was this savior she spoke of? Why didn’t I know of this? Questions filled my mind that no amount of answers could solve, but one glaring truth bubbled to the surface. I needed to get out of there.

I attempted to run, but the woman reached her arm out towards me, and I found myself paralyzed. I could not move at all. She was in complete control.

“I sent a specter into your dreams to bring you here. It was so much easier than I had originally anticipated. Foolishness is a trait I find to be quite common among humans. I will never understand it.”

The man was just a spirit. It was her all along, guiding me here so she could complete her ritual. I spent all my effort in trying to get here to prevent the earth’s destruction when I was in fact the key to its demise the whole time. I should never have come here.

She clenched her fingers together and I felt my body move on its own. I closed the gap between me and her within seconds.

“You may now witness that which has tormented you in your dreams for so long. Then you may finally rest.”

She said this as if it was some sort of consolation. I watched as she reached into her cloak and pulled out a dagger. Etched into the blade was the same symbol I had seen on the trees. It must have been the symbol of the Clan. She then grabbed the chalice from behind her and sliced my arm open, allowing my blood to fill the cup. I wanted to scream, but could not, as she had complete control over my body’s actions. I could not think of a more terrible situation to be in.

With a flick of her wrist she tossed my body aside, having already received what she needed. She then turned towards the moon and reached out towards it, much like I had seen in my nightmare. Between my injured leg and the cut on my arm, I could not move to stop her. I looked up at the moon as it came closer to the earth and waited for the inevitable collision. I heard the wolves howl loudly, but their howls were soon drowned out by the sound of the moon picking up speed. The moonlight that covered the forest was brilliant, and it allowed me the most vivid depiction of the destruction of the earth. After a few more moments, the moon broke through the atmosphere and filled the night sky. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep one last time. My dream could no longer haunt me. It was over. Everything was over.

Credit: Christopher Maxim

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A Madman’s Guide to the Unrecommended

April 3, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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AN INTRODUCTION
First and foremost, a few matters of introduction have to be placed down. You are probably wondering who I am. What am I called? What does the barista misspell on my steaming paper cup? Well, this is my first lesson to you, and I promise we will get into much more detail soon.
Your name is a very precious thing, you see. And unless you are suicidal, a fool, or think you have what it takes to face the consequences; don’t ever give out your real name willy-nilly. I’m fairly positive you wouldn’t want to take that risk. That being said, I still must give you some way of acknowledging my existence. You may call me The Madman. Am I mad? Am I a man? Well you will just have to wait and see, dear reader.
For your sake I’m going to assume that you had some idea of what you were getting into when you picked up this guide. And if you didn’t? Well, by all means keep reading; just put your back to a door, and cover every window and mirror in your room. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, now would we? Shall we begin?

YOUR BIRTH NAME
This is as good a place to start as any. It’s a vital piece of knowledge if you want to have absolutely anything to do with the supernatural world. When you are dragged out of refuse and muck, screaming and kicking into the world, you are vulnerable. Your fragile little mortal soul has only just begun its unavoidably ticking clock. Your name is essentially your shield; it is the most symbolic representation of your inner self that can exist. It carries great, great power over you. Never forget this.
Although I’ve already made it perfectly clear, I’ll say this again. Do not bandy about your birth name. If someone –or something– has access to your soul, I guarantee you won’t enjoy what happens next. In every interaction you have with the supernatural, guard your name. If you must give an answer, lie through your teeth. Don’t use anyone else’s name, either. Well, unless you really hate them. But allow me to continue…

A BASIC DESCRIPTION OF THE SUPERNATURAL
Have you ever felt like you were being watched when you are perfectly alone? As if a pair of eyes is fixated on the back of your head, yet when you turn there is nothing there. Have you ever heard your name being spoken by nobody at all? Chances are you have experienced these things, and chances are they aren’t just figments of your imagination.
Bordering the lovely world you call home is another, rather different place. Some call it Hell, and they’re not wrong. But the name isn’t important; what comes from it is. And what comes from Hell, you ask? Why, demons of course. Ghosts, phantoms, spirits, poltergeists, haunts and apparitions. These are all one and the same.
Take a moment to clear your mind of that image of a red-horned beast or a classic white ghost. It’s true that over time, demons have picked up on humans’ fears and tend to manifest themselves in such forms. However, what’s actually out there is much more sinister than these ridiculous tropes. A demon is infinitely smarter than you can ever hope to be. They want nothing more than to trick your feeble mind into allowing them to cause great harm. It’s your job as a practitioner to prevent this from happening. Good luck.
Demons can be called into this world through a summoning. Unfortunately, this isn’t very hard to do. Why would you do such a thing, you ask? Well, you shouldn’t. But I’m not your mother- do what you want. Demons can give you knowledge or carry out tasks for you. If you have a question you want answered, a demon can most likely help you with that. You just have to be sure it’s worth the risk –and it is quite a risk.

THE FIRST LESSON
THE GAME
Every budding practitioner must learn about “The Game” if they want to get anywhere. This is the most common and basic level of advanced interaction with the supernatural world. The principle is simple: you conjure up a demon and then play with it. You try to get the knowledge you seek while avoiding the traps being set out for you. But when you actually get into it, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Preparation is key: you need protection. By all means, grab your firearms and use those to fend off the evil spirits. You will end up killed in a horrible way but hey, at least you tried. Our art requires a more acquired set of tools; tools that have been proved effective throughout history. I’ve got to say, someone must have paid a very heavy price to discover just what is effective to use.
Some of these will probably sound familiar, as old folklore and urban legends often have a handle in reality.

Salt- An excellent general-purpose ‘Demon B Gone.’ A closed circle of this stuff will hold enough power to keep minor intrusions at bay. The same principle applies to large bodies of saltwater. You’ll rarely find supernatural influences around them. Demons don’t like the beach.
Iron- This simple element has a tendency to repel the supernatural. In most cases, it’s used in candlesticks or worn on the practitioner’s person. Invest in a necklace or something. You’ll thank yourself later.
Vinegar- While this doesn’t keep anything out per se, it does have a violent affect upon beings from the other world. When thrown or sprayed, it can act as a sort of weapon against a demon. However, don’t rely on it. There have been too many instances of someone attempting to save themselves with a little spray bottle of vinegar. Dear me, what a bunch.
Candles- Wax candles may appear ordinary enough, but they are very important. Any seal or circle you create to trap a demon needs candles to act as support. While the color doesn’t matter too much, it’s useful to note that red candles are the most effective. Blood-red works best.
Mistletoe- Ah mistletoe, the classic parasitic weed that symbolizes love and merriment. Keep this handy in little bunches or piles around the area in which you work.
An item of power- Everyone has something they hold dear, and this bond holds power. It is a sort of life-vest to your soul, and your soul is something you want to keep close to yourself. It could range from a picture of your mother to the knife you used to murder your first victim, any such item will do. Thus, hang onto something that you have a special connection while practicing.
Your voice- What a silly item, you may think. And you wouldn’t be wrong- the human voice has no power over any supernatural entity unless you use it in just the right way. If you think you will be able to save yourself if you mess up a summoning by shouting, you’re wrong. However, if the being is in a limited position of power, your voice can dismiss it. Just don’t wait too long if you plan to do this.

At the moment, these seven things are enough to keep you safe (relatively speaking). It’s time to get into the fun stuff. The first step of The Game is to decide what exactly you want from the experience. Do you want to know some greater knowledge? Perhaps you would like to know if your significant other is being disloyal, or how to earn a million dollars by the year’s end. Whatever it is, know what you want so you don’t make a fool of yourself and die.
Now, you can’t interact with the other world in any old place. I wouldn’t recommend using your home in any capacity, unless you want to ruin the rest of your life. No, it’s much more effective to find a place where the wall between this world and the next is worn thin. Places with some sacred value, like religious buildings or hospitals. People die in hospitals, you see, and this constant crossing from one world to the next makes it perfect for any summoning you’d want to do.
Wherever you choose to practice, make sure you are alone. It won’t do anyone any good to walk into a demonic summoning, and it may stuff up your process. Not good. I also recommend against bringing any electronics into a summoning. Not that it’s dangerous or anything, but because any device will most likely be fried by the presence of a demon. Smartphones are extremely expensive these days; don’t just throw yours away.
Now you’ve got your protection and locations set, it’s time to summon a demon. Before we go on, I’m obliged to tell you to stop right here. Don’t go on, it isn’t a very smart thing to do. But, once again, I really couldn’t care less. Shall we proceed?
Begin with a salt circle. Don’t make a square or hexagon or anything stupid like that. Circles are equal no matter where you are inside of one -it’s what makes them powerful. Lay out five to seven candles around the outside of the circle. Do not put them inside the circle. This is a one-way ticket to disaster.
Prepare any other protective measures you may have brought: place mistletoe in little piles next to the candles and prepare some iron and vinegar just in case. Keep your item of power close. I’m now going to tell you a little story about someone carrying out their very first summoning. I want you to pay close attention.
Not too long ago a young girl wanted to commune with the other world. She was rather rebellious, so she chose to practice in the church she attended every week. She broke in at night, set up her circle, and began The Game. This is how she did it:
The girl sat outside her salt circle. She put down her object of power in front of her and closed her eyes. The dark church was cold and silent. Creaks and groans permeated the blackness all around her. She took a breath and whispered “I’m ready” three times. As soon as she did so, a host of new noises came. Frightening noises: moans and cackles, squelches and shrieks. They were accompanied with sensations as well; as if there were a host of malevolent eyes on the back of her neck, and something was breathing heavily just behind her. But the girl was prepared for this. She did not turn around.
At this stage, the girl had merely gotten a demon’s attention. There was still more to be done before The Game could be played. “Stand back,” she whispered. Immediately, the noises died down. There was silence in the church once again. However, she could still feel that evil gaze burning into her neck. She ignored this and continued.
Her next step was to invite the demon into her circle. Be very, very careful with this step. If you invite the demon past the circle and into your world, the demon will appear to leave. There will be no more noises or unseen eyes. After a while, you will invariably look around to see what is happening. That is when you will be dealt with in any manner the demon sees fit. There is no way to avoid this fate if you invite the demon outside the circle. Calmly the girl addressed the demon: “You may come into my salt circle,” she said. Note that her wording left no room for interpretation. The Game was ready to be played.
“Who are you?” The girl asked. It’s a good idea to start the game first. Asking any basic question will do.
“I am your final executioner,” the demon replied. Demons often enjoy a bit of melodrama. This doesn’t mean their words don’t hold true, however.
“Do you want to play?” The girl asked. The demon nodded once. It’s now that I should tell you about the appearance of demons. If you’re expecting some disgusting creature, you may be correct. It all depends on which demon you summon. Some may look like attractive young models and others may exemplify the term “hell beast.” In the girl’s case, an impossibly tall and thin creature sat in her circle. It had pale skin and enormous eyes. Its mouth stretched from ear to ear, grinning with red-stained fangs.
“What is your name?” The demon asked. The girl didn’t fall for it.
“I’m Peaches,” she lied. It was her turn. “What is the time?” She asked.
“It is half past two,” the demon replied. This was a lie, the girl knew. She had arrived at the church at 1 o’ clock in the morning and it hadn’t been more than twenty minutes. This is the foremost rule of The Game. The demon will lie to you. However, it may only lie three times. It’s up to you to figure out which responses are lies, and they won’t always be so easy to determine.
The Game is a matter of call and response. You ask the demon a question, and it asks you one in return. This will go on for exactly half an hour. After this time has elapsed, the demon will leave. You just have to last that long.
“Are you doing well in school?” The demon asked the girl innocently.
“Yes,” the girl replied, but the truth of the matter that she was lying to herself. She was struggling in school, but her ego kept her from saying so. You may lie to a demon, but there are consequences.
The girl was able to lie about her name because she was expected to. The demon didn’t actually believe she would be foolish enough to give the information up. He was simply testing the waters. But this lie was different. Lying during The Game allows the demon to do the same. Now, the demon had four chances to tell a mistruth.
“Does anybody love me?” The girl asked. The demon looked at her with those massive, malevolent eyes.
“No.” It said simply. This was surely a lie, the girl thought. Her parents loved her, at the very least. She paused in her thoughts. Or did they? You see, this is exactly what a demon will do to you. It will mess with your mind in ways that you have no defense against. The girl shook this answer off. It was the demon’s turn.
“Would you do something for me?” it asked. The girl had a moment of hesitation. She didn’t want to risk anything, but she also hasn’t gotten all the information she wanted.
“Yes,” she said quickly, confident she could counter any trick the demon played on her. It was a rather foolish mistake. The demon stood, rising to a terrifying height of nine feet. It leered down at the girl.
“Your turn,” the demon said, smiling wider than the girl would have guessed possible.
“How do achieve success in life?” The girl had nothing to toy with anymore; she desperately got to the point. The demon answered truthfully. He told her exact steps to on how to climb ladder of success in her life and thrive. But at this point, he was just playing with her. He had complete control.
“Come here,” the demon told the girl. The girl began to scoff. How ridiculous to think she’d actually break her guard and step inside the circle. But she stood against her will. Her heart dropped to her toes as she stepped towards the salt circle. The demon smiled. No amount of vinegar or iron could have prevented what happened to the girl next. For your sake, I won’t get into it. All you have to know is it was quite horrible.
The girl had given the demon power over her: the one thing you must never do. She had said she would grant the demon a favor, and he had capitalized on her offer. He had asked her to come into the circle. She had no choice but to obey.
Let’s learn from this girl’s mistakes, shall we? Never give a demon an advantage, and always choose your words very carefully. Be honest with yourself, even if it hurts you to do so. The demon seeks to harm you, and if that’s the worst it can do then you have played The Game correctly.

It is now that I have a little task for you, my reader. At this point you should have a basic grasp on the supernatural world and how to deal with its infinite dangers. Would you like to put your skills to the test?
Find a mirror. It could be large or small, round or square. It does not matter. Wait till the deepest hours of the night. Go out to a quiet place with the mirror. Let yourself be surrounded by the darkness. Observe the shadows reaching slowly towards you. Do not dare to be afraid.
I want you to place the mirror on the ground, so that it reflects the moon or stars. If the moon or stars aren’t showing, then just reflect the sky. Look into the reflection deeply. Soon you’ll notice something… off about the image. You’re looking at another world. Don’t touch the mirror. Whatever you do, do not touch the mirror.
The image will have a sort of shimmer to it, an unnatural gleam. While this is apparent, you must remain still. Eventually, the mirror will return to normal. It’ll clearly reflect the sky again. Once this happens, bury the mirror. After it is underground, say these words: “You may open the door.” Then go home, your task is done. It’s time for the next lesson.

THE SECOND LESSON
THE “GO AND FETCH” CLAUSE
Despite the title of this lesson, demons are not dogs. Although they may appear as dogs. Hairless, skinless, grinning dogs that eye you with the intensity of, well, a hungry wolf. But that’s beside the point. The Game won’t always give you what you want. Sometimes the demon simply won’t know the answer to the question you want answered.
If you want a different type of knowledge (something that’s currently happening, for example), you’ll want to use the “Go and Fetch” clause. This is quite literally a command you give that lets the demon venture out into the world and find what you’re looking for. What can go wrong?
A “Go and Fetch” clause has three parts: the instruction, the binding, and the sending. Each is as important as the other.

Instruction- Here is where you tell your furry demon friend what it has to do. I’m warning you now, prepare your speech beforehand. If you leave any loophole, it will be pounced on. Don’t make stupid mistakes.
An example is in order here. If you tell a demon to “go tell me what my friend is doing” you have just made a very large mistake. Why? You were so ambiguous that the demon can leave its circle, hang you by your ankles, grab an ice cream, and then spy on your friend. Then, it will return and tell you what your friend is doing while licking its chocolate cone. You will then be disposed of gruesomely.
Be sure to outline every step of the demon’s journey into the world, lest it strays and ends up possessing some poor child –unless, of course, that’s your goal. But that’s for another lesson.
Binding- This is the step in which you bind the demon to your instruction. This is very simple: use your voice. Act quickly, as the longer the demon is in the world, the less power your voice has.
You could make yourself look like an idiot and babble in Latin or something, but any language works fine. Chances are the demon’s knowledge of ancient language is a bit rusty, and it will appreciate you using a more up-to-date tongue. Binding can be as simple as “follow my instructions to the letter,” but it depends on your instructions. Once again, don’t leave a loophole.
Sending- Time to say au revoir to your temporary servant and pray that you didn’t mess anything up. You won’t know if you did, of course. Enjoy the wait.

I now recall a rather memorable use of the “Go and Fetch” clause. This happened a while ago, perhaps a couple hundred years or so. But that’s not important…
Somewhere in the world, in a dark and dreary city lived a man. He, like most humans, had a rather dismal life. He was full of hatred, anger, and frustration. Such a mix of emotions made for a volatile cocktail. You see, his wife had ran off with another man, leaving him alone and desperate. One night, he had had enough.
He packed his bag full of the necessary safeguards and found an old crypt to practice in. It was a most atmospheric choice of location. He laid out the salt, candles, and mistletoe. He grabbed his item of power tightly.
“I’m ready,” he whispered, closing his eyes. A dead breeze crept into the crypt.
“I’m ready,” he repeated. The breeze swirled into a tugging, hot wind that reminded the man of the breath of some great beast. He took a breath and completed the calling: “I’m ready.”
The man waited a few seconds before opening his eyes. In the circle stood a demon. It wasn’t vile or terrifying, no. It took the appearance of a handsome young man. Demons will often pull tricks like this, you see. They try to gain your trust by appearing friendly or attractive.
The man ran through his clause in his head. He had memorized it to the letter, and spent hours making sure there was no room for error. He began with the instruction. He told the demon exactly what it had to do: find his wife and her new lover and cause them harm in any way the demon saw fit. There was no room for misinterpretation.
And off the demon went, slinking towards its destination. When it was released into the world, it had broken its guise of a handsome man and instead taken the appearance of a hairless dog-like creature that walked on its hind legs. This is where most urban legends about things that go bump in the night come from, you see. Demons out in the world often tend to frighten and kill people whenever they can.
The demon found its prey with an inhuman sense. It stood outside the apartment building in which the doomed man and woman resided. At this time, both were asleep, the demon sensed. It broke the lock easily and slunk into the building. Its enormous feet made no sound on the floorboards as it stepped slowly, slowly towards the stairs. Up it went, its thick gray tongue lolling hungrily.
The bedroom door opened silently, the demon crouched into the bedroom and to the foot of the bed where two still figures lay cocooned in a swathe of blankets. Isn’t it funny how you feel so safe when you’re under your covers?
It crept onto the bed, leaning its head right up to the headboard, so it looked down on the sleeping figures. It waited there, letting its breath cascade down like a smothering cloud of poison. Eventually, the woman opened her eyes. She didn’t react at first, but in a split second, her eyes had adjusted.
The scream –had it been allowed to make it past a horrified squeak– would have woken the block. Instead, the demon bit down on the woman’s throat. The man awoke to the sight, and was similarly dispatched. The demon had done its duty –it returned to the man in the crypt.
“Did you do as I asked?” The man queried.
“Yes,” the demon growled. The man, despite everything, felt guilty. He shook this feeling from his mind and dismissed the demon. He did this by saying “return from whence you came.” This is the most common dismissal, and it usually can’t go wrong. This, from start to finish, is an example of a successful “Go and Fetch” interaction. The poor man ended up killing himself out of guilt for what he had done, but he made his choice.

Now that you’ve got this juicy tidbit of knowledge down, it’s time to continue the practice I set out for you after the first lesson. Following your burial of the mirror, a package will appear to you. It won’t come in your mailbox, or be plopped on your doorstep by a bored and careless delivery driver. It’ll be placed somewhere you wouldn’t expect a package to appear. It could be in your bedroom, or your locker at school or work. It may even appear in your morning cereal –I really couldn’t predict the location for you.
Regardless, keep the package safe. Only open it when you know you will be alone. Inside you will find a little pendant – a black stone set into a gold chain. Don’t put it on for goodness’ sake. Take it in your hand, close your eyes, and focus. You’ll feel something like a heartbeat. Don’t panic, just keep focusing. If your mind is clear, you’ll hear a dull roar in your head. Once you hear this, say “find what you seek,” while concentrating on the noise as hard as you can. The roar will fade and the heartbeat will stop. That night, return to where you buried the mirror and dig it up. Place the pendant on the mirror, and then cover it back up. Let’s continue your instruction…

THE THIRD LESSON
POSSESSION
The possibility of having your body occupied by a demon is a very real and horrifying prospect. Don’t you worry; there are ways to avoid it. While very difficult to do, a soul may still be salvaged in certain cases. Nobody just gets up and walks away from a possession, however, so it’s best to avoid the ordeal altogether. But what happens to you when you’re possessed? Well I’m glad you asked.
When a person is possessed, their soul is consumed by a demon. A bit like a worm inside of an apple; except replace the worm with a beast of pure malevolence from Hell, and the apple with your tiny and vulnerable human soul. Have you got the image down?
Being possessed will likely cause you the greatest pain you can ever experience. Imagine your body being taken from you inch by inch in a brutal battle that you have no chance of winning. A foreign spirit will, in layman’s terms, become you. Sounds like a bad day, no?
‘Mr. Madman, how do I avoid this?’ you ask. First rule of thumb is the same as any other area of practicing: don’t be an idiot. No matter how many times I reiterate this, you bunch always find a way to make stupid mistakes. I’m not complaining, though. Some of your fates are often quite amusing.
Use your safeguards wisely; don’t let the demon into your mind (figuratively or literally). This is just what you should be doing normally. A demon will try its very hardest to get inside your defense and either kill you, possess you, or wreak havoc on anything in the vicinity.
Do not have mirrors in the room where you are summoning. Mirrors often act as little doorways to the other world. Demons will often use them to their advantage in a little phenomenon called Philocrate’s Mirror. One minute your reflection will be sitting in its normal setting, depending on where you’re practicing. Suddenly, you’ll find an altogether different world reflected in the mirror. You won’t be able to feel anything except a tiny seedling of agony and fear that will grow and grow the longer you are in this place. Unfortunately, you’re stuck there forever.
If you take your eyes off a demon and look into a mirror, it can quite literally switch places with you. While you’re sent into its dimension, it’s brought out into the real world. Barring the fact you’re in the closest approximation of Hell that exists, you just let a demon loose on the world. Shame on you.
Along with pseudo-possessions such as Philocrate’s Mirror, you can also be possessed completely during a summoning. Most notable examples of this are probably ones you’ve heard of. You know, a group of cultists calling the spirit of an evil entity into some poor girl or something ridiculous of the like. This is most likely a true story. If you were so inclined, you could trap someone in a salt circle and call a demon into their body. Next time someone cuts you in line at the grocery store, you know what to do.
It can also happen accidentally, believe it or not. Ambiguous wording can lead the demon to interpret your question or command as an invitation into your snuggly flesh. I’m afraid you can’t do much to save yourself if you mess up in this manner. Have you ever heard of Jack the Ripper?

A bloodthirsty lunatic? Sure. A master of his craft? Without a doubt. Completely human? Guess again. Jack wasn’t always a crazed psychopath, believe it or not. He was rather normal –that is, until he turned to the supernatural. He practiced here and there as many people did in the Victorian Era. Something about the depressing and dark atmosphere of the entire era gave spurt to a whole host of demonic activity.
One day Jack, as many practitioners are predisposed to do, stuffed up. As you may have guessed, he was possessed. The demon that did it felt like having a little fun, so Jack wasn’t killed on the spot. Instead, the demon went out into the world wearing Jack’s skin while the poor man was in extreme agony, conscious of every movement.
As you may recall, I told you there are worse fates than being killed or dragged to the other world by a demon. Jack’s fate was arguably among those. I want you to imagine having no control over your body as someone else pretended to be you. Jack went home that night and watched as he killed his wife and children. He went out onto the street and began his bloody legend. For your sake, I hope you don’t fall prey to a possession…

Remember that pendant I had you bury? It’s time for some more fun. If you haven’t already, allow twenty-four hours to elapse before digging up the mirror and pendant. Going over this time is fine; just do not uncover them prematurely. The pendant should be gone and there should be a little note in its place. Read it. There will be a location written on it. I can’t tell you what this is because it’ll depend on who and where you are. Go there in the dead of night when you know you won’t be disturbed. Bring something with iron in it; believe me, you’ll want it.
This time, timing does matter. You’ll want to get to the location well before half past two in the morning. I suggest visiting the place beforehand in order to determine how to get in. Unless, of course, you want to risk it and play by ear. Some people live for the thrill; whatever. Just get it done.
No doubt you’ll feel an inkling of apprehension as you enter this mysterious place I’ve brought you to, but don’t worry. Besides, I told you not to show fear, did I not? You’ll just have to trust me. Ooh, I laughed at that one: ‘trust me.’
The next bit is going to require you to understand the first three lessons, namely the “Go and Fetch” clause and how possession works. Now, don’t panic, but I’m about to ask you to summon something. Although, if you’re panicking about a simple summoning at this point, you’re really not cut out for this sort of thing. Don’t feel bad, most people are cowards too.
You don’t need a salt circle for this summoning –you’ll be safe without one. All you need is the note and some iron. Stand as close to the center of your location as possible. Tear the note in half. It doesn’t have to be perfectly in half, if you were wondering. Hell, shred the thing and make confetti. Just destroy the note and make sure you don’t waste any time. You have to get this all done before two-thirty.
Unlike a normal summoning, you aren’t going to say “I’m ready” three times. Instead, I want you to lie down on your back. If your location’s floor is muddy or covered with broken glass, I’m sorry but you’ll just have to be strong. Close your eyes. Relax. You don’t have to do anything now except wait. Don’t fall asleep. You won’t wake up.
Soon, the same dull roar as before will return. You’ll hear it faintly at first, but it’ll get stronger. Just as fast, the noise will stop. At this point, you can sit up and open your eyes. There is now an entity with you. This part varies from person to person. Some people see the entity, some don’t. In any case, it won’t be trying to terrorize you so don’t worry –you’re perfectly safe.
“Did you find what you sought after?” You will ask. The entity will give one of two responses: “yes” or “no.” The voice it uses will most likely unsettle you. It won’t sound human in the least bit (well, what did you expect?). It’ll sound as if some animal is attempting to speak, barely choking the words out. This is good, do not worry.
If you received the negative response, then say “find what you seek” again and allow the entity to leave. Go home and return the following night. Do this until you get an affirmative response.
If you got a “yes” from the demon, then you may proceed. Open your arms as if you’re about to give a big old hug and say “come in.” It’s important to note that you may not like this next part, but it will be fine. Well, how to put this lightly… The entity will go into you. But it won’t hurt, or have any negative side effects whatsoever. In fact, you’ll be in complete control… mostly.
You’ll have control over your body and mind, and the only way you’ll know you’re hosting a demon is by a little urging sensation in your gut. Follow the urge out into the world. Take this time to enjoy yourself. It isn’t every day you get to be a demon’s personal chauffeur. I’m sure you will be rewarded with a very pleasant sense of euphoria. It’s like taking copious amounts of drugs minus the health risks.
Don’t interact with anybody you come across, just let your body do the walking. You will complete a set of simple tasks: delivering a package from one place to another, writing something in strange runes on a wall somewhere, buying a bag of chips at the gas station, whatever the urge tells you to do. When your little adventure is done, you will return to the location and lie down. After a nice second of shut-eye, the entity will be gone. Go home now.

THE FOURTH LESSON
IMBUING
The first three lessons have been mostly concerning human-spirit interactions. This lesson is a little different in the sense that, while you are still summoning a demon, it isn’t going to be doing much interacting. As far as you know, at least.
There are countless stories of various relics and items that apparently exhibit extraordinary powers: charms that bring luck, dice that always land fortunately, teapots that always brew a perfect cup of tea. I’m not saying every old lucky penny off the street is magical (in fact, they can be rather unsanitary– I suggest avoiding picking them up), but it is possible to imbue an item with a demon’s soul.
To carry out such an imbuing is a particularly tricky task. It, as most supernatural affairs, tends to be dangerous. You will need a few things beforehand.

The usual summoning safeguards- Self explanatory. Refer back to Lesson One for a refresher.
Your item- This can be almost anything you can think of. There is a sort of tradition surrounding what you can enchant with supernatural power. For example: the amulet I had you meddle with. Just try not to do something stupid, like shove a demon into a used sock. It’s rude.
A release- This is a piece of paper with a written dismissal on it. To release a demon from an item, you destroy the release.

The process for an enchantment summoning is a little different than usual. Begin with the usual sacred location, at the usual ungodly hour of the night. Create your salt circle and lay out the candles and other items. Place the item you want to imbue in the center of the circle. If you haven’t already, create your release. Write the words “go back to where you belong” on a piece of paper and keep it handy.
Let me interject here to crush your dreams. You can’t control an imbuing –you don’t know what exactly your item will do. There are as many stories of cursed items as there are about lucky ones. But there is a glimmer of hope. There is a higher chance of a good enchantment if you are careful about your summoning. If you’re crazy enough to do this sort of thing, then you may as well do it right.
With your setup complete, it’s time to begin. Focus on the item in your salt circle. Attempt to clear your mind of anything else. Call the demon into the circle, but this time don’t use the usual “I’m ready” method. The demons that can be used in an imbuing are of a particular sort. The sort you really do not want to meddle with.
Close your eyes and wipe every trace of fear from your mind. Ask if there is anybody listening. More likely than not, you will get a response. This could be a breeze or a noise –whispering or something. If you don’t get any response, repeat the question or leave and try again another time. If you get a response, ask the entity to enter the item in the circle. Here comes the tricky part.
You will have to convince the demon to get into your item. This isn’t dissimilar to “The Game” in that you will barter back and forth with the demon. It will ask you why you want it to go into the object, and you must give it a good reply. Demons will often willingly place themselves in items for the sole purpose of causing mischief, so it usually isn’t hard to get one to agree. This in itself should be a solemn warning to you.
It’s impossible to give you a walkthrough of exactly what to say, as it isn’t a ritual. You must be ready to think on your toes and not do something of utmost stupidity, like possess yourself. Believe me, I’ve seen this done. But, as I said, imbuing is extremely dangerous. Allow me to tell you a story about enchantment and what happens thereafter.

There is a little house in a quaint town somewhere. A more peaceful and pleasant place you’d be hard pressed to find. The people are friendly, the birds love to sing. As in all things, you should never judge a book by its cover.
Long ago in the town’s ancient history, someone desired a prize that was beyond this world. They wanted an object that would bring good luck and health to the people. You see, they weren’t doing too well. A new sickness had come and already many families were caring for bedridden loved ones. The fields grew sallow and overgrown with a lack of care. A quiet, sickly pallor lay over the entire place.
An individual –a young man– decided he had to take matters into his own hands. His mother and sister were growing weaker by the day with the illness, and he couldn’t stand seeing his town decay. He delved into the religious texts stored in the church, and, when he found nothing that could help, he searched deeper. In the church cellar was an altogether different collection of literature. Texts depicting the supernatural world and how to handle the entities found wherein (although I can guarantee that they were nowhere near as interesting as this guide).
The youth found a possible solution in one of these texts: enchantment. With fervor, he collected as many books as he could and brought them home. There, he spent long nights poring over the words under a sputtering candle. Coughs and moans from his mother and sister permeated his concentration. This spurred his determination.
He soon had accrued the knowledge he needed to enchant an item with a so-called “healing power” that the texts had promised. One night, when the moon was new and a thick fog lay over the land, the young man went out into the woods until he found a forlorn clearing. He laid out his circle and placed a gilded candlestick from the church in the center. He prayed for a quick second before proceeding.
“Are you listening to me?” The youth asked. An unnatural giggle sounded from the woods behind him. An icy grip clutched his heart, but memories of his ailing family gave him new strength. “Come into the candlestick,” the youth said loudly.
“Why?” The demon replied in an insane approximation of a little girl’s voice. It remained unseen.
“I am summoning you, I am your master. You will do as I say,” the youth attempted a tone of authority. The demon giggled again, sending shivers down the young man’s spine.
“Your candlestick is awfully shiny. Did you steal it?” The boy blanched. Honestly, he had stolen it. But he knew it was for a good cause. He did not back down.
“Come into the candlestick,” he repeated. “Do you not want to? Look how pretty it is.” The boy dared not move. There was a moment of silence, and then a chill breeze swept past the boy and into the circle. The candlestick rattled with a faint giggle. The air was still once more.
Keen readers will note that the youth was missing something. Would you like to guess? No? Oh, alright. He didn’t make a release. There was no way to release the demon, and I’m fairly sure the demon knew it. Why else would it comply so quickly?
The young man dared not dwell on what he had just done. He brought the candlestick home and set it in the bedroom where his sister and mother lay. There was nothing more to be done, so he waited.
Days passed before the candlestick showed any sign of power. In a moment of desperation, the boy had thrust the gilded item into the clammy hands of his mother. Immediately, her breathing eased and a rush of color returned to his face. Ecstatic, he did the same with his sister with similar results. He couldn’t believe it: he had saved his town.
Without hesitation the young man went from house to house, healing the townspeople. Cries of joy rang out, banishing the evil atmosphere that had plagued the air. Cries of “healer!” and “bless you!” followed the boy as he touched each sick person with the candlestick. Soon, he was stopped. The town reverend apprehended the boy in disbelief.
“How are you doing this?” he asked. The boy raised the candlestick in joy.
“God’s will saved us!” The reverend, who had tried everything in his power to aid his town, was skeptical. How could this boy brandish a metal ornament and claim a miracle? But the reverend soon forgot about it. God worked in mysterious ways, and besides, the people were indeed saved.
A year passed and the town flourished. The fields were brought back to their usual healthy productivity and all was well. The candlestick had been set in the young man’s home, and people often stopped by to give thanks and pray over it. And then things went wrong.
There was barely any change at first. The sun seemed to dim one day, and clouds hung over the sky menacingly. However, it was mid-autumn, so this wasn’t anything unusual. Then the flowers began to die. Every flower in the town wilted overnight. The crops followed soon after. Children began to go missing a few days later, and a figure was seen skipping through the trees bordering the town. Upon closer inspection, the figure turned out to be a little girl. Her laugh haunted the village at night.
Immediately, the young man knew what was happening. The demon in the candlestick was haunting his town. He tried desperately to reverse the enchantment, but he couldn’t. Eventually, the missing children were found in the woods. They were malnourished and terrified, but relatively unharmed. As they were led back to the town, the demon’s giggle bounced among the trees.
To this day, the demon haunts the town. It is permanently bound to the little gilded candlestick in the little house. The people of the town attempt to hide their dark secret under a façade of happiness, but every night the giggle comes. Sometimes, children go missing. Sometimes, they are found again. Often, they vanish forever. But the important thing is that the boy cured the sickness… right?

These four lessons are the very basics of what you can do with entities from another world. I hope you read the stories tied to each one carefully, and learned what you could from them. Now I’m going to ask you to continue the tasks you have been doing in between each lesson.
The next step after your little possession will come to you. It may take as little as a day or it may take a few weeks. However long, you’ll know when to proceed. The urge will return to you, and when it does you’ll follow it. I do hope it’s sometime convenient.
You’ll return to the location that was written in the note and sit down. Your eyes will close and you’ll fall asleep. When you wake up, you won’t be in the same place. In fact, you won’t even be in your world. Think of it as a field-trip.
Look around you, take it in. You’re not in danger yet, so do take a good look. It’s not every day that you get to be in between worlds. The imagery around you may be unsettling. All around you will be an interminable field of what can best be described as shadows. They will meld and shift and flash with a myriad of dull colors.
Eventually a figure will appear. It will appraise you, but you won’t be able to make out its features, no matter how hard you try. This is the entity you’ve been communicating with throughout your instruction. It will greet you.
“Hello,” it will say, addressing you by name in a friendly yet unsettling manner. “I have just a few more tasks for you,” it will continue. “Thank you for helping me so far, you have been simply wonderful.” It will then beckon and walk away. Follow the figure until the world around you calms and brightens into an almost pure-white color.
Soon, you’ll be able to make out shapes that will harden in definition until you will realize that they’re normal objects: houses, trees, rocks, and people. They’ll have a ghostly, translucent quality. A hushed whisper will sound all around you. The figure will lead you through this world until you reach a little old house with an overgrown lawn and an ancient willow tree. You will enter the house and enter a room with a large painting hung on the far wall.
The painting will depict a man sitting in an ornate chair in a well-decorated and comfortable room. The man will be very handsome, with piercing eyes and a devilish grin. The figure will stop and turn to you.
“Touch the painting,” it will tell you. Do so. As your fingers brush the canvas, you will feel yourself waking up. Before you return to consciousness, you will see the figure looking at you with a devilish grin. “Thank you,” I will say, stepping through the painting as you slip away.

Credit: Daniel Zed

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The Road to Happiness

March 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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She had traveled down this road more times than she was willing to count. Surrounded by forest and wild life, the long, narrow, dusty road offered a safe route from Tara’s home to the grocery store where she worked. Under paid and overworked, Tara had been there for years with no end in sight. Five, sometimes six days a week, Tara made the forty-five minute walk to her dead-end job, only to return home to her unemployed husband every night. At 16, Tara left her abusive father into the arms of an abusive boyfriend. His words were unkind, his touch was not gentle, yet without a diploma, Tara was left without many options. He promised her stability and a home, and her fear and naivety let her believe him.

On her long walks to and from work, she often thought about the last ten years and the events that resulted in her broken life. The mistakes, the lies, the desperation; all of it lead her to him. Tara hated her husband in a way she never knew was possible. The mere thought of him sent nauseated pangs to the pit of her stomach. When the thought of returning home to his drunken embrace became too much, Tara would fantasize about what she felt was her only escape; his death. An electrical fuse short-circuits engulfing the sleeping drunk to ash. An earthquake demolishes the rundown home crushing all within. He always died of an accident through no fault of her own and in the end, she would gracefully be whisked away in the embrace of a kind hearted rescuer. When her journey came to an end, still smiling she would turn the door knob to reality and endure the nightmare that awaited inside.

Tara had no idea how profound her seemingly harmless fantasies were, but she was destined to find out. On that long stretch of road, damp from the midday showers, Tara walked along the muddied path. She was exceptionally lost in a fantasy involving a hurricane and a sympathetic firefighter, as she tried to ignore the throbbing of her bruised ribs. While she floated in the arms of her fantasized hero, Tara suddenly realized she didn’t recognize her surroundings. The road stretched for miles in either direction and there were no road signs in sight to help pinpoint her location. She pulled out her phone only to see there was no cell phone service. The sun was beginning to pass the tree’s skyline, and with the dusk, Tara began to panic. He would never believe she had gotten lost, and the last time she was late she was punished in a way she tried to forget.

As she began frantically darting back and forth with her phone in the air, hopeful for a connection, a soft voice called out to her from behind a tree. Tara froze from fear, not knowing what the voices intent could be. “I’ve been waiting for you child,” the voice said again.

Tara watched as a shadowed figure emerged from the darkness. A crippled, hunched over elderly woman hobbled towards where Tara remained still. Despite her decrepit and unappealing appearance, the old woman seemed fragile and harmless, and so she decided to speak to her. “Uh, hi. My name is Tara. I live off of 70th street, but I think I made a mistake somewhere on my walk home. I’m kind of lost. Any way you can point me in the right direction?”

The elderly woman smiled exposing the few rotted teeth she had left. “I assure you child, it is no mistake you are here. You see, you know what you want most in life, but you are unable to obtain it. You came here because I can give you what you desire.” The old woman’s voice was icy which caused Tara to shiver. She couldn’t justify it to herself, but she felt uneasy in her presence. Confused by the old woman’s response, Tara sought an explanation; “I’m sorry miss, I don’t know what you mean.”

Shrill and raspy, the old woman explained, “I can see inside your heart, child. I hear your pain everyday you walk this road. I have listened to the stories you create inside your head to pretend you have a chance at happiness. I can feel your hatred for who you feel is to blame for your misery. You are here because you can’t possibly want something more, and I’m here to give it to you. All you have to do is decide if you are willing to pay the price.”

Tara’s curiosity began to pique, and so she humored the old, daft woman. “And what exactly is it that you think I want? And how much is this going to cost me? I don’t have a lot of money so I don’t really see where you’re headed with this.”

“You want freedom,” the old woman hissed. “You need money, you long for happiness. You desire him dead.” Tara stared with an open mouth, dumbfounded by the woman’s accuracy. Surly this is all a trick, Tara thought to herself. All general statements. Who wouldn’t desire money and happiness? But wanting to believe, she continued to listen.

“I can give you everything you’ve fantasized about. All I ask in return, is in one years time, you allow me permission to enter your body for two hours.” At this Tara scoffed. Why had she been nervous about this woman? She was obviously crazy. “OK,” she antagonized, “but how do I know you’re telling the truth and can really give me these things?”

At that, the woman materialized a goblet full of liquid. She motioned for Tara to come closer. As Tara looked into the goblet, she saw her husband asleep in front of the T.V., an empty whisky bottle at his side. Frightened and intrigued, Tara gazed at the old woman. “You really can change my life? And all I have to do is allow you two hours inside my body one year from now?”

“That is all, child. Permit me to use your body as a vessel for two hours in one year, and everything you’ve ever wanted will come true.” Tears filled Tara’s eyes as the visions of a better life filled her mind. The concept of relinquishing her body was odd but after a life of constant disappointment and sorrow, she was willing to agree to more than she was willing to admit. She feared if she questioned the old woman’s intent that the offer would be tarnished or taken away. And so, without much consideration, Tara blurted “yes!”

A smile began to creep across the old woman’s face as she hissed, “and so it is done.”

Tara turned around to find her door right in front of her. The road had disappeared along with the elderly woman. She began to think she had gotten lost in her imagination, that the whole interaction was a fantasy. She stood at the door breathing deeply as her heart pounded. Still In a haze, she turned the door knob and stepped lightly through the dark house. Her blood grew colder with each step towards where her husband sat. And then, in the glow of the T.V., there he was. Peaceful, motionless, and not breathing. Tara touched him and jolted at his cold skin. Tears began to flood her eyes as she looked up and thanked the mysterious woman from the road. Finally, Tara was free.

A coroner’s report ruled Tara’s husband’s cause of death a heart attack. The paramedic who answered Tara’s emergency call turned out to be an old friend from high school that she had forgotten. It wasn’t long before the two began dating. While receiving two weeks off from the grocery store to mourn, Tara was approached by a lawyer who informed her that her husband had a life insurance policy which left her with two million dollars. Because the death was deemed natural, Tara received the money within a month of her husband’s funeral. It all happened so fast, and none of the good fortune made any sense, but she didn’t care how surreal it all was. Tara finally had the life she always wanted, the life she felt she deserved. The joy empowered her so much that she soon lost track of time. It seemed like only a blink had passed when the old woman came knocking on her door.

Tara was alone the day the old woman returned for her payment. She was so happy from the life she was now living that she greeted the old woman as she would a long lost friend, embracing her in a warm and genuine hug. “You know, you are a miracle maker,” Tara gloated. “I never knew a person could be this happy. And I have you to thank.”

The old woman looked Tara in the eye, and through her rotted grin she asked, “then are you ready to repay me, child?”

Lost in her own happiness, Tara smiled back and shook her head yes. She trusted the old woman who had brought her such amazingly good fortune. “Well then, it’s time,” the old woman hissed as she grabbed Tara’s face and brought it to her own.

Tara saw a blinding white flash, and then it was as if nothing had happened. The old woman was no longer in front of her and it seemed like she had dreamed the entire encounter. That is, until she tried to move.

Trapped inside her own body Tara cried out “what is this? I thought you would use me as a vessel, that I wouldn’t remember any of this.” “Oh no, child. You will remember every moment I have with you, I can assure you of that,” the old woman responded out loud in Tara’s voice. Feeling Tara’s fear and confusion, the old woman began to explain.

“For centuries I have been plagued with the thoughts and emotions of the broken hearted. Always tormented, always crying out for help, never making a single effort towards helping themselves. Until I come along and offer a solution. A solution that only requires an agreement. Two hours of their time to receive all of the desires and dreams the bleeding hearts were too lazy to achieve themselves. Not once has any of the disgustingly entitled brats inquired as to how I do what I do, or even why I need to use their body as a vessel. The offer is just blindly accepted and they greedily enter their new lives unappreciative. Well, these two agreed upon hours are used for harvest. You think you were so tormented and your life was so tragic? Lets see how you fare after this.”

Tara watched helplessly as her body approached the festively decorated house. Entering the sleeping home, Tara felt as her fingers gripped the handle of the knife taken from the kitchen. The home was dark and quiet but the old woman glided Tara’s body effortlessly to her intended destination. Without making a sound, Tara’s body positioned over the woman asleep in her bed. And with a swift motion, Tara’s hand slid the knife into the woman’s stomach. Piercing screams filled the home, pain and terror emanating from the victim’s eyes. And with a flick of the knife to the helpless woman’s throat, Tara listened as the wails began to gurgle. The warmth of life faded to cold in Tara’s arms as her mouth wrapped around the gaping slit in the woman’s throat. She tasted copper as the blood slid down and coated her stomach. Tara’s cries and screams of horror could only be heard by one, and in response, she felt her blood soaked lips curl into a smile.

Standing over the mauled woman, shrill and cruel, the old woman began to speak; “For every soul I take before it’s time, I must sacrifice an innocent soul to appease the disregard of deaths plan. A soul not promised to him, one destined to a greater eternity.”

From a darkened corner came a child’s whimper. The old woman turned Tara’s head so she could see the terrified girl violently crying as she stared at the grotesque figure that was once her mother. “You thought you were in hell but oh how wrong you were. Your laziness to wait for rescue and your selfishness to ignore consequence has cost the life of this young, widowed mother. Look into the eyes of this child and see what real tragedy is. This orphan will live tormented for the rest of her life and there is nothing that will remove her misery. Although unlike you, she will try. Remember, you did this. Enjoy your reward, because the cost was immense.”

And with a flash of white and a searing pain, Tara collapsed to the ground. Tears streamed down her face as she began to scream, clenching her blood drenched hands, finally able to express her shock of what she had been forced to do.

Tara never heard the police sirens, never felt them as they put her hands in restraints. And she would never remember being taken away from the sacrificed woman and the child she had damned. After a short trial, it wasn’t long before she was committed to a mental institution. Despite desperate attempts from people trying to understand why she had committed such an awful act, Tara never spoke to anyone again. It was as if she were trapped inside her mind. But late at night, when the halls were quite from sleep, Tara could be heard whispering, “I just wanted to be happy.”

Credit: Taylorg

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The Holder of the End of the Story

January 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This pasta is yet another entry in The Holders series, a loose grouping of stories by countless different authors based on a specific premise.

If this series is new to you, you may wish to visit this website dedicated specifically to archiving Holders stories; although we have a tag for the series and have posted several new entries over the year, the Holders wiki is much more complete.

To reach the Holder of the End of the Story, go to the place that you feel the strongest connection to. What that place is will depend on you. It might be the house you live in. It might be your childhood home. For some, it means going to that magical little creek-side place where you and your friends used to play, or to the coffee shop that you stopped in every morning before work.

When you reach the place, find the part of it that means the most to you. It might be your old room, or that spot on the side of the creek where you would always build your fort, or the table where you wrote your first novel. Step to within a few feet of that spot, facing it, and then stop. At this point, you should consider very carefully whether you really want to continue. You don’t need to stand there considering it for a particular amount of time. A millisecond will suffice. Or if you really want to, you can skip this step entirely. There won’t be any consequences. You won’t be dragged off by some unspeakable horror, or tormented by eternal madness, or torn apart by ravenous bees, or some such silliness. That’s not how this one works. Depending on how your previous trials have affected you, you’ll probably end up wishing that it was.

It’s up to you, but I would strongly, strongly recommend that you take your time to consider whether or not to go on. At this point, you can still walk away without any consequences.

Think about it – if you’ve recovered other Objects already, and you probably have, then your experiences may have… well, it’s only a certain sort of person who can maintain any real sense of connection to the world after all the horrors that you’ve undoubtedly gone through. By now you might feel completely numb to everything, or be so haunted by visions of unspeakable things that your heart just doesn’t have room for anything but pain and terror. Your mind might be so frayed that you can barely remember the past, much less which places were the ones you loved. Or your connection to reality might be so tenuous that you can’t for the life of you tell which of your memories are real, and which ones are just the mad whispers of your own (probably-demented) unconscious mind. Maybe all of the above.

Do not, I repeat, do not continue to Seek this Object if you no longer have the capacity to love the place in front of you. Walk away. There are plenty of other Objects out there. Who knows, maybe one of Them will restore the parts of you that you’ve lost. That’s not generally the way They work, but hey, you never know.

If you honestly think that you’re still capable of loving this ‘precious place,’ then say aloud “I Seek to secure the story’s end” and then step forward. This might mean crossing the threshold into your old room. It might mean stepping into that one special spot on the side of the creek. Maybe your ‘precious place’ is something that you can’t step into, like a wall that used to have a whiteboard that you and your sister would draw on, or something like that. Even so, step forward anyway.

In the very likely event that your experiences have already damaged your soul beyond repair, destroying or dementing every emotional connection to the world that you ever had, then this is where your journey ends. I warned you, didn’t I? I won’t say what happens to you at this point. Don’t worry though, you won’t be torn apart, or go mad, or suffer terrible agonies for eternity, or anything like that. You won’t even die – not for a long, long time. That’s not how this one works. You’ll wish it was.

Still curious? If you absolutely can’t stand not knowing what happens to the ones that fail, then by all means go to your ‘precious place’ and try it for yourself. You’ll probably find your answer. Just don’t blame me when you wish you hadn’t.

If by some unlikely miracle you’re actually still intact enough to feel a real connection to this place, then in an instant the environment around you will change. You’ll find yourself in a nice, moderately sized room. There may be furniture scattered around, there may be paintings on the walls. It’s different for everyone. The room will always be laid out in a way that reminds you of some of your happiest memories. There might be a couch that reminds you of the one at your best friend’s house where you always used to have movie nights. Or a painting of someone you love, at the age when they meant the most to you. The only constant is that at the center of the room, you’ll always find two comfortable chairs that are facing each other. The chair closest to you will remind you of the place that feels most like home. I will be sitting in the other chair.

Don’t worry; there aren’t any special rules here. You won’t be attacked if you look away from me, or go mad if you look into my eyes. That’s not how this one works. Go ahead and sit in the empty chair. Once you’re comfortable, I’ll welcome you to my sanctum, and tell you what you’ve probably already guessed – that I am the Holder of the End of the Story. Congratulations – very, very few Seekers have ever reached me.

I’ll then offer you a choice. There’s no trick to it. You won’t be punished for choosing one way or the other. Well, you won’t be punished beyond the natural consequences of your choice, anyway. That’s not how this one works. The choice I’ll offer you is this: if you want, I’ll give you the Object you’ve come for. No strings attached, no tricks. It won’t suddenly burrow into your eye and gobble up your brain, or make you hear the endless screams of the damned in your head, or kill a puppy, or some such nonsense. That’s not how this one works.

Or you can make the other choice: You can go home. That’s right, home. I don’t mean leave this place and go off Seeking the next Object. I mean really, truly, go home. Back to before all of this started. I can make that happen. That, and not the Object I Hold, is the real reward you’ve proven yourself worthy of by reaching me. That’s how this one works. Or of course, you can choose to go on.

Take as much time as you need. I recommend thinking long and hard on this one. It’s not a choice to make lightly. When you’re ready, go ahead and tell me your decision.

If you take me up on my offer, then all of the Objects you’ve acquired will return to where you found them. Any damage that’s happened to your body, mind, soul, and all that – will be healed. Everyone and everything that you’ve sacrificed to reach this point will be restored as if your quest never happened at all. Anyone you’ve hurt or killed or damaged in other ways will be completely restored. All the knowledge that you’ve gained and the secrets that you’ve learned will be erased from your memory, as well as any notes or recordings you’ve made in any form. It will still be possible for you act as a Seeker again, but you’ll have to discover everything all over again, and you’ll believe that it’s your first time doing it. The Holders will also lose all memory of you. Well, except for me – I’ll remember. Who knows, maybe this isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation.

If you choose to go on, then for the briefest instant you’ll think that you see a look of deep, deep sadness pass over my face. You’ll wonder if I haven’t stood exactly where you’re standing now, and made the exact same choice. It’ll be so brief, in fact, that you won’t be sure if it was really there at all. Without warning, you’ll find yourself back in the ‘precious place’ where you started. It will now be a charred ruin. Anyone who was in it when you crossed into my sanctum will be dead – their bodies as burned as the walls. If your memories of this place include sharing it with anyone, then you should pray, for their sake, that they died before this moment.

Reach down and scoop up a handful of ashes. Don’t worry, you won’t have trouble finding some – they’ll be all around you. As you hold them in your hand, you’ll be filled with the knowledge that no matter what happens in the future, no matter what you do, you will never again have an opportunity to give up your quest – not for long. Touching this Object has changed you. You now have an irresistible compulsion to seek the Objects. The longer you go without fulfilling that compulsion, the more you’ll feel compelled to – until you can’t resist it anymore.

The pile of ashes in your hand is Object # 1467. There’s only one way left for the story to end.

Credit: Josias Gibbs

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Norstu Desert

December 4, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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The flawless white of the perfect snow stretched ambitiously towards the amber horizon. The immense glass walls seemed to amplify the majesty of the Norstu desert. I’d have been struck down by awe if perfection were not now a staple aspect of everyday life. The ochre support panels of the place of worship were delicately adorned in an array of winter flowers; Blue Bells, Snow Drops and Christmas roses alike had all joined together on this special day. Sometimes it felt like an exhibit; an artificial display of humanity designed to delight a higher power who could point and laugh at us and rub their face on the smudgy glass of our enclosure. However, today it was the chosen venue for a triumph of modern genetics. A few mumbled words and a week of feasting later and I’d be the father-to-be of a genetically ideal child. And yet the feelings that gripped my heart were a world away from joy.

Please don’t misunderstand my reservations; Cade was my complete ideal. She was warm, resilient, intelligent, laid back… she is quite literally, my biological match. On paper. It is not that I felt in anyway unworthy of her; I could easily provide her with a happy life that would allow for the furthering of our society- that is if it were possible to improve upon perfection. But as I stood there in my formal fur Konskt looking down the idyllic aisle across the glacial plane, the sterility of the whole charade hit me right between the eyes. I took a few quick strides into the bathroom under the guise of wanting to go over my vows once more. When hidden from prying eyes I set my own gaze on my unchanged reflection. I wondered at the peculiarity that my mind could go through such a vital transition and not a modicum of it would be expressed on my face. My miss-matched eyes provided the same unsettling stare the designers had decided upon when selecting my parents. One green iris, one black; the summer and the night. Well, at least that was what my mother had whispered into my ear on one of her fleeting visits to the GenTech Building.

When in doubt, rationalise; the party tag line played in my mind. I closed my inharmonious eyes and attempted to do just that. This marriage would only last a year; enough time to provide offspring then I’d be free of the restrictions of monogamy and the child would be rushed off to the GenTech Building to receive the highest standard of education and upbringing. A light knock on the door called my attention. Cade didn’t wait for a response before slinking in. She delicately patted her immaculate silver blond hair back into its intricate braid. It was a mechanical gesture.

‘I do not recall seeing tardiness as a listed aspect on your genetic profile.’ Her soft voice was inflectionless. She fixed me with her pale, nearly colourless eyes. They seemed almost reptilian when showered in the fluoro lights of the rest room. I raised the left side of my mouth up by way of response. She tilted her head to the left, her face impassive. ‘You know, Tevje, I have had 4 children by 4 different men so far, yet you are undoubtedly my most interesting pairing.’ A wave of something close to compassion lapped over my frontal lobe while I wondered at having 4 children before the age of 22. This child would be her fifth and my first. Everyone from the local area had gathered to view this important, yet routine event. It appeared that I was the only one experiencing a sense of crazed unwillingness. Cade read my face with laser-like precision. She changed her conversational track, her hand once again finding its way to smooth back her hair.

‘I wonder, Tevje, do you hesitate before stepping into the shower? Do you pause before drinking a glass of Gohne?’ She continued in my silence, logic spouting from her perfect face, she was the epitome of genetic perfection, a lovely little party clone. My blushing bride. Her eyelids fluttered down and back up again in a carefully planned blink. ‘I was wondering about the name Idun for a girl; it means…’

‘…To renew nature.’ I cut in, ending her sentence. She nodded, walking towards me in slow measured steps. I could almost see her put on her seductive persona like a well-fitting sweater. She smoothed my shoulder-length, corn blond hair behind my ear and whispering intimately. ‘You know that this is the natural way; it’s how our species survives in this… hostile environment.’ I turned my neck slightly to really look at her exquisite face, a muscle in her cheek twitched, no doubt from the effort of holding that smile in place. I could see the contempt so close to the surface, it was then that I realised; she didn’t want this anymore than I did. The geneticists were walking her down the aisle just as surely as they had trapped me.

‘Cade,’ My voice was softer. She covered my mouth with her hand, fear breaking her façade. ‘You’re going to get us killed,’ She directed the words into my ear in a malicious whisper. All off a sudden she broke away, feigning a girly laugh and hitting me lightly on the arm; ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for tonight to do that with me Tevje!’ I read the fearful warning in her eyes. It all clicked. We were being watched, that’s why the church was entirely glass. Every cell in my body urged me to lean back and look through the transparent roof to see if I could locate the drone. Leave. My brain was pushing me towards the door; out of it; out of the church; out of my allotted life. I couldn’t resist the pull for long. I walked big, loping steps past Cade, out of the bathroom and under the arch of winter flowers. The door handles felt cold on my hands when opened them.

My Konskt fluffed up as I exited the splendid church. It was only charged for 7 hours of warmth, then it would shrink back down to thin indoor material and the shivering would start. Why on earth would anyone want to go into the desert for more than 7 hours anyway? I walked out into the vast expanse of snow realising that I had outgrown my wilful ignorance and gilded cage. I would not, could not, subject an innocent child to a parentless falsity of an existence. The rhythmic sound of my steps crunching on the ice brought my GenTech education to the forefront of my mind. Never go out onto the frozen tundra. Nothing survives out there, including you. How are you going to further our elite society if you’re dead? I could still smell my sexless GenTech teacher’s herbal cigarette. The pressure of her hand on the top of my head was almost unbearable as she patronisingly ruffled my hair. She laughed at my suggestion that I would be an explorer when I grew up; from that moment onwards I was a sullen, quiet student.

Stage One: Uncontrollable Shivering.

Five beads of sweat made a gallant attempt to cross my forehead before being welded to my face. There they remained like a glacial crown. All hail the king of this wasteland of humanity. My Konskt had run out of charge 15 minutes and 21 seconds ago, my fingers trembled, unbidden, a constant reminder of that fact. The wind howled maddeningly in my ears, as if a thousand voices were screaming at me in a language I couldn’t understand. My feet strode dutifully forwards, always striving for me to return to my kingdom.

Stage two: Numbness

My blinks became increasingly inefficient, only occasionally managing to remove the build-up of snow from my eyes. I watched a snow flake fall slowly down, it’s perfect individuality being lost amongst the homogenised snowfield. What did it matter anyway; are we not all going to fade out of existence eventually; as separate as we are, are we not all united in our inevitable end? My mind was slow, spinning off on tangents, floating and soaring with the gentle snowdrift. Only one thought had clarity; I regretted that there was not a single individual to hold me down to this Earth. No ties to keep my soul housed in my body. I was unbound. I was free.

Stage Three: A feeling of warmth spreads through your body

I was alone.

Stage Four: You enter a period of semi-consciousness

I smiled a sardonic smile on frozen lips as my lethargic mind jammed the puzzle pieces together; I had, through some horrendous genetic accident, developed my own brain. Worse still; it was untainted by the party bullshit. The desolate expanse of the Norstu Desert had never felt more like home; for it was as alone as I. For just as the frozen expanse was unequipped to sustain life, I was unequipped to live out a foolish lie. I suppose there’s a grim glory in being a martyr for your cause.

Stage Five: Unconsciousness

The snow was piling up on me, a comforting blanket pressing me into sleep. Ice had cemented my eyes shut. When in doubt rationalise. Never mind, there was nothing more I wished to see anyway.

Stage Six: Death

Credit: Lydia Marshall

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